This is not your father’s Free Agency season, no way! As the NFL starts to work towards a new CBA and the end of the lock-out, free agency will come hard and fast, and lots of players are expected to be on the move.
With the limited time between training camps opening and the season, the free agent market will be buzzing faster than Wall Street in Trading Places after the inside information of the orange crops were released. Although there is some good players to be had, no real names leap off the page, and with the new agreement, these players may not see the huge pay day type contracts like years past.
While some player’s names are being used in possible trades or uncertain futures like Reggie Bush, some are pretty much on their way to something new. Yes even some restricted free agents can be made nice offers and find new homes, but a lot of what happens and what is expected can usually be very far apart.
The following list is players by position who may be available come free agent time. All of them have a certain story behind why they may be made free, but we aren’t here for that, we are here for the joy of speculation. So join me, won’t you, on the voyage of NFL Free Agents 2011!
Vince Young, Titans: Many feel that Young’s time with the Titans is over, and although many feel he will never be a top flight NFL QB, he still has the winning mentality and his numbers have improved nicely. Last season Young had 10 TDs to just 3 INTs in 9 games and had a QB Rating of 98.6. He runs well and can be a play-maker, and could benefit from a new system and a fresh start. Young may not be best fit for a team that needs a big arm QB, but a good fit for a team that makes things go on the fly, much like Michael Vick did with Philadelphia last year.
Marc Bulger, Ravens: Football fans sometimes carry very short memories. Bulger was better known as the decent back up in St. Louis, rather than the starting QB, where he did very little to impress. Yes, Bulger can throw it hard, and at times makes great throws, but he has limited mobility, and has a hard time hanging on to the ball. He would need to find a team with a good system and top notch offensive line to have a chance. A team like Minnesota or Arizona will be the only 2 possible homes he may have a shot at success with.
Donovan McNabb, Redskins: McNabb is not free yet, but many feel that the guy benched for Rex Grossman at the end of 2010 has played his last game in D.C. Now the question is, does McNabb have anything at all left to resemble what he did in Philly? Arizona and Minnesota continue to be the fancy choices for a QB who may have a little something left. McNabb has the cannon still, but is it enough to merit another big pay day?
Matt Leinart, Texans: The Cardinals should apologize right away and maybe give him another chance. Leinart had a good pre-season in 2010, but played zero in the regular season after the deal to Houston. He at least deserves a chance somewhere, especially given what is out there to choose from.
Kevin Kolb, Eagles: Kolb is not free as of yet, but there is plenty of talk about the Eagles making a move to unload him. His numbers were not sparkling in 2010, with 7 TDs and 7 INTs with 1200 yards, but many think he has a certain something to lead teams week to week. Unfortunately for him, the Philadelphia Eagles aren’t one of them. He is a bit of an unknown, but a good option to what is out there.
DeAngelo Williams, Panthers: Now that Jonathan Stewart and Mike Goodsen have proven that they can handle the load, it may be time for Williams to head in a new direction. Last season was cut very short by injury, but Williams, who is still just 27, is still the type of guy when healthy that can go back to 2008 form when he rushed for over 1500 yards and 18 TDs. He has all the skills, and it may be a super move to send him to an established offense like Indy or New England, where he could jump right in and go to work. If he is healthy he is most likely the top of the 2011 class.
Arian Foster, Texans: Could the best back of 2010 possibly be free in 2011? It’s not likely that the Texans will let him go, but it’s possible. Foster proved that he can be an all out every down back and also has amazing hands. He is too good a player not to be gobbled up, but it will most likely be by his team from 2010.
Cedric Benson, Bengals: Just when it looked like Benson had revived his career, he goes and gets arrested yet again on assault charges this off-season. It looked all but over for Benson during his stay in Chicago, but since joining the Bengals he has rushed for 2,362 yards and 13 TDs the last 2 seasons. His off the field problems may make him a big risk, but he has shown that he still has some jump in his legs.
Ahmad Bradshaw, Giants: Once in the shadows of Derrick Ward and Brandon Jacobs, Bradshaw showed last year he has what it takes to be a lead back. 1,235 yards, 8TDs and 47 receptions is nothing to sneeze at, and it may bring a big pay day to Bradshaw. It would be hard to imagine the Giants letting him go, but this is a team that seems to lose itself late every season, so you never can tell. Outside of Williams, Bradshaw may be the best overall back on this list.
Michael Bush, Raiders: Bush still seems a bit under the radar, but he does get results when healthy. Last season in a change-up role behind Darren McFadden, he managed 665 yards and 8 TDs, and for his career is averaging a very nice 4.4 yards per carry. Also for a bigger power type back he has great hands and can be a nice open field playmaker. His injury past may make some think twice, but he is an underrated back with big upside.
Joseph Addai. Colts: Peyton Manning likes the cast he has, but Addai, who missed 8 games last year can very well be replaced by someone more durable and dependable. We know the Colts are not well known for being a running team, but imagine a back with better running skills? Addai would be a nice player in many schemes, but his days of being an elite running back seemed to have past just as quickly as they came. On the market he gets some looks, but maybe not a huge deal.
Ronnie Brown, Dolphins: Brown has been quite the team player in Miami. He shared his role with Ricky Williams, became a Wildcat QB, and still does his thing nicely. He may not have it in him to play every down or grind it out for 12 or 1,300 yards, but he has great hands, and can make plays. For the right price he fits in excellent with a back committee.
LeRon McClain, Ravens: A fullback is a fullback, unless it is McClain. In 2008 when the Ravens were falling apart at running back, McClain took the lead role and turned it into 902 yards and 10 TDs. For a fullback he runs well, has soft hands and can lead the way with big blocks. Baltimore will fall hard if they lose this guy, and they should expect a bit of a challenge to keep him.
Vincent Jackson, Chargers: The one bright spot here is that if Jackson is signed as a free agent it may end much of his contract woes and holdouts. Last season was cut very short as he and the Chargers battled all year for contracts. Jackson did get into 5 games and did post 3 TDs. In his last full season, 2009, Jackson racked up 69 catches, 1167 yards and 9 TDs. His 6′ 5″, 230 pound frame makes him very attractive as he towers over many CBs in the league. If he comes in with his head on straight, he is easily the best WR on the free agent market.
Santonio Holmes, Jets: Electric, fast and a flare for the big time catch are things you can say about Holmes. Lacking some discipline, enigmatic and lacking leadership are other things you can say about him too. Make no mistake, Holmes is an excellent football player, but if the Jets do not resign him, he will be looking at his third team in 3 years. You can’t help but wonder why he’d move around so much. You can’t argue with his 131 catches and close to 2,000 yards in 2 seasons however.
Sidney Rice, Vikings: He comes with loads of upside, but you have to keep in mind an injury that cost him much of last season, and he is still in the restricted free agent category. Rice did awesome things in 2009, grabbing 83 passes for 1312 yards and 8 TDs. He has game-breaking speed and tremendous poise for a youngster and can be a huge asset to any team. The Vikings, more than any other team really needs him to stay as they try and find an answer at QB.
Steve Smith, Giants: How can we consider a guy who 2 seasons ago caught 107 passes for 1230 yards and 7 TDs a candidate to be on the move? Well last season while Smith was sidelined with injuries that made him miss half the season, the Giants discovered other weapons in WRs Hakeem Nicks and Mario Manningham. Of the 3, Smith has the least speed and is more of a slot-type receiver. Sure, he would look great in a Giants uniform again this year, but he may want more passes than they can give them, and probably more money than they can afford too also.
Randy Moss, Titans: Usually going into a free agent year player’s boom, but that was not Moss in 2010. He dressed for 3 teams, and became invisible by the time he hit Tennessee. He is a step slower than the Moss of old, but he still has skills, a 6′ 4″ frame, and can pick it with the best of them. We are talking about a guy with 153 career TDs and is closing in on his 1,000 catch. The only problem here is keeping Moss active and his head into things. He has a good year or 2 left in him. Now someone just needs to take the chance.
Chad Ochocinco, Bengals: I for one would be shocked if Chad returns to the Bengals, but despite total Diva status, he can still play. While many say he has out talked himself, Chad still has 140 catches for close to 2,000 yards in the last 2 seasons. He would need to be teamed with another quality receiver to be most effective, but he should have some lookers.
Terrell Owens, Bengals: The “T Ocho Show” may have been an awful idea, but Cincy’s chance on him proved smart in 2010. The talk of him being washed up and old just turned into him finishing with 72 receptions and 983 yards with 9 TDs. He did have off-season knee surgery, so he may not be ready for camps, but until he shows he totally can’t compete, he deserves a job somewhere.
Zach Miller, Raiders: The Raiders have brought in all kinds of names to play WR over the past years, but Miller has been the most consistent of all. At 6′ 5″ he is a massive target, and at full speed looks like a runaway train. Averaging 60 catches per season is not shabby at all. The Raiders will need to lock him in, or he will jump quickly.
Owen Daniels, Texans: The ultimate “if” guy, Daniels has been struggling with injuries over the last 2 seasons. When healthy he showed promise, when he caught 70 passes in 2008. He does seem to find the injury bugs, and is not a super blocker, but he does have the hands essential in a TE for today’s NFL.
Bo Sciafe, Titans: Not many guys were shining with the Titans passing game, but Scaife may be good enough to still play some big time ball elsewhere. He needs a QB that can launch it downfield to take advantage of his good size and leaping ability. He also is not an ideal blocker, but can haul it in the crunch.
Tyson Clabo, Falcons: Big, tough, and quick for 6′ 6″ 331 pounds, Clabo is at the top of the class for this season. The Falcons did lots of running the last few seasons, but also had good QB protection helping QB Matt Ryan find his game. Clabo will be wooed by many teams this season, which is well deserved for this quiet monster. At just 31, he still has plenty in the tank.
Jared Gaither, Ravens: When you walk in where Jonathan Ogden left, you have your hands full, but Gaither has fit in and become one of the best OTs in the league. Here are the cold hard facts. He’s 6′ 9″ and 340 pounds, which is an awesome specimen. If you can’t be safe running or throwing with this guy in front of you, you have no place in this league. Gaither is also 4 years younger than Clabo, so he can demand long-term big dollars, and should get it.
Matt Light, Patriots: They always say you can’t teach experience, so Light already has a head up on most of the OTs in the pool this season. After a nice career of Super Bowls, Pro Bowls and being Tom Brady’s unsung O-Line leader, Light may be headed for one good pay day before he calls it quits. He’s not as big as some of the other free agents at 6″ 4″ and 305 pounds, and may not be as young at 33, but he knows the game and knows the tricks.
Jammal Brown, Redskins: Why the Saints decided to part ways with him is still kind of surprising, but why the Redskins may want to is not so much a mystery. The Redskins did not do great with QB protection last season, and Brown could be headed to another new home. The upsides are that he is just 28 years old and is a big body with good legs.
Jerome Bushrod, Saints: Will the Saints send off Bushrod like they did with Jammal Brown? I would be surprised, but crazier things have happened. He found his game and became a key ingredient in the Saints system. He is also just 27 and brings poundage at 329, which is good for moving DEs out of the way. Bushrod may be thought of as a second-tier option, but may be a pleasant pick up that may be the best O-Line move of 2011.
Logan Mankins, Patriots: Much like Matt Light, Mankins may be ending his stay in New England with Super Bowls and Pro Bowls under his belt. He’s 29 years old and at 6′ 4″ 310 pounds a very sturdy middle piece that is coveted in many O-Lines today. I would think that the Patriots would look to keep at least one of the 2 free agent lineman, but Mankins could prove the much pricier of the 2. It may not be a sexy name on the market, but a key one anyway.
Robert Gallery, Raiders: Tony Mandarich anyone? Well that’s what Gallery was sizing up to be early in his career. Brought in as a tackle, and picked 2nd overall in the 2004 draft, Gallery struggled and was finding himself out of favor in Oakland. Hard work and a move to guard have turned him into the star lineman that many expected him to be coming out of Iowa. At 6′ 7″ and 325 pounds, he’s huge and intimidating, and now he may be very well paid too. At 31 years old, we can expect to see him for at least 5 or 6 more years.
Davin Joseph, Buccaneers: It’s so easy to forget about or not care so much about the names of lineman, but Joseph has gracefully caught the eyes of many who know the game. Once a lost kid, he turned himself into a steady every down blocker for the up and coming Bucs. He is still plenty young enough at 27. However I don’t think teams will find him sneaking away from Tampa.
Justin Blalock, Falcons: A wonderful player in a very good system makes Blalock very much sought after in this year’s market. He has the size at 6′ 4″ and 329, is just 27, and showed he can play both run and pass well. Much like Joseph, the Falcons would be crazy to let him walk away. Taclkes may get a bit more of the hype, but the guards bring it home and Blalock is possibly the most underrated one out there.
Ryan Kalil, Panthers: Carolina has had very little to cheer about recently, but Kalil is certainly a bright spot. A very talented athlete for his size, Kalil can benefit from a good veteran led team, but the Panthers know they have one of the good ones at the position here. His size is right for centers at 6′ 2″ and 295 pounds and is just 26 years old, so if he does go free, he will be gobbled up fast.
Chris Spencer, Seahawks: Seattle at one point was a hot bed for O-Line talent, and Spencer is no exception. He is very quick off the ball for a guy at 309 pounds and is a potential Pro Bowler every season. He can be a real good pick up for a team who is just one guy away from a great O-Line.
Richard Seymour, Raiders: It seems less like he was living off of his reputation last year when he finally decided to give Oakland a real shot. He closed out 2010 with 6 1/2 sacks along with 48 total tackles. He is pretty much a 3-4 scheme player, and at 32 years old, it may be best for him to stay in that plan where speed is not as important as strength at DE. His biggest knock is dedication to where he lands, but he could get enough money to make himself comfy.
Cliff Avril, Lions: 33 total tackles and 9 sacks should be enough to gain him some notice, but being a defensive player for Detroit usually does not jump off the page. Fitting nicely in a 4-3 scheme and being just 25 years old, Avril can be an anchor for any defense as he matures. He did miss 3 games last year with injury, but in this writer’s opinion, he is the best unknown available at any position this season.
Charles Johnson, Panthers: The exit of Julius Peppers made way for Johnson to prove himself and he did not disappoint. 12 sacks and 62 total tackles in 2010, was very big for Johnson and now with it could come a big paycheck. He played the 4-3 system but can also be viable in a 3-4 scheme with his size.
Jamaal Anderson, Falcons: The 8th pick in the 2008 draft has found very little success, but maybe a change of scene may help. Anderson has the big frame to play a 3-4 system, and that may be the way to kick-start his career. Just 2 sacks in a season won’t keep him around though.
Haloti Ngata, Ravens: I can’t see it possible at all that he would go free, but if he does, the 6′ 4″ 350 Ngata could be a top 5 available player. A great run stopper, Ngata also added 6 sacks to his 62 tackles last year. He may be the best overall defensive player to be had, but he will cost huge money, much like Albert Haynesworth did.
Cullen Jenkins, Packers: The Super Bowl Champs should make a play to get him back. Jenkins had 7 sacks last season and he is a hole-filler up front at 305 pounds. The Packers have improved greatly on defense, and he is one of the key reasons.
Pat Williams, Vikings: If not for experience alone, Williams is still a big body and a top notch run stopper. Yes he does not have the big time sack number, but that’s not his game. Williams makes a great push and could still role play in any type of scheme.
Tamba Hali, Chiefs: In the days of bigger and faster athletes, Hali is changing the outlook of his position. He is a linebacker with a defensive ends body and wrecked havoc on opponents in 2010. Hali had 15 sacks and 62 total tackles, something that would look great in any defense. If Kansas City can’t keep him he is sure to move with no problem.
Chad Greenway, Vikings: In 2010 Greenway became a tackling machine for the Vikes. He had 145 total tackles and a sack for one of the league’s best defenses. He has a good frame for the position at 242 pounds, and has stayed healthy. The Vikings need defense more than ever now that they are trying to discover themselves on offense.
Paul Posluzny, Bills: He fought off some injury problems in 2010 and had a monster season. He showed skill in getting to the ball with 151 total tackles and also had 2 sacks. He is strong so he can hold his own on the run, but also play in coverage. A nice 2 way linebacker, as was expected when he was drafted.
Kamerion Wimbley, Raiders: Finally finding his groove and finding a new home, Wimbley continued to improve in 2010. Taking the starting job in Oakland he finished with 58 total tackles and 9 sacks. If will be his 3rd team in 4 seasons if he moves on, but his next move could be a nice stay.
Thomas Howard, Raiders: Well if Wimbley stays in Oakland, then we can expect Howard to be set free. He has the making of a big time tackler, but fell out of favor in 2010, and played very limited minutes. He is just 28, and has good speed to be valuable.
Nnamdi Asomugha, Raiders: Possibly the top free agent available this season, he will be paid heavy, but is well worth it. He plays all the big WRs tough, and is avoided at all cost by most offenses. Many feel he is the key to a team just short of a Super Bowl, and the bidding wars should be big. At 30 years old, he is still prime for a few great years.
Jonathan Joseph, Bengals: He has become one of the better corners in the league and has a nose for the ball. In 2009 he had 6 INTs followed up by 3 INTs in 2010 plus 42 tackles. He has been banged up at times, but very valuable and young enough to demand a long year loaded contract.
Antonio Cromartie, Jets: When the Jets made the move to add Cromartie to an already super secondary, many were ready to hand them the Super Bowl trophy, but that’s why we play the games, hello? (Thanks Herm Edwards) Cromartie was a nice fit, and the Jets secondary was very tough, but could he possibly leave town so fast? The Jets will have to do some hard work to find room under the cap for 2 big time CBs. Could be a nice pick-up.
Champ Bailey, Broncos: It feels like he has been around forever, doesn’t it? Bailey is always solid and always gives his all. Any young CB could learn everything from him, but he could also fit in with another solid vet. He may be closer to the end of his career, but that won’t slow him down anytime soon.
Donte Whitner, Bills: Finally coming into his own after a couple of decent seasons, Whitner is showing why he was the 8th overall pick in the 2006 draft. Last season he was very active with 140 total tackles, also adding a sack and a pick. You don’t like when safeties make so many tackles, but isn’t it nice to know you have a guy that can make them?
Eric Weddle, Chargers: Big hitter with a nose for the ball, Weddle ended up 96 tackles and 2 picks with a sack in 2010. Each season his numbers have improved and should get even better. Any team in need of a defensive spark should come hard at Weddle.
Mike Huff, Raiders: Same goes here as for Whitner/ Huff was taken 7th overall in 2006, and the Raiders were waiting for what he became. 3 INTs and 95 tackles are really good, plus he can cover and hit at his spot.
Quentin Mikell, Eagles: The eldest of the bunch at safety, Mikell has been on some good defenses in the past. He can play some cover with 3 INTs or bring some run stopping too. Not great speed, but plenty in the hit department for a quicker secondary looking to add pop.
If you’d like to hear anything else from me on topics or ideas I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org