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Shutdown Corner

2014 NFL free-agent rankings (defensive and special teams players)

Eric Edholm
Shutdown Corner

At 4 p.m. on March 11, the spending spree began. That’s when NFL free agency officially started.

Teams have their wallets ready, with the salary cap increasing past $130 million, and hundreds of free agents available to drop millions on. Every team hopes that pass rusher or wide receiver they just dropped eight figures on will be the one to push them to the playoffs.

There’s a little something for everyone this year, between instant impact stars and fine young bargains at almost all positions.

Here’s the ranking of every significant defensive and special teams free agent (you can find the offensive free agents here) who teams will be clamoring to sign in hopes of building a winner for 2014:

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TIER 1

1. Greg Hardy (FRANCHISE TAGGED): He’s a top 10 end who is just 25 years old. Explains a few reasons why the Panthers tagged him.

2. Michael Johnson (SIGNED): Getting 3.5 sacks last season wasn’t ideal in a contract year, but the huge and rangy defensive end had 11.5 the year before and it's why Tampa Bay nabbed him for a four-year, $43.75 million deal, according to an ESPN report hours before free agency officialy started.  He just turned 27 and has prime years ahead. 

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Greg Hardy is a valuable defender for the Panthers. (USA TODAY Sports)

3. Michael Bennett (RE-SIGNED): For some reason he had to settle for a one-year deal last offseason. He'll be coming back to Seattle on a four-year deal, reports Pro Football Talk. Bennett played a big role in Seattle’s Super Bowl championship, picking up 8.5 sacks.

4. Jason Hatcher (SIGNED): The Redskins got one of the few bright spots on the Dallas Cowboys' defense. Hatcher was one of the best tackles in football, collecting a career-high 11.5 sacks. He will be 32 before next season. The deal is valued at $27.5 million over four seasons, according to the Washington Post.

5. B.J. Raji (RE-SIGNED): He’s coming off an underwhelming season for the Green Bay Packers, and  struggled to retain his peak play of 2010 and 2011 when he was a key to Green Bay’s defense. The market reflected that and Raji was forced to settle on a one-year, $4 million deal. 

6. Henry Melton (SIGNED): Melton is a case study in why players hate the franchise tag. He took the one-year deal with the Chicago Bears and then tore his ACL. He should be fine as the disruptive interior lineman got a multi-year deal with the Cowboys.

7. Lamarr Houston (SIGNED): With Oakland he was a workhorse end, rarely coming off the field because he’s good against the run and pass. He has many more productive years ahead of him for the Chicago Bears, who got him for a four-year, $35 million deal.

8. Linval Joseph (SIGNED): Joseph is a stout tackle who has missed just one game in three years and won’t turn 26 until October. He wanted to stay with the New York Giants, but the Vikings' offer was too much to pass. He got a five-year, $31 million deal, according to an ESPN report from Adam Schefter.  

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Jared Allen can still bring the heat on quarterbacks. (AP)

9. Arthur Jones (SIGNED): Finally with the chance to be a regular starter, Jones turned in a fine season as a 3-4 end with the Baltimore Ravens with 53 tackles and four sacks. He's reuniting with Chuck Pagano in Indianapolis on a five-year, $30 million deal. 

10. Randy Starks (RE-SIGNED): Remarkably, Starks hasn’t missed a game since 2007, quite a feat considering the pounding he takes as an interior lineman. He’s consistent and good at age 30. The Dolphins re-signed him to a two-year, $12 million deal.

11. Jared Allen: He’s not the dominant force he once was, and will be 32 in April, but there’s value in 11.5 sacks, which is what Allen put up last season. He has double-digit sacks each season since 2007.

12. Justin Tuck (SIGNED): Tuck had a solid contract year, picking up 11 sacks for the Giants. It was a nice rebound after getting nine the previous two years combined. He'll be a Raider for the next two seasons for $11 million.

13. Everson Griffen (RE-SIGNED): In four years with Minnesota, Griffen started just one game, but that will change after the Vikings gave him a five-year extension for $42.5 million. 

 


TIER 2

14. Tyson Jackson (SIGNED): Since becoming the third overall pick in 2009, Jackson hasn’t been terrible, he just hasn’t come anywhere close to living up to that draft slot, especially as a pass rusher. But the Atlanta Falcons will give him a second contract, reports NFL Network's Ian Rapaport.

15. Jonathan Babineaux (RE-SIGNED): A steady end for the Atlanta Falcons for nine seasons returns after getting a three-year deal.

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Antonio Smith (USA TODAY Sports)

16. Paul Soliai (SIGNED): A good run-stuffing tackle, Soliai was a regular starter for four years in Miami and he just turned 30. He's headed to the Falcons on a five-year, $33 million deal.

17. Anthony Spencer: An interesting case. He had a great 2012, with 95 tackles and 11 sacks. He was going to move to a 4-3 end spot, but knee issues limited him to one game. He’ll get some interest at age 30 if his knee checks out.

18. Antonio Smith (SIGNED): Smith rarely missed a game for the Texans and is a good two-way defensive end in the 3-4 scheme. He took a two-year deal with the Raiders for $9 million.

19. Corey Wootton: He’s undersized to play on the inside, but he often did that for the Chicago Bears last year, especially in pass rushing situations. His versatility will be a positive in free agency.

20. Pat Sims: Sims became a regular starter in his first year with the Oakland Raiders, after five years in Cincinnati, and played fairly well. The big tackle should get a chance to start again.

21. Robert Ayers: A former first-round pick, Ayers was mostly a bust through four seasons but did OK in a backup role in 2013 for the Denver Broncos, picking up a career-best 5.5 sacks.

22. Terrence Cody: A disappointment for the Ravens, the massive Cody should still find work because he’s 340 pounds and just 25 years old.

23. Alex Carrington: Carrington was off to a nice start last year and looked like he might be having a breakout season before a quad injury ended it after three games. Someone will pay for his potential.

24. Tony McDaniel (RE-SIGNED): As a solid starter at tackle for the Seahawks last year, McDaniel should gets another shot in Seattle, per ESPN.

25. Willie Young (SIGNED): Young finally got a chance to start for the Lions last season and did well against the run without much pass rush. He'll stay in the NFC North, but with the Chicago Bears after landing a three-year, $9 million deal.

26. Kevin Williams: Once one of the best tackles in the NFL, Williams will be 34 next season and is on the backside of his career. He played his first 11 seasons in Minnesota, but might be moving on.

27. Clinton McDonald (SIGNED): McDonald was a good reserve interior pass rusher for the Seahawks the last three years, and that has value in the NFL. He's off to Tampa, getting a four-year deal worth $12 million.

28. Ryan Pickett: Pickett will turn 35 next season and his production was way down in 2013. He has been a longtime starter but perhaps a reserve role suits him best now.

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Ziggy Hood

29. Ziggy Hood (SIGNED): Significantly overdrafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the first round of the 2009 draft, Hood has never developed into much more than an average player. The Jaguars hope he turns his career around after agreeing to terms with Hood.

30. Matt Shaughnessy (RE-SIGNED): He was once an intriguing young player with the Raiders but has faded since then. Can play 4-3 end or 3-4 linebacker, and at 27 maybe there's still time for him to fulfill his promise. He's staying with the Cardinals on a two-year deal.

31. Brett Keisel: A longtime starter in the NFL, Keisel will turn 36 during his 13th NFL season. His play is waning but maybe some team can get another productive year out of him.


TIER 3

32. Johnny Jolly: Off-field issues kept Jolly out of the NFL for three seasons, but he had a comeback and started eight games for the Packers last year. At 31, he could still have some seasons left.

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Johnny Jolly (USA TODAY Sports)

33. Corey Peters (RE-SIGNED): Peters was having a nice season for Atlanta when he tore his Achilles in a late-season game at San Francisco. The timing was awful, but the Falcons are bringing him back on a one-year deal.

34. Jason Hunter: Hunter didn’t have a great season in Oakland, with just 27 tackles and three sacks, and now he’ll be 31 for the start of next season.

35. Israel Idonije (SIGNED): The longtime Bear went to the Lions last year and had a quiet year. He'll return to the Bears on a one-year deal. Once a good pass rusher, he had just half of a sack in 2013.

36. Will Smith: Smith missed all of last season with a knee injury, then the Saints cut him. He has been a reliable pass rusher for many years and should find work in that role.

37. Fili Moala (RE-SIGNED): Through his five seasons Moala has been a decent starter for the Indianapolis Colts as a 4-3 tackle or 3-4 end. The Colts never allowed him to reach the market.

38. Vance Walker (SIGNED): Walker was a career part-timer who got a chance to start at tackle for the Raiders and did OK. It was enough to get a three-year, $13 million deal with the Chiefs.

39. Ropati Pitoitua (RE-SIGNED): Pitoitua started with the Chiefs in 2012 and the Titans in 2013 and was reasonably productive for both teams. He got a multi-year deal to stay in Tennessee.

40. Peria Jerry: The former first-round pick of the Falcons hasn’t played up to that level, although he had a career-high 14 starts and 33 tackles last season.

41. Jeremy Mincey (SIGNED): The Broncos picked up Mincey late in the season and he played decently. He has character concerns but the Cowboys like what they see, investing $4.5 million over two seasons.

42. Aubrayo Franklin: Franklin has played in 60 games over the last four seasons, most of them as a starter and has zero sacks. That’s tough to do. He is paid to stop the run, but that skill is drying up at age 33. That’s why he has been on four teams the last four years.

43. Earl Mitchell (SIGNED): Mitchell really isn’t a nose tackle at just 300 pounds, but played it for the Texans last year. The Dolphins got him on a four-year, $16 million deal.

44. Daniel Te’o-Nesheim: He was moderately interesting in 2012 when he had 40 tackles and four sacks, but in 2013 he started 12 games and produced just 14 tackles and zero sacks.

45. Frostee Rucker (RE-SIGNED): Rucker was a starter in 2011 and 2012 for the Bengals and Browns, respectively, but just a role player for the Cardinals last year, and had just one sack. Still, the Cardinals are bringing him back for a on a two-year, $2.145 million deal, according to a USA Today report.

46. Mike Patterson: Has gone from longtime Eagles starter to reserve, a role he played with the Giants last year. And he’ll be 31 next season.

47. Marcus Benard (RE-SIGNED): Benard is a pass-rushing role player, and had 11 sacks through two seasons. In the two seasons since he has just three sacks. He'll be back in Arizona on a one-year deal.

48. Andre Carter: Carter’s name always pops up when teams need to find a cheap veteran pass rusher. With 4.5 sacks the last two years, those calls might stop coming.

Last-minute cuts: Red Bryant (signed with Jaguars); Jason Babin (returned to the Jaguars); DeMarcus Ware (signing with the Broncos); Julius Peppers (landed with the Packers) ; Chris Clemons (is off to Jacksonville).

Notable restricted free agents: Mitch Unrein

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SDCLBs header

TIER 1

1. Brian Orakpo (FRANCHISE TAGGED): The Redskins tagged free agency's top outside linebacker, who appealed to mainly teams running 3-4 defenses. He’s not in the DeMarcus Ware category of pass rushers, but he’s a notch below with a high motor, even if a few past injuries are concerning.

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Brian Orakpo (USA TODAY Sports)

2. Donald Butler (RE-SIGNED): A solid, three-down inside linebacker who quietly became the nerve center of a solid Chargers defense. At 25, he still has plenty of upside, which the Chargers seized upon.

3. Brandon Spikes (SIGNED): Moved from the Patriots to the Bills, getting a one-year deal in Buffalo for $3.25 million, according to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport. Spikes brings a nasty attitude and truck-like hitting ability, but he is a liability in pass coverage and has a history of knee issues.

4. Karlos Dansby (SIGNED): At 32, Dansby might have only a handful of quality seasons left, but 2013 was a great campaign for him and he proved to be a vital piece of a strong Cardinals defense. He can line up in a few spots for the Browns, who signed him to a reported four-year, $24 million deal.

5. Jason Worilds (TRANSITION TAGGED): A rising pass-rush talent for 3-4 teams, Worilds was a no-brainer priority for the Steelers despite the salary cap challenge. He played well late last season and could break out soon.

6. D’Qwell Jackson (SIGNED): The Browns cut Jackson, but not because of productivity issues. He was a salary-cap casualty, but his 141 tackles last year made him an easy target for the Colts, who signed him to a reported four-year, $22 million deal.

7. Shaun Phillips: Some thought his career was in the tank, but he helped rescue a Broncos pass rush with Von Miller in and out of the lineup in 2013. A strong role player who might have more value to Denver than elsewhere.

8. Perry Riley (RE-SIGNED): Good in coverage and less effective stacking and shedding against the run, Riley has fit in well with the Redskins. He'll be back in Washington on a multi-year deal.

9. Daryl Smith (RE-SIGNED): Another older linebacker who revived his career with a terrific performance in 2013. Smith rarely came off the field and helped fill the void of losing Ray Lewis, and in many ways Smith outplayed the Lewis of 2012. He'll be back, getting a four-year deal valued at $16.1 million.

10. Arthur Moats: Jack of all trades, master of none, but a versatile player who wins with instincts and hustle. Could fit with a 3-4 or a 4-3 scheme, and he helps on special teams, too.

11. Jon Beason (RE-SIGNED): Was a steal for the Giants, who traded a seventh-round pick for him after Beason was phased out in Carolina. On-field coach and locker-room leader whose long-term durability remains a question, but he'll be back in New York.

 


TIER 2

12. Wesley Woodyard: Lost his starting job down the stretch to journeyman Paris Lenon and is moving on to the Titans, getting a four-year deal valued at $16 million. He's expected to start at middle linebacker.

13. Pat Angerer: Staying healthy has been the problem the past two seasons. When healthy, he’s a heady player who lacks elite athleticism, but he has proven to fit in multiple fronts.

14. Kavell Conner (SIGNED): Hits hard but can’t stay healthy. Still, the Chargers grabbed him for a three-year deal.

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Calvin Pace welcomes rookie QB EJ Manuel to the NFL. (AP)

15. Mike Neal (RE-SIGNED): Active, versatile defender will stay in Green Bay for two more seasons, he tweeted. Neal can also kick down to the defensive line. He's an intriguing player who is only 26.

16. Calvin Pace (RE-SIGNED): A Rex Ryan favorite, Pace jump-started his career with 10 sacks a year ago but likely accomplished that in part because of attention paid elsewhere on the Jets’ defense. He got a two-year deal.

17. Erin Henderson: Career has fallen off after two arrests, and red flags might turn most teams off. Can play inside or at weak-side linebacker but fluctuating weight has been another worry.

18. Jo-Lonn Dunbar (RE-SIGNED): Dunbar gives the Rams depth on the outside. He got a two-year deal for $3.5 million.

19. Jonathan Casillas: Solid strong-side linebacker and special-teamer who could end up starting in Tampa by default if the team can’t find a better answer.

20. James Anderson: Started all 16 games and lead Bears in tackles in 2013, but run defense was a mess. Bears appear to be letting him test market but could be back on cheaper deal if interest elsewhere is low.

21. O’Brien Schofield: Part-time, pass-rush talent (11.5 sacks in four seasons) whose career has been derailed by injuries suffered another setback, this time in free agency. He reportedly failed his physical after agreeing on a two-year, $8 million deal with the Giants.

22. Keith Rivers (SIGNED): Former top-10 draft pick is moving on from the Giants for a starting opportunity with the Bills. He got a two-year deal worth $5 million, ESPN reported. Rivers is an unspectacular player who doesn’t blitz or ball hawk at all but can hold down the fort outside or inside.

23. Akeem Jordan: Two-down linebacker who came off the field in passing situations. But he should find a spot on a roster with his special-teams value and team-first approach.

24. Michael Boley: Once a heady playmaker with 103 career starts to his name, Boley’s career has fallen off the past few seasons and he’s turning 33 in August. Strictly an outside linebacker with limited starting potential now.

25. Parys Haralson: Run-stopping outside linebacker with limited appeal but fit well with Saints’ locker room and was solid rotational player before pectoral injury ended his season.

26. Darryl Sharpton (SIGNED): Liability in coverage but some value for his hitting and special-teams contributions. Decent part-time player at best for the Redskins, who got him on a one-year deal.

27. Reggie Walker (RE-SIGNED): Key reserve for the Chargers will be back on a two-year deal. Walker can play inside or outside and made valuable contributions on special teams.

28. Rob Jackson: Breakout 2012 season but fell back a year ago following four-game suspension. Some teams might view him as a "value" starter but would be best as a third OLB in a 3-4.

29. D.J. Williams (RE-SIGNED): Preseason calf injury set him back and conditioning was an issue, but he made some plays by season’s end. Bears want to get younger, but they believe Williams has a little left in the tank, signing him to a one-year, $1.5 million deal. 

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Jonathan Vilma

30. Jonathan Vilma: Key piece of the Saints’ Super Bowl team won’t return to New Orleans but could surface elsewhere on a one-year, "prove it" contract later in free agency.

31. Desmond Bishop: Injuries have derailed a once promising career. Has more season-ending injuries (two) the past two seasons than starts (one) and likely will have final shot to prove he can stay healthy this offseason.

32. Paris Lenon: Took over Broncos’ starting job inside during Super Bowl run but has limited appeal because of age (36) and size (230 pounds). Can cover fairly well.


TIER 3

33. Stewart Bradley: Wrist injury last season and history of concussions have career off track once he couldn’t win Broncos’ middle linebacker job in training camp last season.

34. Dane Fletcher (SIGNED): Special teamer and glue guy scrapped and clawed his way onto the Bucs.

35. Joe Mays (SIGNED): A one-year deal candidate who did a modest job in Houston last season but is nothing special as strictly an inside linebacker. The Chiefs picked him up on a two-year deal.

36. Darryl Tapp (SIGNED): Has played 4-3 end and 3-4 linebacker, and he contributes to special teams, but has limited upside or appeal. The Lions got him on a one-year deal.

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Ernie Sims (USA TODAY Sports)

37. Rocky McIntosh: Fourth linebacker type who can help as short-yardage/goal-line defender and active special teamer. Not special otherwise.

38. Will Witherspoon: Played out of necessity for the Rams, and though he has connections to new coordinator Gregg Williams, Witherspoon turns 34 this summer and will be a third-wave free agent at best.

39. Ernie Sims: Has played for new coordinator Rod Marinelli before and started six games last season but is an undersized, undisciplined hitter with zero special-teams value.

40. Stephen Nicholas: 31-year-old weak-side linebacker who was benched in favor of an undrafted free agent must hit the reset button this offseason after spending entire career in Atlanta.

41. Bryan Kehl: Finished his season on injured reserve and never really found his niche (except on special teams) after showing athleticism and intrigue early in his career with the Giants.

42. Zac Diles: Bounced around past three seasons after starting 30 games for Texans from 2008 to 2010.

43. Will Herring: Respected special-teams player who was voted a captain for those units by Saints teammates in 2013.

44. Dan Connor: Former third-round pick has drifted a bit and might be out of options except as a deep reserve and special teamer.

45. Nick Barnett: Has some inside-outside versatility, but arrow pointing down with injuries sullying a solid career.

46. Frank Zombo (RE-SIGNED): Former Packers fan favorite did not play well for the Chiefs but he'll be back on a two-year deal.

Last-minute cuts: Jameel McClain (got a two-year deal with the Giants); LaMarr Woodley (off to the Raiders on a two-year deal).

Restricted free agents: Bront Bird; Mark Herzlich; Jamari Lattimore; Spencer Paysinger; Vincent Rey; Craig Robertson (exclusive rights free agent); Michael Wilhoite (ERFA).

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TIER 1

1. Aqib Talib (SIGNED): If big corners are all the rage, they don’t get much bigger than Talib at 6-1 and 205. Denver adds that size, getting the top-ranked DB for $57 million over six seasons, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter. 

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Aqib Talib (USA TODAY Sports)

2. Alterraun Verner (SIGNED): Somewhat under the radar, Verner isn’t particularly big or fast but he played near an elite level last season. Might not be a left cornerback, but Verner covers well, competes hard and has a good all-around game. Lovie Smith and the Bucs look like they're moving past Darrelle Revis rather quickly, getting the DB to a reported four-year, $26.5 million deal. 

3. T.J. Ward (SIGNED): Fierce, hard-hitting, self-motivated safety with good all-around game, even if he’s not elite in deep coverage. He's headed to Denver.

4. Brent Grimes (RE-SIGNED): Another smaller corner with a big game, Grimes is a feisty cover man with a high motor and a competitive streak. He was fantastic for the most part coming off an Achilles injury in 2012 and was rewarded by the Dolphins with a reported four-year, $32 million deal.

5. Jairus Byrd (SIGNED): After a holdout and a foot injury, Byrd returned to the Bills’ lineup and showed why he considers himself a top-shelf safety. His coverage ability and nose for the ball set him apart. The Saints don't seem to be worried about the salary cap implications, signing him to a six-year deal.

6. Vontae Davis (RE-SIGNED): The Dolphins soured on Davis’ character, but the Colts reaped the benefits with a standout performance in 2013. He’s a No. 1 corner in a league with a dearth of them and the Colts are happy to keep him to the tune of $39 million over four years, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter.

7. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (SIGNED): His talk of retirement didn't overshadow his strong run up to the Super Bowl for the Giants. DRC gets a five-year deal valued at $35 million, per New York Daily News.

8. Malcolm Jenkins (SIGNED): Has made some dynamite plays, has played corner and safety and is still young at 26 but hasn’t lived up to his first-round billing. He landed with the Eagles on a three-year deal.

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Donte Whitner ... or is it Hitner? (USA TODAY Sports)

9. Charles Tillman (RE-SIGNED): Injuries killed Tillman’s 2013 season but he might have one more good year in him. He got a one-year deal with the Bears.

10. Captain Munnerlyn (SIGNED): Gambling, playmaking slot corner with some special-teams value for the Vikings. Undersized but competitive, Munnerlyn has blitzing and ball-hawking instincts. He landed a three-year, $15 million deal.

11. Sam Shields (RE-SIGNED): Blazing fast corner shocked with his contributions in Packers’ 2010 Super Bowl season. Although he fell back after that, Shields rallied with a solid 2013, showing his nose for the ball. The Packers are bringing him back for a reported four-year, $39 million deal.

12. Donte Whitner (SIGNED): He's taking his big hits (hence his desire to be called “Hitner”) to Cleveland, according to ESPN for four years and $28 million. Whitner is a tone setter who is best up closer to the line of scrimmage. Can be burned in deep coverage but can change the mentality of a secondary with his physical style.

13. Antoine Bethea (SIGNED): Career has leveled off a bit as he approached 30 years of age, but Bethea is a coachable, smart contributor who can play at a plus-starter level for the right team. That team is now the 49ers, to the tune of $26 million over four years, per the Sacramento Bee.

14. Chris Clemons: Returned to the Dolphins on a one-year deal in 2013 and played well at safety. The type of player who can contribute in many ways but isn’t special in any of them.

15. Walter Thurmond (SIGNED): Giants' free-agent pickup has played inside and outside in Seahawks’ system. He's not an elite playmaker, though. Thurmond got a one-year deal for $3.5 million.

 


TIER 2

16. Ryan Clark: No longer elite, Clark has health limitations, turns 35 next season and is outspoken enough on league issues for some teams to shy away from him. Has eyes on future media career but could be strong, one-year upgrade for a defense.

17. Roman Harper (SIGNED): Fearless, heady strong safety who was cornerstone for Saints’ defense the past several years. Harper struggles to cover tight ends but can blitz and play in the box for the Panthers, who signed him to a two-year deal.

18. Quintin Mikell: Proved to be valuable for Carolina's defense that patched things together on the back end behind its dominant front seven. At 33, he’s a one-year option somewhere, but his value was evident when he suffered a foot injury in the Panthers' playoff loss. The 49ers attacked his vacated spot immediately after he left the field.

19. Tarell Brown (SIGNED): Frequently picked on in recent seasons, Brown showed good competitiveness despite lack of ideal size. Has held his own which is why the Raiders picked him up in their big free-agent spending on defense.

20. Stevie Brown (RE-SIGNED): Went from stunning, invaluable performer in 2012 (eight interceptions) to injured (torn ACL) question mark after this past season. His career is at a crossroads, but the Giants are sticking with him as he ageed to a deal.

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Bernard Pollard is all about that action. (USA TODAY Sports)

21. Nate Allen (RE-SIGNED): Revived career last season with solid effort after talk of him being a former second-round bust prior to 2013. Athletically gifted player who doesn’t always have greatest feel for free safety but will be back in Philly on a one-year deal.

22. Bernard Pollard (RE-SIGNED): Hired hitman who has long record of knocking out opponents (especially when they are Patriots) no matter where he plays. Despite limitations in pass coverage, Pollard will be back with the Titans.

23. Louis Delmas (SIGNED): The Dolphins are taking a gamble on the safety's hitting ability and potential for career revival at age 27, even with litany of injury concerns. He got a one-year, $3.5 million deal in Miami, according to Pro Football Talk.

24. Corey Graham (SIGNED): No longer merely a special-teams standout, Graham has turned himself into a starting-caliber, low-ceiling cornerback who has played inside and out. Not special, but the type of player the Bills need. Buffalo got him on a four-year, $16 million deal, according to ESPN.

25. Asante Samuel: Riverboat gambler with tackling deficiencies and freelance mentality that will drive a team mad … and also bail them out with a big play here or there, if he gets a chance. Likely best as a third corner who plays outside in a zone-based scheme where he can read quarterbacks’ eyes.

26. Mike Mitchell (SIGNED): Terrific athlete and headhunter who throws his massive frame around looking to do damage to skill-position players who cross his path. Undisciplined and mouthy, Mitchell racks up fines from the league but nevertheless figures to be the lastest physical presence for the Steelers, who got him on a five-year, $25 million deal.

27. Terrell Thomas: Feel-good story who overcame back-to-back season-ending ACL injuries in 2011 and 2012 (as well as one in college at USC) to perform admirably with a full season in 2013. Might no longer be starting corner but can play safety and nickel, too.

28. Rashean Mathis: Thought to be on his last legs and lacking ideal speed, Mathis proved to be a valuable stop-gap option in Detroit. The Lions could bring him back to push their young, unproven corners and provide insurance.

29. Major Wright: Picked the wrong time to have a poor season heading into free agency. Prior to that, Wright was ascending with a few seasons in which the light appeared to be going on. Lost playmaking edge and run-stopping ability last season but worth a gamble.

30. Richard Marshall (RE-SIGNED): Beat Derek Cox for starting spot down the stretch after joining the Chargers late in the preseason, and the defense played much better thereafter. Solid performer who earned himself another starting look for the Chargers for at least one season.

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Charles Woodson (USA TODAY Sports)

31. Chris Cook (SIGNED): Long-armed press corner who has struggled to stay healthy and comes with character questions. Has had his moments in battles with Calvin Johnson. Now he'll deal with NFC West on the a regular basis after getting a one-year deal with the Niners.

32. Charles Woodson: Thought to be a ceremonial signing in return to Oakland, Woodson played well last season in center-field role. Still has a nose for the ball, even if he has lost range and athleticism at 37. The Raiders want him back, and that is the most sensible spot for Woodson.

33. Brandon Meriweather (RE-SIGNED): Injury-prone, concussion-issuing player who has little regard for fines or potential suspension for his hits. Still possesses good physical skills but is a risky investment whose dependability appears low. He'll be back with the Redskins for a season.

34. Kendrick Lewis: The Chiefs drafted Sanders Commings as Lewis’ heir, and a flat-line 2013 season for Lewis likely means he will play elsewhere next season. Would work best as a free safety, but missed tackles were a problem last season.

35. Mike Adams: Solid locker-room presence and contributor for Super Bowl runners-up, but Adams is not a special athlete and likely would be relegated to fighting for his job with rehabbing Rahim Moore in Denver. Might test the market.

36. Ryan Mundy (SIGNED): Career part-time safety coming off his best season, Mundy is more of a capable, fill-in starter than a 16-game fixture. He tweeted that he's happy to be a new Chicago Bear, getting a two-year deal, according to Pro Football Talk.

37. Brandon Browner (SIGNED): Sure, the long corner fits the new style of player teams seek on the edges, but his problems the past few seasons hurt his worth. The Patriots got him on a three-year deal valued at $12.35 million.

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Ed Reed's public candor cost him a job in Houston before Rex Ryan picked him up in New York. (AP)

38. Ed Reed: After the Texans admitted their massive mistake on Reed, the Jets picked him up and gave him a home down the stretch. He’s worth only a one-year deal, and it’s unclear if Rex Ryan would want him back except at the veteran’s minimum.

39. Taylor Mays (RE-SIGN): Reclaimed a lost career under now Bengals coordinator Paul Guenther, and Mays found a role as a hybrid safety-linebacker who covered teams’ tight ends in a division that has some good ones. He'll be back in Cincy on a one-year deal.

40. Antoine Cason: Former first-round pick stepped up after Tyrann Mathieu and earned himself another contract with his play down the stretch.

41. Tracy Porter: Former Super Bowl hero had a nice season in Oakland and could be brought back to start opposite D.J. Hayden. Porter manned the slot ably.

 


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42. Chris Crocker: Won’t have a deep market for his services and might have to sign a one-year deal with the Bengals or Vikings (and Mike Zimmer), who know him best.

43. Yeremiah Bell: No longer a feared hitter at 35 and losing a step, Bell could return to the Cardinals, but they likely will explore younger, faster and taller options at safety first.

44. James Ihedigbo: He beat first-round pick Matt Elam for the starting job in August and was a solid contributor last season as a strong safety, but he has terrible ball skills and likely will have a new home with Elam the starter again.

45. Jabari Greer: Tore his ACL and was cut in a cap-saving move by the Saints. Not worth the big-money he earned in 2012 and likely won’t be viewed as a starter except by desperate teams at corner looking for a physical, feisty presence.

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Dunta Robinson struggled for the Chiefs last season. (AP)

46. Quintin Demps: Strictly a backup but one the Chiefs will consider bringing back, if for no other reason that he’d come cheap and can return kickoffs.

47. Javier Arenas: Has more value as a returner, but he frustrated Bruce Arians with his decision making, too often looking to hit a home run instead of consistently hitting doubles. Likely to move on from Arizona.

48. Trumaine McBride (RE-SIGNED): Smallish corner who turned in a nice season with the Giants amid a slew of injuries. His reward: a two-year deal to come back for $3.1 million, per nj.com. 

49. Drayton Florence: Journeyman did a nice job as the third corner (on the outside) for Carolina but his market might be slim at 33. Could return to Carolina on a one-year deal.

50. Josh Wilson: Started all 16 games and moved into the slot in nickel but was burned repeatedly and appears to be headed elsewhere. Competitive, smaller corner who needs a change of scenery.

51. Usama Young: A neck injury ended his season late, so health will be a consideration for this part-time safety going forward.

52. E.J. Biggers: Desperate Redskins moved him from corner to safety, which he hadn’t played since high school. Turns 26 in June and could fit somewhere as a decent fourth corner.

53. Will Blackmon (RE-SIGNED): Hungry vet was a perfect pickup for the Jaguars, playing well down the stretch at slot and outside corner. Has return experience, too. Will be back on a two-year deal for about $1.8 million.

54. Dunta Robinson: Lost nickel job early and struggled when injuries pressed him into duty. A bust free-agent signing last year who turns 31 and might not have much left.

55. Nolan Carroll: Depending on what happens with Dimitri Patterson and his big salary, the Dolphins (who are flush with cap space) might want to bring Carroll back, even with young players at corner, for the way he played down the stretch.

56. Will Allen: Ball-tracking ability could make him a solid third safety if the Steelers let him walk.

57. Zack Bowman: Filled in admirably for Charles Tillman down the stretch and could be back in Chicago for the right money.

58. Matt Giordano: Rams expected to move on after safety play let them down last season.

59. Kurt Coleman: Eagles appear ready to clean house at safety and part ways with Coleman, a frequent start the past few seasons who seldom distinguished himself.

60. Cassius Vaughn: Well-liked and versatile, Vaughn could be back with the Colts as a fourth or fifth corner, but not any more than that.

61. Corey Webster: There's talk of retirement after a miserable 2013 season, but he plans to try the market and might find a suitor for his big frame and poor hands.

62. Darian Stewart: See Giordano, Matt. If Stewart makes it next season, it won’t be with the Rams again.

63. Kelvin Hayden (RE-SIGNED): How much value is there for a 31-year-old corner who missed the 2013 season with a torn hamstring? Enough to get a one-year deal with Chicago. He'll likely be a candidate for the nickel job again.

64. Jim Leonhard: Plans to retire after the 2014 season and likely won’t get above the vet’s minimum. A candidate to join the Browns in a veteran role.

65. Mike Jenkins: Tracy Porter might be higher on the Raiders’ priority list to re-sign, but Jenkins could be back if they’re not yet sold on D.J. Hayden.

66. Chris Maragos: Special-teamer, third safety quietly filled in nicely for the Super Bowl champs.

67. Aaron Ross: He won’t retire, but he won’t be back with the Giants, either. Limited market for nickel corner at best.

68. Dominique Franks: Could return as Falcons’ No. 5 corner but otherwise eminently replaceable.

69. Reed Doughty: Box safety and special teamer who too often has been pressed into starting duty with the Redskins but valuable guy to have on a roster.

70. Eric Wright (RE-SIGNED): The 49ers couldn’t revive his career last season, but he'll get another shot in San Francisco.

71. Quentin Jammer: Super Bowl inactive will be allowed by the Broncos to seek a deal elsewhere. He might not find one after struggling this season at corner/safety.

Last-minute cuts: Derek Cox; Johnny Patrick; Antonio Cromartie; Dimitri Patterson; Carlos Rogers; Brice McCain; Thomas DeCoud; Patrick Chung; Darrelle Revis (signed a one-year deal with the Patriots); Cortland Finnegan (signed a two-year deal with the Dolphins).

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1. Steven Hauschka: Hauschka has become a remarkably consistent player for the champion Seahawks, hitting 94.3 percent of his field goals last year.

2. Dan Carpenter (RE-SIGNED): Moving from the Dolphins to the Bills didn’t bother Carpenter, who hit a career-high 91.7 percent of his field-goal attempts last season. Buffalo is rewarding him with a four-year deal.

3. Adam Vinatieri (RE-SIGNED): Even at age 41 Vinatieri is still one of the best in the league, and he hit 87.5 percent of his field goals last year for the Colts. He’ll be back in Indianapolis, getting a two-year, $4.5 million deal, according to Fox Sports1's Alex Marvez. 

4. Phil Dawson (RE-SIGNED): Dawson just turned 39 but he is still on top of his game and he'll bac back in San Francisco, getting a two-year deal, according to CSNBayArea.com. The longtime Browns kicker had a good season in San Francisco, and has hit at least 82 percent of his field goals in seven straight seasons.

5. Graham Gano (RE-SIGNED): Like most everyone on the Panthers, Gano had a fine season hitting 24-of-27 field-goal attempts. He'll be back on a four-year, $12.4 million deal. 

6. Jay Feely: Consistent again last year in his 13th season, but he drew the ire of coach Bruce Arians for a misplaced kickoff in the season finale against San Francisco.

7. Josh Brown: The Giants picked up Brown before last season and he hit 23-of-26 field-goal attempts.

8. Nick Folk (FRANCHISE TAGGED): Folk picked a great time for a career year. After five straight seasons of sub-80 percent accuracy, he booted a career-best 91.7 including some huge game-winning kicks for the Jets. They made the rare move of franchise tagging a kicker on Friday, giving Folk a nice raise from about $780,000 to $3.38 million.

9. Rian Lindell: The longtime Bills kicker moved on to Tampa Bay last season and missed six field goals, the most he has had in a season since 2008.

10. David Akers: The former Eagle struggled in 2012 with the 49ers after a great 2011, and bounced back a little bit with the Lions last year, but still hit just 79.2 percent of his field goals.

11. Billy Cundiff: He was awful with the Redskins in 2012, but did OK with Cleveland last season, hitting 21-of-26 attempts.

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1. Pat McAfee: Indianapolis’ super-sized punter (233 pounds) also handles kickoffs, and has reached a 46-yard gross average for three straight years.

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Pat McAfee

2. Donnie Jones (RE-SIGNED): The Eagles were his third team in the last three years, but Jones had another solid season and will be staying in Philadelphia.

3. Mat McBriar: The Steelers signed the former Cowboys punter in midseason and he wasn’t very good, averaging 41.3 yards per kick.

4. Zoltan Mesko: The Steelers had to sign Mat McBriar because they cut the struggling Mesko during the season. Mesko resurfaced with the Bengals, who signed him right before the playoffs.

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