Rotoworld Football will have you covered and then some during the forthcoming NFL Free Agency period. After a buzz-filled negotiating weekend, more buzz, re-signings, and salary cap casualties were the theme of Monday. On Tuesday at 4PM ET, signings will begin in full force.
Nick Mensio will churn out daily free agency recaps. Adam Levitan will expose winners and losers. Andrew Cohen will be your weekly salary cap specialist. Along with Mensio, Levitan, Pat Daugherty, and Rotoworld rookie Raymond Summerlin, I'll be constantly updating our Player News Page every day for the next several weeks.
We're not planning on getting much sleep.
This is my ranking of the NFL's Top 50 Free Agents with projected landing spots. I'm trying to read tea leaves and guessing. If I nail 20, I'll feel pretty good. The objective of this column is to give you a feel for the best players available, where they might fit, and how much money they might cost. You're getting familiar with names, potential price tags, and possibilities.
1. Left tackle Eugene Monroe -- Franchise left tackle. 27 in April. Only start he's missed the past two seasons came after his October trade from Jacksonville to Baltimore, which cost the Ravens 2014 fourth- and fifth-round picks. Top-ten left tackle per Pro Football Focus in three straight years. With Miami zeroed in on Branden Albert, expect Monroe to stay with the Ravens.
Free Agent Forecast: Ravens on six-year, $45 million deal.
2. Free safety Jairus Byrd -- Ballhawking center-field safety. Averages 4.4 interceptions and 2.2 forced fumbles per season. Turned 27 in October. Repped by Eugene Parker, infamous for driving hard bargain. Held out of most of 2013 camp, then missed first five games with plantar fasciitis. Otherwise durable. Redskins have major cash to spend and major need at safety. Bills SS Aaron Williams' $26 million extension all but ensures Byrd will leave Buffalo.
Free Agent Forecast: Redskins on five-year, $40 million deal.
3. Left tackle Jared Veldheer -- Never missed an NFL game before tearing left triceps last August. Started final five contests, allowing two sacks. Allowed five sacks across 16 starts the year before. Plus pass protector and not a liability in the run game. Highly athletic at 6-foot-8, 321. Expressed displeasure with Raiders' pace of contract talks in February. Most recent reports strongly suggest he'll land in Arizona, reuniting with ex-Oakland quarterback Carson Palmer.
Free Agent Forecast: Cardinals on five-year, $37 million deal.
4. Defensive end Michael Johnson -- Sack total dipped from 11.5 in 2012 to 3.5 in 2013, but had career highs in tackles (56), forced fumbles (2), and batted passes (9). Despite drop-off in sacks, graded out as Pro Football Focus' No. 4 4-3 defensive end, behind only Robert Quinn, Greg Hardy, and Cameron Wake. Was No. 2 against run. Just turned 27. Fully expected to leave Cincinnati. Falcons are sleeper to pursue, but Johnson looks to be Buccaneers' top free-agent priority.
Free Agent Forecast: Buccaneers on five-year, $41 million deal.
5. Center Alex Mack (Transition Tagged) -- Plus-sized pivot (6'4/311) has started 80-of-80 career games. 21st pick in 2009 draft. Turned 28 in November. Top-ten center in Pro Football Focus' ratings five consecutive years, including No. 4 finish in '13. Transition tag gives Browns the right to match any offer Mack receives on open market. Very likely to stay in Cleveland, although don't rule out aggressive Colts pursuing. Ex-Browns coach Rob Chudzinski is now on Indy's staff.
Free Agent Forecast: Browns on one-year, $10.04 million deal.
6. Cornerback Aqib Talib -- History of troubles off field, but few on it when healthy. Has never completed a full 16-game season. 6-foot-1, 205-pound press corner. Bill Belichick felt comfortable isolating Talib on No. 1 receivers and Jimmy Graham last season. Held Graham catch-less in Week 6. Just turned 28. Has ties to Redskins secondary coach Raheem Morris from Tampa, but Pats know his value and can't afford to lose him, even if it costs them Julian Edelman.
Free Agent Forecast: Patriots on three-year, $28.5 million deal.
7. Cornerback Alterraun Verner -- Breakout 2013 campaign after Titans spent all spring trying to bench him for Tommie Campbell. Can cover slot but best at right corner. Strong run defender. Only 25. Will leave Tennessee. Has history with new Vikings DBs coach Jerry Gray.
Free Agent Forecast: Vikings on four-year, $40 million deal.
8. Left tackle Branden Albert -- Quality pass protector with top-shelf athleticism, but sub-par run blocker with durability concerns. Missed four games in 2013 with knee injury. Missed three games with back injury in 2012. Miami has wanted him since early last spring. Won't return to Chiefs. Played guard in college, with Monroe at left tackle. Albert is entering his age-30 season.
Free Agent Forecast: Dolphins on five-year, $50 million deal.
9. Defensive lineman Lamarr Houston -- Listed at 6-foot-3, 300 pounds by Raiders but plays much lighter on his feet. Not a sack specialist (career-high 6.0 in '13) but highly disruptive versus both run and pass. Can play defensive tackle and end. Scheme versatile. Turns 27 in June. The Bears have made Houston their top free-agent priority after Michael Bennett re-signed in Seattle.
Free Agent Forecast: Bears on five-year, $35 million deal.
10. Wide receiver Eric Decker -- Touchdown scorer. 2012-2013 stats inflated by Peyton Manning, but scored eight times with Kyle Orton and Tim Tebow in 2011. Does not change coverage, but high-end No. 2 receiver. Colts are lone team reported to have significant interest so far. Also worth noting Patriots OC Josh McDaniels drafted Decker in Denver, and current Lions senior personnel exec Brian Xanders was Broncos GM at the time.
Free Agent Forecast: Colts on five-year, $35 million deal.
11. Cornerback Vontae Davis -- Pro Football Focus' No. 3 corner in 2013, behind Darrelle Revis and Brent Grimes. No. 2 in pass coverage. Compact build at 5-foot-11, 204 with 37 1/2-inch vertical. Some history of shadowing No. 1 receivers, but not in Indy. Jets emerged as favorites to land Davis late Tuesday. He'd be an outstanding fit under Rex Ryan's tutelage and in New York's press-man scheme, replacing Antonio Cromartie.
Free Agent Forecast: Jets on four-year, $40 million deal.
12. Defensive tackle Henry Melton -- Classic three-technique interior rusher. Played some tailback at Texas. Bears 2013 franchise player tore left ACL on September 22. Collected 13 sacks and two forced fumbles as 29-game starter across 2011-12. Says he's "80-90%" healthy. Bears need Melton and are most familiar with his recovery. Should be relatively affordable due to injury.
Free Agent Forecast: Bears on three-year, $20 million deal.
13. Outside linebacker LaMarr Woodley -- Steelers chose Jason Worilds over him. Still only 29 years old and legit franchise pass rusher when healthy. Unfortunately, hasn't been enough recently, missing 14 games the past three seasons. Hasn't notched double-digit sacks since 2010. Knows new Titans DC Ray Horton from Pittsburgh's coaching staff. Logical fit in Nashville.
Free Agent Forecast: Titans on five-year, $32 million deal.
14. Defensive tackle Linval Joseph -- 25-year-old dual-threat lineman stuffs run and can push pocket. Arrow pointing up. Primarily an inside plugger but has seven sacks and two forced fumbles the past two seasons. Pro Football Focus' No. 21 defensive tackle last year among 69 qualifiers. Giants are thinning quickly on the defensive line and can't afford to let Joseph leave.
Free Agent Forecast: Giants on five-year, $27.5 million deal.
15. Strong safety T.J. Ward -- Does best work in box, but not a coverage liability and can match up competitively with most tight ends. Turned 27 in December. Among defensive backs, only Barry Church and Eric Weddle had more tackles last season than Ward's 112. Broncos pro personnel director Tom Heckert drafted Ward in Cleveland, and Denver needs help at strong safety.
Free Agent Forecast: Broncos on five-year, $35 million deal.
16. Cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie -- Finally realized immense potential under Jack Del Rio in '13. Shutdown cover skills on perimeter. Per Pro Football Focus, allowed one touchdown catch over Denver's final 14 games, including postseason. Turns 28 in April. Odd character; openly spoke of retirement during Super Bowl week. Denver is best spot for "DRC."
Free Agent Forecast: Broncos on three-year, $21 million deal.
17. Defensive lineman Jason Hatcher -- Switched from 3-4 end to 4-3 "three-technique" tackle in 2013, and set career highs in sacks (11), batted passes (3), and forced fumbles (2). Previous career best for sacks was 4.5. Turns 32 before season. Will look to max out on open market. Notable connections to Saints DC Rob Ryan and Bears DL coach Paul Pasqualoni from Dallas. Cowboys could fit Hatcher under their salary cap if they release DeMarcus Ware.
Free Agent Forecast: Cowboys on four-year, $25 million deal.
18. Left tackle Anthony Collins -- Annually among most underrated linemen in football. 28 years old. Zero sacks allowed in eight starts last season. Bengals want him back to start at left tackle. Redskins are another potential suitor after hiring ex-Cincinnati offensive coordinator Jay Gruden as head coach. Would play right tackle in D.C. Buccaneers also in aggressive pursuit.
Free Agent Forecast: Buccaneers on five-year, $35 million deal.
19. Defensive tackle Randy Starks -- Versatile 30-year-old interior presence equally effective versus pass and run. Can play both "one" and "three" technique, and has experience in both 3-4s and 4-3s. Ex-Miami DC Mike Nolan now runs Atlanta's defense and needs D-Line help.
Free Agent Forecast: Falcons on four-year, $24 million deal.
20. Defensive lineman Arthur Jones -- Classic five-technique 3-4 end. Turns 28 in June. Better than Ricky Jean-Francois, whom Colts gave a four-year, $22 million contract last offseason. Jones was one of free agency's hottest names during three-day negotiating window.
Free Agent Forecast: Colts on five-year, $35 million deal.
21. Cornerback Walter Thurmond III -- Primarily played slot corner in Seattle but functional outside. Only eight career starts, one interception. Turns 27 before season. PFF's No. 31 cornerback last year. Ex-Seahawks VP of Football Administration John Idzik is now the Jets' GM. New York could afford to upgrade on Kyle Wilson in the slot. Thurmond could also push 2013 first-round disappointment Dee Milliner at left corner.
Free Agent Forecast: Jets on three-year, $12 million deal.
22. Defensive tackle Paul Soliai -- Space-eating two-down nose at 6-foot-4, 345. Turned 30 in December. Pure run plugger. Scheme versatile. Not much of a factor against pass. Soliai has several ties to Atlanta's coaching staff. The Chargers could really use him to anchor their 3-4. Also expected to generate significant interest from trench-needy Minnesota.
Free Agent Forecast: Vikings on four-year, $25 million deal.
23. Guard Geoff Schwartz -- Can play three positions on the line (RG, LG, RT). Best suited for right guard. Mauling power blocker, alley clearer. 6-foot-6, 340. Turning 28. Rams have so far been only team with reported interest in Schwartz. St. Louis is extremely needy up front.
Free Agent Forecast: Rams on six-year, $24 million deal.
24. Tackle/guard Rodger Saffold -- Can play four offensive line spots (LG, RG, RT, LT). Prefers guard or left tackle. Turns 26 in June. Has missed 17 games the past three seasons with two knee injuries and torn pectoral muscle. Expected to sign with either Raiders or Buccaneers. Oakland seems especially intent on overpaying Saffold.
Free Agent Forecast: Raiders on four-year, $32 million deal.
25. Defensive lineman B.J. Raji -- Talented 27-year-old has quietly been a disappointment in NFL. Zero sacks over last 39 games, including playoffs. Zero career forced fumbles. Also not a stout run defender. Turned down $8 million-a-year offer from Packers in November of 2013. Raji is negotiating with Packers to stay on one-year, "prove-it" type deal.
Free Agent Forecast: Packers on one-year, $4 million deal.
26. Center Brian De La Puente -- Top-16 center per Pro Football Focus in three straight seasons. Turns 29 in May. Saints have lots of money tied up at guard and won't overpay to keep him. It's worth noting ex-Saints line coach Aaron Kromer is now in Chicago. I'm still guessing De La Puente won't get big free agent offers, and ends up affordably returning to New Orleans.
Free Agent Forecast: Saints on five-year, $20 million deal.
27. Wide receiver Hakeem Nicks -- Zero TDs last 18 games. Three TDs last 29 games. Major effort and on-field ability question marks. Once tilted coverage. Now a boom-or-bust signing. Due to poor recent film, Nicks may come surprisingly cheap. Nicks played his college ball at North Carolina, and Panthers GM Dave Gettleman knows him well as a former top Giants exec.
Free Agent Forecast: Panthers on one-year, $4 million deal.
28. Inside linebacker Karlos Dansby -- Had monster year in his 2013 return to Arizona, with 6.5 sacks and four interceptions. Turned 32 in December. Drawing strong interest from Titans, but expected to bring back any offer he receives to Cards. Wants to stay in the desert.
Free Agent Forecast: Cardinals on two-year, $12 million deal.
29. Wide receiver Julian Edelman -- Set career highs across board in '13 (105-1,056-6). Highly efficient slot/Z receiver with plus punt return value. Turns 28 in May. Tom Brady wants him back. I suspect Edelman will be disappointed with his open-market offers.
Free Agent Forecast: Patriots on two-year, $10 million deal.
30. Strong safety Donte Whitner -- PFF's No. 6 safety last year. No. 4 in pass coverage, but best as box defender. Not a ballhawk. Turns 29 in July. As of Monday, all signs were pointing to Whitner signing in Cleveland. Played college ball at nearby Ohio State.
Free Agent Forecast: Browns on five-year, $30 million deal.
31. Defensive end Jared Allen -- Sack numbers still there, but skills noticeably declining. 32 in April. Seahawks and Broncos had interest in trading for Allen before last October's deadline.
Free Agent Forecast: Broncos on three-year, $16 million deal.
32. Cornerback Charles Tillman -- Dominant in 2012 but fell apart physically in 2013, missing 8-of-16 games with groin, knee, and triceps injuries. Triceps tear ended his season in November. Turned 33 in February. As Lovie Smith is now in Tampa, Tillman could follow him there as a stopgap starter to replace Darrelle Revis.
Free Agent Forecast: Buccaneers on two-year, $10 million deal.
33. Defensive end Justin Tuck -- In contract-year push, racked up 9.5 sacks over final six 2013 games after managing 5.5 across previous 25 appearances. Turns 31 soon. Better run defender than pass rusher at this stage. Limited to left end in a 4-3. Tuck wants to see what's out there, but I still believe he'll finish his career a Giant.
Free Agent Forecast: Giants on four-year, $20 million deal.
34. Guard Travelle Wharton -- Turns 33 in May, so obviously a short-term fix. Best position is left guard, but can also play tackle. PFF's No. 5 guard in 2013. Anchored Carolina's offensive line. Rumors have Wharton weighing retirement, but Panthers need him back badly.
Free Agent Forecast: Panthers on two-year, $8 million deal.
35. Cornerback Tarell Brown -- Above-average starter at outside corner. Just turned 29. Smallish (5'11/193) press corner. 49ers want Brown back, but he's expected to test market first. Logical fallback option for teams that miss out on Alterraun Verner.
Free Agent Forecast: Redskins on five-year, $22 million deal.
36. Defensive lineman Antonio Smith -- Can play 3-4 end and 4-3 tackle. At least five sacks in three straight years. Hasn't missed a game for health reasons since '05. Entering age-33 season.
Free Agent Forecast: Eagles on three-year, $12 million deal.
37. Inside linebacker Brandon Spikes -- Two-down role player, but a good one. Classic inside run thumper. History of knee problems. Entering age-27 campaign. Won't be back with New England. Tight with new Bills assistant Pepper Johnson. Would be great fit on Texans.
Free Agent Forecast: Texans on two-year, $8.5 million deal.
38. Strong safety Antoine Bethea -- Stretched at free safety. More of a box defender. Turns 30 in July. Career Colt. Hasn't missed a start since 2007. Consistent but not a real difference maker.
Free Agent Forecast: Colts on four-year, $24 million deal.
39. Free safety Chris Clemons -- Surprisingly met by cold market last offseason. Settled for one-year, $2.75 million deal to stay in Miami. Entering age-29 season. Not a ballhawk but top-10 cover safety in 2013 per PFF. Has drawn known interest from Jets. Would be excellent fit in Detroit, playing center field with Glover Quin in rover-safety role.
Free Agent Forecast: Lions on five-year, $20 million deal.
40. Defensive tackle Clinton McDonald -- Key piece of Seattle's deep line rotation. Played 53% of Seahawks' defensive snaps in 2013. Interior pocket pusher. Tallied 5.5 sacks. Just turned 27. Knows Gus Bradley well from Bradley's days as Seahawks defensive coordinator.
Free Agent Forecast: Jaguars on two-year, $7.5 million deal.
41. Inside linebacker Daryl Smith -- Signed off scrapheap by Ozzie Newsome last June after injury-ruined 2012 season. Became Baltimore's defensive playcaller. Set career bests in tackles (123), sacks (5), pass breakups (18), and INTs (3). Three-down linebacker. Turns 32 in March. D'Qwell Jackson set Smith's market at $5.5 million annually.
Free Agent Forecast: Ravens on three-year, $16.5 million deal.
42. Linebacker Jon Beason -- Has undergone wrist, shoulder, Achilles', and knee surgeries as a pro. Two procedures on shoulder and Achilles', and microfracture on knee. Traded from Carolina to Giants last October. Torched in pass coverage, but solid against run. G-Men want him back. Turned 29 in January. His market does not figure to be particularly robust.
Free Agent Forecast: Giants on two-year, $8 million deal.
43. Wide receiver Golden Tate -- Stats deflated by Seattle's run-first scheme. Playmaker with ball in hands. Size limitations (5'10/202), miscast as No. 1 receiver with Seahawks. Ex-college running back. Could surge statistically on team that gave him more run-after-catch opportunities. Turns 26 in August.
Free Agent Forecast: Jets on three-year, $18 million deal.
44. Cornerback Captain Munnerlyn -- Playmaking slot defender has four pick-sixes over last two seasons. 3.5 sacks in '13. Turns 26 in April. Best suited as complementary corner, not "No. 1."
Free Agent Forecast: Panthers on three-year, $12 million deal.
45. Tight end Jermichael Finley -- Would be much higher on this list if not for November spinal fusion surgery. Per agent, Finley is "99.9%" certain he'll be cleared to play football in 2014. 27 in March. Elite tools but drop and error prone. Will be a boom-or-bust signing in free agency.
Free Agent Forecast: Patriots on one-year, $3.5 million deal.
46. Running back Ben Tate -- Has battled injuries for significant portions of 3-of-4 NFL seasons. Turns 26 in August. 4.73 YPC on 421 career carries. Power back who has improved in the passing game. Would be much more attractive if not for durability woes. Plus-starter talent. Downhill zone runner would be excellent fit under Browns OC Kyle Shanahan.
Free Agent Forecast: Browns on one-year, $3 million deal.
47. Wide receiver James Jones -- Touchdowns dropped from 14 in 2012 to three despite only playing two fewer games. Did post career-high 817 yards. Strong, physical, well-built (6'1/208) receiver who can win 50-50 balls and runs well after the catch. Not an explosive playmaker. Has cut down dramatically on early-career drops. 30 in March. Seems very likely to leave Green Bay. Linked to Lions, Jets. San Jose State alum wants to play in California.
Free Agent Forecast: Chargers on four-year, $17.5 million deal.
48. Quarterback Michael Vick -- Enough juice left to be high-end NFL spot starter, but definitely not for a full season. Turning 34. Turnover and injury prone. Sadly, this year's top free agent QB. Has close ties to Jets OC Marty Mornhinweg from their time in Philadelphia.
Free Agent Forecast: Jets on two-year, $10 million deal.
49. Free safety Malcolm Jenkins -- Experience at both safety spots, slot corner, and outside from Ohio State. Turned 26 in December. Enjoyed best NFL seasons under Gregg Williams in New Orleans. Williams is now defensive coordinator in St. Louis. Rams need a safety.
Free Agent Forecast: Rams on four-year, $20 million deal.
50. Guard Jon Asamoah -- Quality starter when healthy. Plus pass blocker with mean streak. Surprisingly benched down the stretch by Chiefs last season, and won't return. Was drafted by new Falcons assistant GM Scott Pioli in Kansas City. Atlanta is needy on the line.
Free Agent Forecast: Falcons on five-year, $22 million deal.
Darrelle Revis was not yet an unrestricted free agent when I penned this column late Monday, but he's likely to become one no later than Wednesday afternoon. Revis should prefer to be released rather than traded, allowing him to select his own team and sign a better contract than he had with the Buccaneers. Revis' Tampa deal contained zero guaranteed money.
Although Tampa Bay did not use Revis to his strengths last season -- ex-coach Greg Schiano insisted on employing him in zone coverage -- he remained arguably the NFL's most effective cornerback, and has plenty left in the tank going on age 29. Late-Monday reports had Philadelphia, Oakland, Cleveland and the Jets already showing interest in Revis.
I think the Philadelphia Eagles make the most sense for Revis. They are an ascending, 2013 playoff team with below-average cornerback play, an aggressive GM in Howie Roseman, and over $20 million in cap availability. Philly defensive coordinator Billy Davis leans heavily in the blitz, a tactic far easier to execute with reliable back-end coverage. The Eagles haven't been active in free agency beyond re-signing players from within. They'd be wise to make an exception for NFL's top corner.
- Sports & Recreation
- American Football