The Kansas City Chiefs should just cut a deal with a major airline right now. The frequent flyer mileage the Chiefs would rack up during this free agency period would take them to one side of the galaxy and back. Which might not be a bad thing. (Any good linebackers on Mars?)
With the sad state of their defense, the Chiefs figure to be a big player when free agency period tips off Wednesday. Much to their delight, the rather weak free-agent crop is heavier on the defensive side of the ball. In fact, most of the fast and furious action in the opening days will be surrounding cornerbacks, defensive ends and a few linebackers.
Teams trying to shore up their secondaries will have a nice bushel of defensive backs to choose from, although they better have deep pockets for cornerbacks like Samari Rolle and Fred Smoot. And for the handful of teams switching to a 3-4 defense, nose tackles like Jason Ferguson and inside linebackers like Ed Hartwell won't be around long.
Here's a look at the top 10 free agents. The list will be updated periodically to reflect signings.
TOP 10 FREE AGENTS
1. Samari Rolle, CB, Tennessee Titans (6-foot, 175 pounds)
He's easily the best free agent out there, especially with the premium on good cornerbacks in the NFL. While Rolle dipped a bit below his Pro Bowl standards last season, he did play nicked up and still remained one of the top 10 corners in the league. At 28, he still has plenty of years left and is expected to return to top form after healing up this offseason. His biggest weakness – that he wasn't physical – isn't such a huge concern anymore with the emphasis on illegal contact.
2. Fred Smoot, CB, Redskins (5-11, 176)
He's another quality cornerback who's young (25) and packs Pro Bowl potential. He was good enough to be franchised by the Redskins, but the price would have been too steep. Also, some thought Shawn Springs outplayed him anyway. Unlike Rolle, Smoot is probably a little too aggressive at times and has been known to go for the big play a bit too much. But his youth, talent and cockiness make him a very, very attractive free agent who is just entering his prime.
Interested teams: Redskins, Vikings and Chiefs.
3. Jason Ferguson, DT, New York Jets (6-3, 305)
He's going to get a boost from the fact that a handful of teams are looking to switch to the 3-4 defense and hoping to add Ferguson as a nose tackle who can clog the middle of the line. Although his weight has been an issue, he's a strong player who can anchor a line. Some teams might be a little wary because Ferguson didn't turn into an upper-tier player until a contract year.
4. Derrick Mason, WR, Titans (5-10, 190)
Mason doesn't get the credit, but he's been one of league's top five or six receivers over the last few years. Part of that is because he's small and not flashy like Terrell Owens or Randy Moss. But he's extremely consistent and can still be a very good No. 1 receiver, even at 31. He works hard and doesn't drop a ton of balls, and that makes him a safer commodity than Pittsburgh's Plaxico Burress.
5. Plaxico Burress, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers (6-5, 226)
Burress didn't have a spectacular year, but he missed some games due to injury and played hurt in others. He's had flashes of greatness, but at 27, it's time for him to step up and become a consistently dominant player. He's got the skills to do it. One concern is that he has been dropping balls all the way back to his days at Michigan State, and he may always struggle with it. But he's nipping on the heels of the more accomplished Mason because he still has a lot of untapped potential.
Interested teams: Ravens, Vikings, Redskins and Giants.
6. Kevin Carter, DT, Titans (6-5, 290)
He can line up at defensive tackle or end – a flexibility that adds considerable value. Though he is 31, Carter still seems to have plenty of quickness and speed. There is concern with how fast those qualities will deteriorate in the next few years, especially with some of the questions about his work ethic.
Interested teams: Titans and Jaguars.
7. Reggie Hayward, DE, Denver Broncos (6-5, 270)
At first glance, Hayward looks like a risky signing because he really only emerged last season. But in truth, it was the second straight year of big improvement for Hayward, who turns 26 later this month. The more playing time he's gotten, the more he's improved, and there's no reason to think he can't develop into one of the league's better ends, especially if he has talent around him. Hayward is still a little inconsistent, but then again, he hasn't been a starter very long. He should improve.
Interested teams: Jaguars.
8. Ed Hartwell, ILB, Ravens (6-1, 250)
He was a huge and underrated part of the Ravens' run-stopping defense. Some question what he will be able to do without Ray Lewis. Hartwell isn't the fastest guy in the world, but he didn't seem to have a problem getting the job done with the Ravens. He turns 27 this offseason and has plenty of good years left.
Interested teams: Chiefs, Philadelphia Eagles.
9. Ty Law, CB, New England Patriots (5-11, 200)
The broken foot is killing his prospects, and a lot of teams wouldn't put him this high on a free-agent list. But the fact remains that Law entered 2004 as the best cornerback in the NFL. And before he went down, he showed he could still be a great player, even with the emphasis on illegal contact. Forget the stuff about the Patriots winning without him – he's the real deal. The only question is how he reacts to that foot. That's a considerable red flag.
Interested teams: Cleveland Browns, Chiefs and Vikings.
10. Ken Lucas, CB, Seattle Seahawks (6-0, 205)
Lucas gets criticized a lot for being so inconsistent, but he's young (24) and has a lot of starting experience. He's definitely not as polished or talented as Rolle or Smoot, but he could be tough on opponents if he's paired with another dominant cornerback. He seems to struggle with his confidence sometimes, and that would definitely be helped if he played with two commanding safeties.
Interested teams: Seahawks and Indianapolis Colts.
- Samari Rolle
- Jason Ferguson
- Fred Smoot