Cream of mediocre free agent crop
As the NFL begins the 16th year of free agency in its current form, this group easily may take the crown as the worst class ever. Though Yahoo! Sports tried hard to come up with a list of the top 50 free agents, we were halted at 43 (down to 40 after a few guys re-signed with their teams) because the names got pretty ugly. The list – formed after discussions with 10 coaches and general managers – is divided into top-flight players, players who can be good starters and a list of guys who are solid players and sometime starters:
1. WR Randy Moss, Patriots: Expected to re-sign with the New England Patriots.
2. LB Lance Briggs, Bears: With Brian Urlacher hurting, can the Chicago Bears afford to let him go?
3. G Alan Faneca, Steelers: Even at 31, he’ll likely get $8 million a year.
4. DE Justin Smith, Bengals: He only had two sacks last year, but his overall body of work will attract suitors.
5. CB Asante Samuel, Patriots: Figures to be the highest paid free agent this year.
6. S Madieu Williams, Bengals: Best of a deep group of safeties.
7. K Jason Elam, Broncos: His long, great career in Denver will likely continue.
8. K Josh Brown, Seahawks: Don’t be surprised if the Kansas City Chiefs make a big run at him.
9. FB Tony Richardson, Vikings: He’s a Pro Bowler, but fullback isn’t a priority position.
10. DE/LB Calvin Pace, Cardinals: He finally played to his ability in ’07, but was it a contract flash?
11. WR Bernard Berrian, Bears: A really good deep threat, but drops too many passes.
12. TE Alge Crumpler, Falcons: Big target, but has to clear medical exams to get paid.
13. WR Donte’ Stallworth, Patriots: Had a terrific season as Pats’ No. 3. He’s excellent after the catch.
14. S Eugene Wilson, Patriots: Spent a year as a backup because of injury, but he’s very good.
15. LB Kawika Mitchell, Giants: Big season and bigger Super Bowl performance for the champs.
16. WR Devery Henderson, Saints: Lost among the many receivers in New Orleans.
17. CB Randall Gay, Patriots: His ability to play the nickel spot gives him more value.
18. DE Antwan Odom, Titans: Like Smith, can rush passer but limited to only left end.
19. WR D.J. Hackett, Seahawks: Seattle needs to re-sign him to prevent upheaval at WR spot.
20. G Jacob Bell, Titans: Good athlete who has started the past two years. Can also play RT.
21. CB Drayton Florence, Chargers: Second best CB on the market and he plays nickel, too.
22. CB Brian Kelly, Buccaneers: Old guy has clearly lost a step, but he should thrive in the right system.
OTHERS OF INTEREST
23. RB Michael Turner, Chargers: Best back available, but disappointed a bit in playoffs.
24. RB Julius Jones, Cowboys: A tough runner who would fit well in a power running game.
25. CB Sammy Davis, Buccaneers: This smacks of desperation, but that’s a common reality of free agency.
26. CB Jason Webster, Bills: Some people like him, some hate him. It only takes one team to raise his value.
27. LB Mario Haggan, Bills: Only fits in a 3-4 scheme, but a solid starter nonetheless.
28. S Marquand Manuel, Panthers: Very smart and a solid starter, although he can be exposed.
29. LB Boss Bailey, Lions: Great athlete, but that has never translated into great player.
30. RB T.J. Duckett, Lions: Played well, but was he playing only for a new contract?
31. S Will Demps, Texans: A better version of Manuel, but not a lot better.
32. G Jake Scott, Colts: A bit undersized, but is very good in pass protection.
33. DE Bobby McCray, Jaguars: Had 10 sacks in 2006, but only three in 2007.
34. G Maurice Williams, Jaguars: Rekindled his career as a guard with Jacksonville.
35. OT Kwame Harris, 49ers: Versatile, smart. Only 25, still could be a left tackle.
36. G Rex Hadnot, Dolphins: Can play center, too. A pretty tough kid with plenty of experience.
37. RB Mewelde Moore, Vikings: Got buried in Minnesota, but could be a starter somewhere.
38. WR David Patten, Saints: At 33, had 792 yards and 54 catches last season. He can help.
39. LB Victor Hobson, Jets: Functional and durable are good qualities in this class.
40. S Erik Coleman, Jets: Endured off season, but had 100-plus tackles first three years.