Top 25 Free Agents for 2005
By: Matt Miller
Every year in the NFL, teams have the chance to make themselves contenders with smart moves in free agency. This year, there are many players that could help turn around a franchise in need. Below is an early look at the top 25 free agents for the upcoming off-season and a list of a few teams that will be interested in their services.
1. Walter Jones-OT-Seattle
Profile: Jones has established himself as one of the top left tackles in football. He seems to never wear down and has been at the top of his game, even though he has not been in training camp in previous years due to contract holdouts. Scouts love his footwork and strength; he would be the ideal fit for any team needing offensive line help. Jones might receive the franchise tag again this season, but if he doesnâ€™t teams will be lining up to pay him.
Suitors: San Francisco, Miami, San Diego, Cleveland, Houston, New York Giants, Chicago and Seattle.
2. Orlando Pace-OT-St. Louis
Profile: If Jones isnâ€™t the best LT in the NFC, Pace is. He has been a dominating force in the NFL for 10 seasons now and can still stop the best defensive linemen. Will Pace hit the open market is the big question. St. Louis has put the franchise tag on him in the past and will do so again. That will not keep teams from inquiring about him via a trade though.
Suitors: San Francisco, Miami, San Diego, Cleveland, Houston, New York Giants, Chicago and St. Louis.
3. Shaun Alexander-RB-Seattle
Profile: Alexander famously finished 1-yard back of Curtis Martin for the NFL rushing crown this season and is primed to make a lot of money on the free agent market. It is not often that a 27-year old running back with almost 6,000 yards hits the free agency with a clean break, but management is likely to tag one of their other prominent free agents and let Alexander walk with an opening offer.
Suitors: Miami, Tampa Bay, Arizona, Oakland and Seattle.
4. Edgerrin James-RB-Indianapolis
Profile: James has seen his stock rise and fall over the course of his career. He has the leading rusher in the NFL his first two seasons, and then spent the next two seasons recovering from injuries. James has bounced back the past two years with 1,200-yard seasons. James appears to be fully recovered and the Colts have said they will use their franchise tag in order to keep him there, but can the Colts afford the payout with their cap problems and lackluster defense? Suitors: Indianapolis, Miami, Tampa Bay, Carolina and Arizona.
5. Julian Peterson-LB-San Francisco
Profile: After missing the 2004 season with a torn Achillesâ€™ tendon, Peterson is reportedly healthy and ready to return to football. He is an unrestricted free agent after receiving the franchise tag from San Francisco before the season. The team has said that they will tag him again in an effort to work out a long-term deal if they cannot reach one soon enough. Peterson has a lot to prove, since his athleticism was a large part of his success as an outside linebacker. It also remains to be seen if he will thrive in the 49ers new 3-4 defense. There is an outside possibility that a team could offer the 49ers draft picks or players in exchange for Peterson after he is franchised.
Suitors: San Francisco, Dallas, Minnesota, San Diego, Houston and Atlanta.
6. Corey Simon-DT-Philadelphia
Profile: A big, pass rushing defensive tackle that the Eagles may not lock-up. Simon has been vocal about his dislike of the cold weather in Philly and would seem at home in a warmer climate. The Eagles organization also feels like they will be able to replace him with players already on the roster. Many feel and have said that he is an overrated player, but he might not be the best fit for the Philly defense that utilizes blitzes from the outside and asks itâ€™s defensive tackles to stop the run.
Suitors: San Francisco, Minnesota, Arizona, Tampa Bay, Oakland, Dallas and Washington.
7. Plaxico Burress-WR-Pittsburgh
Profile: Burress was a late-bloomer for the Steelers, but has become a favorite target of QB Ben Roethlisburger. He is primarily a deep-threat and is lazy running routes; so donâ€™t expect him to land in a strict West Coast Offense. Burress stated in the off-season that he believes his days in Pittsburgh are over. You must also remember that the team was open to trading him before and early in the season.
Suitors: Dallas, Oakland, San Diego, Atlanta, Washington, New York Jets, Baltimore and Kansas City.
8. Matt Hasselbeck-QB-Seattle
Profile: Hasselbeck has yet to live up to Mike Holmgrenâ€™s expectations, but he is the most likely of all the Seattle free agents to be given the franchise tag. Finding a proven winner at quarterback in the NFL is much harder to do than finding a running back or offensive tackle. Hasselbeck knows the offense and the players well, if they can surround him with more consistent wide receivers and a better defense, they could be primed for a playoff run.
Suitors: San Francisco, Dallas, Arizona, Detroit and Seattle.
9. Charles Woodson-CB-Oakland
Profile: After seven years in Oakland, Woodson will likely hit the free agent market this spring with a clean chance to leave. Management is tired of his act and he is tired of theirs. Predicting what owner Al Davis will do is another thing though and Woodson could still receive the dreaded tag. There will be less of an urgency to find marquee cornerbacks after teams see how well the Patriots did with no-name players, but Woodson would still be a great signing for a team looking to secure their secondary.
Suitors: New York Jets, Dallas, San Francisco, Arizona, Kansas City and Oakland.
10. Drew Brees-QB-San Diego
Profile: Brees caught fire this season and led the Chargers to a shocking playoff birth. With first-round pick Philip Rivers waiting in the wings with a large cap number; Brees is unlikely to get the long-term deal that he wants from San Diego. The team is prepared to tab him as their franchise player and will listen to trade offers. With two first-round picks in the draft already, San Diego could stockpile picks if they move Brees.
Suitors: Green Bay, San Francisco, Dallas, Miami, Cleveland, Detroit and San Diego.
11. John Abraham-DE-New York Jets
Profile: Abraham has established himself as a true pass-rushing specialist and an every down player, but his reputation took a hit when he did not play in the playoffs to protect his knee for the upcoming off-season. Abraham is athletic enough to stand up in a 3-4 or drop in a 4-3 and would receive many offers if the Jets ever let him go. With other key free agents, New York is hopeful it will be able to keep Abraham and may have to use their franchise tag on him to do so.
Suitors: Dallas, San Diego, Oakland, Houston, Washington and New York Jets.
12. Jeremiah Trotter-LB-Philadelphia
Profile: Trotter came back to life in Philadelphia after an unsuccessful year in Washington. Playing for the league minimum this season, Trotter is set to make a buck or two after a Pro Bowl season. Trotter has said that he will take a smaller deal to stay in Philly this time around and would like to retire an Eagle. We donâ€™t see Trotter leaving, but if he were to hit the market, there would be a lot of interest.
Suitors: Philadelphia, San Diego, Cleveland and Dallas.
13. Donovin Darius-S-Jacksonville
Profile: Darius is a hard-hitting veteran that has earned league-wide respect and criticism for his hard-nosed style of play. He will rack up his fair share of fines during the season, but he is an intimidating presence in the middle of the field. He was upset when the team made him their franchise player and would like to leave this off-season. The Jaguars are prepared to let him walk and he will have his choice of a few teams.
Suitors: Kansas City, Minnesota, Atlanta, Houston, Detroit, Cincinnati and Jacksonville.
14. Pat Williams-DT-Buffalo
Profile: For the teams looking at run-stuffing defensive tackles, Williams is the best on the board. He has proven himself on the inside and he has the size to play in a 3-4 or 4-3. With the lack of prominent tackles in the draft, Williams will receive a lot of attention on the open market.
Suitors: Dallas, Washington, Tampa Bay, New York Jets, Green Bay and Buffalo.
15. Edgerton Hartwell-LB-Baltimore
Profile: Hartwell is an experienced inside linebacker that has the strength to play in a 4-3 and the athleticism to play in a 3-4. Ray Lewis has overshadowed him in his career and with the Ravens switching to a 4-3; he will be on the outside looking in. Teams will be lining up to take Hartwell on once March gets here.
Suitors: Seattle, Houston, Kansas City, San Diego and Baltimore.
16. Jerry Porter-WR-Oakland
Profile: Porter has all but told the folks in Oakland that he will not be back next year and has already been looking at around in Florida. He has been a solid target for the Raiders, but this is only his second year of starting duty and is still a raw product. Porter will command a lot of money with the shortage of elite receivers in free agency this year and if he doesnâ€™t receive the franchise tag from Oakland will land elsewhere.
Suitors: Tampa Bay, Dallas, Pittsburgh, San Diego, Washington, Kansas City and Oakland.
17. Kendrell Bell-LB-Pittsburgh
Profile: With so many teams switching to a 3-4 defense, experienced players like Bell will become attractive. He has missed time with injuries, but was still the Rookie of the Year in 2001. Bell will get a lot of looks outside Pittsburgh, where UFA Larry Foote is expected to takeover.
Suitors: Seattle, Houston, Kansas City, San Diego and Pittsburgh.
18. LaMont Jordan-RB-New York Jets
Profile: Jordan would be much higher on this list if he had played more, but he really began to show signs of being a very good NFL back this season. Jordan is a combination of power and speed and many teams were hoping he would see free agency this season. The Jets would be smart to do whatever it takes to keep him, but can they afford to pay him franchise numbers while he sits behind Curtis Martin?
Suitors: Oakland, Tampa Bay, Miami, Pittsburgh, Arizona and New York Jets.
Profile: Another running back that would be much higher with more experience. Johnson has only really started one full year in Cincy and has yet to show himself to be an elite back. He has told the Bengals he will sit out the 2005 season if they place the franchise tag on him, and with first-round pick Chris Perry waiting in the wings, Johnsonâ€™s days are numbered in Cincinnati.
Suitors: Miami, Arizona, Oakland, Tampa Bay, Seattle and Cincinnati.
20. Marco Rivera-OG-Green Bay
Profile: Rivera has been a solid piece of the Green Bay offensive line for many years now and is not likely to be playing elsewhere next season. Teammate Mike Wahle is set to make $11million dollars next season and will be cut if he does not restructure, so keeping Rivera is a big part of the Packers off-season.
Suitors: Green Bay, Carolina, Atlanta and Detroit.
21. Adam Vinatieri-K-New England
Profile: No one makes the clutch kick better than Mr. February. Vinatieri will likely be locked up with the Patriots before he can even think about hitting free agency. If he were to ever hit the market, teams would be calling non-stop to hire his services.
Suitors: New York Jets, San Francisco, Minnesota, Tennessee, Dallas, New York Giants and New England.
22. Fred Smoot-CB-Washington
Profile: Smoot should be higher on this list, but there is a division in the league about how good he really is. Many feel he fed off of the play of Champ Bailey opposite him and others think he is the next â€˜shutdownâ€™ cornerback in the NFL. Our opinion of him is that he is a very good, young cornerback that needs a good pass-rush and safeties behind him. If he does find himself a free agent, teams will flock to him.
Suitors: Dallas, New York Jets, Detroit, Minnesota, Kansas City, Arizona and Washington.
23. Gary Baxter-CB-Baltimore
Profile: The Ravens management is not known for itâ€™s spending, rather for itâ€™s drafting abilities. Baxter is a player that we hear they really like and will move to resign this off-season. The Ravens have the money to do so; it will all depend on Baxterâ€™s priorities and his agentâ€™s agenda.
Suitors: Dallas, New York Jets, Minnesota, Kansas City, Arizona, San Francisco and Baltimore.
24. Sammy Knight-S-Miami
Profile: Knight is not a big-named safety, but he is savvy veteran that makes smart plays and will make the defensive backs around him better. Knight is going to be on the end of a house cleaning in Miami and will likely look for a chance to make a playoff team in 2005. He should have a few of them lining up for him.
Suitors: Green Bay, Houston, Atlanta, Kansas City, Detroit, Washington and Miami.
25. Jonas Jennings-OL-Buffalo
Profile: Jennings has quietly become one of the better-left tackles in the NFL and will draw a lot of interest should he hit the open market. The Bills would like to resign him quickly, but with the lack of offensive tackles in this Draft, many teams will be moving to sign free agents with large contacts.
Suitors: Cleveland, Carolina, Miami, Houston, San Francisco, San Diego and Buffalo.
They have Marco Riveria ,Donovan Darius and Sammy Knight possibly to the falcon's would those be good players for the falcon's and can the falcon's afford them?