While 33 of our top 51 players have been signed to contracts (or in Damien Woody’s case retired), there are still 18 players out there itching to be signed.
In fact, I believe that there are enough quality players still available that if they decided to form a team, could probably win the NFC West. While I don’t have the power to form a 33rd NFL team, the least I can do is make the team on paper to prove that you would have a solid lineup. So, if your team still has yet to fix all of their problems, you know who to put at the top of your wish list.
Note that while players such as Kyle Orton and Asante Samuel might be available through trades, I only selected players who are either unrestricted free agents or who were cut. Their previous team is listed in parentheses.
QB Troy Smith (SF): Most of the movement at quarterback is over, but in 2010 Smith wasn’t all that bad. Of the six games he started, he finished with positive passing grades in five. He would make for a solid veteran backup.
HB Ahmad Bradshaw (NYG): He had the 10th best run rating and top block rating for halfbacks. He was one of the two HB stars coming into free agency and right now, it looks like he is waiting for the Giants to bring him back.
FB Vonta Leach (HOU): Putting John Kuhn here was tempting, but Leach had the fourth best blocking grade in 2010 for fullbacks. It sounds like teams are interested in him and he’s waiting to choose the best landing spot.
WR Malcolm Floyd (SD): His +10.0 receiving rating and 19.4 yards per catch were among the best in the league. He missed playing time, but impressed when healthy.
WR Steve Smith (NYG): He was a frequent target early on for the Giants before getting hurt. He is capable of playing both outside and in the slot.
TE Zach Miller (OAK): An amazing first half of the season slowed as the season wore on. If he can return to his early 2010 form, he could be one of the best tight ends in the league.
LT Matt Light (NE): With Gaither not back to his old self yet, Light is the best remaining LT on the market. It looks like he will return to New England, so if your team is in need a left tackle, you may be out of luck.
LG Justin Blalock (ATL): There are a number of solid left guards left, but Blalock tops the list. He is one of the few who had a rating above +1.0 in pass blocking, run blocking, screen blocking and penalties.
C Shaun O’Hara (NYG): There are very few centers available and O’Hara is the only experienced one with a positive run block rating. If your team wants a center, it might be better to add a guard and convert.
RG Leonard Davis (DAL): While he isn’t the player he once was, Davis is the best remaining right guard on the market. Allowing five sacks last year was a little troubling, but he gave up little pressure otherwise.
RT Sean Locklear (SEA): If you want a pass blocking right tackle, then Locklear is your guy. He allowed an average of 1.5 pressures a game – an excellent mark – but like most available linemen, his age is a concern.
4-3 Front 7
DLE Raheem Brock (SEA): Maybe not an every-down defensive end, but 11 sacks and 11 QB hits equals the kind of player you want to bring in if you’re short on pass rushers.
DLT Rocky Bernard (NYG): He was a backup last year, but had positive ratings in both run blocking and pass rushing. Not a strong 4-3 defensive tackle class left.
DRT Pat Williams (MIN): It looks like the Vikings have moved on, but last year Williams showed that he is still a great run stopper with a +11.9 rating. A prospective team would want to limit his snaps, but he could be a great rotational player for a year or two.
DRE Stylez White (TB): Like Brock, this would be a great move for a team with pass rusher needs. The Buccaneers seem to want a younger defensive line, so White will need to take his talents elsewhere.
LLB Pisa Tinoisamoa (CHI): While starting most of the first half of the season in Chicago, he showed some potential as a run stopper. While not likely an ideal option, he is the best available.
MLB Stephen Tulloch (TEN): His 76 stops were 13 more than any other linebacker in the league, so he is clearly a game changer. Rumors are saying that he may join Justin Durant in Detroit, which could push the Lions from having one of the best defensive lines in the league to one of the best front sevens overall.
RLB Marvin Mitchell (NO): He was the Saints nickel linebacker because he was above average in coverage. However, it was the run plays where he shined with a +5.8 rating.
3-4 Front 7
LE Shaun Ellis (NYJ): At the start of free agency, three of the top four 3-4 ends were available and now just Ellis remains. Like many of the worthwhile available defenders, he was a great pass rusher with 46 overall pressures.
NT Aubrayo Franklin (SF): The best free agent remaining in our opinion. He had an amazing +24.3 in stopping the run. It would be a shame if no 3-4 team takes him and he’s stuck as a 4-3 DT rather than a 3-4 NT.
RE Robaire Smith (CLE): He missed most of 2010 after getting hurt early on, but in 2009 his 39 stops led all 3-4 defensive ends. He also had the highest run stop rating.
LOLB Manny Lawson (SF): Lawson had a +12.3 pass rush rating, despite some overlooking him in that area because his low sack total (three) last season. He is also solid on run plays.
LILB Channing Crowder (MIA): He’s a very consistent run stopper with a +1.2 rating or better against the run in eight of his 11 games last year.
RILB Nick Barnett (GB): While he has an injury-prone history, when not hurt he’s one of the best linebackers in the league. In 2009, he had 55 stops and 19 pressures. He also has experience in 4-3 defenses and could possibly play OLB.
ROLB Matt Roth (CLE): He didn’t end the season well by any measure, but in the first half, he showed he could be an elite pass rusher and run stopper. It’s rare for a 3-4 OLB to be both, so his potential is high.
CB Kelly Jennings (SEA): If your team needed a cornerback, your choices are limited now as the best options are gone. In the middle of the season, Jennings hit a stretch where he struggled, but he is experienced and has shown he can play to a league average level.
CB Kelvin Hayden (IND): While this is a stretch, he did have a +2.5 coverage rating in 2010 on 676 snaps. In the beginning of 2008, he played very well, which is more than I can say for the rest of the players available.
SS Gerald Sensabaugh (DAL): He is not a flashy player but he can get the job done. He had positive ratings in run defense, pass rushing and coverage; what more do you want in a strong safety?
FS Michael Huff (OAK): One of the best players available, he had the third highest coverage rating for safeties in 2010. He also had the best pass rush rating for players who predominantly played free safety.
K Rhys Lloyd (CAR): It looks like most kicking movement is over, but in 2010 Lloyd had the sixth longest kickoff average at 67.2 yards. However, the change in the kickoff yard line may keep him out of a job.
P Josh Bidwell (WAS): Musical punters might be over and Bidwell might not get a seat, but he’s better than Brad Maynard.