To prove as much, and after some requests on Twitter (@PFF_Khaled), we’re going to set about creating our own All Free Agent team. Any player without a team or about to become an unrestricted free agent is eligible, leaving us with quite the selection of talent.
Pretty self-explanatory, right? Let’s get to it and see if we can create a team that can compete with the best of them!
Quarterback: Peyton Manning
He missed all of 2011, but may go down as the greatest QB to ever play the game. If he’s healthy, then Manning is the biggest free agent to ever hit the market.
Running Back: Peyton Hillis
Everyone seems to be relatively down on Hillis as plenty of weird rumors fly about, but you need only look back to how the 26-year-old performed in 2010 (our second-ranked running back) to see what he can offer a team. A true every-down back, his value may have taken a hit, but he’s got more upside than any available alternative.
Fullback: Le’Ron McClain
If you’re looking for an exceptional inline-blocker, this really isn’t the market for you. McClain gets the nod because of his versatility.
Tight End: Martellus Bennett
Just edging out Joel Dreessen because of his superior upside, Bennett hasn’t put up the receiving numbers he was expected to. He has developed into one of the best blocking tight ends out there though. Bennett was our top-ranked TE in 2011 in this regard.
Wide Receivers: Vincent Jackson and Marques Colston
The interesting thing about Jackson is that his last two years (which have been less than exceptional) seem to have been forgotten. That’s how good he was prior to 2010 when he established himself as the kind of vertical threat teams can’t contend with. Colston has the advantage of being able to work from any position on the field and create all sorts of mismatches. He finished with our fifth-highest receiving grade last year.
Tackles: Jared Gaither and Anthony Collins
Teams just don’t let quality tackles hit the market … which makes Gaither all the more intriguing. You have to take something of a gamble, due to Collins’ lack of playing time and the red flags that accompany Gaither, but the upside is tremendous.
Guards: Carl Nicks and Evan Mathis
It’s cheating to put two left guards in, but we’re speculating that if you put a talent like Mathis in at right guard, he’s got the skill set to make the adjustment. Our two top-ranked guards last year.
Center: Chris Myers
Our highest-rated center from 2011 is finally starting to get the credit his play deserves.
Defensive Ends: Mario Williams and John Abraham
It seems that Abraham’s age is making people think he’s done. Well those people are wrong, and while we understand the concern about his play dropping off, he did finish the year third in our defensive end rankings after picking up 55 combined sacks, hits and pressures. Williams was the top free agent on the market–until Manning was released–and with good reason, given his athletic abilities. Tends to save his big games for weak opposition.
Defensive Tackle: Jason Jones and Brodrick Bunkley
Bunkley topped our run defense rankings for defensive tackles, while Jones figures to return to his 2010 form with a move back into the middle. Offensive guards and centers would hate seeing these two lining up opposite them.
Linebackers: Erin Henderson, Stephen Tulloch and Jarret Johnson
There’s a lot of talent available at the linebacker spots, much to the chagrin of the FA LBs. Henderson is a player with an awful lot going for him after coming off a season where we graded him at +21.7 overall, even higher than the man on the opposite side to him, Jarret Johnson (+18.3). In the middle, Tulloch isn’t just the downhill force most teams love, but he’s good enough in coverage so that he’s a legit every-down player.
Cornerbacks: Cortland Finnegan and Carlos Rogers
Brandon Carr would come in for the teams sub-package defense, but as highly as he’s rated he tends to look at his best when he’s up against quarterbacks who aren’t exactly All-Pro’s. Rogers may have reached his ceiling as a player and will always leave interceptions on the field, but he’s a quality cover corner who can move into the slot. Finnegan, who really stepped up his play in 2011, is also at home in the slot and out wide. Last season he resembled far more the elite CB he thinks he is, and less of a liability in coverage who was more concerned with annoying receivers.
Safeties: Brodney Pool and LaRon Landry
We don’t like the options at safety any more than you do. Pool has always played well when he’s been on the field while Landry is the most talented safety available, but has huge question marks over his health.
It’s clear to us that Donnie Jones is the best punter left on the market. If you’re looking for a kicker, most of them have been tagged but Jay Feely is coming off a good year. When he gets the chance, Eddie Royal is still a very handy returner.