The first wave of free agency has passed and we now head into Week 2. There’s still a healthy load of talent out there that could help your team and we’ve ranked them from 1 to 75 to give an idea of the options that remain.
Here’s our Top 75 for the available free agents, updating as we go …
(As of April 7th, 09:00am ET)
1. David Hawthorne, LB
After his 2009 and 2010 seasons, this year was a tad disappointing for Hawthorne. That’s not to say he played badly, but injuries seemed to slow him. We’d fully expect a healthy Hawthorne to plug in to any defensive scheme and make a more than positive contribution. It’s why he’s earned a +45.7 grade from us over the past three years.
2. Curtis Lofton, LB
The conversion of Lofton to an every-down linebacker has had its pros and its cons. On the plus side, we’ve seen Lofton improve in coverage and become the quarterback of the defense. On the negative front, he’s failed to look like the impact run defender we saw as a rookie. A talented, but limited player.
3. Andre Carter, DE
There are some big question marks with Carter coming off a season-ending injury and not getting any younger. But his production in New England, where he was comfortably the best player on their defense before injury, shows that if you get him in the right scheme (not a 3-4) he will make plays. Finished 11th in our defensive end rankings in 2011.
4. London Fletcher, LB
So it’s unlikely that Fletcher makes a move to anywhere but Washington, but if you’re looking for an excellent linebacker on a short term deal then why not make him an offer he can’t refuse. Not every free agent move needs to be with the future in mind.
5. Demetrius Bell, T
An intriguing player, Bell struggled before 2011, but in six games looked every bit the franchise left tackle. Is that body of work enough for a team to take a chance on him? We think not, but the ceiling is high for Bell in a weak tackle market.
6. Manny Lawson, OLB
Lawson played well in Cincinnati, but he now finds himself in an interesting position. An effective pass rusher, two teams have used Lawson as primarily a base-downs player. Given the lack of interest in him last year, has much happened in 2011 to change that?
7. Cedric Benson, RB
We’ve seen running backs wear down under a heavy load, so with 922 carries in the past three years and entering his age 30 season, Benson has some question marks over him. Not done by any stretch, but averaging just 2.1 yards after contact (third lowest of all running backs with 100 carries) hurts his value.
8. Antonio Garay, NT
Back in 2010, Garay looked like one of the most explosive defensive linemen in the league, but with an increased role, he struggled to make the same kind of impact that made him the most productive pass rushing DT in the league then. If he can reclaim that form, he’ll be worth whatever he gets.
9. E.J. Henderson, LB
Is Henderson a fading force? Always better at coming forward, his play in coverage could see him firmly dropping into the ‘two-down linebacker’ category. He’ll be 32 when the season starts with a troubling injury history.
10. James Hall, DE
Hall isn’t getting any younger, but until he stops being productive why wouldn’t you take a long look at him? He finished the year with a+11.3 grade, and while he appears to be losing something as a pass rusher, his all round game continues to impress.
11. Shaun Rogers, DT
Wasted to a degree in New Orleans, Rogers still has the ability to have his way with defensive linemen. His work in run defense was stellar this year, though he didn’t look quite as explosive getting up field.
12. William Gay, CB
Didn’t make the leap many expected after being promoted into the starting lineup but has become a dependable corner who can move into the slot in nickel.
13. O.J. Atogwe, S
A safety with good range, Atogwe was wasted a bit being used in the box on 21.7% of all his defensive snaps in 2011. He becomes the top safety on the market.
14. Derek Landri, DT
May have one of the fastest first steps of any interior linemen, but showed in 2010 that he doesn’t hold up well under the strains of anything more than a rotational role. Thrived in Eagles Wide-9 scheme.
15. Justin Bannan, DT
It was something of a surprise when the Rams released Bannan, who had a very solid year in St Louis. But a scheme change likely sees them wanting defensive tackles who can get up the field, something Bannan doesn’t do extremely well. He’s one of the better DTs in run defense in the league.
16. Marcus McNeil, T
A frustrating tackle, McNeil is capable of looking as good as any, but all too often follows it up with struggles that prevent him being the elite tackle he threatens to be. The big concern is his injury history and whether he’s on a downward spiral as a result.
17. Leroy Hill, OLB
The charges were dropped but Hill’s latest run-in with the law has reminded us all just how risky a proposition he is.
18. Channing Crowder, LB
After a year out of the league, Crowder is as healthy as ever and ready to come back; seemingly. He has plenty of value to 3-4 teams looking for a two-down thumper type.
19. Dallas Clark, TE
Clark hasn’t done an awful lot of the past two years, but there are mitigating circumstances. He was injured for most of 2010 and was hurt more than any by the loss of Peyton Manning in 2011 that forced him into more of a blocking role. A gamble, but one that’s worth being took.
20. Jerricho Cotchery, WR
Better than being any teams fourth choice wide out, franchises seem to forget that despite a torrid 2010 where he played hurt, Cotchery was once one of the most consistent receivers in the league.
21. Fred Robbins, DT
An ageing, but productive defensive tackle, Robbins was our 18th ranked defensive tackle in 2011. He can’t handle an every down role and needs to be heavily rotated, but there’s value in a player like him.
22. Amobi Okoye, DT
An old 25, Okoye got his career back on track in Chicago. Good enough to be a heavy part of a rotation, he still has some talent when it comes to one-gapping.
23. Joseph Addai, RB
Addai probably got more credit that was due for his role as a pass blocker, while at the same time not getting enough credit for his rushing. Will be interesting to see what he can do if he lines up behind a halfway decent offensive line for the first time in his career.
24. Aubrayo Franklin, DT
Didn’t find a market for himself after a superb 2010, so what will he do after an uneventful 2011? Lower demands may make him a reasonable target for a nose tackle-needy team.
25. Tony Pashos, T
Pashos played hurt in 2011 and still performed admirably when it came to slowing down pass rushers. Will be interesting to see if he can get 100% healthy, if he can offer a team more in the run game. Has starting potential.
26. Ryan Grant, RB
Grant didn’t look completely done last year, but neither does he look like the back that burst onto the scene in 2007.
27. Brandon Jacobs, RB
You wonder how much a 30 year old back with a style that guarantees taking a lot of punishment has left. Showed flashes of his old self last year.
28. Jake Scott, G
Our 7th ranked guard last year, Scott benefited tremendously from the Titans getting rid of the ball quicker than any other team. Not a dominant guard but he won’t let you down.
29. Wallace Gilberry, DE
He didn’t have the best of times last year, but you need only go back to 2010 to see how good Gilberry is as a situational interior rusher in KC.
30. Matt Roth, DE
His talent would see him an awful lot higher, but that concussion history really wards us off him.
31. Jamaal Jackson, C
He hasn’t really played over the past two years, but before an injury knocked him out of the 2010 season he was among the most consistent centers in the league. How healthy is he?
32. Jackie Battle, RB
A back who has plenty of tread left on his tires, Battle showed in 2011 that he probably should have been taking carries from Thomas Jones a lot sooner.
33. Philip Wheeler, LB
A rare bright spot on the Indianapolis defense and one of the Colts’ few quality run defenders. Wheeler only graded negatively against the run in two of his starts in 2011.
34. Gary Gibson, DT
Gibson finished the year our 16th ranked defensive tackle, putting forth a strong performance from a rotational role. Can he handle more snaps, and can he replicate his 2011? Big questions.
35. Vonnie Holliday, DE
Pressure for hire! Holliday doesn’t seem the most loved of players, chucked around the league to any team needing some pressure up the middle, he always produces regardless of age.
36. Visanthe Shiancoe, TE
We’ve not been impressed by Shiancoe the past two years, but go back to 2009 and you had one of the best receiving tight ends in the league. Can he recapture that form?
37. Leger Douzable, DE/ DT
We were surprised the Jaguars didn’t tender Douzable. He doesn’t get much pressure, but offers solid depth as a player who can play along the defensive line. Earned a +9.3 grade last year.
38. Chris Carr, CB
2011 didn’t really work out for Carr, but you need only go back to 2010 to see what he can do. At the very least a capable slot cornerback.
39. Leonard Davis, G
It was something of a surprise that Davis didn’t get on the field in 2011, but it means he should be fresh and able to replicate the levels of play in 2010. He’s still got something left in the tank for sure.
40. Bobbie Williams, G
Williams isn’t getting any younger, but his play last year was better than most guards in the league.
41. Todd McClure, C
McClure isn’t getting any younger, and we perhaps assumed that he’d return to Atlanta without any teams showing interest. His 2011 showed he still has something left.
42. Roderick Hood, CB
We’ve got a soft spot for Hood, as the type of corner nobody really wants, is forced to use, and then does surprisingly well.
43. Raheem Brock, DE
Brock wasn’t quite as good last year after a superb pass rushing performance in limited action in 2010. He held up against the run and offers something on as a rotational body on every down.
44. Chilo Rachal, G
49ers fan soured on Rachal, because as good as he can be, he’s capable of some utterly shocking play. Incredibly high ceiling, incredibly low floor.
45. William Hayes, DE
2011 wasn’t a great year for him, but watch how he played in 2010. He is one of the few players we’ve seen give Eric Winston an absolute beat down and has that kind of upside.
46. Jeremy Shockey, TE
He doesn’t always seem like the greatest guy in the world, but Shockey produces when he’s healthy. He was a real asset for Cam Newton in 2011 and his ability to get open shouldn’t be overlooked.
47. David Vobora, LB
We like his style, and while he will never be a big stat getter, he’s the kind of player teams would be wise to see makes life easier for those around him.
48. Chris Chamberlain, LB
Coming off a strong 2011, Chamberlain has every down potential and isn’t someone who will make a great number of mistakes.
49. Montrae Holland, G
The guard market is thinning out, but you could find a serviceable starter in Holland. He’s not getting any younger but he was a big help to Dallas down the stretch.
50. Mario Haggan, LB
A two down linebacker, Haggan is the kind of player every team should have. Affordable and a constant producer, you wouldn’t want to play him every down.
51. Pat Sims, DT
A solid enough contributor, defensive tackle rotations need a third or fourth tackle like Sims to ease the workload on a starter without a ridiculous drop off.
52. Rocky Bernard, DT
Good for 300-400 snaps a year, Bernard has a habit of being able to make plays when he’s on the field.
53. Vernon Carey, G
He’s not getting younger, but we’re a little bit intrigued if Carey can still go at tackle after being move inside to guard and doing a decent enough job. Valuable for not being a complete liability at either OT or OG.
54. Tommie Harris, DT
A move to San Diego seemed like an odd fit for Harris, but he actually went some way towards getting his career back on track.
55. Chris Hope, S
Lost his starting spot in Tennessee but has always been among the more consistent safeties in the league.
56. Yeremiah Bell, S
A liability in coverage, Bells’ greatest strength is his work in run defense. In a division likely to be pass heavy that was always likely to earn a release this off season. Has value but needs to have his weaknesses worked around.
57. Tony Hargrove, DE/DT
A marginal talent, Hargrove had some success as a situational rusher in Seattle. A team that doesn’t get much push up the gut, could use an interior rusher like the former Saint.
58. Jonathan Goff, LB
We liked Goff as a two linebacker for the Giants in 2010, but in a crowded market at linebacker and coming off an ACL injury? Big question marks.
59. Jim Leonhard, S
There isn’t much left at safety and Leonard offers a veteran presence who may be able to cover for his diminishing athleticism with his veteran smarts.
60. Steve Smith, WR
It seems so long ago (2009) where Smith was breaking out as a receiver who just made plays. Injuries have hampered his career but with the possibility he could recapture that form he’s worth a flier.
61. Dan Koppen, C
The former Patriots center is a talented player, but you worry how he will fare outside of New England. Isn’t getting any younger.
62. Omar Gaither, LB
The often underrated Gaither has found success where ever he goes as a two down linebacker who excels coming down hill. Unfortunately in this league that’s a skill set high in use, and low in demand.
63. Geno Hayes, LB
The erratic Hayes is incredibly only 24. His 2011 was so bad that we had to put him so low, but there is upside there as his 2009 and 2010 seasons show.
64. Justin Forsett, HB
As elusive a back as there is in the league, Forsett isn’t someone you’d trust with an every down role but could offer a nice change of pace.
65. Roy Lewis, CB
Got very little attention last season because of the quality of Seattle’s outside corners but Lewis turned in a strong of solid performances in the slot as Seattle’s nickel corner in the second half of last year. His completion percentage allowed of 58.3% is very impressive for a slot corner.
66. Trevor Laws, DT
Never emerged for the Eagles as a full time player but can still provide something as a rotational player, capable against both run and pass.
67. Jerome Simpson, WR
Undeniable talent and athleticism but frustratingly inconsistent. Has a habit of dropping passes in gluts and in spite of some quality games last season had less than 30 receiving yards in seven games last season. Legal concerns also dent his free agent value.
68. Husain Abdullah, S
A starting quality safety who looked the best of the Vikings’ safeties last season. His 16 stops, in spite of playing only 588 snaps, were the most of all the Vikings safeties last season.
69. Justin Peelle, TE
Struggled to settle in San Francisco last season but from 2008 to 2010 with Atlanta he was one of the best blocking tight ends in the entire league.
70. Marcus Thomas, DT
Ever since a torrid start to his career where he looked out of his depth as a starter Thomas has emerged as a quality run defender on a rotational basis. Stepped back into the starting lineup this season and in spite of developing no pass rush was one of the better run defending defensive tackles in the league.
71. Max Starks, OT
Now two years removed from his last good season, back in 2009, but still a serviceable tackle at least. The season caught up with him eventually but graded positively in five of his first six starts of the season.
72. Gerard Warren, DT
Played 200 less snaps in 2011 compared to 2010 but flourished in lower playing time and stepped up with a great playoff run. Now the wrong side of 30 but those playoff performances should pique a team’s interest.
73. Brandon McKinney, DT
Only ever receives around 200 snaps a season in Baltimore but he has graded positively as a run defender every single season that we have been grading games. Good role player to give a breather to nose tackles, his spot performance could arguably be worthy of more playing time.
74. Casey Wiegmann, C
Seemingly all of the veteran centers are hanging on for one more season and whilst he isn’t up to the standard of a Jeff Saturday, a Matt Birk or a Todd McClure, Wiegmann can still do a job. Our sixth ranked pass protector in 2011.
75. Keyaron Fox, LB
One of the ILBs to be frustrated behind Rocky McIntosh in Washington last season. Fox led the Steelers in special teams tackles in 2010 and in limited playing time over the last four seasons has never looked out of his depth on defense.