PFF’s 2014 Top 75 Free Agents

| March 3, 2014

2014-TOP-FAs-TOP75Free agency is just around the corner and that means we’re joining in the fun of naming our Top 75 Free Agents. Of course these lists come with a degree of subjectivity as you find yourself cross comparing positions, examining potential, and trickiest of all deciding what kind of impact injury and age are likely to have on a player.

But we’ve given it a go after watching every snap from the past year (as well as the five that preceded it) in painstaking detail. So let’s see who sits atop our list for 2014.

 

Last Update: March 26, 10:00am

    1. Champ Bailey, Cornerback - It’s been a tough couple of years for Bailey. First there was Torrey Smith making a fool out of him in 2012 playoffs and then he had some slot coverage woes in the recent Super Bowl. Bad times to put bad play out there, but it shows a diminishing force as opposed to a spent one. He’s got enough left in the tank to upgrade a unit somewhere.
    2. Chris Clemons, Safety - Everyone wants Earl Thomas but there are few of those type of safeties in the league. Clemons is an infinitely cheaper option but a solid hand nonetheless.
    3. Anthony Spencer, Edge Defender - If not for the nature of his injury would be a lot higher. A real shame that a guy who was really coming into his own may now never reach the heights of his superb 2012.
    4. Jermichael Finley, Tight End - All signs suggest he’ll be 100% for the new season and pass catching tight ends like him are few and far between. The excuses though won’t last for long because Finley has long been a guy who hasn’t played up to his potential.
    5. Travelle Wharton, Guard - He’s not getting any younger but if 2013 is anything to go by, not getting any less productive a football player. Days of being able to play tackle may be behind him, but his mauling ways in the run game will grab him a one year deal at the very least.
    6. Brian De La Puente, Center - De La Puente has been a big get for the Saints offensive line even if he is coming off his weakest season since supplanting Olin Kreutz back in 2011.
    7. Knowshon Moreno, Running Back - The best back available, Moreno is a player that will produce when put in a favorable position. That makes him a relatively safe hand as long as you’re not expecting miracles.
    8. Jared Allen, Edge Rusher - For a long time Allen has played a huge amount of snaps and the result seemed to be an extremely rapid decline in 2013. But if you can manage his snap counts better then you’ve got a guy who might not be as productive as he once was, but can still put pressure on the quarterback.
    9. Maurice Jones-Drew, Running Back - Has Jones-Drew been worn out by years of heavy usage by the Jaguars? It’s hard to say no given his dip in production but if nothing else he’s a guy capable of playing every down.
    10. Pat Sims, Defensive Tackle - A disappointment in Cincinnati, Sims used his second chance in Oakland to put forward some really strong outings. The concern is about consistency, but he has all the ability to be a better player than what he’s proven to date.
    11. LeGarrette Blount, Running Back - If you want a bruising back look no further. Just don’t expect much of any contribution if you’re dropping back to pass the ball.
    12. Kevin Williams, Defensive Tackle - At one time the league’s premier defensive tackle, Williams just isn’t as explosive as he once was. There’s no shame in that whatsoever and he’s still good enough to make life tricky for offensive linemen.
    13. David Stewart, Offensive Tackle – No longer in his prime, Stewart is still a good enough player that he can do a job in pass protection. Questions are being asked as to whether the 31 year old will play another year.
    14. Robert Ayers, Edge Defender - Ayers might need to leave Denver for all of us to see what kind of player he’s become. He ended the season hot but that’s not enough to make us forget about the rest of his NFL career.
    15. Tyson Clabo, Offensive Tackle - Had a nightmare start to life in Miami, but rebounded exceptionally well after he was benched. His end to the season will ensure interest in him.
    16. Jonathan Goodwin, Center - At 35 his age will scare off more than a few, but a team signing him will know they should get at least one year of decent play at an increasingly important position.
    17. Daryn Colledge, Offensive Guard - Never quite lived up to the contract he got in Arizona, becoming a mostly solid player with occasional flashes of brilliance. Might appreciate a run with a team that has more talent either side of him.
    18. Shaun Phillips, Edge Rusher - Phillips looked done after 2012, but rebounded with a nice bounce back year in 2013 with the Broncos. He’s not guaranteed production but he’s still good enough to beat up on bad tackles, while being able to fill a number of roles.
    19. Carlos Rogers, Cornerback – The versatile Rogers had a nice run with the 49ers but his performance has been getting worse and worse as teams have found ways to expose him, particularly from the slot, more and more. He’s a stop gap at this stage but reliable enough that you can turn to him.
    20. Ryan Clark, Safety – Age can make a fool of us all. Clark isn’t getting any better but in an era where safeties are almost as famous for their bad plays as there good, his steadying veteran influence shouldn’t be overlooked.
    21. Josh Freeman, Quarterback – Would you trust him to be your franchise quarterback? Not at this stage, but he’s got the most upside of any available quarterback in free agency and that’s what makes him worth a risk.
    22. Uche Nwaneri, Offensive Guard - He’s not going to wow you but given some of the guard play we saw in the league last year a lot of teams will be grateful for a mediocre guard who doesn’t embarrass himself on a week to week basis.
    23. Kenny Britt, Wide Receiver - Top five free agent in talent, a guy you might not even consider based on injuries and off the field issues. He was beyond terrible last year, more likely to draw a yellow flag or drop a ball than make a play. But just imagine if you could be the one to help him get his act together.
    24. Owen Daniels, Tight End – It’s hard to know just how beat up Daniels is at this stage of his career, but the odds say there’s at least enough left where he can fill a number two tight end role. Fine receiving threat.
    25. Sidney Rice, Wide Receiver – Just how bad are his knees? By all accounts his recovery is going well, but even before his season ending injury he looked a shadow of his former self. That said a shadow of his former self is still a player better than many guys catching balls out there right now.
    26. Erin Henderson, Linebacker – A fine two down linebacker who has hurt his value with silly off the field behavior. That is likely to cripple his market and leave him in the low risk, moderate reward category.
    27. Santonio Holmes, Wide Receiver - If he cared and wasn’t so injury prone he’d be an awful lot higher. But he looks disinterested and is increasingly injury prone, with his only saving grace being he can do things few others can. Or at least he used to be able to. Will need a strong team to keep him in line.
    28. Parys Haralson, Edge Rusher – The Saints hybrid scheme really didn’t get Haralson on the field enough, so it’s hard to know where he’s at right now. Before his injury in his last year in San Francisco he was a much relied upon edge defender who could get a job done. Now? He’s a one-year flier candidate.
    29. Nate Burleson, Wide Receiver – Last year didn’t go well for him as he learned that there are more important things than pizza in life. He should be fully recovered and will look to latch on somewhere when teams get desperate for proven talent.
    30. Harvey Dahl, Offensive Guard – Will need to get healthy first but the NFL lacks guards like Dahl who have that kind of nastiness that shows up in the run game.
    31. Miles Austin, Wide Receiver – A change of scenery might be best for all concerned here. Austin has battled injuries and will likely have to prove himself this year to a receiver needy team.
    32. Jabari Greer, Cornerback – If he wasn’t so fragile Greer would have received a lot more praise. Always extremely talented the Saints said goodbye on the back of his age and health concerns.
    33. Steve Gregory, Safety – Sometimes it’s enough for a safety to be a solid player. That makes Gregory a more reliable guy to turn to than a lot of guys out there.
    34. James Harrison, Linebacker – Made the conversion to a 4-3 scheme look easy, but a base package role meant we only really saw him attack the run. He was exceptional in this regard but it’s not the vital skill it once was.
    35. Fernando Velasco, Center – Came into the Steelers starting lineup on short notice and filled in admirably until his season was cut short by an Achilles injury. If he is back at full health he’s starting quality.
    36. Jason Avant, Wide Receiver – No thrills, few spills. Avant has made a name for himself with solid play year in and year out. His playing time was to take a hit this year but he will latch on with a team looking for a steadying presence at wide receiver.
    37. Rafael Bush, Safety – Handled himself extremely well in New Orleans. Enough to suggest a team might be wise to let him build on his nickel role and compete for a starting spot.
    38. Desmond Bishop, Linebacker – Needs to get healthy and you question whether he can. Has been a long time since he was one of the emerging linebackers in the league but perhaps a year further removed from injury is a year closer to his best?
    39. Andre Brown, Running Back – Flashed brilliance but has spent a lot of time battling injuries and fumbled three times last year. Will need to prove himself in a training camp.
    40. Thomas Decoud, Safety – He was once so impressive but some wild tackling over the past two years and some bad angles in the run game mean his star has fallen. New surroundings are much needed.
    41. Kellen Winslow, Tight End - You worry about the off the field goings on and his injury history, but with the move tight end such a valuable piece in the modern NFL Winslow remains on the radar.
    42. Josh Wilson, Cornerback – Not coming off his best year, it’s for the NFL teams to decide if that was a one-off or symptomatic of his decline.
    43. Mike Patterson, Defensive Tackle – In a league not short of stout run defenders Patterson isn’t as valuable as he once was. Good enough to start on early downs.
    44. Kyle Cook, Center – Always looks ever so slightly overmatched physically, but with the smarts that he rarely looks a liability. Has age and more consistent tape on his side compared to some centers.
    45. Quintin Mikell, Safety – Not getting any younger, Mikell nonetheless held up as an early downs in the box safety for the Panthers. Situational player but still effective.
    46. Michael Bush, Running Back – Hard to tell what Bush is after being buried behind the dependable Matt Forte. A nice change of pace back if nothing else.
    47. Dimitri Patterson, Cornerback – Experienced and ideally suited to the slot. Patterson has rarely let anyone down when tasked primarily with a sub package role.
    48. Will Montgomery, Center – Not strong enough to handle life outside a zone blocking scheme, Montgomery is best moving laterally and so that limits his value.
    49. Winston Justice, Offensive Tackle – Quietly had a decent 2012 but overestimated his market in 2013 and wound up as a backup on the Broncos. The lack of starting tackles should see him land a chance of competing for a job.
    50. Dustin Keller, Tight End – Tough to predict how he’ll come back from such a severe injury, but as with Winslow his upside will ensure teams keep looking at him.
    51. Drayton Florence, Cornerback – Had an impressive comeback year in Carolina after he looked done. Limited in terms of appeal because of age and scheme versatility, we wouldn’t be surprised if he ends up back with the Panthers.
    52. Derek Landri, Defensive Tackle – Incredibly quick first step but unfortunately has struggled when more (in terms of playing time) has been asked out of him.
    53. Michael Boley, Linebacker – The Bengals gave him a route back into the league after off the field issues looked like they had ended his career. Lot of question marks here.
    54. LaRod Stephens-Howling, Running Back – Had the kind of injury that you hate to see for a guy who relies on his speed. What does he have left?
    55. Damian Williams, Wide Receiver – Whether it was a lack of trust in him, or lack of him taking chances presented, Williams flattered to deceive in Tennessee. Fresh surroundings could be the making of him.
    56. David Bass, Center – Missed most of 2013 but his run blocking in 2012 should guarantee some interest when teams get a little more desperate.
    57. Ryan Wendell, Center – Wish he missed most of 2013 after his play fell off a cliff. Not many centers are as bad in pass protection as this guy.
    58. Dan Connor, Linebacker – Love the talent coming downhill, hate the injury history that has severely restricted his career.
    59. Michael Huff, Safety – A much hotter prospect last year, Huff had one of his down years. Let’s not forget he has talent and his ability to play cornerback means teams will look at him as depth if nothing else.
    60. Brett Keisel, Defensive Lineman – In the latter stages of his career, given that he’ll be 35 years old not long into the 2014 season, Keisel showed last year that he’s still capable of some solid performances, even if he’s not at the level he once was.
    61. Jacoby Ford, Wide Receiver – Ford hasn’t hit the height of his 2010 rookie season, where he returned three kick-offs for touchdowns and added another two scores as a receiver, but he is still young and talented enough that teams should consider him.
    62. Stephen Nicholas, Linebacker – Injuries limited Nicholas to just 132 snaps in 2013 but he was still serviceable against the run when he saw the field. A two down linebacker in a market saturated with them lowers his value, but he can still provide something to a team.
    63. Terrell Thomas, Cornerback – You have to go all the way back to 2009 to find Thomas at his best but, after suffering with injuries for a few seasons, he was solid for the New York Giants last year.
    64. Ben Hartsock, Tight End – If you’re looking for an athletic tight end who can add value in the passing game, Hartsock is not your guy. He is however, a very good blocker that could help out an awful lot of teams in the league.
    65. Brian Leonard, Running Back – Though he’s never going to be a lead back, Leonard is a solid third down option with a safe pair of hands.
    66. Chris Crocker, Safety – Though he’s 34 years old now, Crocker still offers some versatility that teams will like, with the ability to play safety and cover in the slot.
    67. Tony Pashos, Offensive Tackle – Pashos struggled more as a run blocker but was a fairly good pass blocker in 2013. A player who looks good enough to still be a serviceable starter in the league at right tackle.
    68. Rashean Mathis, Cornerback – Despite being 34 when the 2014 season begins, Mathis is coming off a 2014 season where he was, at worst, solid in coverage. That alone should help him find a team before the 2014 season begins.
    69. Kyle Love, Defensive Tackle – Limited to just 42 snaps on two different teams in 2013, let’s not forget that Love was solid for the Patriots in 2012. Add to that the fact that he’s still young enough to have some upside and he’s worth a look by more than a few teams.
    70. Danario Alexander, Wide Receiver – When he’s on the field, Alexander is an excellent option for his quarterback, with seven touchdowns and 658 yards from just 500 snaps on the field in 2012. The problem for him, however, has been his inability to stay healthy.
    71. Bernard Scott, Running Back – He hasn’t seen much of the ball in the past two season, but Scott has always flashed some potential and made people miss with the ball in his hands.
    72. Wade Smith, Guard – You would love to see more consistency out of Smith, who had some solid performances in 2013. The problem for him, however, was that there were also some really poor games throughout the year too.
    73. Mike Adams, Safety – A solid contributor for the Broncos last year, Adams is a fairly average safety at this point in his career, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing for teams with a need at the position.
    74. Rex Grossman, Quarterback – One of the few players not included in the backup quarterback merry-go-round thus far, Grossman is still a capable backup at this point. Not someone you want to rely on full time, but has shown the ability to be serviceable in the right situation.
    75. Zackary Bowman, Cornerback – Starting the last five games of the season in Chicago, Bowman was solid until a poor final game of the season. A better fit than some in a Cover-2 coverage scheme at this stage.

 

 

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  • Ben Peterson

    Clinton Mcdonald? He was a great pass rusher from the inside for the Seahawks.

    geez, you could build a new, and pretty good, defensive line with all the free agents that the Seahawks have there.

    • Prime Time Dang a lang Time

      He’s #71

  • John

    Raji?

    • Charles Jackson

      Raji is terrible. He just has name recognition

  • paco the taco

    No Jason Worilds!!!!!!

    • Sifter

      There’s no Alex Mack either because they’ve both been transitioned tagged.

      • roguepatriot

        That shouldn’t matter. Transition tags can be poison pilled.

        That said, if Mack gets no offers, or if he gets an offer, he likes from a team he wants to play for, his agent could ask for a PP provision that would prevent the Browns from matching. If that team declines, then Mack would file a grievance with the NFLPA, and they would file a collusion lawsuit against the league.

        Hanslam doesn’t realize the big can of worms he opened, giving Mack the Transition Tag. Stay tuned.

        • PFFSamMonson

          Poison Pills are no longer allowed per new CBA

  • Baller

    James Starks “as shifty a back as there is in this league”? More of a one-cut guy, but have you per chance seen Shady McCoy run the rock up in Philly?

  • Desse

    As a Charger fan I wouldn’t mind if we went for these players:

    Roger Saffold if he would play for 4mil per year.
    Jon Asamoah for 3 mil a year.
    Antonio Smith for 3-4mil per year.
    Willie Colon for 2-2,5mil per year.
    And then one of the Miami DTs to play a solid NT

    • jdouble777

      Asamoah will get at least 5M per season, I don’t understand these dreams fans post over and over using unrealistic price tags…

      • Mitchell

        Asamoah got just $4.5 million per season, so you were both wrong.

        Perhaps you shouldn’t try speaking with authority when you really don’t know much more than anyone else (if that).

  • jdouble777

    I truly did not understand this site whatsoever. Why would I pay money to access a site that is only valuable because of the unique stats provided when the site providing them does not even stand by them????

    Rodgers-Cromartie, Vontae Davis, Verner, and Shields were all viewed via these stats as far superior to Talib yet YOUR OWN rankings value Talib above them all??? Talib according to your stats and common sense was pathetic the second half of the season, Rodgers-Cromartie was straight gold…. Is the stats given here simply meant to be viewed as a box score or not taken as a legit scoring that can be indicative of what a player is capable of going forward?

    Whitner’s ratings were sparkling, yet a guy who plays half a season in Melton is more valuable? What Nicks could be is worth putting him 8 spots higher than what Decker did accomplish? Your ratings view Tate admirably, your write up about him denotes this, and anyone who plays fantasy knows this guy simply needs more targets….why is this so much more sensical than the rest?

    I’m an avid Redskins fan, we are looking to be heavy in free agency for the first time in three years. I purchased a membership to this site to try to get insight toward what should we truly be targeting, which signing should I truly be excited about. Sadly, it seems that is not that case. I read similar rankings on all these other sites and my reaction is “What!? You clearly don’t have a subscription to PFF!” Then I come here and PFF’s ranking and exactly the same?

    Sincerely,
    Absolutely Lost

    • Andreas Haakshorst

      Well, I suggest you dig a little deeper into the database while you are already at it.
      To base the value of a free agent exclusively on his play this past season would be a mistake in my opinion and one PFF thankfully doesn’t make.

      This explains for instance why DRC isn’t higher on this list and why Melton is listed as high.
      Nicks comes in higher than Decker because of the potential to be a truely dominant force he showed in 2011, while Decker might just have immensely benefitted from playing with Payton (https://www.profootballfocus.com/blog/2014/02/06/free-agent-duel-decker-vs-rodgers-cromartie/).
      If there is one thing PFF points out time and again, than it’s that stats and even grades have to be always read in context.

      • jdouble777

        Common and not plausible counter argument.

        Nicks has NEVER caught 80 passes, 1200 yds, and played 15 games last year only to not even catch 60 or 900. Not buying it, at all.

        What has Talib done historically or in the more than one half of one season that makes him valuable. He is a glorified DeAngelo Hall, sacrifices mass yardage to get the occasional INT which is all people care about.

        Anyway, moving on…

        • Richard Light

          Hakeem Nicks has faced number 1 cornerbacks and dealt with safeties shading coverage to him. Erick Decker’s production has come while playing with an abundance of weapons surrounding him that meant no team could seriously focus on stopping him in particular, not with Demaryius Thomas, Julius Thomas, and Wes Welker lurking.

          A guy who can produce 1100 yards while facing number 1 cornerbacks and safety help is better than a guy who can produce 1200 yards while facing number 2 cornerbacks and limited safety help.

          As for Talib – Talib was given extremely difficult assignments by the Patriots, often covering the #1 wide receiver and/or tight end (Jimmy Graham) regardless of where they moved on the field . Vontae Davis and other CBs generally were assigned to 1 particular side of the field, meaning they were always facing the opposing team’s best receiving target.

          This is why you need to actually watch football games and pay attention to the matchups, rather than checking NFL.com statistics or even PFF’s grades and loudly proclaiming 1 guy is better than the other. PFF grades how a given player plays against their matchup, so a cornerback who dominates #3 wide receivers will finish with a higher grade than a cornerback who does pretty well against #1 wide receivers. However, there’s no question that the guy who consistently faces #1 wide receivers is more valuable than the guy who dominates #3 wide receivers.

          If you thought a PFF subscription meant you didn’t have to bother watching games closely or reading up on how players are used by particular teams, you’re going to be disappointed.

          • Richard Light

            Typo – *meaning they were NOT always facing the opposing team’s best receiving target.

  • kyle

    the guy in the picture isnt even on the list

    • bobrulz

      It’s because he just re-signed with Seattle, so they took him off. I assume they’re going to keep updating it until the actual free agency period begins, because if they sign before that, then they don’t even get the opportunity to become free agents.

  • bobrulz

    I know that Josh McCown had just 1 good season and could easily be a product of the system, but he was so good that it’s definitely worth a team in desperate need for a transition-type veteran QB to see if he can sustain any of that success. He would probably come fairly cheap, too. Definitely worth being in the top 75 imo.

  • Sifter

    You’ve got Kevin Williams here twice – 57 and 61.

  • Channing Hindel

    This guy called Ihedigbo a poor man’s TJ Ward, but Ward wasn’t even on the list.

    • jzajzz

      Ward is no longer a free agent.. the list gets updated often

  • Brian Bigger

    Kevin Vickerson is still under contract with Denver. He is a free agent next year.