Free Agency 2011 – Top 51 Free Agents

| 1 year ago

Free Agency 2011 – Top 51 Free Agents


[Editor’s note – As a refresher for those that have been around a while and as a welcome to the huge influx of new PFF readers (thanks for stopping in!), we’re bringing this one back for another look as free agency gets underway.]
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I’ve got a confession. I love making lists. There’s something about them that makes everything seem a little more under control. So, when I saw Pete Prisco doing his list of 50 top free agents, I thought to myself, “man, I’d like to do a list”.

But I can’t just copy him. He’s come out and done something before everyone else. So, instead, I’m going in a completely different direction and doing an article unlike any other that’s been done (to my recollection) … The 51 Top Free Agents heading into the 2011 season.
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I can’t quite explain where the idea came from, but sometimes you just have those moments of inspiration. I guess it’s what separates me from the pack.
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In any case, here’s a run down of the Top 51 free agents I’d go after if money was no object.
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SIGNED 1. Nnamdi Asomugha, CB

The unquestionable top guy in free agency, Asomugha is so good teams just don’t throw his way. Either that or they’re scared of his reputation. In any case, whichever team picks him up is getting a cornerback who will give opposing offensive co-ordinators massive headaches.
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SIGNED 2. Charles Johnson, DE

It was near impossible to choose between No.’s 2 and 3, but ultimately, you have to look at the year Johnson just had and marvel. It was the kind of elite season very few defensive ends put together, and yet hardly anyone is talking about it. Top level talent.
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SIGNED 3. Ray Edwards, DE

He’s got more longevity to his career, but he’s never had that kind of standout season to make the mouth water. No shame in being a top ten defensive end in this league though and Edwards is certainly that.
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SIGNED 4. Santonio Holmes, WR

You look at some of the big plays from Holmes and then look past some of the off field problems, and what you’re left with is a receiver you can rely on. Since that Super Bowl catch, he has taken his game to a new, more consistent level.
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SIGNED 5. Sidney Rice, WR

Rice may have more upside than Holmes, but the lack of playing time and injuries hurt his stock. Not by much though, with his 2009 being so good for more than the numbers he put up. Makes his quarterback better.
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SIGNED 6. Quintin Mikell, S

In an era were safeties are either overrated or living off highlight reel, Mikell is refreshing. As good in coverage as he is coming up to help in run support, he just always seems to perform well. Given his age and his reputation, he’ll represent tremendous value for any number of teams trying to upgrade at safety.
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7. Aubrayo Franklin, DT

If you want a nose tackle to get after the quarterback, this man isn’t your guy. If you want one to stuff the run then look no further. Franklin eats up blocks and still does a good job getting to the ball carrier. Excellent two down player.
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SIGNED 8. Ahmad Bradshaw, RB

With less wear on his tires than others, Bradshaw should be an attractive option for teams that think they can cure his fumbling problems. Bradshaw runs well and picks up yards after contact, but could also help a team as a third down back who is exceptional in blitz pick up situations.
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SIGNED 9. Brandon Mebane, DT

Mebane exploded into the minds of most with a tremendous 2008, and while he’s never quite captured that again he has rounded out his game to be the kind of every down DT teams love. Shocking that the Seahawks were prepared to let him go.
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10. Jared Gaither, OT

Perhaps slightly high given the risks, but the league is in short supply of good left tackles. More than that, Gaither isn’t just good – he’s extremely talented and with age on his side. Not enough franchise left tackles hit the market.
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SIGNED 11. Doug Free, OT

The Cowboy left tackle may be better suited to the right side in the long term, but he performed more than admirably on the left. A good pass protector, his real skill lies in that punishing run blocking that can pave some pretty big holes.
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12. Matt Roth, OLB

Roth faded a bit when so much was asked of him in 2010, but if a team wants a proven all around performer to complement a pure pass rusher, Roth is the guy. Gets to the quarterback and impacts running plays. What more do you want?
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SIGNED 13. DeAngelo Williams, RB

Williams may be the best pure runner available, but we haven’t seen near enough of it the past two years after that incredible end to 2008. You wonder if all the carries (including college) have taken too much out of him, but given his talent, he’s worth the risk.
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SIGNED14. Cullen Jenkins, DE

What makes Jenkins such an interesting proposition is that he’s a proven success in 3-4 and 4-3 defenses, so the market for him could be bigger than anyone expects. Interestingly, a 4-3 team may get the best out of him in an every down role.
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SIGNED 15. Jason Babin, DE

It took a number of teams to figure it out, but just letting Babin line up out wide and use his speed to confuse and abuse was the answer all along. A complete defender, Babin needs the right coach to take advantage of his skill set rather than making him something he’s not.
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SIGNED 16. Marshal Yanda, OL

Yanda is the kind of player who could appeal to a lot of teams as a lineman capable of playing tackle and guard extremely well. He is more than just a versatile player and you put him at guard or right tackle, and you’ll be getting one of the league’s best.
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SIGNED 17. Josh Wilson, CB

Was surprising when Seattle let Wilson go for so little after a solid 2009. In any case, he flourished in the second half of 2010 with the Ravens, stabilizing what had become a problem position in Baltimore. That kind of ability to adapt to new surroundings bodes well for his new team.
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SIGNED 18. Willie Colon, OT

It may not have seemed as if the Steelers missed Colon, but they did, with their pass protection falling off a cliff. Their soon-to-be-former right tackle could walk into almost any starting lineup and make it better, even if he could do with imposing himself more in the run game.
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SIGNED 19. Barry Cofield, DT

At just 27, Cofield is younger than you probably think and coming off a career year. Really stepped it up after a 2009 where he was so-so, and now threatens to cash in. Needs to be a little more consistent, but a rounded DT.
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SIGNED 20. Michael Huff, S

Huff finally got the performance to match his pedigree coming out of college, and yet now the Raiders seem to be seeing the back of him. Will make a good free safety fit for a number of teams.
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21. Malcolm Floyd, WR

The Charger may be best served as a secondary (or even tertiary target), with him blossoming in a role that was less prominent than Vincent Jackson and Antonio Gates. That’s not to say he isn’t one of the league’s most dangerous deep threats as his yearly yards per reception shows. He is.
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SIGNED 22. Paul Posluszny, MLB

Last year was a bit of a disaster for the Buffalo Bill. The change to (and then back from) a 3-4 seemed to really mess with a guy that had a tremendous 2009 in the middle of a 4-3 front seven. Put him back in a comfortable situation and watch him prosper.
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Retired 23. Damien Woody, OT

You have the same old age and injury concern excuses, but there are players making do with more damaged knees and they get by, why can’t Woody? He’s a player who has been nothing short of exceptional these past few years. Could just be a stop gap, but what a stop gap he is.
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24. Braylon Edwards, WR

Some would still have you believe Edwards drops more balls than any other receiver, when he’s really improved this part of this game. Still a bit inconsistent, he is a threat you have to account for on every play.
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SIGNED 25. Manny Lawson, OLB

For 3-4 teams short on pass rush, Lawson seems the obvious answer. But there are some red flags given how he was rotated out of the lineup (often on passing downs) and he played alongside some exceptional players on that 49ers defense. Expect a solid performer, but not miracles.
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SIGNED 26. Santana Moss, WR

Moss found a spark in his contract year that had seemed to be missing. The question is, can he keep it going for another year? For anyone doubting that, you only need to look at how many missed tackles he forced (13 to lead the league). Not the deep threat he once was, but has adapted and remains extremely effective.
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27. Zach Miller, TE

In this era of guys either being good blockers or good receivers, Miller is one of the few who are good at both. A true number one tight end in every situation.
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SIGNED28. Danieal Manning, S

Bears fans must be a little miffed. You spend so long waiting for Manning to realize his potential, and now he does he’s likely off elsewhere. Has turned into a complete free safety.
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SIGNED 29. James Anderson, OLB

It was a real breakout year for Anderson, who went from little known player, to underrated playmaker on a poor Panthers team. Was all over the field and showed an excellent ability to turn his blitzing into pressure.
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SIGNED 30. Eric Weddle, S

He’s not a highlight reel safety, but he does so many things well. Real good feel for the ball, and embraces helping out in run support. You get a lot of free safeties who are less than eager in that regard.
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31. Stylez White, DE

The disappointing thing about ‘The Stylish One’ is that he had his opportunity this year and didn’t really take it. He was still wreaking havoc, but after cameos in 2008 and 2009, you wanted something to make everyone take notice. He didn’t, and the guys above him on this list did.
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SIGNED 32. Stephen Tulloch, MLB

At this point in time no player personifies the image of a ‘thumper’ MLB than Tulloch. Always around the ball carrier, Tulloch moved to a three down role this year without losing any of that ability.
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SIGNED 33. Stephen Bowen, DE

When Marcus Spears went down we got to see how Bowen could handle a starting spot. Answer? Very well. Excels at getting up field and is a constant nuisance.
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SIGNED 34. Harvey Dahl, G

Atlanta has the kind of line that is more the sum of its parts than about individuals so you worry how they’ll do in new environments. Still, Dahl is a nasty run blocker who knows how to finish a play. Sound in pass pro as well.
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SIGNED 35. Dawan Landry, S

The knock on Landry is always going to be that he’s a product of the Ravens system. Perhaps, but since entering the league, he’s always been one of the more productive strong safeties. Back to his pre injury best (and then some) in 2010.
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SIGNED 36. Johnathan Joseph, CB

A tricky player to assess. Joseph had his breakout year as a number two cornerback to Leon Hall, and then missed a lot of 2010 with injury. So, how do you evaluate him? Would like to see him have proved himself a number one corner before paying him that kind of money (which no doubt he will get).
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SIGNED 37. Lance Moore, WR

Moore is the prototypical slot receiver … only he’s not used in the slot. Excels at finding space over the middle, exploiting gaps in zone defenses and creating mismatch problems. Extremely reliable hands, he’d be a great weapon for a rookie quarterback.
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38. Raheem Brock, DE

You feel a little for Raheem Brock. It was only when he left the Colts that he was able to slim down and assume the role of a defensive end, and he responded with a career year. Far better DE than DE/DT tweener.
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SIGNED 39. Antonio Cromartie, CB

Cromartie is what he is, and that’s a tremendous athlete who you can beat. Case in point is you look at how shutdown he can be, and then see how many touchdowns he gives up.
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SIGNED40. Tyson Clabo, OT

A good player, but not someone who is ever going to be great. Clabo gets the most out of his talent but he isn’t the kind of punishing blocker you’d want from a right tackle. Very sound in pass protection (unless Charles Johnson is lined up against him).
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SIGNED 41. Jacob Ford, DE

The Titan didn’t really make the most of the every down role that was presented to him, and it seems pretty clear that his best use is as a situational rusher. That’s not a knock, because those guys get you off the field on third down. Ford is one of the best in that regard.
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42. Steve Smith, WR

Smith is a talented receiver but the injury concerns are massive, especially when you consider investing money in him. Has never really recaptured that form from the start of the 2009 season, as teams look a little bit more able to cope with him. Very effective in the slot.
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43. Andre Carter, DE

So he’s coming off a terrible year and isn’t getting any younger, sometimes it pays to have a good memory. I mean it was only a year ago Carter was destroying left tackles on his way to a huge season. Put him back in a 4-3 and watch quarterbacks run for their lives.
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SIGNED 44. Quincy Black, OLB

Black isn’t exactly a game changer, but he’s a solid hand and teams need those guy of guys. Good enough to play on every down, you’ll need playmakers around him but no need to worry about him letting the side down.
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SIGNED 45. Takeo Spikes, ILB

Again, it’s only age that keeps the super reliable Spikes this far down. He’s still one of the best linebackers in the league, an excellent tackler and someone who would improve a number of 3-4 teams that are a little weak up the middle.
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SIGNED 46. Chris Carr, CB

Early in his career, he looked nothing more than a special teamer, but Carr has really worked at turning himself into a starting caliber cornerback. Probably needs the kind of defense the Ravens have to protect him a little, but a versatile enough performer for teams with more exotic schemes.
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47. Kevin Boss, TE

You wonder a little if Boss loses something every time he takes one of those big hits. 2009 was his year where he was a weapon in the pass game, and a beast with his blocking. 2010? Not so much. Has the tools to be a tight end who contributes on every play.
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48. Shaun Ellis, DE

It’s only age that puts Ellis this far down. He’s a heck of a player, but at this point in his career, probably nothing more than a stop gap. Still, he’ll make your team better.
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SIGNED 49. Justin Durant, LB

If you’re looking for a two down linebacker, look no further. Durant sheds blocks well and does a great job impacting run plays. He just can’t seem to get a grip on dropping into coverage at the same time. Plug him in your base defense, accept he’ll make some errors, and be grateful for how good he can be.
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SIGNED 50. Ike Taylor, CB

Taylor has a pretty good reputation and is coming off a decent year, but he’s made to look better than he is by a Pittsburgh defense that generates enough pressure to hide his limitations. Going elsewhere may get him more money, but also leave him far more vulnerable.
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SIGNED 51. Kevin Burnett, LB

While Stephen Cooper gets most of the attention, it is actually Burnett who is coming off a tremendous year. Probably better suited to a two down role for a 3-4 team, Burnett can beat blocks and it has made him one of the better blitzing linebackers in the league.
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