Free Agency 2011 – Rankings By Position

| 1 year ago

Free Agency 2011 – Rankings By Position


[Editor’s note – It’s here! Free agency begins! For the new crowd joining us at PFF, here’s a bump with our notes about the best of the bunch at each position.]

Could it be? Is that time just around the corner?
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As CBA news trickles out, guesses are piling up as to when the NFL’s free agency period may begin. The up-and-down nature of the talks has us twisted in knots and we can’t help glancing at the calendar repeatedly as it seems every day spent negotiating (or not negotiating) is severely cutting into fun time. Will it all be figured out by mid-month? Late July? Later than that? In any case, the long, quiet offseason may soon make that quick turn to a frenzied flurry of camp dates, actual player-coach communication, and yes … yes! yes! yes! … free agent signings.
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Teams did what they could during the draft to address needs and add talent, but without the usual offseason to get those youngsters primed, securing key free agents that bring NFL resumés and engrained life-in-the-league experience will be more important than ever.
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Every team has to be whittling their shopping lists and programming their speed dials for the first calls once the gate drops. Make contact, gauge interest, make offer, negotiate, get it done and get them on a plane, sign the deal … and do it again … and again. All in a very, very short window and all while digesting the new cap rules, locking-in rookie contracts, and prepping to get on the field.
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Please keep hands and arms inside the ride at all times – it’s going to be wild!
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To get us all back up to speed and ready for the madness, here are the players we wrote about earlier in the offseason as the best available at each position:

Quarterbacks – It’s a bit thin here, but teams could do (and have done) worse than fielding Matt Hasselbeck. Valuable back-ups are available too and with the beating these guys take, capable No. 2 guys can’t be overlooked.

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Halfbacks & Fullbacks – Some household names ready to change teams and show off their unique strengths. Well-rounded Ahmad Bradshaw? Third-down threat Darren Sproles? Determined and dangerous Deangelo Williams? Will be a lot of fun to see where the backs in this class end up.

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Wide Receivers – Something for everyone — deep threat, possession guy, wily vet — they’re all there. Do you take the risk on a receiver that has dealt with recent injuries or go for the safe bet? Always sure-handed Lance Moore or recently sure-handed Braylon Edwards? With names like Rice, Holmes, Floyd, and Sims-Walker in this bunch, headlines will be made when they agree to terms.

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Tight Ends – Even with Shockey an Daniels off the board, there are still some exciting players to be had. Can anyone pry Zach Miller away from Al Davis?

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Tackles – How many teams don’t need to upgrade here? These guys will get a ton of attention, and, though it’s a fairly deep list, teams won’t be able to sit and wait if they have any hopes of landing Jared Gaither, Willie Colon, Doug Free, or the other talented protectors.

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Guards & Centers – Solidifying the interior is a high priority across the league and there’s plenty of grit to be had in this group. Versatile Marshall Yanda heads up a list of plug-and-play big bodies capable of immediate impact.

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Defensive Tackles & 3-4 Defensive Ends – Run stuffers and pass rushers – some of the best anchors and gappers around. Though perfect examples of each type, Shawn Rogers and John Henderson, have agreed to deals, more remain. How many 3-4 coordinators out there have dreamt of life with Aubrayo Franklin dropped into the middle of their D?

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4-3 Defensive Ends & 3-4 Outside Linebackers – There are some serious edge rushers available – free agency fireworks here. Being able to create pressure without employing blitzes frees up so much and these guys can step in and add punch on Day 1. The need is great, the talent is there, look for some big paychecks to be tied to these names very soon.

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Middle/Inside Linebackers & 4-3 Outside Linebackers – Leadership and play-making ability are what this gang is about. Add Stephen Tulloch to the middle of your D and you’ve bumped up the credibility with a proven performer. Mix in Takeo Spikes and you’ve got a multi-talented vet to help shape your scheme. 4-3 guys, 3-4 guys, tons available, these are some of the best.

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Cornerbacks – Despite what every headline says, it’s not all about Nnamdi here. Missing the prize still leaves intriguing options for teams in need of corner help. Some of the younger guys won’t hit the market, but there are plenty of vets that will.

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Safeties – One of the most interesting groups, it seems each player has a different skill set. Watching where these guys land should really tell what teams are thinking their weaknesses are: in-the-box help, deep coverage, or a player comfortable (and skilled) enough to do a little of everything.

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And, check here for our complete list of free agents – it’ll be updated as we go.
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Follow Rick on Twitter: @PFF_Rick … and be sure to follow our main Twitter feed as well: @ProFootbalFocus
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