Ranking the 2013 Free Agents: Safeties
Wrapping up the series of top free agents by position, Steve Palazzolo sifts out the Top 10 safeties of this year's free agent class.
Ranking the 2013 Free Agents: Safeties
Breaking down the top free agents at each position for this series is more than just looking at our grades, but factoring in longevity, age, injuries and so much more in order to tell you who we think are the best gets out there.
We’re not going to insult your intelligence though when it comes to guys unlikely to hit the open market because of restricted free agency, so don’t expect to see names like Victor Cruz or Brian De La Puente in these pieces. Instead we’re focusing on guys with a real shot at dipping their feet into the free agent pool and making your team better.
You’ve been with us through the entire offense, a quick stop to check in on the free agent kickers and punters, and most recently through the majority of the D. The last line of defense also happens to be the last position to cover in this series and today we take a look at that group: the top free agent safeties.
1. William Moore – stays in ATL: 5-year, $30m
2012 Grade: +6.7
2012 Snaps: 774
Summary: Our top free agent option among safeties, Moore ranked 18th overall at the position, a year after ranking 11th overall. He did not excel in any particular area but showed a well-rounded game in coverage (+2.6), run defense (+3.2), and as a pass rusher (+2.1). His Run Stop Percentage of 3.7 ranked 22nd in the league and he made an impact with nine pressures on just 29 blitzes. If there’s a concern, Moore was an average tackler as he missed 10 of his 64 attempts. Still, coming off a season where he proved to be the best all-around player in the Falcons’ secondary, he should command quite a haul on the open market this offseason.
2. Dashon Goldson – to TB: 5-year, $41.25m
2012 Grade: +6.5
2012 Snaps: 1049
Summary: It was a close call between Moore and Goldson for the top spot, especially after the season Goldson had in coverage, grading at +7.1. His 0.33 Yards per Cover Snap ranked seventh among safeties as he built on a 2011 season that saw him grade at -3.3 in coverage and allow 0.86 YPCS. Teams targeting Goldson will be looking at a true free safety as he only spent 12.3 percent of his run snaps in the box. When he’s at his best, he can play any coverage on the back end and he really excels at breaking downhill on short and intermediate routes. Like Moore, Goldson has lapses as a tackler as he missed one every 6.6 attempts, a mark that ranked 44th out of 58 qualifying safeties. Depending on the scheme, Goldson might be the top free safety on certain teams’ free agent boards.
3. Kenny Phillips – to PHI: 1-year, $2m
2012 Grade: +7.4
2012 Snaps: 304
Summary: Despite playing only 304 snaps, Phillips was off to a monster season as the Giants’ free safety. He only gave up 14 yards in coverage on seven targets and got his hands on two of those passes. He also added two hurries and a batted pass on his six pass rushes and proved a sure tackler by not missing on his 16 attempts. This was not new territory for Phillips who ranked as our No. 6 safety in 2011 when he boasted a +6.5 coverage grade that also ranked sixth in the league. In the Giants’ system, Phillips has been asked to play a lot of single-high, center field looks, so once again, scheme may determine his value to potential suitors. He has emerged as one of the best young free safeties in the league and with his ability to make the sure tackle, don’t be surprised if Phillips is the most coveted safety for a few teams in free agency.
4. Ed Reed – to HOU: 3-year, $15m
2012 Grade: -2.4
2012 Snaps: 1068
Summary: Many think the Ravens’ Super Bowl run can work in favor of Reed returning to Baltimore, but a sticky salary cap situation makes it more likely that the future Hall of Famer will find a new home in 2013. Reed is certainly not the player he once was, but he still provides an above average option on the back end of the defense. His declining skills have led to more missed tackles as his 15 tied for seventh-most among safeties. Reed’s value has always been the incredible range that he brings to a center-field role and it’s one that he still performs admirably as his +4.5 coverage grade attests. He notched four interceptions while defending seven more in 2012, so despite being in the league for 11 years, Reed still finds himself around the ball more often than not, and he’ll provide veteran leadership and coverage ability to someone’s secondary next season.
5. Glover Quin – to DET: 5-year, $25m
2012 Grade: +0.5
2012 Snaps: 1046
Summary: Quin plays a different style than the aforementioned safeties as the Texans used him in a traditional role in their base package before putting him in the slot or over tight ends in their sub packages. Because he played a lot of man coverage, Quin tied for the most targets of among safeties with 65. He had mixed results as he surrendered six touchdowns and posted a -1.8 coverage grade, but his experience covering the slot is invaluable in a league that covets defensive versatility to combat the ever-changing offensive landscape. Quin’s 0.83 Yards per Cover Snap in the slot ranked fifth among the top 40 slot cornerbacks and it’s likely that a team will fall in love with his skill set as the league’s slot defenders continue to evolve.
6. LaRon Landry – to IND: 4-year, $24m
2012 Grade: -3.5
2012 Snaps: 1040
Summary: Landry is unlike the rest of the players on the list as he fits the mold of a traditional strong safety. He spent 46.2 percent of his run snaps in the box, 11th-highest percentage in the league. Historically he’s a solid player against the run (though he did post a -1.6 grade in 2012), but he’s limited in coverage. His 0.92 Yards per Cover Snap was sixth-worst at the position and his 448 yards surrendered was more than all but seven other safeties. His coverage grades were helped out by late-season games against anemic pass offenses, so any team investing in Landry must realize his limitations and keep him in the box to get the most out of skills.
7. Charles Woodson
2012 Grade: +1.2
2012 Snaps: 486
Summary: Woodson made a decent enough switch to safety, to the point he wasn’t a liability, and his ability to cover the slot added an extra dimension to the Packers defense and how they could respond to the offensive formations they were faced with. On talent alone he may rival some guys above him, but at his age and with 15 years of NFL wear and tear, he’s a stop gap at this stage. Either the missing piece on a team who’s window is shutting, or a stopgap until a younger player is ready to start.
8. Louis Delmas – stays in DET: 2-year, $9.5m
2012 Grade: -1.3
2012 Snaps: 449
Summary: Delmas always seems to be flying all over the field for the Lions, but the phrase “poor angle” pops up much too often when breaking down his film. Sometimes his aggressiveness gets the best of him as it did in Week 17 when he completely overran a bubble screen that went for a 60-yard touchdown. He provided good run support in his limited snaps in 2012 as his 6.2 Run Stop Percentage ranked fourth among safeties. His 0.38 Yards per Cover Snap also ranked near the top of the league, but he’ll have to eliminate the his poor geometric mishaps in order to live up to the potential he showed in his first two years in the league when he graded at +8.3 in 2009 and 2010 combined.
9. Chris Clemons – stays in MIA: 1-year, $2.75m
2012 Grade: +4.4
2012 Snaps: 1120
Summary: Clemons is coming off the best season of his four-year career as he paired with fellow safety Reshad Jones to comprise one of the best duos in the league. His 0.35 Yards per Cover Snap ranked eighth in the league and he was sixth among safeties in Tackling Efficiency, missing one every 12.3 attempts. He posted a solid +4.4 run defense grade despite playing over 75 percent of his snaps “out of the box” as a free safety. The only thing holding down Clemons’ overall grade was the -3.0 he posted as a pass rusher, but prospective teams will gladly make that sacrifice in order to bring in the run stopping and coverage ability that Clemons showed in 2012.
10. Patrick Chung – to PHI: 3-year, $10m
2012 Grade: +0.9
2012 Snaps: 542
Summary: After starting the first six games, Chung went down to injury and came back to a re-vamped New England secondary that saw him pushed aside as Devin McCourty moved from cornerback to safety to pair with Steve Gregory as the team’s starters. Chung has never been a particularly strong defender in coverage and he had some mishaps early in the season as the Patriots struggled with big plays in the passing game. He’s at his best against the run when he can attack the line of scrimmage downhill and while he’s shown some ability to cover tight ends in man coverage, he should not be asked to cover slot receivers as he’s had to do at times during his Patriots career. As long as his deep coverage responsibilities are limited, Chung can be a viable early-down, run stopping option as his recent run stop grades of +1.5 (2012),+2.0 (2011), and +5.9 (2010) attest.
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