Top free agents? Here are 25 of them
The NFL shopping season is just around the corner with free agency opening March 10.
It’s an opportunity for teams to plug holes and the nature of the first 72 hours is for clubs to overpay for players, some who already have reached the peak of their careers.
Here are the top 25 unrestricted free agents in advance of Monday’s deadline for teams to assign franchise or transition tags. It’s expected a small group of these players likely will be tagged.
1. Ndamukong Suh, Lions, DT: General manager Martin Mayhew was confident at the combine a deal will be done to keep this powerful force in the middle of his defense.
2. Dez Bryant, Cowboys, WR: Forty-one touchdown receptions over the last three seasons make him one of the most dangerous targets in the game.
3. Justin Houston, Chiefs, OLB: Just turned 26 and he keeps getting better each season with 22 sacks last season.
4. Demaryius Thomas, Broncos, WR: It’s easier to be a model of consistency playing with Peyton Manning, but he’s an elite performer with 4,483 yards and 35 touchdowns over the last three years.
5. Devin McCourty, Patriots, FS: Safety market incredibly thin and he stands out, making a return nearly a lock.
6. Greg Hardy, Panthers, DE: Provided the NFL reinstates him, he will be in the mix for teams. Was one of league’s most feared pass rushers before off-field incident, and he’s only 26.
7. Randall Cobb, Packers, WR: Club has had replacements for receivers who have left previously but doesn’t have a fill-in for him. Will Packers give him $10 million per year like Jordy Nelson?
8. Jason Pierre-Paul, Giants, DE: Bounced back from mediocre season with 12-1/2 sacks. It’s unlikely he will be allowed to test free agency.
9. Jerry Hughes, Bills, DE: Twenty sacks over the last two seasons is going to get him paid in a big way whether it’s to stay with the Bills or on the market.
10. Byron Maxwell, Seahawks, CB: Might not be the perfect player and he has benefited from talented players around him but everyone is seeking big cornerbacks and it’s slim pickings.
11. Torrey Smith, Ravens, WR: Speedster hasn’t been in the most prolific passing offense but averages 16.9 yards per catch for his career and it might be hard for the Ravens to re-sign him.
12. Jason Worilds, Steelers, OLB: With several of the higher-ranked pass rushers sure to stay put, Worilds could get a big payday come March 10.
13. DeMarco Murray, Cowboys, RB: He’s coming off monster 18,45-yard season but was running behind terrific line. Durability has been question in past.
14. Jeremy Maclin, Eagles, WR: When he returned from torn ACL, DeSean Jackson was gone but Maclin picked up the slack with 1,318 yards and 10 touchdowns.
15. Julius Thomas, TE, Broncos: Former basketball player has emerged as red-zone winner with 24 touchdowns over last two seasons. Not a great route runner.
16. Bryan Bulaga, Packers, OT: He’s suited best as a right tackle and is the best of a thin crop of quality tackles coming out of contract.
17. Pernell McPhee, Ravens, DE/OLB: Developing player who could play end or linebacker. Coming off 7-1/2 sacks, he’s going to be too expensive for Ravens but sometimes defenders get overpaid to leave Baltimore and never measure up again.
18. Jared Odrick, Dolphins, DT: He’s 27, durable and versatile up front and that makes him a solid buy.
19. Mike Iupati, 49ers, G: Powerful run blocker has been selected to the Pro Bowl three straight seasons. He’s likely headed out of San Francisco.
20. Brandon Flowers, Chargers, CB: After six seasons with Chiefs, he enjoyed a strong bounce-back year in San Diego. He’s 29 and only 5-foot-9, but there isn’t a lot out there.
21. Brian Orakpo, Redskins, OLB: He’ll be boom or bust. Had 28-1/2 sacks in his first three seasons but he has suffered three pectoral muscle injuries so durability a legitimate question.
22. Terrance Knighton, Broncos, DT: Veteran run stuffer can plug the middle for any defense. Has missed only three games in six seasons, playing for Jack Del Rio each year. Following the coach to Raiders?
23. Rodney Hudson, Chiefs, C: Chiefs have groomed a nice, young player in the middle of the line. Question now is do Chiefs want to pay big to keep him?
24. Michael Crabtree, 49ers, WR: Struggled a little bit last season and has topped 1,000 yards only once in his career but it’s worth wondering what he can do if he’s not in a run-first scheme?
25. Charles Clay, Dolphins, TE: Underrated target has averaged 11.2 yards per catch through four seasons and there will be a good market for his services.
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