Chris Wesseling

Offseason Low Down

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Free Agency Primer: DBs

Tuesday, February 24, 2009




Unrestricted Free Agent Safeties

Franchised: O.J. Atogwe

Best Available: Yeremiah Bell

Bell followed a promising 2006 season with a torn Achilles' tendon in 2007, only to bounce back with a Pro Bowl caliber season in 2008. Bell not only led the Dolphins in tackles, he also broke up 11 passes and was impressive in coverage against the league's elite tight ends. Even at age 31, the Dolphins recognize Bell as the key to their secondary.

Prediction: Dolphins

High-Risk, High-Reward: Sean Jones

At age 27, Jones may offer the best combination of age and physical ability on the market. Known as a fierce hitter with solid ball skills, Jones would be on his way to becoming one of the highest paid safeties in the league had he not missed time with a knee injury in 2008. Last year's injury was to his right knee while his rookie year torn ACL was in his left knee. As such, he's a bit of an injury-risk going forward.

Prediction: Falcons

Bang for the Buck: Brian Dawkins

Dawkins, 35, is the Ray Lewis of defensive backs as a galvanizing team leader with plenty left in the tank. Anyone who tabbed his Pro Bowl selection as a gratuitous lifetime achievement award wasn't paying close attention. Put on the tape of the Conference Championship game in Arizona, and watch the old man fly around the field making plays. Likely to sign a one-year deal at around $3 or $4 million, Dawkins will once again be a bargain for Philly.

Prediction: Eagles

Bust Alert: Jermaine Phillips

Phillips, 30, has had consistency issues in the past and is coming off a season where he fractured his arm twice. He's played a full 16 games just once in the past five years, leading the Bucs to consider handing over strong safety to Sabby Piscitelli. Phillips could find a home in Seattle with former Bucs coach Gus Bradley taking over as coordinator.

Prediction: Seahawks

Best of the Rest

1. Jim Leonhard – Commonly pigeon-holed as a scrappy player with limited talent because of his skin color and underwhelming pedigree , Leonhard is actually one of the best athletes in the league at his position. He's a perfect fit for Rex Ryan's new defense in New York.

2. Gibril Wilson – Another one of Al Davis' monster contracts gone to waste, Wilson is likely to draw interest from the Chargers, Patriots, and Rams as a strong safety.

3. James Sanders - The 2005 fourth-rounder has become a key member of the Patriots secondary and may still return to New England if the price is right. He has a Josh McDaniels connection in Denver, but would McDaniels be leery after Eric Mangini's history of hijacking Pats players?

4. James Butler - Butler was the starting strong safety on the 2007 Championship squad, but phenom Kenny Phillips rendered him expendable this offseason.

5. Mike Brown – Brown, 31, almost made it through 16 games for the first time in five years and was summarily cut for the effort. With his injury history, he's going to have to take an incentive laden deal.

6. Eugene Wilson – With little in the way of safety depth, Wilson is a priority for the Texans. If he makes it to the open market, the Bears could emerge as a suitor due to Wilson's connections to offensive coordinator Ron Turner and defensive backs coach Jon Hoke.

7. Gerald Sensabaugh – Sensabaugh is coming off a third run in with the law just last week, and he's facing a suspension to open the season. His value has taken a plunge.

Others: Renaldo Hill, Darren Sharper, Chris Crocker, Lawyer Milloy, Nick Ferguson, C.C. Brown, Rodney Harrison, Marlon McCree, Marquand Manuel, Vincent Fuller, Corey Chavous, Tank Williams, Matt Giordano, Brandon McGowan, Cameron Worrell, Mike Adams, Keith Davis, Pierson Prioleau, Oliver Celestin, Jon McGraw, Michael Boulware, Terrence Holt, J.R. Reed, Rashad Baker, Sean Considine, Will Allen, Mike Green, Keith Lewis, Dwight Smith, Sammy Knight

Restricted Free Agent Safeties

1. Atari Bigby – Expected to start at strong safety and play closer to the line in Dom Capers' new defense.

2. Jarrad Page – Former seveth-round pick bounced back in 2008 with a solid season and will likely be given a second round tender.

3. Dawan Landry – Should return to starting role in Baltimore with Jim Leonhard ready to jump ship to New York.

4. Anthony Smith – Loud-mouth schnook may have worn out his welcome in Pittsburgh.

5. Reed Doughty – Coming off of back surgery, will not be tendered by the 'Skins.

Others: Abram Elam, Jamaal Fudge, Nate Salley, Dustin Fox, John Busing


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Chris Wesseling is a senior football editor and Dynasty league analyst for Rotoworld.com. The 2011 NFL season marks his fifth year with Rotoworld and his third year contributing to NBCSports.com. He can be found on Twitter @ChrisWesseling.
Email :Chris Wesseling



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