Evan Silva

Free Agency Update

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Top 50 Free Agency Forecast

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

21. Left tackle Jake Long -- This year's free-agent tackle class is incredibly deep, and there are three top-ten left tackle picks in the draft. The result is a buyer's market, where veterans perhaps past their primes like Long will receive disappointing offers. Expect Long's price tag to drop after waiting a day or three in free agency, and the Dolphins to re-sign him at a club-friendly rate.

Free Agent Forecast: Dolphins on a five-year, $37.5 million contract.

22. Cornerback Brent Grimes -- Before Grimes tore his Achilles' early last September, he had quietly emerged as a top-five NFL corner. By all accounts, Grimes' recovery has gone smoothly and he's now performing strenuous workouts on land. Turning 30 this July, Grimes remains a red-light injury risk and will probably have to accept a short-term, incentive-laden deal. The Falcons know Grimes best and could clear enough cap space to re-sign him by cutting Dunta Robinson.

Free Agent Forecast: Falcons on a one-year, $7.5 million contract.

23. Guard Andy Levitre -- Levitre and Louis Vasquez are the cream of the crop in a top-heavy free-agent guard class, and Levitre is better than Vasquez. 27 in May, Levitre is young and versatile, capable of starting at any of the three interior line spots as well as tackle in a pinch. Ex-Bills offensive coordinator Curtis Modkins is now on the Lions' staff, and Detroit is needy at guard.

Free Agent Forecast: Lions on a six-year, $38 million contract.

24. Cornerback Derek Cox -- Despite his client's laundry list of durability woes, Cox's agent expects a "vigorous" market for the 26-year-old corner. Per the agent, Cox permitted a 69.0 passer rating last season, better than more heralded CBs Talib (98.7), Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (87.7), and Sean Smith (85.1). Cox and his agent may be slightly disappointed, but they'll get a solid deal. Broncos DC Jack Del Rio knows Cox well from their Jacksonville days.

Free Agent Forecast: Broncos on a four-year, $28 million contract.

25. Strong safety William Moore -- Defensive coordinator Mike Nolan made Moore a featured player in his first season with Atlanta. Moore responded with a breakout year, setting a career high in tackles (75) and intercepting four balls. While the Falcons seem unlikely to slap Moore with the franchise tag, re-signing him is an obvious priority and they are likely to get a deal done. At $6.65 million annually, Tyvon Branch's 2012 contract figures to be a starting point in negotiations.

Free Agent Forecast: Falcons on a five-year, $33.5 million contract.

26. Wide receiver Greg Jennings -- If Jennings truly believes he's worth $14 million annually -- as has been reported -- he'll be sorely disappointed. Going on age 30 with 11 missed games the past two seasons, Jennings would do well to surpass Reggie Wayne's three-year, $17.5 million deal. He probably will, but not by much. Minnesota is desperate for an established, playmaking receiver.

Free Agent Forecast: Vikings on a four-year, $25 million contract.

27. Defensive end Osi Umenyiora -- Still an effective situational pass rusher at age 31, Umenyiora registered six sacks and two forced fumbles last season while playing 61 percent of the Giants' defensive snaps. The Bucs are starving for an improved pass rush, and Osi is familiar with Tampa Bay defensive coordinator Bill Sheridan from his five-year stint (2005-09) on the Giants' staff.

Free Agent Forecast: Buccaneers on a three-year, $20 million contract.

28. Defensive end Michael Bennett -- Bennett is a complementary-type pass rusher, but will be coveted by teams that run 4-3 defenses because he can affect the offense from both left end and tackle. At 6-foot-4, 274, he's like a poor man's Justin Tuck. 27-year-old Bennett is coming off career bests in tackles (41), sacks (9), and forced fumbles (3). The cap-rich Bucs not only need to re-sign Bennett, they need to add another outside-edge rusher to join him. (See Umenyiora.)

Free Agent Forecast: Buccaneers on a five-year, $36 million contract.

29. Left tackle Will Beatty -- Gifted athletically and 28 years old, Beatty graded out as a top-ten left tackle in Pro Football Focus' 2012 ratings and is in the midst of his prime. The Giants aren't willing to pay Beatty franchise-tag money, but do want to complete a long-term deal. Look for the G-Men to get Beatty re-signed without breaking the bank. About $6.5 million annually ought to get it done.

Free Agent Forecast: Giants on a five-year, $32.5 million contract.

30. Wide receiver Danny Amendola -- If Amendola hits the market, expect the Broncos and Patriots to show interest. More likely, the Rams will identify him as a core offensive player and make a competitive offer closer to the eve of free agency. Amendola is St. Louis' only reliable on-field receiver, and his 20 missed games over the past two seasons should bring down his price.

Free Agent Forecast: Rams on a three-year, $18.5 million contract.

31. Right tackle Phil Loadholt -- Vikings GM Rick Spielman realizes Loadholt's worth. Minnesota plays run-first offense, and Loadholt is a crucial puzzle piece as a 343-pound mauler. The sides have discussed an extension off and on since last fall. 27 and coming off a career-best season, Loadholt may use Doug Free's four-year, $32 million deal as a jump-off point in negotiations.

Free Agent Forecast: Vikings on a three-year, $27 million contract.

32. Free safety Ed Reed -- Reed played last season on a $7.2 million salary. If he really wants another Super Bowl ring, he'll have to take less. Going on 35 and entrenched in his decline phase, Reed may only have a year or two left. A mutual admirer of Pats coach Bill Belichick, Reed spoke of signing with New England in January and there's a good chance that dream will become reality.

Free Agent Forecast: Patriots on a one-year, $5.5 million contract.

33. Defensive tackle Randy Starks -- Dolphins GM Jeff Ireland conceded at the Combine that he's "likely" to wield the franchise tag ahead of next Monday's deadline. Sean Smith won't get it, and neither will Jake Long. At $8.306 million, the defensive tackle franchise number would be more cost effective than Smith and Long's positions, and a sensible way of retaining 29-year-old Starks.

Free Agent Forecast: Dolphins via the franchise tag.

34. Guard Louis Vasquez -- The Chargers made overtures to Vasquez at the Combine, identifying him as a priority to keep on an otherwise poorly-assembled offensive line. Expect the sides to hammer out a deal worth over $6 million annually. San Diego can't afford to let him get away.

Free Agent Forecast: Chargers on a seven-year, $44 million contract.

35. Tight end Martellus Bennett -- Bennett fit the Giants well in 2012, flashing Pro Bowl-caliber ability when he was healthy and the offense clicked. John Carlson's $25 million over five years should be a baseline in negotiations. Bennett is only 26 and could bet on himself in the short term.

Free Agent Forecast: Giants on a three-year, $16 million contract.

36. Wide receiver Brian Hartline -- Hartline falls into tier two of this year's receiver free-agency class; in the Danny Amendola group behind Bowe, Wallace, and Jennings. Teams around the league realize Hartline is only a competitive No. 2 receiver, but his $6 million-per-year target price is not unreasonable. The Dolphins want Hartline back, and they have ample money to keep him.

Free Agent Forecast: Dolphins on a three-year, $18 million contract.

37. Tight end Dustin Keller -- The Jets can't afford to retain Keller, and he's destined for the open market. Last year's injuries may depress Keller's value some, even if he'll be the premier seam-stretching tight end available with Jared Cook returning to Nashville on the franchise tag. Reunited with Brian Schottenheimer, the Rams could pair Keller with Lance Kendricks in two-tight end sets.

Free Agent Forecast: Rams on a four-year, $22 million contract.

38. Defensive end Dwight Freeney -- 33 and best suited for a specialist's role on limited snaps, Freeney can still bring heat on passing downs as a "wave" rusher. He could be a short-term fix for a Seattle team needing pass-rushing reinforcements as Chris Clemons recovers from a torn ACL.

Free Agent Forecast: Seahawks on a two-year, $10 million contract.

39. Running back Reggie Bush -- Although Bush didn't embarrass himself as the Dolphins' feature back the past two seasons, NFL teams still envision him as a "space" player who's at his best on limited touches, mostly in the pass game. The Lions badly need to add juice to their backfield, and Bush's fit would be ideal in the league's pass-heaviest offense. He's not going to break the bank.

Free Agent Forecast: Lions on a four-year, $16.5 million contract.

40. Left tackle Sam Baker -- Baker is coming off a career year, but past back issues will concern tackle-needy clubs, and his value will be further depressed by a rich market at his position. The Falcons would be smart to let Baker reach free agency unsigned, because he'd likely come back willing to take less money. It's safe to say the Sam Baker "sweepstakes" would not be fierce.

Free Agent Forecast: Falcons on a five-year, $27 million contract.

41. Cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie -- Rodgers-Cromartie is a maddeningly poor tackler and returning from an inconsistent year in coverage, but he oozes talent and is only 27 years old. "DRC" had the best season of his career in 2009 under then-Cardinals defensive coordinator Billy Davis. Davis just so happens to be running Chip Kelly's defense in Philly now.

Free Agent Forecast: Eagles on a three-year, $17 million contract.

42. Cornerback Keenan Lewis -- Lewis took off in 2012, playing physical and consistent coverage and tackling efficiently opposite Ike Taylor for the Steelers' top-ranked pass defense. Pittsburgh now lacks the financial means to retain Lewis, who entered the league when Ray Horton was the Steelers' defensive backs coach. Horton is now coordinating the division-rival Browns defense.

Free Agent Forecast: Browns on a five-year, $36 million contract.

43. Cornerback Chris Houston -- Much better suited as a No. 2 than No. 1 corner, Houston has nevertheless spent the past three seasons in the latter role with Detroit. Unfortunately for Houston, he's another middling option in a free-agent cornerback class full of No. 2s. Expect him to re-sign affordably with the Lions, and GM Martin Mayhew to target a future No. 1 in April's draft.

Free Agent Forecast: Lions on a two-year, $11.5 million contract.

44. Defensive tackle Jason Jones -- Jones never really found a home in Seattle's 2012 defense, playing under 30 percent of the defensive snaps and notching three sacks as an interior pocket pusher off the bench. If he's healthy, Jones is capable of injecting explosive rush ability into a defensive front seven. Old Seattle defensive coordinator Gus Bradley is now Jacksonville's head coach, and the Jaguars are desperate for pass rushers both inside and off the outside edge.

Free Agent Forecast: Jaguars on a three-year, $12 million contract.

45. Right tackle Gosder Cherilus -- Cherilus was arguably Detroit's best offensive lineman in 2012, but he's a right-tackle only with a long history of knee problems and no longer part of the Lions' long-term plans. Cherilus will likely be viewed on the open market as a short-term fix. The Texans make sense as a landing spot because their primary weakness up front is right tackle.

Free Agent Forecast: Texans on a two-year, $10.5 million contract.

46. Free safety Louis Delmas -- Delmas would be much higher on this list if not for persistent injuries. A difference maker when in the lineup, Delmas has missed 13 games the past two seasons due to knee and groin surgeries. Delmas hasn't yet turned 26, so he could pursue a one-year, prove-it deal to display durability before re-testing free agency in 2014. The Chiefs are needy at free safety across from Eric Berry and should be willing to give Delmas a shot.

Free Agent Forecast: Chiefs on a one-year, $5 million contract.

47. Defensive tackle Terrance Knighton -- Knighton never met expectations in Jacksonville, but he's a 340-pound 26-year-old long on run-clogging potential. A one-year, prove-it deal with the 2014 market in mind might serve Knighton best in the big picture. Denver needs an anchor for its defense, and coordinator Jack Del Rio was Knighton's head coach for three years with the Jags.

Free Agent Forecast: Broncos on a one-year, $4.75 million contract.

48. Linebacker Daryl Smith -- Smith is coming off a lost season due to injury, but should have quality football left at age 31. His "SAM" linebacker position is also critical in new coach Gus Bradley's 4-3. Look for the sides to reunite and career Jaguar Smith to finish things up in Jacksonville.

Free Agent Forecast: Jaguars on a three-year, $15 million contract.

49. Tight end Jared Cook -- Cook played roughly 60 percent of his 2012 snaps lined up in the slot or out wide. He wants to be franchise tagged at the wide receiver number of $10.5 million. The Titans prefer him at the tight end number ($5.962 million), and the sides figure to agree to meet somewhere in the middle. Tennessee's coaches and front office seem dead set on keeping Cook.

Free Agent Forecast: Titans via the franchise tag.

50. Cornerback Antoine Cason -- Although susceptible deep, 26-year-old Cason can make plays on the football and offers impressive corner size at 6-foot-1, 195. Indianapolis is rich on salary cap space and in the market for a bookend across from Vontae Davis. Cason is young, should be relatively affordable, and fits defensive-minded coach Chuck Pagano's press coverage scheme.

Free Agent Forecast: Colts on a three-year, $16.5 million contract.

Best of the Rest Free Agents: Kenny Phillips, Connor Barwin, Israel Idonije, Rashard Mendenhall, Bradley Fletcher, Glenn Dorsey, Jermon Bushrod, Bryant McKinnie, Cary Williams, Richard Seymour, Matt Moore, Fred Davis, Ahmad Bradshaw, Mike Jenkins, James Casey, Brandon Moore, Ronde Barber, Shaun Phillips, LaRon Landry, Leodis McKelvin, Pat Chung, Charles Woodson, Jerome Felton, Dannell Ellerbe, Jerraud Powers, Victor Butler, Glover Quin.

Evan Silva is a senior football editor for Rotoworld.com. He can be found on Twitter .
Email :Evan Silva

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