Free Agency FitsFriday, March 01, 2013
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Now that the NFL Scouting Combine is over, the football world’s attention shifts to free agency, which opens in just 11 days. Teams can start negotiating with players on March 9.
These aren't necessarily predictions on where the following free agents will land, but rather suggestions based on need, price tag, and schematic fit. (I’ll willingly take credit if they land where I have them, though.) A vast majority aren’t high-profile names, and they likely won’t be signing in the first couple days of free agency. But they are at least solid depth players, and those guys can be nearly as important as the big-money fish discussed in Evan Silva’s Top 50 Free Agency Forecast.
49ers: Wide receiver Domenik Hixon – Randy Moss and Ted Ginn are free agents, Mario Manningham is coming off a torn ACL and PCL, and Kyle Williams is rehabbing a torn ACL of his own. Hixon can replace Moss as the 49ers' situational deep threat, while also returning punts in place of Ginn.
Bears: Outside linebacker Daryl Smith – Smith’s 2012 season was lost due to a groin injury, but before that, he was consistently one of the top 4-3 outside ‘backers in the league. Chicago has a hole at the position with Nick Roach being a free agent, and Smith was a stalwart in new Bears coordinator Mel Tucker’s defenses down in Jacksonville.
Bengals: Strong safety LaRon Landry – The safety spot next to Reggie Nelson is a gaping hole with Chris Crocker and Nate Clements' contracts up. Landry is strong versus the run, and the Bengals like veterans in the defensive backfield. Cincinnati has plenty of cap space, but Landry is unlikely to approach the high-dollar deal he's currently said to be seeking.
Bills: Cornerback Sean Smith – New DC Mike Pettine played a lot of press-man coverage in New York with Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie. Like Cromartie, Smith is a bigger corner who played a lot of bump and run in Miami and has experience covering the offense's No. 1 receiver. Smith and second-year corner Stephon Gilmore would be a formidable duo for Pettine to build upon in Buffalo.
Broncos: Defensive tackle Richard Seymour – Seymour wasted part of his prime in Oakland with a young, inexperienced team. The Broncos are dangerously thin at defensive tackle, and this is a roster built to win now. It would be a situation where Seymour could potentially get back to a Super Bowl. The 33-year-old shouldn’t command major dollars.
Browns: Outside linebacker Shaun Phillips – Cleveland needs a rush linebacker in Ray Horton’s 3-4 to play opposite Jabaal Sheard, who will transition from 4-3 defensive end. Phillips has a history with new coach Rob Chudzinski and OC Norv Turner from their days in San Diego. The longtime Charger has 69.5 career sacks in nine seasons.
Bucs: Defensive tackle Kevin Vickerson – Roy Miller is a free agent, and the Bucs need to replace him with a run-stuffing tackle next to pass-rusher extraordinaire Gerald McCoy. Vickerson was a key piece to Denver’s No. 3 run defense and would help keep it the strong suit of Tampa's defense at an affordable rate.
Cardinals: Cornerback Bradley Fletcher – New defensive boss Todd Bowles liked bigger press-man corners when he had Vontae Davis and Sean Smith with the Dolphins. But when Bowles got to Philadelphia, Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie struggled and were regularly torched. Fletcher, at 6-foot, 200 pounds, fell out of favor in St. Louis, but he’s still a fine corner for the system Bowles likes to run. He’d be an upgrade on William Gay.
Chargers: Left tackle Max Starks – San Diego’s offensive line was downright awful in 2012. Jared Gaither is almost certain to be released after refusing to play hurt, leading to teammates voicing their displeasure. New offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt knows Starks from his days with the Steelers, and he’s a perfect fit for San Diego's power-blocking scheme. Starks shouldn’t break the bank as a 31-year-old in a deep free-agent tackle class.
Chiefs: Defensive end Mike DeVito – Kansas City has gaping holes at both end spots with Glenn Dorsey slated for free agency and Tyson Jackson expected to be released. DeVito is a stud run defender, and he and new Chiefs DC Bob Sutton spent the last six seasons together with the Jets.
Colts: Right tackle Gosder Cherilus – The Colts have major issues all over the offensive line, and they are flush with cap space. Left tackle Anthony Castonzo is the only real lock to be a starter up front. Cherilus excels as a pass blocker, and he’d help protect Indianapolis’ biggest asset, Andrew Luck. Cherilus would also be a massive upgrade on Winston Justice, who is also a free agent.
Cowboys: Defensive end Israel Idonije – Marcus Spears isn’t cutting it at left end, and he easily could be released. Idonije has some pass-rushing potential, but he’s at his best against the run. That’s what you want from a left end in the 4-3. Idonije has knowledge of new DC Monte Kiffin’s defense after playing a similar style under Lovie Smith in Chicago.
Dolphins: Tight end Brandon Myers – Myers excelled in Oakland’s West Coast offense last season, but the team fired OC Greg Knapp and replaced him with Greg Olson, who has a different philosophy. Anthony Fasano is a free agent in Miami, and coach Joe Philbin runs the West Coast style. Myers and Philbin also have the University of Iowa connection. Also, Dolphins receivers coach Ken O’Keefe was Myers’ offensive coordinator with the Hawkeyes.