In addition to producing forty times and bench-press totals, the Scouting Combine serves as an NFL nerve center for forthcoming offseason player acquisition. While measurables may influence draft stock in May, free agency occurs in March and will set the table for rookie targets. Ideally, teams enter the draft having addressed their rosters in such a way that they can select best players available rather than fill needs. After the Combine, front-office executives will resume gathering information on this year's free agent class. They'll create free agency charts long before their draft boards are finalized.
This is my attempt at a 2014 Free Agency Board. Just keep in mind that many of the top names here will be removed from the free agent pool due to franchise tags or re-signings. But until those happen, all impending free agents must be considered to prevent against any free agents slipping through the cracks.
1. Tight end Jimmy Graham -- Former shot-blocking college basketball player. Arguably the biggest mismatch creator in pro football. Turned 27 in November. Led NFL in TD catches (16) in 2013 and has 39 end-zone trips the past three seasons, including playoffs. Won't leave New Orleans.
2. Defensive end Greg Hardy -- Measured 6-foot-4, 281 coming out of Ole Miss. Now listed at 290. 36-inch vertical and explosive 10-foot-1 broad jump. 26 sacks the past two seasons, playing right end and some tackle in sub-packages. Turns 26 in July. Nicknamed "The Kraken." Willing to play under franchise tag ($12.6 million), but Panthers want long-term commitment.
3. Left tackle Eugene Monroe -- Franchise left tackle. Turns 27 in April. Only start he's missed the past two seasons occurred following his October trade from Jacksonville to Baltimore, which cost the Ravens 2014 fourth- and fifth-round picks. Because GM Ozzie Newsome has invested in him, Monroe seems unlikely to leave. Top-ten left tackle per Pro Football Focus in three straight years.
4. Free safety Jairus Byrd -- True center-field safety. Ballhawk. Averaging 4.4 interceptions and 2.2 forced fumbles per season. Turned 27 in October. Repped by Eugene Parker, infamous for driving a hard bargain. Held out of most of 2013 camp, then missed first five games with plantar fasciitis. Otherwise durable. Old defensive coordinator Mike Pettine is now Browns head coach.
5. Outside linebacker Brian Orakpo -- At least 8.5 sacks in each of four healthy seasons, including 10.0 in 2013. Has torn left pectoral twice in NFL. Not quite "elite" outside rusher, but close. In negotiations with Redskins, who need him. Could be franchise tagged before March 3 deadline.
6. Left tackle Jared Veldheer -- Had never missed an NFL game before tearing triceps last August. Started final five contests, allowing two sacks. Allowed five sacks across 16 starts the year before. Outstanding pass protector and not a liability in run game. Highly athletic at 6-foot-8, 312. Expressed displeasure with Raiders' pace of contract talks in early February.
7. Defensive end Michael Johnson -- Sack total dipped from 11.5 in 2012 to 3.5 in 2013, but had career highs in tackles (56), forced fumbles (2), and batted passes (9). Despite drop-off in sacks, graded out as Pro Football Focus' No. 4 4-3 defensive end, behind only Robert Quinn, Cameron Wake, and Hardy. Was No. 2 against the run. Fully expected to leave Cincinnati.
8. Cornerback Brent Grimes -- Tore Achilles' tendon in Week 1 of 2012, but made setback-free recovery and started all 16 games with Dolphins in 2013. Earned NFL Comeback Player of Year consideration, intercepting four passes. Explosive leaper plays bigger than size (5'10/190). Has shutdown cover skills at left corner. Does not want to play under franchise tag ($11.4 million).
9. Center Alex Mack -- Plus-sized pivot (6'4/311) has started 80-of-80 career games. 21st overall pick in 2009 draft. Turned 28 in November. Top-ten center in Pro Football Focus' ratings five straight years, including No. 4 finish in '13. The Browns have begun negotiations to keep him.
10. Cornerback Aqib Talib -- History of troubles off field, but very few on it when healthy. Has never completed a full 16-game season. 6-foot-1, 205-pound press corner. Patriots coach Bill Belichick felt comfortable isolating Talib on No. 1 receivers and Jimmy Graham last season. Held Graham catch-less in Week 6. Just turned 28. Will not be franchise tagged by New England.
11. Cornerback Alterraun Verner -- Breakout 2013 campaign after Titans spent all spring trying to bench him for Tommie Campbell. Can cover slot but plays best at right corner. Plus run defender. Only 25. Very likely to leave Tennessee. Has history with new Vikings DBs coach Jerry Gray.
12. Left tackle Branden Albert -- Quality pass protector with top-shelf athleticism, but sub-par run blocker with durability concerns. Missed four games in 2013 with knee injury. Missed three games with back injury in 2012. Pursued by Miami last offseason, and Arizona to lesser extent. Won't return to Chiefs. Played guard in college, with Monroe at left tackle. Entering his age-30 season.
13. Defensive lineman Lamarr Houston -- Listed at 6-foot-3, 300 pounds by Raiders but plays much lighter on his feet. Not a sack specialist (career-high 6.0 in '13) but disruptive versus both run and pass. Can play defensive tackle and end. Scheme versatile. Turns 27 years old in June.
14. Defensive lineman Michael Bennett -- Inside-out lineman can play end and tackle. Recently asked if he'd accept hometown discount. Replied, "This isn't Costco." Has never topped 9.0 sacks in a season, but disruption is production. Equally stout run defender. Turned 28 in November.
15. Wide receiver Eric Decker -- Touchdown scorer. 2012-2013 stats inflated by Peyton Manning, but scored eight times with Kyle Orton and Tim Tebow in 2011. Does not change coverage, but high-end No. 2 receiver will be paid like a No. 1. Expected to command $9-10 million per year.
16. Cornerback Vontae Davis -- Pro Football Focus' No. 3 corner in 2013, behind only Darrelle Revis and Grimes. Finished No. 2 in pass coverage. Compact build at 5-foot-11, 204 with 37 1/2-inch vertical. Some history of shadowing No. 1 receivers, but not in Indy. Wants to stay with Colts.
17. Defensive tackle Henry Melton -- Classic three-technique interior pass rusher. Played some tailback at Texas. Bears franchise player in 2013, tore left ACL on September 22. Collected 13 sacks and two forced fumbles as 29-game starter across 2011-12. Says he's "80-90%" healthy.
18. Outside linebacker Jason Worilds -- Turns 26 in March. Registered 1.58-second ten-yard split at 2010 Combine, best among pass rushers. Started career slow but broke out for 8.0 sacks and two forced fumbles as 11-game starter in '13. Steelers have seemingly made re-signing Worilds a priority, with rumors suggesting they'd release LaMarr Woodley to create enough salary cap room.
19. Tight end Dennis Pitta -- Would've led Ravens in receptions if healthy in 2013. Dislocated and fractured his hip on July 27, costing Pitta all but four games. Plays nearly 80% of his snaps at slot receiver. Went 61-669-7 in breakout '12 campaign. Turns 29 in June and could be disappointed if he tested the open market. Best fit in Baltimore. Likely to be tagged if no multi-year deal reached.
20. Defensive tackle Linval Joseph -- 25-year-old dual-threat interior lineman both stuffs run and can push pocket. Arrow pointing up. Primarily an inside plugger but has seven sacks and two forced fumbles the past two seasons. Pro Football Focus' No. 21 defensive tackle last year, among 69 qualifiers. Joseph will not come cheap and may price himself out of the Giants' range.
21. Strong safety T.J. Ward -- Does best work in box, but not a liability in coverage and can match up competitively with most tight ends. Turned 27 in December. Among defensive backs, only Barry Church and Eric Weddle had more tackles last season than Ward's 112. May be tagged, which would cost Browns $8.12 million. New GM Ray Farmer is prioritizing Ward.
22. Cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie -- Finally realized immense potential under Jack Del Rio in '13. Shutdown coverage skills on perimeter. Per Pro Football Focus, allowed just one touchdown catch over Denver's final 14 games, including postseason. Turns 28 in April. Odd character; openly spoke of retirement during Super Bowl week. Sleeper to receive franchise tag.
23. Defensive lineman Jason Hatcher -- Switched from 3-4 end to 4-3 "three-technique" tackle in 2013, and set career highs in sacks (11), batted passes (3), and forced fumbles (2). Previous career best for sacks was 4.5. Turns 32 before next season. Will not be tagged by Cowboys.
24. Left tackle Anthony Collins -- Annually among most underrated linemen in football. 28 years old. Zero sacks allowed in eight starts last season. Bengals want him back to start at left tackle.
25. Defensive tackle Randy Starks -- Versatile 30-year-old interior presence equally effective versus pass and run. Displeased he was tagged in '13 and appears likely to leave Dolphins.
26. Defensive lineman Arthur Jones -- Classic five-technique 3-4 end. Turns 28 in June. Better than Ricky Jean-Francois, whom Colts gave a four-year, $22 million contract last offseason.
27. Defensive end Everson Griffen -- Turned 26 in December. 13.5 sacks the past two seasons despite playing behind Jared Allen and Brian Robison. Can play linebacker, end, and tackle.
28. Cornerback Sam Shields -- Set career highs in starts (14), tackles (51), pass breakups (17), and interceptions (4) last year. 4.30 speed. Inconsistent cover man but generally a plus starter.
29. Cornerback Walter Thurmond III -- Primarily slot corner in Seattle but functional outside. Only eight career starts, one interception. Turns 27 before season. PFF's No. 31 cornerback last year.
30. Defensive tackle Paul Soliai -- Space-eating two-down nose at 6-foot-4, 345. Turned 30 in December. Can anchor a run defense. Scheme versatile. Not much of a factor against pass.
31. Guard Geoff Schwartz -- Can play three positions on the line (RG, LG, RT). Best suited for right guard. Mauling power blocker, alley clearer. 6-foot-6, 340. Turns 28 before next season.
32. Tackle/guard Rodger Saffold -- Can play four positions (LG, RG, RT, LT). Turns 26 in June. Has missed 17 games the past three seasons with two knee injuries and torn pectoral muscle.
33. Defensive lineman B.J. Raji -- Talented 27-year-old has quietly been a disappointment in NFL. Zero sacks over last 39 games, including playoffs. Zero career forced fumbles. Also not a stout run defender. Turned down $8 million-a-year offer from Packers in 2013. Will be high-risk signing.
34. Wide receiver Jeremy Maclin -- Turns 26 in May. Tore right ACL last July. Has some big-play ability, but not a physical receiver. Had best season (70-964-10) in 2010. Wants to stay in Philly.
35. Inside linebacker Donald Butler -- Turned 25 last October. Not elite run defender but leader, playmaker, and every-down linebacker. Chargers have begun negotiations to re-sign Butler.
36. Center Brian De La Puente -- Top-16 center per Pro Football Focus in three straight seasons. Turns 29 in May. Saints have lots of money tied up at guard and won't overpay to keep him.
37. Wide receiver Hakeem Nicks -- Zero TDs last 18 games. Three TDs last 29 games. Major effort and on-field ability question marks. Once tilted coverage. Now a boom-or-bust signing. Due to poor recent film, Nicks may come surprisingly cheap.
38. Inside linebacker Karlos Dansby -- Had monster year in his 2013 return to Arizona, with 6.5 sacks and four interceptions. Turned 32 in December. Says he wants to stay with Cardinals.
39. Wide receiver Julian Edelman -- Set career highs across board in '13 (105-1,056-6). Highly efficient slot/Z receiver with plus punt return value. Turns 28 in May. Tom Brady wants him back.
40. Strong safety Donte Whitner -- PFF's No. 6 safety last season. No. 4 in pass coverage, but best as box defender. Not a ballhawk. Turns 29 in July. Expected to reach the open market.