The top ten unrestricted free agents
With free agency beginning tonight at 12:01 a.m. EST, let’s take a look at the top unrestricted free agents of the 2010 NFL season.
1. Julius Peppers, DE, Panthers
Peppers is the No. 1 free agent on the market. He can beat the top-level offensive tackles and is a weapon on third downs. Twenty-five sacks the past two seasons with more than enough athletic ability to drop into coverage. Ideal for a Tampa 2 team that rushed four on third downs and still deserving of a big check despite the talk that he can get lazy at times. Washington and Dan Snyder have been mentioned, and with that could come big-time up-front money. Highest bidder will land him.
2. Chester Taylor, RB, Vikings
I like Taylor this high because he can step into camp and take over the No. 1 role in your backfield. Only one season in his career where he surpassed 300 touches — rare for a running back his age (30). Can produce in multiple schemes, but I like him most in a running attack that gets him the ball deep in the backfield — where he can come downhill and use his speed to get to the second level. Great on third downs in pass protection and a threat out of the backfield as a receiver. Should generate a ton of interest.
3. Karlos Dansby, LB, Cardinals
Dansby is one of the few bigger name linebackers who gets the tag of a UFA, and because of this, he will get big money as an inside linebacker who can play in the 3-4 and the 4-3 fronts. Makes a ton of tackles but isn’t the type of linebacker who’s going to fill up the box score with big plays. We have to go back to 2006 to find a season in which he produced more than four sacks (eight in ’06). However, he’s dependable, and when you look at a team like Miami or the Giants, he fits. Might be a product of lack of talent on the open market but will cash in regardless.
4. Antonio Bryant, WR, Bucs
It’s hard to judge Bryant on last season because of a knee injury, and it does raise some questions why Tampa was so willing to let him walk. But then you look at a receiver from a pure speed standpoint and the ability to beat man coverage. Bryant has had his share of red flags, and when he signs, it will be with his fifth team at the age of 28. But when you turn on the tape from the ’07 season, it’s hard to overlook 83 receptions, 1,248 yards and 7 TDs. Could be a fit for a club that needs a receiver to stretch the field outside the numbers.
5. Aaron Kampman, DE, Packers
Kampman made the switch to OLB last season under Dom Capers in Green Bay, but his value on the market will come as a DE in the 4-3 front. The former Pro Bowler is coming off ACL surgery, but he’s a player who can set the edge versus the run and is relentless when he rushes the passer. Kampman was the subject of rumors all weekend in Indy, and most league sources have him pegged as a target of the Chicago Bears. Wherever he ends up, he’ll bring production and professionalism.
6. Antrel Rolle, FS, Cardinals
Rolle is considered the best FS on the market, and although he’s expected to be released by tomorrow, Cards GM Rod Graves told the media in Indy that the club would pursue Rolle as a free agent. But Arizona will have competition, including the Bears, who are expected to make a play for Rolle. A safety with corner skills and feet, he’ll have to settle for “safety pay” now, but is a player who can excel in multiple systems because of his range from the middle of the field. I don’t see him lasting long on the open market, and he would be a huge upgrade for Chicago.
7. Thomas Jones, RB, Jets
All Thomas Jones does is produce, and that’s why teams will be able to float him an offer despite the fact he’s an RB in his 30s. The tires may be starting to wear out on Jones, but he isn’t the type of player you bring in to run the ball 25 times a game. He will end up being part of a backfield rotation — like he was in New York — and don’t be surprised to see him start the season in the No. 1 role after camp. He’s accountable and can score in the red zone.
8. Dunta Robinson, CB, Texans
Like Bryant in Tampa, the Texans had no problem letting Robinson walk, which should raise some questions, as does his lack of big-play ability. Six INTs as a rookie in 2004, but he didn’t have a pick in 2009. I still see Robinson as a corner who can play man coverage against some of the league’s top WRs, and those players are hard to find. Best suited to play in a defense that pressures and relies on the corners to play pressman at the line of scrimmage. Top corner available.
9. Darren Sharper, FS, Saints
Sharper is 34 years old — but he still makes plays. Nine picks last year for the Super Bowl champs, but a player that most likely will be back in New Orleans. Why? Because he’s the perfect fit for Gregg Williams’ system. He’ll test the market but is the type of player who freelances, and that doesn’t fly in a Cover 2 scheme. Needs to play in the middle of the field and jump routes. New Orleans is the place for that.
10. Darren Sproles, RB, Chargers
The issue with Sproles is his value. Are you paying for a return man — which will reduce the up-front money — or are you paying for a running back who can add to the return game? San Diego will attempt to bring him back, but only after it sees what other clubs offer — when his true value is revealed. I like him for teams that run the inside and outside zone schemes, where he can take the handoff, make one cut and get up the field. Can’t discount him as a kick returner, but he needs to find the right scheme to contribute on offense.
Just missed the cut...
Gary Brackett, LB
Brackett is a classic Cover 2 MLB. Can run the middle of the field and take away any inside vertical scheme but doesn’t rush the passer and has only two INTs in the last two seasons. Re-signing with Indy is his best deal.
Ryan Clark, FS
Clark isn’t the type of safety who has “combine-type” measurables, but he’s dependable, tackles well in the open field and can come downhill with force in the passing game on WRs. Dependable and rarely makes mistakes.
Kyle Vanden Bosch, DE
The production hasn’t been there for Vanden Bosch the last two seasons, where he registered only 7