As the official start of NFL Free Agency nears, I take a look at the prospects and provide my top 5 for each position. Keeping things short and sweet with my blunt, occasionally offensive statements as always.
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1. Henry Melton
- Franchised by Chicago this off-season. They knew they could have lost a serious defensive stud in Melton, so they were willing to give up the cash. The man is more deserving of a big-time contract, but I guess the Bears want to make sure last season wasn’t a fluke. The dude was eating up QB’s more than fellow Pro Bowlers Julius Peppers and Brian Urlacher. He’s 26. His upside is ridiculous. Pay this man.
2. Anthony Spencer
- Franchised by Dallas. His still relatively young (29), quick, and can cause problems for both a team’s running game and quarterback concussion count. Spencer is versatile at both DE and OLB with his quickness and ability to contain.
3. Michael Johnson
- Franchised by Cincy. He just turned 26 in February and had 11.5 sacks this past season with the Bengals. Not only can he swallow up the quarterback but he’s a beast at stopping the run game.
4. Cliff Avril
- After rejecting a 3-year, 30 million dollar contract by the Lions last off-season, you can sense that Detroit is ready to let him test his options/walk. The team is already full of defensive divas that feel like they should be paid significantly more than they are worth. With Indy dumping Freeney and Oakland dumping Seymour, one of these teams may be willing to open their pocketbook for an up-and-coming defensive end.
5. Terrance Knighton
- A 330-pound nose tackle who struggles with the stopping the run. Rare? Yes, that’s why he was benched in favor of Mosley back in October. Still a young, enormous threat that can keep an offensive line occupied every down. Put him under a D-Coordinator that knows what he’s doing and he can be a huge (literally) instrument of destruction. *Hulk Smash*
1. Paul Kruger
- Well deserving of that Superbowl ring. Had a total of 12 sacks in 2012 and plays great coverage for a man of his stature. His gritty game play will not go under looked as he expects to see a big payday this off-season. Plenty of teams are looking to fill that outside linebacker spot. He’ll get paid accordingly.
2. Brian Urlacher
- His resume and list of achievements speak for themselves. Possibly one of the best middle linebackers to ever play the game. He’s aging, yes, he’s lost a step and is coming off of injuries, but he will forever be a guy I want in my corner leading my team into battle.
3. Connor Barwin
- After a disappointing year in 2012, he looks to bounce back and revitalize the his career with the same tenacity he had in 2011 when he recorded 11.5 sacks. He’s only 26, so he’s got a lot of football and learning left in him.
4. James Harrison
- He turns 35 in May and has been injury prone throughout his career, but that doesn’t mean a team wouldn’t want this guy as a leader on their team. His old school, DGAF attitude and physicality obliterates quarterbacks time after time. Don’t let this man get to your star players. Word around the camp fire is that he is interested in joining the Eagles–Patriots are listed as a potential suitor as well.
5. Manny Lawson
- Quick LB that has the size to occasionally line up at defensive end. His speed and agility help him stop the run and rush the passer, but he needs to work on his coverage skills. Put him with the right coaches and he will succeed.
1. Sam Shields
- His high ankle sprain was the only thing that could slow him down in 2012. At 25, he’s already become one of the so-called “shutdown corners” of the league. Sam’s speed and awareness on defensive with the intangibles he has allow him to get things done and make big plays with his hands and feet—also on special teams as a return man.
2. Aqib Talib
- Number 1 cornerback potential but major head case. Any team that decides to bring him in better have a strong locker room and coaching staff. Potential for T.O. Syndrome.
3. Dominique Rogers-Cromartie
- DRC is a tall, quick, and lean corner that could a very dangerous asset in the right system. At 27, look for teams to engage in a pissing match to see who’s willing to pay more for his talents and upside.
4. DeAngelo Hall
- I’ve always been a fan of DeAngelo. His times at Virginia Tech, Atlanta, etc. I’ve stuck with him and enjoy watching him play. He’s a fairly average-sized corner who plays with enough physicality and jaw jabbering as a linebacker, having the ability to get into receivers’ heads and make big plays. Hall is the type of player than can make or break a team’s momentum and morale with his personality and skill-set.
5. Nnamdi Asomugha
- Overpaid. The Eagles shelled out wayyyyyy too much money for the guy that has played like he has since arriving in Philly. Nnamdi was supposed to be the best corner in the league (self proclaimed and via ESPN, even though we all should know Revis Island is the only shutdown corner), but at 32, his best days may quite easily be over.
1. Jairus Byrd
- Franchised by the Bills, as expected. At 26, Byrd is one of the best safeties in football. Last season he was responsible for 0 touchdowns all year and came up strong with turnovers. If the Bills are smart, they’ll build their defense around this man.
2. Dashon Goldson
- Coming off of a Pro Bowl season and Superbowl runner-up (no one likes that title), Goldson has some upside. Being that he had coverage issues in 2011 and turned things around to have an All-Pro season the following year, shows he’s improving, but that he’s also coachable. One of the best qualities of any pro athlete—the ability to get better with the help of coaches.
3. Louis Delmas
- At 26, he’s young, talented, but majorly injury prone. As a Lions fan, I love seeing Delmas play, but that’s just it, he doesn’t. He’s missed 13 games the past two seasons alone. Unless he’s willing to take a big pay-cut, I suggest Detroit looks elsewhere in a deep free agency at the safety position.
4. Kenny Phillips
- Suffered a knee injury that plagued he and the Giants secondary for the majority of the 2012 season. He’s young and athletic. He’ll bounce back next year like it never happened—hopefully at a discounted price for another team.
5. Ed Reed
- I can’t say enough about the play of Ed Reed. Easily going to go down as one of the best safeties to ever play the game. At 34, he fought through injury to compete in the playoffs and become Superbowl champion for the second time in his career. He would obviously like to stick around in Baltimore, but if their cap space remains sketchy, he may be humoring some phone calls—and rest assure, he will get them. Otherwise, look for him to retire into the sunset as a champ if the price isn’t right.
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