Top 25 Free Agents/Best Fits...................

Discussion in 'Chicago Bears' started by soulman, Mar 4, 2014.

  1. soulman

    soulman Pro-Bowler SuperFan DBS Writer

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    Free agency preview: Breaking down the top 25 NFL players before they hit the market
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    By Anwar S. Richardson 14 hours ago Shutdown Corner

    [​IMG]
    (USA Today Sports Images)

    With the NFL's salary cap increasing by about $10 million from last year to $133 million and teams having holes to fill, free agency should be hectic. Shutdown Corner will have you covered, with a preview of a different position each day leading up to the start of the free-agency period on March 11.

    The list of the 25 best free agents looked a lot stronger just a few days ago. With a flurry of activity in the days leading up to Monday's deadline to use the tag for franchise and transition players, the market got a lot weaker. Jeremy Maclin, Anquan Boldin, Riley Cooper, Brent Grimes, Donald Butler and Dennis Pitta were just some of the players re-signed by their teams. Four players got the franchise tag: tight end Jimmy Graham (New Orleans), linebacker Brian Orakpo (Washington), defensive end Greg Hardy (Carolina) and kicker Nick Folk (N.Y. Jets).

    There are still quality players who are unsigned with a little more than a week before free agency begins, and we've ranked the top 25. The franchise players aren't included because it's so rare for another team to sign them away, but clearly Graham, Hardy and Orakpo would have been at the top of the list had they hit the open market.
    Here is our list of the top 25 free agents, with the best fit for each:

    1. Jairus Byrd, Bills, S: He is one of the NFL's best safeties. Byrd played on the franchise tag last season, but is seeking a long-term deal. Unfortunately, for Byrd, he may have to join another subpar team to get paid. Best fit: Browns

    2. Eugene Monroe, Ravens, OT:
    Left tackles are always in huge demand, and Monroe is the best on the market. The former first-round pick, who was traded from Jacksonville to Baltimore last season, is just 26 and is going to get a huge contract. Best fit: Dolphins

    3. Jared Veldheer, Raiders, T:
    Oakland cannot let Veldheer get away. Veldheer is a former third-round pick who became one of the NFL’s top left tackles. Re-signing him must be Oakland’s top priority, especially with a projected $65 million in salary cap space. Best fit: Raiders

    4. T.J. Ward, Browns, S:
    Ward had only two interceptions last season, but is strong against the run. He will compete against Byrd to be the highest-paid safety in free agency. Considering he is 27 years old, he will not wait long to find a new home. Best fit: Eagles

    5. Michael Bennett, Seahawks, DE:
    He took a risk by signing a one-year deal with Seattle, and it paid off with a Super Bowl championship. Tampa Bay did not want to pay Bennett, Seattle acquired him at a bargain price, but he expects to get paid this offseason. Best fit: Bears

    6. Alex Mack, Browns, C:
    Mack is a Pro Bowler, and regardless who is under center for Cleveland in 2014, the Browns need a standout offensive lineman to protect their quarterback. Cleveland placed a transition tag on Mack, which guarantees a one-year deal at the average of the top 10-highest-paid players at his position. Cleveland has the right to match any offer he receives on the open market, but gets no compensation if Mack leaves. Best fit: Browns
    [Be sure to check out Shutdown Corner's NFL free-agent rankings. Click here for the list of offensive players, and click here for the list of defensive and special teams players]

    7. Michael Johnson, Bengals, DE:
    He was franchised last year, but this offseason teams will fight for Johnson. Johnson has 26.5 sacks in five seasons, and at 6-foot-7 and 270 pounds, it is hard to pass him up. Best fit: Vikings

    8. Branden Albert, Chiefs, T:
    He has been a solid player for Kansas City, but has struggled to stay healthy. Albert is better at pass protecting than run blocking, but that small flaw is not enough to scare off most teams. Best fit: Cardinals

    9. Alterraun Verner, Titans, CB:
    Tennessee is already paying cornerback Jason McCourty big-time money, which might make it hard to retain Verner. Verner, a Pro Bowl cornerback, led the team in interceptions last season. Best fit: Chargers

    10. Aqib Talib, Patriots, CB
    : There was a time when Talib was better known for being disruptive off the field, but after a Pro Bowl season in 2013 he will garner plenty of attention as a free agent. Talib’s injury during last season’s playoffs led to New England’s loss against Denver, and he is too valuable to New England to let him walk away. Best fit: Patriots

    11. Vontae Davis, Colts, CB:
    He is Indianapolis’ top corner, but there are several elite cornerbacks available this offseason. Miami’s Brett Grimes may be off the market, but the presence of Verner, Talib and Chicago’s Charles Tillman may hurt Davis’ ability to negotiate. Best fit: Colts

    12. Jason Worilds, Steelers, LB:
    He has eight sacks and two forced fumbles in 11 games last season. He played great down the stretch of 2013, and is poised for a breakout season, which explains why he received Pittsburgh's transition tag. Best fit: Titans

    13. Eric Decker, Broncos, WR:
    He will gain a lot of free-agent interest, but teams have to be careful to not overpay. Decker was a No. 2 receiver, and he may not be able to handle No. 1 responsibilities, especially without Peyton Manning: Best fit: Jets

    14. Michael Vick, Eagles, QB:
    He turns 34 in June, struggles to stay healthy and is turnover prone. However, he is the best quarterback available. If a team is looking for a short-term solution at quarterback, Vick is the guy. Best fit: Buccaneers

    15. Lamarr Houston, Raiders, DE:
    He has 16.5 sacks in four years, and in that time he has not missed a game. If Oakland is crazy enough to let Houston walk, he will be among the first players signed when free agency begins. Best fit: Eagles

    16. Arthur Jones, Ravens, DE:
    He is a run-stopping end who can alter the pass too. He is one of the NFL’s best 3-4 defensive ends, and he is about to get paid. Best fit: Jets

    17. Geoff Schwartz, Chiefs, G:
    He is a versatile offensive lineman and Kansas City may have trouble re-signing him because of salary-cap restraints. He played left guard, right guard and right tackle last season. That is enough versatility for any team. Best fit: Broncos

    18. Ben Tate, Texans, RB:
    He has been a solid backup in Houston for three seasons. Tate had 771 rushing yards and four touchdowns last season. He is 25 years old and could have a major impact with another team. Best fit: Giants

    19. Henry Melton, Bears, DT:
    He is recovering from an ACL injury sustained last season, but was an elite player when healthy. Melton had 15.5 sacks between 2010 and 2012, and is worth the risk. Best fit: Cowboys

    20. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Broncos, CB:
    He is viewed as one of Denver’s top free-agent priorities. Is he worth a mega multi-year deal? Considering Denver does not have many options, the answer is yes. Best fit: Broncos

    21. Jason Hatcher, Cowboys, DT:
    He turns 32 in May, but so what? He went to the Pro Bowl last season after leading Dallas with a career-high 11 sacks in 15 games. Best fit: Buccaneers

    22. Knowshon Moreno, Broncos, RB:
    Denver drafted Montee Ball to replace him, but that inspired Moreno to play better. He had 1,038 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns last season. However, he struggled to stay healthy prior to last season. Best fit: Raiders

    23. Donte Whitner, 49ers, S:
    He has 669 career tackles, 10 interceptions and a high number of punishing hits during his career. Whitner has missed only one game during the past three seasons. It is hard not to love the NFL's hardest-hitting safety. Best fit: Browns

    24. Hakeem Nicks, Giants, WR:
    There was a time when Nicks was expected to emerge into an elite receiver. That was before Victor Cruz arrived on the scene and last year's dismal performance by Nicks. However, Nicks is 26, and some NFL team will try to resurrect his career. Best fit: Panthers

    25. Jared Allen, Vikings, DE:
    He might turn 32 in April, but it's hard to argue against his productivity, especially on bad teams. He has 11.5 sacks and broke up six passes in 2013. Allen has 128.5 career sacks, and can transform a team in need of a pass rush. Best fit: Buccaneers
  2. soulman

    soulman Pro-Bowler SuperFan DBS Writer

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    FWIW we aren't the only ones hypothesizing free agent movements. Here's one from Yahoo Sports.

    This has Michael Bennett coming to the Bears but the Bears losing Henry Melton to the Cowgirls which if we can draft Aaron Donald would be OK with me. I think we'd be better off and my guess is that Bennett and Melton are both looking for similar deals. But one guy I would really like to see Emery get is Donte Whitner. IMHO that guy is the best SS in the NFL for the Bears and he should be far cheaper than Byrd or Ward.
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  3. JustAnotherBearsFan99

    JustAnotherBearsFan99 Coordinator SuperFan DBS Writer

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    I'd love to see him in a Bears uniform. He definitely fits the "Monsters of the Midway" kindof player. He'll be 29 years old by the start of the season, so he's got plenty left in the tank. He's only missed 1 game to injury in the past 3 years. He'd be a significant improvement to our D to say the least. Our pitiful safety play is absolutely killing us. It's an embarrassment.
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  4. soulman

    soulman Pro-Bowler SuperFan DBS Writer

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    You nailed it. No real injury history. Still has three or four good years left. Productive career with two teams and he hits like a LB. Sign this guy and they can forget about gambling on someone like Pryor in the draft. I'm convinced one safety position has to filled by a vet FA no matter what and for the money Whitner is my guy.

    I thought it was interesting they had us swapping out Melton for Bennett as well and actually I'd like that because it opens the door for drafting Donald who I'd really like them to take. This way they'd have their 3 tech and a LDE/DT to rotate with as well. That may be a better combo than we had with Melton and Wootton and maybe for less money as well.
  5. butkus3595

    butkus3595 Veteran

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    I don't see Melton going to Dallas...those guys are in salary cap hell right now. As for Whitner...I love the way he hits...but he has a propensity for bad penalties. I'd rather have Ward, who's 2 years younger.
  6. soulman

    soulman Pro-Bowler SuperFan DBS Writer

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    And a lot more expensive I think or at least he thinks. Ward is looking for Byrds kind of money and here they're predicting Cleveland will let Ward walk in order to sign Byrd. As badly as that bunch hit and tackled last year a few penalties in exchange for a little intimidation by our Safeties would be a blessed relief.
  7. butkus3595

    butkus3595 Veteran

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    Hah...I'll take some intimidation from our front 4.
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  8. a_miljan

    a_miljan Veteran

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    hell i would even take allen on 1y contract over our guys, but bennet, verner or davis and whitner will do just fine
  9. JustAnotherBearsFan99

    JustAnotherBearsFan99 Coordinator SuperFan DBS Writer

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    I want it from all 11 :)
    I want the Monsters of the Midway back. I miss 'em. These pussycats of the midway suck. Bigtime.
  10. MPbears68

    MPbears68 Pro-Bowler

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    Yep, lets not forget that Melton has had exactly ONE standout season in 5 years in the league and he's an extra risk coming off a concussion and ACL surgery. If what Bennett and Melton want $-wise is remotely similar, I take Bennett over Henry every time. Especially since we have an excellent shot at Donald @ #14.
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  11. omc1969

    omc1969 Veteran

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    Romo just restructured his contract to give Jerry more cap room so Melton going to the cowgirls is not out of the question at all. Ward will want way too many $ for the Bears so Whitner is the better option at this point cap wise.
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  12. butkus3595

    butkus3595 Veteran

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    Even with Romo's restructure I think they are still 1 million over the cap.
  13. omc1969

    omc1969 Veteran

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    Maybe true but with Jerry you never know. This might be just the tip of the iceberg for dallas. I see him getting rid of others to free up even more space. That's my point.
  14. butkus3595

    butkus3595 Veteran

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    The problem with that is, even if he releases some of his highest priced guys it won't create a ton of room this year. They have to either re-do Wares deal or cut him...that will create some room. Perhaps re-do Wittens deal. They could cut Austin, and that would free up about 5 mill this year, but if they designate him a June 1 cut, that 5 mill in dead money in 2015. If they don't do that they only save about 400K against the cap this year. It's a double edge sword with him. Nobody else on that roster will give them significant relief this year.
  15. JustAnotherBearsFan99

    JustAnotherBearsFan99 Coordinator SuperFan DBS Writer

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    I just read this a few minutes ago regarding DE Michael Bennett. It has him listed as one of the top-5 free agents to be wary of saying, "Bennett is on record as saying he will not give the Seahawks a hometown discount, but the truth of the matter is Seattle's defense may have made him look better than he really is."

  16. omc1969

    omc1969 Veteran

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    That's exactly what I meant. Jerry was interviewed and indicated that Ware was WAY overpaid and may be cut. This would, in fact, make it a "Replace Ware with Mlton" situation. Not out of the question at all but nobody has a crystal ball so we'll just have to wait and see just where all the chips fall.
  17. soulman

    soulman Pro-Bowler SuperFan DBS Writer

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    Well that would be nice but have you looked at the roster lately? We don't have a front four. We have a front two. :badmood:
  18. soulman

    soulman Pro-Bowler SuperFan DBS Writer

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    In a heartbeat. Rod Marinelli turned Melton from a 260lb former RB turned DE into a Tommie Harris wannabe but Marinelli I gone, Melton is coming off a serious injury that may have a similar affect on him to what Harris experienced and he's gonna be looking for a long term deal for top 5 money. Right now he's too big a risk for that kind of deal and I'd give the $$$ to Bennett over Melton and draft Donald any day.
  19. soulman

    soulman Pro-Bowler SuperFan DBS Writer

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    I like Whitner better than Ward for two reasons. Whitner is a LB in a SS body and is a smart player who can provide some leadership in the DBackfield that we don't have. Not only is he cheaper option than either Byrd or Ward but he also doesn't think as highly of himself as Ward does. Byrd may not be out of the question but I put him in the highly unlikely column.
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  20. soulman

    soulman Pro-Bowler SuperFan DBS Writer

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    But what about TB in 2012 Did their defense make him look better too? He had 9 sacks, 41 tackles and 3 force fumbles for them.

    I dig the no discount part. He said that a few weeks ago and based on the sparse pickin's at DE he probably won't have to. There's him (and he's actually a LDE and DT) and there's Michael Johnson who could be signed to longer term deals and the rest are over 30 guys like Jared Allen or Justin Tuck who you could bring in for a year or two as a stop gap and as reality sets in that may be what Phil Emery has to do. Of course he's pretty good at those one year "prove it" deals so maybe that's his plan.
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