A Who's Who In NFL Free Agency

Now that the NFL owners and players union have reached a new collective bargaining agreement the 2006 free agency period can finally begin. With that being said here is the short list of the hottest players that are thought to be available once free agency begins. Let the bidding wars begin.

Drew Brees QB - UNRESTRICTED - Chargers After a dismal start to his career Brees burst on to the scene in 2004 with 3159 passing yards, 27 touchdowns and a trip to the pro-bowl. He followed that up with a similar performance in 2005 though his touchdown to interception ratio dropped off a bit.

Despite his strong performances over the past two years San Diego has decided to go with Phillip Rivers as their new starting quarterback thus allowing Brees to become a free agent. Needless to say he's become the top free agent in this year's market and is receiving a great deal of attention from teams like the Dolphins that are in dire need of a quarterback.

Daunte Culpepper QB – LIKELY TRADED OR RELEASED - Vikings A porous offensive line, dilapidated running game, and no Randy Moss made for a difficult 05 season for Dante Culpepper. Throughout his entire NFL career he had rarely faced a defense whose primary objectives wasn't containing Moss and stopping the deep ball. With number 84 no longer stretching the field however there was a lot more pressure put on Daunte to carry the offense. He wound up literally braking under the pressure.

Rumor has it that the Vikings have been shopping Culpepper around the league for a possible trade and Culpepper has openly reciprocated those feelings. Right now his relationship with the Vikings new coaching staff is turbulent to say the least and at this point a trade looks eminent. The Raiders and Dolphins appear to be the front-runners for the injured quarterback.

Edgerrin James RB - UNRESTRICTED - Colts With all of the firepower in the Colts arsenal James is often overshadowed by Peyton Manning and Marvin Harrison. He is also overlooked at times because he doesn't carry the ball in a conventional manner as most of his touches come on screens and draw plays. With that being said James has rushed for over 1500 yards four times in his career and is without question one of the most dangerous and versatile backs in the league. He wants to play in Florida and could land in Jacksonville though it would not shock us if he ended up in Denver.

Jamal Lewis RB - UNRESTRICTED - Ravens Lewis is a former Offensive Player of The Year and only the fifth back in NFL history to ever reach the 2,000 yard rushing mark. His past two seasons however have been marred by injury and inconsistency but much of that can lie at the feet of the deplorable Baltimore offense as a whole. With the ineptness of Kyle Boller at quarterback teams have simply stacked the line of scrimmage in order to stop Lewis and therefore stop the Ravens offense as a whole. Not even Barry Sanders could succeed under those circumstances and the Ravens are giving up on Lewis much too early. Boller is the one who should be shown the door.

Onterrio Smith RB - PROBABLE RELEASE - Vikings After his event with the wizzonater that lead to his second league suspension it is unlikely the Vikings will welcome Smith back on the team. With his substance abuse issues aside Smith was the most talented back on the Vikings roster. His combination speed and vision make him a solid home run threat and a player with his skills will undoubtedly receive a second chance on another team.

Michael Bennett RB - UNRESTRICTED - Vikings Coming in to the league it was thought that Bennett would be the NFL's next great homerun threat in the ground game. His best season came in his second year in the league when he rushed for 1,296 yards but since then he has been devastated by injuries.

Moe Williams RB - UNRESTRICTED - Vikings Over the past three years Williams has been the Vikings most dependable back. Part of that has to do with how well rounded he is s a player. With the ability to run, block, catch Williams can remain on the field regardless of the play call. He isn't flashy but he offers is consistency and can stabilize any team's backfield as the number two back.

Najeh Davenport RB - UNRESTRICTED - Packers At 250 pounds Davenport is a large and powerful downhill runner and the only knock on him is that he's had a hard time staying healthy. Now that the Packers have Sam Gado however they'll likely allow Davenport to test the free agent waters. If he doesn't return to the Packers a team like Pittsburgh or Kansas City would the perfect place for him to resume his role as a backup.

Ron Dayne RB - UNRESTRICTED - Broncos Until last season Dayne was considered a huge bust but the move from the Giants to Bronco's may have saved his career. Dayne ran well enough behind Denver's offensive line in 2005 to garner attention from other teams around the league that utilize a power running game. Although he'll never live up to his draft day expectations he looks more than capable of handling duties as a second string tailback.

William Henderson FB - UNRESTRICTED – Packers Henderson is one of the top fullbacks in the league who not only functions as a marvelous blocker but is an underrated ball carrier as well. Any team lucky enough to acquire his services will also impressed with the level of leadership he brings to their locker room.

Tony Richardson FB - UNRESTRICTED – Chiefs Richardson has been the battering ram for the Kansas City Chiefs for the past 11 years and was a key component to the success of Marcus Allen, Priest Holmes, and Larry Johnson. As valuable as he is to the Chiefs in short yardage and goal line he has carried an astronomical salary, if he re-signs as a Chief it will have to be for a lot less money than he's used to. Though we've learned that he and the Chiefs are working on a new deal.

Mack Strong FB - UNRESTRICTED – Seahawks Strong is the classic "jack of all trades" fullback that flourishes in the West Coast Offense. Whether you are talking about blocking, running, or receiving Strong can do it all. This 12 year veteran should still garner some serious looks during free agency after his stellar pro-bowl season in 2005.

Terrell Owens WR - RELEASED – Eagles There is little question that Terrell Owens won't be on the Eagles roster next season but is there anyone else out there who is willing to deal with his off the field antics. Normally he'd be a great fit for the Raiders but with Randy Moss already in the silver and black Al Davis has decided one problem child is enough.

Even with the Raiders out of the picture there is a good chance that Owens will still wind up in the AFC West. Right now the Denver Broncos and Kansas City Chiefs are considered to be the top two candidates for his services. Though reports linking him to the Dallas Cowboys continue to gain steam.

Eric Moulds WR – RELEASED – Bills Moulds is coming off of one of the worst seasons in his career at the same time the Bills are looking to unload his hefty salary. His sub par 816 yard season can't fall completely on his shoulders however when you take in to consideration the poor quarterback play of J.P. Losman and Kelly Holcomb. Moulds still has enough left in the tank to be a solid contributor for three or four more years and teams shouldn't pass on him solely because of his age.

LeCharles Bentley C - UNRESTRICTED - Saints With only four seasons under his belt Bentley coming off of his third Pro Bowl appearance and is widely considered to be one of the best young linemen in the league. He might be the only center in the NFL that has the rare combination of speed and power to not only plow through nose tackles but pull and lead around the edge on perimeter plays.

Kevin Mawae C – RELEASED – Jets Though Mawae's play has tailed off the past couple of years he's still better than two-thirds of the centers in the league. This polished technician will be a welcome addition to any team needing to strengthen the interior of their offensive line. He is planning on talking to the Miami Dolphins on Saturday.

Jon Runyan RT - UNRESTRICTED – Eagles Having played for 10 straight seasons without missing a single game Runyan is one of the great iron men in the league. He'll bring a great deal of experience and toughness to any team he plays for and should be at the top of most teams lists in free agency. He could land in Minnesota where he'd be reunited with former offensive coordinator Brad Childress who took over as head coach back in January.

Mike Flanigan C - UNRESTRICTED – Packers Flanigan is the final remnant of a Packers offensive line that had the finest run blocking interior linemen in the league. Now that Mike Wahle and Marco Rivera have parted for greener pastures however Flanigan has been left to save the sinking ship. If the 11 year vet decides he has had enough and wants a change of scenery there will be no shortage of takers for a player with his skills.

Toniu Fonoti G - UNRESTRICTED - Vikings Fonoti is a gargantuan player built for power football between the tackles but at 350 pounds he often has issues controlling his weight. If he can manage to use a little self control and stay in shape during the off-season he'll be able to name his price as a free agent.

Darren Howard DE - UNRESTRICTED - Saints After being designated as the Saints franchise player for the past two years Howard finally has the opportunity to test he market as a free agent. Unfortunately he only produced 3.5 sacks in 12 games last season and those are awfully poor numbers for a pass rush specialist. The Chiefs are very interested in the former Kansas State defensive end and could bring him in for a visit next week.

Trevor Pryce DE – RELEASED – Broncos Once upon a time Trevor Pryce was one considered one of the best defensive ends in the game but over the past three years his play has drastically declined (unless you count last years game against Kansas City). It could be that he just needs a change of scenery to turn his game around and at 30 years old he should still have plenty of gas in the tank. The mere possibility of Pryce returning to his old form is well worth the gamble of a mid level or incentive based contract. He has met with the Cleveland Browns and could visit other teams if he does not work out a deal with them.

Rocky Bernard DT – UNRESTRICTED – Seahawks Bernard was a relatively unknown player until 2005 when he consistently turned in dominant performances on the interior of the defensive line and recorded 8.5 sacks. He was a key cog in the improved Seattle defense and played a major role in their ability to reach the Super Bowl. If the Seahawks don't throw big money his way someone else will but you hope he isn't one these players that turns out to be a one hit wonder that gave it all they had in a contract year.

Kris Jenkins DT - POSSIBLE CAP CASUALTY–Panthers When healthy Jenkins is the best defensive tackle in the league but over the past two seasons he has only been on the field for five games. It will be hard for the Panthers to continue eating up such a large chunk of their salary cap with a player who's been constantly injured. This weekend might be his last as a Panther.

Sam Adams DT – RELEASED – Bills Sam Adams play fell off drastically in 2005 and a lot of that had to do with Pat Williams no longer playing next to him. At one point Adams was even benched and all this did was create more animosity between he and the coaching staff. Another player who has drawn the interest of the Miami Dolphins.

Right now a few teams might be looking at him as a potential two gap run stuffer but they'd be foolish to offer him more than a one year deal for the league minimum. Why would anyone want a run stuffer who anchored one of the worst run defenses in the league?

Grady Jackson DT - UNRESTRICTED - Packers Jackson is a massive two gap player that will solidify any teams run defense with his 350lb frame. He isn't a sack artist or light on his feet but he can eat up space in the running lane as well as anyone in the league.

Maake Kemoeatu DT - UNRESTRICTED – Ravens Maake Kemoeatu is an ascending nose tackle that's been a work in progress over the past four seasons. With 2005 being his first season as a full time starter the 6'5" and 350 pound tackle turned in the best season of his four year career with 40 tackles. Kemoeatu has a surprisingly high motor for a player his size and at 27 years old he also has a ton of upside.

Ty Law CB – RELEASED – Jets Ty Law was one of last seasons most highly pursued free agents and in the end Herm Edwards was Law's most compelling salesman. He ended up signing with the New York Jets only to be cut seven months later. Oddly enough he was one of few bright spots of a dismal Jets season as he proved that he's still one of the NFL's best defensive backs.

As it turns out Herm Edwards is back in the market for a cornerback again only this time it's with the Kansas City Chiefs. Law has explicitly stated he would like to play for Edwards again but the Chiefs don't have the cap room to outbid other teams for his services. Still his name is being linked to the Chiefs.

Charles Woodson CB - UNRESTRICTED - Raiders After suffering a broken fibula in an early game against the Bills last season Woodson has spent the last few months on the shelf. His recent leg injury coupled with the fact that he hasn't played a complete season since 2001 will raise a red flag hurt his market value a bit when it comes to free agency.

Lawyer Milloy SS - RELEASED – Bills Milloy has been the fearless leader of the Bills secondary since the Patriots let him go upon acquiring Rodney Harrison. Milloy is a crafty veteran that can ball hawk as well as he head hunts this off-season.

LaVar Arrington OLB - RELEASED – Redskins Arrington's days as a malcontent on the Redskins finally came to an end earlier in the week when he agreed to pay back four million dollars of his signing bonus in order to be released from his contract. Although he was maligned in Washington, Arrington is still considered one of the most talented pass rushing linebackers in the league. It won't take long for this former Pro-bowler and Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year to find his way on another NFL roster. The Cleveland Browns have made him their top off season priority and should expect him in town on Saturday for a visit.

Julian Peterson OLB - UNRESTRICTED - 49ers Last off-season the 49ers used their franchise tag on Peterson for the second year in a row. This time around however they've allowed him to test the free agent waters as they feel he's lost a step since rupturing his Achilles tendon in 2004. Regardless of whether or not he's lost a step Peterson is still one of the top tier linebackers in the league. Anyone in need of a leader and player maker should give him a serious look. The Chiefs had him on their wish list a year ago but after being injured for the second year in a row not many teams are really going to know what they're getting.

Will Witherspoon OLB - UNRESTRICTED - Panthers Witherspoon is an ascending young linebacker with exceptional speed and good nose for the ball. Ever since he joined the Panthers as a rookie he has been their starting weak side linebacker averaging 88.5 tackles a season. His ability is slightly reminiscent of Ian Gold though isn't quite the hitter that Gold is.

Jamie Sharper OLB – RELEASED – Seahawks The 31 year old Sharper was a major signing for Seahawks in 2005 but he only made it to the halfway point of the season before suffering an injury that forced him on IR. Although he's a little older Sharper can still play at a very high level and this one time difference maker will be well worth the low priced contract he'll demand.

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