NFL free agent whispers: Volume 3

Packer Report's Bill Huber puts a Packers slant on some hard-hitting free agent storylines. Today, he looks at the free agents who will play in the Pro Bowl.

Al Harris and Nick Collins are just two reasons why Green Bay Packers fans should have interest in today's Pro Bowl.

Here are 11 more reasons: Eleven players suiting up for the season-ending all-star game will be free agents, and perhaps a few of them will be on the radar of Packers general manager Ted Thompson.

"For a lot of us, we're in a pretty good position," one of those free agents, Eagles safety Brian Dawkins, told FoxSports.com's Alex Marvez this week. "Coming off a Pro Bowl and being a free agent is not a bad thing. It's an exciting time to not only be here but to know that at some point in the future you'll be blessed to make some money."

Some of them, like Oakland cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha, Carolina left tackle Jordan Gross and one of Baltimore's Pro Bowl linebackers (Ray Lewis and Terrell Suggs), will receive the franchise tag and effectively be taken off of the open market. Two Pro Bowl quarterbacks, Kurt Warner and Kerry Collins, won't interest the Packers.

But there are some big names who are good matches, led by Panthers defensive end Julius Peppers, who has emphatically stated he wants out of Carolina so he can play outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense.

Here are the Pro Bowl free agents, listed in alphabetical order. Free agency begins on Feb. 27; the deadline to name franchise players is Feb. 19.

Oakland CB Nnamdi Asomugha: Even with just one interception all season, Asomugha is arguably the NFL's best cornerbacks. He yielded only eight completions all season. He was the only player in the league last year to be made an exclusive-rights franchise player — barring him from negotiating with any teams — and he's likely to be given that tag again.

Giants K John Carney: The 44-year-old Carney replaced an injured Lawrence Tynes and ranked third in the league with 92 percent accuracy on field goals. His diminished leg strength, however, is a major concern. The Packers almost certainly aren't looking for a kicker now, but that might change in August if Mason Crosby isn't having a big-time training camp.

Tennessee QB Kerry Collins: Collins, 36, says he doesn't want to leave the Titans, and with major concerns about Vince Young, the feeling seems mutual.

Philadelphia S Brian Dawkins: The hard-hitting Dawkins will turn 35 in October but he remains one of the top players at his position. Dawkins has pledged his allegiance to coordinator Jim Johnson. Neither side seems opposed to playing for the franchise tag of $6.34 million.

Carolina OT Jordan Gross: Like elite, in-their-prime quarterbacks, stud young left tackles almost never reach the open market. Look for the Panthers to use the franchise tag ($8.45 million) on Gross for a second consecutive season to prevent a bidding war from erupting. The Packers have a few more pressing needs, but at some point, they'll need to replace an aging Chad Clifton.

Tennessee DT Albert Haynesworth: The kingpin of this year's free agent class, Haynesworth has his sights set on being the NFL's highest-paid defensive player. So, he's looking for more than the $31 million guaranteed that the Vikings lavished on Jared Allen last offseason. The 320-pound run-stuffer had a career-high 8.5 sacks. He'd be a stud who could shift between nose tackle and defensive end in a 3-4 scheme.

Oakland P Shane Lechler: The NFL's top punter was recruited to Texas A&M by the Packers' new special teams coach, Shawn Slocum. The Packers need a punter, but at what price?

Baltimore ILB Ray Lewis: The Ravens have three stud free agent linebackers — Lewis, Suggs and Bart Scott — and they'll use the franchise tag on one of them. Lewis, who's about to turn 34, "hasn't lost an ounce of the fire that helps him make bone-jarring hits every Sunday," Scout.com senior analyst Ed Thompson said. Certainly, he'd bring a needed infusion of attitude and leadership to the Packers' defense.

Carolina DE Julius Peppers: Peppers wants to play outside linebacker in a 3-4, and the Packers have just switched to that scheme and hired his former coordinator, Mike Trgovac, to lead the defensive line. After just 2.5 sacks in 2007, Peppers bounced back to tally 14.5 sacks this past season. The thing is, there's a difference between Peppers saying he wants to be an outside linebacker and him actually be good at playing it.

Baltimore OLB Terrell Suggs: Of the Ravens' free agents, Suggs is most likely to be franchised. He's an athletic playmaker who can get to the quarterback (53 sacks, 17 forced fumbles, five interceptions in six seasons). Suggs has said he'd be willing to take a "hometown discount" if it would help keep him, Lewis and Scott together. Of all of the free agent defensive players, Suggs might be the ideal fit in Green Bay.

Arizona QB Kurt Warner: Like Collins, the 37-year-old Warner says he doesn't want to join a new team. Warner enjoyed a career rebirth this season. Seven years after his last 4,000-yard season, Warner finished second in the NFL with 4,583 yards and third with 30 touchdowns.

Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Lambeau Level forum.


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