FA Analysis: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

The start of free agency is less than two weeks away and teams have already lined up their rolodexes to make sure they get on the horn right away with the top talent available. Typically it's first-come first-signed in the frantic rush to land a player who can help a team make it to the next level. FIO's Adam Allen takes a look at the list of big money prospects to the bargain basement types.

Ah, February. The winter doldrums have set in. Other than the occasional college basketball rivalry, or a championship boxing match, there is nothing of interest going on in the world of sports. Once that final whistle blows on Super Bowl Sunday, the harsh reality of life without football begins to set in. Your weekend is full of "projects" around the house or shopping excursions with your significant other, whom you've neglected every weekend since September. It's truly sad when you get excited for the NBA Slam Dunk Contest coming up this weekend.

Well, snap out of it! This is 2007! And your good friends at the NFL have built a juggernaut, which means that there is no off-season. Whether it be combines, pro days, salary cap casualties or transition tags, there is always something happening in these boring months leading up to training camp. Whether you flick on the NFL Network or your favorite sports talk radio station, there is plenty to keep up with in order to feed your hunger for football.

With that being said, one of the most exciting times in the NFL "off"-season is right around the corner. Free Agency! Nothing gets you more excited than seeing your squad land that big name free agent. I remember back to 2005, when the Eagles announced the signing of DE Jevon Kearse. My roommate and I screamed at the top of our lungs, cracked open a beer and threw a party in celebration of the signing. Now, if only Kearse matched our enthusiasm level with his play… but that's another story.

So, let the excitement begin.

Big Money

These guys are big guns… and they are surely going to get paid like it. Most of them are already Pro Bowlers and have that name certain big-name recognition. A majority of the players on this list will most likely be considered for either a franchise or transitional tag. These are the guys who will set the market value at their respective position and can instantly change the dynamic of your favorite team. We all hope to land one of them, but your team better be ready to open its wallet!

Dwight Freeney, DE, Colts
The Colts have already made it clear that they want to sign Freeney long-term and if not, he's franchised. It might be a hefty price to pay, but Freeney (and his 56.5 career sacks) is one of the premier defensive players in the league.

Nate Clements, CB, Bills
While his numbers aren't mind boggling, he is one of the top 3 cover corners in the league. If you ask WR's around the league, they will agree… and Clements wants to be paid for it.

Adalius Thomas, OLB, Ravens
Thomas can play all of the linebacker positions in all defensive schemes. He's developed into a playmaker and made it to his first Pro Bowl this season.

Lance Briggs, OLB, Bears
Briggs is often overshadowed by MLB Brian Urlacher, but he's a key cog in the dominant Chi-Town Defense. He has posted 100+ tackles the past three seasons.

Asante Samuel, CB, Patriots
With 10 interceptions in 2006, he couldn't have picked a better time to break out. Contract talks have stalled, but it would be in the Pats best interest to franchise him.

Donte Stallworth, WR, Eagles
This guy has a bit of an injury problem. However, when healthy, Stallworth can perform at a Pro Bowl level. Since he is the cream of the WR crop, he will likely face a nice pay day.

Rod Coleman, DT, Falcons
Coleman isn't the stoutest against the run, but his 56.5 career sacks prove that he knows how to get to the opposing quarterbacks.

Jeff Garcia, QB, Eagles
Garcia proved to still have something special left in the tank. His situation in Philly was perfect for his game and if a club needs a veteran QB to come in and play for a year or two, he's your man.

Ahman Green, RB, Packers
Green has some miles on him, but he can still play (1,432 total yards in 2006).

Leonard Davis, OT, Cards
This guy is a massive man. He was most dominant when playing OG, so he may be better suited at that spot. A change of scenery could possibly revive his game.

Eric Steinbach, OG, Bengals
The Bengals have quietly had one of the more solid offensive lines over the last few seasons (see: RB Rudi Johnson's three consecutive 1,300+ rushing seasons). Steinbach has been a standout and they need to find a way to keep him in town.

Leonard Little, DE, Rams
Little has had a troubled past, but his 74.0 career sacks speak for themselves.

Money (and Draft picks)

As everyone knows, the restricted free agent can make waves as well. Most of the time, teams don't want to give up too much to get these guys, but deals can be made. Here is a list of the top restricted free agents out there right now. Some are more impressive than others, but if a team tries to get cheap, these guys might fly the coup.
Chargers LB Shaun Philips

Matt Schaub, QB, Falcons
It's going to take a first-rounder in the very least to get Schaub. Yet, the Falcons know he is as good as gone now that the season is over, so they'd like to get something for him. He is probably a top 15 QB in the league (maybe even better than Atlanta's #1).

Michael Turner, RB, Chargers
Here's another guy with a big price tag. The Chargers have LaDanian Tomlinson entrenched at RB, but Turner is impressive in his own right. He adds another dimension to the game plan and often plays with LT in certain situations. There will definitely be some interest in Turner.

Jared Allen, DE, Chiefs
His recent trouble with the law may hurt his stock, but I'm sure teams are willing to overlook that and see the 27.5 career sacks in three seasons.

Shaun Phillips, OLB, Chargers
You hear so much about MLB Shawne Merriman, however Phillips logged 11.5 sacks in 2006. He is a force as a 3-4 rush OLB.

Ben Utecht, TE, Colts
Utecht made a pretty nice name for himself in the stretch run for the Colts. With Dallas Clark used more as a slot WR, Utecht proved he can be a threat as a traditional TE.

Max Starks, OT, Steelers
At 6'7", 338 lbs., his size alone will draw interest from club with offensive line woes.

Cullen Jenkins, DT, Packers
Jenkins (the younger brother of Carolina's Kris) had himself a nice year in 2006. He proved to be talented in the pass rush and was even versatile enough to play DE at the end of the season.

Wes Welker, WR/KR, Dolphins
Welker is a steady #3 on many teams. He can also be an impact in the return game.

Ernest Wilford, WR, Jaguars
A big target at 6'4", Wilford has been a consistent receiver over the last three seasons as a Jaguar (1,476 receiving yards and 11 TD's). He can be a talented possession receiver in many offenses around the league.

Smart Money

These guys are quality players that won't break your bank. They aren't going to necessarily be cheap, but for a fair price you can lock in a good starter.
Colts LB Cato June

London Fletcher-Baker, MLB, Bills
Fletcher-Baker is one of the most underrated players in the NFL. He won't draw tons of attention, but he has quietly logged 100+ tackles in the last seven seasons.

Cato June, OLB, Colts
June is a bit undersized (6'0", 227 lbs.), but he is an ideal weakside backer because he can run and is good in coverage. His play in 2006 took a bit of a step backwards, but he was a Defensive Player of the Year candidate in 2005.

Damon Huard, QB, Chiefs
All he did was replace an injured QB Trent Green, throw for 1,878 yards and 11 TD's… all while winning five of eight games as a starter.

Dominic Rhodes, RB, Colts
The "People's Super Bowl MVP" is riding high from his performance in Miami and will surely cash in.

Eric Johnson, TE, 49ers
With the emergence of TE Vernon Davis, Johnson becomes somewhat expendable. However, his 82 catches in 2004 show that he is a reliable souce.

Kris Dielman, OG, Chargers
The Chargers had an outstanding offensive line in 2006, and the emergence of Dielman was key.

Ken Hamlin, S, Seahawks
After recovering from his injuries, Hamlin turned in an impressive 2006 campaign (96 total tackles, three INT's and 11 pass deflections).

Chris Brown, RB, Titans
Injuries have plagued his career, but he certainly has a load of talent when healthy.

Drew Bennett, WR, Titans
Bennett has great leaping ability and has been a good #1 WR at times over his career. Nevertheless, he can be a solid #2 for a lot of clubs.

Kevin Curtis, WR, Rams
Buried behind Torry Holt and Isaac Bruce, Curtis is a burner with big-play potential.

Luke Petitgout, OT, Giants
If he is healthy, Petitgout is one of the better LT's in the sport.

Rod Hood, CB, Eagles
Hood has been the Eagles nickel since the departure of Al Harris. He blends size, good coverage skills and tons of big-game experience.

Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila, DE, Packers
KGB fell off in 2006 (only 40 tackles and six sacks), and may no longer be an every down player, but his 64.5 career sacks make him a threat off the edge.

Michael Lewis, S, Eagles
This young former Pro Bowler has fallen out of the good graces with the Eagles due to his inconsistent coverage. But, if used correctly, his physical play can match that of a Dallas' Roy Williams.

Cory Redding, DE, Lions
Buried in obscurity in Detroit, his 122 total tackles and 12.0 sacks over the last three seasons are not too shabby… and the Lions would love to have Redding back.

Terdell Sands, DT, Raiders
Another good, young player on a bad team… Sands had 41 total tackles and four batted balls in his 2006 campaign.

Bargain Basement

For whatever reason, the price on these players will be low. Many of them have some serious question marks, but given the right opportunity, they may shine.
Texans WR Eric Moulds

TJ Duckett, RB, Redskins
Why did the 'Skins pick this guy up? They buried him in the bottom of the depth chart and his free agency definitely suffered because of it. Whoever gets him will get a steal.

Musa Smith, RB, Ravens
He has shown some signs that he could be an every down back. But, Smith doesn't have the name to attract the big bucks.

Eric Moulds, WR, Texans
A bust for the Texans. If put in a prolific passing attack, Moulds still has some game left in him.

Kelley Washington, WR, Bengals
At 6'3", he is a big target that was never given a real opportunity in the ultra-talented Cincy WR corps.

Daniel Graham, TE, Patriots
While the best years are behind him, Graham can still be a consistent contributor.

Marc Colombo, OT, Dallas
A Parcells' prospect, this guy has battled injuries throughout his career, but had a healthy and productive 2006.

Shaun O'Hara, OG/C, Giants
His versatility alone will keep him in this league for years to come.

Justin Smith, DE, Bengals
Smith tallied 81 total tackles and 7.5 sacks in 2006, and is undoubtedly a solid starter.

Juqua Thomas, DE, Eagles
He tallied 6.0 sacks coming off the bench. Many believe Thomas' athletic play translates well into a 3-4 edge rusher.

Hollis Thomas, DT, Saints
While he is "old" by NFL standards at 33, his presence was key to the rise of the Saints defense. Thomas is a space-eater and can take up blocks.

Boss Bailey, OLB, Lions
While plagued by injuries, Champ's brother is a superior athlete and if healthy, can be a force.

LaVar Arrington, OLB, Giants
After his second straight year of getting cut, hopefully Arrington will be humbled and chose play within a system.

This article was provided by the staff at FIO. In addition to being a contributor for Patriots Insider and other media outlets, Adam Allen is a staff writer for FantasyInsiderOnline.com. You can reach him at DoubleA@FantasyInsiderOnline.com.

Patriots Insider Top Stories