Free agency preview: Safeties

Youth prevails among the best free-agent safeties, with the top five 27 or younger, but there are off-field and injury concerns among some of them.

Age might be just a number, but the top free-agent safeties are mostly early in their careers, which should bode well for them in free agency.

Scout.com has only six safeties with four- or five-star ratings and only three in the top 50 free agents overall, but while there might not be a lot of them, there is quality among them. However, two of the top three are restricted free agents, further limiting the market.

Here are the best of what could available when free agency opens on March 10:

Devin McCourty, New England Patriots: A top-10 safety in the league, McCourty, who is a former cornerback, is equally good in coverage and run support. He has started every one of the games he has played for the Patriots in his five seasons, missing only three games to injury while amassing 388 tackles, 58 passes defensed and 17 interceptions. The franchise tag could be in play if a long-term deal isn’t reached in the coming weeks, but the Patriots may have some salary-cap slashing to take care of if McCourty is re-signed or franchised.

Tashaun Gipson, Cleveland Browns: Gipson started the season on fire with six interceptions in his first nine games. However, injuries ruined the second half of his season, as he finished the year with those six interceptions, 52 tackles and eight passes defensed before heading to injured reserve with a knee injury and missing the final five games. At only 24 years old, the Browns would like him back, and being that he’s a restricted free agent they have the final call.

Will Hill, Baltimore Ravens: Like Gipson, Hill is a restricted free agent and he’s coming off a very effective year, at least the part after he returned from a six-game suspension for violating the NFL’s substance-abuse policy. Talent has never been an issue for Hill, but any team signing him will know the risks involved with his off-field history that dates back to college. In 10 games last year, he recorded 42 tackles, four passes defensed and an interception.

Da'Norris Searcy, Buffalo Bills: In his first full season as a starter, Searcy showed well in 2014, recording 65 tackles, five passes defensed and three interceptions. It couldn’t have come at a better time, as this will be the 26-year-old’s first shot at unrestricted free agency, but the Bills have plenty of cap space to bring him back.

Rahim Moore, Denver Broncos: Moore has been a full-time starter for the Broncos the last three seasons and 2014 was one of his better years. He produced 49 tackles, five passes defensed and a career-high four interceptions, despite coming back from lateral compartment syndrome in his leg.

Mike Adams, Indianapolis Colts: At 33 years old, Adams is the only four- or five-star safety, as rated by Scout.com, older than 27. He remained extremely effective, especially in coverage, for the Colts last year, his first with the Colts and 11th in the NFL, producing 87 tackles, 11 passes defensed, five interceptions and two forced fumbles – all of those either being career highs or tying career highs. His age might keep him from signing a long-term deal, but there is little questioning his effectiveness in 2014.

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