NFL free-agent preview: Safeties

With talent at the top and plenty of depth, safety should be a hot item early and likely for some time.

ERIC BERRY, KANSAS CITY

The best safety scheduled for free agency was treated like it, as Eric Berry was given the franchise tag with the intent to sign him long-term. If he ends up playing under the franchise tag he would make $10.06 million, but the Kansas City Chiefs would like to sign him to an extension to keep him there for years. His comeback from cancer was a terrific story and he just seems to fit with the Chiefs.

ERIC WEDDLE, SAN DIEGO

Although Eric Weddle struggled with some injuries in 2015 and had a down year by his standards, he says he has three to five good years left in him and he probably does. He’s 31, but he was still one of the highest-graded safeties in pass coverage last year, according to Pro Football Focus, and he still had 78 tackles. Some of the younger free agents are likely to go off the board before him, but he is still a starter in the NFL.

REGGIE NELSON, CINCINNATI

While Reggie Nelson is 32 years old, he proved he can still be a top-end playmaker. He had a career-high eight interceptions in 2015 to supplement his 14 passes defensed and 77 tackles. He doesn’t always get the acclaim of some of the other bigger names, but his production is right there with them. No doubt he will get a lot of interest and likely sign by the end of the week in free agency.

GEORGE ILOKA, CINCINNATI

The Cincinnati Bengals made a strong push to re-sign George Iloka and got it done before he officially became a free agent, signing a five-year contract worth a reported $30 million. He received strong interest in the negotiating period but ultimately opted to return to Cincinnati. What that does for Nelson being able to re-sign there remains to be seen.

TASHAUN GIPSON, CLEVELAND

Sure, Tashaun Gipson is coming off an ankle injury that limited his full potential in 2015 with the Cleveland Browns, but he’s only 26 years old and has proven himself when fully healthy. He still managed 60 tackles and two interceptions in 13 games, but he had 11 interceptions in 27 games over the previous two years.

No doubt the top five will be getting their due in free agency, but there is impressive depth in the free-agent safety class, where starters can be found as low as the 20s in our safety rankings.

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