NFL Free Agency: Safeties

Brian Russell and Willie Offord are both restricted free agents, but the Vikings have a number of other options on the free-agent market should they decide not to re-sign either one of those two. While there may not be any superstar safeties left on the open market, there are a handful of solid starters and dozens of serviceable starters. We've got the list, with comments on the unrestricted free agents scheduled to hit the market on March 2.

2005 Free-Agent Safeties
A listing of the safeties scheduled for NFL free agency in 2005. UFA=Unrestricted Free Agent; RFA=Restricted Free Agent; ERFA=Exclusive Rights Free Agent. For definitions of free-agent terms, click here. The "Best of the Bunch" is ranked by's Lane Adkins. The "Rest of the Bunch" is sorted by free-agent type, then by most recent team. Comments provided for unrestricted free agents.
Player Free-Agent Type 2004 Team
Donovin Darius UFA Jaguars
Comment: The Jags were contemplating slapping the franchise tag on Darius for the third consecutive season and finally did so on Tuesday. He had a career-high five interceptions in '04, forced two fumbles and recovered four.
Sammy Knight UFA Dolphins
Comment: With 35 interceptions over the life of his career, including five seasons with five or more interceptions, Knight continues to be a playmaker in the secondary. He has also forced two fumbles in each of the past four years and will command a nice salary heading forward.
Marlon McCree UFA Texans
Comment: It wasn't that long ago that McCree had six interceptions in one season with the Jaguars. A former seventh-round pick, McCree has talent but was lost in the shuffle in Houston.
Aeneas Williams UFA Rams
Comment: The 14-year veteran was kept without an interception in 2004 for the first time in his career. With 55 career picks, Williams can add veteran savvy to any secondary. He shouldn't be on the market for long.
Kenoy Kennedy UFA Broncos
Comment: Kennedy is best suited as an in-the-box safety. Known for his hard-hitting style, he does not make many plays in coverage but is an above average run defender. The Broncos remain very interested in retaining his services.
Bracy Walker UFA Lions
Comment: The Lions have discussed retaining Walker as a backup and it is likely he will test the market. He plays the run well but is best suited as a situational player. The 11-year vet may not start again at this stage of his career.
Jay Bellamy UFA Saints
Comment: His 90 tackles were second best on the team and he forced two fumbles and recovered three. He is a solid all around player who has 24 career interceptions. He has lost a step in coverage but remains one of the best tacklers on the safety board.
Dexter Jackson UFA Buccaneers
Comment: The Super Bowl MVP of 2002 moved on to Arizona, where he had a career-high six interceptions. After injuring his back and being placed on IR, the Cards released him. He was later signed by the Bucs and saw limited action. If he can regain his form, he should be a solid contributor.
Antuan Edwards UFA Rams
Comment: After a promising rookie year in Green Bay, Edwards never took his game to the next level. He had 65 tackles in 2004 with the Rams but didn't come up with enough big plays.
Dwight Smith UFA Buccaneers
Comment: The best free safety on the market in the opinion of some. Smith has the range to make plays and has nabbed 12 interceptions over the last three years. Smith is seeking cornerback money and that could deter some teams.
Keion Carpenter UFA Falcons
Comment: Spent the entire 2004 season on injured reserve after tearing his ACL. He also had spinal fusion surgery in 2002 and has not been the same player since. His injury history will scare a lot of teams away and he will likely end up as a backup somewhere.
Izell Reese UFA Bills
Comment: Reese had seven interceptions in his first four seasons but just one in his last three. Reese's contributions are limited to a nickel and dime role in the defensive secondary.
Ifeanyi Ohalete UFA Cardinals
Comment: He has the size and speed to make a difference on a team and was on his way with the Redskins in '03. He had 103 tackles and three interceptions, but a disappointing 2004 season (70 tackles and no interceptions) have brought down expectations. He will be 26 when the season opens and represents a good value.
Idrees Bashir UFA Colts
Comment: Bashir played on a terrible Colts defense that rarely saw any plays being made in the secondary. Perhaps with better corners, he could make plays but in four years with Indy they were few and far between.
Travares Tillman UFA Panthers
Comment: A broken forearm ended his 2004 season prematurely. Tillman, a backup for the Panthers, has only played in 13 games over the last three years.
Shaun Wooden UFA Dolphins
Comment: Was placed on the physically unable to perform list after chronic back problems plagued him during the preseason. A backup throughout his career, Wooden provides solid depth.
Tyrone Carter UFA Steelers
Comment: A sprained knee derailed his return to Minnesota. After being placed on IR and subsequently released with an injury settlement, he signed with the Steelers and made little impact. Carter is a good tackler and plays well in-the-box but is hindered by his 5-8 frame. He is a very good special teams player.
David Terrell UFA Raiders
Comment: Has experience playing safety and cornerback. Terrell had six interceptions in a three-year span with Washington but disappointed during his stint with Oakland. He will contribute as a backup with some team this year.
Zack Bronson UFA Rams
Comment: The year was 2001 when Bronson had seven interceptions, returning two for touchdowns, for the Niners. Bronson is a veteran leader that has contributed in pass defense. Season-ending ankle surgery wiped out his 2004 season although he will find work in 2005.
Jerry Wilson UFA Chargers
Comment: A 10-year veteran but only a two-year starter. He brings leadership to a secondary with calling out assignments. He lacks in the playmaking department and is a step slow in over-the-top help.
Player Free-Agent Type 2004 Team
Ronnie Heard UFA 49ers
Comment: Heard finally got significant time in the lineup in his fifth year with San Fran and notched 71 tackles but just five passes defensed and one interception. He is best suited as a backup and plays the run better than the pass.
Anthony Mitchell UFA Bengals
Comment: Mitchell has moved to three teams in three years, and in a career spanning five seasons he has been shut out of the interception market in four.
Sam Brandon UFA Broncos
Comment: After being inactive for the first five games of '04, Brandon moved onto the active roster and made his mark as a special teamer. He recorded 11 special teams tackles on the season and rarely saw action in the secondary.
John Howell UFA Buccaneers
Comment: Has played both strong and free safety, primarily as a backup. He is a good open-field tackler that excels at special teams. His versatility and backup role will draw interest.
Shaunard Harts UFA Chiefs
Comment: A great special teamer who also contributes in the nickel and dime packages. Has 11 starts under his belt and is a very capable backup for both free and strong safety.
Cory Bird UFA Colts
Comment: With 38 special teams tackles over the past two years, he knows and excels in his role. He also got an expanded role in the nickel and dime packages. A solid contributor and excellent tackler.
Lynn Scott UFA Cowboys
Comment: A valuable special teamer who has missed just four games in four seasons. Spent time as a backup at strong safety.
Tony Dixon UFA Cowboys
Comment: Had a chance in 2004 to become a starter but disappointed. He defends the run well and forced two fumbles in '04. He also added three sacks, bringing speed on the safety blitz.
Bhawoh Jue UFA Packers
Comment: Former corner who was moved to safety. Has good cover skills and can play the slot receiver in man-to-man with his versatility. Was the Packers' 2001 Defensive Rookie of the Year.
Curtis Fuller UFA Panthers
Comment: Backup who played in seven games with Carolina in 2004, playing solely on special teams.
Damien Richardson UFA Panthers
Comment: Special teams dynamo hasn't played in two years. He went on injured reserve in 2003 with an ACL tear and a neck injury ended his 2004 season.
JeRod Cherry UFA Patriots
Comment: Brought in to play strictly on special teams for the Pats. A former track star.
Jarrod Cooper UFA Raiders
Comment: Legal troubles forced the Panthers to release Cooper during the year and the Raiders claimed him. A pivotal special team performer, Cooper has twice been charged with driving while impaired.
Justin Lucas UFA Rams
Comment: Cut by the Rams halfway through the season, Lucas had workouts with several teams but went unsigned. Was a top backup for four years with Arizona.
Rich Coady UFA Rams
Comment: A special teams standout who has played a backup role for the Rams in five of his six seasons in the league.
Jason Doering UFA Redskins
Comment: Recorded 13 special teams tackles in six games before being placed on injured reserve with a high ankle sprain. Had 22 special teams tackles in 2003 with Indianapolis.
Steve Gleason UFA Saints
Comment: Led the Saints in special teams tackles in 2002 and 2003, registering 48 tackles and two blocked kicks. Rarely sees the field on defense.
Ainsley Battles UFA Steelers
Comment: Solid special teamer who plays well in run support but is weak defending the pass. Good practice player but does not translate that talent to the field.
Scott McGarrahan UFA Titans
Comment: Played a significant role in the nickel and dime packages for Tennessee and also on special teams. Well-rounded player who shows good tackling ability and veteran leadership.
Bobby Gray RFA Bears
Sam Brandon RFA Broncos
Chris Young RFA Broncos
Quentin Harris RFA Cardinals
Kevin McCadam RFA Falcons
Jack Brewer RFA Giants
Nick Sorensen RFA Jaguars
Vernon Fox RFA Lions
Marquis Anderson RFA Raiders
Chad Williams RFA Ravens
Will Demps RFA Ravens
Andre Lott RFA Redskins
Todd Franz RFA Redskins
Mel Mitchell RFA Saints
Marquand Manuel RFA Seahawks
Terreal Bierria RFA Seahawks
Chris Hope RFA Steelers
Lamont Thompson RFA Titans
Brian Russell RFA Vikings
Willie Offord RFA Vikings

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