Originally posted on Football Nation  |  Last updated 3/3/12
This year, the free agent crop in the NFL is massive. Just about every position is loaded with talent. Most of this talent will be finding new homes for the upcoming season. I'm going to show you who the best free agents at each position are, and tell you why they are the best free agent at their position.


(Peyton Manning is not a free agent yet so he doesn't qualify for a spot in this article).

Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints - Needless to say, Brees is beyond great. He is now the record holder for the most passing yards in a single season at 5,476.  Brees also scored 46 TDs last season. However, unless the Saints are stripped of their franchise tag as consequence for the recently unearthed "bounty" program, Brees will absolutely be a Saint next season. If the Saints are stripped of their franchise tag, and Brees decides to leave the Big Easy, then I can see Brees being picked up by Washington, Cleveland, or even Seattle.

Most likely landing spot - New Orleans

Other possible locations - Washington, Cleveland, Seattle, Miami, and Kansas City.

Other notable free agents at position: Matt Flynn (GBP), Jason Campbell (OAK), Vince Young (PHI), Kyle Orton (KC), and Alex Smith (SF)


(Excludes some players that have been franchise tagged, such as Matt Forte).

Arian Foster, Houston Texans - I've seen reports fluttering around that the Texans are probably going to place a first-round tender on Foster, so that they can franchise tag Mario Williams. If this happens, Arian could be taken by a plethora of teams that need to add explosiveness in the run game. Foster was the league's leading rusher in 2010 and neared the top of the list this year at 1,224 yards and 10 TDs. The Bengals could go free agent fishing this year and attempt to bring in both Mike Wallace and Arian Foster instead of using their two first round picks.

While that would be unlikely and very cap costly, it'd give the Bengals the running game they so desperately need to succeed, while also giving them an equally explosive second option, alongside A.J. Green. Other possible places I could see Foster going - should he not return to Houston or go to the Bengals - are Green Bay, Cleveland, New England, and Detroit.

Most likely landing spot - Houston or Cincinnati

Other possible locations - Green Bay, Cleveland, New England, and Detroit.

Other notable free agents at position: Peyton Hillis (CLE), Mike Tolbert (SD), Michael Bush (OAK), BenJarvus Green-Ellis(NE), Ryan Grant (GBP), Kevin Smith (DET), LaDainian Tomlinson (NYJ), Ronnie Brown (PHI), and Tim Hightower (WAS).


Wes Welker, New England Patriots - Welker is a great slot receiver, arguably one of the best of all time. He post unrealistic numbers, year-in and year-out. His most recent numbers are 1,569 yards and 9 TDs en route to an appearance in the Super Bowl. For these reasons, I can't even begin to imagine Welker playing for anyone other than the Patriots next year. However, if by some anomaly, Welker is not playing for the Patriots next year, I could see teams like the 49ers, Rams, Titans, Jets, Buccaneers, and Chargers. This is all just food for imagination, because Welker will almost, 100% certainly, be a Patriot next year.

Most likely landing spot - New England Patriots

Other possible locations - San Francisco, St. Louis, Tennessee, New York (Jets), Tampa Bay, and San Diego.

Other notable free agents at position: Vincent Jackson (SDC), Reggie Wayne (IND), Dwayne Bowe (KC), Marques Colston (NOS), Robert Meachem (NOS), Steve Johnson (BUF), Brandon Lloyd (STL), Mario Manningham (NYG), Plaxico Burress (NYJ), Mike Wallace (PIT(1st Rd T. used)), Early Doucet (ARI), Jerome Simpson (CIN), Pierre Garcon(IND), Deion Branch (NEP), Hines Ward (PIT), Jerricho Cotchery (PIT), Steve Smith (PHI), Harry Douglas (ATL), Randy Moss (FA), and Ted Ginn (SF).


Visanthe Shiancoe, Minnesota Vikings -  Shiancoe is not anything extraordinary, but he is a good player. He could come in to a team and add an extra threat at tight end. I see him being able to have the most success if he were to come into a scheme where he is the No. 2 TE to a star like Jimmy Graham in New Orleans and Antonio Gates in San Diego. In 2011, Shiancoe posted only 409 yards and 3 TDs compared to the season where the Vikings went to the NFC Championship, he posted 566 yards and 11 TDs. So, he can be a scoring threat, he'd be better off going to a team with a franchise QB. 

Most likely landing spot - St. Louis (To give Bradford another weapon, and Shiancoe would be relatively cheap to pick up)

Other possible locations - New Orleans, San Diego, and Jacksonville (opposite side of Marcedes Lewis).


(Not my position of expertise, so I will be doing Guards, Tackles, and Centers together.)

OG Carl Nicks, New Orleans Saints - Nicks is a premier guard in the NFL. He is part of the offensive line that just protected a 5,400+ yard passer in New Orleans. The only reason I can't see him returning to New Orleans is because they have too little cap room to want to sign him to a big deal. Mostly, because he'll most likely be seeking a similar deal to that of teammate, Jahri Evans' 7-year, $56.7 million deal. That, along with the reported 3-year, $69 million deal Brees declined would put the Saints pretty much financially wrapped. If Brees isn't going to accept $69 million over three years, it'll most likely be far too outrageous for them to bring Nicks back, when they could probably bring Colston and Meachem back for the same price.

Most likely landing spot - Denver Broncos (To replace Zane Beadles)

Other possible locations - Arizona, Tennessee, Kansas City, and Chicago

Other notable free agents at position: Chris Meyers (HOU), Demetrius Bell (BUF), Ben Grubbs (BAL), Evan Mathis (PHI), and Scott Wells (GBP).


Mario Williams, Houston Texans - We're going to excuse Williams' 2011 season, as it ended very early on an injury. Although, in 2011, he recorded five sacks on as many starts. Instead, I'm going to base my evaluation off of his 2010 season, as many teams are going to. In 2010, Williams recorded 28 tackles, 8.5 sacks, 2 pass deflections, and 1 forced fumble. A respectable season, but still not as good as his 2007 season, where he recorded 43 tackles, 14 sacks, 1 pass deflection, and 2 forced fumbles. I don't see Williams leaving Houston, as just the mere contemplation of not franchise tagging Arian Foster so that they could use it on Williams, is an indication of the potential they see in him. However, should he leave Houston, I can only see him going to one of three other teams, Tampa Bay, Seattle, and/or Tennessee. All three could use the addition of Williams' talent on at DE.

Most likely landing spot - Houston Texans

Other possible locations  - Tampa Bay, Seattle, and Tennessee

Other notable free agents at position: Robert Mathis (IND), Jason Jones (TEN), Cliff Avril (DET), John Abraham (ATL), Cory Redding (BAL), Shaun Ellis (NEP), Matt Roth (JAX), Broderick Bunkley (DEN), Aubrayo Franklin (NOS) and Albert Haynesworth(TBB).


London Fletcher, Washington Redskins - Fletcher isn't going to be a long-term solution to a team's linebacker spot. He is nearing retirement age, and will likely be passed up by many teams because of this. However, London Fletcher continues to prove his worth, racking up an awe inspiring 166 tackles in 2011, a career high. He hasn't had 115 or less tackles in a season since 2001. He is an easy improvement over just about any LB in the NFL, but again, only has one or two more years left in him. He could very well likely return to Washington, but he may seek the biggest possible contract. In which case, I see him going to the likes of Philadelphia or Buffalo. 

Most likely landing spot - Washington or Philadelphia (because Philadelphia is a great linebacker short of a Super Bowl team).

Other possible landing spot - Buffalo

Other notable free agents at position: Curtis Lofton (ATL), Anthony Spencer DAL), Stephen Tulloch (DET), David Hawthorne (SEA), Jarret Johnson (BAL), EJ Henderson (MIN), Erin Henderson (MIN), Barrett Ruud (TEN).


Cortland Finnegan, Tennessee Titans - Finnegan, often said to have dirty tactics, is an undersized corner. That being said, he has also been a top 10, possible top 5, corner for the majority of his career, with the exception of last year. While he didn't have a bad season, posting 75 tackles, 1sack, and 1 INT, it was below his average. Finnegan averages about 3 INT and 80 tackles per season. On the other hand, Finnegan is a young talent, who plays well in zone and is great at supporting the run defense. It doesn't appear that the Titans are going to franchise tag him, or even re-sign him. With that being said, I could see him going to help out the struggling New England secondary or to add strength to a young, yet talented, Cleveland DB crew. 

Most likely landing spot - It's a tough one, but ultimately, Cleveland.

Other possible locations - New England, San Diego, Dallas, and Cincinnati.

Other notable free agents at position: Carlos Rogers (SF), Brandon Carr (KC), Rashean Mathis (JAX), Pacman Jones (CIN), Tracy Porter (NOS), Aaron Ross (NYG), Ronde Barber (TBB), LaRon Landry (WAS), Michael Griffin (TEN), Thomas Decoud (ATL), Brandon Meriweather (CHI), Bob Sanders (SDC), Jordan Babineaux (TEN), Chris Hope (TEN).

I'd like to note that in my last post, I said that my next article (this one) was going to be about the top 5 most versatile offensive players. I postponed that article due to the difficulty of narrowing down the final seven I came to. It will be posted at a later time, probably after Looking Ahead Part 5: Raiders, Running in Reverse.

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