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FREE agency : THE TOP 32 ~ ~ ~


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Top free agents: These 32 can expect to cash in

Feb. 12, 2008

By Pete Prisco / CBSSports.com Senior Writer

NFL personnel people are busy readying for the open of the free-agency period at the end of the month.They have already done the in-house evaluations of their rosters, which means it's time to start looking around at the other 31 teams for players who can help.There are so many teams that have an abundance of cap room -- 18 are expected to have $20 million or more -- it could mean a lot of funny money being thrown around. The cap is expected to be in the $116 million range, which means a lot of teams will come out firing.In other words, great players will get paid a ton, good players too much and so-so players way too much.

Once again, look for name players to be the guys the fans want to sign quickly. That is a mistake.We don't fall into that trap here. When I put together my list of the top 32 free agents, it is done with an eye on the future, not on the past.That's why you might think the list that follows is a bit different than the norm. Two other things about my list: It doesn't include any players we expect to be hit with the franchise tag and it doesn't include restricted free agents.In the franchise category, that leaves off players like Oakland corner Nnamdi Asomugha, Kansas City defensive end Jared Allen, Carolina tackle Jordan Gross, Baltimore defensive end Terrell Suggs, Seattle corner Marcus Trufant, Tennessee defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth, Arizona linebacker Karlos Dansby and Philadelphia tight end L.J. Smith (already tagged).Those players can still move, but the tag basically makes it almost impossible, the compensation far too great to prevent a team from signing them.

So they're all off the list.

Age is also a consideration. I'm not big on putting guys over 30 on my list, although there are exceptions.You might notice me leaning toward young, rising players. Those are the players I would look to sign. That's why a player like Tennessee Titans defensive end Antwan Odom is ranked at No. 2. He is just touching the surface of his ability.There are other young players who might be higher on this list than others. It's looking to the future, not the past. That's the key to any free-agency class.

1. Asante Samuel, CB, New England Patriots: He is a premier corner who is coming off an All-Pro season. He will get the biggest contract on the market.

2. Antwan Odom, DE, Tennessee Titans: In a league starved for pass rushers, here's a 26-year old coming off an eight-sack season. The Titans will be hard-pressed to keep him considering they will have to franchise Haynesworth.

3. Randy Moss, WR, New England Patriots: I love the way he plays. But he turns 31 this week and one has to wonder how he'll be as a player in another system, without the peer pressure to toe the line. The Pats might still franchise him, but that's not a definite.

4. Corey Williams, DT, Green Bay Packers: This 27-year-old is one of the better young players available. At 312 pounds, he can hold up against the run, and he has 14 sacks over the past two seasons.

5. Lance Briggs, LB, Chicago Bears: The Bears would love to keep him but they can't franchise him, so he will hit the market. He's coming off a heck of a season and should cash in on it.

6. Flozell Adams, T, Dallas Cowboys: After a so-so year in 2006, he played well last season. Was it a money push? The Cowboys would love to have him back, but only at the right price.

7. Justin Smith, DE, Cincinnati Bengals: He had only two sacks last season, which hurts his marketability. But he's a better player than that. In a league looking for pass rushers, he will get overpaid some.

8. Alan Faneca, G, Pittsburgh Steelers: If he were four years younger, he'd be even higher. He played at a really high level last season after a so-so 2006. But at 31, how much more does he have left?

9. Bernard Berrian, WR, Chicago Bears: He had a little case of the drops last season, but his deep speed is enticing. He's the next-best deep threat on the market after Moss.

10. Michael Turner, RB, San Diego Chargers: I'm not big on paying running backs who played with other teams, but he will get his money. He'll give his new team two or three good years. There's already wear and tear on the tires.

11. Jacob Bell, G, Tennessee Titans: He has developed into a power player for the Titans. He is part of a good offensive line that doesn't get the attention it deserves. He has 31 starts the past two seasons.

12. Gibril Wilson, S, New York Giants: He is coming off a good playoff run that probably upped his value. He led the Giants in tackles in two playoff games. He is a physical safety with range.

13. Ken Hamlin, S, Dallas Cowboys: The Cowboys signed him to a one-year deal and he responded with a Pro Bowl season. That's cashing in. He is a big hitter who played better against the pass last season than he did when he was with Seattle.

14. Ryan Lilja, G, Indianapolis Colts: He has developed into a good player the past two years and he is a big reason the Colts' running game has improved. The way guards got paid last year, he will get his this time around.

15. Bryant Johnson, WR, Arizona Cardinals: He is the third receiver in Arizona, so bringing him back is a luxury. The Cardinals want to keep him but it might be tough. He has good speed. He caught 46 passes and made eight starts last season.

16. Drayton Florence, CB, San Diego Chargers: He lost his starting job to Antonio Cromartie, but played well as a nickel corner after that. With teams searching for corners to match up against the spread offenses, he should be a wanted commodity.

17. D.J. Hackett, WR, Seattle Seahawks: He played in only six games due to injury, but he is 26 and was being counted on as a big part of the Seattle offense. In one three-game span in November, he had 23 catches for 294 yards and three scores.

18. Calvin Pace, LB, Arizona Cardinals: The former defensive end moved to linebacker and responded with a 6

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The first thing i noticed, was that he said I will not be putting anyone over 30 on this list, than the 3rd person is Randy Moss who turns 31 this week. I just thought it was a bit funny, nothing really to write home about, but i'm just not a huge prisco fan.

Edit: Just realized he said there are exceptions hah. I still don't like prisco.

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8. Alan Faneca, G, Pittsburgh Steelers: If he were four years younger, he'd be even higher. He played at a really high level last season after a so-so 2006. But at 31, how much more does he have left?

9. Bernard Berrian, WR, Chicago Bears: He had a little case of the drops last season, but his deep speed is enticing. He's the next-best deep threat on the market after Moss.

Those two are a MUST for the right price on both guys. Bernard could be a nice #3 WR for us

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Antwan Odom as the 2nd-best FA on the market? Is he high? 8 sacks & 2 of them came in week 17 when Indy was resting everyone (not the least of whom was Peyton Manning). So if Manning doesn't get sacked with his insane internal timer, and Odom only ended up with 6 sacks in 16 games (on a line where Haynesworth & Vanden Bosch draw more than a little attention away), then suddenly he's not such a great pickup? What a maroon.

In addition to the overrated Odom, let's count down a bunch of others who are under 30 yrs old in his top-32:

2. Randy Moss turned 31 two days ago.

3. Flozell Adams turns 32 in May.

4. Alan Faneca turned 31 in December.

5. Jerry Porter turns 30 in July.

Next group of "top FA's":

6. Bryant Johnson

7. Drayton Florence

8. Travis LaBoy

9. Rex Grossman

10. Julius Jones

11. Max Starks

12. Michael Turner

13. Maurice Williams

all lost their starting jobs at one time or another in '07 (or were not starters to begin with)

14. Stacy Andrews stepped in for Steinbach & their offense fell apart.

15. Tommy Kelly is coming off a major injury & Oakland's line sucked with him healthy.

16. DJ Hackett has a vagina where his penis should be.

Nice list.

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