The Best Free Agents in the NFL – 2012 Edition

    Super Bowl gone? 2011 NFL season over? It’s time for the draft and transfer season, which means no short free agency period this time or any annoying NFL lockout. Drew Brees leads the group of names of the 2012 NFL free agents, although he’s the least likely to be going anywhere. The rest of the Top 15? Not so sure.

    Drew Brees

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    Hard to imagine the record setting quarterback playing for anyone else but the New Orleans Saints. Still, after six years, things happens, but still, it’s highly unlikely that Drew Brees, who finished 2011 setting records for completions, yards, accuracy and yards per game will actually play anywhere else.

    Carl Nicks

    Same team, different approach. The two time pro bowl and all pro in the last two seasons isn’t the only Guard who’s getting big money from the New Orleans Saints. Jahri Evans got a $56.7 million for 7 years from the organization in 2010 and paying that kind of money to two offensive linemen, with the need to keep Brees and improve the defense, it might mean that Nicks will take his expensive talents elsewhere.

    Ray Rice

    The best running back in the NFL? Just might be, and definitely the most versatile, coming off his second Pro Bowl and All Pro season. Rice finished with a league-best 2068 yards from scrimmage, running for 1364 yards and catching 704 more, ranked fourth in the league with a total of 15 touchdowns. Being the most important offensive piece the Ravens have, Rice may well get the franchise tag treatment.

    Carlos Rogers

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    Rogers’ first season with the 49ers was his best, and the team’s best in a long time. He finished with 6 interceptions, cementing his place as the best defensive back on the best defense in the league, enough to earn his first Pro Bowl selection. Despite all that, his age (30) and the fact that the 49ers have two more secondary players to re-sign might mean Rogers will be heading somewhere else in 2012.

    Dashon Goldson

    Might be the reason Rogers doesn’t get re-signed. The 27 year old Free Safety also finished the year with six interceptions and a Pro Bowl invite. According to rumors, Goldson is the man to be getting the franchise tag over Rogers in the off season.

    Alex Smith

    More 49ers, and who would have though Alex Smith would be at this position, a coveted franchise quarterback, after everything that he’s been through since 2005? Smith can’t do what Brees and the elite QB’s can, but he’s in a system that allows him to be efficient and confident enough to take risks, like in the wild shootout against the Saints in the playoffs.

    Brent Grimes

    Brent Grimes went from being an undrafted rookie to one of the best in the league. His interceptions number dropped to 1 because people don’t throw the ball at him too much anymore. Probably the best defensive piece the Falcons have, Grimes would probably like to see the kind of money the Falcons threw at Dunta Robinson, even if for a shorter contract.

    Curtis Lofton

    Another important piece for the Falcons to try and re-sign, the 25 year old Linebacker finished 2011 with 159 tackles, 63 of them assisted. His ability to disrupt the pass (2 interceptions, 7 passes defended) has made him more than just a tough tackler in the middle and will be looking for big money this offseason, which the Falcons might not be able to grant him.

    Mario Williams

    Before the injury, Williams, one of the best defensive ends in the league, had 5 sacks in 5 games. Unfortunately for him, he got a season ending injury on a contract year, while the Texans did just fine without him, winning their first postseason game along the way. A franchise tag would cost them $23 million, and there’s a good chance someone else will take the risk on Williams, who is worth it.

    Robert Mathis

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    Peyton Manning isn’t the only big name with a shrouded future in Indianapolis. Robert Mathis, who has been with the Colts since 2003 and might not survive the change to a 3-4 defense the Colts have planned, is a four time (consecutively) pro bowler, with 9.5 sacks during this depressing season.

    Reggie Wayne

    Forget about the numbers, and Wayne not being able to reach 1000 yards for the first time since 2003. With a good quarterback and a healthy program, the 5 time Pro Bowl selection and 3 time All-Pro is still among the best in the league, despite being 33. It’s interesting to see just how much of rebuilding the Colts do, and where does that leave Wayne.

    Evan Mathis

    The Eagles’ Mathis impressed with his ability to protect Michael Vick (as much as possible) and creating holes for LeSean McCoy who really had a breakout year in Philly. Mathis looks like the first piece of business the Eagles will attend to in the re-signing business.

    Vincent Jackson

    This might be another busy and loud summer for the San Diego Chargers and Jackson, who likes to make his off seasons interesting ones, full of contract disputes and holdouts. If the Chargers don’t get a deal soon with the two time Pro Bowl receiver, he’ll be catching balls somewhere else.

    Wes Welker

    Welker finished 2011 with career highs in yards (1569) and touchdowns (9), while leading the league for a third time in receptions (122). Forget about the dropped pass in the Super Bowl. Welker is the best slot receiver in the NFL, and a perfect fit for Brady and the Patriots’ offense.

    Matt Forte

    Very similar to Ray Rice, maybe a bit inferior. Forte did miss a few games this season that hurt his stats, but he’s a fantastic all-talented running back who can benefit with more than just running. He’ll accept getting the franchise tag if it’ll lead to a new deal.