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Draft King Analysis

January 24, 2008
Lou Pickney,

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Free agency can (and will) knock over the carefully constructed mock drafts that are out there, but that's an annual tradition. It's worth looking at some of the impact players who will be out there by position -- offense was yesterday, and today is a look at defense:

Defensive Tackle
Green Bay's Corey Williams will likely be the biggest name to hit free agency at defensive tackle, and he should cash in on the open market. Tennessee DT Albert Haynesworth is also a pending free agent, though all expectations in Nashville (and beyond) are that the Titans will use the franchise tag on Haynesworth if they must. Oakland DT/DE hybrid Tommy Kelly is a relatively inexperienced player (four years of NFL experience) to be in the mix, though he tore his ACL early into the 2007 season, making him potentially a buyer beware pickup.

If Tennessee somehow lets Haynesworth go this will be flipped around, but without him in the mix, it's a wide open market for Williams.

Defensive End
After receiving the franchise tag in 2007 from the Bengals, Justin Smith is expected to escape it this time around and be an unrestricted free agent. The Titans have two DEs, Antwan Odom and Travis LaBoy, who are underrated talents who might cash in on the open market. The biggest name out there is Jared Allen, but Kansas City will almost certainly use its free agent tag on him if necessary.

Carolina's Mike Rucker is a wild card. He might retire, but with his brother Martin coming into the NFL after a nice career at Missouri, Mike might be tempted to play one more year so that he could be on the same team as his brother. This could be an extra bit of motivation for a team to take Martin Rucker, particularly a team with both tight end and short-term DE needs.

Arguably the biggest name linebacker free agent, Lance Briggs could end up being retained by Chicago via the franchise tag (again). But if not, then he will be able to land some nice money on the open market. Despite playing ILB in a 4-3 for the Bears, there is a rumor that the 49ers are interested in bringing Briggs in to play the "TED" 3-4 ILB spot, which would match him up with rookie phenom Patrick Willis to form quite the inside combo in San Francisco.

Of course, other teams are also likely to be very interested in Briggs, and it remains to be seen if Chicago will use the franchise tag on him for a second straight year.

Hybrid OLB/DE Terrell Suggs is also likely to cash in on the open market. Despite being the only prominent impending free agent on the Ravens roster, it appears that Baltimore will let Suggs walk, which means he'll make a nice payday elsewhere. Arizona has two OLBs in Karlos Dansby and Calvin Pace who are entering free agency, and at least one of them will likely be playing elsewhere in 2008.

The #1 player of this free agent class will almost for sure be Asante Samuel. Barring an injury in the Super Bowl, Samuel will be able to make huge money on the free agent market. New England franchised him in 2007, but thanks to an agreement reached last year, Samuel will not be franchised this time around. With so many teams in need of a shutdown CB, and Samuel being the best prospect at the position, he will cash in big-time. Nate Clements made some big cash last year going from Buffalo to San Francisco, and it's almost scary to think of how much money Samuel will command in free agency.

Another Patriot CB to watch is Randall Gay. He has backed up Samuel and Ellis Hobbs, but there might be teams out there willing to give him starting CB money to play for them.

Oakland CB Nnamdi Asomugha followed up an eight interception 2006 with just one pick in 2007, but he should still have some good offers on the open market. Also, Drayton Florence is no longer a must-keep for San Diego, which has both Quentin Jammer and Antonio Cromartie in its cornerback collection.

After being the odd man out in Seattle in 2006, Ken Hamlin signed a one year deal with Dallas and had a great year in 2007, setting himself up nicely for a new trip into free agency. There are a number of solid free safeties who will be out there, including Gibril Wilson (Giants), Madieu Williams (Bengals), and Eugene Wilson (Patriots). Yes, the Patriots could potentially lose three defensive backs to free agency, but that's life in the salary cap era of the NFL.

There isn't as much out there at strong safety, though a team looking for a veteran at the spot might consider Sammy Knight (Jaguars), who will be on the market. And then there's Mike Doss, who played four injury-plagued years in Indianapolis before signing a one-year deal with Minnesota in 2007. He didn't play much for the Vikings, either, though a healthy Doss could still be a factor for a team needing help at either safety position.


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