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2005 NFL Free Agents
By: Thomas J Gersey

Click here for 2006 NFL Free Agent coverage

The draft is certainly the primary tool for reloading your franchise. Young bucks, hungry to prove themselves at the next level, bring hope and promise to fans starving for success. However, the draft is far from a sure thing. Injuries, miscalculations, immaturity, and various other unknowns stand ready to sabotage even the surest of sure-things. Enter free agency. While fans may be easily seduced by the promise of an influx of untested, raw talent, the most successful teams are those that shop wisely in the free agent market. Take for example the surprising San Diego Chargers. After a dreadful season in 2003, they rebuilt the weakest parts of their team through free agency, adding linebackers Steve Foley (team-leading 10 sacks) and Randall Godfrey (84 tackles, 3 ff) while solidifying a rebuilt offensive line with OL Mike Goff. Meanwhile, teams like Oakland and Cleveland prolonged their ineptitude with terrible signings. The Raiders envisioned a brick wall defensive line with signees Warren Sapp and Ted Washington, but instead got an over-aged sieve. Meanwhile, defensive backs Ike Charlton, Denard Walker, and Ray Buchanon, as well as RB Amos Zeroue, all managed to provide little or no value in the Silver and Black. Cleveland was equally disappointed when key signees QB Jeff Garcia and LB Warrick Holdman provided neither help nor adequate leadership on a team that needed both.

In the NFC, look no further than your Super Bowl representative to see the effects of smart shopping in the off-season. The NFC Champion Philadelphia Eagles may have acquired All Pro WR Terrell Owens through trade, but the defense was led by signees DE Jevon Kearse and LB Jeremiah Trotter, who both provided All Pro performances well worth their money. Down in the A-T-L, former Raider Rod Coleman and ex-Niner CB Jason Webster became the cornerstones of an improved defense under new HC Jim Mora Jr., and provided notice that they were a complete team prepared to compete well into the future. Other excellent signings include DE Bertrand Berry in Arizona, RB Thomas Jones in Chicago, and CB Shawn Springs in Washington. Conversely, names like CB Antoine Winfield, DE Grant Wistrom, DE Marcellus Wiley stand like poison on the tips of their teams' fans' tongues, reminders of what could have been.

So who will it be this year? The following is a list of the top free agents at each position, as well as their possible destinations and teams that either are set to pursue them, or would be stupid not to. The first installment: Quarterbacks, listed below. Also, read the analysis on running backs, wide receivers, tight ends, and offensive line. Check back for a position-by-position analysis on the remaining positions...


1. Drew Brees, SD, UFA (3159 yards, 65.5% comp, 27 td, 7 int)
The key problem with Brees is availability. Likely to be franchised, then traded. He has demonstrated that all he needed was some time to adjust to the NFL, and his abilities could translate from the Big Ten to the AFC. The chargers may attempt to use a lackluster performance in the playoffs to undermine his value, but it was the conservative play calling of Schottenheimer that restrained Brees. He is capable of taking a team to the playoffs, and would fit best in a balanced, short throw offense.

BEST FITS: San Diego, Dallas, Washington, Chicago, San Francisco, Miami, Baltimore

LIKELY OUTCOME: San Diego will most likely tag Brees their franchise player, and entertain offers. With Philip Rivers still a year away, expect the Chargers to go into 2005 with Brees as their starter.

2. Matt Hasselbeck, SEA, UFA (3,382 yards, 58.9% comp, 22 td, 15 int)
The talent is there. Hasselbeck can make all of the throws, but his demeanor says that he may not be able to get a team over the hump. Seattle was certainly better than it's first round exit indicated, however, Hasselbeck demonstrated that he couldn't handle substandard performances by his teammates. A true leader shakes off errors, and moves on (ala Tom Brady). Until his emotions become as mature as his hairline, he is doomed to be trapped in 9-7 hell.

BEST FITS: Seattle, Miami, Arizona, San Francisco, Green Bay, Cleveland

LIKELY OUTCOME: If Brett Favre retires, don't be surprised to see the Packers attempt to bring Hasselbeck back to Green Bay. However, Seattle has next to no options, and must keep at least one of their three big free agents. Alexander may walk, but Hasselbeck will happily accept overpayment to remain in the Northwest.

3. Kurt Warner, NYG, UFA (2,054 yards, 62.8% comp, 6 td, 4 int)
Who knows, really. Early on, Warner appeared rejuvenated. He led the Giants to a 5-0 start before falling apart, and being moved aside for the "Eli Era." And even as Manning struggled, Warner remained a high paid clipboard holder for the remainder of the season. Warner's biggest obstacle is his insistence on starting. If he can set aside his ego, and accept a backup role, he will be in high demand.

BEST FITS: Chicago, Baltimore, NY Jets, Buffalo

LIKELY OUTCOME: Eventually, Warner will accept his new role as a backup, and end up in Chicago, eagerly awaiting another Rex Grossman injury.

4. Josh McCown, ARZ, RFA (2,511 yards, 57.1% comp, 11 td, 10 int)
A very up and down season ended with McCown on a high. He began to really demonstrate his arm strength and mobility near the end, as the Cardinals finished off a subpar, but improved season under new head coach Dennis Green. He is young, and prototypical as a quarterback.

BEST FITS: Arizona, Dallas, Green Bay, Oakland

LIKELY OUTCOME: McCown signs a reasonable term sheet with a team like Cleveland, which is quickly matched by the Cardinals.

5. Mike McMahon, DET, UFA (77 yards, 73.3% comp, 0 Td, 1 int)

Strictly a backup, but an intriguing one. A gifted athlete, he appears to be the type who can rally a struggling team when a spark is needed. He would fit best with a team who has a stable yet mediocre starter, acting as a constant motivator merely with his presence.

BEST FITS: Detroit, New Orleans, Carolina, Seattle, NY Jets, Houston, Tennessee, Denver, Kansas City

LIKELY OUTCOME: His days in Detroit seem to be numbered, as his presence seems to rattle Joey Harrington. He will likely sign for a reasonable amount with a team tired of the roller coaster play of its starter. New Orleans seems a prime destination.

SLEEPER: Craig Nall, GB, RFA (314 yards, 69.7% comp, 4 td, 0 int)

Restricted, and the heir to Brett Favre. If Favre returns, Nall may seek greener pastures, no longer able to wait. He has a strong arm, and a sound pocket presence for a relative no-name. Should Favre retire, Nall will see all offers matched. However, there remains the possibility that another QB (Hasselbeck?) will be brought in, and Nall will go back to the bench. A team like Arizona or Cleveland may take a gamble on him.

Also, read the analysis on running backs and wide receivers.

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