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2010 NFL Free Agent Defensive Backs

By: Roshan Bhagat

Top Cornerbacks:

Age as of 9/1/10. “(UFA-CBA)” represents a player that will become an unrestricted free agent if a new Collective Bargaining Agreement is put into place. Otherwise, free agents will be considered with a more realistic outlook of a 2010 season without a CBA in place.

Leigh Bodden, New England Patriots (28)
Bodden has rebounded well from his last year’s poor performance on the Lions. He’s picked off 5 passes on the year and deflected 18 others. Other than 2 or 3 below average games, Bodden has played at a high enough level to help a thin Patriots secondary. After taking the one-year tryout deal with the Patriots last year, he’ll expect a long-term offer in line with that of a good starting cornerback. With rookie Darius Butler coming into his own and little else, the Patriots should re-sign Bodden to a multi-year deal to bring some continuity to the unit.

Dunta Robinson, Houston Texans (28)
After holding out for nearly the entire offseason, Dunta Robinson stepped in and played pretty poorly, allowing a number of intermediate catches against him. Robinson played slightly better in the second half of the season, but not in line with a top corner. With an entire offseason of workouts, Robinson can return to form and be one of the better corners in the league, but it’ll be interesting to see how the situation plays out next offseason after an up and down season this year. The Texans may not be ready to commit a lot money after this season, which could lead Dunta to test the open market. I’d be surprised if they used the franchise tag on him again this year after what they went through last season.

Carlos Rogers, Washington Redskins (29) – Restricted FA (UFA-CBA)
Though he’s had a couple poor games, Rogers has strung together a very nice season this year. He’s been targeted only 61 times this year, which is a distant second only to Nnamdi Asomugha among corners who have played at least 75% of their team’s snaps. Rogers is a pretty good cover corner, but finished the season in the team’s doghouse. He does a nice job of contesting passes and is rarely caught completely out of position. DeAngelo Hall on the other side arguably had a better season this year, but Rogers was not very far behind. With Brian Orakpo and Andre Carter able to turn loose and increase the pressure on the quarterback, Rogers should be able to become a little more aggressive to force turnovers, something he did not do at all this season. It’s tough to say what Washington thinks of Rogers and whether they’d be willing to match his asking price on a long-term extension. He’ll most likely be given a Restricted FA offer.

Richard Marshall, Carolina Panthers (25) – Restricted FA (UFA-CBA)
Marshall has put up gaudy tackling numbers in his first three seasons, averaging over 80 per season. Starting opposite Chris Gamble, Marshall has actually played very well this season. He hasn’t given up many big plays and come up with a couple picks himself. Marshall loves to get physical and is likely to be rewarded by the Panthers at the end of the season with a long-term deal. He’s prepared for the upcoming contract negotiation by switching agents to Drew Rosenhaus in December.

Tramon Williams, Green Bay Packers (27) – Restricted FA
Tramon Williams started the season as the third corner behind Al Harris and Charles Woodson, splitting out wide in nickel packages to allow Woodson to slip inside to the slot. After Harris’ season-ending injury Williams stepped into the starting lineup with ease. While many saw the Ravens pick on Tramon on Monday Night in Week 13, he bounced right back to make a game-clinching interception at the goal line. As Williams earns a reputation in the league and learns to use more subtle contact downfield, he could develop into one of the better corners in the league. The Packers should sign Williams to a long-term extension at the end of the year, but still have the ability to tender him a restricted free agent, regardless of the CBA.

Other Notable Free Agents:

Alan Ball, Dallas Cowboys (25) – Restricted FA
Will Blackmon, Green Bay Packers (25) – Restricted FA (UFA-CBA)
Dre’ Bly, San Francisco 49ers (33)
Ralph Brown, Arizona Cardinals (31)
Kevin Dockery, New York Giants (26) – Restricted FA (UFA-CBA)
Brent Grimes, Atlanta Falcons (27) – Restricted FA
Nick Harper, Tennessee Titans (35)
Walt Harris, San Francisco 49ers (36)
Anthony Henry, Detroit Lions (33)
Ellis Hobbs, Philadelphia Eagles (27) – Restricted FA (UFA-CBA)
Roderick Hood, Cleveland Browns (28)
Marlin Jackson, Indianapolis Colts (27) – Restricted FA (UFA-CBA)
Tim Jennings, Indianapolis Colts (27) – Restricted FA (UFA-CBA)
Ken Lucas, Seattle Seahawks (31)
Karl Paymah, Minnesota Vikings (27) – Restricted FA (UFA-CBA)
Stanford Routt, Oakland Raiders (27) – Restricted FA (UFA-CBA)
Deshea Townsend, Pittsburgh Steelers (34)
Fabian Washington, Baltimore Ravens (27) – Restricted FA (UFA-CBA)
Usama Young, New Orleans Saints (25) – Restricted FA

Top Safeties:

Darren Sharper, New Orleans Saints (34)
After a couple of inconsistent seasons in Minnesota, Darren Sharper has put himself back on the map while picking of 9 passes and breaking Ed Reed’s league record for most INT yards in a season (376). Sharper is your typical gambler in the secondary, risking big plays for aggressive coverage and the interception. Not to downplay Sharper’s success, but he’s only adequate in run support as well. The Saints would surely love to have him back on a defense that prides itself on forcing turnovers, but may not want to commit too many years to him considering he is also 34.

Nick Collins, Green Bay Packers (27) – Restricted FA (UFA-CBA)
After seeing Collins blossom into one of best safeties last year, earning a Pro Bowl invite, the Packers wanted to see if he would perform at that high level once again. Almost through the regular season, Collins has done just that, playing at a level indicative of his talent and as one of the 5 best safeties in the league, earning a nod on my All-Pro team this year. The former second-round selection from Bethune-Cookman plays a very unique game. Collins isn’t always in the exact right position and plays aggressively in coverage, but has elite recovery speed to account for any error in his position. He’s a well-rounded safety capable of crashing into the box to make tackles in run support. Collins has picked off 6 passes and should be paid handsomely by Green Bay this offseason.

Antoine Bethea, Indianapolis Colts (26) – Restricted FA (UFA-CBA)
Antoine Bethea is every bit as talented and important to the Colts’ secondary as the renowned enforcer, Bob Sanders, who’s on the IR this season. Despite earning a Pro Bowl selection in 2007, Bethea is still highly unrecognized. He’s consistently one of the Colts’ leading tacklers as a result of his sound angles and quick closing speed around the line of scrimmage. He is a little susceptible in coverage, but has the ability to play both strong safety and free safety. Even though this wasn’t Bethea’s best season, it was very close to it, and the Colts will most likely place Bethea at the top of their priorities this season.

Roman Harper, New Orleans Saints (27) – Restricted FA (UFA-CBA)
Roman Harper can be compared to Bethea in a number of regards as one of the more underrated safeties in the league. His ability around the line of scrimmage in run support is among the best in the league. Harper led the Saints in tackles for loss was only a couple back of Jonathan Vilma for the clubhouse-lead in the tackles. Both of the Saints’ safeties are set to become free agents this year with Harper great in the box and Sharper pretty good in coverage. Harper also has a weakness dropping into coverage while Sharper struggles taking sound angles in the run game.

O.J. Atogwe, St. Louis Rams (29) – Restricted FA (UFA-CBA)
Atogwe is a four-year starter for the Rams at the backend of their secondary, giving them consistent production. Though his impact plays were down this season, Atogwe was on pace to break his personal best for tackles this season prior to his shoulder injury, which forced him to the IR. After designating him their franchise player, last season, the Rams were unable to get a long-term extension done. Coming off injury, the Rams will be cautious, but also realize Atogwe is one of the better players on the team

Bernard Pollard, Houston Texans (25) – Restricted FA (UFA-CBA)
After being cut by the Chiefs close to the start of the regular season, Bernard Pollard landed a starting spot with the Texans and turned in a fine year. He had 102 stops to go with 4 interceptions. Since Pollard entered the starting lineup in Week 4, the Texans allowed only 84.3 yards per game on the ground and 3.6 yards per carry after allowing 205 yards per game over the first three. Pollard’s impact in the box has gone largely unnoticed, but is probably well-documented inside the Texans’ locker room and front office.

Other Notable Free Agents:

Will Allen, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (28)
Atari Bigby, Green Bay Packers (28) – Restricted FA (UFA-CBA)
C.C. Brown, New York Giants (27) – Restricted FA (UFA-CBA)
Daniel Bullocks, Detroit Lions (27) – Restricted FA (UFA-CBA)
Josh Bullocks, Chicago Bears (27) – Restricted FA (UFA-CBA)
Tyrone Carter, Pittsburgh Steelers (34)
Ryan Clark, Pittsburgh Steelers (30)
Abram Elam, Cleveland Browns (28) – Restricted FA (UFA-CBA)
Hiram Eugene, Oakland Raiders (29)
Sean Jones, Philadelphia Eagles (28)
Dawan Landry, Baltimore Ravens (27) – Restricted FA (UFA-CBA)
Danieal Manning, Chicago Bears (28) – Restricted FA (UFA-CBA)
Jarrad Page, Kansas City Chiefs (26) – Restricted FA (UFA-CBA)
Brodney Pool, Cleveland Browns (26) – Restricted FA (UFA-CBA)
Mark Roman, San Francisco 49ers (33)
Gerald Sensabaugh, Dallas Cowboys (27) – Restricted FA (UFA-CBA)
Roy Williams, Cincinnati Bengals (30)
George Wilson, Buffalo Bills (28) – Restricted FA (UFA-CBA)

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