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.
Terrell Owens, Buffalo Bills (36)
Though Owen is open to a return to Buffalo, the mutual interest may not be there. He’s kept quiet despite his pedestrian year, probably because he either realizes his declining abilities or that there are few other suitors out there for him. With Ryan Fitzpatrick at quarterback, Owen’s numbers have gone up and he’s shown that he can still be productive. Owens keeps himself in great shape and should still be able to produce given a healthy quarterback option, but it’s all the baggage that comes with this star WR that make teams shy away. So far, he’s done all of the right things this year off the field, but will that be enough to spark some interest this offseason?
Antonio Bryant, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (29)
Bryant may have cashed in a big check last year, but as I predicted, he hasn’t been able to give a repeat performance – not that it’s all Bryant’s fault with a lack of consistency from the quarterback and an arrhythmic offense in general. The Buccaneers have enough money to re-sign him and should be able to get a fair market price for him this season if he is open to a return to a team that is at the bottom of the league. With Josh Freeman in the lineup, Bryant’s numbers improved slightly, but not enough to prove to anyone that he can be anything but a number two option.
Derrick Mason, Baltimore Ravens (36)
Mason is the consummate pro and as reliable a receiver as any in the league. He’s been a consistent 1000 yard receiver for his entire career and reached that mark for the 8th time in his career this year. If Mason decides that this year will not be his last, he’ll have an offer to re-sign with the Ravens who have struggled to match his production from any other receiver over the past seasons. If he has any place where he’s always wanted to play, this could be the offseason where he readies for his last hurrah.
Kevin Walter, Houston Texans (29)
Walter hasn’t been nearly as effective as last year, coming off an injury early in the year. For the Texans offense that hasn’t been short of scoring this year, it could be a good thing for the team. Keeping Walter under the radar could help them hang on to him at season’s end for a less competitive price. His size and style of play suggests that he should be a solid complementary receiver for a long time in the league.
Vincent Jackson, San Diego Chargers (27) – Restricted FA (UFA-CBA)
After getting off to a sizzling start, Jackson has cooled off over a 4 week stretch (Week 10 through 13), totaling only 9 receptions for less than 150 yards and no touchdowns. Jackson redeveloped that deadly connection with Philip Rivers averaging over 100 yards per game over his last 4 on 17 yards per catch, including a 100-yard performance against the Jets in the playoffs. Jackson has the size advantage to stretch the field vertically and become one of the premier wideouts in the league. His ability to out-jump and out-muscle defenders on high passes, while retaining great body control make him a true red zone and deep ball threat. Jackson will see a big raise from his mid-round rookie contract after back-to-back 1000 receiving yard seasons. The Chargers do have a number of key contracts expiring at season’s end and could really use the relief of an uncapped year to retain all or most of them, including Jackson. With the chemistry he and Rivers have developed, he should be at the top of the Chargers’ priorities.
Miles Austin, Dallas Cowboys (26) – Restricted FA (UFA-CBA)
The Cowboys made the decision early in the year to not re-sign Austin after a dominant couple-game stretch. While it seemed like a good decision at the time, Jerry Jones will now have to pay a lot of coin for Austin at a fair price. The athletic wideout and former undrafted free agent is every bit as good as his 81 catches, 1320 yards, and 11 touchdowns would indicate. Austin is the team’s go-to wideout and the best playmaker in the passing game with his exceptional ability to create after the catch. If Roy Williams can develop into the player the Cowboys expected to get when they traded away a first round selection for him, Romo will have a pair of weapons to even further improve the offense that is already one of the league’s best.
Brandon Marshall, Denver Broncos (26) – Restricted FA
Even after a sluggish start to the beginning of the season, Marshall has rebounded well to post his 3rd consecutive 100 reception-1100 yard season. 200 yards and 2 touchdowns came on his record-setting 21 catches against the Colts in Week 14. Marshall has proven that no matter whose throwing him the ball, he’s one of the premier possession wideouts in the league. If he can maintain a good work ethic and stay clean off the field, Marshall has everything going for him. Because of some of those off the field issues, it’ll be interesting to see what the Broncos decide on his future. It’ll be even more interesting to see what happens if Marshall is forced to play on a restricted tender.
Braylon Edwards, New York Jets(27) – Restricted FA (UFA-CBA)
There’s really only one thing Edwards can’t do. Unfortunately for the Jets and Edwards, it’s probably the most important part of being a wide receiver: catching the ball. His size and athleticism brings a unique skill set to the Jets’ receiving corps opposite Jericho Cotchery and would really make things easier on Sanchez and the vertical passing game offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer adores. The Jets gave up a considerable amount to land Braylon Edwards so it would be surprising if the two sides didn’t agree to a long-term deal. Edwards has a winning combination working for him in New York with a promising young quarterback delivering him balls, a charismatic coach, and a team dedicated to winning ball games right now. His inconsistency would lend itself to an incentive-laden deal.
Malcom Floyd, San Chargers (28) – Restricted FA (UFA-CBA)
Over the second half of the season, Malcom Floyd was promoted to starter and the lengthy, 6’5”, 225-pound receiver delivered for the Chargers. In the absence of Vincent Jackson in Week 17, Floyd hauled in 9 passes for 140 yards for a career game. Similar to Vincent Jackson, Floyd does a great job getting vertical down the sidelines to make grabs in single coverage. He uses his height and balance to come down with the ball more often than not. Floyd will be a full-time starting number two receiver next year either in San Diego or elsewhere.
Steve Breaston, Arizona Cardinals (27) – Restricted FA
Breaston didn’t reach 1000 yards this year, but has been productive out of the slot yet again behind Fitzgerald and Boldin. The Cardinals will look to keep him for at least this year under a restricted free agent contract. Continued production, coupled with an emergence from Early Doucet, could potentially signal the end of Boldin’s career in Arizona once they find an offer worthy of allowing the semi-disgruntled receiver to walk. Breaston is also a dangerous return man for the Cardinals.
Other Notable Free Agents:
Jason Avant, Philadelphia Eagles (27) – Restricted FA (UFA-CBA)
Davone Bess, Miami Dolphins (24) – Exclusive Rights FA
Mark Bradley, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (28) – Restricted FA (UFA-CBA)
Isaac Bruce, San Francisco 49ers (37)
Chris Chambers, Kansas City Chiefs (32)
Mark Clayton, Baltimore Ravens (28) – Restricted FA (UFA-CBA)
David Clowney, New York Jets (25)
Ronald Curry, St. Louis Rams (31)
Domenik Hixon, New York Diego Giants (25)
Lance Moore, New Orleans Saints (27) – Restricted FA (UFA-CBA)
Muhsin Muhammad, Carolina Panthers (37)
Josh Reed, Buffalo Bills (30)
Brad Smith, New York Jets (26) – Restricted FA (UFA-CBA)
Maurice Stovall, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (25) – Restricted FA (UFA-CBA)
Bobby Wade, Kansas City Chiefs (29)
Kelley Washington, Baltimore Ravens (31)
Demetrius Williams, Baltimore Ravens (27) – Restricted FA (UFA-CBA)
Troy Williamson, Jacksonville Jaguars (27) – Restricted FA (UFA-CBA)
Jerheme Urban, Arizona Cardinals (29) – Restricted FA (UFA-CBA)
Top Tight Ends:
Ben Watson, New England Patriots (29)
For stretch there, it appeared as if the athletically-gifted Watson was about to shoulder a larger role in the Patriots offense. He’s shown his long speed and ability to vertically challenge defenses on several occasions this year. Bill Belichick has never featured tight ends in his offense, but Watson could be one of the better potential tight ends on the market this year if a team offers a bigger pass-catching role to him.
Owen Daniels, Houston Texans (27) – Restricted FA (UFA-CBA)
Daniels was well on his way to potentially leading all tight ends in the three big statistical categories prior to his ACL injury which required reconstructive surgery. With that, Daniels’ hopes of receiving a contract in line with the league’s premier tight ends were lost. Expect the Texans to offer Daniels a one-year contract to get an idea of his post-injury ability before negotiating a long-term deal. The franchise tag is always also another option if the two sides can’t reach a one-year agreement in case of a 2010 capped season.
Tony Scheffler, Denver Broncos (27) – Restricted FA (UFA-CBA)
Scheffler hasn’t been the weapon he could be with his great athleticism and soft hands. The Broncos have used him more frequently in their offensive sets, but also have asked him to block more often. Scheffler had a big Monday Night game earlier this year against San Diego where he showed his potential by eclipsing the 100 yard mark, but has broken 50 only one other time this entire season. Statistically, this was his worst season since his rookie year where he was sparingly used. After being benched in Week 17, he voiced more displeasure toward head coach Josh McDaniels, which may signify a noisy offseason for Scheffler.
Bo Scaife, Tennessee Titans (29) – Restricted FA (UFA-CBA)
Scaife isn’t a particularly flashy tight end or doesn’t have the athletic gifts of one of the top pass catchers, but he’s a balanced tight end who excels at making catches in the short game. As the Titans’ leader in receptions a year ago, don’t expect his numbers to decrease much with Vince Young at quarterback, his collegiate quarterback at Texas; the two have nice chemistry. The Titans love what they have in the more gifted rookie, Jared Cook, so if the money isn’t right, Scaife could be a nice pick-up for many teams around the league.
Other Notable Free Agents:
Alge Crumpler, Tennessee Titans (32)
Anthony Fasano, Miami Dolphins (26) – Restricted FA (UFA-CBA)
Daniel Fells, St. Louis Rams (26)
Jeff King, Carolina Panthers (27) – Restricted FA (UFA-CBA)
Brandon Manumaleuna, San Diego Chargers (30)
David Martin, Miami Dolphins (31)
Randy McMichael, St. Louis Rams (31)
Billy Miller, New Orleans Saints (33)
Leonard Pope, St. Louis Rams (27)
Derek Schouman, Buffalo Bills (25)
Alex Smith, Philadelphia Eagles (28) – Restricted FA (UFA-CBA)
L.J. Smith, Baltimore Ravens (30)
Matt Spaeth, Pittsburgh Steelers (25)
David Thomas, New Orleans Saints (27) – Restricted FA (UFA-CBA)