NFL Nation: 2010 nfc free agency

Free agency: NFC West

February, 16, 2010
2/16/10
1:00
PM ET
AFC Free Agency: East | West | North | South NFC: East | West | North | South

An early look at the free-agent situation in the NFC West.

Note: These projected lists reflect notable unrestricted free agents for each team. The NFL will not issue an official list of free agents until the signing period begins March 5.

Arizona Cardinals

[+] EnlargeKarlos Dansby
Tony Medina/Icon SMIKarlos Dansby has led the Cardinals in tackles in each of the past two seasons.
Unrestricted free agents: LB Karlos Dansby, LT Mike Gandy, OLB Chike Okeafor, K Neil Rackers, NT Bryan Robinson, WR Sean Morey, TE Anthony Becht, DE Bertrand Berry, LT Jeremy Bridges, CB Ralph Brown, FB Dan Kreider, QB Brian St. Pierre, S Matt Ware, LB Monty Beisel.

Key figures: The more than $17.7 million Arizona has paid to Dansby over the past two seasons should suffice as a parting gift if, as expected, the linebacker leaves in free agency. Dansby could be leading an exodus. Okeafor turns 34 in March and could be on his way out. Berry announced his retirement. Morey has had concussion problems. Gandy's return probably depends on whether he's willing to stay for less than the $5 million he earned last season. Safety Antrel Rolle does not appear on the list, but he would hit the market when free agency begins if the Cardinals decline to pay a $4 million roster bonus.

San Francisco 49ers

Unrestricted free agents: WR Arnaz Battle, CB Dre' Bly, NT Aubrayo Franklin, CB Walt Harris, RT Tony Pashos, FS Mark Roman, LT Barry Sims, LB Jeff Ulbrich, LB Matt Wilhelm, CB Keith Smith.

Key figures: The 49ers have been proactive in re-signing their own players. That explains why relatively few big names appear on this list. The franchise tag appears well suited for Franklin, the only marquee UFA on the 49ers' list this offseason. Tagging Franklin at the $7 million franchise rate makes sense heading into labor uncertainty. Why spend lavishly on a long-term deal? Franklin has played at a high level consistently for only one season, and a lockout could keep him off the field in 2011. Re-signing Sims for depth would make sense. Ulbrich, meanwhile, has retired and joined the Seahawks' coaching staff.

Seattle Seahawks

Unrestricted free agents: DE Cory Redding, CB Ken Lucas, K Olindo Mare, LB D.D. Lewis, FB Justin Griffith, LT Damion McIntosh, SS Lawyer Milloy, LS Kevin Houser, LS Jeff Robinson.

Key figures: New coach Pete Carroll is on the record saying he likes what he's seen from Redding. Mare is coming off an outstanding season. Lucas has the size Seattle's new leadership wants in its cornerbacks. Milloy played for Carroll in New England. There isn't much more to say about this relatively nondescript group, and it's unclear how much the new regime will value these UFAs. Unrestricted free agency isn't the only road out of Seattle this offseason. The team will probably part with a few established players who haven't lived up to their salaries because of injuries and other factors. Patrick Kerney and Deion Branch come to mind.

St. Louis Rams

Unrestricted free agents: DE Leonard Little, DE James Hall, LB Paris Lenon, QB Kyle Boller, S Clinton Hart, LS Chris Massey, TE Randy McMichael.

Key figures: Boller, 28, is the only player on the Rams' list younger than 30. Franchise player Oshiomogho Atogwe and starting tackle Alex Barron become only restricted free agents under rules governing the uncapped year, explaining their absence from the Rams' UFA list. It's unclear how seriously Little and Hall figure into the team's plans for 2010. Chris Long's emergence late last season should make it easier for the team to move on without them, but the aging defensive ends did combine for 27 starts and 11 sacks last season.

Free agency: NFC North

February, 16, 2010
2/16/10
1:00
PM ET
AFC Free Agency: East | West | North | South NFC: East | West | North | South

An early look at the free agency situation in the NFC North.

Note: These projected lists reflect notable unrestricted free agents for each team. The NFL will not issue an official list of free agents until the signing period begins March 5.

Chicago Bears

Unrestricted free agents: Linebacker Darrell McClover, defensive end Adewale Ogunleye, running back Adrian Peterson, linebacker Pisa Tinoisamoa.

Key figures: Defensive end Mark Anderson and safety Danieal Manning are two key players who would have joined the list of unrestricted free agents if the NFL weren't on track for an uncapped offseason. The Bears can block both from moving now. Ogunleye is unlikely to return if he's seeking significant money. The Bears want to re-sign Tinoisamoa, even after his injury-shortened 2009 debut. Peterson's eight-year run with the team might be coming to a close.

Culpepper
Jason O. Watson/US PresswireDaunte Culpepper could return to Detroit as Matthew Stafford's backup.
Detroit Lions

Unrestricted free agents: Linebacker Vinny Ciurciu, offensive lineman Damion Cook, quarterback Daunte Culpepper, tight end Casey Fitzsimmons, linebacker Larry Foote, tight end Will Heller, cornerback Anthony Henry, cornerback Will James, offensive lineman Jon Jansen, safety Marquand Manuel, quarterback Patrick Ramsey.

Key figures: The Lions have a total of 20 unrestricted and restricted free agents, a product of the extended roster tryouts they held throughout the 2009 season. The biggest name among their UFAs is Foote, who seems unlikely to return and should be replaced by DeAndre Levy. Culpepper will seek offers on the open market, but it's not out of the question he could return as Matthew Stafford's backup. James had some moments in 2009 and might be worth a return engagement.

Green Bay Packers

Unrestricted free agents: Offensive tackle Chad Clifton, running back Ahman Green, linebacker Aaron Kampman, nose tackle Ryan Pickett, offensive tackle Mark Tauscher.

Key figures: The Packers have a notable list that includes four starters and would have included six more if not for the uncapped year. Clifton will be 34 this summer and Tauscher will turn 33, and it's time for the Packers to begin a succession plan at both positions. T.J. Lang figures as Tauscher's replacement, but Tauscher was actually playing better than Clifton at the end of 2009. Kampman seems unlikely to return as a linebacker in the 3-4, especially while he rehabilitates a knee injury. Pickett could be phased out by B.J. Raji.

Minnesota Vikings

Unrestricted free agents: Offensive lineman Artis Hicks, defensive lineman Jimmy Kennedy, receiver Greg Lewis, cornerback Benny Sapp, running back Chester Taylor.

Key figures: Taylor is perhaps the most valuable backup tailback in the league, considering his abilities as a receiver and third-down converter. He will be 31 when the 2010 season begins, but figures to get some attention if he enters the free-agent market. The Vikings want him back, but probably won't devote a huge salary to him with starter Adrian Peterson approaching the expiration of his contract. Sapp probably made himself some money with a credible replacement of injured starter Antoine Winfield.

Free agency: NFC East

February, 16, 2010
2/16/10
1:00
PM ET
AFC Free Agency: East | West | North | South NFC: East | West | North | South

An early look at the free-agent situation in the NFC East.

Note: These projected lists reflect notable unrestricted free agents for each team. The NFL will not issue an official list of free agents until the signing period begins March 5.

Dallas Cowboys

Unrestricted free agents: G Montrae Holland

Key figures: The Cowboys don't have a huge interest in retaining Holland, a man who's never really challenged for playing time. But Dallas has a long list of restricted free agents because of the likely scenario of an uncapped 2010 season. Wide receiver Miles Austin is obviously the biggest name on the list. The Cowboys would like to get a long-term contract done, but Austin's going to be asking for big money after his breakout season. For now, the Cowboys will likely sign Austin to the highest tender, which would pay him roughly $3 million in 2010. There's also a chance Dallas will try to work something out with restricted free agent Marcus Spears. Owner Jerry Jones has been very complimentary of Spears' work in '09, so we'll see if he receives an extension. It will also be interesting to see whether the Cowboys reward safety Gerald Sensabaugh for a fine '09 season. He's seeking a multiyear extension. But with the potential of a lockout in 2011, negotiations are up in the air.

New York Giants

Unrestricted free agents: QB David Carr, LB Danny Clark, P Jeff Feagles, DT Fred Robbins

[+] EnlargeLeonard Weaver
Drew Hallowell/Getty ImagesFullback Leonard Weaver rushed 70 times for 323 yards and two TDs in 2009.
Key figures: The Giants would like an upgrade at the backup quarterback position, but it's not like there are a bunch of reliable candidates floating around. It will be interesting to see how much progress Rhett Bomar makes this offseason. Coach Tom Coughlin loves what Clark brings to the locker room, but the player looked slow in coverage and he's a progress stopper at this point in his career. It's time to let him move on. Feagles can punt until he's 50 -- and he might give it a try. Robbins was benched late in the season, so the writing's on the wall with him. His production has tailed off the past two seasons because he's been asked to stay on the field too much.

Philadelphia Eagles

Unrestricted free agents: DE Jason Babin, S Sean Jones

Key figures: The man who's missing a major payday (for a fullback) is Leonard Weaver. He was an All-Pro for the Eagles and he would be an unrestricted free agent if not for the uncapped season in 2010. The Eagles now hold the hammer in negotiations -- and they've been known to use it at times. Babin is a decent pass-rush specialist, but he sort of faded down the stretch. Jones is a capable backup, but he should not be in the starting mix. Philadelphia would be wise to work something out with restricted free-agent guard/center Nick Cole. He's a versatile player who bailed out Andy Reid when the Stacy Andrews experiment didn't pan out in '09. And no matter his status as a restricted free agent, it's time to get something done with Jason Avant. He's quietly carved out a very important niche in this offense.

Washington Redskins

Unrestricted free agents: LS Ethan Albright, OT Levi Jones, DE Phillip Daniels, C Casey Rabach, P Hunter Smith, G Mike Williams, DE Renaldo Wynn, P Todd Yoder

Key figures: Cornerback Carlos Rogers is a restricted free agent, but he's looking for a new destination. It will be interesting to see what Mike Shanahan and Jim Haslett choose to do with Rogers. Will they try to get him back on the right path or see if they can deal him for a mid-round draft pick? This unrestricted list doesn't have a lot of juice. Rabach could certainly help a team at center, but he didn't set the league on fire in '09. It's probably time to move on without aging players such as Wynn and Daniels. I enjoyed the Williams weight loss story, but it's hard to imagine him being part of the rebuilding process at Redskins Park.

This we'll be the dullest free-agency period in years, but we'll be here to cover all the non-action.

Free agency: NFC South

February, 16, 2010
2/16/10
1:00
PM ET
AFC Free Agency: East | West | North | South NFC: East | West | North | South

An early look at the free-agent situation in the NFC South.

Note: These projected lists reflect notable unrestricted free agents for each team. The NFL will not issue an official list of free agents until the signing period begins March 5.

Atlanta Falcons

[+] EnlargeJulius Peppers
AP Photo/Julie JacobsonDefensive end Julius Peppers says he wants to leave Carolina.
Unrestricted free agents: Cornerback Brian Williams and quarterback Chris Redman.

Key figures: Look for the Falcons to try to re-sign Williams before he can hit the market. He was playing well before he was injured. Keeping Williams would allow the Falcons to focus on getting a big-time pass-rusher in the draft or free agency. Redman is an experienced backup for Matt Ryan and the Falcons would like to keep him. The list of potential restricted free agents has some big names with Harvey Dahl, Tyson Clabo, Michael Koenen, Jerious Norwood and Jason Snelling among the players the Falcons don’t want to lose.

Carolina Panthers

Unrestricted free agents: Defensive end Julius Peppers and wide receiver Muhsin Muhammad.

Key figures: The Panthers face a monumental decision with Peppers. They have yet to place the franchise tag on him and that would cost more than $20 million. Peppers again is saying he wants out of Carolina and the Panthers just may give him his wish and let him walk. Although he was productive, Peppers was inconsistent and never became the leader the team wanted. Muhammad is the only No. 2 receiver the franchise ever had who has been able to coexist peacefully and productively with Steve Smith. Muhammad could return in a backup role, but the team needs to find a younger starter to pair with Smith. Linebacker Thomas Davis will be restricted and the team must keep him because he’s become a core player.

New Orleans Saints

Unrestricted free agents: Safety Darren Sharper and linebacker Scott Fujita

Key figures: The Super Bowl champions face a difficult call on Sharper. The veteran came in and had a fabulous season on a one-year contract. Using the franchise tag on Sharper might not be a bad move because it would guarantee him sticking around for another year. Given Sharper’s age, a long-term contract might not be a wise investment. Fujita also played at a high level last season, but he’s getting older and the Saints have some promising young linebackers. But there is something to be said for continuity when you win a Super Bowl, and the Saints will make some effort to keep their veteran leaders. They also have a slew of restricted free agents, highlighted by guard Jahri Evans, to protect.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Unrestricted free agents: Wide receiver Antonio Bryant and linebacker Angelo Crowell

Key figures: Bryant played for the franchise tag ($10 million) last season and the Bucs hoped he could show consistency and earn a long-term contract. That didn’t happen and Bryant didn’t endear himself to the organization by making some negative comments about the coaching staff and quarterback Josh Freeman. The Bucs may make some sort of offer to Bryant, but it won’t be a big one. Although they desperately need help at receiver, they won’t be crushed if Crowell walks. It’s kind of the same story for Crowell. He never really caught on before getting hurt last year and he doesn’t seem to be a big part of any future plans. The Bucs have a bunch of restricted free agents, such as running back Cadillac Williams, linebacker Barrett Ruud and left tackle Donald Penn. In other years, they would already have been locked up with long-term deals, but the restricted tags have taken away that sense of urgency.

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