Dreaming about potential free agent targets this time of year can often be a complete waste of time. You see names like Ray Rice, Calais Campbell, or Maurice Jones-Drew listed as free agents, and you start to picture what they might look like in your team’s uniform. The problem is that their current teams are going to do everything they can to keep them. With restrictive tools like the franchise tag in place, more often than not, they do.
Even in situations where one team has multiple intriguing free agents they’d like to re-sign, teams are often successful in retaining their best players. Back in February of ’09, the Panthers had two stud players, Jordan Gross and Julius Peppers, who were set to become free agents. On the day of the deadline to franchise tag a player, the Panthers were able to work out a long term deal with Gross, and they slapped the tag on Peppers later that day. In an instant they were both off the market.
However, there’s one team out there that has a boatload of intriguing options that are set to become free agents, and there’s no way they can keep them all. That’s the Saints. Saints beat writer Jeff Duncan broke down his order of priority here:
- Drew Brees: Very clearly one of the 3 most valuable players in all football who is deeply entrenched in the city of New Orleans. He’s not going anywhere, but if the Saints can’t lock him up long term, he’ll at least serve as the guy on whom the Saints will have to waste their franchise tag.
- Carl Nicks: Elite OG. All-Pro selection in 2010 and 2011. Bad interior OL play is an epidemic in the NFL these days. If Nicks becomes a free man, he’s going to get a monster deal. The only team without a severe need here would be the Eagles. Evan Mathis had a Pro Bowl type year. The priority for them will be re-signing Mathis, not bringing in outside help. The Eagles also spent a first round pick on the guard position last season with Danny Watkins, who improved as the season progressed. Nicks would provide a major upgrade in Washington, Dallas, or NY.
- Marques Colston: One of the best and most underrated receivers in the game. He’s pretty much good for 75 catches, 1050 yards and 8 TDs every season. The Giants and Cowboys are set. The Eagles could be a dark horse of sorts depending on how the DeSean Jackson situation plays out. Obviously, the Redskins could use an impact receiver, and he has the body type (6’4, 225) that Mike Shanahan likes. However, it takes two to tango. Monies being equal, I’m not sure how Colston would feel about going from Brees to (fill in the Redskins’ 2012 QB). They’d probably have to overpay.
- Tracy Porter: Very quality solid starting corner. Minimal production as a ball hawk, although he of course did have the famous game-sealer in the Super Bowl off Peyton Manning. Porter would be the best corner on a number of teams, but not really a “special” player by any means. The Eagles are set here, and the Giants probably are too. The Skins could use an upgrade, but they’re tied in financially to DeAngelo Hall and Josh Wilson. Dallas has an obvious need here, as Terence Newman is done.
- Robert Meachem: Nice #3 WR-type vertical threat. Has averaged 16.1 YPC in his career. I like Meachem, just not for any of the NFC East teams.
- Shaun Rogers: Former major difference maker, just kind of a situational massive body these days. Might make some sense in Dallas or Washington as depth.
- Jo-Lonn Dunbar: Very small (6’0, 226), marginal starting LB. The Eagles already have a few Jo-Lonn Dunbars. Not sure they need another one, and I don’t see a fit anywhere else.
- Aubrayo Franklin: Got a ton of attention this past offseason from fans/media as a guy that could score a big deal somewhere. NFL personnel people didn’t see it that way, as he was only able to attract a 1-year deal worth $4 million. He’ll get considerably less attention this offseason after minimal production with the Saints in 2011. Again, like Rogers, maybe a fit in Washington or Dallas as depth.