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  1. #1
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    Top 5 free agents by position per Jim Thomas

    Top 5 free agents by position
    BY JIM THOMAS
    Of the Post-Dispatch
    03/02/2005

    Here's a position-by-position look at the top players available in free agency:


    QUARTERBACK


    Overview: Johnson, Garcia and Warner are good enough to start for somebody in the NFL; but the quality falls off sharply after that.

    1.) Brad Johnson, Tampa Bay: Has never been an elite QB but still can do more than just manage an offense.

    2.) Jeff Garcia, Cleveland: The year in Cleveland was a disaster, but Detroit (and Steve Mariucci) could be the perfect spot.

    3.) Kurt Warner, NY Giants: Warner certainly isn't what he used to be, but he's still a middle-tier QB who could help the right team.

    4.) Jay Fiedler, Miami: Won plenty of games in 4 1/2 seasons as starter, but benefited from great defenses.

    5.) Kelly Holcomb, Cleveland: Despite some remarkably productive outings, has been an injury-prone tease so far in the NFL.

    Rams' needs: It looks as if Jeff Smoker is the No. 2, but the No. 3 job remains uncertain.

    Worth a look: Quincy Carter, NY Jets. But only if convinced his off-the-field problems are behind him.

    Buyer beware: Jeff Blake, Philadelphia. Little more than a No. 3 at this stage of his career.


    RUNNING BACKS


    Overview: Jordan should attract the most attention. Everybody else comes with questions.

    1.) Lamont Jordan, NY Jets: A power back who's ready to step out of Curtis Martin's shadow somewhere.

    2.) Correll Buckhalter, Philadelphia: Plenty of talent, but not worth a huge investment because of injury problems.

    3.) Anthony Thomas, Chicago: Chicago's not his kind of town, but this power back does have two 1,000-yard campaigns in 4 NFL seasons.
    4.) Garrison Hearst, Denver: Barely used for Broncos, but still has some tread on the tires at age 34.

    5.) Derrick Blaylock, Kansas City: At worst, could be an effective change-of-pace player in a two-back system.

    Rams' needs: Aveion Cason and Arlen Harris are possibilities, but still looking for a No. 3 back behind Steven Jackson and Marshall Faulk.

    Worth a look: Amos Zereoue, Oakland. Had 709 yards rushing- receiving in Raiders' backfield by committee.

    Buyer beware: Eddie George, Dallas. George definitely has hit the wall after 9 NFL seasons.


    WIDE RECEIVERS


    Overview: Some good talent at the top. Burress, Mason and Patten all could flourish in the right system.

    1.) Plaxico Burress, Pittsburgh: Production has dipped past 2 years but remains a big target and a big-play threat.

    2.) Derrick Mason, Tennessee: One of game's best possession receivers finished 2nd in NFL in receptions (96) last season.

    3.) David Patten, New England: Underrated part of Patriots' Super Bowl machine averaged 18.2 yards per catch with 7 TDs last season.

    4.) Kevin Johnson, Baltimore: Only 35 catches in 2004, but that total was a team high for the offensively impaired Ravens.

    5.) Cedrick Wilson, San Francisco: Finished second on team with career-high 47 catches last year; might put up bigger numbers in better offense.

    Rams' needs: Basically non-existent, what with all 6 WRs from last season either tendered or under contract.

    Worth a look: Troy Brown, New England. Not what he once was as a WR, but can still contribute - and play DB!

    Buyer beware: Joey Galloway, Tampa Bay. A descending player who never quite lived up to his No. 8 overall draft selection in 1995.


    FULLBACKS/TIGHT ENDS


    Overview: One of the slimmest FB crops in the history of free agency; some decent tight ends.

    1.) Itula Mili, TE, Seattle: Seahawks' best TE last season, even if receptions dipped to 23 from career-high 46 in 2003.

    2.) Jermaine Wiggins, TE, Minnesota: Caught 71 passes last year - or 21 more than his career total in 4 previous NFL seasons.

    3.) Stephen Alexander, TE, Detroit: Bounced back from injury-plagued 2003 season to log 40-plus catches for 3rd time in career.

    4.) Chad Lewis, TE, Philadelphia: Accomplished receiver had 2 TD catches in NFC title game but suffered season-ending foot injury.

    5.) Patrick Pass, FB, New England: Undersized-but-willing blocker was Patriots' primary FB for first time in career in 2004.

    Rams' needs: Could be looking to upgrade 2nd TE spot behind Manumaleuna; Goodspeed is adequate at FB.

    Worth a look: Jon Ritchie, FB, Philadelphia. Pass catcher and tough lead blocker suffered season-ending knee injury in Game 3.

    Buyer beware: Freddie Jones, Arizona. Doesn't like to block and gets upset when he doesn't get the ball.


    OFFENSIVE LINE


    Overview: No superstars in this group, but lots of solid starting talent at both tackle and guard.

    1.) Jonas Jennings, T, Buffalo: The only starting LT on the open market, Jennings has a big body, plays nasty and has good feet. He will cash in.

    2.) Mike Wahle, G, Green Bay: A cap casualty Tuesday, Wahle is a good, solid, athletic guard who can also play tackle.

    3.) Fred Miller, T, Tennessee: Remains a durable, above- average starter at age 32.

    4.) Marco Rivera, G, Green Bay: Three-time Pro Bowler has some miles on him but remains an effective, tough blocker.

    5.) Oliver Ross, T, Pittsburgh: Ascending player who has been a starting RT for only the last year and a half.

    Rams' needs: Even if LT Orlando Pace re-signs, the Rams still need a starting right tackle and could be shopping at guard, too.

    Worth a look: Floyd "Pork Chop" Womack, T/G, Seattle. Probably better suited to play G but performed well in relief of injured RT Chris Terry last season.

    Buyer beware: Stockar McDougle, T, Detroit. Tons of ability but makes too many mistakes.


    DEFENSIVE LINE


    Overview: Good but not great players here. Franchise tags to John Abraham (Jets) and Darren Howard (Saints) took some luster off this unit.

    1.) Pat Williams, DT, Buffalo: Wide-body, and big-time run stuffer is one of the league's better interior d-linemen.

    2.) Jason Ferguson, DT, NY Jets: Can clog up the middle, but also provides an inside push; 3 1/2 sacks, 18 QB pressures last season.

    3.) Chike Okeafor, DE, Seattle: Hustle player with good quickness had 8 1/2 sacks, 5 forced fumbles last season.

    4.) Reggie Hayward, DE Denver: Emerging player with 19 sacks over past two seasons, including 10 1/2 in 2004 as first-time starter.
    5.) Bryce Fisher, Rams: A strong month of December will earn him a lot of money in free agency, more than the Rams probably can afford.

    Rams' needs: Could use another productive body here, particularly if Fisher goes elsewhere, as expected.

    Worth a look: Derrick Burgess, DE, Philadelphia. Had his moments in the playoffs after a modest regular season.

    Buyer beware: Jason Gildon, DE, Jacksonville. His play no longer matches his reputation.


    LINEBACKERS


    Overview: Pending any 11th-hour signings, this is the deepest position in free agency, especially at MLB.

    1.) Edgerton Hartwell, Baltimore: Tough, solid performer led Ravens in tackles in 2002 and was second to Ray Lewis in 2003 and 2004.

    2.) Antonio Pierce, Washington: A pleasant surprise - and then some - in 2004, replacing the injured Mike Barrow at MLB.

    3.) Kendrell Bell, Pittsburgh: Strong, quick and hard to block, but played in only 3 games in 2004 because of hernia and shoulder and groin injuries.

    4.) Jeremiah Trotter, Philadelphia: Heart and soul of Eagles defense at MLB revived career after moving into starting lineup at midseason.

    5.) Chris Claiborne, Minnesota: Slowed by calf injury over first half of season, was Vikings' best defensive player last month of season.

    Rams' needs: LB is the No. 1 team need, particularly in middle, with Robert Thomas expected to move to weak side this year.

    Worth a look: Tommy Polley, Rams. Although he fizzled out in St. Louis, a change of scenery might do him good.

    Buyer beware: Ronald McKinnon, Arizona. A descending player who dipped below 100 tackles in 2004 for first time since 1996.


    DEFENSIVE BACKS


    Overview: Thanks to cap cuts, there's lots to choose from at corner, but not much at safety.

    1.) Ty Law, CB, New England: Four-time Pro Bowler and superb cover corner played in only 7 games last year because of foot injury.

    2.) Samari Rolle, CB, Tennessee: Elite performer, a six-year starter and 2000 Pro Bowler, missed last 5 games of 2004 with left knee "scope."

    3.) Fred Smoot, CB, Washington: Stepped out of Champ Bailey's shadow last year, but brash attitude rubbed some team officials the wrong way.

    4.) Gary Baxter, CB, Baltimore: Has shuffled between corner and safety the past two years but wants to be a corner only.

    5.) Anthony Henry, CB, Cleveland: An ascending young talent, with ideal CB size (6-1, 190); 17 INTs in four NFL seasons.

    Rams' needs: A big area of need since Adam Archuleta and converted LB Pisa Tinoisamoa are the only safeties under contract.

    Worth a look: Ken Lucas, CB, Seattle. Six INTs and 21 breakups last season.

    Buyer beware: Rolle is facing an assault charge after Valentine's night incident with wife.


    PUNTERS/KICKERS


    Overview: One of the skimpiest crops in years. Not a top-tier talent in the bunch.

    1.) Jay Feely, K, Atlanta: Young kicker made 18 of 23 FG attempts last season.

    2.) Steve Christie, K, NY Giants: Above 75 percent in FG accuracy last season for only 2nd time since 1998.

    3.) Tom Rouen, P, Seattle: Suffered season-ending hamstring injury Oct. 10 vs. St. Louis, but still has 43.7 career average.

    4.) Morten Andersen, Minnesota: You could still do a lot worse than Andersen, who turns 45 in August!

    5.) Toby Gowin, NY Jets: Has lost distance in last two years but has good touch inside 20 and can kick off.

    Rams' needs: Obviously set with K Jeff Wilkins. But can the same be said for P Kevin Stemke?

    Worth a look: Sean Landeta, Rams. Before his late-season release in 2004, was averaging 43.3 yards per kick.

    Buyer beware: Joe Nedney, Tennessee. Has missed the last two seasons with knee and hamstring injuries.

    "Before the gates of excellence the high gods have placed sweat; long is the road thereto and rough and steep at first; but when the heights are reached, then there is ease, though grievously hard in the winning." --- Hesiod

  2. #2
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    Re: Top 5 free agents by position per Jim Thomas

    Rams' needs: Obviously set with K Jeff Wilkins. But can the same be said for P Kevin Stemke?

    Worth a look: Sean Landeta, Rams. Before his late-season release in 2004, was averaging 43.3 yards per kick.
    Honestly, I just wanted to post this to see if Adarian's head would actually explode.
    "Before the gates of excellence the high gods have placed sweat; long is the road thereto and rough and steep at first; but when the heights are reached, then there is ease, though grievously hard in the winning." --- Hesiod

  3. #3
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    Re: Top 5 free agents by position per Jim Thomas

    Some times it is not what people say that is important but what they don't say.

    Takes Thomas' article. He didn't mention Pollard being released by the Colts. I say let sleeping dogs lie, let Landeada's corpse remain buried, and make a run at getting Pollard and dropping Manu bach to H back ...

  4. #4
    Nick's Avatar
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    Re: Top 5 free agents by position per Jim Thomas

    Quote Originally Posted by adarian_too
    Takes Thomas' article. He didn't mention Pollard being released by the Colts.
    I take it the article was written before the surge of free agent signings, and therefore it hadn't occured yet, since guys like Derrick Mason, Pat Williams, and Jason Ferguson are not mentioned as having been signed.
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