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Top 100 2012 NFL Free Agents

By Will Brinson | NFL Writer
Free agency is almost here, folks. And below is our top 100 2012 NFL free agents. It was a fun list to compile and there's a 100-percent chance you won't agree with all/many/any of the choices below.

But that's the point. We've factored in success so far, upside, positional scarcity and relative cost in some of the picks, so please take that into account. Or just start screaming in the comments below. Whatever works.

Follow all the transactions at our 2012 NFL Free Agent Tracker.

Rank
Player
Position
Age
Last Team
Analysis
1
Peyton Manning
QB
35
IND
Manning's probably the best free agent of all-time. So he should probably be No. 1 on 2012's list as well.
2
Mario Williams
DE/LB
27
HOU
Super Mario's a freak in either the 3-4 or 4-3. He's a potential gamechanger for anyone struggling to rush the passer.
3
Brandon Carr
CB
25
KC
A 25-year-old Pro-Bowl caliber cornerback hitting the market? Really? What are the Chiefs thinking?
4
Carl Nicks
G
26
NO
If Brees and Saints aren't having contract troubles, Nicks never gets near the market. One of the best interior lineman in the NFL.
5
Mike Wallace
WR
25
PIT
Wallace is restricted so this is cheating a bit, but someone with an extra first-round pick should gamble on a top-five wideout.
6
Vincent Jackson
WR
29
SD
Chargers couldn't tag Jackson again, so he's roaming free. Some character concerns, but a physical, deep and red-zone threat.
7
Cortland Finnegan
CB
28
TEN
Finnegan's basically said he's done with the Titans. A physical corner should draw a lot of interest. Makes sense in Detroit
8
Red Bryant
DL
27
SEA
Not a sack machine by any stretch, but he fills up a ton of space and really exploded in Pete Carroll's defense last year.
9
Stephen Tulloch
LB
27
DET
Underrated run-stuffer who made a big difference for Detroit's defense in 2012. Should do better than a 1-year deal this time.
10
Marques Colston
WR
28
NO
There are concerns with Colston when it comes to injuries and whether he's a "system" guy, but he's No. 2 on the WR market.
11
Chris Myers
C
30
HOU
Hard to believe Houston will let this offensive line leader get away, especially given how well he works within their rush attack.
12
Jared Gaither
LT
25
SD
Three teams before he's 26? That's some red-flag action. But he looked great with the Bolts in 2011 and the tackle class is weak.
13
Tracy Porter
CB
25
NO
Porter's not the best corner on the board, but he's still talented and young. And he could end up being a nice value for someone.
14
Curtis Lofton
LB
25
ATL
Falcons will suffer big-time against the run if they can't get Lofton back. Not superb against the pass, but a downhill thumper.
15
Ben Grubbs
OL
27
BAL
No way Grubbs hits the market if the Ravens weren't so tied up financially with other players.
16
Matt Flynn
QB
26
GB
Maybe this is too high for Flynn. Or maybe it's not. Does anyone really know? If he's "top-15" it's just about right.
17
Michael Bush
RB
27
OAK
YPC decline is a concern and league is moving to passing, but he's a duel-purpose threat who'll be undervalued in FA.
18
Brandon Lloyd
WR
30
STL
Makes the tough catches and is a viable deep threat. Imagine if he'd actually ever gotten to play with a decent quarterback.
19
Brodrick Bunkley
DT
28
DEN
A big part of a revived rush defense for the Broncos, he's got some major value for a team needing someone to clog the lanes.
20
Jason Jones
DT
25
TEN
Jones can play outside/inside, but is more productive as a DT.
21
Carlos Rogers
CB
30
SF
Definitely some concern with age and a lack of productivity until he got to SF, but clearly talented enough to start for most teams.
22
Reggie Wayne
WR
33
IND
Most will say this is too high for the 33-year-old. But you know what I'm factoring in? Wayne catching passes from Peyton again.
23
Scott Wells
C
31
GB
Wells gets knocked for his size and age, and that's fine. But really helped groom Rodgers, played with Favre. Is tough as nails.
24
Terrell Thomas
CB
27
NYG
Might want to go back to the Giants, so this might be for naught, but if he's fully recovered from his ACL tear, he could be a steal.
25
Demetrius Bell
OT
27
BUF
Bell dealt with injuries in 2011, but this is a particularly weak tackle class, and he might be the safest bet out there.
26
Evan Mathis
OG
30
PHI
Mathis broke out in 2011 and might want to stick with Howard Mudd. But it also might be his one chance to get real paid.
27
Jeremy Mincey
DE
29
JAC
Young, talented and capable of getting after the passer.
28
John Abraham
DE
33
ATL
Abraham's still piling up sacks. But he wants $12 million a year? Really? If he's serious about that he would be lower here.
29
Mike Tolbert
RB
26
SD
A 26-year-old bowling ball out of Coastal Carolina, Tolbert's got just 341 carries in his career and has feature back upside.
30
Reggie Nelson
S
28
CIN
Nelson busted in Jacksonville but blossomed in Cincy. Could Reunion with old DB coach Kevin Croyle in Miami be in play?
31
David Hawthorne
LB
26
SEA
Stepped in for Lofa Tatupu and started 30 games the last two years, averaging more than 100 total tackles per year.
32
Paul Soliai
DT
28
MIA
Soliai was franchised in 2011 and thus too pricey for Miami now. Struggled some last year, but could be very nice value.
33
London Fletcher
LB
37
WAS
Fletcher is so very, very old. But so very, very productive.
34
Aaron Ross
CB
29
NYG
Still reasonably young, Ross had a huge second half and playoff run that's boosted his stock heavily.
35
Robert Meachem
WR
27
NO
Least-mentioned Saints FA, Meachem's been productive but not dominant for NOLA past three years. Breakout possibility.
36
Benjarvus Green-Ellis
RB
26
NE
RB is fungible for the Pats, so "Law Firm" is expendable. Never topped 230 carries in a year, averaged 4.1 YPC over last two.
37
Alex Smith
QB
27
SF
Former No. 1 overall and 49ers reportedly hit snags on a new deal. Hard to imagine him going anywhere else though.
38
Sione Pouha
DL
33
NYJ
He's older, but for a team on the rise who needs a plug in the middle, Pouha could be a great short-term option.
39
Cory Redding
DE
31
BAL
Underrated defender in a big-name defense, had 4.5 sacks in 2011 and could be a nice under-the-radar add.
40
Laurent Robinson
WR
26
DAL
Robinson finally stayed healthy in 2011 and flourished with Romo and 'Boys. Could be a steal for someone.
41
Geoff Schwartz
OL
25
CAR
Very sneaky OL target this offseason -- only 25, can play anywhere on the line, coming off injury and will be cheap.
42
Dwight Lowery
S
26
JAC
Dealt from the Jets to Jags for peanuts, Lowery drastically improved his game last season. Safety is very shallow right now.
43
Jarrett Johnson
LB
30
BAL
Will Johnson be as good when he's not playing alongside other members of the Ravens defense?
44
Mario Manningham
WR
25
NYG
Way too much value will be put on 2011 postseason and big Super Bowl catch. Has drop issues and isn't a No. 1 receiver.
45
Antonio Garay
DT
32
SD
Down 2011 really hurt his value, along with age issues.
46
Jason Campbell
QB
30
OAK
Poor Campbell: he gets bad breaks wherever he goes. Very solid backup who won't make noise about depth-chart status.
47
Pierre Garcon
WR
25
IND
Potentially following Manning? There are concerns about Garcon's fluky 2011 stats + inability to produce without PM.
48
LaRon Landry
S
27
WAS
Lots of downside for injury here. But there's lots of upside for big hits. And, of course, ridiculously muscular Twitpics.
49
Chad Henne
QB
26
MIA
In the right system, without the pressure of being a "franchise guy," really think Henne could finally get to blossom.
50
Peyton Hillis
RB
26
CLE
2011 wrecked his career. Or maybe it was just a spot on the Madden cover. Either way, there's upside and he'll be cheap.
51
LarDarius Webb
CB
26
BAL
Webb's an RFA, which is the only reason he's this low. Could be another potential player teams try to steal.
52
Mark Anderson
DE
28
NE
Led Pats in sacks (10 tied with Carter) for first double-digit sack season since his rookie year with Chicago in 2007.
53
Randy Moss
WR
35
TEN
Either way too high or way too low? Does anyone really know what he's got left in the tank? Fascinating free agent.
54
Erin Henderson
LB
25
MIN
Mini breakout after winning the starting job in 2011. Probs ahead of his brother now. Limited in number of downs he can play.
55
Joel Dreessen
TE
29
HOU
Sneaky good stats (10 TDs in two years) behind Owen Daniels.
56
Aubrayo Franklin
DT
33
NO
Meh year in NOLA in 2011. Will likely have to take short deal.
57
Josh Morgan
WR
26
SF
Missed all of 2011 because of injury, but has monster upside.
58
Tim Jennings
CB
28
CHI
Wants more money than Chicago wants to give him. The Cover-2 market ain't exactly what it used to be.
59
Dan Connor
LB
26
CAR
Underrated linebacker who can crush against the run.
60
Richard Marshall
CB
27
ARI
Improved big-time in year with Arizona vs. time with Carolina. Can play multiple positions and should command some value.
61
Amobi Okoye
DT
24
CHI
Still young and reasonably productive for Chicago last year.
62
Cedric Benson
RB
29
CIN
This might even be too high. No burst in forever. Just 3.7 YPC the last two seasons in Cincy. Total stats tell a lie about his game.
63
Andre Carter
DE
32
NE
Carter led Pats in sacks despite only playing 14 games.
64
Eric Wright
CB
26
DET
Easier to look like a good DB with a defensive line like Detroit's.
65
Kendall Langford
DE
26
MIA
Solid in Miami's 3-4 for most of 2011.
66
Joe Mays
LB
26
DEN
Run-stuffing specialist can't play every down, but fits a need.
67
Martellus Bennett
TE
25
DAL
Never met expectations in Dallas. Decent receiver, better blocker.
68
Samson Satele
C
27
OAK
Part of Oakland's purge, Satele plays needed position well.
69
Kyle Orton
QB
29
KC
No real upside here of course, but makes sense as a backup to push a potentially stagnant starter for playing time.
70
Derek Landri
DT
28
PHI
Philly would love him back for depth. Marriage makes sense -- productive year in Juan Castillo's new Wide-9 defense.
71
Leroy Hill
LB
29
SEA
Off-field issues are a concern, even with the recent dismissal.
72
Manny Lawson
LB
27
CIN
Down season with Cincy will make him cheap to sign. Again.
73
Jeff Backus
LT
34
DET
Gotten steadier with age. Seems like a Lion for life though.
74
John Carlson
TE
27
SEA
Still young, once productive. Needs to avoid injuries, get a QB.
75
Jake Scott
OL
30
TEN
Only other issue besides age is how good he'd be away from Tennessee.
76
Trevor Laws
DT
26
PHI
Bad year in Philly's scheme hurts his value.
77
Justin Forsett
RB
26
SEA
Not a feature back but great change-of-pace option for low cost.
78
E.J. Henderson
LB
31
MIN
Once studly linebacker not the same guy anymore.
79
Kareem McKenzie
OT
32
NYG
Unsteady in 2011, but his team won a SB. Should help him.
80
Shaun Rogers
DT
33
NO
Decent year went largely unnoticed in New Orleans.
81
Dan Koppen
C
32
NE
After an injury-filled 2012, looks like good bet to leave Pats. Older, but center is a position of need this offseason.
82
William Gay
CB
32
PIT
Above-average nickelback, which is actually pretty important.
83
Luis Castillo
DT
28
SD
Cut by Bolts, has injury concerns to overcome. 1 game in 2011.
84
Dave Tollefson
DE
29
NYG
Value could go up/down depending on status of broken hand.
85
Anthony Collins
OT
26
CIN
Should draw some interest in shallow tackle market. Nice upside.
86
Nick Hardwick
C
30
SD
Started every games last two years.
87
Abram Elam
S
30
DAL
Part of torched Boys secondary last year. Pretty steady though.
88
Steve Hutchinson
OG
34
MIN
Recently cut. Good news is he's still best offensive lineman to ever come out of his high school in Florida.
89
Jerricho Cotchery
WR
29
PIT
Quiet 2011 will make him reasonable to re-sign. Quality player.
90
Jacob Tamme
TE
26
IND
He's no Dallas Clark, but he's better than Clark right now.
91
Juqua Parker
DE
33
PHI
Decent pass-rusher who's likely moving on from Philly.
92
Channing Crowder
LB
28
MIA
Outspoken early retiree should be able to find work easily.
93
Pat Sims
DT
26
CIN
Young guy who can stuff the run. Not premium, but deal-worthy.
94
Jerome Simpson
WR
26
CIN
Hail Mary in case he clears marijuana charges, suspension.
95
Ryan Grant
RB
29
GB
Averaged 90 yards from scrimmage and 4.95 YPC in final five games of 2011. Still not a feature back by any stretch.
96
Ted Ginn
WR
26
SF
Value comes more as a return specialist than straight WR.
97
Chilio Rachal
OL
25
SF
Lost his gig in 2011, but could bounce back on the cheap.
98
Eddie Royal
WR
25
DEN
Former Hokie is still young, might just need a decent QB.
99
Brandon Meriweather
S
28
CHI
Hard-hitter is still young and could have upside. Maybe.
100
Vince Young
QB
28
PHI
Young's not going to start and he shouldn't try to. But he might still have upside as a backup. Maybe. Right?

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