Free agency: What players should be top priorities to keep, team by team
Jairus Byrd. Karlos Dansby. Antonio Smith. Michael Johnson. Here's free advice on what untagged players should be signing priorities for every team.
Now that the franchise tags and transition tags are set, and we know who will be available when the free-agent market opens March 11, it's a good time to give advice to the 32 teams on which of their players they should bring back.
Some are obvious. One is the Buffalo Bills bringing back safety Jairus Byrd , a top player at his position at a time when free safeties who can run are at a premium. Yet the Bills chose to not put the franchise tag on him, which means he will hit the market. Buffalo should do what it can to bring him back.
There are other obvious choices, but some teams have so little on their free-agent list that it's tough to find one player who should be brought back. But I managed to scrape together a list for all 32 teams, one that doesn't include any of the six players who received franchise or transition tags. Here goes:
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ILB Karlos Dansby : He played well for them after signing a one-year deal last spring. He will want more this time around, but maybe they can still get him for a decent price.
DT Jonathan Babineaux : He has been around for a while and done some good things. They would like to get bigger inside, but he's still a decent player for the right money.
T Eugene Monroe : They will likely let Michael Oher walk, which makes keeping Monroe a priority. They traded to get him during the 2013 season, and he is a priority. But he will get action on the market.
S Jairus Byrd: The Bills opted not to put the tag on Byrd, which is a surprise. He will get a lot of attention from other teams, but the Bills would be foolish to let him walk.
G Travelle Wharton : With Jordan Gross retiring, they can't afford to lose another starting offensive lineman. He played well last season, but he's getting up in age.
DT Henry Melton : He is coming off an injury, but he is a good player when healthy. The contract is the issue. The Bears would love to have him back.
DE Michael Johnson : The price might be an issue, but if it's reasonable they need to bring him back. The line has a chance to be special when Geno Atkins returns with Carlos Dunlap and Johnson.
S T.J. Ward : Now that they put the transition tag on center Alex Mack , he's likely not going anywhere. So they should make signing Ward, a young safety, a top priority.
DT Jason Hatcher : They would love to have him back, but only at the right price. They don't have a lot of money. He played good football in 2013, but he's 32.
CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie : Champ Bailey is getting up in age and Chris Harris is coming off a knee injury. Rodgers-Cromartie needs to be brought back.
TE Brandon Pettigrew : It's hard to find tight ends. Yes, he's had his share of drops, but he has a lot of ability. He has flashed at times.
Green Bay Packers
CB Sam Shields : Yes, he is not the bigger corner teams love now. But he's done some good things against some bigger receivers and he has nice man-cover skills. The money will be key to his return. The Packers would like him back.
DE Antonio Smith : I know he's not a kid anymore, but he can still play at a high level. And he's a good player to have in the locker room.
CB Vontae Davis : He is a top-level cover corner who is coming off a good season when he was healthy. They traded to get him from Miami, so keeping him makes sense.
QB Chad Henne : He isn't a must, but they want him back to be their starter until they can find a franchise passer. Henne did some good things last season, but he's more of a stop-gap guy, keeping the seat warm.
Kansas City Chiefs
G Jon Asomoah or Geoff Schwartz : They have to keep one of the two players who split time at right guard last season.
DT Randy Starks : He is getting up in years but he still plays at a high level. They will likely make a choice between Starks and Paul Soliai .
DE Everson Griffin: You would think I would say Jared Allen . But I opt for the younger defensive end. He might come cheaper.
New England Patriots
CB Aqib Talib : With so many teams spreading it out on offense, it's key to have a top corner. Talib is that. When he was out, it showed on the field.
New Orleans Saints
RT Zach Strief : With Jimmy Graham getting the franchise tag, they need to bring back a right tackle who played well in 2013. Strief isn't great, but he fits with what they do on offense.
New York Giants
DT Linval Joseph : He is a power player in the run game, which the Giants need. He doesn't offer much in terms of the pass rush.
New York Jets
RT Austin Howard : He is young and improving, which are two traits you want if re-signing a guy. He isn't top-level, but he's good enough as a starter.
DE Lamarr Houston : He is their best defender and is coming off a good season. At 25, it's rare to see a lineman of his age come free. The Raiders need to get him back.
Nobody. They've already re-signed Riley Cooper and Jeremy Maclin . That's enough.
NT-DE Al Woods : He did some good thing last season and he's 26. The price would be decent, too. The price for Emmanuel Sanders , a receiver, would not be. So I go with Woods.
St. Louis Rams
G Rodger Saffold : He wasn't great at tackle, but when he moved inside to guard he played well. They need to find a way to keep him on a line that could lose some guys.
San Diego Chargers
G Chad Rinehart : He missed time early with a toe injury, but really played well down the stretch. He was on a one-year deal after leaving Buffalo. He was really good for the Bills in 2011.
San Francisco 49ers
C Jonathan Goodwin : Their line has continuity and Goodwin fits with what they do. I think they can replace Donte Whitner easier than Goodwin.
WR Golden Tate : He knows the offense and he's a tough-guy receiver. He had a better year than most think he did. He isn't a No. 1, but he's a quality No. 2.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
LB Dekoda Watson : They really don't have much hitting the market, so I went with Watson, who did some good things last season. He started three games and also played some defensive end late. At 25, He's worth keeping.
CB Alterraun Verner : He is coming off his best season, but he's 5-9 and the league is looking for bigger corners. He's worth bringing back, but at what price?
LB Perry Riley : By tagging Brian Orakpo , they will keep their top priority. Riley isn't a star, but he has been a steady player in their defense. London Fletcher is retiring and Riley is only 25. Keep him.
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