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CBSSports.com Senior NFL Columnist

Let's make a match: Finding the best free agent for your team

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Until that QB is set free, Robert Mathis will be the most coveted Colt on the market. (Getty Images)  
Until that QB is set free, Robert Mathis will be the most coveted Colt on the market. (Getty Images)  

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Who is the best NFL free-agent match for each team?

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It's not easy to do. Some teams need a ton of help, so picking one is tough. Others need specific needs, but who's the right guy?

I've come up with a best-match free agent for each of the 32 teams. In doing so, I've eliminated players like Saints quarterback Drew Brees, Eagles receiver DeSean Jackson, Bears running back Matt Forte and Cardinals defensive end Calais Campbell, players who we pretty much are assured of getting the franchise tag.

I also didn't include Peyton Manning, since he is not yet free.

All other players are fair game. Some of the top players are listed more than once, since they would be ideal for several teams.

After all, how many teams would love a top rush player like Mario Williams or a top cover corner like Brandon Carr?

Remember, this is a just an exercise, and by no means am I stating these players will sign with these teams.

We're just playing the pre-free agency guessing game.

It's fun to speculate and try and match the player to the team.

Arizona Cardinals

Best match: Colts DE/OLB Robert Mathis

The Cardinals need to find somebody who can rush the passer from the outside linebacker position. Mathis has been a down end, but he could easily make the transition to rush linebacker with his speed.

Atlanta Falcons

Best match: Falcons CB Brent Grimes

Keeping your own makes sense here. Grimes is a good young player who the Falcons badly want to keep. But what will the price be? He's good, not great.

Baltimore Ravens

Best match: Ravens RB Ray Rice

Sometimes the best thing is to keep your own. In this case, that would be the right move. Rice is 25 and a big part of the team's offense and should be even more so. The Ravens could franchise him to make sure he stays.

Buffalo Bills

Best match: Texans DE Mario Williams

They are going to a 4-3 and they do not have an elite pass rusher from the outside. He would team with second-year player Marcel Dareus to form a solid 1-2 punch on that front.

Carolina Panthers

Best match: Chiefs CB Brandon Carr

Carr could team with Chris Gamble to form a solid pair of corners. Gamble played well last season and Carr has outstanding man-cover skills. The Panthers could also consider a defensive tackle.

Chicago Bears

Best match: Chiefs WR Dwayne Bowe

The Bears have to get some help on the outside for Jay Cutler. Their receivers just can't get it done on a consistent basis. Bowe would help change that.

Cincinnati Bengals

Best match: Bills WR Steve Johnson

Jerome Simpson is a free agent and has some legal issues, and they need a weapon opposite A.J. Green. Johnson would be the perfect complement to the taller Green.

Cleveland Browns

Best match: Packers QB Matt Flynn

Some will wonder if he isn't just a small upgrade over Colt McCoy. But he has a better arm and he knows the system. It would be a good move to sign him.

Dallas Cowboys

Best match: Brandon Carr

They have to improve their corner play. It was a big problem last season. Carr could step in and be an immediate help -- especially in man coverage.

Denver Broncos

Best match: Saints CB Tracy Porter

Champ Bailey is getting up in years and they need an upgrade on the other side. Porter is young at 26 and has shown he can play at a high level.

Detroit Lions

Best match: Titans CB Cortland Finnegan

Finnegan played for Jim Schwartz when the Lions coach was the defensive coordinator in Tennessee. The Lions also happen to have a huge need at corner.

Green Bay Packers

Best match: Brandon Carr

They had problems in coverage last season, and they could sign Carr and move Charles Woodson to safety. That would help in a lot of ways.

Houston Texans

Best match: Texans C Chris Myers

Myers is a big part of what they do in running the ball. He is perfect for the cut-block scheme. He needs to be a big priority, especially since they won't be able to afford Williams.

Indianapolis Colts

Best match: Seahawks DL Red Bryant

By switching to the 3-4, they need a big, strong defensive end. Bryant is that and more. He's a rising player who can grow as they rebuild.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Best match: Mario Williams

They haven't had a dominant edge rusher since Tony Brackens retired in 2002. Williams would come in and start at right defensive end to go with a pair of good young tackles and Jeremy Mincey, if he is re-signed, at the other end.

Kansas City Chiefs

Best match: Dolphins NT Paul Soliai

They need a run stuffer in the middle of their defense. Soliai would bring that to a unit that needs it.

Miami Dolphins

Best match: Robert Mathis.

Whether they use 3-4 or 4-3, Mathis would be a fit as a complement to Cameron Wake.

Minnesota Vikings

Best match: Chargers WR Vincent Jackson

This is a team that needs threats down the field. Jackson averaged more than 18 yards per catch in 2011 and would help open up the underneath stuff for Percy Harvin.

New England Patriots

Best match: Lions DE Cliff Avril

This is a team that needs to get better at rushing the passer and Avril is a young player who is coming off an 11-sack season. They have to work on fixing that defense.

New Orleans Saints

Best match: Saints G Carl Nicks

The Saints will either sign Drew Brees or tag him, otherwise he would be the obvious choice for a lot of teams as well as the Saints. So I go with Nicks. The Saints have to be good inside for Brees because he's a short quarterback. That's why Nicks and fellow guard Jahri Evans are so valuable.

New York Giants

Best match: Packers TE Jermichael Finley

They had two tight ends go down in the Super Bowl with torn ACLs. Could you imagine what Finley would add to this explosive passing game?

New York Jets

Best match: Robert Mathis

They need to get some pressure from the edge. Mathis would be forced to move to an outside linebacker in their defense, but he can do it.

Oakland Raiders

Best match: Brandon Carr

The Raiders love to play man coverage and Carr is one of the best. He has the Oakland look about him. Plus, he knows the division.

Philadelphia Eagles

Best match: Redskins LB London Fletcher

The Eagles had big problems at middle linebacker and Fletcher is coming off one of his best seasons. He is 37, so the contract would have to be team friendly. For a few years, it would make sense.

Pittsburgh Steelers

Best match: Chargers LT Jared Gaither

Gaither played really well for the Chargers late in the season, proving that he has overcome his back issues. Steelers left tackle Max Starks is a free agent, so Gaither, who is younger, would make a lot of sense.

St. Louis Rams

Best match: Dwayne Bowe

The Rams desperately need help for Sam Bradford and Bowe is a good receiver who has been plagued by bad quarterback play. Could you imagine him and Bradford in St. Louis?

San Diego Chargers

Best match: Cowboys OLB Anthony Spencer

Where has the pass rush been the past few seasons? Spencer hasn't lived up to the hype, but he has the ability to rush from the outside at times. He could be a boom-or-bust signing.

San Francisco 49ers

Best match: Steve Johnson

They have to get better in the passing game. Michael Crabtree hasn't been as good as expected, so it's time to add another threat outside.

Seattle Seahawks

Best match: Matt Flynn

Hey, they have to try and upgrade that position again. Flynn is a risk, but sometimes you need to take those chances.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Best match: Brett Grimes

They need help on the corner in the worst way and Grimes would provide that and weaken a division opponent in the process.

Tennessee Titans

Best match: Raiders S Tyvon Branch

Michael Griffin is likely gone and Branch would be an upgrade. He is coming off one of his best seasons.

Washington Redskins

Best match: Saints WR Marques Colston

They need to get a reliable pair of hands in their offense. Colston could really be a big help to a team that needs it in the worst way.


Pete Prisco has covered the NFL for three decades, including working as a beat reporter in Jacksonville for the Jaguars. He hosted his own radio show for seven years, and is the self-anointed star of CBS Sports' show, Eye on Football. When he's not watching game tape, you can find Pete on Twitter or dreaming of an Arizona State national title in football.
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