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Top 30 free agents: Time to restock for the second wave

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Medical issues are an issue for Laron Landry, but he's in shape and can play. (US Presswire)  
Medical issues are an issue for Laron Landry, but he's in shape and can play. (US Presswire)  

Well, 23 of my first top 30 board are gone, as expected. The first shock wave of signings is over, and there were more than 70 players changing teams in the first six days. Guaranteed money wasn't hard to come by for a lot of those 70, which doesn't include players who decided to stay with their original team. The top seven wide receivers combined for $120 million guaranteed.

Now, the second week of free agency is under way, and there are still a number of quality players looking for work. Peyton Manning leads the revised top 30 -- which changed Sunday when Matt Flynn agreed to terms with the Seahawks -- and there are a number of veterans who were under contract a week ago who were released and made it to this week's list.

At least 30 veterans with significant starting experience have joined the ranks of the unemployed. Consider for a second what has happened at offensive guard in the last 10 days: Players like Robert Gallery, Kyle Kosier, Anthony Herrera, Steve Hutchinson (already signed) and Eric Steinbach became options for teams in need of an interior lineman.

Eleven backup quarterbacks got a contract in the first week, which is a bit surprising. Nine offensive guards signed deals, as well as a late rush on centers with six locking down deals.

(**--indicates player wasn't available for free agency when the March 11 list was created.)

1. Peyton Manning, QB: Down to three teams (Denver, Tennessee, San Francisco), and the pressure is on to pick a team. Mark my words, the contract will escalate to the $100 million range by time he signs. Manning could be looking way past his playing days and the potential for ownership before he makes the final call.

2. Mike Wallace, WR: An restricted free agent who may not get an offer sheet this spring, but at 26 and super productive, someone down the bottom of the first round should make a run at him. The Patriots signed, Brandon Lloyd so they appear out of the hunt. San Francisco just signed Mario Manningham to go along with Randy Moss, which all but eliminates them. He could really help the Ravens -- or how dangerous would the Giants be with Hakim Nicks, Victor Cruz and Wallace?

3. Alex Smith, QB: If Alex waits to see if Peyton Manning comes to the 49ers, his market may be dried up. The Niners reportedly offered him a three-year deal, and he said he was OK with it, but he's still free. A team should make a play for him before the Manning decision. He did throw 17 touchdowns last year and only five interceptions. A former head coach said, "I know more about Smith than Flynn."

4. Mike Tolbert, RB: I was surprised he's still on the board and Peyton Hillis is signed. I said it before and I'll say it again: He is a very good fit in Pittsburgh, but the Steelers' cap issues and having enough space to keep Wallace if someone goes after him could affect their decision to sign Tolbert at this point in the process.

**5. Kamerion Wimbley, OLB: Just released for salary cap reasons, the 29-year-old pass rusher has 94 starts and 43 sacks. He will garner interest but not the big money. A deal like the one Kendall Langford just signed with the Rams (four years, $24 million, $12 million guaranteed) might be more realistic for a guy who should generate six or seven sacks.

6. Laron Landry, S: Medical issues are an issue, but he is a fine player and in super shape. He's the kind of guy the Patriots would take a chance on at this point in his career. Look for him to decide later this week after visiting a few teams to push up the price.

7. Stephen Tulloch, ILB: The market for inside linebackers has been extremely quiet. Outside of Dan Connor to Dallas and Kirk Morrison returning to Buffalo, not much action. I expect that to change over the next week or so. Tulloch, a 27-year-old player with 61 starts, 396 tackles, 7½ sacks, four interceptions, 17 passes defended and eight fumble recoveries, will get a deal.

8. Curtis Lofton, ILB: At 26, Lofton is in the same boat as Tulloch, but there appears to be more interest in him. He has been a starter since Day 1, with 63 starts in four years. He has 343 tackles, four sacks, 14 passes defended, and three interceptions.

9. Lardarius Webb, CB: A top corner but restricted. A team would have to surrender their first-round pick to the Ravens, but there is some interest. I wouldn't expect an offer until April if he gets one at all. With more than a dozen corners already getting new contracts, the market could be drying up.

10. BenJarvus Green Ellis, RB: A solid young running back, only 27 years old with 24 rushing touchdowns in the past two years. He'll head back to New England if he can't get a deal. For teams that believe Trent Richardson will be gone before they select, the "Law Firm" is a good answer. Cincinnati, Cleveland, Pittsburgh and Tampa Bay should think about it.

11. Tracy Porter, CB: Not many corners left on the free-agent board, and he may be the best of the rest. He is 26 years old with 39 starts, seven interceptions, and 33 passes defended but has not completed a 16-game season.

12. Michael Bush, RB: A team like the Bengals or Steelers looking for a big back has to consider Bush. He is coming off his most productive season with 1,395 total yards and eight touchdowns.

13. Antonio Garay, NT: Garay battled injuries earlier in his career but is durable now and very tough. Now that Sione Pouha and Paul Soliai are off the market, he is the best remaining 3-4 nose tackle.

**14. Dallas Clark, TE: His production fell off over the past two years due to injury. He has only played in 16 of the past 32 games with 71 receptions and five touchdowns. I had a GM tell me last week he prefers his younger Colts teammate Jacob Tamme over him, but Clark could be following Peyton Manning wherever he winds up.

15. Erin Henderson, ILB: Teams that have done their homework like Henderson if the price is right. I thought the Vikings would have re-signed him earlier but until Tulloch and Lofton are gone he may sit and wait.

**16. Robert Gallery, OG: Injuries are an issue for the former first-round player. He has only played in 30 of the past 48 games. A contract might reflect his medical issues, but he is tough and experienced in the zone blocking scheme.

17. Early Doucet, WR: He is 27 years old and coming off his best year as a pro. Early only has 11 career starts but is a nice fit as a third wide receiver. Last season he had 54 receptions, 689 yards, and 5 touchdowns.

18. Aaron Ross, CB: Ross played well last year, especially down the stretch. He started all four playoff games last year, including the Super Bowl. A quality depth corner to serve as a third, which really is a starter now in the NFL, is the spot for him.

19. Brodrick Bunkley, DT: He's a run stuffer who belongs in a three-man rotation. Go watch the Jets or Lions game and see at least 10 tackles combined. Not flashy, but as the price comes down, he becomes interesting. He's only 29 and could play a few more years.

20. Reggie Nelson, S: The former first-round pick is 29, started all 16 games last year for the Bengals and was in on 82 tackles, with two sacks, four interceptions, and 12 passes defended. He will find work shortly.

21. Mark Anderson, DE: A 29-year-old with 10 sacks last year for the Patriots, he will not be unemployed much longer.

22. London Fletcher, ILB: Sure he's old and probably belongs back in a Redskins uniform, but he still makes plays. The 37-year-old MLB had 96 tackles, eight passes defended, two interceptions, and 1½ sacks last year. Oh by the way, he's a leader.

**23. Kyle Kosier, OG: He was just released by the Cowboys, but he could be a solid swing guard. In his past 45 starts, he has given up just six sacks. That's one every 7½ games. He had one false start penalty and no holding calls last year in 16 starts.

24. Demetrius Bell, OT: He's raw for a 28-year-old, but he does have 30 starts with just one holding call and 11 sacks given up. He would be a solid swing tackle.

25. Jericho Cotchery, WR: The former fourth-round pick in 2005 is just turning 30 years old. He is a solid No. 3 receiver with good hands and route-running skills. He was at the other end of Philip Rivers passes in college and would add depth to a team like the Chargers. He has 374 NFL receptions.

26. David Hawthorne, ILB: He has 41 starts in the past three seasons, and the 27-year-old backer can play most of the positions. Last season he was in on 73 tackles, with six passes defended and three interceptions. If he doesn't return to Seattle he could help teams like Detroit or Philadelphia.

27. Jeff Faine, C: The 31-year-old center just came on the market. He started 15 games last year gave up 1½ sacks and had three penalties called against him. He has started all 117 games he has been active for in his career. It's getting hard to find experienced players as free agency rolls on.

28. Cedric Benson, RB: Benson has three back-to-back 1,000-yard rushing seasons and 3,429 yards and 19 touchdowns on the ground since 2009. Throw in 60 receptions and one TD, and he can still play. A year ago, people wondered about Willis McGahee.

29. Ted Ginn, WR: A solid return man and a decent fourth or fifth receiver. In the past two years, he has averaged close to 13 yards a punt return and 25 yards a kick return. He has three return touchdowns in the past two seasons and should add 20 to 30 receptions.

30. Eric Steinbach, OG: He's started 124 of his 125 NFL games and hasn't had a holding call on him in five years. The 32-year-old is still starter caliber in the league.


Pat Kirwan has been around the league since 1972, serving in a variety of roles. He was a scout for the Cardinals and Buccaneers, a coach for the Jets as well as the team's Director of Player Administration where he negotiated contracts and managed the team's salary cap. He is the author of Take Your Eye Off the Ball: How to Watch Football by Knowing Where to Look, and the host of Sirius NFL Radio's Moving the Chains.
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