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Free agent update: Market slowing, but worthy talent remains

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Cornerback Lardarius Webb could still get a deal the Ravens are not able to match. (US Presswire)  
Cornerback Lardarius Webb could still get a deal the Ravens are not able to match. (US Presswire)  

Things are really starting to lean out in the free agent talent pool. With close to 235 players already signing contracts with either a new team or their old team, the list of available free agents certainly doesn't look like the one I posted March 11. There are still a few gems and, of course, a few bargains.

I am in Palm Beach, Fla., at the owners meetings and it certainly feels like free agency is headed to the back burner when these meetings are over. Here's my updated free agent board, with eight offensive linemen remaining who could really bolster the back end of a lot of rosters.

1. Mike Wallace, WR (Restricted): Look at what the veteran wide receivers got in free agency and look at the draft class and you will realize Wallace is a bargain. He's 26 years old with a 19 yard average per reception. A late first-round pick will not deliver a player as good as him and someone should make him an offer. Don't worry about what he's supposedly looking for in a contract, he doesn't want to be franchised tagged two times over the next three years.

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1a. Lardarius Webb, CB Restricted: The top 15 corners have been signed in free agency and Webb is better than at least half of them. The Ravens are tight against the salary cap just like the Steelers and may struggle to keep Webb if someone comes after him.

2. Dallas Clark, TE: He was hurt last year and his production was down. He is still a very solid receiver and should land in Denver, even though they signed Jacob Tamme. Granted his production fell off the past two years when he only played 16 of 32 games but he's still capable of a 60-reception season.

3. London Fletcher, MLB: He may be old, but he can still lead a defense, make all the adjustments and crank out 90 tackles a year. There are more teams that need him than are willing to admit.

4. Antonio Garay, NT: He is the Chargers starting nose tackle. He forces double teams and can rush the passer.

5. Luis Castillo, DE: He has injury history but is picking up interest from 3-4 teams as a third "5 technique". When healthy, he can still play at a Pro Bowl level.

6. Dave Tolefson, DT: Tolefson is a utility defensive lineman who has gathered momentum in the last few weeks as the defensive line population has dwindled.

7. Manny Lawson, OLB: Lawson is a former first-round pick that was a disappointment for the past few years but he is a starter and has some pass rush skills. He will be signed sooner rather than later in this league.

8. Jeff Faine, OC: The 31-year-old center is still capable of starting. Last year he started 15 games, gave up 1 ½ sacks, and Josh Freeman told me how much he counted on him over the past two years. Faine has started all 117 games he has been active in the NFL.

9. Jericho Cotchery, WR: Cotchery is just turning 30 and has 374 receptions in the NFL. He is a smooth route runner and has dependable hands. He will make an excellent fourth receiver on most teams.

10. David Hawthorne, ILB: Hawthorne has started 41 games in the past three seasons at multiple linebacker spots. A versatile, 27-year-old linebacker is a good man to put on any team.

11. Jo Lonn Dunbar, LB: The 27-year-old linebacker has steadily got more starts in each of his four NFL seasons. Last year was his most productive season with 14 starts, 54 tackles, one sack, six passes defended and two forced fumbles.

12. Demetrius Bell, OT: The pool of veteran offensive tackles is thin. Bell is a raw 28 years old with 30 NFL starts. A solid candidate for a swing tackle spot on a roster.

13. Cedric Benson, RB: He's aging and may have to take a one-year deal to get into a camp but he has rushed for more than 1,000 yards in each of the last three seasons. Since 2009, he has 3,429 rushing yards, 19 touchdowns, and 60 receptions.

14. Vernon Carey, OG: Carey is a former first-round pick with 107 NFL starts. The 31-year-old has played guard and tackle. Last year he had one penalty against him all year and gives up an average of four sacks a year.

15. Jake Scott, OG: Scott is 31 years old with 121 starts. He has only given up three sacks in his last 48 starts. Scott hasn't missed a start in the last seven years.

16. Anthony Herrera, OG: The 32-year-old former starter for the Vikings hasn't completed a 16-game season since 2008. He can line up for a number of teams but with all the guards still available in free agency he may have to settle for a one-year deal.

17. James Hall, DE: Hall is 35, with 31 starts in the last two years. He probably should be a situational pass rusher at this point in the career. In his last 31 starts, he has 16 1/2 sacks, 87 tackles and six forced fumbles.

18. Marcus McNeil, OT: McNeil hasn't had a 16-game season since 2009. He is 29 with 82 starts. Last year in nine starts he had six false starts and gave up three sacks. He has left tackle skills and would be a good swing tackle.

19. Aubrayo Franklin, NT: Franklin is a 32-year-old who has to be considered a backup candidate at this point in his career. Last year he started only nine games, even though he was active for 16. He had 12 tackles all year. As for sacks, he has just four in nine years.

20. Anthony Hargrove, DL: Hargrove is a 29-year-old non-starter who could add depth to a roster, but not much more. He had 12 tackles and three sacks last year

21. Matt Roth, DE: Roth, 29, has started the last 25 games he's been active over the past two seasons. At this point, he is probably a backup. In his last 25 games, he has seven sacks and 77 tackles. Roth has played for three different teams in the last three years.

22. Billy Volek, QB: He recently became a free agent because of a salary cap issue. He's 36 and hasn't started a game since 2005. In fact, he only has 10 starts all time. I had a GM say they have him higher on their free agent board than Matt Leinart or Vince Young, which is hard to believe, but that's why he's on this list.

23. Philip Wheeler, LB: Wheeler is a 28-year-old linebacker with special teams' coverage skills. Last season was his best with 11 starts, 44 tackles, and one forced fumble. He's a depth player for any team in need of a fourth linebacker in a 4-3 defense.

24. Kevin Smith, RB: Kevin has dealt with injuries in his four-year career. The reality is teams will stay away from a guy like this, but when healthy he has been impressive. Last year in just seven games for the Lions he had 535 total yards and seven touchdowns.

25. Ryan Grant, RB: The 30-year-old Grant has an injury history but managed to start 14 games for the Packers last year and still averaged 4.2 per carry. He's a zone scheme runner who could be added late if a team misses on drafting a running back.

26. O.J. Atogwe, S: OJ is probably a third safety at this point in his career. The last three games of the 2011 season should be enough for him to get a contract. As a non-starter, he had 15 tackles, two interceptions and three passes defended.

27. Kyle Kosier, OG: Kosier was recently released by the Cowboys and is now more of a swing guard at 34. He has started 45 of his last 48 games and gave up 6 ½ sacks in those games. He may not get signed until teams have injuries during camp, but he is an insurance policy as a backup.

28. Geno Hayes, LB: The former Tampa Bay Buccaneer is 25 and has 42 starts in the last three years. He has 196 tackles in those games and could serve as a solid backup and special teams player.

29. Jason Brown, C: Brown is a 29-year-old center who missed just two starts in the last five years. In the last two seasons he has eight false start penalties, three holding calls and gave up seven sacks.


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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