What are the requirements for any big-ticket free agent?

The first thing is talent at a premium position. The second thing is age. Is the player still an ascending one, or is he on the decline?

It’s always wise to pay for games and not names. Don’t get caught up in big-name mania, but rather focus on players who are just now arriving into that category.

With that as the backdrop, here are the top 50 free agents as we get ready for the 2017 free-agent period to begin next week.

The top player on my list is San Diego Chargers outside linebacker Melvin Ingram. He is productive, getting 18.5 sacks over the past two seasons, and he’s only 27 years old. That’s a talented player in a value spot who has a lot of good football left in his body. Bingo.

There is a chance the Chargers put the franchise tag on him – I would – but if he hits the market, he should be an early target for teams looking for edge-rush help.

Here’s the rest of the top 50:

Top 50 free agents
Melvin Ingram Los Angeles Chargers OLB
His play as an edge rusher is better than his sack numbers. He had eight last season, but he’s more disruptive than that. At 27, he should be a big-ticket item signed early in the process.
Eric Berry Kansas City Chiefs DB
The Chiefs won’t let him go, which means he’ll likely get the franchise tag. Berry said he will not play for the tag again, which means a long-term deal should follow.
Dont'a Hightower New England Patriots LB
He is a big part of New England’s defensive success the past few years and must be kept. He can rush, cover, and hold up in the run game.
Jason Pierre-Paul New York Giants DE
He came back in 2016 and had a good season for the Giants, more than a year removed from his fireworks mishap. He can rush the passer, but he’s also good against the run.
Kawann Short Carolina Panthers DT
UPDATE: The Panthers have placed the non-exclusive franchise tag on Short, whose play wasn’t as good early in 2016 as it was the year before, but he bounced back to have a nice second half. He’s a big, power player who can push the pocket inside.
A.J. Bouye Houston Texans DB
There are some concerns because he’s only done it for a year. But talking to scouts and personnel people, they all rave about his improved play and his ability to play man coverage.
Le'Veon Bell Pittsburgh Steelers RB
UPDATE: The Steelers have placed the exclusive franchise tag on Bell, who is coming off an impressive season, but he does have the off-field stuff that is always concerning.
Brandon Williams Baltimore Ravens DT
There is no better run-stuffing nose in the league. The Ravens would be nuts to let him out of their building. He is a big part of their defense.
Kevin Zeitler Cincinnati Bengals G
At 26, he has emerged as the best free-agent option on the market at guard. He is coming off two impressive seasons.
Kirk Cousins Washington Redskins QB
The Redskins will put the franchise tag on him and then probably hope to have him signed to a long-term deal after that. The question becomes, what is fair for Cousins?
Chandler Jones Arizona Cardinals DE
UPDATE: The Cardinals have put the franchise tag on Jones, which is the wise thing to do. He had 11 sacks last season in his first with the Cardinals.
Alshon Jeffery Chicago Bears WR
He played on the franchise tag last season and didn’t perform on that level, which is why he’s likely gone from Chicago. He is still a big-play receiver when he is healthy and on the field.
Calais Campbell Arizona Cardinals DT
There are a lot of teams keeping an eye on this 30-year-old defensive end. He had eight sacks last season and has continued to be a force against the run. He can play in any scheme.
Stephon Gilmore Buffalo Bills DB
He started slowly last season, but came on in the second half with some nice games against top-level receivers. He will get a nice deal on the market.
Tony Jefferson Arizona Cardinals DB
Teams looking for an underrated player should take a long, hard look at Jefferson. He is a nice tackler and played the pass much better last season.
Andrew Whitworth Cincinnati Bengals T
The 35-year-old is still playing at a high level and can help a team in need of a good left tackle. He can also play guard. The Bengals would be wise to keep him.
T.J. Lang Green Bay Packers T
This veteran guard is still a good player who will probably get a bigger deal outside of Green Bay. He said he wants to stay, but the dollars will dictate that. He’s 29 and is best in pass protection.
Martellus Bennett New England Patriots TE
He had a solid season for the Patriots last year, flashing big-time talent at times. He’s also a capable blocker.
Nick Perry Green Bay Packers LB
He gambled on a one-year deal last season and responded with 11 sacks. A lot of teams are looking for edge rushers, which will help his value.
Ricky Wagner Baltimore Ravens T
Teams in need of a good, solid right tackle should pursue Wagner. He isn’t pretty, but he gets by with his tenacity.
Larry Warford Detroit Lions G
The 25-year-old Warford bounced back after a disappointing 2015 season to play well in 2016. He can be a mauler in the run game at times.
Trumaine Johnson Los Angeles Rams CB
He played on the franchise tag last year and didn’t quite live up to expectations. Even so, it would be wise for the Rams to keep him around.
Terrelle Pryor Cleveland Browns QB
He has made the smooth transition from quarterback to receiver. The Browns should make sure he stays put.
Riley Reiff Detroit Lions T
He made a nice transition from the left side to the right side last season. There is a value in a tackle who can play both spots.
Dre Kirkpatrick Cincinnati Bengals DB
He has never quite played up to his first-round draft status, but he could be better suited in a different scheme. He might be better off playing more man coverage.
DeSean Jackson Washington Redskins WR
He can fly and teams will always get seduced by the speed. Jackson disappears at times, though, which is a concern.
Johnathan Hankins New York Giants DT
He tailed off some in 2016, but he is still a nice inside player. Bringing him back would be the right move for the Giants.
Ronald Leary Dallas Cowboys G
After La’el Collins went down with an injury, Leary stepped in and had his best season at just the right time. He is a good run blocker and solid pass protector.
JC Tretter Green Bay Packers C
At 26, he can play center, guard and even tackle. There’s great value in that. He will be a hot player come the open of the free-agent period.
Kenny Stills Miami Dolphins WR
He has the speed teams crave and need, which is why his price is going to be higher than most think. He averaged 17.3 yards per catch last season. That’s impressive.
Nick Fairley New Orleans Saints DT
He signed a one-year deal with the Saints and outplayed that contract, which is why he will get a nice deal this time around. The Saints might not be able to keep him with 2016 first-round pick Sheldon Rankins as the starter.
Logan Ryan New England Patriots DB
He might not be a Pro Bowl corner, but he’s a productive starter in a good system. That matters.
Micah Hyde Green Bay Packers DB
He can do a lot of things, and there’s great value in that. He would be perfect in New England.
Alan Branch New England Patriots NT
He was a force against the run for the Patriots the past two years, especially last season. At 32, he can still help a team looking for a one-dimensional run defender.
Mario Addison Carolina Panthers LB
UPDATE: The Panthers re-signed Addison to a three-year deal. He turns 30 this year, but he’s coming off his best season with 9.5 sacks. He has also improved against the run as he has gotten older.
Duron Harmon New England Patriots DB
He has 12 starts in his four seasons with the Patriots, but he’s been a big part of what they do in terms of sub-packages over the years. He can step in and be a nice starter for a team. He just turned 26 in January.
Chris Baker Washington Redskins DE
He has been a good run player the past few seasons, but he can also push the pocket some. He turns 30 in October, but he can still play at a high level.
Kevin Minter Arizona Cardinals LB
Teams looking for a run-stuffer at insider linebacker should take a look at Minter. He is coming off his best season and he’s only 26.
Dontari Poe Kansas City Chiefs NT
He hasn’t been the same player in recent years. He’s more name than game. But maybe a change of scenery will do him some good.
Jabaal Sheard New England Patriots DE
He had 13 sacks for the Patriots the past two seasons, but fell out of favor some with the staff last season when his production dipped from eight sacks to five. He is only 27.
Charles Johnson Carolina Panthers DE
He turns 31 this summer and is coming off a four-sack season after getting just one in 2015. He is still a solid run player and he can help as a rotation guy with the pass rush.
Prince Amukamara Jacksonville Jaguars DB
He had a good season in his one-year stint with the Jaguars, which should lead to a bigger contract elsewhere. He is a solid man-cover corner.
Pierre Garcon Washington Redskins WR
He turns 31 this August, so there has to be some concern about slowing down. He had 79 catches last season and averaged 13.2 per catch, his best since 2012.
Jared Cook Green Bay Packers TE
He played in just 10 games with five starts for the Packers last year because of injuries, but he came on late and ended with 30 catches. He then had 18 in three playoff games, which tells you the type of player he can be. Green Bay should bring him back. He turns 30 in April.
Johnathan Cyprien Jacksonville Jaguars DB
He had his best season in 2016 when he was allowed to play closer to the line, which is his strength. He isn’t great in coverage, which is why he needs to be a box safety. He is a good tackler.
Julius Peppers Green Bay Packers DE
He turned 37 in January, but insists he will continue to play on. A team looking for a veteran to spot in as a pass rusher would be wise to sign him. He had 7.5 sacks last season.
Barry Church Dallas Cowboys DB
He was the Cowboys ’ second-leading tackler last year and the coaches love him. He doesn’t have great speed, but he gets by with his savvy.
Anthony Fasano Tennessee Titans TE
Teams looking for one of the best blocking tight ends in the game should take a long look at Fasano. The Titans should keep him for their run game to click.
D.J. Swearinger Arizona Cardinals DB
He had a nice season for the Cardinals last year, but he is basically a box safety. He is limited in terms of coverage.
Morris Claiborne Dallas Cowboys DB
This former first-round pick was having his best season in 2016 before he got hurt. The Cowboys would love to have him back, but the price might prevent that from being possible.