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NFL free agency reset: Top 10 still available

By By The Sports Xchange
Published On: Mar 17 2014 09:54:05 AM CDT
NFL logo sign outside football stadium

Mike Segar/Reuters

Call it a frenzy, call it madness, call it whatever you want. But the first five days of the NFL league year have certainly been busy.

It started at 4 p.m. ET last Tuesday, and by Sunday 71 unrestricted free agents had changed teams, another 45 had re-signed and 15 of the almost 80 veterans that had been released had found new homes.

Sought-after offensive linemen such as Branden Albert (Kansas City to Miami) were signed quickly, followed by cornerbacks Aqib Talib and Darrelle Revis landing contracts with Denver and New England, respectively.

The market for wide receivers started slowly, with Eric Decker leaving Denver for the New York Jets and Golden Tate departing Seattle for Detroit, then picked up steam late in the week when Steve Smith signed with the Ravens after being released by Carolina, Hakeem Nicks (N.Y. Giants) signed with the Colts, Brandon LaFell (Carolina) joined the Patriots and Emmanuel Sanders left Pittsburgh for Denver.

The suddenly receiver-bereft Panthers also lost Ted Ginn (Arizona) and Domenik Hixon (Chicago), while the Patriots also re-signed Julian Edelman.

The obvious question then, as Week 2 approached is: what's left in the market? The answer is a lot of players, but many with age or injury working against them.

The Sports Xchange Top 10 Remaining Free Agents

1. DE Jared Allen, Minnesota: The 32-year-old in April Allen has indicated he will only sign somewhere if his asking price is met. With 34-year-old Julius Peppers (Green Bay) and DeMarcus Ware (32 in July, Denver) getting similar three-year contracts, there should be a market for Allen's ability.

2. CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Denver: The Broncos pulled their offer when they signed Talib and DRC might regret not signing sooner. He should get a contract he likes, but will like the team as much as did the Broncos.

3. DT Henry Melton, Chicago: The 27-year-old Melton played for the franchise tag last season, but he lasted just three games before a torn ACL ended his season. He's visited several teams, but large contracts aren't the norm following season-ending injuries.

4. C Brian de la Puente, New Orleans: A rarity at this stage of free agency, he started all 16 games last season, but will be 29 in May after needing several years to establish himself. Still, 29 is often young for a lineman.

5. WR James Jones, Green Bay: The Packers' second-leading receiver last season with Randall Cobb injured, Jones had 59 receptions for 817 yards (13.8-yard average) and three touchdowns. However, he will be 30 on March 31.

6. CB Antonio Cromartie, (released by N.Y. Jets): A large salary made him a cap casualty, and the big money likely won't be there for the 30-in-April Cromartie, whose play suffered last season because of a hip injury. Still, a healthy Cromartie would make most secondaries better.

7. S Chris Clemons, Miami: Maybe he wants too much money because Clemons still being on the market after numerous safeties were signed is surprising. Yes, he will be 29 in September, but Clemons was the Dolphins' fourth-leading tackler last season with 89.

8. RB Knowshon Moreno, Denver: The market for running backs is awful, which isn't good news for Moreno, who was a forgotten man in training camp last summer, but emerged as the starter and rushed for 1,038 yards and 13 touchdowns, including three receiving on 60 catches. No, there won't be big money but he can still help a team in a league where running is still important.

9. TE Jermichael Finley, Green Bay: He played just six games last season thanks to a spinal injury suffered against Cleveland that required surgery. Seattle has interest and a deal could be close, although Finley has yet to be cleared for contact.

10. RB Maurice Jones-Drew, Jacksonville: How much does the 29-in-March running back have left?

Best of the Rest

--QB Michael Vick, Philadelphia: Will any team trust him to stay healthy?

--WR Kenny Britt, Tennessee: If he has matured, could be a steal.

--DT Pat Sims, Oakland: Started 16 games for Oakland on a one-year deal in 2014. Will be 29 in November.

Howard Balzer is an award-winning writer and broadcaster who has covered the National Football League for more than three decades and is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame Selection Committee. He is a national columnist for The Sports Xchange and co-host on SiriusXM NFL Radio.

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