Even After 21 Franchise Tags, Free Agent Market Looks Deep

Posted by Mike Wobschall on March 6, 2012 – 7:52 am

Much of our discussion on the Blog recently has centered on the Combine and/or the NFL draft. But over the next week or so, the focus will shift toward free agency. The free agency signing period begins on March 13, but there’s already a lot about which to discuss with regard to free agency.

So let’s get to it.

Monday was deadline day for teams to designate franchise players, and when all was said and done at 3:00 CT, a grand total of 21 teams had chosen to retain a player scheduled to be a free agent via the franchise tag, which essentially guarantees the player a 1-year salary at a predetermined value. The full list of players tagged by their teams is contained in the previous blog entry. A record number of teams used the tag this year, as the 21 tags in 2012 surpasses by 7 the next highest number from a recent offseason.

But even with so many players taken out of the potential free agent market, there are still plenty of good players who will hit the market next week. We’ll go further in-depth on many of these players over the next week, and in fact we’ll discuss those players – and other Vikings issues – in great deal tomorrow during the Free Agency Preview Live Chat.

For now, though, I’ll simply list several of the players who are likely presiding at or near the top of fans’ wish lists for free agency. Keep in mind, I’m not entirely convinced the Vikings are going to be huge players in free agency, but I’ve been wrong plenty of times in the past. So perhaps the team will be more active than anticipated. Even if the Vikings aren’t one of the most free-spending teams early in free agency, I believe this year’s class is deep enough that teams choosing to shop on the 2nd or 3rd tier of the market will still find plenty of talent to supplement their roster.

Another factor to keep in mind is that plenty of teams still have some salary shedding to do, meaning the free agent market will be fortified even further by clubs who choose to cut players from their roster in order to create cap space. For example, the Arizona Cardinals are expected to cut OT Levi Brown and the San Diego Chargers will reportedly cut OT Marcus McNeill. So there you have two starting-caliber LTs who will enter this market and inflate the talent level. While the Vikings may not be looking to add a starting-caliber free agent LT, other teams may cut starting-caliber players at other positions that might interest the Vikings.

Again, we’ll get into more detail on all these players throughout the week, but for now here’s an abbreviated list of players scheduled to be free agents beginning on March 13.

Primary free agent market by position
QB: Matt Flynn
RB: Cedric Benson, LeGarrette Blount (RFA), BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Mike Tolbert
WR: Marques Colston, Pierre Garcon, Vincent Jackson, Brandon Lloyd, Laurent Robinson, Mike Wallace (RFA), Reggie Wayne
TE: Scott Chandler, Visanthe Shiancoe
OT: Demetrius Bell, Vernon Carey, Jared Gaither, Barry Richardson, Adam Snyder
OG/C: Matt Birk, Mike Brisiel, Dan Connolly, Ben Grubbs, Nick Hardwick, Evan Mathis, Carl Nicks, Dan Koppen, Chris Myers, Chilo Rachal, Samson Satele, Scott Wells
DT: Brodrick Bunkley, Jonathan Fanene, Jason Jones, Antonio Garay, Sione Pouha, Paul Soliai
LB: David Hawthorne, E.J. Henderson, Erin Henderson, DeAndre Levy, Curtis Lofton, Stephen Tulloch, Mario Williams
CB: Brandon Carr, Cortland Finnegan, Tracy Porter, Carlos Rogers, Aaron Ross, Terrell Thomas, Lardarius Webb, Eric Wright
S: Husain Abdullah, Thomas DeCoud, LaRon Landry, Reggie Nelson

Secondary free agent market by position
QB: Jason Campbell, Chad Henne, Kyle Orton, Alex Smith
RB: Michael Bush, Ryan Grant, Tim Hightower, Peyton Hillis
FB: Jacob Hester, Marcel Reese (UFA)
WR: Plaxico Burress, Early Doucet, Harry Douglas, Ted Ginn Jr., Mario Manningham, Robert Meachem, Jerome Simpson, Roy Williams
TE: Jake Ballard (RFA), Martellus Bennett, Jeremy Shockey
OT: Jeff  Backus, Khalif Barnes, King Dunlap, Brandon Keith, Max Starks, Guy Whimper
OG/C: Jacob Bell, Ryan Diem, Ramon Foster (RFA), Kory Lichtensteiger (RFA), Nate Livings, Deuce Lutui, Paul McQuistan, Chad Rinehart (RFA),
DE: John Abraham, Mark Anderson, Andre Carter, Shaun Ellis
DT: Aubrayo Franklin, Kelly Gregg
LB: Keith Brooking, Dan Connor, London Fletcher, Leroy Hill, Jameel McClain, Philip Wheeler
CB: Ronde Barber, Chris Carr, Richard Marshall, William Gay
S: Jordan Babineaux, Sean Jones, Jim Leonhard, Darion Stewart (RFA)

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