We’re a week away from the start of free agency, so let’s rank the division’s top 10 free agents.
We’re talking only true unrestricted free agents with expiring contracts and not guys that already have been released (like Michael Turner last week).
1. Brent Grimes, cornerback, Falcons. Grimes’ No. 1 ranking comes partly because he’s good and partly because cornerback is a premium position. Even though he’s coming off a major injury, he’s going to get paid big money by Atlanta or some other team.
2. Michael Bennett, defensive end, Buccaneers. He’s an all-around defensive end who has just hit his prime. I’m somewhat surprised the Bucs haven’t already locked him up.
4. Sam Baker, left tackle, Falcons. He had a solid 2012 season. He may not be great, but I don’t see where the Falcons are going to find anyone better.
5. Dwan Edwards, defensive tackle, Panthers. He was a bright spot last season and the Panthers need to keep him.
6. Tony Gonzalez, tight end, Falcons. I’m ranking him low because it’s unclear if he wants to retire. If Gonzalez decides to play, he jumps toward the top of the list.
7. Captain Munnerlyn, cornerback, Panthers. He’s undersized, but plays with a chip on his shoulder. At best, he could be a starter in the right situation. At worst, he can be a quality third corner.
8. Jermon Bushrod, left tackle, Saints. He’s been a solid player, but the Saints have cap limitations. They also prefer to pay their interior linemen big money and get by with bargains on the outside.
9. Ronde Barber, safety, Buccaneers. It remains to be seen if the Bucs want Barber back. It also remains to be seen if Barber wants to play another year. If he does, someone will sign him.
10. Roy Miller, defensive tackle, Buccaneers. The final spot came down to a choice between Miller and New Orleans defensive tackle Sedrick Ellis. A former first-round pick, Ellis has been a disappointment. Someone will sign him because there is talent there. But I’d sign Miller first because you know the effort will be there.