Second in a multipart series on free-agent fits at various positions leading into the start of free agency March 10.
Players under contract for 2015: Duron Harmon (2016), Patrick Chung (2017), Nate Ebner (2015), Tavon Wilson (2015), Logan Ryan (2016)
Level of need: Moderate to high
Projected top targets: Nate Allen (Eagles), Devin McCourty (Patriots)
Why Allen fits: Like McCourty, he enters his sixth NFL season and is in his prime years. The 6-foot-1, 210-pound Allen, who entered the NFL in 2010 as a second-round draft choice of the Eagles out of South Florida, is considered a strong locker-room guy whose full potential might not have been realized yet because of several coaching/scheme changes as well as a revolving door at some of the defensive back spots alongside him. He had four interceptions last season, but media observers pointed out he was late to help on several big plays on a defense that ranked 31st out of 32 teams in passing yards allowed and led the NFL in passing plays allowed of 40 yards or more last season. Perhaps he'd excel in a different scheme, similar to how Patrick Chung improved upon his move from Philadelphia to New England.
Why McCourty fits: A team captain who is already proven in the team's scheme, his fit is a slam dunk on and off the field. It will just comes down to striking a deal that works for both sides. McCourty displays excellent range in a center field-type role and is a big part of the communication on the back end of the defense. His ability to move down and play a corner role adds to his value. He's been durable, consistent, tough and puts the team first, so he's pretty much everything the club could ask for through five years.
Other names of note: Mike Adams (Colts), Tyvon Branch (Raiders), Stevie Brown (Giants), Louis Delmas (Dolphins), Marcus Gilchrist (Chargers), Rahim Moore (Broncos), Antrel Rolle (Giants).
Market conditions: The draft class is viewed as weak at the position, while the veteran free-agent class is also not considered strong. McCourty is the top free agent.
Safety-based questions: Will McCourty receive a can't-refuse-it offer in free agency and depart? Could Harmon step in to more of a full-time role if that happens? Could Ryan, who has mostly played cornerback, potentially make a McCourty-like switch to safety?