2012 NFL Free Agents: Most Crucial Re-Signing for Every Franchise This Offseason
We are down to the final four playoff teams of the 2011 season. For the other 28 NFL teams, they are left to analyze their 2011 season and continue to work on evaluating their own talent, trying to figure out which players they want to invite back, and which of their own free agents they want to sign to a new deal.
Looking at the free agents of 2012, which starts, by the way, on March 13, every team has to determine if they want to remove certain players from free agency by trying to reach a deal with them prior to March 13. For some of the free agents, especially those of the restricted variety, teams hope that any offer sheet doesn't include many poison pills that make it almost impossible to match the offer.
Some teams will be proactive in getting their own guys signed, while others will try to sweat it out and hope to get guys to sign on the dotted line by taking a hometown discount. We are going to present the major free agents for all 32 teams, and identify the most crucial free agent for each team to sign.
Notable Unrestricted Free Agents: WR Early Doucet, G Deuce Lutui, DE Calais Campbell, CB Richard Marshall, DE Vonnie Holliday, LB Clark Haggans, LS Mike Leach, P Dave Zastudil, K Jay Feely and T Brandon Keith.
Restricted Free Agents: CB Greg Toler, RB La'Rod Stephens-Howling and S Rashad Johnson.
Free Agent They Must Sign: Calais Campbell. Campbell had a strong season in 2011, contributing across the board with 72 tackles, eight sacks, 10 pass breakups and two forced fumbles. That is great production for a defensive end.
Notable Unrestricted Free Agents: LB Curtis Lofton, C Todd McClure, DE Kroy Biermann, CB Kelvin Hayden, S Thomas DeCoud, DE John Abraham, CB Brett Grimes, QB Chris Redman, RB Jason Snelling, S James Sanders, WR Eric Weems and WR Harry Douglas.
Restricted Free Agents: DT Vance Walker
Free Agent They Must Sign: Curtis Lofton. Lofton is one of the best linebackers in the NFL, and the Falcons can't afford to downgrade their defense any more than it already is. After the last two quick exits from the playoffs, the Falcons need to upgrade their defense—signing Lofton is a positive step towards that end.
Notable Unrestricted Free Agents: RB Ray Rice, LB Jarret Johnson, TE Kris Wilson, G Ben Grubbs, C Matt Birk, DE Cory Redding, S Haruki Nakamura, LB Jameel McClain and S Tom Zbikowski.
Restricted Free Agents: CB Lardarius Webb, LB Dannell Ellerbe and CB Cary Williams.
Free Agent They Must Sign: Ray Rice. Rice is the heart and soul of the Ravens offense. The offense doesn't have a ton of weapons as it is, which was proven again by the playoff game versus the Houston Texans. Losing Rice isn't even an option for the Ravens. If they can't sign him to a long-term deal, then the franchise tag isn't out of the question.
Notable Unrestricted Free Agents: WR Steve Johnson, T Demetrius Bell, TE Scott Chandler, RB Tashard Choice, CB Reggie Corner, LB Andra Davis, WR Derek Hagan, K Rian Lindell, WR Ruvell Martin, LB Kirk Morrison, WR Roscoe Parrish, S Bryan Scott and LB Reggie Torbor.
Restricted Free Agents: OL Chad Rinehart, LS Garrison Sanborn and OL Kraig Urbik.
Free Agent They Must Sign: Steve Johnson. The penalties for excessive celebration on his touchdowns is annoying to everyone connected with the Bills, but the fact is that Johnson is the player who makes the Bills offense tick, along with Fred Jackson. The Bills could still stand to land another top receiver to take some of the double coverage off of Johnson, but as Johnson proved in both games against Darrelle Revis of the New York Jets, he can be very difficult to contain due to quickness and elusiveness.
Notable Unrestricted Free Agents: WR Legedu Naanee, TE Jeremy Shockey, C/G Geoff Hangartner, LB Dan Connor and CB Cletis Gerdon.
Restricted Free Agents: G/T Geoff Schwartz
Free Agent They Must Sign: When you look at the Panthers free agent list, there really isn't one name that jumps out at you as a guy the team has to sign. With that being the case, the Panthers know that Dan Connor has potential and upside, and signing him would provide them with some depth at linebacker. So for the sake of argument, we are going with Dan Connor for the presentation.
Notable Unrestricted Free Agents: RB Matt Forte, TE Kellen Davis, DE Israel Idonije, LB Tim Jennings, CB Corey Graham, S Craig Steltz, CB Zachary Bowman and S Brandon Meriweather.
Restricted Free Agents: RB Khalil Bell.
Free Agent They Must Sign: Matt Forte. This is one of the no-brainer calls for any NFL team. The entire Chicago offense revolved around Forte, as both a rusher and a pass receiver coming out of the backfield. If the Bears for any reason can't bring him back in 2012, their offense would take many steps backwards towards being a respectable unit. Preferred course of action is a long-term deal, as opposed to slapping a franchise tag on him.
Notable Unrestricted Free Agents: RB Cedric Benson, WR Jerome Simpson, WR Andre Caldwell, LB Manny Lawson, CB Kelly Jennings, S Reggie Nelson, TE Bo Scaife, CB Pacman Jones, TE Donald Lee and G Bobbie Williams.
Free Agent They Must Sign: This is an interesting choice, as on the surface it appears that a good number of the Bengals' free agents aren't expected to be back with the team in 2012. Cedric Benson turned in another 1,000-yard-plus rushing season, but is unhappy with the number of touches that Bernard Scott is getting. Jerome Simpson and Andre Caldwell might both be allowed to walk away when free agency begins.
The one free agent who made an impact was safety Reggie Nelson, who led the Bengals defense with four interceptions. He was third on the team with 85 tackles and even came up with two sacks. He broke up 12 passes which tied him for the team lead, and also managed to force two fumbles. Nelson was a playmaker for the Bengals this year, and that is something that every team needs more of.
Notable Unrestricted Free Agents: LB D'Qwell Jackson, RB Peyton Hillis, CB Dimitri Patterson, K Phil Dawson, S Mike Adams.
Restricted Free Agents: DE Marcus Bernard
Free Agent They Must Sign: D'Qwell Jackson. Just how important is Jackson to the Browns defense? He led the team with 158 tackles—the guy in second place, Ahtyba Rubin, had 83. Jackson had one interception, forced one fumble and recovered three fumbles. He came up with 3.5 sacks and defended three passes. He also led the team with nine tackles for a loss. How do you replace that kind of talent for a guy who makes plays across the board? You don't, you just make sure that you sign him up again.
Notable Unrestricted Free Agents: WR Laurent Robinson, RB Sammy Morris, S Abram Elam, TE Martellus Bennett, LB Anthony Spencer and CB Alan Ball.
Restricted Free Agents: Tony Fiammetta
Free Agent They Must Sign: Laurent Robinson. Robinson turned heads by finishing the season as the Cowboys' No. 3 leading receiver with 858 receiving yards on the year, as he trailed TE Jason Witten and Dez Bryant. That is solid production for the No. 2 WR and means that the Cowboys will want to bring him back.
According to this ESPN article, the Cowboys sound like they are going to let Anthony Spencer test the free-agent market, which is somewhat of a surprise. Spencer had six sacks, led the team with seven tackles for a loss and forced four fumbles. It probably didn't help Spencer's cause that he admitted to mailing days in during the 2010 season. We should file that admission under occupational suicide.
Notable Unrestricted Free Agents: QB Brady Quinn, LB Mario Haggan, WR Eddie Royal, K Matt Prater, DT Brodrick Bunkley, LB Joe Mays, FB Spencer Larsen and TE Daniel Fells.
Free Agent They Must Sign: Joe Mays. When you study the above free-agent class for the Broncos, none of these names really jumps off the page at you. We select Joe Mays, because the linebacker tied for the lead in tackles for a loss with eight, and had 75 tackles on the year, which ranked third on the team. He also defended two passes, but that is where the stats end. The rest of his stat line comes up zeroes.
A stat line with even more zeroes belongs to Brodrick Bunkley, who failed to register a sack, force a fumble or create one. Matt Prater was only 3-for-7 on field goals from 40-49 yards out. Eddie Royal was No. 6 in yardage as a receiver on the team, and caught only 40 percent of the throws that targeted him. And so it goes.
Notable Unrestricted Free Agents: DE Cliff Avril, CB Eric Wright, QB Shaun Hill, LB Stephen Tulloch, QB Drew Stanton, S Erik Coleman, RB Kevin Smith, S Chris Harris, RB Maurice Morris and T Jeff Backus.
Restricted Free Agents: LB DeAndre Levy, DT Sammie Lee Hill and T Corey Hilliard.
Free Agent They Must Sign: DE Cliff Avril. Avril led the Lions with 11 sacks during the 2011 season. His stat line was filled up across the board. In addition to the sacks, he came up with two tackles for a loss, defended four passes and intercepted one pass which he returned for a touchdown. On top of that, he forced six fumbles, recovered three fumbles and returned one of them for a touchdown. Avril has to be brought back even if it means putting the franchise tag on him.
Green Bay Packers
Notable Unrestricted Free Agents: QB Matt Flynn, TE Jermichael Finley, RB Ryan Grant, C Scott Wells, CB Patrick Lee and S Jarrett Bush.
Free Agent They Must Sign: Jermichael Finley. As we saw last weekend, teams that have a dynamic tight end like Rob Gronkowski and Vernon Davis were able to go to their playmaker repeatedly for success. Finley is also in that same mold. He finished No. 2 on the Packers in catching a pass that he turned into a first down with 44. He scored eight touchdowns and had 14 catches of at least 20 yards in length. Finley averaged 13.9 yards per catch and gained 767 yards, ranking third on the team.
Notable Unrestricted Free Agents: DE/LB Mario Williams, TE Joel Dressen, G Chris Myers, CB Jason Allen, S Dominique Barber and G Mike Brisiel.
Restricted Free Agent: RB Arian Foster
Free Agent They Must Sign: I can see where Texans fans could be split of this question: Who is more important to the team, Mario Williams or Arian Foster? The answer is that both are extremely important to the team, but since Foster is a restricted free agent, the Texans only need to make Foster a qualifying offer to be able to match whatever deal he is offered. If the team has structured a poison pill that the Texans can't match, then the Texans will receive draft pick(s) based on the level of their qualifying offer.
While it is hard to envision playing somewhere else other than Houston, the same thing could be said for Mario Williams. The Texans have to be excited about how far they went this year, even though they played without Matt Schaub, Mario Williams and Andre Johnson for long stretches of the season. If Williams can return healthy in 2012, combined with what the rest of the Texans defense did, the Texans should be even more formidable.
At only 26 years of age, Williams has many years of being a disruptive force in the NFL ahead of him. The Texans would be smart to try to knock out both Williams and Foster with new deals before free agency ever begins, but will they? For the purposes of this presentation, I am going to name Mario Williams as the player the Texans need to re-sign the most. Obviously, both of them are huge priorities.
Notable Unrestricted Free Agents: WR Reggie Wayne, WR Pierre Garcon, DE Robert Mathis, LB Philip Wheeler, WR Anthony Gonzalez, TE Jacob Tamme and C Jeff Saturday.
Free Agent They Must Sign: Obviously this is a time period of huge change for the Indianapolis Colts. Firing the Polians, firing Jim Caldwell as coach and the prospect of trying to figure out what to do with Peyton Manning and that huge bonus. Will the Colts want a new stable of wide receivers that can learn on the run with Andrew Luck? Or will they want to keep their veteran receivers with the thought that Manning will start in 2012?
One thing is clear, the Colts still need help on defense. The ability to rush the passer is vital for any defense and the inability to rush the passer is usually fatal for any secondary. So, we will select Robert Mathis as the one free agent the Colts have to sign to a new deal. Mathis once again had a strong season, generating 9.5 sacks. He forced three fumbles and recovered three fumbles. It is vital that the Colts bring Mathis back, or their defense will take a step or two backwards next year.
Notable Unrestricted Free Agents: DE Jeremy Mincey, DE Matt Roth, CB Rashean Mathis, S Dwight Lowery and CB David Jones.
Restricted Free Agents: CB William Middleton
Free Agent They Must Sign: DE Jeremy Mincey. As a defensive end, Mincey wound up as the No. 4 leading tackler on the Jaguars with 57 tackles. He led the Jaguars with eight sacks, and nobody else on the team had as many as four, so clearly he is their main pass-rusher. In addition, Mincey forced four fumbles and intercepted a pass as well. Mincey is the easy choice for the player the Jaguars need to bring back next year.
Kansas City Chiefs
Notable Unrestricted Free Agents: QB Kyle Orton, WR Dwayne Bowe, CB Brandon Carr, RB Jackie Battle, FB Le'Ron McClain, TE Leonard Pope and CB Travis Daniels.
Free Agent They Must Sign: Dwayne Bowe. The Chiefs offense finished off the year as the No. 27-ranked offense in the NFL. Granted, they were counting on having Jamaal Charles available for the whole year, but a number of teams lost their starting running back around the league and had to go to Plan B.
As far as Bowe goes, look at all the categories he led the Chiefs in during the 2011 season: receptions (81), targets (141), reception yards (1,159), average yardage per catch (14.3), touchdown receptions (5), longest pass yardage play (52 yards), catches of 20 plus yards or longer (19), reception yards per game (72.4), yards after the catch (359) and first down receptions (57). For a team that is lacking in overall offensive weapons, the Chiefs can ill afford to lose Bowe. He is must-sign free agent.
Notable Unrestricted Free Agents: QB Chad Henne, DL Paul Soliai, RB Steve Slaton, T Vernon Carey, DE Kendall Langford and CB Will Allen.
Restricted Free Agents: RB Lex Hilliard and T Lydon Murtha.
Free Agent They Must Sign: I think the choice for the Dolphins depends on what the new head coach wants to do at QB. While the Dolphins continue their due diligence and conduct more head-coach interviews, the Dolphins have Matt Moore returning, but is he the answer? They could bring back Chad Henne to have some competition in camp, or will the team want to package some picks and move up to draft Robert Griffin III ?
From the group of free agents listed above, nobody stands out to me at all on the defensive side of the ball. Soliai had zero sacks and only two tackles for a loss. Will Allen only defended three passes on the year and had no interceptions. Langford did even less than the other two defenders we discussed.
So by process of elimination, we arrive at naming QB Chad Henne as the free agent the Dolphins need to bring back. Let's hope the Dolphins have a tougher decision next year, because this group is weak.
Notable Unrestricted Free Agents: QB Sage Rosenfels, TE Visanthe Shiancoe, DT Letroy Guion, LB E.J. Henderson, WR Devin Aromashodu, WR Greg Camarillo and CB Benny Sapp.
Free Agent They Must Sign: E.J. Henderson. Henderson finished as the No. 2 tackler on the Vikings defense in 2011 with 110 tackles. In addition, he chipped in with two sacks, forced three fumbles, defended three passes and led the team with seven tackles for a loss. That is too much production to lose, so the Vikings would be wise to bring Henderson back for another term.
New England Patriots
Notable Unrestricted Free Agents: WR Wes Welker, RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis, WR Deion Branch, DE/LB Mark Anderson, DE Andre Carter and G Dan Connolly
Restricted Free Agent: QB Brian Hoyer
Free Agent They Must Sign: Wes Welker. Welker is vital to the Patriots offense. Welker caught 77 passes that turned into a first-down play. That was tied for the lead in the NFL. Welker led the NFL in receptions with 122 and scored nine touchdowns. Welker gained 1,569 yards on his receptions, which was good for No. 2 in the NFL. As the favorite target of Tom Brady, the Patriots have to bring Wes Welker back.
New Orleans Saints
Notable Unrestricted Free Agents: QB Drew Brees, WR Marques Colston, WR Robert Meachem, NT Aubrayo Franklin, G Carl Nicks, CB Tracy Porter and LB Jo-Lonn Dunbar.
Restricted Free Agents: QB Chase Daniel and WR Adrian Arrington.
Free Agent They Must Sign: Drew Brees. This has to be one of the easiest calls of any team to make. Simply put, the Saints would be nowhere without Brees running the show. I don't know if it would be to the magnitude of what happened to the Colts without Peyton Manning, but I would bet the Saints never want to know what that answer really is.
Brees had a great 2011 campaign, setting the new NFL record for most passing yards ever amassed in one season with 5,476 yards. Brees also set new NFL records for completions (468) and completion percentage (71.2 percent). His ratio of 46 touchdowns to just 14 interceptions is another indication of how strong his year was.
New York Giants
Notable Unrestricted Free Agents: WR Mario Manningham, S Deon Grant, CB Aaron Moss, DT Jimmy Kennedy, CB Terrell Thomas, WR Domenik Hixon, T Kareem McKenzie, CB Justin Tryon, WR Devin Thomas and DE Dave Tollefson.
Free Agent They Must Sign: Aaron Ross. While a case could be made for WR Mario Manningham and S Deon Grant, I think that Aaron Ross is the guy the Giants need to bring back. The Giants obviously struggled in pass defense due to all of the injuries that continued to plague the secondary throughout the 2011 regular season.
The depth in the secondary was part of the issue, and if you opt not to sign Ross again, you are putting that depth to the test. Ross contributed with a solid 60 tackles, 12 passes defended and four interceptions. That is solid production and warrants another contract from the Giants.
We are not overlooking Terrell Thomas, who obviously had a monster 2010 season for the Giants. He put up great numbers across the board. It is just that due to his ACL tear, we are not positive what kind of shape he will be coming in to 2012 and if the Giants will let him test free agency or not. Like it or not, injuries can force management's hands, and Thomas would not be the first guy to leave a team after he had to sit out his final season under contract due to injury.
New York Jets
Restricted Free Agents: LB Aaron Maybin
Free Agent They Must Sign: We don't know all of the final coaching changes that will happen with the Jets. We know that Tony Sparano will be the offensive coordinator, and that is all we know for now. With the way that Santonio Holmes started to flake out on the team towards the end of the season, there is no guarantee that he will be back. Do the Jets want to totally turn over their top two receivers, or bring at least one of them back for Mark Sanchez?
I think the guy the Jets need to bring back therefore is WR Plaxico Burress. Burress did some things well. He might even improve on his 2011 season next year. In the 2011 season, Burress led the team in average yards per catch and was tied for the team lead in touchdown receptions with eight. In addition, he generated 38 first downs on his receptions. He is a key target in the red zone and would be a key player for the Jets to bring back in 2012.
Notable Unrestricted Free Agents: QB Jason Campbell, RB Michael Bush, LB Quentin Groves, S Tyvon Branch, WR Chaz Schilens, C Samson Satele, DE Jarvis Moss and DE Trevor Scott.
Restricted Free Agents: DL Desmond Bryant and RB Marcel Reese
Free Agent They Must Sign: Michael Bush. Some Raiders fans might think the free agent they need to bring back is quarterback Jason Campbell, and I can understand their logic. Campbell had a good season going until he got hurt, and bringing him back would create competition in camp with Carson Palmer.
But Darren McFadden had a tough time staying healthy in the second half of the season, and Michael Bush provides great depth for the Raiders offense at running back. Bush finished the year just 23 yards shy of a 1,000-yard rushing season. He led the Raiders in rushing touchdowns with seven scores, and is able to take on the role of picking up the tough yards down by the goal line.
Notable Unrestricted Free Agents: QB Vince Young, WR DeSean Jackson, DT Trevor Laws, WR Steve Smith, RB Ronnie Brown, DT Derek Landri and G Evan Mathis.
Restricted Free Agents: DT Antonio Dixon
Free Agent They Must Sign: There appears to be a mixed reaction to the prospect of WR DeSean Jackson coming back to play for the Eagles in 2012. But when you review the caliber of players that make up the Eagles' free-agent class for 2012, there really aren't many names that jump off the page at you. Vince Young might make a degree of sense as a quality backup for Michael Vick, but you would think that Young prefers to go to a team that will make him the starter.
So, despite the uncertainty about Jackson, we will go ahead and nominate him as the player the Eagles need to bring back. With an offseason to cool off and get his head straight, it is possible that Jackson could come back with a better attitude in 2012. Of course, that is not a given, and this move could come back and hurt the Eagles if his attitude winds up being worse.
Notable Unrestricted Free Agents: WR Jerricho Cotchery, CB William Gay, QB Byron Leftwich, DE Aaron Smith, QB Dennis Dixon and RB Mewelde Moore.
Restricted Free Agents: WR Mike Wallace, C Doug Legarsky, G Ramon Foster and CB Keenan Lewis.
Free Agent They Must Sign: Mike Wallace. Wallace is vital to the Pittsburgh Steelers offense. He leads the team in all of the following categories this year: receptions (72), reception yards (1,193), average yardage per catch (16.6), touchdowns (8), longest reception (96 yards), catches of 20 plus yards or longer (18), reception yards per game (74.6) and yards after the catch (493). In addition, he finished second on the team in targets (113) and first-down receptions (54).
Not only is he a key part of the Steelers offense, but Wallace is only 25 years old and will still be in the prime of his career for years to come. Signing him to a new deal is one of the Steelers' top priorities.
San Diego Chargers
Notable Unrestricted Free Agents: WR Vincent Jackson, T Jared Gaither, RB Mike Tolbert, S Steve Gregory, S Bob Sanders, FB Jacob Hester and WR Patrick Crayton.
Restricted Free Agents: TE Kory Sperry
Free Agent They Must Sign: Vincent Jackson. Chargers GM A.J. Smith appears to be interested finally in working out a long-term deal with Jackson, as opposed to slapping a franchise tag on him as had been the case prior. Jackson has stayed out of trouble, which is a big plus towards the long-term deal coming together. Not only that, but Jackson is a key part of the Chargers offense and led the team in receptions, targets, yardage and touchdowns.
Notable Unrestricted Free Agents: RB Marshawn Lynch, DE Red Bryant, QB Charlie Whitehurst, LB David Hawthorne, RB Justin Forsett, CB Marcus Trufant, FB Michael Robinson, LB Leroy Hill and TE John Carlson.
Restricted Free Agents: K Steven Hauschka
Free Agent They Must Sign: Marshawn Lynch. Ever since Lynch ripped off his highlight-reel touchdown run against the New Orleans Saints in the 2010 playoffs, Lynch has appeared to be the face of the Seahawks franchise. He brings excitement to the stadium and the fans rally around his energy and ability to shrug off multiple tacklers on his more exciting runs.
After missing the 1,000-yard barrier for two straight years, Lynch established a new career high for rushing yards (1,204), rush attempts (285) rushing touchdowns (12) and first downs via rush (63). Lynch is only 25 years old, so he still should have a number of productive years ahead of him.
San Francisco 49ers
Notable Unrestricted Free Agents: QB Alex Smith, S Madieu Williams, WR Ted Ginn Jr., S Dashon Goldson, LB Ahmad Brooks, CB Carlos Rogers, S Reggie Smith, WR Josh Morgan and G Chilo Rachal.
Restricted Free Agents: S C.J. Spillman
Free Agent They Must Sign: Alex Smith. If there was any doubt as to who is the most important free agent for the San Francisco 49ers to sign for 2012, quarterback Alex Smith removed all doubts with his performance against the New Orleans Saints in the exciting divisional playoff win.
Smith took extremely well to head coach Jim Harbaugh's coaching and ability to take him under his wing as a mentor. To illustrate how good a year Smith had, consider that now in his seventh year in the league, Smith just set all of the following marks in 2011 as his career best in: completions (273), pass attempts (445), completion percentage (61.3 percent), passing yards (3,144), average yards per pass (7.07) and QB passer rating (90.7). In addition, his TD: INT ratio of 17:5 was the best ratio of his career.
St. Louis Rams
Notable Unrestricted Free Agents: WR Brandon Lloyd, RB Cadillac Williams, WR Mark Clayton, G Jacob Bell, CB Roderick Hood and CB Justin King.
Restricted Free Agents: WR Danny Amendola.
Free Agent They Must Sign: Brandon Lloyd. One thing that Rams QB Sam Bradford didn't have enough of was proven offensive stars who gave him reliable options of where to throw the ball. The Rams traded for Brandon Lloyd during the 2011 season, and now that Jeff Fisher has been hired to become the head coach, Lloyd is excited about the prospect of coming back to the team to see what can happen.
The Rams would be wise to bring Lloyd back.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Notable Unrestricted Free Agents: QB Josh Johnson, S Sean Jones, RB Earnest Graham, G Jeremy Zuttah, T James Lee, CB Elbert Mack, LB Geno Hayes and CB Ronde Barber.
Restricted Free Agents: DE Michael Bennett and T Demar Dotson.
Free Agent They Must Sign: Sean Jones. This decision comes down to LB Geno Hayes and S Sean Jones. While Hayes didn't fill up his stat line in most categories, it was Sean Jones who wound up leading the Bucs in tackles. Jones had one sack, defended three passes, had one forced fumble and recovered two fumbles. Still, you would have liked to see your safety come up with some interceptions, but Jones had none. The lack of top playmakers on defense is a reflection on the Bucs team and defense in general.
They need to find more talent on both sides of the ball.
Notable Unrestricted Free Agents: CB Cortland Finnegan, LB Barrett Ruud, S Jordan Babineaux, WR Lavelle Hawkins, WR Donnie Avery, S Michael Griffin, S Anthony Smith, G Jake Scott and DE Jason Jones.
Restricted Free Agents: C Fernando Velasco
Free Agent They Must Sign: Cortland Finnegan. Finnegan has emerged as one of the best corners in the AFC. He has the ability to disrupt a wide receiver and get under his skin. Finnegan is an aggressive tackler in the run game, as he came up with 75 tackles, five of those wound up being a tackle for a loss. In addition, Finnegan defended 11 passes, came up with a sack, an interception and a fumble recovery to round out his production for the year.
Notable Unrestricted Free Agents: QB Rex Grossman, TE Fred Davis, LB London Fletcher, RB Tim Hightower, WR Donte' Stallworth, T Sean Locklear, LB Rocky McIntosh, CB Phillip Buchanon and S LaRon Landry.
Restricted Free Agents: G Kory Lichtensteiger and K Graham Gano.
Free Agent They Must Sign: On the surface, it appears that the Redskins have three viable choices that could have a strong case made for most crucial free agent to sign. In my opinion, the three players in question are LB London Fletcher, TE Fred Davis and S LaRon Landry. I like all three players in question, and think the Redskins should do whatever they can to bring back all three.
But we need to pick somebody, and I have no problem nominating London Fletcher as the choice. Fletcher continues to defy logic, as the 36-year-old linebacker continues to amaze. He has 14 years of experience in the league, but despite the wear and tear on his body, he led the NFL tackles in 2011 with 166. He had 1.5 sacks, made four tackles for a loss, defended eight passes (which also shows he has plenty left in the tank), had two interceptions and forced three fumbles.
Anybody who dismisses Fletcher due to his age hasn't watched him play football. He covers sideline to sideline, has plenty of energy and is the heart and soul of the Redskins defense.