Sure, it’s nice to know those players have expiring contracts, but really, there’s a pretty big price — beyond just the money — that any team pursuing the names above will have to pay. And that’s because those guys are restricted, and will all be tendered at a level where it’ll cost a club first- and third-round picks to pry them away.
Thanks to my old employer, Sporting News, and The War Room, we’ve got a comprehensive ranking of all free agents. Of the Top 100, only 32 will be unrestricted. Of the Top 50, only 13 will be unrestricted. Of the Top 25, only four will be unrestricted.
We said here a bunch of times that this will be the weakest group of UFAs in the 18-year history of NFL free agency. And this is what I meant … Ladies and gentleman, the baker’s dozen UFAs ranked among the Top 50 on this year’s market, and where they rank among all free agents on the SN list:
3) NT Vince Wilfork, Patriots
4) LB Karlos Dansby, Cardinals
7) DE Julius Peppers, Panthers
24) LB Gary Brackett, Colts
27) WR Antonio Bryant, Buccaneers
30) S Darren Sharper, Saints
32) DE Richard Seymour, Raiders
33) LB Joey Porter, Dolphins
38) CB Leigh Bodden, Patriots
41) DE/OLB Aaron Kampman, Packers
42) NT Casey Hampton, Steelers
46) WR Kevin Walter, Texans
50) LB Antonio Pierce, Giants
Now, figure that Wilfork, Sharper, Seymour and Hampton get tagged, and Brackett gets signed long-term by the Colts, and then Bryant, Porter (who technically isn’t scheduled to be free yet, but will be cut at the start of the league year) and Kampman become 3, 4 and 6, respectively, on the market, and all those guys are coming off down years marred by injury. Which tells you all you need to know about this class.
And the scarcity of talent out there figures to help Peppers and Dansby, and even a guy like Bodden, who’s coming off an awfully solid year and will join Houston’s Dunta Robinson as, really, far and away the best corners on the market.
In case you’re wondering, Dumervil and Chargers WR Vincent Jackson were the only two players ranked above Wilfork on the overall list. For whatever that’s worth.