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« : June 22, 2013, 12:10:29 AM »

The Top 10 Free Agents Still Available

Posted by Michael Gartman

With just about two and a half months until the start of the 2013 NFL regular season, let’s take an updated look at the Top 10 NFL free agents that are currently on the open market (in no particular order).

1. LB Desmond Bishop
The former 2007 sixth-round selection out of Cal had a strong two-year stretch in 2010-11, collecting a total of 218 tackles with 8.0 sacks, four forced fumbles and one interception for 32 yards and a score through 28 games (25 starts) with the Green Bay Packers.

Bishop, 28, was expected to remain in green and gold for at least another year and considered himself a major candidate for the DPOY award (Defensive Player of the Year) last month, despite missing the entire 2012 season due to injury.

He’s received recent interest from the Jacksonville Jaguars and New York Giants and looks to make a decision soon after visiting with the Kansas City Chiefs and Minnesota Vikings earlier this week.

2. DE John Abraham
In seven seasons with the Atlanta Falcons (2006-12), Abraham appeared in 102 games (97 starts) and collected a total of 233 tackles, 68.5 sacks and 25 forced fumbles.  The former 2000 first round pick (No. 13 overall) out of South Carolina remains a highly-effective edge rusher despite his age (35).  Over the last three seasons, Abraham has totaled 110 tackles with 32.5 sacks and 12 forced fumbles.

The main reason he’s still available has been his unwillingness to sign with a team that would only feature the 6-4, 263-pound defensive end in a part-time role.  With the current expectations that he’s not likely to accept anything less than the two-year, $8.75 million deal (with $4.75M guaranteed) that Dwight Freeney signed with the San Diego Chargers, don’t expect Abraham to be one of the first few free agents on this list to find a new home.

3. RB Willis McGahee
A former first round pick (No. 23 overall out of Miami in 2004), McGahee, 31, was reportedly released by the Broncos last week due to health issues.  In 10 seasons, he has rushed for 8,097 yards and 63 TDs on 1,957 carries (4.1 YPC) with 202 receptions for 1,319 yards and five scores with the Buffalo Bills (2003-06), Baltimore Ravens (2007-10) and Denver Broncos (2011-12).

After averaging 4.63 YPC over the past two seasons, McGahee should at least assume the role of a reliable power back behind a starter.  However, if he’s not at 100 percent, he’ll have a hard time finding a new gig before training camp.

4. OT Eric Winston
It’s very surprising to some that such a talented player in his prime with no character concerns could still be available after being released by the Chiefs in the first week of March.  Winston spent his first six seasons in Houston, where over time he became recognized as one of the top offensive tackles in the entire NFL.

His success with the Texans prompted Kansas City to hand him a four-year, $22 million contract last offseason.  However, his short stint with the Chiefs didn’t work out very well and while Winston is a very effective run blocker and provides solid pass protection, his market value is limited to teams that are searching for a right tackle and run a zone-blocking scheme.

He’ll find a new home soon—as the Titans, Texans, Eagles, Patriots and Dolphins are just a handful of the teams that have shown interest—but Winston is still available for a reason.

5. FS Kerry Rhodes

Photo Credit: AZCardinals.com

The lack of league-wide interest surrounding Kerry Rhodes is also surprising to some considering the former 2005 fourth round pick (No. 123 overall out of Louisville) was an All-Pro in 2006 and comes off an impressive 2012 campaign with 67 tackles, four interceptions, two forced fumbles and 1.0 sack in 15 games (all starts).  He was also graded out as Pro Football Focus’ No. 4 overall safety before being released in March.

In eight NFL seasons, Rhodes, 30, has collected a total of 608 tackles, 13.0 sacks, 23 interceptions for 402 yards and eight forced fumbles with the New York Jets (2005-09) and Arizona Cardinals (2010-12).  There’s some new speculation that the 6-3, 212-pound safety may be out to prove he’s not gay in order to help his market value after a plethora of rumors this offseason.

The Browns are still Rhodes’ most likely landing spot due to the team’s need at the back-end of the defense and the connection to Ray Horton, who was Rhodes’ defensive boss in Arizona and now calls the defense in Cleveland.  The Browns just haven’t aggressively pursued the Birmingham, AL native as of yet.

6. OG Brandon Moore
There’s plenty of upside to Brandon Moore, who entered the league as an undrafted free agent out of Illinois in 2002.  The 6-3, 305-pound Gary, Indiana native has spent his entire career with the New York Jets and was rated as a Top-four guard in the NFL by Pro Football Focus last year.

Moore, 33, also hasn’t missed a single start since 2004 and is a great fit for a power-running offense, but after an initial flurry of free agency period interest, Moore’s market market has gone frosty soft—which some argue is because he’s asking for too much money.

7. DE Israel Idonije
A second round CFL draft pick of the now defunct Ottawa Renegades, Idonije made his way onto the practice squad of the Cleveland Browns and Chicago Bears as an undrafted free agent out of the University of Manitoba in 2003.

The versatile 6-6, 275-pound Nigerian-Canadian defensive lineman has really made a name for himself over the last three seasons, racking up a total of 103 tackles with 20.5 sacks and five forced fumbles in 48 games (42 starts).

He’s collected 272 tackles with 28.5 sacks and six forced fumbles over the course of his career through 119 games (50 starts) with the Chicago Bears (2004-12).  Idonije, 32, has a “standing offer” with the Bears and the club looks to welcome him back if he doesn’t find more money elsewhere.

8. RB Cedric Benson
In eight NFL seasons, Benson, 30, has carried the ball 1,600 times for 6,017 yards (3.8 YPC) and 32 touchdowns with 120 catches for 833 yards and a score in 96 games (61 starts) with the Chicago Bears (2005-07), Cincinnati Bengals (2008-11) and Green Bay Packers (2012).

The former 2005 first round pick (No. 4 overall out of Texas) will have to hope teams were impressed enough with his back-to-back-to-back 1,000+ yard seasons during his last three years with the Bengals (2009-11) to overlook his disappointing 2012 campaign, where he chalked up just 248 yards and a score on 71 carries (3.5 YPC) in five games (all starts) with the Packers.

Don’t be surprised if the 5-11, 227-pound back gets some looks from teams looking to add depth at the position closer towards the start of the season, assuming he’s healthy.

9. OT Jared Gaither
In six NFL seasons, Gaither, 27, has appeared in 52 games (37 starts) with the Baltimore Ravens (2007-10), Kansas City Chiefs (2011) and San Diego Chargers (2011-12).

He signed a four-year, $24.6 million deal just about a year ago, but essentially quit on the Bolts, milking back and groin injuries that the medical staff never deemed serious before landing on IR after appearing in just four games in 2012.  San Diego was so down on the 6-9, 335-pound behemoth that the team was willing to take a $6M cap hit this season.

The former fifth round pick out of Maryland appears to be the clear-cut top left tackle on the open market, but he could be out of work for a while unless he shows teams he wants to play.

10. FB Vonta Leach
Immense interest has surfaced around the NFL since the 6-0, 260-pound fullback was released by the Baltimore Ravens last week.  Five of his seven potential suitors include the Miami Dolphins, Houston Texans, Kansas City Chiefs, New York Giants and Cleveland Browns, according to Leach’s agent Ralph Vitolo via Fox Houston.

Look for Leach—a first-team All-Pro for the past three seasons who was Pro Football Focus’ top-rated lead-blocker last year—to get taken off the market by the end of June or the start of July.

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