The NFL owner’s choice to opt out of the collective bargaining agreement created an unprecedented number of restricted free agents in 2010. This has left over 200 players with less than six seasons in the NFL almost completely under the control of their current teams.
The other issue with being a restricted free agent is that it usually costs another team at least one draft pick, if not multiple picks. Depending on the tender offer made by the player’s current team, these picks could be as high as first, second, and third round picks.
Unfortunately for most of these players, their compensation will cause them to probably end up re-signing with their current clubs and hope that there is no work stoppage in 2011 so that they can cash in on bigger pay-days.
So, who on the market is worth spending a top draft pick on?
Here are the top seven:
Note: Miles Austin is currently off this list due to the extreme unlikeliness of Dallas letting him walk.
Brandon Marshall, WR, Denver Broncos
He’s had three straight 100+ catch seasons, and has shown he can single handedly win games. He will cost someone a first round choice, but if I’m a team near the bottom of the draft, why not make that move?
The reason is clear: money. It will probably cost a team more per season than a rookie. Though there is no salary cap, teams are still working as if there is which makes spending the money Marshall is worth difficult to do.
Jerome Harrison, RB, Cleveland Browns
Offered a second round tender, teams have to figure out if he can be a top NFL running back or if his one huge game last season was just a one-time occurrence.
He showed that he can catch the ball out of the backfield along with strong running skills. I think a team that could use a running back and have multiple second round picks, like the New England Patriots, would be wise to take a chance on him.
D’Qwell Jackson, MLB, Cleveland Browns
Arguably the Cleveland Browns best player, they offered him a second round tender. Jackson would be a beast for any team, and could help boost a team’s defense from mediocre to playoff contender.
I would think that a team that misses out on Alabama’s Ronaldo McClain or Missouri’s Sean Weatherspoon in the draft would be smart to make a deal with the Browns for Jackson. The only question mark is the shoulder injury that ended his season after Week five.
Elvis Dumervil, DE/OLB, Denver Broncos
Dumervil is a pass-rushing monster, and any team that runs the 3-4 defense would be greatly improved by his presence. Unfortunately, his first and third round tender offer makes signing him a tough call.
Though Dumervil is one of the hardest working players in the NFL, teams must also decide if it was the Denver Bronco’s system or his talent that led to his breakout season. A team like the Miami Dolphins or the New York Jets would be a perfect fit for him, but neither has the ability to sign him.
Owen Daniels, TE, Houston Texans
Daniels was on his way to being one of the best tight end in football last year until he tore his ACL. Had he not blown out his knee, Daniels would definitely be worth first and third round draft picks, but coming off a knee injury there are still too many questions.
Jammal Brown, OT, New Orleans Saints
Before a hip injury ended his 2009 season, Brown was on his way to being one of the top left tackles in all of football. Notice that Drew Brees was a monster the first two weeks of the season, but didn’t seem to be the same player after that.
The major difference: Brown was inactive from week three on. Offered a tender with first round compensation, Brown has the bad luck of being a free agent with a draft deep at tackle.
Any team that needs a left tackle should be in position to draft one in the first or second round of this year’s draft. Brown should return to the Saints for one more season, prove that he is one of the best left tackles in football, and hope to get a big contract after the 2010 season.
Vincent Jackson, WR, San Diego Chargers
Along with Brandon Marshall, Jackson is a stud wide receiver that finally had a breakout year. Tendered at first and third round picks, he is too pricey for most teams.
I also don’t see any team that would be willing to not only part with two high draft choices, but also sign him to a high dollar contract that the San Diego Chargers would not be willing to match.
Honorable Mentions: Shawne Merriman, Antoine Bethea, Atari Bigby, Ray Edwards
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