NFL Handicapping: Top NFL Free Agent Pickups
by Robert Ferringo - 8/5/2009
“He went where?”
For NFL players the first week of August is a time to get your bearings, stretch out, and get back in the flow. For NFL fans the first week of August is a time to get your bearings, stretch out, and figure out which players shuffled around in the offseason and how that is going to impact their new squads.
Here are the Top 17 NFL free agent signings heading into the 2009 season:
1. Terrell Owens, WR, Buffalo
He is still overhyped and overrated. But there is no doubt that the guy is the key to this franchise right now. Not much I can say about this signing that you haven’t already heard. But it was a good move and it was something this team had to do in order to try to get over the hump. But considering all the drops, I know I’d hate having my job in his hands.
2. Darren Sharper, S, New Orleans
The Saints have been a turnstile in the secondary over the last three years and Sharper has been brought in to turn all of that around. New Orleans has a solid front seven. They have an exceptional offense. But they can’t stop anyone through the air. If Sharper can quarterback this secondary to respectability this is going to be a tough team to beat.
3. Matt Birk, C, Baltimore
A few years ago I didn’t think that Birk would make it back after a tough knee injury. He has been thriving with the Vikings since then. But he’s also benefited from having Pro Bowlers all around him. Now he has to have a Kevin Mawae-type impact on Baltimore’s young offensive line.
4. Bart Scott, LB, N.Y. Jets
The Jets have a back seven that is coming into its prime and plenty of potential playmakers on that side of the ball. They also are going to be pretty bad on offense. So Scott has to lead the transition of the Rex Ryan Era for the little brother of New York football.
5. Albert Haynesworth, DT, Washington
He’s still a great player and this signing is going to be more important for what it takes away from the Titans than for what it brings to the Redskins. Haynesworth is amazing. But the ‘Skins have other needs so his impact could be muted.
6. T.J. Houshmandzadeh, WR, Seattle
I just have never seen T.J. as the type of game-breaking, double-team warranting, dominating wideout that he was treated as this spring. He’s very good. But he also has the chance to be another “good” wideout in a stable of “good” wideouts that Seattle has. And he’s not at all the thing to put this team over the hump.
7. Torry Holt, WR, Jacksonville
I saw on ESPN that Holt was described as a “possession” receiver. WHAT?!?!? This guy is one of the six or seven top wide receivers in the game. He has been throughout the aughts. I think he’s got a ton left in the tank. The only problem is that now that the Jags have their go-to- wideout they don’t have the defense and running game they did a couple seasons ago.
8. Mike Peterson, LB, Atlanta
In my opinion, Peterson was one of the most underrated linebackers in football as of two years ago. But two injury-riddled, confrontation-encased seasons in Jacksonville have dulled his impact. But this guy is a hammer. Can he make the transition to turf and can he seize the reigns of a very suspect Atlanta defense? I think he can – if he’s healthy.
9. Brian Dawkins, S, Denver
Dawkins slides into the role that John Lynch played for the past few seasons: mentor. Dawkins still has some very good ball left in him. And shifting out of the smashmouth NFC East and into the soft-core AFC West will add quarters to his career.
10. Tony Gonzalez, TE, Atlanta
That’s right: Mike Peterson is a much more important free agent to Atlanta than Tony Gonzalez. Gonzalez is all-time great. But the Falcons are going to score points with or without him. They need stops. Gonzo will do his thing.
11. Julian Peterson, LB, Detroit
Jut an eye-opening signing and it’s one of those things that slips through the cracks of “bobblehead media” coverage of the NFL. Peterson and Foote will combine with Ernie Sims to give Detroit – really – one of the best linebacking corps in the league. No chance that doesn’t have an impact.
12. Larry Foote, LB, Detroit
See: No. 11.
13. Stacey Andrews, G, Philadelphia
Andrews was a decent, but not spectacular, guard for Cincinnati. But his hidden value is that he will be able to lend a hand keeping his brother, Shawn, on the right path. Shawn has Pro Bowl talent but Zoloft tendencies. If Stacey can keep him straight the Eagles will have a sturdy right side of their line.
14. Jason Brown, C, St. Louis
Brown is one of the more underrated players in the NFL and is an animal on the line. He is being charged with seizing the reigns of a line that has very talented but very immature players Richie Incognito and Alex Barron manning it. Brown has to be a leader.
15. Igor Olshansky, LB, Dallas
Igor knows Wade Phillips’ defensive scheme from his time in San Diego. He’s a very physical player that doesn’t care about stats as much as he does getting the job done. Dallas needs more guys like that.
16. Andre Goodman, CB, Denver
Goodman and safety Renaldo Hill were starting together in the defensive backfield for Miami last year and now are holding it down in Denver this season. Goodman is in an interesting spot. And with Champ Bailey on the other side he better be ready for action.
17. Hunter Smith, P, Washington
A punter? Yes, a punter makes the list. Hunter Smith has been brilliant for Indianapolis and last year the Redskins had one of the worst punters (Ryan Plackemeier) in the league. Playing in the NFC East, where every yard is a fight, a guy like Smith can be very valuable.
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