The Top 50 NFL Free Agents of 2014

With the 2013 NFL season officially behind us teams are already in the middle of evaluations in an effort to identify where they need to find outside help, be it through the draft or free agency. The free agent class this year seems strong at some positions and much weaker at others, but there's a ton of talent out there in general to bolster a roster. Here is This Given Sunday's 50 best free agents currently out there in the 2014 class. Keep in mind a number of these guys could be taken off the market by way of a franchise tag, or by re-signing with their teams before the free agency period.

1. Jimmy Graham, TE, New Orleans Saints: Clearly the biggest difference maker in this class. Don't expect him to hit the market, though. Saints' GM Mickey Loomis has already stated he will absolutely get tagged if a long term deal can't be reached.

2. Greg Hardy, DE, Carolina Panthers: The Panthers are in a world of trouble with the salary cap and it will make giving Hardy the contract he deserves difficult. He's coming off a 15 sack and a Pro Bowl trip season. They will do everything they possibly can to retain him, including unloading players, but it's possible he'll be lured away for big time money.

3. Brian Orakpo, OLB, Washington Redskins: He was back to double digit sacks this year and while he's yet to tap into his full potential, he's clearly one of the most explosive pass rushers out there. Anyone signing him would get an immediate impact for their defense in getting to the quarterback.

4. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, CB, Denver Broncos: There is no doubt the Broncos want to retain him, but he's also the top corner on the market if he doesn't retire… which was theorized as a possibility based on comments he made. At 27 that's hard to believe, though.

5. Jairus Byrd, S, Buffalo Bills: Will the Bills franchise him again this offseason? It's possible, but I don't see him signing a long term deal at this point, so he'll definitely test the market if they don't.

6. Jordan Gross, T, Carolina Panthers: He's no spring chicken at 34 but he's coming off one of the best seasons of his career and remains a premier tackle in the game.

7. T. J. Ward, S, Cleveland Browns: He's under the radar because he plays on such a bad team, but make no mistake this guy is a tremendous football player. 

8. Michael Johnson, DE, Cincinnati Bengals: After a breakout year in 2012 he struggled in 2013. A change of scenery might do him good, but there's no question at 6'7" with his speed he is a terrifying edge presence.

9. Brent Grimes, CB, Miami Dolphins: After a devastating injury he came to the Dolphins on a one year deal and showed the league he's still absolutely one of the very best cover guys and defensive playmakers in the league. 

10. Michael Bennett, DE, Seattle Seahawks: Tampa should never have let him get away and the Seahawks would be well served to not make the same mistake.

11. Jason Hatcher, DT, Dallas Cowboys: Did you see how bad the Cowboys defense was without him dominating the interior? Enough said. 

12. Alterraun Verner, CB, Tennessee Titans: One of the most underrated corners in the league coming off a 5 pick season.

13. Henry Melton, DT, Chicago Bears: Coming off a knee injury and some legal trouble it's unlikely the Bears would franchise him again, but he's still one of the best up the middle when healthy.

14. Alex Mack, C, Cleveland Browns: One of the very best young offensive linemen in the game.

15. Aqib Talib, CB, New England Patriots: Seeing him shut down Jimmy Graham when the Pats played the Saints earlier this season is the only tape you'd ever need to review to realize this guy could help any team.

16. Geoff Schwartz, G, Kansas City Chiefs: Proved this season that he is high quality starter material for certain.

17. Eugene Monroe, T, Baltimore Ravens: Very high quality player with still some potential pointing upwards.

18. Randy Starks, DT, Miami Dolphins: One of the more complete tackles around that can do it all, and he's still performing at a high level. 

19. Anquan Boldin, WR, San Francisco: Showed no signs of slowing down this year with the 49ers as he was the catalyst to their passing attack. He eclipsed 1,000 yards for the sixth time in his career.

20. Travelle Wharton, G, Carolina Panthers: Emerged as a bit of a surprise as a dominant interior lineman and he could command a nice contract on the open market.

21. Knowshon Moreno, RB, Denver Broncos: The sky is the limit for Moreno in terms of potential, and in the second half of the season he started to turn into a clear cut #1 back for the Broncos. 

22. Karlos Dansby, ILB, Arizona Cardinals: At 32 he'd be a bit of a risk as a big financial investment, but that scary Cards defense was led by him and he continues to play very well.

23. Hakeem Nicks, WR, New York Giants: The last couple seasons have been disappointments, but he's only 26, and a fresh start would do him the world of good. Signs point to him wanting to leave the dumpster fire that is the 2013 Giants, but they are apparently considering the franchise tag.

24. Lamarr Houston, DE, Oakland Raiders: A well rounded player that could excel on a better team.

25. Vontae Davis, CB, Indianapolis Colts: Continues to be an excellent and reliable cover man.

26. Anthony Collins, T, Cincinnati Bengals: A backup until this season, he's developed into a solid starter and good tackles are hard to come by.

27. Jason Worilds, OLB, Pittsburgh Steelers: He's been a rotation guy up to this point but many believe he is now primed to be a star in 2014. He's said he wants to return to the Steelers but only as a starter.

28. Brandon Spikes, LB, New England Patriots: Young and rising player that may be done in New England.

29. Donte Whitner, S, San Francisco 49ers: The name change to "Hitner" is a thing for a reason. Expect penalties and fines if you sign him, though.

30. Eric Decker, WR, Denver Broncos: There is no question he was a beast in 2013, but how much of that was Peyton Manning and could he duplicate that elsewhere?

31. Tony McDaniel, DT, Seattle Seahawks: He had a great season, but the question is is he a product of his environment or can he thrive elsewhere?

32. Arthur Jones, DE, Baltimore Ravens: A rising young talent that's developed into a promising starter.

33. Pat Sims, DT, Oakland Raiders: Played well in 2013 and there's always a decent chance a player won't want to come back to Oakland.

34. Branden Albert, T, Kansas City Chiefs: The drafting of Eric Fisher suggested the Chiefs might be ready to move on. He will without a doubt be a starter at left tackle somewhere.

35. Ben Tate, RB, Houston Texans: Tired of playing second fiddle to Arian Foster, he's looking to be a feature back or at least a more prominent role elsewhere.

36. Paul Soliai, DT, Miami Dolphins: A mammoth 340 pounder that can make a huge impact stopping the run.

37. Robert Ayers, DE, Denver Broncos: He seems to keep getting better every season, and a trip to the Super Bowl could inflate his value.

38. Dennis Pita, TE, Baltimore Ravens: He's no Jimmy Graham but he's still a solid tight end that would make an impact in the passing game.

39. Tyson Jackson, DE, Kansas City Chiefs: He never fully lived up to his draft status in KC but quietly had a solid season. If placed in the right defense and scheme he could really turn a corner.

40. Walter Thurmond, CB, Seattle Seahawks: Anyone that played in that all world secondary is worth looking into.

41. Zach Strief, T, New Orleans Saints: Pro Football Focus graded him ahead of Drew Brees and Jimmy Graham as the top offensive player on the Saints this season. He's big and strong, particularly good in pass protection.

42. Jared Veldheer, T, Oakland Raiders: He's already demanding more urgency in talks with the Raiders which suggests he's frustrated with their offers. He had a down year but could easily be a top 10 free agent if he lands in the right environment.

43. Maurice Jones-Drew, RB, Jacksonville Jaguars: Some may think he's over the hill, but he's still just 29 years old and might have a little juice left. Put him on a good team and he could make a terrific impact.

44. Josh McCown, QB, Chicago Bears: What he did filling in for Jay Cutler was unbelievable. And the quality of free agents is so bad for veteran QBs he's vaulted himself into a category by himself with his 2013 play.

45. Justin Tuck, DE, New York Giants: He's 31, but he's still a dangerous edge player that can get to the quarterback.

46. Anthony Spencer, OLB, Dallas Cowboys: He's coming off microfracture surgery so it's unlikely the Cowboys would franchise him again. Doubtful he'd want to remain based on the direction of that defense. He was a superstar before that injury, and could possibly be a very nice comeback player.

47. Steven Hauschka, K, Seattle Seahawks: The dude is automatic. I'd be surprised if the Seahawks don't do everything they can to keep him. They have a lot of offseason chores with free agents, though.

48. B. J. Raji, DT, Green Bay Packers: Another massive space eater that's deceptively quick for his size. 

49. Captain Munnerlyn, CB, Carolina Panthers: He's physical and talented, and the Panthers are in a tough financial position.

50. Sam Shields, CB, Green Bay Packers: With 13 interceptions in 4 seasons, he's clearly a guy that can get the ball back for his team and he's only 26.

About Andrew Juge

I like the Saints. A lot.