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  • In a year with an unusually high number of quarterbacks on the market, ranking the free agents at each position, and assessing who among them could be a difference maker for a new team
By Andy Benoit
February 20, 2018

On these lists, “difference makers” are players who can change the dynamic of an offense or defense in and of themselves, whereas the other players listed would have to be plugged into specific schemes or surrounded by the right kind of talent.

Dates to remember: The franchise tag deadline is 4 p.m. on March 6. The “legal tampering” period for free agents starts on March 12, and free agents can officially sign deals at 4 p.m. on March 14. Player ages are as of March 1, 2018.

QUARTERBACKS

DIFFERENCE MAKERS

NOTE: Drew Brees is technically a free agent, but it is a virtual certainty he will be retained by the Saints.

Kirk Cousins (29), Washington
It’s unusual to see a quality starting quarterback available in free agency, it’s unheard of for that quarterback to the hit the market in a year when multiple teams (Denver, Minnesota and Jacksonville) have powerhouse defenses that leave them just a QB away from Super Bowl contention. Urgency by those teams could push Cousins’ value through the ethers. As for teams who are more than just a QB away, buyer beware: Cousins is an excellent plug-and-play system guy, but he’s not someone you build your system around.

Case Keenum (30), Vikings
His greatness in 2017 was legitimate—he made plays not just by executing Pat Shurmur’s shrewd designs, but also by improvising when those designs didn’t work. What teams must decide is: Can Keenum do it again, this time without Shurmur?

OTHER SIGNIFICANT FREE AGENTS

Josh McCown (39), Jets
Quietly, McCown had a stellar 2017 campaign in New York (94.5 passer rating). He’s still a viable bridge guy, and maybe even an inexpensive option for a “ready to win now” team that loses out on Cousins.

Tom Savage (27), Texans
He must get more consistent in all facets, but at least he’s willing to stand tall in the pocket. That gives him long-term value as a backup; coaches will believe he can keep their system afloat if he has to come off the bench.

AJ McCarron (27), Bengals
The dearth of quality NFL quarterbacks has created a misconception around him. Maybe he is a diamond in the rough. But what there is no maybe about is that he has been the backup behind a very average quarterback for several years.

Sam Bradford (30), Vikings
The most talented QB in free agency, but unfortunately the durability concerns have become overwhelming.

Jay Cutler (34), Dolphins
If he wasn’t great in an Adam Gase scheme that he’d thrived in before, what makes you think he’d thrive somewhere else?

Brock Osweiler (27), Broncos
His agents should dismiss his 2016 season in Houston and ’17 season in Cleveland/Denver and sell him as the high-end backup who helped keep the 2015 Broncos’ Super Bowl season on track. If they believe a starting job might still be in his future, then sign a one-year contract for 2018. If they want long-term stability, they’ll pursue a long-term contract as a No. 2.

Geno Smith (27), Giants
Smith is a capable deep-intermediate passer and serviceable enough athlete, but with backup QBs, dependability is more important than talent. That works against Smith.

Teddy Bridgewater (25), Vikings
He hasn’t played in two years and he had arm strength limitations before he got injured.

Matt Barkley (27), Cardinals
Turnovers are a concern, but he had some productive outings in Chicago two seasons ago.

Blaine Gabbert (28), Cardinals
When the pocket is clean, he looks the part. But when the pocket becomes the least bit dirty, or even just threatens to be dirty, he’s a wildcard.

Matt Moore (33), Dolphins
A proven backup, his landing spot could be decided by how teams view him as a mentor.

Ryan Fitzpatrick (35), Bucs
His next contract will likely make him just the fourth QB in history to play for a quarter of the NFL’s teams. (The others: Josh Johnson, Josh McCown and J.T. O’Sullivan.)

Potential Cap Casualties (in alphabetical order): Matt Cassel (Titans), Andy Dalton (Bengals), Mike Glennon (Bears), Matt Schaub (Falcons), Tyrod Taylor (Bills)


RUNNING BACKS

DIFFERENCE MAKERS

Le'Veon Bell (26), Steelers
Still the best out-of-backfield creator in football, but would you believe Bell’s longest run last year gained just 27 yards?

Carlos Hyde (27), 49ers
Not a dynamic receiving threat, but Hyde is a good enough first- and second-down runner to warrant three-down starter money on the open market.

Isaiah Crowell (25), Browns
A sustaining ballcarrier who has a touch more speed and power than you’d guess.

OTHER SIGNIFICANT FREE AGENTS

Dion Lewis (27), Patriots
Lewis is a reliable, professional runner. What will be interesting is whether teams see him as a potential receiving threat. He didn’t have to be that in New England thanks to James White, but Lewis’s shifty quickness suggests he could be that kind of threat for a different team.

Rex Burkhead (27), Patriots
His James White-style skillset can add dimension to an offense. That makes him more valuable to teams with smart veteran QBs who can take advantage.

Frank Gore (34), Colts
He can still slither through small cracks as a first- and second-down runner, though that’s the extent of his abilities at this point.

Jerick McKinnon (25), Vikings
His production in Minnesota never quite matched his scat back attributes, but could the right team and system change that?

LeGarrette Blount (31), Eagles
He’s like an old pickup truck that looks worn down but still runs and hauls just fine. Blount is much more valuable in an interior run scheme, which shortens his list of suitors.

Damian Williams (25), Dolphins
A viable receiver who can align almost anywhere in the formation.

Shane Vereen (29), Giants
A viable receiver, though mostly just out of the backfield (and maybe the slot).

Charles Sims (27), Bucs
Yet another pass-catching back, and with more lateral agility than Williams or Vereen. Sims is coming off a disconcertingly quiet 2017 campaign, though.

Terrance West (27), Ravens
His running style fits most systems, but occasional indecisiveness is a concern.

Doug Martin (29), Bucs
He possess excellent short-area vision and movement skills, especially in heavy traffic. The question is what to make of his: (1) injuries, (2) off-field issues and (3) 2.9 YPC over each of the last two years?

Orleans Darkwa (26), Giants
He flashes intriguing short-area east-west movement and some stop-start ability, but it never quite came together in New York.

Jeremy Hill (25), Bengals
Will his 1,124-yard, 5.1-ypc rookie season from 2014 lead a team to take a flyer? Or will that success only make eyebrows scrunch even further when looking at his disappointing 2015, ’16 and ’17 seasons?

Potential Cap Casualties (in alphabetical order): C.J. Anderson (Broncos), Matt Forte (Jets), Mike Gillislee (Patriots), Marshawn Lynch (Raiders), DeMarco Murray (Titans), Latavius Murray (Vikings), Adrian Peterson (Cardinals), Bilal Powell (Jets), Jonathan Stewart (Panthers), Robert Turbin (Colts), T.J. Yeldon (Jaguars)


FULLBACKS

SIGNIFICANT FREE AGENTS

Anthony Sherman (29), Chiefs
He can handle the ball in select situations, giving some small, pleasantly surprising oomph to an offense’s two-back packages.

Mike Tolbert (32), Bills
He’s no longer the wrecking ball runner he was in the early 2010s, and he has never been a pure lead-blocker.

Zach Line (27), Saints
Prototypical plug-in fullback.

Derrick Coleman (27), Falcons
Another plug-in fullback, just not quite as strong or dependable as Line.


WIDE RECEIVERS

DIFFERENCE MAKERS

Jarvis Landry (25), Dolphins
As an excellent short-area receiver who can also threaten intermediately inside, he can certainly enhance a quick-strike offense. The question is whether teams think he can upgrade a more traditional offense, sort of like Golden Tate did in Detroit. There are questions about maturity and route running discipline. (UPDATE: Landry has been franchise-tagged by the Dolphins.)

Sammy Watkins (24), Rams
Certainly better than his 593 yards in 2017 suggest, but he’s not a true No. 1 receiver. If he avoids the franchise tag, his open market value will be fascinating to see.

Allen Robinson (24), Jaguars
Two concerns: He’s coming off an ACL injury, and he was bad against press coverage in 2016. But prior to that, he was as intriguing of a downfield perimeter receiver as you’ll find. Someone will risk big money in hopes of capturing that.

John Brown (27), Cardinals
Speed and stop-start quickness can make him lethal … if he stays healthy enough to consistently display it.

OTHER SIGNIFICANT FREE AGENTS

Paul Richardson (25), Seahawks
An acrobatic vertical receiver who is tough to evaluate as an every-down weapon given that he comes from an unusual Russell Wilson-led Seahawks offense.

Jaron Brown (28), Cardinals
Coaches love plugging in track star wideouts because of how they can control safeties. That opens up the rest of your designs.

Dontrelle Inman (29), Bears
From a mechanical standpoint, he’s one of football’s 10 best route runners.

Danny Amendola (32), Patriots
At times was invaluable in his slot role with New England. Many teams will fear that’s the extent of what he can offer, though.

Marqise Lee (26), Jaguars
He can be very good underneath (especially on crossing patterns), but he needs clean access off the line of scrimmage. The fact that he’s not quite a pure slot receiver complicates things.

Taylor Gabriel (27), Falcons
A worthwhile No. 4, and maybe a No. 3, since he infuses an offense with speed.

Donte Moncrief (24), Colts
Ultimately a disappointment in Indy, but he has a neat enough toolkit for someone to take a short-term gamble on.

Jordan Matthews (25), Bills
A big, slow interior possession target. There are places for him, but not as many as there were 20 years ago.

Albert Wilson (25), Chiefs
Can run complimentary dig and corner routes as part of a multi-receiver design.

Mike Wallace (31), Ravens
Presents only two things to defend: go routes (which he executes speedily but inconsistently) and shallow crossing routes.

Ryan Grant (27), Washington
He possesses subtle shiftiness, but not enough to be much more than a puzzle piece.

Terrelle Pryor (28), Washington
His regression in Washington was disappointing and off-putting. He’s at his best running in-breaking routes, but we haven’t’ seen that since his 2016 season in Cleveland.

Eric Decker (31), Titans
Every now and then he separates on the outside thanks to deceptive mechanics, but you sign him for his ability to beat zone coverage from the slot.

Kendall Wright (28), Bears
Not quite shifty enough to create matchup problems in the slot, and not quite big or polished enough to regularly contribute outside.

Potential Cap Casualties (in alphabetical order): Dez Bryant (Cowboys), Randall Cobb (Packers), Michael Crabtree (Raiders), Allen Hurns (Jaguars), Brandon LaFell (Bengals), Jeremy Maclin (Ravens), Brandon Marshall (Giants), Jordy Nelson (Packers), Emmanuel Sanders (Broncos), Torrey Smith (Eagles), Markus Wheaton (Bears)


TIGHT ENDS

DIFFERENCE MAKERS

Jimmy Graham (31), Seahawks
If teams believe he can still win out wide and from the slot, a contender could pay big money in hopes of pushing their offense over the edge.

OTHER SIGNIFICANT FREE AGENTS

Tyler Eifert (27), Bengals
As athletic and versatile as almost any tight end, but 41 missed games in five seasons raise a big red flag.

Trey Burton (26), Eagles
He brings value to an offense that features multiple tight ends because he can operate from anywhere inside the painted field numbers.

Antonio Gates (37), Chargers
Watching him run these days is not unlike watching frozen honey leave that plastic bear-shaped bottle, but remember: Defenders must react to his tempo. They all can, but not all of them can handle his savvy, nuanced mechanics.

Luke Willson (28), Seahawks
A plug-and-play No. 2 tight end who can work in almost any package.

Virgil Green (29), Broncos
He has become much more of a blocker than receiver. Will teams see him as an H-back?

Richard Rodgers (26), Packers
Soft hands, but not much twitch or power.

Anthony Fasano (33), Dolphins
One of those guys who keeps getting on the field because coaches know he won’t make mistakes.

Austin Seferian-Jenkins (25), Jets
Don’t fall for his flirtations.

Ben Watson (37), Ravens
If a team needs a No. 2 receiving tight end who can learn a playbook quickly, his career will continue.

Potential Cap Casualties (in alphabetical order): Dwayne Allen (Patriots), Brent Celek (Eagles), Eric Ebron (Lions), James Hanna (Cowboys), Vance McDonald (Steelers), Julius Thomas (Dolphins)


OFFENSIVE TACKLES

DIFFERENCE MAKERS

Nate Solder (29), Patriots
He’s too up-and-down in pass protection to be elite, but has the nimbleness to continue being a quality starting left tackle.

Justin Pugh (27), Giants
His stubbier body type lends itself better to guard, but he brings decent athleticism to the right tackle position, which is better than what most teams have.

OTHER SIGNIFICANT FREE AGENTS

Chris Hubbard (26), Steelers
The Steelers did not miss a beat when he filled in for injured/suspended right tackle Marcus Gilbert for 10 games last season.

Cameron Fleming (25), Patriots
He improved steadily as a backup the last few years in New England. Will someone take a flyer hoping he’s the next Marcus Cannon?

LaAdrian Waddle (26), Patriots
He’s too lumbering to ever be more than a plug-in right tackle, but to his immense credit, he was a very reliable plug-in right tackle for the Pats in 2017.

James Hurst (26), Ravens
He has the body of a tackle, but not the body control. Ideally, you’re signing him to be a utility backup.

Andre Smith (31), Bengals
You have to assume he’ll play no more than 10 games. But hey, at least he can play those games at any position (except center).

Potential Cap Casualties (in alphabetical order): Duane Brown (Seahawks), Bryan Bulaga (Packers), Cordy Glenn (Bills), Zach Strief (Saints), Jared Veldheer (Cardinals), Menelik Watson (Broncos)


GUARDS

DIFFERENCE MAKERS

Andrew Norwell (26), Panthers
Not as good as his befuddling first-team All-Pro accolade suggests, but he plays with the balance, dexterity and physical strength to improve a team’s man-blocking running game.

OTHER SIGNIFICANT FREE AGENTS

Jack Mewhort (26), Colts
A solid, reliable starter … if he can stay on the field. He has missed 17 games over the last two years.

Josh Kline (28), Titans
He’ll be as good as the guys around him.

Josh Sitton (31), Bears
He’s in decline but not washed up, and his ability to play anywhere along the interior expands his market.

Shawn Lauvao (30), Washington
He can be vulnerable in pass protection, but is a decent mover for his size, which boosts a zone-running game and backfield screen game.

Zach Fulton (26), Chiefs
He quietly started 46 games in four years with the Chiefs. Some team that’s solid up front but has been shaky at one of its guard spots will want him.

D.J. Fluker (27), Giants
It’s hard to understand how a player with his size and north/south plowing ability hasn’t had a better career.

Jonathan Cooper (28), Cowboys
He was surprisingly sturdy in Dallas, where he played between superstars Tyron Smith and Travis Frederick. History says he’ll disappoint if not playing under such favorable circumstances.

Kevin Pamphile (27), Bucs
Last season he had several highlight reel plays, both for the offense and defense.

Senio Kelemete (27), Saints
He held up admirably as a fill-in guy for many years in New Orleans.

Potential Cap Casualties (in alphabetical order): Jeff Allen (Texans), Zane Beadles (49ers), Ronald Leary (Broncos), Andy Levitre (Falcons)


CENTERS

DIFFERENCE MAKERS

Weston Richburg (26), Giants
A very good second-level blocker, and he has the necessary athleticism to get out in front on most screens.

OTHER SIGNIFICANT FREE AGENTS

Spencer Long (27), Washington
One of the league’s better-moving centers. Can be a quality starter in an outside zone run-based offense?

John Sullivan (32), Rams
His football IQ is off the charts, which was huge for the Rams and young QB Jared Goff last year.

Travis Swanson (27), Lions
He has the tools of a first-stringer, but has missed two, four and five games over the last three seasons.

Ryan Jensen (26), Ravens
He’s a fighter, which some believe is enough to make you a quality interior O-line starter.

Russell Bodine (25), Bengals
Over the last two years he had too many negative plays, particularly in the running game and against designer pass-rush tactics.

Potential Cap Casualty: Joe Hawley (Bucs)


EDGE PLAYERS

DIFFERENCE MAKERS

Demarcus Lawrence (25), Cowboys
There’s almost zero chance he gets past the franchise tag. Too bad for teams needing a proven edge guy—the gap between Lawrence and No. 2 (Ziggy Ansah) is substantial.

Ezekiel Ansah (28), Lions
Long and talented, but also injury-prone and enigmatic. In 2016 he was excellent but had only two sacks. In 2017, he was subpar (by star standards) but had 12 sacks. It will be fascinating to see what kind of offers he draws.

OTHER SIGNIFICANT FREE AGENTS

Julius Peppers (38), Panthers
According to his age, he should be washed up. But that’s been true for five years now. As a situational pass rusher, he’s still in the NFL’s upper echelon.

Alex Okafor (27), Saints
He was having a career year in New Orleans before tearing his Achilles last November.

Trent Murphy (27), Washington
He needs to be in a hybrid 3-4 style scheme that allows him to align in different positions, a la Jarret Johnson for the Ravens in the 2000s.

Barkevious Mingo (27), Colts
Warning to potential suitors: Don’t think you can be the one who finally turns him into a true edge rusher. He found his home as a move-around joker piece for the Colts last year, where he had responsibilities as a blitzer, spy and occasional zone coverage dropper. That must be his permanent role.

Adrian Clayborn (29), Falcons
A disruptive in-line run defender who can also make noise as a pass rusher (especially against an overmatched backup left tackle!).

Connor Barwin (31), Rams
At this point he’s the duct tape or WD-40 of football players. As a complementary short-term problem-solving piece, and he’s excellent, both in a 4-3 and a 3-4. But if you need a building block (even a short-term one), look elsewhere.

Jerry Attaochu (25), Chargers
He never fully blossomed as a Charger, in part due to injury. He has loose hips, a long frame and supple body control. Could he be a Jerry Hughes-type who finds his footing midway through his career?

Kony Ealy (26), Jets
Or could he be a Jerry Hughes type? The Patriots and Jets already took a chance on Ealy, and determined no. He’s hoping one more team will give it a shot.

Potential Cap Casualties (in alphabetical order): Cliff Avril (Seahawks), Robert Ayers (Bucs), Allen Bailey (Chiefs), Elvis Dumervil (49ers), Tamba Hali (Chiefs), Clay Matthews (Packers), Shea McClellin (Patriots), Pernell McPhee (Bears), Brooks Reed (Falcons), Terrell Suggs (Ravens), Cameron Wake (Dolphins), Willie Young (Bears)


DEFENSIVE LINEMEN

DIFFERENCE MAKERS

Star Lotulelei (28), Panthers
He possesses excellent short-area power and the athleticism to shoot gaps as a pass rusher. He’s not Fletcher Cox or Aaron Donald, but he could be the missing piece that makes a good defensive line great.

Sheldon Richardson (27), Seahawks
The talent is irrefutable. The question is, given his history, who wants to make him uber-rich and then hope he grows up?

OTHER SIGNIFICANT FREE AGENTS

Dontari Poe (27), Falcons
The Falcons sold him on their team last year by arguing that their scheme would increase his opportunities to get upfield and accumulate value-rising sacks. It didn’t quite go that way—he had 2.5 sacks on the season—but plenty of teams will still want his combination of size and light feet.

Shamar Stephen (27), Vikings
An above-average run defender who blended in along Minnesota’s rich defensive line, someone could pay him surprisingly big money to become a fulltime starter.

Bennie Logan (28), Chiefs
His quiet season in Kansas City suggests he’s better suited for a 4-3 nose-shade role, as opposed to a true nose tackle or 3-4 defensive end role. For multiple years as a nose shade, his lateral movement ability brought unique playmaking prowess to Philly’s run defense.

DaQuan Jones (26), Titans
He can beat bad blockers off the snap, and at times he has flashed as a run defender.

Kyle Williams (34), Bills
The wear and tear of 12 outstanding seasons will make some teams leery. But there will be others who trust that his tenacity and technique can produce a 13th outstanding season.

Brent Urban (26), Ravens
He was quietly one of football’s better run-stoppers before his Week 3 Lisfranc injury last year.

Denico Autry (27), Raiders
Has shown intriguing traits as a pass rusher, though not often enough to warrant big long-term money. If the market proves soft, would he bet on himself with a one-year deal? One thing’s certain: He’ll maximize his value wherever he goes. His effort always stands out on film.

Tyrunn Walker (28), Rams
He only played 15-20 snaps a game off the bench, but always stood out on film.

Haloti Ngata (34), Lions
The Lions run defense went kerplunk after he tore his biceps in Week 5. Durability and age are a concern, but all it takes is one team to believe he can compensate with his considerable football IQ.

Chris Baker (30), Bucs
A better pass rusher than his body type suggests, though didn’t produce nearly enough here in Tampa Bay.

Jay Bromley (25), Giants
He was a steady puzzle piece along a strong run-stopping interior Giants D-line.

Justin Ellis (27), Raiders
Little more than a space-eater.

Potential Cap Casualties (in alphabetical order): Tyson Alualu (Steelers), Sharrif Floyd (Vikings), Abry Jones (Jaguars), Brandon Mebane (Chargers), Domata Peko (Broncos), Ndamukong Suh (Dolphins), Muhammad Wilkerson (Jets)


STACK LINEBACKERS

DIFFERENCE MAKERS

Nigel Bradham (28), Eagles
He has developed into a quality three-down contributor with some playmaking prowess, both in run and pass D.

OTHER SIGNIFICANT FREE AGENTS

Tahir Whitehead (27), Lions
He can be very disruptive when pinning his ears back and pursuing the ball—needs to be a piece in a linebacking unit, not its headliner.

Avery Williamson (26), Titans
He rarely came off the field in Tennessee thanks to his gap-soundness in run D and serviceability against the pass.

NaVorro Bowman (29), Raiders
It’s hard to imagine the Raiders not making a strong run at re-signing him given the way he saved their decrepit linebacking corps last year. It is, however, a new coaching staff there…

Zach Brown (28), Washington
His pursuit speed is excellent, but he’s not immune to misreads.

Paul Posluszny (33), Jaguars
He doesn’t run like he used to, but is so smart and fundamentally sound (flawless?) that it often doesn’t matter.

Todd Davis (25), Broncos
He’s higher on this list because he’s so stingy against the run, but his vulnerability in coverage could leave him with less money than guys below him (like Hitchens, Pierre-Louis and maybe even Bynes).

Jerell Freeman (31), Bears
His flashing downhill burst can, at times, make him look almost as good as any ‘backer in the league.

Anthony Hitchens (25), Cowboys
The talent is evident, but he couldn’t secure an every-down role last season. Why?

Preston Brown (25), Bills
Average in every sense of the word.

Demario Davis (29), Jets
He’s too young to be washing up, but where was he down the stretch?

Karlos Dansby (36), Cardinals
One of those guys who does everything right, which makes coaches comfortable. That’s why he’ll always crack the starting lineup if he’s on the roster.

Kevin Pierre-Louis (26), Chiefs
Kansas City’s defense at times looked better when he rotated in for an aging Derrick Johnson.

Jon Bostic (26), Colts
He’s by no means dynamic, but has developed good awareness in zone coverage.

Josh Bynes (28), Lions
Multiple times for the Lions and Cardinals he did a stellar job as a fill-in first-teamer. He’s worth considering as a passing-down specialist.

Will Compton (28), Washington
A few times he’s earned playing time ahead of more talented players. He’s worth signing as a source of quality depth.

Christian Jones (27), Bears
Most of his snaps have come as a passing-down specialist. Given how much nickel teams play these days, could he garner low-end starter money?

Devon Kennard (26), Giants
Brings value as a strong-side ’backer who can get physical with tight ends off the snap.

Potential Cap Casualties (in alphabetical order): Ray-Ray Armstrong (Giants), David Harris (Patriots), Derrick Johnson (Chiefs), Vincent Rey (Bengals), Lawrence Timmons (Dolphins)


CORNERBACKS

DIFFERENCE MAKERS

Trumaine Johnson (28), Rams
He has traveled with No. 1 receivers at times in recent years and won more battles than he’s lost. That he can travel in man and zone coverage should raise his value.

Malcolm Butler (28), Patriots
Did you know he didn’t play in Super Bowl LII? Teams will find out what’s behind that and shape their offer accordingly. If he has a clean image, he’ll get top-10 corner money.

OTHER SIGNIFICANT FREE AGENTS

Vontae Davis (29), Colts
Injuries have become so routine that it’s hard to envision anyone offering him more than No. 2 money, even though, when he’s healthy, his physical nature can contest with many No. 1s.

Aaron Colvin (26), Jaguars
He’s overshadowed by the litany of stars on Jacksonville’s defense, but a closer look reveals him as one of the league’s best slot corners. That’s an important—and difficult—position to fill.

Kyle Fuller (26), Bears
His first year in Chicago was tremendous, and so was much of his last. It’s those years in between that might make teams slow to pull the trigger. Whoever signs him will be getting a quality ball-in-air outside defender.

Patrick Robinson (30), Eagles
He was one of football’s best slot defenders. The Eagles have youth and depth at corner, but they may want to think long and hard before letting him go.

Morris Claiborne (28), Jets
Had some nice stretches as the Jets’ top cover corner last season. A team in need of a No. 2, especially if it runs a mostly zone-based scheme, will want him.

Rashaan Melvin (28), Colts
He performed admirably in difficult circumstances for the Colts last season. He did that down the stretch for Baltimore a few years ago, too.

E.J. Gaines (26), Bills
He’s experienced in a wide range of schemes, both outside and in the slot.

David Amerson (26)—Signed With Chiefs (one year, $2.25 million)
He had a great stretch in the second half of 2016, but has been erratic for much of his six-year career.

Nickell Robey-Coleman (26), Rams
He’s at his best in attack-mode, including on slot blitzes. Considering this and his adequacy in man coverage, a pressure-based defense should want him.

Prince Amukamara (28), Bears
Ideally, he’s your No. 4 corner, giving you confidence that your defense could survive if a starting outside corner were out for a few weeks.

Nevin Lawson (26), Lions
Another nice plug-in guy who could add valuable depth, especially given that he has the body to play outside or in the slot.

Bashaud Breeland (26), Washington
About as up-and-down as they come. What that means for his open market value remains to be seen.

Leonard Johnson (28), Bills
It seems like he’s become an off-the-street midseason slot starter every year of his career. Was his solid 2017 season in Buffalo enough to get him a permanent home?

Dontae Johnson (26), 49ers
He had too many bad plays in downfield coverage last season. He should consider taking a one-year “prove it” deal and hope to bounce back.

Ross Cockrell (26), Giants
He has played significant snaps in matchup zone schemes for the Steelers and Giants. That’s enough to secure a No. 4 job, with a chance to compete at No. 3.

Davon House (28), Packers
After watching almost every snap of his seven-year career on film, it’s still hard to declare whether he’s good or bad.

T.J. Carrie (27), Raiders
His experience in the slot and as a punt returner will bolster his value as a backup.

Brent Grimes (34), Bucs
Many of us thought he would wash up a few years ago, but then he went to Tampa Bay and prospered. So we say, with a sprinkle of caution: He showed signs of decline last season.

Potential Cap Casualties (in alphabetical order): Brandon Carr (Ravens), Marcus Cooper (Bears), William Gay (Steelers), Adam Jones (Broncos), Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (Giants), Sean Smith (Raiders), Aqib Talib (Broncos)


SAFETIES

DIFFERENCE MAKERS

Eric Reid (26), 49ers
Teams would be foolish to pass on him because of the anthem protests. He’s a playmaker and one of the better multi-tool defenders in football, with significant experience at both safety spots, in the slot and at linebacker.

Lamarcus Joyner (27), Rams
A rangy centerfielder who can cover certain slot receivers in base defense; he’s undersized, but he’s also one of football’s nastiest hitters.

Morgan Burnett (29), Packers
He started 102 games in Green Bay, so the perception is that he’s old. But 29 is middle-age for a smart safety. Adding to his value is that he’s proven to be every bit as versatile as Eric Reid.

OTHER SIGNIFICANT FREE AGENTS

Kenny Vaccaro (27), Saints
He never quite developed the cover skills to fulfill his first-round billing with the Saints, but teams that want to play with three safeties on first and second down will be very interested.

Tavon Wilson (28), Lions
He’s at his best in the box, particularly when rotating down into it after the snap.

Corey Graham (32), Eagles
The former corner’s coverage versatility was critical for Philly. Teams with expansive schemes should look closely at the veteran.

T.J. Ward (31), Bucs
He disappointed last season in Tampa Bay’s zone-based scheme. At 31, can he still cover tight ends man-to-man? How teams answer that question will determine his fate in free agency.

Tre Boston (25), Chargers
He’s not particularly strong or physical, but he’s become a reliable enough centerfielder, assuming he’s playing with good cornerbacks.

Bradley McDougald (27), Seahawks
He held up decently in the Kam Chancellor role with Seattle, and could very well be signed as a backup and wind up winning a starting job.

Potential Cap Casualties (in alphabetical order): Antoine Bethea (Cardinals), Quintin Demps (Bears), Mike Mitchell (Steelers), Da’Norris Searcy (Titans)

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