NFL's Top Unrestricted Free Agents
With another season in the books, it's time to start dreaming about what next season may hold. Here are some marquee free agents to keep an eye on. Some of the following 30 players are sure to re-sign with their current teams before the start of the 2012 League Year on March 13 and others will definitely be given the franchise tag. But for now let's play Imagine if... , starting with Matt Flynn. Aaron Rodgers' backup put up gaudy stats in one start this season, throwing for 480 yards and six touchdowns with one interception in a Week 17 win over the Lions. The 26-year-old could be in for a big payday from a team in need of a starting quarterback.
The embattled Browns runner had a dismal 2011, rushing for just 587 yards and three touchdowns one year after surprising the league -- and landing on the cover of Madden 12 -- with nearly 1,200 yards and 11 scores.
Jackson has to be wondering how big a hit his stock took this season. After openly pining -- some would say complaining -- for a new deal at the start of this year, Jackson took a step back on the field, setting three-year personal lows in receiving yards and touchdowns.
Smith has had a solid, if unspectacular, first year under new coach Jim Harbaugh. The former No. 1 overall draft pick's five regular season interceptions were the fewest in the league and his 3,144 yards and 19 touchdowns were both career highs.
Lynch had a beastly regular season, rushing for a career high 1,204 yards and 12 touchdowns in his first full year in Seattle. The Cal product -- whose love of Skittles was made famous late this year -- will be able to buy all the candy he wants after he signs what should be a hefty contract this offseason.
Though he didn't match the amount of yards or touchdowns he put up in 2010, Bowe still had a strong season, catching 81 balls for 1,159 yards and five scores.
Though the Chargers were down, Jackson had one of his typically solid seasons in 2011, catching 60 balls for 1,106 yards and tying a career high with 11 touchdowns.
The mercurial wideout matched his solid 2010 statistics with a strong 2011, but earned criticism -- not to mention a Week 17 benching -- from head coach Chan Gailey for repeatedly drawing excessive celebration penalties. That isn't dissuading Buffalo GM Buddy Nix, though: He's on the record as wanting Johnson back with the Bills.
Standing at 6-foot-5, 247 pounds and possessing great speed, Finley is a matchup nightmare for almost any defense. He had a solid 2011 after an injury limited him to just five games last year, catching 55 passes for 767 yards and eight touchdowns.
The anchor of Green Bay's solid offensive line, the 30-year-old Wells was named to his first career Pro Bowl this year.
Grubbs was bothered by a toe injury in the beginning part of this year, but still had a solid season protecting Joe Flacco's left side. The 2007 first round pick has been a full-time starter since his rookie year.
Nicks was one of three Saints linemen to be named to the NFC Pro Bowl team this year. He and his fellow linemen allowed just 24 sacks this season, tied for the second fewest in the league.
Avril stepped into the void created by fellow d-lineman Ndamukong Suh's down year, recording team highs in both sacks (11) and forced fumbles (six).
The fourth-year pro had the best season of his career in 2011, making a career high 72 tackles, getting to the quarterback eight times and breaking up a cornerback-like 10 passes. The Cardinals have said that re-signing Campbell is a top priority this offseason and he'll be a strong candidate for the franchise tag if Arizona can't work out a quick extension.
Mathis didn't let the Colts dismal season stop him from making an impact, as the ninth-year defensive end earned his fourth straight trip to the Pro Bowl with 9.5 sacks.
Williams was limited to just five games this year thanks to a season-ending injury suffered in Week 5. There's no arguing that he's a star, but it remains to be seen whether or not the Texans -- who got 11.5 sacks out of Williams' replacement Connor Barwin -- will be willing to pay the large salary that will be required to re-sign the former No. 1 overall pick.
You may not notice Soliai on the stat sheet -- he only made 27 tackles in 2011 -- but the big defensive tackle was a key part of Miami's third-ranked rush defense. The fifth-year lineman, who was franchise tagged last offseason, eats up a lot of space in the middle, freeing other Dolphins defenders to make plays.
The 36-year-old Fletcher showed no signs of slowing down in 2011, leading the NFL with 166 tackles and making the Pro Bowl roster as a late addition for the injured Brian Urlacher. Both Fletcher and the Redskins have said they want to see the 14th-year player back in Washington next year.
Lofton may have toiled in relative anonymity in 2011, but that doesn't mean he didn't have a big year. The fourth-year middle linebacker was fifth in the NFL and led the Falcons with 147 tackles in the regular season.
It looks like Spencer could very well be leaving Dallas this offseason. The Cowboys will reportedly let the fifth-year outside linebacker test the free agent market before offering him a deal and Spencer has acknowledged that he may have played his last game with the team.
Finnegan didn't have his best year in 2011, but he remains an effective corner and is still particularly adept at getting under opponents' skin. He has gone on the record with his desire to stay with the Titans, but has said that the team has yet to approach him about a contract extension.
One of the league's top cover corners, Grimes led the Falcons with 14 passes defensed in 2011. Along with Lofton, the fourth-year corner is one of a slew of important Falcons defenders who could hit the free agent market this spring.
Rogers had one of the best seasons of his seven-year career in his first season in San Francisco, setting a career high in interceptions with six and making his first Pro Bowl. The 30-year-old former Redskin has said multiple times that he wants to finish his career with the 49ers.
Griffin took a step back from his 2010 Pro Bowl season, but still had a solid year in 2011. The 27-year-old safety had 75 tackles and two picks. He caused a minor controversy by tweeting before the Titans home finale that it would be his "last game at LP [Field]." He took back the tweet after the game.
Landry suffered his second straight injury plagued season in 2011, playing in only eight games after seeing the field just nine times in 2010. He'll be coming off of surgery on his Achilles tendon next year, making a long-term contract doubtful.
The record setting QB's contract expires after this season, though he'll likely re-sign with the Saints before the league year begins on March 13.
Rice had yet another big season in 2011, placing second in the league with 1,364 rushing yards and tying for third with 12 touchdowns on the ground. The 24-year-old should still have quite a few good years left, too.
The big wideout excelled in the Saints' record breaking offense, totaling 1,143 receiving yards and eight touchdowns on 80 receptions. New Orleans will likely make re-signing him, Brees and guard Carl Nicks their top offseason priorities.
Welker has been nothing short of fantastic since signing with the Patriots before the 2007 season. The 30-year-old has caught over 100 balls in all but one of his five seasons with New England and developed into more of a big play threat this year, setting career marks in receiving yards and touchdowns.
The fourth-year back was on pace to set career highs in both rushing and receiving yards when he went down for the year with a sprained MCL in Week 13. His stagnant contract talks could get back on track once the Bears hire a new GM -- the fired Jerry Angelo was reluctant to extend Forte's deal and looked likely to give the 2012 Pro Bowl back the franchise tag.