Dolphins free agency | Part 8

Dolphins free agency: Top NFL free agents

 

dneal@miamiherald.com

The top NFL free agents per position (NFL teams are allowed to sign free agents starting Tuesday):

OFFENSE
Wide receiver

The NFL job fair constantly teems with possession receivers and butterfingered fast guys looking for employment. So it is this year, which is why Wallace and Jennings should make some scratch.

Mike Wallace: His 13.1 yards per catch last year was his career low by 3.5 yards, but his eight touchdowns maintained his career average.

Greg Jennings: He’ll be 30 in September, so is he still as fast as he is unreliable (missed 11 regular-season games over the past two seasons).

Quarterback

There’s no future Hall of Famer looking for a new driver’s seat this year and the last Super Bowl-winning quarterback just got locked down.

Matt Moore: Didn’t hurt the Dolphins in 2011 as a starter, when he had a 16-9 TD/INT ratio, or in his 2012 backup appearances.

Jason Campbell: A serviceable backup, which is the best you can realistically hope for in free agency.

Running back

Young, healthy running backs usually don’t reach free agency. They get locked down contractually until they’re older, damaged running backs.

Rashard Mendenhall: The official injury to the 25-year-old’s ACL is less worrisome to teams than the unofficial injury to his attitude.

Reggie Bush: As long as you don’t expect him to play 16 games, properly used, he’s still plastique in pads.

Offensive tackle

The guys who protect the pass rusher and the big prize is also the big question mark.

Jake Long: He wants a big pile of 2013 cash to show people he can still be the 2009 Jake Long.

Andre Smith: Played well in starting 30 games over the last two years.

Offensive guard

Everyone likes long-armed tackles. At guard, the key is finding a mauler if you run straight power, someone at tad more nimble if you run a zone scheme.

Andy Levitre: The 26-year-old had perfect attendance, starting every Buffalo game of his four-year career. Dependability sells.

Phil Loadholt: Enormous (6-8, 340) and experienced (started every game in his four-year career).

Tight end

Much like speed wide receivers, tight ends who can get up the seam and split the defense wide open usually don’t hit the market.

Dustin Keller: Though he’s coming off an injury that limited him to eight games last season, Keller’s a good safety blanket for a young quarterback.

Delanie Walker: The tight end you’d hear about in San Francisco if Vernon Davis wasn’t there.

Kicker

Rob Bironas: His history of distance and clutch kicks overshadows last year’s slump from 40-49 yards (five of 10).

Steven Hauschka: All three 2012 misses were beyond at or beyond 50 yards and has kicked well in damp Seattle.

DEFENSE
Defensive tackle

Chicago franchising Henry Melton and the Dolphins franchising Randy Starks kept the two best defensive tackles. So here’s the best of the rest.

Desmond Bryant: At 6-6, 310 pounds, this 27-year-old brings not just bulk, but up the middle length that gets in passing lanes.

Alan Branch: Started 31 games for Seattle over the last two years after being a backup with Arizona.

Defensive end

This year’s crop looks like a bunch of defensive end Neil O’Donnells: above average guys who’ll make more than they should because they’re the best this year in a coveted role.

Paul Kruger: Made an awful lot of plays for the Super Bowl champions as the guy on the other side of Terrell Suggs.

Cliff Avril: An ace pass rusher who’ll have a tough time against the run.

Linebacker

A group so underwhelming the top five guys hitting free agency might not be able to win jobs from the top five retiring.

Dannell Ellerbe: 92 tackles in 13 games only seven of which were starts.

Rey Maualuga: Just turned 26, started every game last year, in fact, has only not started one game in his career.

Safeties

Everybody wants Ed Reed. Not the 11-year veteran Ed Reed who might be available and a year or two from retirement. They want the 2004 Ed Reed reincarnated on patrol in their secondary.

Dashon Goldson: A significant 6-2 piece of a terrific San Francisco defense

William Moore: Picking off 11 passes over the last three years might make up for missing eight games over the last two.

Cornerback

With teams lining up in three and four wideout as a standard set, teams tend to hang onto any corners they can get.

Aqib Talib: A team with a strong coach and locker room to give him structure gets the most talented free agent corner.

Keenan Lewis: Consistency for the Steelers and led the NFL in passes knocked down.

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