Excerpt: "Although the 2013 NFL Free Agency period is one month away and the market will be thinned at the top by franchise tags and contract extensions, this is a good time to survey the prospective field. The NFL Scouting Combine kicks off in less than two weeks, and it is in Indianapolis that free-agency scuttlebutt commences as player representatives meet face-to-face with team officials.
This is a free agency position ranking. As it stands, I believe cornerback to be the deepest, most talented group of players with expiring contracts. I think quarterback is the weakest, for an obvious reason: NFL teams simply don't let franchise signal callers hit the open market. Offensive tackle and defensive end look very strong. Inside linebacker and center are bereft of quality starters.
On the back page is my Free Agent Top 40 for the 2013 offseason. I did not include Joe Flacco or Ryan Clady, because neither of them is going anywhere. Tony Gonzalez's contract is up, but his future is murky at best and he is not included, either.
2. Offensive Tackle
If cornerback is the gold standard in 2013 free agency, offensive tackle isn't far behind. Even with Clady off the board, Andre Smith, 26, Branden Albert, 28, Jake Long, 27, Sebastian Vollmer, 28, Will Beatty, 27, Gosder Cherilus, 28, Phil Loadholt, 27, Jermon Bushrod, 28, and Sam Baker, 27, all have extensive, successful track records as strong NFL starters and will be paid accordingly.
Since the positions are valued differently inside the NFL, offensive tackles can be halved into left and right. Left tackles are the highest paid O-Line position. Right tackles are viewed as inferior, although the league's best running teams unfailingly field high-impact tackle play on the right side.
Albert, Long, Beatty, Bushrod, Baker, and Bryant McKinnie, 33, are the best left tackles free agency has to offer. Smith, Vollmer, Cherilus, and Loadholt are difference makers on the right side. Vollmer is especially intriguing because he possesses athleticism and length to play both tackle spots, and made five starts on Tom Brady's blindside as a rookie in 2009. If Vollmer hits free agency -- and the Patriots will probably make sure that he does not-- it's conceivable that interested teams would view him as a left tackle, setting up Vollmer for a monster pay day.
8. Tight End
I have tight end ranked relatively low, but I think it's a quietly strong group. Especially when you include Texans fullback/H-back James Casey, 28, who demonstrates Hernandezian movement skills in pass routes but played out of position as a lead blocker in Gary Kubiak's offense. Casey needs to get out of Houston and find a chance to start. He can get open and has great hands.
Fred Davis, 27, is a field stretcher and underrated blocker if his Achilles' checks out. Dustin Keller, 28, has been held hostage statistically by putrid Jets offenses and needs to leave New York to maximize his god-given ability.Jared Cook, 25, is a freak of nature talent. Martellus Bennett, 25, is a terrific blocker and flashed taking his receiving game to a top-ten level when healthy in 2012.
Other free agent tight ends include backup types Delanie Walker, 28, Brandon Myers, 27, Dallas Clark, 33, Ben Watson 32, and Anthony Fasano, 28.
Restricted Free Agents are not considered here because they so rarely change teams." Read more...