The Top 25 Free Agents of 2009
Albert Haynesworth and T.J. Houshmandzadeh among most coveted
Jacksonville's Khalif Barnes is best left tackle on the market
Kerry Collins may be more valuable to Titans than to any other team
The 2009 season officially began Friday at 12:01 a.m. when free agency opened. What follows is a rundown of the 25 best available free agents. This list was compiled through a series of conversations with scouts and through game-tape evaluations.
1. Albert Haynesworth, DT, Titans (Signed with Redskins): The most dominating big man in the game the past two seasons, Haynesworth is a rare talent with exceptional skills. Whether playing as a run stopper or as an interior pass rusher, he takes over the line of scrimmage with his brute strength and power. He transforms any defense he plays on into a stellar unit with his presence. Although scouts question Haynesworth's durability (he has only played one full season in his seven-year career) and motivation (he enjoyed the best two seasons of his career in contract years), few will dispute he is the best available player in free agency.
2. Kurt Warner, QB, Cardinals: The two-time league MVP displayed his old form in guiding the Cardinals to their first Super Bowl appearance last season. Warner's pinpoint passing and steady leadership skills are coveted by franchises in need of a stabilizing presence under center. While his age (37) and durability are concerns, Warner's re-emergence as an elite quarterback has several teams targeting him as a viable short-term solution.
3. T.J. Houshmandzadeh, WR, Bengals: The underappreciated playmaker is a polished route runner with outstanding hands. He's at his best when working as a slot receiver, and his consistent production since stepping into the starting lineup has led many to view him as a potential No. 1 receiver in the right system. Though his detractors question whether he can duplicate his success without Pro Bowl wideout Chad Johnson at his side, Houshmandzadeh has proven the naysayers wrong throughout his career. He'll get another chance to do so after signing a big-money deal early in free agency.
4. Bart Scott, ILB, Ravens (Signed with Jets): The "Mad 'Backer" has outstanding instincts and skills. His ability to diagnose plays is exceptional, and he has the versatility to make plays as a middle or weakside linebacker. While he is routinely overshadowed by Pro Bowlers Ray Lewis and Terrell Suggs, Scott is the top linebacker on the board due to his age (28) and consistent production.
5. Ray Lewis, MLB, Ravens: Coming off his 10th Pro Bowl season, Lewis continues to prove he can play at a high level. One of the most instinctive players to ever man the position, Lewis is a productive sideline-to-sideline linebacker with an unrivaled penchant for playmaking.
6. Chris Canty, DE, Cowboys (Signed with Giants): An ideal 3-4 defensive end with outstanding size, skill and potential, Canty is a nice combination run stopper/pass rusher. He has steadily improved throughout his career, and with more teams moving to the 3-4, Canty is highly coveted.
7. DeAngelo Hall, CB, Redskins (Signed with Redskins): The gambling cover corner is coming off an up-and-down season but remains one of the top talents at the position. Hall has 22 career interceptions and is a two-time Pro Bowl selectee.
8. Khalif Barnes, OT, Jaguars: The fourth-year pro is the top left tackle prospect available in free agency. He has the ability to mirror finesse rushers off the edge and blocks well on the move in space.
9. Antonio Smith, DE, Cardinals (Signed with Texans): A high motor defensive end who has the ability to play in a 3-4 or 4-3, Smith is adept at getting to the quarterback. He plays stout on the edge against the run and has the skills to be an effective inside/outside player in the hybrid scheme. While his detractors say Smith benefited from playing alongside burgeoning star Darnell Dockett, the film shows he is an energetic playmaker with a solid set of skills.
10. Jason Brown, OC, Ravens (Signed with Rams): A big, agile center, Brown is one of the few pivots capable of moving stout nose tackles off the ball, and his ability to get to the second level is exceptional. As a pass protector, he is quick enough to handle finesse rushers, but also possesses the strength and balance to anchor against power. The center position typically doesn't command much attention on the market, but Brown's skills are special and worthy of consideration as a potential big-money addition.
11. Jon Stinchcomb, OT, Saints (Re-signed with Saints): The veteran has manned the Saints right tackle spot in superb fashion while starting 48-consecutive games the past three years. Stinchcomb is best described as a solid technician who understands how to play to his strengths. While he is not considered a good athlete, he has enough quickness to handle speed rushers off the edge.
12. Jonathan Vilma, LB, Saints (Re-signed with Saints): The active playmaker enters the market after re-establishing himself as one of the top inside linebackers in the game. Vilma's instincts are superb, and his knack for slipping under blocks allows him to gobble up running backs at a prolific rate. Though some teams will be turned off by his lack of size (6-foot-1, 230), Vilma's overall skills and productivity has him high on many free-agent boards.