The shopper's guide to free agency in the NFC
The longest work stoppage in NFL history is over, which will lead to the shortest window of opportunity to sign free agents in history.
There will be no time for window shopping and little time for haggling. Smart shoppers will prevail. Here's a team-by-team Shopper's Guide to get the most out of the NFL's version of the day after Thanksgiving at the local mall. We're focusing here the NFC. Click here to check out the Shopper's Guide to the AFC.
Money is no object: The offensive line needs a jolt of physical, consistent talent and it begins with Harvey Dahl, but doesn't end there. The Bears could well make a play on any of the highly touted guards and tackles. They may be better served splitting big money with receiver Santana Moss or Santonio Holmes.
Smart shopper: Value signings along the offensive line could prove invaluable in the physical NFC North. San Diego tackle Jeromey Clary is a valuable if unheralded player on a national scale.
Money is no object: The once-woeful Lions could become one of the league's dominant and marquee defenses overnight if they sign Nnamdi Asomugha. With Ndamukong Suh up front and Asomugha shutting down one side of the field, the road to the playoffs goes directly through the owner's checkbook.
Smart shopper: An addition or two at linebacker clearly is necessary. Without a lot of money to spend presuming an Asomugha signing, the best fits and price tags would be the oft-injured but consistent Justin Durant or the unproven but skilled James Anderson.
Money is no object: It may seem that the Super Bowl champs don't need much, especially with injured players returning. But the DL is one big injury away from being a soft spot. Aubrayo Franklin should be the premiere target.
Smart shopper: The Packers are in a position where they can sign players for a specific need. Texans WR/KR Jacoby Jones fits the value here, as does, perhaps, Reggie Bush, who could be a spot receiver and kick returner.
Money is no object: It's becoming obvious Donovan McNabb will be in play for the Vikings, but would that work with Christian Ponder presumably on the fast-track to playing time? If the Vikes sign McNabb and go for a safety, like Eric Weddle, it will be clear they want to win and win soon.
Smart shopper: If Ponder is the quarterback of the future, the best play clearly will be signing Trent Edwards, who would know his role and help the rookie. The need signings could come at safety, where Roman Harper or Michael Huff could fit the role.
Money is no object: There simply won't be a better all-around fit in free agency than Charles Johnson, a Georgia product, and the Falcons. Johnson will be a big-ticket item, but with the Falcons on the brink of greatness, they should over-spend. Next-best target: Ray Edwards.
Smart shopper: The biggest priority will be signing their own offensive linemen. But if the Texans' Rashad Butler and Pittsburgh's Trai Essex become available as unrestricted free agents, they fit the Falcons' style. Butler is a versatile tackle who could fit in at guard. Essex is a big, power lineman that can play both sides of the center, too.
Money is no object: The Panthers likely will lose sack specialist Charles Johnson and most likely DeAngelo Williams. They'll need a splash headliner. Donovan McNabb is it. He also would take off some of the pressure to play Cam Newton too soon.
Smart shopper: If receiver Sam Hurd hits the open market, he's the type of player who could fit now and help later as well. At 26, he's young enough to be there when or if Newton develops. T.J. Houshmandzadeh might be another fit.
Money is no object: Whether or not Lance Moore hits the open market, they need to look at receiver. Braylon Edwards would come at a premium price, but would be a perfect fit and could perform well under Sean Payton and Drew Brees.
Smart shopper: Even after the draft, the linebacking corps needs experience and depth. Zac Diles or Ben Leber could be good fits and decent value, while Rocky McIntosh is a logical fit, having played for Gregg Williams previously.
Money is no object: Any team that has Nnamdi Asomugha in their sites is going to have to pay a premium price -- the Bucs will make sure. No team will have more cap flexibility. The Bucs also could pick up an elite back like Ahmad Bradshaw ... or maybe even both.
Smart shopper: Depth and value at running back could come in the form of Reggie Bush, who has knee problems, or Florida native Fred Taylor, who is contemplating retirement. Both could fit in nicely with a younger, bigger back.
Money is no object: Paul Posluszny and Stephen Tulloch both should be targeted, presuming the Cardinals will trade for a top-end quarterback rather than sign a mediocre one. Posluszny would be the first choice, but Tulloch is tough, still young and could anchor the defense.
Smart shopper: Floyd Womack and Chester Pitts are similar stories who could blossom again. Both are versatile, at the ends of their respective careers, but still capable. Either or both could help the Cards' OL.
Money is no object: Only two names should be dancing in Rams fans' heads -- Brandon Mebane and Barry Cofield. If the Rams land either of those two playmaking DTs, they'll become an impact defense.
Smart shopper: There may not be a better hidden gem on the market for the Rams than Steve Slaton. After a tremendous rookie year, Slaton slumped, then was benched in favor of NFL rushing leader Arian Foster and Derrick Ward. Slaton is great in space and perfect for Sam Bradford ... and he'll come cheap.
Money is no object: Sidney Rice and Jim Harbaugh could be a perfect match. Rice will fetch a big payday, but fits Harbaugh's style perfectly and will have a chip on his shoulder coming off an injury.
Smart shopper: A fullback like Pro Bowler Vonta Leach makes everyone better -- on the offensive line, as well as at tailback. Leach is a hard-hitting, smart player who can plant linebackers, as well as catch the ball in the red zone.
Money is no object: The Charlie Whitehurst era looks set to begin, with Matt Hasselbeck one of the premier QB free agents likely to depart. Whitehurst needs someone to either push him or take the job. Matt Moore of Carolina or Trent Edwards should be the players targeted.
Smart shopper: Pete Carroll likes to go off the grid sometimes. If a Moore or Edwards is not signed, why not Vince Young, the player who beat Carroll for the 2005 NCAA national championship? Carroll has a knack with players searching for a new identity or rebirth and VY definitely fits the bill.
Money is no object: There have been issues at safety for the past five years at least. Going hard after Eric Weddle or Michael Huff are musts. And no matter what, the Cowboys must do what it takes to sign tackle Doug Free.
Smart shopper: A well-traveled pro like Chester Pitts would bring experience and depth to an offensive line in need of both. Tampa Bay vet Davin Joseph could fit the same role.
Money is no object: Re-signing Ahmad Bradshaw trumps all other goals, but if that cannot be done, DeAngelo Williams, Michael Bush and Jason Snelling, in that order, should be the targets.
Smart shopper: Barrett Ruud is coming off a bad year and there are questions about his ability to sustain a high level of play. He's a fantastic tackler and leader, however, and still is just 28.
Money is no object: The Eagles must go all-in for Nnamdi Asomugha in order to compete in this division and fortify the defense. And if Asomugha signs elsewhere, then Ike Taylor cannot slip through their fingers.
Smart shopper: It may be a move that ultimately blows up, but with Kevin Kolb on the way out, Vince Young will be released by the Titans and could be in the perfect spot behind Michael Vick and under the tutelage of Andy Reid.
Money is no object: Before the 'Skins settle in on a receiver or quarterback target, they should go for Falcons tackle Tyson Clabo or Ravens guard Marshall Yanda. They'll be expensive, but quarterbacks would be much more willing to come to town with that kind of talent up front.
Smart shopper: Mike Shanahan insists he's good with John Beck at QB, but OC Kyle Shanahan covets Texans backup Matt Leinart, who could be available. Also, Saints DT Remi Ayodele is one of the most unheralded but effective tackles in the league and could step in nicely.
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