Even though the games may be done in this past season of the NFL, football never stops. With free agency, the draft, mini-camps and preseason, the NFL experience is a year round phenomenon. First up, however, is free agency. The open season on available talent will begin on Tuesday, March 13th at 4 pm EST and with that target date firmly anchored in our subconscious, here are the top five free agents available at this time.
5. Mario Williams, Outside Linebacker
Mario Williams of the Houston Texans is another of those high profile players who had their seasons cut short die to injury. Before the 2011 season, Williams made the switch from defensive end to outside linebacker to take advantage of his quick burst off the line. While a season ending injury five games into the season cut short this experiment, his 5 sacks during that span makes it appear that the change was a success. At age 27, Williams still has his best years ahead of them but with the Texans also dealing with Adrian Foster as a free agent, it's hard to say if the team has the money for both.
4. Arian Foster, Running Back
Arian Foster of the Houston Texans is a beast, plain and simple. He is a stats machine who can rack up the yards. With the evolution of football turning more to the dual back threats, Foster is right up there as the one of the best in the league. Though limited to 13 games last season due to injury, Foster still piled up over 1,800 total yards and 12 touchdowns. At only 26, Foster still has a lot of good football ahead of him and since he is a restricted free agent, that football will most likely be in Houston for at least one more season.
3. Matt Forte, Running Back
It's always a shame when injuries happen to good players, especially when they are trying to get a new contract. This unfortunate circumstance happened to Matt Forte of the Chicago Bears this season. Forte, one of the best young backs in the league, was on a monstrous tear though the first twelve games before injuring his MCL. He racked up over 1,400 total yards and was a large reason why the Bears were in playoff contention. That injury, while ill-timed for Forte, was a blessing for the Bears as it will lower the price tag on trying to keep Forte in Chicago. And make no mistake about it, that's where the Bears want him.
2. Drew Brees, Quarterback
There's a common truth among athletes that when money is on the line, the best ones will play their best. Sure it sounds selfish but it's mostly the truth. Case in point is Drew Brees of the New Orleans Saints this past season. All Brees did in his final season under contract with the Saints was pass for a NFL record 5416 yards and lead the league with a 71.6 completion percentage. At age 33, he may be on the verge of getting old, but with his style of play, he could easily still have 6 high quality seasons. With that in mind, it's obvious that the Saints will re-sign him and make him one of the highest paid players in the league.
1. Ray Rice, Running Back
This former Rutgers running back IS the Baltimore offense. He is the best dual threat back in the game and since he took over the starting role in 2009, he has steadily gotten better each season. Rice has averaged over 63 receptions the past three seasons and had over 2000 total yards this past season. If by some miracle, the Ravens lose out on re-signing Rice, the team will take a considerable hit and move to third best in the AFC North. Ray Rice is a difference maker and is the most vital, in terms of importance to team, running back in the game today.
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