Now That The NFL Lockout Is Over, Here Are The Best Free Agents Teams Can Pick Up

Cullen Jenkins

Photo: AP

Now that football is back, teams can sign on free agents.During the lockout, teams were not allowed to negotiate contracts with players under any circumstance.

Free agency will officially begin Tuesday, July 26th, and transactions can be filed with the league office the following Friday.

Several league stars including Peyton Manning, Michael Vick, and Logan Mankins are free agents, but have been slapped with the franchise tag. They can only leave if another team makes an offer that their current team doesn’t want to match. We can probably assume they aren’t going anywhere.

Best QB Available – Matt Hasselbeck of the Seattle Seahawks

Matt Hasselbeck: Vick and Manning aren't going anywhere, so we're left with Hasselbeck. The longtime Seattle quarterback is coming off of another year where his QB rating didn't reach a tally above 80. It is with certainty that we can say Hasselbeck's best years are behind him. Having said all that, he's still a veteran quarterback that has won in big games, and he's a welcome presence in any locker room. He may end up as a back-up on a contender, or the starter on a pretender.

Potential suitors: Arizona, Miami, Washington, Seattle, Cincinnati

Other Options: Peyton Manning (Franchised with IND), Michael Vick (Franchised with PHI), Brady Quinn (DEN), Alex Smith (SF), Matt Leinart (HOU), Marc Bulger (BAL), Trent Edwards (JAC), Rex Grossman (WAS)

Best Running Backs Available – DeAngelo Williams of Carolina and Ahmad Bradshaw of the New York Giants

DeAngelo Williams: The Panthers' all-time leading rusher was denied another 1,000 yard season after being placed on the IR with a foot injury. However, the foot injury was fairly minor as far as season ending injuries go, and Williams may still have a few more four-digit campaigns left in him.

Ahmad Bradshaw: Despite his apparent inability to hang on to the ball, Bradshaw is a skilled all-purpose back. It would seem unlikely that the Giants would want to let him go since he and Brandon Jacobs create a formidable pairing, but stranger things have happened.

Potential Suitors: New York Giants, St. Louis, Denver, Cincinnati

Other Names: Cedric Benson (CIN), Mike Tolbert and Darren Sproles (SD), Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams (MIA), John Kuhn (GB)

Best Wide Receivers Available – Sidney Rice of Minnesota, and Santonio Holmes of the New York Jets

Sidney Rice: When Rice isn't hurt, he's amongst the best wideouts in the entirety of the league. The problem is that Sidney Rice is always hurt as he's appeared in 16 games only once in his career. The Vikings are aware of his upside, though, and don't be shocked if he doesn't leave Minnesota assuming the Vikings don't leave Minnesota.

Santonio Holmes: Both Holmes and Braylon Edwards are free agents this offseason, and in an ideal world, Rex Ryan would keep both guys around. However, the Jets can probably only afford one of them, and Holmes is the better receiver of the two. He has home run potential and seems to have a knack for catching clutch passes.

Potential Suitors: New York Jets, Chicago, New England, San Francisco, San Diego, Minnesota

Other Names: Randy Moss (10), Braylon Edwards (NYJ), Terell Owens (CIN), Steve Breaston (ARI), Steve Smith (NYG)

Best Tight End Available – Zach Miller of Oakland

Zach Miller: Miller is a hybrid tight end that can effectively receive passes and block the run. Since Oakland hasn't been under the media spotlight for the past several seasons, Miller has quietly become one of the best tight ends in the league. He's probably not done growing yet, either. Oakland will want him back, but they probably won't be able to afford him.

Potential Suitors: Carolina, Buffalo, Giants, Oakland, New York Giants

Other Names: Kevin Boss (NYG), Marcedes Lewis (Franchised with JAC)

Best Offensive Tackles Available – Tyson Clabo of Atlanta, Jared Gaither of Baltimore

Tyson Clabo: Clabo can do it all, and do it all well. Initially a tackle that preferred to run black, the Falcons left tackle has balanced his game and has learned to keep quarterbacks on their feet. Atlanta's offensive line is filled with free agents, but Clabo is the priority.

Jared Gaither: Even though he missed the 2010-11 season with back injury, Gaither is still one of the game's most solid tackles. He can play both tackle positions well, and since he's willing to move from left to right permanently, Baltimore is more apt to re-sign him.

Potential Suitors: Atlanta, Baltimore, Chicago, Minnesota, Tampa Bay, Oakland, Pittsburgh

Other Names: Jamaal Brown (WAS), Matt Light (NE), Willie Colon (PIT)

Best Interior Linemen Available – Carl Nicks of New Orleans, Davin Joseph of Tampa Bay

Carl Nicks: Nicks has made a name for himself as one of the premier left guards in all of the NFL. He achieved most of his accolades blocking for little backs such as Reggie Bush and Pierre Thomas. Imagine how he would do with a big bruiser that loves to run it down the middle. New Orleans already gave a ton of money to Jahri Evans, but keeping Drew Brees healthy is crucial to the success of the Saints. Expect them to be players.

Davin Joseph: A fractured foot derailed what would have been a stellar 2010-11 season. Joseph has few holes in his game at the guard spot. He is a one-time Pro Bowler, but we should be seeing more of those from him soon. Tampa Bay will not want to let him go.

Potential Suitors: New Orleans, Tampa Bay, Atlanta, Baltimore, Kansas City, Minnesota, Chicago

Other Names: Logan Mankins (Franchised with NE), Ryan Kalil (Franchised with CAR), Harvey Dahl (ATL), Davin Joseph (TB), Olin Kreutz (CHI), Daryn Colledge (GB)

Best Defensive Ends Available – Cullen Jenkins of Green Bay, Charles Johnson of Carolina

Cullen Jenkins: He has been oft-injured so far in his NFL tenure, but his pure pass rushing ability cannot be denied. Jenkins' speed and brute strength gives him an advantage on the bull rush that few ends can duplicate. As much as Green Bay would love to have him back, they also know that their defence is still good enough to defend the crown without paying Jenkins upwards of $13 million a year.

Charles Johnson: Johnson was chosen to replace Julius Peppers after he left for Chicago last season. How did he do? Pretty well. Johnson recorded more sacks than Peppers did with the Bears, and he will be handsomely rewarded for his efforts somewhere. Carolina could possibly resign him with what cap room they have available.

Potential Suitors: Green Bay, Atlanta, Carolina, Jacksonville, New England

Other Names: Ray Edwards (MIN), Mathias Kiwanuka (NYG) , Shaun Ellis (NYJ)

Best Defensive Tackles Available – Brandon Mebane of Seattle, Aubrayo Franklin of San Francisco

Brandon Mebane: Few players have been snubbed as much as Brandon Mebane. Even though he's 'undersized,' Mebane is one of a handful of defensive tackles that can actually rush and reach the quarterback, and he uses his sneaky strength to clog up runners. He's not as adept at stopping the run as Franklin is, but few are, and Mebane is certainly no slouch.

Aubrayo Franklin: If your team prefers a 3-4 defensive scheme, but doesn't have a capable nose tackle, Franklin is the remedy. No team is going to want to run it up the gut with him in the middle. Although his last season wasn't as terrific as his two seasons prior, there's still a lot of football left in him.

Other Names: Haloti Ngata (Franchised with BAL), Pat Williams (MIN), Alan Branch (ARZ), Nick Hayden (CAR)

Best Linebackers Available – Paul Posluszny of Buffalo, Stephen Tulloch of Tennessee

Paul Posluszny: Eventually, Posluszny will have an entire season where he doesn't get hurt. The law of averages will need to work out in his favour some day. When that happens, whomever he is playing for will be rewarded with the play of smart linebacker with superb instincts and a high-powered motor. If he can latch on with a team that has a solid defensive line, Posluszny could put up Pro Bowl type numbers.

Stephen Tulloch: Every good defence need a tackling machine, and Tulloch is that. While he doesn't have the speed to break to the outside and stop sweep plays, Tulloch cleans up the garbage in the middle better than most.

Potential Suitors: Buffalo, Tennessee, Philadelphia, Jacksonville, Detroit

Other Names: David Harris (franchised with NYJ), Tamba Hali (franchised with KC), LaMarr Woodley (franchised with PIT), Chad Greenway (franchised under MIN), James Anderson (CAR)

Best Cornerbacks Available – Nnamdi Asomugha of Oakland, Brent Grimes of Atlanta

Nnamdi Asomugha: Asomugha is far and away the most talented unrestricted free agent on the market. A team signing him would effectively mean that the entire side of the field that he's covering all season long will not see any balls thrown that way. Every team in the league is going to want him, but Tampa Bay, Philadelphia, and possibly even the Jets are the teams to keep tabs on.

Brent Grimes: The Falcons have a lot of players to re-sign with a little window, but getting Grimes under a new contract has to be near the top of the Atlanta wish list. Originally and undrafted free agent, Grimes has willed himself to be a plus-cornerback with a knack for deflecting passes.

Potential Suitors: Tampa Bay, Atlanta, New York Jets, Philadelphia, Detroit, Pittsburgh, Houston

Other Names: Antonio Cromartie (NYJ), Johnathan Joseph (CIN), Carlos Rogers (WAS), Ike Taylor (PIT)

Best Safties Available – Quintin Mikell of Philadelphia, Roman Harper of New Orleans

Quintin Mikell: Mikell isn't a set-the-world-on-fire type player, but he's solid as a rock. If the Eagles can wrap up Mikell, they'll be able to pair him along side with the young and exciting Nate Allen, and their secondary will be amongst the league's best once again.

Roman Harper: Harper's hard hitting, run-stopping style has worked well in tandem with Malcom Jenkins and the rest of the New Orleans secondary. If the Saints cannot get Harper back, their defence will look and play drastically different. Harper is worth more to the Saints than anyone else, but other GMs may feel differently.

Potential Suitors: Philadelphia, New Orleans, Cincinnati, Dallas, Houston, Indianapolis

Other Names: Dawan Landry (BAL), Eric Weddle (SD), Tanard Jackson (TB), Bernard Pollard (HOU)

Best Kicker and Punter Available – Matt Prater of Denver, Adam Podlesh of Jacksonville

Matt Prater: He's practically automatic from inside 40, and he was two for three on field goal attempts longer than 50 yards. If Prater hooks up with an offence that can actually score unlike Denver, he'll be the first kicker off the board in fantasy drafts.

Potential Suitors: Washington, Miami, Dallas, Buffalo

Other Names: Ryan Longwell (MIN), David Akers (PHI), Adam Vinateri (IND)

Adam Podlesh: He doesn't have the strongest boot in the league, but Podlesh rarely makes a bad punt. He was in the NFL's top 10 for net yardage, and that trend should continue for some time since Podlesh's punts tend to have a high arc.

Potential Suitors: Chicago, Washington, Tampa Bay

Other Names: Daniel Sepulveda (PIT), Sam Koch (BAL)

It's great that football is back, but unfortunately, these people have jobs again

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