By Zac Bellman
In the final week of my free agent preview, I’ll take a look at the linebackers, defensive backs, and specialists set to hit free agency.
Blue Chips: Rey Maualuga, E.J. Henderson, Anthony Spencer – Three backers likely to be pursued in this market are Maualuga, Henderson, and Spencer. Maualuga registered a career high 122 tackles last year, and at only 26, he can anchor any defense for years to come. Henderson has battled past the injuries that took parts of his 2008 and 2009 seasons away and appears to be back to form. Spencer is an all-around talent coming off a career year in which he almost doubled his career highs for tackles and sacks.
Red Chips: Daryl Smith, Shaun Phillips, Larry Foote – Smith had his 2012 season cut short by a groin injury after two games, but he has proven he can put up 100 tackle seasons if he bounces back. Phillips is a pass rush specialist looking for what may be his last big deal as he is 31 but coming of a 9.5 sack season. One veteran presence that will be available is Foote, who is coming off a career year in his 11th season with 113 tackles. Any of these guys could be plugged in as starters and help groom a younger player for the right price.
Blue Chips: Sean Smith, Glover Quin, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie – Smith is a great man to man defender with good size at six feet three inches that allows him to deal with taller wideouts. One of the better run defenders available is Quin, who is comfortable in space or near the line of scrimmage. Rodgers-Cromartie’s numbers dipped a bit during his time with the Eagles, but he still has the talent to guard an opponent’s best receiver every single game. Look for him to break the bank in a couple weeks.
Red Chips: Ed Reed, Charles Woodson, Dashon Goldson – Reed and Woodson are both a bit past their prime, but have great instincts and ball skills that still allow them to make plays. Goldson is still in his twenties and has shown a prowess at defending the pass with 11 deflections and three interceptions as part of the 49ers opportunistic secondary.
Blue Chips: Nick Folk, Steven Hauschka, Dustin Colquitt – With many of the specialists on the market on the wrong side of 30, Folk and Hauschka are the only long term solutions available. Hauschka especially is coming off a great year in which he went 24-27 and 3-3 in the playoffs. Colquitt is an excellent punter with the second most punts downed inside the 20 in 2012 according to Pro Football Focus.
Red Chips: Shane Lechler, Phil Dawson, Pat McAfee – Lechler and Dawson are old-timers that still have enough left to contribute to the right franchise. McAfee is more valuable than the average punter because he can also kick off, averaging 70.3 yards a kick, good enough for third in the league according to Pro Football Focus.