Charting NFL free agency

  • Article by: MARK CRAIG , Star Tribune
  • Updated: March 10, 2012 - 10:26 PM
This is a particularly picky ranking of 15 premium players who will be available in free agency.

With the exception of four-time league MVP Peyton Manning, these players hit the market at 3 p.m. Tuesday. Manning also is an exception to most of the rules of thumb used to assemble this top 15.

Except for Manning, this top 15 doesn't include:

• Anyone older than 28. Sorry, Carlos Rogers (31) and Reggie Wayne (33).

• Any receiver older than 28 who wants in the neighborhood of $12 million a year. Sorry, Vincent Jackson (29).

• Running backs. They tend to age too quickly and good younger ones are plentiful. Sorry, Peyton Hillis.

• Anyone who was injured last season (call it our Javon Walker/Antonio Bryant Rule). Sorry, Mario Williams and LaRon Landry.

• Super Bowl heroes with inflated price tags (our Larry Brown Rule). Sorry, Mario Manningham.

• Quarterbacks with super-duper-short résumés (our Scott Mitchell Rule). Sorry, Matt Flynn.

• Restricted free agents who would cost a first-round pick. Sorry, Mike Wallace.

• Legal issues. Sorry, Jerome Simpson.

Here we go:

1. Peyton Manning, QB, unattached

If your doctors sign off on him and your team is a contender that lacks a leader, you hand the keys to Peyton.

2. Carl Nicks, LG, Saints

A dominant 6-5, 343-pound All-Pro and one of the league's top two guards. And he'll turn only 27 in May.

3. Brandon Carr, CB, Chiefs

A big cover corner coming off his best season and just entering his prime. He'll turn 26 in May.

4. Curtis Lofton, MLB, Falcons

Had 147 tackles and two interceptions last season. A leader who will be 26 when the season starts.

5. Ben Grubbs, LG, Ravens

A Pro Bowler and former first-round pick with 66 career starts. He'll be 28 when the season starts.

6. Cortland Finnegan, CB, Titans

Has a reputation for being moody and difficult. But he's physical, has 15 career interceptions and just turned 28.

7. Tracy Porter, CB, Saints

Remember him? The guy who caught Brett Favre's last throw in the 2010 NFC title game will be 26 this season.

8. Pierre Garcon, WR, Colts

A deep threat who caught a career-high 70 balls without Manning at QB last year. He'll be 26 this season.

9. Laurent Robinson, WR, Cowboys

Late-blooming deep threat who had 11 touchdowns in 2011. Will be 27 when the season starts.

10. Stephen Tulloch, MLB, Lions

Has 203 tackles playing for the Lions and Titans the past two seasons. He'll be 27 this season.

11. Jared Gaither, LT, Chargers

He's a risk. He's also a 6-9, 340-pounder who played well for the Chargers late last year. He turns 26 this month.

12. David Hawthorne, MLB, Seahawks

Has had 100-plus tackles in each of the last three years. Had three interceptions last year. Will be 27 this season.

13. Dwight Lowery, S, Jaguars

A safety with cornerback skills. Has eight interceptions the past three years. Turned 26 in January.

14. Pat Sims, NT, Bengals

A 6-2, 330-pound (or so) run plugger in the middle of a defense. Will be 26 this season.

15. Jason Jones, DL, Titans

A versatile 6-5, 276-pounder who has played tackle and end. Can rush the passer from both. He'll be 26 this year.

MARK CRAIG

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