Posted Tuesday, March 6, 2012.
I did this last year, and I thought it would be pretty fun to do it again. It's what it sounds like - if free agency occurred in a draft format, who would be the top picks? I've excluded all the free agents who are either restricted or franchised, with the two exceptions being Mike Wallace and DeSean Jackson, for obvious reasons.
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2012 NFL Free Agency Draft: Picks 1-16
Cincinnati Bengals: Brandon Lloyd, WR, Rams. Age: 31.
Jerome Simpson does two things in his life: He makes acrobatic leaps into the end zone and gets arrested. He's done in Cincinnati, so the Bengals will have to find a new No. 2 wideout for Andy Dalton.
I should note that I wasn't sure whether to slate the Raiders or Bengals in this spot. If Oakland gets to "draft" a free agent, it might go with center Chris Myers to replace Samson Satele.
San Diego Chargers: Marques Colston, WR, Saints. Age: 29.
The Chargers lose Vincent Jackson in this scenario, so they'll be searching for a new No. 1 wideout. There's a chance Marques Colston could be a product of Sean Payton's system, but I'm sure he'll do fine with Philip Rivers (Frey).
Chicago Bears: Jared Gaither, OT, Chargers. Age: 26.
The Bears won't be spending a first-round pick on another offensive tackle, but if they could get a proven blocker like Jared Gaither, I think they would do it. Protecting Jay Cutler is the No. 1 priority.
Tennessee Titans: Red Bryant, DT, Seahawks. Age: 28.
Jurrell Casey had a dynamic rookie year, but the Titans don't have any every-down player capable of starting next to him. Sen'Derrick Marks isn't very good, while Karl Klug is just a pass-rushing specialist.
Cincinnati Bengals: Michael Bush, RB, Raiders. Age: 28.
The Bengals have been linked to Michael Bush in free agency, so why not slot him to them in this free agency mock draft? I think Bush is a bit overrated, but he would undoubtedly be an upgrade over Cedric Benson.
St. Louis Rams: Mario Manningham, WR, Giants. Age: 26.
The Rams need many things - one of which is a top-notch receiver for Sam Bradford. Mario Manningham could easily be a bust free-agent signing, but St. Louis is desperate.
Detroit Lions: David Hawthorne, ILB, Seahawks. Age: 27.
David Hawthorne isn't as good as Stephen Tulloch, but he would be a capable replacement in a back seven currently lacking in talent.
Pittsburgh Steelers: Paul Soliai, NT, Dolphins. Age: 28.
Casey Hampton's great career is coming to an end. The Steelers wouldn't hesitate to grab a relatively young nose tackle to be Hampton's replacement.
Denver Broncos: DeSean Jackson, WR, Eagles. Age: 25.
It's late enough for a team to take a chance on DeSean Jackson. Tim Tebow has underrated deep accuracy, so it would be fun watching him airing it out to the former Eagle wideout.
Houston Texans: Chris Myers, C/G, Texans. Age: 30.
I'll let the Texans re-sign Chris Myers. They probably won't be able to retain him in real life because he'll get a large contract elsewhere, but this is not real life (in case you couldn't tell).
New England Patriots: Kendall Langford, DT, Dolphins. Age: 26.
What I wrote in my 2012 NFL Mock Draft applies: Here's one of many front-seven upgrades the Patriots will need to make. With Albert Haynesworth gone, they need to address the front line.
Green Bay Packers: Cory Redding, DE/DT, Ravens. Age: 31.
Like the Patriots, the Packers need to address the defensive end and rush linebacker positions. Cory Redding is the top option available who makes sense for Green Bay.
Baltimore Ravens: Dan Connor, ILB, Panthers. Age: 26.
Ozzie Newsome wants a successor for Ray Lewis. How about Dan Connor? He's young and talented, and unless the Steelers pass on Dont'a Hightower, Newsome won't be able to find his next blue-chip inside linebacker.
San Francisco 49ers: Pierre Garcon, WR, Colts. Age: 26.
The 49ers are desperate for receiver help. It's either Pierre Garcon or Reggie Wayne, but the former is younger and has much more upside at this point.
New England Patriots: Reggie Wayne, WR, Colts. Age: 33.
Doesn't this seem like something Bill Belichick would do? He has a penchant for signing older receivers because his offense is so complex. Unlike Chad Ochocinco and Torry Holt, Reggie Wayne still can play at a high level. He's not the receiver he used to be, but he can still be a very effective No. 2.
New York Giants: Evan Mathis, G, Eagles. Age: 30.
The Giants can plug their hole at left guard while taking a player away from the hated Eagles.
2012 NFL Free Agency Draft - Next 10:
- St. Louis Rams: Jason Jones, DT, Titans. Age: 26.
- Indianapolis Colts: Sione Pouha, NT, Jets. Age: 33.
- Minnesota Vikings: Demetrius Bell, OT, Bills. Age: 28.
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Richard Marshall, CB, Cardinals. Age: 27.
- Cleveland Browns: Tracy Porter, CB, Saints. Age: 26.
- Jacksonville Jaguars: Terrell Thomas, CB, Giants. Age: 27.
- Washington Redskins: Alex Smith, QB, 49ers. Age: 28.
- Carolina Panthers: Laurent Robinson, WR, Cowboys. Age: 27.
- Buffalo Bills: Andre Carter, DE, Patriots. Age: 33.
- Miami Dolphins: Mike Brisiel, G, Texans. Age: 29.
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