Mar 9, 2012, 2:05 PM EDT
No surprise, Peyton Manning topped Peter King’s annual list of the top 50 free agents in the NFL. While the market doesn’t officially open until Tuesday, Manning’s release from the Colts makes him available to sign with a new team right away, and neck injuries be damned, front offices numbering in double digits are clamoring to land the biggest free agent since Reggie White — arguably of all time.
Andy Reid has already acknowledged the Eagles are not in the hunt for 18, but there are 49 other players who could make the club better, including a pair of their own, plus one of our coveted free agent linebackers.
For Philadelphia, left guard Evan Mathis came in at 21, while Juqua Parker was a surprising entry for the list at number 40.
Despite grading as the best guard in football for 2011 according to Pro Football Focus, Mathis’s position paled in comparison to the Saints’ Carl Nicks, who ranked fourth on King’s list. Of course, Nicks is a two-time All Pro, and unlike Mathis, routinely garners consideration as the top guard in the league. Mathis has indicated he would like to stay, but a rule prevents the Eagles from signing him before FA opens, so it will be interesting to see if they consider negotiating with Nicks as well.
At 33 years old, Parker is caught up in a numbers game at defensive end. The Eagels have two Pro Bowlers in Jason Babin and Trent Cole, and a group of young guys who need playing time. King suggests Parker could wind up with 10 sacks elsewhere, a number we scoff at because it would surpass his career high, but he can go somewhere else and start is the larger point.
Perhaps the most interesting entry was for Lions’ middle linebacker Stephen Tulloch, who came in at ninth — the first LB on the list. As we said earlier this week, Tulloch would be a great fit for the Eagles because he has played behind wide nine fronts his entire NFL career. King seems to agree, and predicted he could very well wind up here.
Sure hope he is right. If management can fill the hole in the middle of their defense during the first week of free agency, the Eagles’ defense could be dangerous in 2011.
Falcons’ MLB Curtis Lofton listed 24th, London Fletcher was 43rd, and Erin Henderson was 44th. David Hawthorne, who was also mentioned in our linebackers piece, was not in King’s top 50.
Meanwhile, the Eagles are not likely to use another high draft pick at safety after dropping second round picks in consecutive years, but a mid-level veteran is not out of line. Jacksonville’s Dwight Lowery ranks 32nd, and the Cowboys’ Abram Elam was mister irrelevant, number 50.
A few other notes:
- On the heels of a strong season in Denver, Brodrick Bunkley was 10th. Bleeding Green Nation asked whether it was wise to trade Bunk this past offseason, as he is a very successful run defender. However, Cullen Jenkins is no slouch and has added versatility as a pass rusher, while Mike Patterson is locked in a team-friendly contract through 2016.
- In all, nine wide receivers made King’s top 50. Only one — Vincent Jackson at number seven — likely would have rated higher than DeSean Jackson.
- The Giants appear poised to lose three of the top 50 players: WR Mario Manningham, DE Dave Tollefson, and CB Terrell Thomas. Thomas missed all of last season with a torn ACL, Tollefson is an effort guy, and Manningham is being overrated after a strong playoffs and his clutch Super Bowl grab. Should be roughly the same team next season.
>> The King 50: Ranking Top NFL Free Agents [SI.com]
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