Philadelphia Eagles News

2010 Free Agency Rankings: Safety

I have saved the best for last, understanding how much the safety position is a focal point for Eagles fans. The team was not able to replace the production at the free safety spot when Brian Dawkins signed with the Denver Broncos last year. The Eagles signed Sean Jones in free agency and drafted Macho Harris. The two of them battled with Quintin Demps and Harris won the job out of training camp. Harris, who never played safety in college, rotated in with Jones as the season wore on. Demps, who was the leader in the clubhouse at the start of training camp, battled injuries all year long. If the Eagles decide to upgrade at safety through free agency, here is my top 10 list.

1. O.J. Atogwe, St. Louis Rams (RFA)
Atogwe is a complete safety. He can cover, man or zone. He can play the run. He hits and tackles well. He has OK size and is a good athlete. The Rams used their franchise tag on him last year. They weren't able to work out a long term deal. The Rams gave him a the lowest tender, meaning no draft pick compensation. Atogwe will have plenty of teams after his services. He's a good player and a playmaker. The Eagles should keep a close eye on this situation.

2. Antoine Bethea, Indianapolis Colts (RFA)
Bethea is one of the many talented young safeties that is hitting the market, but only as a restricted free agent. Bethea has stepped up for the Colts since Bob Sanders hasn't been able to stay healthy. Bethea covers well, but also flies up in run support. He's ideally suited for the Cover 2, but is good enough to play in any scheme. Bethea is only 25 years old. The Colts will use a high tender on him. He is the key to their secondary.

3. Antrel Rolle, Arizona Cardinals (FA)
Former CB has found a home at free safety. Arizona likes to keep him back off the ball. He's a true centerfielder much of the time. He has good speed and range. He's not a natural safety, but gets the job done. Good hitter. Doesn't go for killshots, but that may be an advantage with the new rules. Generally a good tackler. Effective when he does play in the box. Willing to get his nose dirty against the run. His best days as a safety are ahead of him. He now should have a good feel for the position while still having enough speed and athleticism to be a good player.

4. Nick Collins, Green Bay Packers (RFA)
Collins is one of the best playmakers in the entire NFL. He has 13 picks over the last two years. He has more than 400 return yards on those plays. The interception is just the beginning of things when Collins is the man with the ball. He has taken three passes back for touchdowns. Collins does make some mistakes in coverage. He's now got five years of starting experience under his belt. Collins needs to eliminate the mistakes if he wants to take the next step to being one of the best safeties in the league. The Packers will give him a high tender.

5. Ryan Clark, Pittsburgh Steelers (UFA)
I've been a Ryan Clark fan since his days at LSU. He has never had ideal size or speed, but Clark always seems to get the job done. Troy Polamalu is the star of the Steelers secondary. Clark is the glue that holds things together and frees up Polamalu to move all over the place. Clark is the top unrestricted safety and that will get him some interest that wouldn't come his way in a normal off-season. He isn't a gifted player or playmaker, but Clark is a good run defender and is assignment sound in coverage. He also has some pop as a hitter. Receivers crossing the middle should know where he is.

6. Darren Sharper, New Orleans Saints (UFA)
Most people probably have Sharper much higher. I think he's overrated and here's why. Yes, he did have nine interceptions this year. Eight of them came against rookies or very young quarterbacks. The only veteran passer that Sharper picked off was Tom Brady when the Saints blew out the Pats on Monday Night Football. Sharper likes to bait quarterbacks. Young guys fall for this and then Sharper will jump the route and make the play. That doesn't work as well against veterans. Sharper is a bad tackler. Bad. He doesn't like to wrap up. He doesn't attack his targets. He takes poor angles to the ball. Sharper is a playmaker that some teams may value, but he isn't the star that some people think.

7. Dawan Landry, Baltimore Ravens (RFA)
Good player that flies under the radar because of his legendary teammates. Landry had a career best season in 2009. He had 70 solo tackles, four picks and a forced fumble. Occasionally, he will get sloppy with his angles when trying to make tackles. That is the key deficiency I've seen in watching him play. Landry can cover and has good ball skills. He has some pop as a hitter. The Ravens will likely give him a high tender so they can keep him and Ed Reed together for a few more years. That's a pretty good combination.

8. Bernard Pollard, Houston Texans (RFA)
Houston's run defense came alive when they signed Pollard early in the year. He proved to be an ideal fit for that team. Despite missing the first three weeks of the season, Pollard finished third on the team in tackles. He is big at 6-1 and 224 pounds. Pollard isn't your usual big guy. He can fly and has good athletic ability. He is able to jump down in the box as a run defender or cover ground in the pass game. He picked off four passes and broke up seven others. The Texans should make re-signing him a priority.

9. Roman Harper, New Orleans Saints (RFA)
More of a box safety than a cover guy. Harper is a good run defender that likes to mix it up around the line of scrimmage. He was second on the Saints in tackles and tackles for loss. He had 1.5 sacks as well. Harper isn't a liability in coverage. He's just an old school strong safety that will make most of his plays in the run game or as a blitzer. Harper doesn't have an interception in the last two years. I'm sure his agent would tell us that just means he's due.

10. Mike Brown, Kansas City Chiefs (UFA)
It felt weird to pop in a tape and see the long-time Bear playing for Kansas City. Brown is still a solid player. He started all 16 games for the Chiefs and finished second on the team in tackles. He added a pair of sacks and three interceptions. Brown no longer has top speed or range, but he takes good angles to the ball and still has a great feel for the game. He can be an effective starter for some team looking to groom a young player for the future.
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-- Posted by Tommy Lawlor, 6:37 p.m., March 4*

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