Now, onto the list of 2012 Notable Free Agent Defensive Backs.
1. SS Tyvon Branch, Oakland Raiders (25) - Unrestricted FA
*Franchise tagged by the Raiders - 3/1/2012
**Re-signed by the Raiders (1 year @ $6.212 million) - 5/7/2012
Pre Free Agent Period Analysis: Branch established himself as one of the premier in-the-box safeties last year and consequently the Raiders decided to franchise tag him over RB Michael Bush. Branch should continue to be drafted as a top 5 safety in the majority of IDP formats and remains one of the more safe bets at a position with much year to year volatility.
Fantasy Impact of Tagging: The strong safety position in Oakland has been one of the more fruitful fantasy positions in the NFL over the last few seasons. With Rolando McClain failing to step up to the LB1 role many expected, Branch's tackle opportunities have increased further. Although I expect McClain to improve further this season, I still have Branch in my top 5 DBs and would have no problem having him as my DB1.
April 6 Update: According to Steve Corkran of the Oakland Tribune, a Tyvon Branch extension is "in the works right now" with Raiders brass.
2. SS LaRon Landry, Washington Redskins (27) - Unrestricted FA
*Signed by the Jets (1 year @ $4 million) - 3/19/2012
Pre Free Agent Period Analysis: The Redskins have used their franchise tag on TE Fred Davis and seem to have no interest in re-signing Landry. Although constantly riddled with injury issues, Landry is one of the most dynamic safeties in the game when healthy. If he lands with a team that recognizes his strength against the run and uses him as an in-the-box safety, he may be a worthwhile gamble for owners if he slips in drafts.
Interested 2012 NFL Team(s): New York Jets, Philadelphia Eagles, Chicago Bears, Detroit Lions, New England Patriots
Fantasy Impact of Signing: New York has the potential to be a good landing spot for Landry. The Jets strong safety position has shown glimpses of solid tackle production with players such as Jim Leonard and Eric Smith over the last couple years. As long as he can stay healthy, Landry is worth a shot as your DB2.
3. SS Michael Griffin, Tennessee Titans (27) - Unrestricted FA
*Franchise tagged by the Titans - 3/5/2012
**Re-signed by the Titans (5 years @ $35 million, $11.5 million guaranteed) - 6/19/2012
Pre Free Agent Period Analysis: I've always thought that Griffin was quite overrated from a fantasy perspective. He had a breakout year with 7 INTs in 2008, but always had relatively low tackle production until 2010 (a year in which the Titans had a historically high amount of tackle opportunity). The Titans don't seem very interested in signing him to a a long-term deal, but they have placed the franchise tag on him to keep him on the team for another year.
Fantasy Impact of Tagging: Griffin is always a player I tend to avoid in my drafts as much of the production in his career has been related to things other than his talent. With this said, he's a player that seems to be a top 25 DB year in and year out, so I can't fault people for drafting him as their DB2 or lower.
4. FS Dashon Goldson, San Francisco 49ers (27) - Unrestricted FA
*Franchise tagged by the 49ers - 3/1/2012
Pre Free Agent Period Analysis: The 49ers assigned the franchise tag to FS Dashon Goldson.Goldson who is believed to be seeking a deal in the neighborhood of Antrel Rolle's five-year, $37 million contract. They will keep him on the roster for the reasonable $6.2 franchise tag cost instead. Although he set a career high in INTs, San Francisco still seems hesitant to give him a long-term deal at his current asking price.
Fantasy Impact of Tagging: From a fantasy perspective, Goldson is a bit overrated. Although he's a top notch producer of big plays, he will struggle to put up anything other than mediocre tackle numbers playing behind 2 stud ILBs in Patrick Willis and Navarro Bowman. He should be targeted as a DB4 in most leagues.
5. LCB Lardarious Webb, Baltimore Ravens (25) - Restricted FA
*Tendered by the Ravens (1st Round) - 3/12/2012
**Re-signed by the Ravens (6 years @ $52.742 million, $20 million guaranteed) - 4/5/2012
Pre Free Agent Period Analysis: Webb emerged last season as one of the top cornerbacks in the AFC. A former third round pick out of Nicholls State, Webb fits well within Baltimore's defense and hard-nosed, physical style of defensive play. The Raven's organization is under pressure to get Webb signed to a long-term contract before the March 15th deadline as there has been speculation that a team such as the Patriots (who possess 2 first round picks) would be willing to give up the necessary 1st rounder to obtain Webb.
Interested 2012 NFL Team(s): Baltimore Ravens, New England Patriots
Fantasy Impact: Webb's style is similar to that of Cortland Finnegan and he seems to score fantasy points in several different fashions which makes him valuable in the fantasy realm. He should continue to have decent value, but do expect some curtailing of his numbers as opposing teams will begin to throw at him less and less.
6. LCB Cortland Finnegan, Tennessee Titans (28) - Unrestricted FA
*Signed by the Rams (5 years $50 million) - 3/13/2012
Pre Free Agent Period Analysis: The Titans opted to use the franchise tag on S Michael Griffin which means Finnegan is going to hit the open market. With his above average tackling ability and bump and run style of play, he fits well in a Cover 2-style defense (Vikings and Bucs) or a defense that utilities a good amount of press man coverage (Cowboys). There have been rumors that Finnegan has been in contact with Vincent Jackson in hopes of joining up and selling themselves as a package deal. If this is the case, the Cowboys would be out of the running for Finnegan as they don't really need WR help.
Interested 2012 NFL Team(s): St. Louis Rams, Dallas Cowboys, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Chicago Bears, Minnesota Vikings
Fantasy Impact of Signing: Finnegan has been one of the best producing fantasy CBs over the last few seasons. His aggressive bump and run style play along with his propensity for sticking his nose in on plays results in above average tackle numbers and a good amount of big play production. Tennessee was an optimal spot for CB production, however I still think he can Finnegan can produce like a CB1 in St. Louis as their defense tends to be on the field a lot and their corners get thrown at quite frequently.
7. RCB Richard Marshall, Arizona Cardinals (27) - Unrestricted FA
*Signed by the Dolphins (3 years @ $16 million) - 3/14/2012
Pre Free Agent Period Analysis: The Cardinals will make re-signing Marshall one of their top off-season priorities. Due to injuries in the secondary, Marshall filled in at both cornerback and safety and was 1st in the team in interceptions and 3rd in tackles.With this said, Mr. Marshall will likely be seeking a pay raise from his current $3.5 million salary.
Interested 2012 NFL Team(s): Arizona Cardinals, Miami Dolphins
Fantasy Impact of Signing: Marshall's value should remain relatively consistent to last year. He should see more starting time in Miami than he did in Arizona or Carolina, but their defense probably won't be on the field as much as his previous two teams.
March 13 Update: Free agent CB Richard Marshall has scheduled a visit with the Dolphins. It's fair to wonder if Marshall would have hit the open market if not for Arizona's pursuit of Peyton Manning. Deemed the defensive MVP by coordinator Ray Horton last season, Marshall saw time outside, in the slot, and at safety while recording 69 tackles, two sacks and 11 passes defended.
8. RCB Terrell Thomas, New York Giants (27) - Unrestricted FA
*Re-signed by the Giants (4 years @ $28 million, $11 million guaranteed) - 3/13/2012
Pre Free Agent Period Analysis: Thomas is still recovering from the ACL injury he suffered early on last season, but he was expected to be signed to a long-term deal before the free agency period started. It seems as though he's likely to hit the open market now, however. The injury is likely to scare a few teams away, but Thomas has proven to be one of the most solid cornerbacks in the league over the last few seasons and would fill a serious void for several teams if healthy.
Interested 2012 NFL Team(s): New York Giants
Fantasy Impact of Re-signing: Before his season-ending injury in 2011, Thomas was one of the top tackling cornerbacks in the league. He averaged over 90 tackles a season between 2009 and 2010 to go along with a solid 5 interceptions per year. His draft value will likely plummet due to his injury so watch his injury status throughout the preseason as he may be a late round steal if healthy.
9. SS Jordan Babineaux, Tennessee Titans (29) - Unrestricted FA
*Re-signed by the Titans (2 years $5 million) - 3/13/2012
Pre Free Agent Period Analysis: Before coming to Tennessee, Babineaux was a fringe starter with the Seahawks after going undrafted coming out of a college. A significant injury to Chris Hope last season opened the door for "Babs" to establish himself as the long-term starter at the SS position in the Volunteer state.
Interested 2012 NFL Team(s): Tennessee Titans
Fantasy Impact of Re-signing: Babineaux put up 93 total tackles last season (72 solo) which are solid DB3 numbers in balanced and tackle-heavy leagues. I would expect that production to continue next season as the safety spots in Tennessee have been very productive historically.
10. SS Sean Jones, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (30) - Unrestricted FA
*Signed by the Lions (1 year deal) - 6/25/2012
Pre Free Agent Period Analysis: Jones was Tampa Bay's leading tackler last season but they don't seem interested in bringing him back in 2012. He's played both the free safety and strong safety positions during his career and would be a good fit on a team like the Bears.
Interested 2012 NFL Team(s): Chicago Bears
Fantasy Impact: Jones has intrigued fantasy owners over the years as a player with 85-95 tackle upside and decent big play production. If he lands with the Bears in their strong safety spot, he could be a nice sleeper heading into the 2012 season.
May 10 Update: The Lions recently hosted free agent S Sean Jones.
11. FS Thomas DeCoud, Atlanta Falcons (27) - Unrestricted FA
*Re-signed by the Falcons (5 years @ $18.7 million) - 3/6/2012
Pre Free Agent Period Analysis: DeCoud played relatively well in 2011 and Falcons rewarded him with a decent size contract. Although he graded out as a liability in pass coverage, he is an above average run defender and has been one of the most consistent starters in the secondary for the Falcons over the last three seasons.
Fantasy Impact of Re-signing: DeCoud is a good run defender and tends to get burned in pass coverage which has lead to above average tackle production. Playing behind 3 good run-supporting linebackers has stunted his overall fantasy production though. However, the departure of Curtis Lofton to New Orleans opens up the door a bit for DeCoud to see an uptick in tackle opportunity.
12. RCB Brent Grimes, Atlanta Falcons (29) - Unrestricted FA
*Franchise tagged by the Falcons - 3/2/2012
*Re-signed by the Falcons (1 year @ $10.281 million) - 4/24/2012
Pre Free Agent Period Analysis: Grimes, an undrafted defensive back out of Shippensburg, has really made a name for himself over the last couple seasons and established himself as one of the more reliable press cornerbacks in the league (a la Cortland Finnegan). He's yet to sign his franchise tag as he wants a long-term contact which it seems likely he will get.
Fantasy Impact of Tagging: In this specific case, I would be a bit leery of drafting Grimes at his expected ADP. He's one of the more recognizable IDPs and tends to be overdrafted as a result. The signing of a big, long-term contract would throw up another big red flag for me as well as Grimes seems like a player who would become less aggressive/productive after getting a big payday.
13. LCB Tracy Porter, New Orleans Saints (26) - Unrestricted FA
*Signed by the Broncos (1 year @ $4 million) - 3/22/2012
Pre Free Agent Period Analysis: Porter has had troubles staying healthy during his career, but is an above average cornerback who may benefit with a switch to a team that is able to generate a more consistent pass rush. The Raiders have been rumored to be one of the teams most interested in obtaining Porter especially after losing Stanford Routt to the Chiefs in free agency.
Interested 2012 NFL Team(s): New Orleans Saints, Oakland Raiders, Cincinnati Bengals
Fantasy Impact of Signing: Porter hasn't been healthy long enough to be anything more than a matchup-type play in leagues that start 3 or more defensive backs. He's a decent tackler and would provide some spot value in extremely deep IDP leagues if he can play the majority of the season.
March 18 Update: Free agent CB Tracy Porter is reportedly visiting the Bengals on Thursday. Porter is also drawing interest from the Raiders and Saints.
March 13 Update: There is reportedly "mutual interest" between the Rams and free agent CB Tracy Porter. League-wide speculation had Porter following former secondary coach Dennis Allen to Oakland. It looks he might prefer to follow former coordinator Gregg Williams to St. Louis instead.
14. FS Reggie Nelson, Cincinnati Bengals (28) - Unrestricted FA
*Re-signed by the Bengals (4 years @ $18 million) - 3/18/2012
Pre Free Agent Period Analysis: The Bengals seem intent on re-signing Nelson which is kind of a surprise after his disappointing play against the Broncos in the playoffs last year. Although he knows the scheme well, he's often hesitant to stick his nose into a play and instead tries to avoid contact when possible. If he doesn't re-sign with the Bengals, the Dolphins have plenty of cap room and the need to go after Nelson.
Interested 2012 NFL Team(s): Cincinnati Bengals, Miami Dolphins, New York Jets
Fantasy Impact of Re-signing: Nelson has had good opportunity playing behind a somewhat leaky front seven but he's too timid of a player to be an above average run-stopping, tackle producing safety. I would leave Nelson on the waiver wire if at all possible.
March 18 Update: The Bengals are "firmly in the running" to re-sign free agent FS Reggie Nelson. Nelson is visiting the Jets this weekend, but the Bengals are apparently making an honest attempt to re-sign him after letting a number of other veteran in-house free agents get away.
March 13 Update: The Jets reportedly have preliminary interest in free agent safety Reggie Nelson.
Are there any other 2012 Free Agent Defensive Backs that you think should be included in this conversation? If so, please let me know by posting a comment below or emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also hit me up on Twitter.
Last Updated: May 10, 2012 Related Posts: