Free Agent Market For Safeties

Our list of 2015 free agents provides a comprehensive position-by-position breakdown of which players are eligible to hit the open market this year. However, that list of names doesn’t include much context or additional information about those players. So, with March’s free agent period fast approaching, we’re taking a closer look this month at the free agent market for each position. Today, we’ll turn our attention to safeties. Let’s dive in….

Top unrestricted FAs:

For many of the positions we’ve already examined, the top-tier free agent options expected to be available this winter are few and far between, or entirely non-existent. That’s not the case at safety, however. There aren’t a ton of elite players here – McCourty may be the only one, and he’s still a candidate to be franchised – but there are plenty of guys capable of being solid starters, and several with some upside.

The elder statesmen in this group are Adams, Landry, and Rolle. The Giants safety saw his Pro Football Focus grade (subscription required) fall off a cliff in 2014 due to a poor performance against the run, but is only a year removed from being a top-10 player at the position. Adams, meanwhile, finished in the top 10 in ’14, on the strength of the second-best coverage grade among safeties, per PFF. Neither of these guys should be relied upon as a long-term answer, and Landry probably shouldn’t be either, but for teams looking to plug a hole for the 2015 season, there are certainly worse solutions.

Teams looking for a younger player could target someone like Moore, Gilchrist, Searcy, or Stewart. Moore, Searcy, and Stewart appear to be reasonable bets to change teams, since the Broncos have a handful of free agents to re-sign, the Bills have already invested heavily in another safety (Aaron Williams), while Baltimore may not be inclined to pay Stewart a raise after turning him into a capable starter last season.

Other notable names here include Parker, who contributed for the Chiefs at both safety and cornerback in 2014, and Branch, who has had his last two seasons mostly wiped out by injuries after averaging 105 tackles per year from 2009 to 2012.

Other unrestricted options:

Amidst this group of special teams contributors and up-and-down veterans, there are some names worth monitoring.

Lewis logged nearly 1,100 defensive snaps in 2014, and held his own, bouncing back from a forgettable performance in the Wild Card game vs. the Colts a year earlier. His teammate Manning was solid as well, limiting opposing quarterbacks to 105 yards and a 67.7 QB rating on 23 passes thrown in his direction. Coleman emerged as a solid part-time player for the Chiefs, and figures to be looking for an opportunity to start in 2015.

Allen, DeCoud, Landry, and Meriweather are among the veterans whose better days are probably behind them, but if they’re not asked to be every-down players, they could still provide positive value on modest deals. Leonhard played as well as any of those veterans in 2014, but it looks as if he’ll probably call it a career rather than trying to land a new contract for 2015.

Restricted FAs:

If McCourty is the only elite safety eligible for free agency this offseason, his strongest competition for that honor may come from someone in his group. Gipson and Hill, in particular, have developed into above-average starters and are entering their age-25 seasons. The Browns and Ravens, respectively, have the means to lock up their safeties for at least the 2015 season, and Cleveland at least looks like a lock to do so. We’ll see what the Ravens decide with Hill, who has been suspended for off-field issues in each of the last three seasons.

Besides Gipson and Hill, McLeod is a very good bet to receive a restricted free agent tender from the Rams, and Jarrett is coming off a solid season for the Jets, though it remains to be seen if the new coaching staff will want to lock him up. Most of the other players in this group are reserves and/or special-teamers, so if their teams bring them back, it will likely be for less than the RFA tender amount.

Previous looks at the 2015 free agent market:

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