Which players are available in free agency at safety?
A year ago, the Broncos made a splash in the free-agent market at safety -- but a prudent one. Instead of overpaying for ex-Buffalo Bills star Jairus Byrd, the Broncos pursued T.J. Ward, considered by many the second-best safety on the market.
The Saints got Byrd at a contract that could hinder them in regards to the salary cap for years, and he succumbed to injury. Ward, meanwhile, played all but the regular-season finale and ended the season in the Pro Bowl.
But this year, the Broncos could be the team losing one of the best safeties on the market, with Rahim Moore set to become an unrestricted free agent and the Broncos forced into some tough choices. Moore rebounded from a frustrating rookie season and the oft-cited misplay on the deep Joe Flacco-to-Jacoby Jones pass late in the 2012 divisional-round loss and became an effective free safety, but in a sub-par free-agent safety market, he could be coveted beyond his realistic value.
If the Broncos lose Moore, they have an internal option -- backup David Bruton, who has started from time to time over the course of his career, saw substantial work in sub packages late in the season, and is the team's special-teams captain. But they could look to the free-agent market to at least fortify depth, if not create a vigorous competition, should Moore land elsewhere.
UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS:**
DEVIN McCOURTY, NEW ENGLAND:The clear-cut top of the free-agent safety class, he will likely be one of the first names off the market once the signing period begins at 2 p.m. MDT on Tuesday. He is likely to get a contract similar to -- or perhaps surpassing -- Byrd's deal last year.
DA'NORRIS SEARCY, BUFFALO:Searcy ensured that the Bills weren't hindered by the loss of Byrd, but with the Bills taking on extra salary with the reported trade for Philadelphia running back LeSean McCoy, the Bills might let him go and find a safety of a similar talent level -- but a few years older -- on the market.
DWIGHT LOWERY, ATLANTA:He could be poised for a decent raise from his veteran-minimum contract last year after a solid season in which he picked off two passes. Lowery turned 29 in January and should have multiple prime years left.
MIKE ADAMS, INDIANAPOLIS:The former Bronco was one of the best value signings of the offseason, earning his first Pro Bowl appearance. Colts head coach Chuck Pagano said "there's still gas left in the tank" for the veteran; it appears to be a question of whether a potential contract offer is to Adams' liking.
LOUIS DELMAS, MIAMI:A good season came to an end with a December knee injury that added to the litany of knee problems he's faced in recent years. When healthy, he's effective, but the persistent knee problems will reduce his value.
ANTREL ROLLE, N.Y. GIANTS:He turned 32 last year, and while he didn't match other seasons in terms of production and range, he's one year removed from a six-interception, Pro Bowl campaign and could have another year at near that level when partnered with an aggressive safety who creeps into the box.
MARCUS GILCHRIST, SAN DIEGO:One of the most versatile defensive backs on the market, Gilchrist can move closer to the line of scrimmage and play slot cornerback in sub packages, then move back to safety in the base defense.
OTHERS OF NOTE:
Dawan Landry, N.Y. Jets
Sergio Brown, Indianapolis
Darian Stewart, Baltimore
Stevie Brown, N.Y. Giants
Jeromy Miles, Baltimore
Nate Allen, Philadelphia
STREET FREE AGENTS: Bernard Pollard, ex-Tennessee
LaRon Landry, ex-Indianapolis
Thomas DeCoud, ex-Carolina
Tyvon Branch, ex-Oakland
RESTRICTED/EXCLUSIVE-RIGHTS FREE AGENTS:
TASHAUN GIPSON, CLEVELAND:One of the best young ball-hawking safeties in the NFL, the pursuit of him will be determined by the Browns' tender level. If it's any less than a first-round tender, expect teams to pursue him after he intercepted six passes in just 11 games last year. Gipson was the 10th-highest rated safety last year in ProFootballFocus.com's rankings.
WILL HILL, BALTIMORE:The Ravens pared some excess from the roster in recent weeks to create salary-cap room, but will that be enough to give Hill a higher tender than the right-of-first-refusal level? Hill fared well in his first season with the Ravens last year, so he's bound to get some interest if he's tendered at the lowest degree.
RODNEY McLEOD, ST. LOUIS:According to reports, St. Louis tendered McLeod at the second-round level, which should be enough to keep the hard-hitting safety around. McLeod can be a feast-or-famine player, but he fits the aggressive defenses Rams head coach Jeff Fisher favors.
OTHERS OF NOTE:
Jaiquawn Jarrett, N.Y. Jets
Brandin Ross, Oakland
Trenton Robinson, Washington