Players like Ravens Lewis, Panthers Peppers may be on new teams in '09

If football season is over, that means the free agent season is about to begin. With that in mind, here, in alphabetical order, are the best 25 players who are in position to become free agents.

Nnamdi Asomugha, Raiders cornerback; O.J. Atogwe, Rams safety; Matt Birk, Vikings center; Antonio Bryant, Bucs receiver; Vernon Carey, Dolphins offensive tackle; Matt Cassel, Patriots quarterback; Kerry Collins, Titans quarterback; Channing Crowder, Dolphins linebacker.

Karlos Dansby, Cardinals linebacker; Brian Dawkins, Eagles safety; Jordan Gross, Panthers offensive tackle; DeAngelo Hall, Redskins cornerback; Albert Haynesworth, Titans defensive tackle; Leroy Hill, Seahawks linebacker; T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Bengals receiver; Brandon Jacobs, Giants running back.

Ray Lewis, Ravens linebacker; Julius Peppers, Panthers defensive end; Dunta Robinson, Texans cornerback; Jeff Saturday, Colts center; Darren Sharper, Vikings safety; Darren Sproles, Chargers running back; Terrell Suggs, Ravens linebacker; Jonathan Vilma, Saints linebacker and Kurt Warner, Cardinals quarterback.

As you can see, it’s an impressive array of proven talent (Asomugha, Birk and Lewis, for instance), players whose stock has risen recently (Bryant, Cassel, Sproles and Warner), and big names (Dawkins, Peppers and Sharper).

Of course, many of these players never will hit the open market. Either they will re-sign with their current teams, or they will be hit with a tag that limits their options.

Let’s look closer at the list’s most intriguing names. Antonio Bryant
He resurrected his career in 2009 with 1,248 receiving yards. But he spent the 2007 season out of football, and given his streaky past there may be a limited market for the seven-year vet. What will work in Bryant’s favor is it will be a

seller’s market for receivers.

Matt Cassel
The Patriots likely will put the franchise tag on him, but they may trade him depending on Tom Brady’s rehabilitation from knee surgery. For any team that needs a quarterback, Cassel should be option No. 1.

Albert Haynesworth
The Titans have agreed not to franchise him, and no free agent figures to have a bigger impact. Whoever wants him likely will have to make him the highest paid defensive player in football.

Brandon Jacobs
The Giants aren’t about to let this beast of a runner take his services elsewhere. But if they have to overpay for Jacobs, they almost certainly will have to allow Derrick Ward to sign elsewhere.

Ray Lewis
It’s difficult to envision him playing somewhere besides Baltimore, but it won’t be easy for the Ravens to re-sign this soon to be 34-year old future hall of famer. You can envision another team becoming intoxicated with Lewis and offering the moon, sun and stars.

Julius Peppers
He wants out of Carolina, but how could the Panthers let him go and receive nothing in return? This looks like a franchise tag waiting to happen, with a possible trade being the end result. Then again, another team might hesitate to make Peppers one of football’s highest paid players and give up premium trade compensation considering he is not much of a leader. He had just 2.5 sacks in 2007 (but 14.5 last season).

You think Peyton Manning might do a little lobbying for the team to re-sign him? Saturday is a vital cog in the Colts’ offense because he calls a lot of the protections on the line—and those protections change frequently as Manning changes plays. One of the better centers in the game, he would not be easy for the Colts to replace.

Darren Sproles
His performances late in the year made him millions, but many teams still don’t think he is an every down back. The questions: Can you pay him like an every down back? And, will the Chargers dump LaDainian Tomlinson in order to keep Sproles?

Kurt Warner
The word is if he does not retire he will remain in Arizona. But you never know what might happen if negotiations go south. Could you imagine him in Minnesota?