NFL free agents 2013: Bumper crop defines the safety market

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

While most of the top safeties are off the market, some of the bigger-name, veterans are still available as stop-gaps.

Often the sideshow to the more expensive cornerback free agency market, safety has become an increasingly important position as the NFL continues to transition toward a more pass-oriented game. Players like Dashon Goldson can provide teams with an additional, solid player in coverage, while also giving teams run support.

While the market for free agent safeties was small in 2012, the market was much more lively in 2013 and resulted in some relatively large contracts getting dished out.

Biggest Contracts

1. Dashon Goldson, Tampa Bay Buccaneers - five years, $41.25 million ($8.25 million per season, $18 million guaranteed)
2. LaRon Landry, Indianapolis Colts - four years, $24 million ($6 million per season, $7 million signing bonus, $11 million guaranteed)
3. Ed Reed, Houston Texans - three years, $15 million ($5 million per season, $2 million signing bonus, $5 million guaranteed)
4. Glover Quin, Detroit Lions - five years, $23.5 million ($4.7 million per season, $5.25 million signing bonus)
5. Louis Delmas, Detroit Lions - two years, $8.59 million ($4.295 million per season, $1 million signing bonus)
6. Bernard Pollard, Tennessee Titans - one year, $2 million ($500,000 signing bonus)

LaRon Landry is arguably the most surprising of the group as he was a decent contributor for the Jets in 2012, but not so much that people expected him to receive $6 million per season. One of a series of risks by the Colts, Landry will be expected to be one of the better safeties in the NFL.

The better value appears to have been had by the Lions, who dished out the fourth and fifth biggest safety contracts in 2013, but are paying roughly $9 million per year combined for a solid pair in the defensive backfield. Compared to the $8.25 million per year given to Goldson, the pair of deals could work wonders for the Lions secondary.

Who's Left

Charles Woodson

Certainly the biggest name still on the market, Woodson's play hasn't dropped off too much and he was a solid safety for the Packers in 2012 after making the transition from cornerback. However, the contract number was just too high for someone who will turn 37 during the 2013 season. If he can continue to play at a high-level though, he could make for a solid patch.

Kerry Rhodes

Similar to Woodson, Rhodes was an aging player with a high salary cap number that the Cardinals elected to part with. It wasn't due to poor play though, as he's quietly been one of the more consistent, reliable, quality safeties in the NFL. At 30, he has less tread on the tires than most of the remaining players on the market.

Quintin Mikell

One of the biggest free agents following the NFL lockout, Mikell received a four-year, $27 million deal from the Rams, but now at age 32 he wasn't worth the money. Still, he was a quality player that can be a stop-gap for a team that can't find a safety in the draft.

2012's Biggest S Contracts

1. Reggie Nelson, Cincinnati Bengals - 4 years, $18 million ($4.5 million per season, $2.5 million signing bonus)
2. LaRon Landry, New York Jets - 1 year, $3.5 million ($3.5 million per season, $950,000 signing bonus)
3. Dwight Lowery, Jacksonville Jaguars - 4 years, $13.6 million ($3.4 million per season, $4 million guaranteed)
4. Brandon Meriweather, Washington Redskins - 2 years, $6 million ($3 million per season, $3.5 million guaranteed)
5. Ronde Barber, Tampa Bay Buccaneers - 1 year, $3 million ($3 million per season)

In 2012, the free agency market at safety ran dry quickly as players like Reggie Nelson and Dwight Lowery re-signed with their original teams. While some mid-level players like Landry and Meriweather were on the market, none compared to the quality of Goldson, who set the market in 2013. It's a pretty safe bet that Nelson's deal would have been much different in this market, when you look at what Pollard and Reed got for their services.

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