Tuesday, February 23, 2010

2010 Free Agency Top Fives: Center

Centers aren't extremely hard to find or develop, but they are important pieces to help stop disruptive nose tackles and pave the way for the inside running game.

This year's free-agent market at center isn't extremely deep or loaded with a handful of long-term starting options, but there is some talent to be had here if you need a short-term veteran fix.

These are my top five free agent centers in 2010:

Note: This series of lists only includes unrestricted free agents, as those are the only type that can be signed without giving up compensation. Restricted free agents—especially the best ones—will cost valuable draft picks.)

Kevin Mawae, Tennessee Titans

Even at 39, Mawae still has it. He's a mauler that can handle the big 3-4 nose tackles and is still highly productive in the running game, as indicated by running back Chris Johnson's monster campaign in 2009.

Mawae obviously won't be getting any long-term deals, but a team without a center would be crazy not to look at him as someone that could start for the next year or two.

Casey Rabach, Washington Redskins

A long-time starter for the Ravens and Redskins, Rabach has experience at both center and guard, and is still above average at the first position.

Still just 32, Rabach is certainly someone that can serve as a starter for potentially another three to four years, and be productive doing so.

Rex Hadnot, Cleveland Browns

Although a knee injury limited his action in 2009, Hadnot is still a quality talent and has the ability to start at both guard and center.

Although he can still play guard at a fairly high level, he might be best suited finishing out his career at center, where he can get help from the guys playing on each side of him and hopefully limit his wear.

John Wade, Oakland Raiders

Wade isn't the player he once was in Tampa Bay, and has had durability issues during his two seasons with the Raiders.

Now 35, Wade probably has the ability to start somewhere if healthy, but it seems like that the 32 teams in the NFL will all explore other options.

Ben Hamilton, Denver Broncos

Hamilton is part of a dying blocking scheme, and there isn't much use around the league for a 280-pound lineman.

Hamilton has experience at both guard and center, but isn't great at either position and probably isn't starter material.

Beyond the Top Five
  • Russ Hochstein, Denver Broncos — A long-time reserve with the Patriots, Hochstein followed his former offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels to Denver in 2009, splitting time between starting and the bench. He has some value as a top backup inside, but there are better starting options out there.
  • Nick Leckey, New Orleans Saints — The 2004 sixth-round pick has had his chances to start in the NFL, but he has never been able to maintain a grip on them. He's a bit undersized and lacks the ideal bulk of a starter, making him pure backup material at best.
  • Seth McKinney, Buffalo Bills — Once a quality center with the Dolphins, McKinney has had serious durability issues in his career, and those don't tend to go away with age. He's worth picking up as a veteran backup at center and guard, but can't be counted on to start.
  • Dennis Norman, San Diego Chargers — The Princeton alum will certainly help raise your team I.Q., but that's about it. Although he can technically "play" almost anywhere on the line, he doesn't do anything well enough to start.
  • Wade Smith, Kansas City Chiefs — A former offensive tackle forced inside due to lack of talent, Smith is nothing more than a backup, and probably always will be.

Who are the top free agent centers in 2010? Share your thoughts on the forum here!