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NFL Free Agency 2014: Ranking Packers' Top Free Agents and Their "Best Fits"

Not surprisingly, one NFL writer has Sam Shields listed as the most valuable Packers free agent on the market. How does he do analyzing the rest of the Packers' players?

Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

With a week and a half to go before the start of free agency, a few dominos have begun to fall. The Philadelphia Eagles, in particular, inked wide receiver Riley Cooper to a new five-year, $25 million deal, the first major contract to a big free agent-to-be. Other teams are cutting players for salary cap purposes, and the Browns releasing linebacker D'Qwell Jackson is one example.

Thus, with free agnecy nearly upon us, one of the popular things to do is rank the free agents to see who teams' top priorities should be. Another popular type of article is speculation on where players could end up when all is said and done.

Greg Bedard of Sports Illustrated and did both in one, ranking his top 100 NFL free agents in order (splitting it up between players 1-50 and 51-100), and providing his "ideal" landing spot for each. Let's take a look at how the Packers' free agents landed on his board and where he believes their best fit would be.

Rank Player Position "Best fit"
33 Sam Shields CB Chargers
53 James Jones WR Raiders
59 B.J. Raji DT Bears
65 Jermichael Finley TE Seahawks
74 James Starks RB Giants
86 John Kuhn FB Packers
95 Mike Neal OLB/DE Cardinals
100 M.D. Jennings S Eagles

I won't get into the "best fit" options too much, mainly because it's all speculation. A few of them make sense due to coaching or GM connections (Ben McAdoo in New York, John Schneider in Seattle, and Reggie McKenzie in Oakland). What surprised me is that of all 100 players, only John Kuhn was chosen as having his best fit be in Green Bay. I was especially surprised at Sam Shields not being considered best to stay with the Packers, especially with the reports recently that his agent and the team were actively working on a new contract.

The other interesting thing to look at here is how the Packers' players are ranked relative to other players. Take James Jones, for example. He slotted in at 53rd, two spots ahead of the aforementioned Cooper (55) and another three ahead of the Patriots' Julian Edelman (58). Ahead of Jones were (top to bottom) Hakeem Nicks, Eric Decker, Anquan Boldin, Emmanuel Sanders, and Golden Tate. Judge that list how you will, but putting Jones near Cooper and Tate makes sense to me - he has a longer track record than either of those two, but they had better 2013 seasons than Jones.

Jennings being on the list at all is laughable, though, especially when Evan Dietrich-Smith is nowhere to be seen. As was reported recently, the Packers have no intent to give Jennings even the lowest Restricted Free Agent tender, whereas Dietrich-Smith got that a year ago and looks to be a much more desirable free agent. His play in 2013 was certainly far better than Jennings, and I would argue that he should also be higher in the ranking than Kuhn and Neal, and probably above Starks as well.

There you have my analysis of this list as it relates to the Packers. How would you reorder this list, if you were looking purely at each player's value and appeal on the free agent market as a whole (not just to the Packers)?