Here is an abridged list of eligible safeties that will be free agents starting February 29.
Madieu Williams – Cincinnati Bengals; 74 tackles, 2 INT, 7 passes def., 2 sacks (13 games)
Eugene Wilson – New England Patriots; 31 tackles, 1 INT, 3 passes def., 0 sacks (11 games)
Gibril Wilson – New York Giants; 78 tackles, 4 INT, 7 passes def., 0 sacks (13 games)
Von Hutchins – Houston Texans; 93 tackles, 1 INT, 6 passes def., 0.5 sacks (16 games)
Deke Cooper - Carolina Panthers; 59 tackles, 3 INT, 4 passes def., 0 sacks (16 games)
Sammy Knight - Jacksonville Jaguars; 93 tackles, 4 INT, 11 passes def., 0 sacks (16 games)
Chris Crocker - Atlanta Falcons; 55 tackles, 1 INT, 11 passes def., 1 sack (14 games)
O.J. Atogwe (RFA) – St. Louis Rams; 75 tackles, 8 INT, 12 passes def., 0 sacks (16 games)
And for comparison:
Ken Hamlin – Dallas Cowboys; 62 tackles, 5 INT, 15 passes def., 0 sacks (16 games)
Ken Hamlin is going to be the most sought after unrestricted free agent this year should he choose to depart the Dallas Cowboys. It is imperative that the team make a strong play to keep Hamlin as the talent drop-off after him is fairly high. If the Cowboys are unable to resign Hamlin they will be faced with the possibility of starting unproven Patrick Watkins this year or signing a sub par player via free agency. The Cowboys could also draft a safety this year but that would leave too little experience behind Roy Williams, further exposing his weaknesses. The Cowboys have needed a roaming safety that would allow Williams to play closer to the box and finding that in the later rounds of the draft is unlikely.
Unfortunately the most intriguing name this year is O.J Atogwe, a restricted free agent out of St. Louis. Atogwe established himself as a playmaker last year while compiling the most interceptions in the NFC. The Rams are expected to tender Atogwe at the first and third round level, a price the Cowboys are definitely unwilling to pay. This could be a name to look out for in free agency in 2009.
It is apparent that it will be in the Cowboys best interests to lock up Hamlin to a long term deal. He is only 26 years old and has established himself as a solid contributor at a position the Cowboys will be hard pressed to fill in his absence.