AFC East's top free agents: Nos. 1-3

January, 10, 2013
1/10/13
10:00
AM ET
The AFC East blog wraps up its list of top free agents.

Here are the top free available players in the division:

No. 3: Jairus Byrd, S, Bills

2012 stats: 76 tackles, five interceptions, four forced fumbles

Analysis: Byrd is a playmaking safety who has flown under the radar for a while. But teams know how good Byrd really is and he will have attract plenty of interest on the open market. Buffalo has had preliminary discussions with Byrd's representatives in hopes of reaching a deal before March. The one-year franchise tag is another option.

No. 2: Jake Long, LT, Dolphins

2012 stats: 12 starts

Skinny: Long may no longer be the elite player he was two years ago, but despite injuries and a drop off in play, he is still better than 80 percent of NFL left tackles. Long provides stability at one of the most difficult positions in the NFL. That is reason enough for Long to get significant money in free agency. But the question is this: How much value does Long have in Miami? Will the Dolphins pay him $50-$60 million? Or will Miami go with rookie tackle Jonathan Martin on the left side and use that money to improve other areas of the team?

No. 1: Wes Welker, WR, Patriots

2012 stats: 118 receptions, 1,354 yards, six TDs

Skinny: Welker had another season of tremendous production. He is a perfect fit in New England's offense and recorded his fifth 100-catch season. It's hard to imagine New England’s offense without Welker. But the team was unwilling to give him a long-term extension last year. Can the Patriots let Welker walk and replace his production? Tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez would get more targets, which is not a bad thing. Receiver Julian Edelman also has potential in the slot, although it's doubtful he can match Welker's production. The Patriots are not afraid to let good players walk. This will be the most interesting free-agent decision in the AFC East this offseason.

James Walker | email

ESPN Miami Dolphins reporter

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