25 Big-Name NFL Players Set to Enter Free Agency This Offseason
25 Big NFL Names Who Could Be in a Different Uniform in 2014
Update: Jay Cutler signed a 7-year, $126 million extension Thursday morning.
As we get set to watch 12 NFL teams duke it out for the rights to call themselves world champions, there are 20 franchises that are left watching from home. What is next for these franchises immediately following the season's end? For some, it means getting rid of coaches and management right away. For others, it just means a bit of a vacation before offseason workouts begin.
One of the more important things to look forward to, beyond the 2014 Draft, is the group of players set to enter free agency in the offseason. There will be some well-known names out there who may end up in a different uniform before the start of the 2014-2015 campaign. Some may still be playing for a Super Bowl, while others are more concentrated on their future than ever before as their team's year is done.
There are guys on the following list who may have played outstanding in their contract year, thus driving up the price of their next contract. Others, on the other hand, may have not had the type of season they wanted but will still be worth a look. Then again, there are a few more that endured some injuries over the course of 2013 that propose questions as to whether they are worth a look, and for how much money.
For many fans, it is now about their team's future. It is about looking at the next group of guys set to hit the free agent pool and wondering just who may be on your team's radar. There are tons of players available, but these are 25 of the biggest names that will be on the market come free agency.
25. Anquan Boldin, Wide Receiver
Anquan Boldin proved to be a valuable asset to Colin Kaepernick this season despite his aging. Boldin caught 85 passes in 2013 for 1,179 yards and seven touchdowns. He may not be as fast or quick as he once was, but throw the ball his direction and he's one of those guys who is sure to come up with a catch when you need it the most.
24. Aqib Talib, Cornerback
Aqib Talib proved valuable to helping shore up the New England Patriots pass defense which was no where near one of the league's best a year ago. At times, he showed he can hold the best guys in the game to a limited output. Other games, he was a bit inconsistent. But, Talib is still young enough where he can continue to get better.
23. T.J. Ward, Safety
T.J. Ward was a big reason the Cleveland Browns defense showed such an improvement in 2013. Last year, Ward finished with a whopping 112 tackles (second overall at his position) to go with two picks. Pro Football Focus rated him as the second-best safety in all of football. At 27 years old, he still has plenty of football left in him.
22. Darren McFadden, Running Back
Darren McFadden has averaged missing five games per season in his six years. I don't see the Oakland Raiders even considering bringing him back, due to another guy's emergence on the list. Will McFadden find a role as a starter in 2014? Probably not, but there are plenty of teams that may use him in a complementary role. Will he stay healthy? That's a great question.
21. Rashad Jennings, Running Back
Could Rashad Jennings be the new starter in Oakland if they choose to bring him back? There may be a good chance he gets to return. After week nine when McFadden went down to injury, Jennings got a chance to prove what he could really do as a feature back, rushing for almost 600 yards and six touchdowns.
20. Jared Allen, Defensive End
Jared Allen finished 2013 with 11.5 sacks and clearly wasn't the dominant pass-rusher he once was, but he will still find a home as a starter somewhere in 2014. Allen can still get to the quarterback at a high level and should have plenty of potential suitors waiting to give him a call.
19. Devin Hester, Return Specialist
Devin Hester only scored one touchdown this season, on a punt return to tie the great Deion Sanders' record of all-time return touchdowns. He is not the guy he was a few years back, but still has the speed to kill.
18. Ben Tate, Running Back
2013 was a tough year for Ben Tate as he endured a 2-win season on the Houston Texans and also suffered a couple of cracked ribs. However, he still finished with 771 yards on 181 carries and four touchdowns as a backup for the majority of the year. The 4-year veteran will most definitely find another team this next season.
17. Branden Albert, Offensive Tackle
Branden Albert is one of the best tackles in the game today, but the Kansas City Chiefs likely won't pay him the money he wants to stay. Albert will be a hot commodity this offseason, as Pro Bowl left tackles don't merely grow on trees.
16. Michael Vick, Quarterback
Not having played a full season since 2006, Michael Vick has been as injury-prone as any quarterback in the game today. He has also not been the most careful with the football. With that said, Vick still presents some value as a solid backup or a change-of-pace wildcat/read-option type of guy.
15. Alterraun Verner, Cornerback
Alterraun Verner was one of the great stories of 2013. Coming into his fourth season as a pro. not many had heard much of him unless you were a Tennessee Titans fan. Verner, in 2013, picked off five passes and deflected another 23, thus making him one of the top-rated corners in the league.
14. Brent Grimes, Cornerback
Brent Grimes allowed a grand total of zero touchdowns in 2013. At 30 years old, Grimes continues to play great football and also picked off four passes this past season. One of the top-rated corners in the league, Grimes is sure to get paid in 2014.
13. Daryl Smith, Linebacker
Daryl Smith, in his first year with the Baltimore Ravens, posted career highs in all major categories for a linebacker. 123 tackles, 5.0 sacks, 19 passes defensed and three interceptions. Smith, 31, is still playing as solid of football as he ever has. Will the Ravens decide to bring him back, or will he get paid elsewhere?
12. Maurice Jones-Drew, Running Back
Maurice Jones-Drew didn't exactly play his way to a large contract in 2013, rushing for just 803 yards and five touchdowns, while averaging just 3.4 yards per carry. Jones-Drew would likely be a solid complementary back, but if he stays with the Jacksonville Jaguars -- assuming they give him the money he desires -- then he's all but guaranteed to keep the starting job.
11. Karlos Dansby, Linebacker
A huge Pro Bowl snub in 2013, Karlos Dansby posted the second highest tackling total of his 10-year career with 122. He also put up his second-highest total in sacks with 6.5. Dansby added in four picks, two of which were returned for a score, as well as a career-high 19 passes defensed.
10. Hakeem Nicks, Wide Receiver
Most would agree that Hakeem Nicks simply doesn't belong anymore. The New York Giants will likely move on and someone will overpay him elsewhere. That's not to say Nicks isn't a talented wideout, but there will likely be a team out there to give him a Mike Wallace-esque contract. But, who knows, maybe Nicks just needs a change of scenery.
9. Alex Mack, Center
If the Cleveland Browns are serious about changing the franchise in a winning direction, re-signing center Alex Mack would be a great top priority. Mack has become arguably the best at his position in the league over his four year career, and he will have a few teams calling his name I am sure.
8. Knowshon Moreno, Running Back
Having been mostly a bust prior to his fifth year as a pro, Knowshon Moreno came out of virtually no where this season to explode onto the scene. Moreno became the Denver Broncos' number one back and ran for 1,038 yards and 10 scores. He also caught 60 passes for 548 yards and three touchdowns. Needless to say, I'm sure Denver wants him back.
7. Eric Decker, Wide Receiver
Over the last two seasons, Peyton Manning has turned Eric Decker into a much better player overall. Decker could be one of those guys to get overpaid just like Nicks, but again, that doesn't mean Decker wouldn't be a valuable asset. Having the size and hands as good as anyone, Decker has become a top-20 wideout in this league.
6. Henry Melton, Defensive Tackle
Henry Melton didn't get too far into his 2013 season before it being ended by a torn ACL. In 2012, Melton was arguably the league's top defensive tackle, earning his first Pro Bowl bid. The former running back would be welcomed back in the windy city, I'm sure. But, will the Chicago Bears be able to pay him?
5. Greg Hardy, Defensive End
Greg Hardy is going to get paid -- a lot. At only 25 years old, Hardy has posted at least 11 sacks in back-to-back seasons ending 2013 with 15.0. The Carolina Panthers very well could give him the franchise tag, but will they want to pay him that much money for one year or offer him a multi-year deal that he may refuse?
4. Brian Orakpo, Linebacker
Brian Orakpo, in his fifth season, posted a career high in tackles with 60 but also ended with 10.0 sacks. One of the better pass-rushing linebackers in the game today, the 27-year old is likely to get a big contract this offseason.
3. Jay Cutler, Quarterback
Out of all the players on this list, Jay Cutler is going to be the most interesting one of them all to watch this offseason. Did he show enough in an injury-plagued year to warrant a long-term deal? Or, will the Bears take a risk and give him the franchise tag, thus paying him like a top-5 quarterback in the league? Further, would the Bears be better off letting him go, and where would he sign? There are plenty of questions regarding Cutler at this point.
2. Jairus Byrd, Safety
Jairus Byrd could easily be regarded as the top free safety in the NFL when healthy. Unfortunately, he missed five games in 2013 but still wound up with a very productive year. Likely wanting a big-time contract after receiving the franchise tag, Byrd will find a home elsewhere and continue playing top-notch football.
1. Jimmy Graham, Tight End
Jimmy Graham has been the best tight end in the game since entering the NFL. Basically a wide receiver trapped in a tight end's body, Graham has the speed, strength, hands and leaping ability that every other guy in the league can only dream of. Graham ended 2013 with 86 catches, 1,215 yards and 16 touchdowns. It is hard to imagine Graham not returning to the New Orleans Saints, but he certainly tops the list of free-agent-to-be names in 2014.