Predicting Where The Top 25 NFL Free Agents Will Sign This Offseason
Where Will The Top 25 NFL Free Agents Land This Offseason?
The 2013 NFL season will officially conclude this Sunday with Super Bowl 48 between the Denver Broncos and the Seattle Seahawks. While the Broncos and Seahawks are technically still part of the 2013 season, 30 NFL teams have already started their 2014 NFL seasons early.
These teams have been scouting to determine if the players on their rosters are good enough to compete for a championship, or if they have to look elsewhere for help. Most of the off season speculation surrounds the NFL Draft and the thousands upon thousands of mock drafts that have already been completed even though the draft order has not been finalized.
Not a lot of talk is being focused on the free agent class of 2014. While this class does not have a lot of household names, there is a good pool of players whose contracts are expired. On March 11, the first day of free agency, teams will be lining up at the doors (figuratively speaking) of these players with the hopes that one or more of these free agents can either turn their teams into postseason teams or to take a perennial playoff team and turn them into Super Bowl champions.
Much like the 2013 NFL Draft, plenty of players in the trenches will be the main targets of most teams this offseason as the game is centered around pass protection and rushing the passer. Here's a look at where the top 25 NFL free agents might land this offseason.
25. Randy Starks, Defensive Tackle, Miami Dolphins
With the situation in Miami going in a downward spiral, look for Starks to jump to the Buffalo Bills if he's not re-signed. There, he will serve as a mentor to the highly talented, yet questionable Marcell Dareus and be reunited with coordinator Jim Schwartz.
24. Vontae Davis, Cornerback, Indianapolis Colts
Davis joined the Indianapolis Colts in 2012 after three good seasons in Miami. The jump has yet to pay dividends, as Davis only has four interceptions in two seasons with 20 pass defenses. He will most likely re-sign with the Colts.
23. Lamarr Houston, Defensive End, Oakland Raiders
If the Raiders allow Houston to walk, a team like the Dallas Cowboys could use another pass rusher if Anthony Spencer is not cleared from injury.
22. B.J. Raji, Defensive Tackle, Green Bay Packers
Raji will most likely be re-signed by the Packers as the team mostly re-signs their own players in free agency.
21. Eugene Monroe, Tackle, Baltimore Ravens
Expect Monroe to stay with the Ravens. With a full offseason in the Baltimore organization, he will get more acclimated to the Ravens' system. Good left tackles are hard to find, and the Ravens wouldn't be smart if they let him go.
20. Walter Thurmond, Cornerback, Seattle Seahawks
Thurmond's situation is just like Cary Williams' from the Ravens in 2012. Injuries gave Williams a chance to shine, and he turned that into a big deal with the Philadelphia Eagles. Expect Thurmond to do what Williams did, and a team like the Jacksonville Jaguars would be an ideal fit as he would be reunited with former defensive coordinator Gus Bradley.
19. Sam Shields, Cornerback, Green Bay Packers
With a deep unit of cornerbacks in Green Bay, it wouldn't be surprising if Packers' brass lets him walk, and a team with cornerback needs like the Detroit Lions could snatch him up.
18. Jared Veldheer, Tackle, Oakland Raiders
If the Raiders don't re-sign Veldheer, expect a team like the Atlanta Falcons to sign him in hopes of improving a weak offensive line.
17. Michael Bennett, Defensive End, Seattle Seahawks
With an already deep pool of pass rushers in Seattle, the Seahawks will likely franchise tag Bennett here and decide what to do with him next year.
16. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Cornerback, Denver Broncos
Going off the premise that Rodgers-Cromartie is not retiring, he would fit best with the Tennessee Titans, where he could replace Alterraun Verner if he is not re-signed, and would then be reunited with former coach Ken Whisenhunt.
15. Linval Joseph, Defensive Tackle, New York Giants
With tremendous depth on the Giants' defensive line, Joseph either will be franchise-tagged, or he would make sense with the Chicago Bears, who went through defensive tackles in bunches last year.
14. Brent Grimes, Cornerback, Miami Dolphins
True cover corners are a must in today's NFL, and Grimes' name will surely be targeted by many teams. Expect the franchise tag to be used on Grimes; if let go, a team like the Carolina Panthers would make sense as they need a true shutdown corner.
13. T.J. Ward, Safety, Cleveland Browns
T.J. Ward certainly didn't help his case for staying with the Cleveland Browns after that big tackle on Josh Gordon in the Pro Bowl. With this incident aside, I expect Ward to stay in Cleveland as he and the defense were not the problem for last season's one-and-done season with Rob Chudzinski.
12. Alterraun Verner, Cornerback, Tennessee Titans
Verner's chances of staying with the Titans is slim as a new coaching staff and new scheme are likely to be implemented. In this case, Verner would make perfect sense with the Pittsburgh Steelers, who desperately need youth in the secondary.
11. Brian Orakpo, Linebacker, Washington Redskins
Although Orakpo was solid in the 3-4, expect him to leave and a team like the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. It would make sense for the talented pass rusher, who can be a perfect compliment to Adrian Clayborn on the Buccaneers' defensive line.
10. Donald Butler, Linebacker, San Diego Chargers
If the price tag is too high for the Chargers to keep him, Butler would make sense in Indianapolis, where he could join Chuck Pagano and a 3-4 scheme that is close to San Diego's.
9. Aqib Talib, Cornerback, New England Patriots
New England Patriots' cornerback Aqib Talib has helped the Patriots reach back-to-back AFC Championship games. Unfortunately, he couldn't finish either game and the Patriots lost both. Expect Talib to stay in Foxborough and continue to build on an already solid tenure with the Patriots.
8. Eric Decker, Wide Receiver, Denver Broncos
With all of the weapons already on the Broncos, Decker's price tag would be too much for the team and they will let him walk. A team like the Kansas City Chiefs could use a solid no. 2 receiver to help a struggling passing game.
7. Alex Mack, Center, Cleveland Browns
Alex Mack is the best interior offensive linemen in this class, yet is forgotten about because he is unfortunately stuck in the mess that is the Cleveland Browns. Expect Mack to be franchise-tagged by the Browns with the team hoping to sign the center to a long-term contract.
6. Jason Hatcher, Defensive Tackle, Dallas Cowboys
With no defensive changes likely in Dallas, Hatcher will most likely re-sign with the team and try to duplicate his 2013 season in 2014.
5. Michael Johnson, Defensive End, Cincinnati Bengals
Michael Johnson's tenure with the Cincinnati Bengals looks all but certain to be done. After being franchise-tagged repeatedly with no long-term agreement looming, Johnson's best opportunity would be to land with the Minnesota Vikings.
4. Branden Albert, Tackle, Kansas City Chiefs
With the Chiefs selecting Eric Fisher first overall in 2013, Albert's days in Kansas City are numbered. A team like the Miami Dolphins would make perfect sense as they desperately need to fix their offensive line from a season ago.
3. Jairus Byrd, Safety, Buffalo Bills
If not franchise-tagged by the Bills, Byrd would make sense in Cleveland, joining former defensive coordinator Mike Pettine. He could perhaps replace T.J. Ward if he decides to leave.
2. Greg Hardy, Defensive End, Carolina Panthers
Hardy will be franchise tagged or will get a long-term contract with the Panthers. Either way, he is not leaving Carolina.
1. Jimmy Graham, Tight End, New Orleans Saints
There is no chance that Graham leaves the Saints in 2014. Graham will be franchise tagged or he will sign a long-term contract.