NFL Free Agency Begins on March 12th, so let’s look at the best available players and which teams are rumored to be interested in them, starting with the offensive side of the ball. Remember this post is just loaded with speculation and rumors right now, keep it here for updates and for the defensive side of the ball click here:
Quarterbacks: Now that Joe Flacco has been locked up with a long term deal which will make him the highest paid player in NFL history, the cupboard is pretty bare at the quarterback position, and there is not one player available that I would feel comfortable starting for my team. However, there are a few quality backups available, who will be sought after in the open market.
1 ) Matt Moore, Miami Dolphins, Age 29 – Matt Moore has shown that he has the ability to win games in the NFL, however he wants to compete for a starting job, and the Miami Dolphins are clearly Ryan Tannehill’s team. It’s time for Moore to move on. I have heard some rumors that the new regime running the Cleveland Browns has some interest in Moore, and may let him compete for the starting job, so they are a team to keep an eye on. If not, I am not sure where Moore gets the opportunity to compete for a starting job (Buffalo?), and he will fall into the category of a very good backup quarterback. UPDATE: Matt Moore has re-signed and will stay with the Dolphins as Ryan Tannehill’s backup.
2 ) Brian Hoyer, Arizona Cardinals, Age 27 – Hoyer struggled in two games played with the Arizona Cardinals last season, throwing one touchdown to two interceptions, and the legends of him being a talent when he was backing up Tom Brady in New England appear to be false. That being said, he still has talent as a backup, and belongs on a roster.
3 ) Jason Campbell, Chicago Bears, Age 31 – Last offseason, Jason Cambell was supposed to be a big insurance policy for the Bears, he was brought in so if Jay Cutler got hurt again the offense would not stink. Well Jay Cutler got hurt again, and the Bears offense was absolutely terrible with Campbell under center. He will probably find work as a backup quarterback somewhere, but he does not have much left in the tank, based on this 2012 performance.
Best of the Rest: David Garrard, Miami Dolphins, Age 35 – Brady Quinn, Kansas City Chiefs, Age 28 – Byron Leftwich, Pittsburgh Steelers, Age 33 – Rex Grossman, Washington Redskins, Age 33 – Matt Leinart, Oakland Raiders, Age 30 – David Carr, New York Giants, Age 34
Running Backs: The running back class is much deeper, and full of veteran backs who have produced in the past, but are getting up there in age. If there is one position where youth is most important in NFL, and where teams have success plugging in late round draft picks and undrafted free agents, it’s running back. Teams will want to make sure that if they sign players from this veteran group, it will be at their price.
1 ) Steven Jackson, St. Louis Rams, Age 30 – In 2012 Steven Jackson still ran hard, and while he is obviously a better fit in a two back system at this stage of his career, he can still help a team immensely. He is still excellent between the tackles, grinding out tough yardage, and can catch the ball out of the backfield. I have heard that the Rams would like him back at reduced rate, but teams such as the Atlanta Falcons, Detroit Lions, Denver Broncos, New York Jets and Green Bay Packers are also interested. If the Steven Jackson wants to win, several of those interested teams are expected to be Super Bowl contenders next season.
2 ) Reggie Bush, Miami Dolphins, Age 28 – Reggie Bush has been very productive with the Miami Dolphins when he has been healthy, and he has really turned what once looked to be a disappointing career with the New Orleans Saints around, once arriving in South Beach. Although Bush wants to return to Miami, it seems that the Dolphins will go with the younger tandem of Daniel Thomas and Lamar Miller, making Bush expendable. I have heard that the most interested team seems to be the Detroit Lions, with the Green Bay Packers also keeping an eye on the situation.
3 ) Ahmad Bradshaw, New York Giants, Age 27 – There is no questioning the two-time Super Bowl Champion’s toughness, he played through numerous injuries to his feet and ankles, and always fought hard for the extra yard for Big Blue. The problem with Bradshaw is, while he is still young, he has had four surgeries on the same foot and his health is a major question mark. I have heard that, if the price is right, the Giants may try to bring back Bradhshaw at a discount. I have also heard that the New York Jets and the Arizona Cardinals have interest, and other teams are monitoring his health concerns.
4 ) Rashard Mendenhall, Pittsburgh Steelers, Age 26 – Mendenhall is still young, and clearly has talent when he is healthy, but this has been rare. Mendenhall seems to always be hurt, which is not good for a big, plodding back that absorbs a lot of hits. If Mendenhall can prove he is healthy, he could rejuvenate his career in the right situation, a change of scenery could benefit him.
5 ) Shonn Greene, New York Jets, Age 28 – The former starting running back for the Jets, he still has talent, but should be more of a backup or short yardage back at this stage of his career. He has gone over 1,000 yards rushing in each of the last two years, and has scored 14 touchdowns in that time frame, so could help a team in need of a bigger back. I have heard the Denver Broncos showed early interest, and the Atlanta Falcons are monitoring.
6 ) Chris Ivory, New Orleans Saints, Age 25 (RFA) – Ivory has shown glimpses of his talent in New Orleans over the past few seasons, however he has been buried on the bench, due to the Saints deep depth chart at running back. Ivory is a restricted free agent, and while I know for a fact that teams are interested in him (I hear the Jets for sure), I have heard that the Saints want to keep him and have the right to match any offer.
7 ) Jonathan Dwyer, Pittsburgh Steelers, Age 24 (RFA) – Dwyer averaged four yards a carry in Pittsburgh last season, and showed flashes of brilliance behind a banged up Steelers offensive line, as an RFA I hear the Steelers will not let him leave.
8 ) Michael Turner, Atlanta Falcons, Age 31 – The big back seemed to really slow down during 2012, and while he had some great years for the Falcons, they had to release him this offseason. He can still help a team that needs a short yardage or goal line back, he can still effective if his carries are limited.
Best of the Rest: Joique Bell, Detroit Lions, Age 26 – Danny Woodhead, New England Patriots, Age 28 – La’Rod Stephens-Howling, Arizona Cardinals, Age 26 – Felix Jones, Dallas Cowboys, Age 26 – Peyton Hillis, Kansas City Chiefs, Age 27 – Javon Ringer, Tennessee Titans, Age 26 – Kevin Smith, Detroit Lions, Age 26, LeGarrette Blount (RFA), Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Age 26 – Isaac Redman, Pittsburgh Steelers, Age 28
Fullbacks: A position in the NFL which lacks value these days, there are actually a few very good fullbacks available this offseason, and one of the free agents is very important to his team.
1 ) Jerome Felton, Minnesota Vikings, Age 27 – The best fullback in all of football was a huge part of Adrian Peterson’s monster 2012 season, he is an incredible blocking back, and the Vikings cannot let him go. If they do, it would be a huge mistake, he’s that good.
2 ) James Casey, Houston Texans, Age 28 – Although he is not much of a blocker and more of an H-Back/Tight End/Fullback hybrid, Casey is an excellent player who is very effective at catching the ball out of the backfield, and his versatility would make him a welcome addition to most teams.
3 ) Greg Jones, Jacksonville Jaguars, Age 32 – One of the better fullbacks in the NFL over the past few years, Jones is now 32, and his best football is behind him. If I were Jones, I would want out of Jacksonville, and I’d be looking for the opportunity to play with a contender.
4 ) Darrel Young, Washington Redskins, Age 26 (RFA) – Was an excellent lead blocker for Alfred Morris in 2012, he is restricted, and the Redskins will likely do what it takes to keep him.
Best of the Rest: David Johnson, Pittsburgh Steelers, Age 26 – Brian Leonard, Cincinnati Bengals, Age 29 – Mike Cox, Atlanta Falcons, Age 28
Wide Receivers: One of the deepest positions on the open market has gotten weaker in recent days, because the Kansas City Chiefs re-signed Dwayne Bowe and the Miami Dolphins re-signed Brian Hartline, however wide receiver is still one of the deepest positions in free agency. I really like the NFL Draft class at wide receiver as well, although it is not strong at the top, it is a very deep group.
1 ) Victor Cruz, New York Giants, Age 26 (RFA) – The New York Giants are working on a long term deal with Victor Cruz, however the two sides remain far apart, and they may not get a deal done before the start of free agency. That being said, the Giants are not letting Cruz leave, and will match any offer for their star wideout.
2 ) Mike Wallace, Pittsburgh Steelers, Age 27 – Wallace will be leaving Pittsburgh, and the athletic deep threat will be scoring long touchdowns elsewhere next season, and making a lot of money doing it. The Miami Dolphins are rumored to be the favorites to sign Wallace to a huge offer and make him the team’s number one wide receiver, however other teams are also interested, including the Minnesota Vikings and the race to sign Wallace is wide open.
3 ) Greg Jennings, Green Bay Packers, Age 29 – I was surprised that the Packers did not place a franchise tag on Jennings, there will be plenty of interest in the talented and productive wideout in the free agent market, and I have also heard that Green Bay would like to bring him back if the price is right. I have heard that the Dolphins will make a strong push for Jennings if they miss out on Wallace, but plenty of other teams will also have interest.
4 ) Wes Welker, New England Patriots, Age 32 – All signs pointed to Welker returning to New England early in the free agency process, however they could not agree on an extension, and he will test his value on the market. Welker is probably more valuable to New England than any other team in the NFL, however, he is still an excellent slot receiver who knows how to get open and could be an asset to any team.
5 ) Danny Amendola, St. Louis Rams, Age 27 – The Rams wanted to bring back Amendola, however, they could not work out a long term deal and he will hit free agency. When Amendola was healthy during the 2012 season, he was excellent. I hear that the New England Patriots are very interested in Amendola, they think he could be an excellent fit for their scheme, and he may actually be an upgrade over Welker.
6 ) Danario Alexander, San Diego Chargers, Age 25 (RFA) – There is no doubt that Alexander has always been very talented, but multiple torn ACLs set his career back, and when he was finally healthy he was excellent in 2012. The Chargers want to keep him, and due to his knee concerns I doubt teams will be willing to make a long term commitment to him, my money is on him staying put.
7 ) Emmanuel Sanders, Pittsburgh Steelers, Age 26 (RFA) – I am hearing that the Steelers are letting Mike Wallace walk, keeping the more affordable Sanders, and starting him in Wallace’s place next season. Expect him back in Pittsburgh.
8 ) Ramses Barden, New York Giants, Age 27 – The big target has a ton of potential, but only really put all of his talent together once, in a huge game against Carolina this past season. Other than that, he spends too much time injured, and has not lived up to the hype. I have heard that the Carolina Panthers, the only team he has ever torched, is very interested.
Best of the Rest: Julian Edelman, New England Patriots, Age 27 – David Nelson, Buffalo Bills, Age 26 – Domenik Hixon, New York Giants, Age 28 – Josh Cribbs, Cleveland Browns, Age 30 – Brandon Gibson, St. Louis Rams, Age 26 – Donnie Avery, Indianapolis Colts, Age 29 – Kevin Ogletree, Dallas Cowboys, Age 26 – Mohamed Massaquoi, Cleveland Browns, Age 26 – Jerome Simpson, Minnesota Vikings, Age 27.
Tight Ends: The tight end free agent class is one of the strongest positions out there, and if your team is looking for an upgrade at tight end, this may be the offseason to do it, as the draft class is also strong at the position.
1 ) Tony Gonzalez, Atlanta Falcons, Age 37 – The future Hall-of-Famer is the greatest tight end of All-Time, and while he is contemplating retirement, the Atlanta Falcons are trying desperately to coax him into playing one more season. If he plays in 2013, it will be with the Falcons, and nowhere else.
2 ) Jared Cook, Tennessee Titans, Age 26 – While Cook has never developed into a star and produced big numbers, he has a ton of potential, and some of that can be attributed to poor quarterback play and a stagnant offense in Tennessee. He is still young and has star qualities, I know for a fact that the Titans want him back, and I also have heard the Miami Dolphins are very interested.
3 ) Martellus Bennett, New York Giants, Age 26 – I am surprised that the Giants have not already re-signed Bennett, he was excellent for the team last season, and although he had some mental lapses he is better than most alternatives. He can block, he can catch the ball, and teammates and the media like him. He wants to return to the Giants, but it looks like he will be playing elsewhere in 2013.
4 ) Brandon Myers, Oakland Raiders, Age 27 – A name that not a lot of people know, but an excellent player who was trapped on an awful Raiders team, who caught 79 passes last season. The Raiders want to keep him, but the two could not agree on a long term deal, so he’s testing the market.
5 ) Dennis Pitta, Baltimore Ravens, Age 28 (RFA) – An excellent target for Joe Flacco and the Super Bowl champion Ravens, but they have a lot of free agents on the roster, and will have a lot of decisions to make this offseason. Pitta is restricted, but if someone makes him a strong offer, the Ravens may have no choice but to let him walk and spend that money elsewhere.
6 ) Delanie Walker, San Francisco 49ers, Age 29 – A player that I really like and would want on my team, an excellent blocker, has great hands and versatility. The 49ers want him back and considered using the franchise tag on him. You probably do not want him as tour tight end one, but he is a very valuable player, who does a lot of the little things.
7 ) Dustin Keller, New York Jets, Age 28 – Much more valuable as a pass catcher than a blocker, where he really struggles, he is almost more of an H-Back than a true tight end. Has good hands and can stretch the field, but missed most of the 2012 season with injuries, and is small for the position.
8 ) Fred Davis, Washington Redskins, Age 27 – Overrated coming out of USC, Davis was starting to develop into a nice player, until a torn Achilles tendon ended his 2012 season in October. Will have to prove that he is fully healthy.
9 ) Ed Dickson, Baltimore Ravens, Age 26 – If teams out there make offers to both Pitta and Dickson, the Ravens will have to figure out who to keep, and it could be a difficult decision. Pitta is the better player, but Dickson will be cheaper, which will be big for the cash-strapped Ravens.
10 ) Anthony Fasano, Miami Dolphins, Age 29 – An absolutely incredible blocker for a tight end, Fasano is not much of a pass catcher, and would be a solid tight end two for a run heavy team. Can still be a threat around the goal line, but is not going to break any long runs after the catch.
Best of the Rest: Jeff Cumberland, New York Jets, Age 26 (RFA) – Ben Hartsock, Carolina Panthers, Age 33 – Ben Watson, Cleveland Browns, Age 32 – Dallas Clark, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Age 34 – Michael Hoomanawanui, New England Patriots, Age 28 (RFA)
Offensive Tackles: The offensive tackle market is actually very strong at the top, but was weakened considerably when the New York Giants re-signed Will Beatty, the Denver Broncos franchised Ryan Clady and the Kansas City Chiefs franchised Branden Albert. However, some excellent players are still available who will be able to help teams right away.
1 ) Jake Long, Miami Dolphins, Age 28 – Although Jake Long is not as dominant a player as he once was, however he is still an excellent player, who may have just been slowed by nagging injuries the past few seasons. The Dolphins want to keep him, however he is apparently looking for a deal worth over $11 million dollars a year, which may be too rich for their blood. Many teams are rumored to be interested in Long, including the San Diego Chargers, Detroit Lions, Green Bay Packers, Arizona Cardinals, St. Louis Rams, Chicago Bears and other mystery teams. There will always be interest when one of the best left tackles in the league is on the market.
2 ) Andre Smith, Cincinnati Bengals, Age 26 – Once considered a disappointment with injury concerns, Andre Smith has developed into one of the best right tackles in the NFL, and he is still young. A mauler in the run game, and a strong pass blocker, Smith will be highly sought after on the open market. He has had some weight issues in the past, and there is some concerns that these could resurface if he signs a big contract, but he is one of the most buzzed about free agents. The Bengals would like him back, but other teams like the Jets, Rams, Lions, Raiders, Chargers are among the interested.
3 ) Sebastian Vollmer, New England Patriots, Age 29 – One of the best right tackles in the game, The Patriots clearly want him back, but only at their price. He will garner a lot of interest as a free agent, several teams looking for an upgrade at right tackle are rumored to have interest, including the Rams, Jets, Lions, Raiders and Chargers.
4 ) Sam Baker, Atlanta Falcons, Age 28 – Baker never lived up to the expectations that the Falcons had for him when they drafted him in the first round, and he has had several injury issues, but he is solid when he is healthy. For teams who are in desperate need of a tackle, he will be cheaper than the three listed above, and if he can stay healthy he should provide an upgrade along the offensive line.
5 ) Phil Loadholt, Minnesota Vikings, Age 27 – One of the best run blocking right tackles in the NFL, Adrian Peterson had the second highest rushing yards total in NFL history, running behind the massive Loadholt. He was also one of the most penalized linemen in the NFL. If a team is looking for an excellent run blocker, who can struggle with speed rushers while pass blocking, Loadholt is a strong option.
6 ) Bryant McKinnie, Baltimore Ravens, Age 33 – He was incredible during the Ravens Super Bowl run, and when he is motivated and has his weight under control, he can be one of the best left tackles in the game. He is 33 years-old, has had some issues, and the Ravens would like to keep him on a short term deal. If someone offers more, he could be a goner.
7 ) Gosder Cherilus, Detroit Lions, Age 29 – Looked like a bust early in his career, however has rebounded and become a serviceable pro, especially as a right tackle. I heard a rumor early that the Redskins are interested in bringing him in, I haven’t heard anything about it since, so I am not sure if there is any truth behind this rumor.
8 ) Jermon Bushrod, New Orleans Saints, Age 29 – I know some people who were shocked that the Saints did not work harder to keep Bushrod, well I will tell you why, he is terrible in pass protection. He is a strong run blocker, who would be a much better fit for a team that does not pass as much as the Saints, where he has become a liability.
Best of the Rest: Barry Richardson, St. Louis Rams, Age 27 – Demetress Bell, Philadelphia Eagles, Age 29 – Sean Locklear, New York Giants, Age 32 – Winston Justice, Indianapolis Colts, Age 28
Offensive Guards: The offensive guard free agent class is fairly weak, just one stud player is available, with another up and comer. Luckily the 2013 NFL Draft is one of the strongest we have seen at offensive guard in recent memory.
1 ) Andy Levitre, Buffalo Bills, Age 27 – The Bills letting Andy Levitre hit the open market is puzzling to me, I know it is a new regime, but he was excellent for them last season. Although he is not a great run blocker, Levitre excels as a pass blocker, and showed his versatility when he filled in at left tackle in 2012. I have heard that the Indianapolis Colts are interested, and expect the Dallas Cowboys, Chicago Bears, San Diego Chargers and Arizona Cardinals to have interest.
2 ) Louis Vasquez, San Diego Chargers, Age 26 – I am also surprised the Chargers did not make a stronger effort to keep Vasquez, because their offensive line was terrible last season, and he was their best lineman. He is also just 26 years old and is still getting better. I have heard Vasquez linked to both the Indianapolis Colts and Dallas Cowboys.
3 ) Brandon Moore, New York Jets, Age 33 – Moore is coming off his best season, he was excellent as a run blocker, and although he was part of the most embarrassing play of the season it was much more Mark Sanchez fault. He is getting older, but could be a nice bargain for a year or two on a short term deal.
4 ) Kevin Boothe, New York Giants, Age 30 – The man who the New York Giants fans once dubbed “Toll Boothe” was actually excellent for each of the last two seasons, he is much better as a run blocker than a pass blocker, and while he is not a star he is solid. He also can play center, which gives him added value, although he is a better guard.
5 ) Donald Thomas, New England Patriots, Age 27 – A backup for the Patriots, Thomas is a good player when he plays, and it is time for him to move on and get a starting position elsewhere.
6 ) Ramon Foster, Pittsburgh Steelers, Age 27 – Not a bad player, but he is a much stronger pass blocker than he is in the running game, where he struggles. The Steelers like to run, so Foster is a better fit elsewhere.
Best of the Rest: Tyrone Green, San Diego Chargers, Age 27 – Matt Slauson, New York Jets, Age 27 – Chad Rinehart, Buffalo Bills, Age 28 – Kory Lichtensteiger, Washington Redskins
Centers: The centers that will be available on the free agent market are a very weak crop, save a few solid players, who should remain with their current teams. Other than that, it is mostly older veterans, who are towards the end of their careers.
1 ) Brian De La Puente, New Orleans Saints, Age 28 (RFA) De La Puente was once an undrafted free agent, and he has now transformed himself into one of the best centers in the NFL, I have heard that he is not going anywhere. The Saints plan on matching any offer.
2 ) Fernando Velasco, Tennessee Titans, Age 28 –A solid center who many folks do not know much about, the Titans would like to keep Velasco, but it may be tough as he is the best unrestricted free agent center on the market.
3 ) Todd McClure, Atlanta Falcons, Age 36 –Played well for the Falcons this year, and they would like him back, but how long will it be until he breaks down? I doubt he plays anywhere else, and have heard retirement could be an option.
4 ) Dan Koppen, Denver Broncos, Age 33 – After being released by the Patriots because of injuries, Koppen caught on with the Broncos, and played well during their late season playoff run. How much does he have left in the tank?
Best of the Rest:Evan Dietrich-Smith, Green Bay Packers, Age 27 – Rob Turner, St. Louis Rams, Age 29 – Brad Meester, Jacksonville Jaguars, Age 36