Monday, February 17, 2014

NFL Free Agency Predictions

By Justin Worsley

Now that free agency is set to being in less than in month in the NFL, it is time to look at the top 50 free agents and determine where they will sign.  While teams still have a chance at retaining their players via franchise tag, others are financially strapped and will likely be forced to see their top players walk away.

1. Jimmy Graham (TE/New Orleans) - Oakland Raiders

New Orleans will likely be unable to use their franchise tag on Graham since it is likely he will be considered a wide receiver, not a tight end.  Oakland has a massive amount of money to spend this offseason and will look to make a huge splash.  Expect them to overpay Graham.

2. Greg Hardy (DE/Carolina) - New York Giants

Coming off of back-to-back double-digit sack seasons and he is only 26, Hardy will command a high salary this offseason.  The Giants are not known for signing big name free agents, but their pass rush, which is normally a strength on the team, needs to up upgraded.

3. T.J. Ward (S/Cleveland) - Cleveland Browns

Quietly one of the league's top safeties, I can't see Cleveland allowing him to leave.  He will likely be tagged.

4. Jarius Byrd (S/Buffalo) - Green Bay Packers

Buffalo could still tag Byrd, but he has made it clear he does not want to return to the Bills in 2014.  Green Bay had a lot of issues at safety last season and Byrd wants to play for a contender.

5. Brian Orakpo (OLB/Washington) - Chicago Bears

This all depends on whether or not he Bears release Julius Peppers.  If they do, they will look to bring in the younger Orakpo to be their main pass rusher.

6. Alterraun Verner (CB/Tennessee) - Denver Broncos

Tennessee is unlikely to tag Verner, who had a breakout season in 2013.  He could look to go to a contender next season.

7. Michael Bennett (DE/Seattle) - Seattle Seahawks

This may not be Costco, but Bennett was a key part of the Seahawks defense last season.  Seattle may be forced to release Chris Clemons, so retaining Bennett will be a primary need.

8. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (CB/Denver) - Denver Broncos

Rodgers-Cromartie signed a one-year "prove it" deal with Denver last season after performing poorly with Philadelphia.  He played well with the Broncos and could re-sign for a longer term.

9. Michael Johnson (DE/Cincinnati) - Cincinnati Bengals

Johnson will either re-sign with Cincinnati or be overpaid in free agency for one good season.  I'm leaning more towards his re-signing since the Bengals will shift their focus on bringing him back.

10. Henry Melton (DT/Chicago) - Chicago Bears

Chicago's run defense struggled without Melton, who went down in September with a torn ACL.  Melton could be had for a cheap deal due to his injury.

11. Jason Worilds (OLB/Pittsburgh) - Oakland Raiders

Worilds could become one of the top free agent signings.  His sack total has increased each season since he has entered the league and could jump to a higher number with a new team.

12. Eugene Monroe (OT/Baltimore) - Miami Dolphins

Baltimore will try everything to keep Monroe, but Miami has some extra cap space that they can use on him.

13. Brent Grimes (CB/Miami) - Miami Dolphins

Bringing back Grimes will be the top priority for the Dolphins this offseason.  Grimes had a great 2013, where opposing receivers failed to score a touchdown against him.

14. Jared Veldheer (OT/Oakland) - Baltimore Ravens

If Baltimore can't retain Monroe, they will need to take the next best thing in Veldheer.  Protecting Joe Flacco will be a priority.

15. Alex Mack (C/Cleveland) - Cleveland Browns

Mack, one of the top centers in the league, will likely be tagged by Cleveland, keeping him away from the free agent market for a year.

16. Eric Decker (WR/Denver) - Indianapolis Colts

Indianapolis needs help at wide receiver, which showed when Reggie Wayne went down.  Decker could continue to flourish with Luck at the helm.

17. Vontae Davis (CB/Indianapolis) - Indianapolis Colts

Davis is a key cog in the Colts pass defense and someone the team wont let walk away easily in free agency.

18. Aqib Talib (CB/New England) - New England Patriots

Talib played well for the Patriots, but more importantly, he stayed out of legal trouble.  I can't see Talib going elsewhere, especially from a team as prestigious as the Patriots.

19. Dennis Pitta (TE/Baltimore) - New Orleans Saints

If New Orleans loses out on Jimmy Graham, finding a reliable safety valve will be needed for Drew Brees.  Pitta can be had at a discount due to his injury history.

20. Randy Starks (DT/Miami) - Miami Dolphins

Miami is slated to lose both of their starting defensive tackles, but I think they will do what they can to retain one of them,  Starks is the better overall player and will likely be the focal point for Miami to re-sign.

21. Lamarr Houston (DE/Oakland) - Oakland Raiders

Houston was Oakland's key pass rusher last season and will likely receive the franchise tag from the team.

22. Jason Hatcher (DT/Dallas) - Dallas Cowboys

Dallas is cap-strapped, but at age 32, Hatcher could be had for a reasonable price, allowing Dallas to retain him.

23. Brandon Albert (OT/Kansas City) - Kansas City Chiefs

Considering how poorly first overall draft pick Eric Fisher played in 2013, Albert will be needed back to play left tackle once again.  He may look for a longer contract than the Chiefs are willing to offer in hopes that Fisher does in fact develop into a starting caliber left tackle.

24. Knowshon Moreno (RB/Denver) - New York Giants

Knowshon is from New Jersey and the Giants are in dire need of help at running back, where a revolving door was used for the starters.  Moreno resurrected his career last season and could command a bigger contract because of it.

25. Captain Munnerlyn (CB/Carolina) - Carolina Panthers

Munnerlyn was an essential part of the success of Carolina's defense.  There is a chance that the Panthers will tag him.

26. Arthur Jones (DE/Baltimore) - Washington Redskins

An end in the 3-4 and a tackle in the 4-3, Jones is a force in run defense and applies decent pressure on the quarterback as well.  Washington has been a rumored suitor for him.

27. Golden Tate (WR/Seattle) - New York Jets

New York is in dire need of help at wide receiver and it wouldn't be too surprising to see them overpay for Tate, who had is best season of his career last year.

28. Sam Shields (CB/Green Bay) - San Francisco 49ers

San Francisco is likely to cut Carlos Rogers, so finding a new cornerback will be necessary.  Green Bay struggled in pass coverage last season, but Shields was still a solid cornerback.

29. Brandon Spikes (MLB/New England) - New England Patriots

New England doesn't often lose players in the prime of their careers and I can't see them losing Brandon Spikes, especially with Jerod Mayo coming off of a torn pectoral muscle.

30. Hakeem Nicks (WR/New York Giants) - Detroit Lions

Nicks to Detroit has been rumored for some time now.  The Lions need a capable receiver to play across from Calvin Johnson and the Giants ultimately chose Victor Cruz over Nicks, who has never played a full season in his career and has amassed only 10 touchdowns over the past three seasons, including none in 2013.

31. Geoff Schwartz (G/Kansas City) - Indianapolis Colts

Schwartz has signed back-to-back one year pacts with Minnesota and Kansas City over the past two seasons, but I expect he will earn a larger contract this offseason.  Indianapolis needs help on their interior offensive line.

32. Linval Joseph (DT/New York Giants) - Atlanta Falcons

Joseph is a run-stopping beast who gets to the quarterback well for a guy his size.  Atlanta couldn't stop the run at all last season so the team will be looking for a defensive tackle at some point.

33. Paul Soliai (DT/Miami) - Buffalo Bills

Buffalo drafted Marcell Dareus, but nobody to play next to him.  Soliai could help strengthen the Bills defensive front.

34. Walter Thurmond (CB/Seattle) - Tennessee Titans

Tennessee stands to lose Alterraun Verner and the team will need to replace him somehow.  Thurmond could be a cheaper alternative.

35. Anthony Spencer (DE/Dallas) - Oakland Raiders

Spencer will command a big contract this season and Dallas will be unable to afford, but Oakland would be more than likely to overspend on him.

36. Rodger Saffold (OT/St. Louis) - Jacksonville Jaguars

With a healthy Luke Joeckel moving to the blind side, Jacksonville will need a right tackle to take over.  Saffold can also be a safety blanket just in case Joeckel somehow gets hurt again, Saffold has experience on the left side.

37. Julian Edelman (WR/New England) - St. Louis Rams

The Patriots poached Danny Amendola from the Rams last year, maybe St. Louis can dish out some payback.  Edelman isn't as injury prone as Amendola and would line up well across from the speedy Tavon Austin.

38. Anthony Collins (OT/Cincinnati) - Tennessee Titans

Tennessee has been rumored to look at a tackle to draft in April following the potential release of David Stewart.  Signing Collings could fill the need and allow the team to explore other options instead.

39. Ben Tate (RB/Houston) - Cleveland Browns

This has been a rumor for quite some time now.  Cleveland was interested in trading for Tate in 2012 but balked when Houston wanted a first round draft pick in return.  Now free to sign anywhere, Tate could be swooned by the Browns.

40. Jared Allen (DE/Minnesota) - Denver Broncos

Jared Allen is no spring chicken, but he could still be effective with another edge rusher.  Denver needs an additional rusher with Von Miller coming back from an ACL injury.

41. Jeremy Maclin (WR/Philadelphia) - New York Giants

Maclin is coming off of an ACL tear and could be had for a cheaper price than other available wide receivers.  New York will need to find a cheaper way to replace Hakeem Nicks.

42. Jordan Gross (OT/Carolina) - Carolina Panthers

Gross has narrowed his options down to two things: he will either re-sign with Carolina or he will retire/

43. Justin Tuck (DE/New York Giants) - Carolina Panthers

If the Panthers lose Greg Hardy, they will need to find some type of alternative.  Tuck turns 31 in March.

44. Michael Vick (QB/Philadelphia) - Buffalo Bills

Vick is no longer a starting quarterback, but he could serve as a mentor for E.J. Manuel at this point of his career.

45. Karlos Dansby (MLB/Arizona) - Arizona Cardinals

Dansby had a bit of a resurrection with the Cardinals last season and could be inclined to return to them.

46. Travelle Wharton (G/Carolina) - Baltimore Ravens

Baltimore's rushing attack struggled last season due to a combination of poor blocking and poor play by Ray Rice.  The team will look into upgrading their offensive line.

47. B.J. Raji (DT/Green Bay) - Green Bay Packers

Raji has been the cog in the center of Green Bay's defense and could possibly be tagged by the Packers.  Even if he is not, it is doubtful that the Packers won't try to retain him.

48. Clinton McDonald (DT/Seattle) - New England Patriots

New England could be considering releasing Vince Wilfork.  If they do, the Patriots will need to find another defensive tackle.

49. Zach Strief (OT/New Orleans) - New Orleans Saints

Strief is versatile enough to play bot guard and right tackle and is a big asset to the Saints offensive line.  They will likely make sure he is brought back.

50. Anquan Boldin (WR/San Francisco) - San Francisco 49ers

Boldin is already in talks with San Francisco about a new contract after he became the top option for Colin Kaepernick last season.