2012 NFL Free-Agent Predictions
NFL Free-Agency is set to start in less than a week, Tuesday March 13th at 4pm to be exact.
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Here is a list of what you could expect come the start of the NFL league year this Tuesday in regard to where players may end up going and who could be released and/or traded . Enjoy!
1. Peyton Manning wearing the No.18 jersey for another team is no longer a thing of the past. He was released Wednesday and is now an UFA (Unrestricted Free-Agent). It seems as though he’ll choose a new team before the start of Free-Agency on the 13th, but where? Everyone but 4 or 5 teams should realistically consider the idea of signing, but truthfully there are probably less than 6 teams who have a chance. We’ll hear Seattle, Denver, Cleveland, Tennessee, and Kansas City mentioned, but I think those are all longshots. Its also said Manning would prefer an AFC, but here is the list of likely destinations (in order of strongest to weakest) who have a real chance: 1. Miami Dolphins 2. Houston Texans 3. Arizona Cardinals 4. Washington Redskins 5. San Francisco 49ers 6. New York Jets. My best guess would say a team likely to sign WR Reggie Wayne and who may consider C Jeff Saturday also.
2. Texans QB Matt Schaub traded to QB-needy if Peyton Manning lands in Houston. Schaub is in the last season of his contract so they could potentially add Manning and get some trade-value for Schaub. Obviously, Mannings health is the major concern in letting Schaub go, but getting 2-3 years of solid play from Peyton would surely make Houston a favorite for the Super Bowl. Schaub would need to agree to a contract extension in order to be traded – say to a Seattle or Washington. Whoever misses on RGIII and Manning (assuming he goes to the Texans) would be interested in trading for Schaub. A likely scenario could occur with Kevin Kolb if Manning lands in Arizona, however I think it’s more likely the Cardinals would keep him and Manning. What’s Schaub (or Kolb) worth in a trade? Thats hard to say, but it’s something to be aware of during the Manning sweepstakes.
3. Mario Williams, a DE/OLB, of the Texans is undoubtably the most sought-after defensive Free-Agent of the class. There should be a huge market, for those teams who can afford him, for Williams even though he is coming off an injury which caused him to miss time last season. Any team with the cap room, whether they’re 4-3 or 3-4, should be considered in play for Mario Williams. Most rumors have Seattle as one of the main front-runners to acquire his services but they have given their own FA (Free-Agent) lineman Red Bryant a lot of priority. I’d venture to say the teams interested in Williams would be New England and Dallas with Tennessee, Chicago, Jacksonville, and Buffalo rounding out the group of serious contenders. I think Dallas may be the leader right now even with the Franchise-Tag being applied to Anthony Spencer.
4. Mike Wallace, a RFA (Restricted Free-Agent), with a 1st Round tender offer from the Pittsburgh Steelers will be a hot commodity as a young, stretch-the-field wideout on the market. The WR crop this year has some quality guys, but Wallace should draw a lot of interest. The problem for the Steelers is that they lack cap space to offer, and contend, with the type of money Wallace may be able to get. Anyhow who would sign Wallace to an offer sheet would be required to give up their 2012 1st round draft choice as compensation to Pittsburgh if they decline to match it (Pittsburgh would have the right to mach the offer and keep Wallace). I think he’ll probably ultimately return to the Steel City, but its not going to be easy – especially, if a team offers a lot of money up front. The leading candidates to go after Wallace’s services would include San Francisco and New England with Chicago, Jacksonville, and Washington getting in the mix. Pittsburgh will face a similar decision with WR Antonio Brown (who some think could be better or at least equal to Wallace) next season so they have to make a wise money decision so they don’t strap themselves down, even worse, financially.
5. Matt Flynn, aside from Manning and Robert Griffin III, is going to be a coveted QB. Flynn has one nice performance, actually a record-breaking performance, last season – but his sample size is extremely small. Flynn is considered one of the top FA’s available because of his potential. Will a team give him a Kevin Kolb like deal? Its likely, but teams could push for a shorter-year deal to avoid a lot of financial risk (or if it’s long term the wordage may make it a shorter deal) with an unproven QB. The list of teams after Flynn, an UFA, will depend one where Manning goes and will shape the Draft-Day trade the St.Louis Rams are prepared to make. The list of suitors include Miami and Washington right now, but I think its more likely that the team he lands with is in this group: Seattle, Cleveland, Kansas City, Denver, or San Francisco.
6. Carl Nicks, the Pro-Bowl OG of the Saints, should demand top-dollar since he is on the open market. New Orleans will likely keep Nicks, but he may be thrown a large amount that’s too tempting to pass on. Other than the Saints, Nicks could be courted by Cincinnati, Chicago, Washington, and/or Arizona.
7. Vincent Jackson is finally Free to text the market, and while I think he likes Philip Rivers – I think he wants paid even more. Jackson is often linked to Buffalo, Chicago, Jacksonville, and San Francisco – but as one of the premiere receivers in the league he will be an attractive piece to a team with WR needs and the cap space to get the big deal done. I’d be tempted to think that Chicago would be the ideal spot, with the 49ers as a close second – but it’ll be interesting to see if there is a surprise team in the mix.
8. Cortland Finnegan is “unwanted” by Tennessee (or so he thinks), but the fact of the matter is he may be somewhat overrated. With that being said, he’ll still be a hot target for the likes of Dallas, Detriot, and maybe St.Louis. Finnegan will get a decent deal, I’d venture to say Detroit makes the most sense to reunite with his old DC Jim Schwartz. I guess there is still a chance he returns to Tennessee, but, possibly like the Titans, I’m not a huge Finnegan fan. I think Brandon Carr would be a better deal for a team desiring a CB – but most will consider Finnegan the best of the class this offseason.
9. Peyton Hillis had one breakout season in Cleveland, then followed it up with an injury plagued year. Therefore, I think it’s unlikely he returns to the Browns. Im not sure what the market would be for Hillis, but he could be productive in the right situation. Hillis shouldn’t be consider an elite back, he is more of a compliment, but he is the hard-working type of player you’d want around. New England could make sense depending on what happens with BJGE – as well as teams like Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Kansas City, and Green Bay.
10. The Quarterbacks: Alex Smith, Kyle Orton, Jason Campbell, Chad Henne, Vince Young. Other the the big named guys you always hear about, these 5 are probably the next best. Smith is surely likely to return to San Fran, but you just never know what’ll happen. The other four guys are really open to text the market. Obviously, once the main pieces fall (Manning, Flynn) it’ll give us a better idea of who may be interested in these guys. Most of these guys will have to make a decision to sign with a team as a backup. Right now the teams in need of a experienced reserve include: Denver, New York Jets, Dallas, Kansas City, Carolina, Philadelphia, New Orleans, and Baltimore among others.
11. The Trading Block. Who are the players to keep a name on, that may end up being traded:
CB Asante Samuel – Eagles
DE Dwight Freeney – Colts
DE Osi Umenyiora – Giants
RB Ben Tate – Texans
RB Jonathan Stewart – Carolina
CB Dunta Robinson – Falcons
LB Bart Scott – Jets
CB DeAngelo Hall – Redskins
S Yeremiah Bell – Dolphins
QB Jimmy Clausen – Carolina
RB Pierre Thomas – Saints
LB Lance Briggs – Bears
CB Alphonso Smith – Lions
CB Terrence McGee – Bills
CB Shawntae Spencer – 49ers
LB AJ Hawk – Packers
12. Pierre Garcon may follow Peyton Manning. Garcon really emerged from nowhere, and while he isn’t necessarily considered one of the Top Free-Agent he is likely to draw a good deal of interest. He turned down the Colts initial offer and it’d seem likely that he’d leave Indy with changes happening around there. It make sense for him to go to Miami if Manning choice to go there – or he could follow him to Arizona, Houston, or Denver. Garcon may also be a target for Jacksonville, Carolina, San Francisco, New England, Cincinnati, Chicago, or New Orleans.
13. The rest of the WR’s. Some good Wide Receivers got the franchise tag (D.Jackson, D.Bowe, Welker, S.Johnson), but there are still a good number of attractive wideouts. Reggie Wayne and Marques Colston lead the list (of the guys not previously mentioned), but it also includes Randy Moss, Laurent Robinson, Brandon Lloyd, Mario Manningham, Robert Meachem, Plaxico Burress, Eddie Royal, Braylon Edwards, and Jerome Simpson. The NFL has really turned into a “passing league” so the number of teams looking for WR’s is always growing, and the number of good receivers a team wants to have is on the rise as well. With that being said, there are any number of teams who could potentially target some of these wideouts. Wayne is likely to go with Peyton Manning and it seems like Colston will leave New Orleans. Randy Moss is really the interesting addition to the list, but he could return to the Randy of old. Robinson should return to Dallas – Lloyd is likely to be targeted by the Patriots (to reunite with Josh McDaniels) – Manningham could return to NYG, but is also rumored to Tampa Bay – and, well the others could be targeted by Baltimore, Chicago, Jacksonville, Philadelphia, New York (A), Denver, Pittsburgh, San Francisco, Cincinnati, or Cleveland.
14. Down on the Corner. Brandon Carr, Lardarius Webb, Terrell Thomas, Carlos Rogers, and Tracy Porter are probably the best of the rest (excluding Brent Grimes, franchised, and the previous mentioned C.Finnegan). Carr could end up being a nice addition because I think he is underrated in this market. Lardarius Webb may be one of the more intriguing guys (he is a restricted FA) because he would come at the cost of a 1st rounder this year. Webb though could be targeting by a team like New England or San Francisco who pick lower in round 1 of the 2012 NFL Draft. Thomas is coming of an ACL injury but is actually a pretty solid corner. Rogers has an excellent season, but he is the oldest in the bunch – and Porter could be a potential nice No.2 if the price is reasonable. Guys like Richard Marshall, Aaron Ross, Will Middleton, Cary Williams (Restricted), Perrish Cox, and William Gay are the next level of CB’s. Dallas, Detriot, St.Louis, Minnesota, Washington, Denver, Oakland, Pittsburgh, and Tennessee will be the main teams looking for Cornerback help.
15. Michael Bush of Oakland has done a reasonably good job filling in for the often-injured Darren McFadden – but it may be time he lands elsewhere. Bush is arguable the best actual “Free” Agent out there at the RB position (Mike Tolbert, Cedric Benson, BenJarvus Green-Ellis, and Tim Hightower among the others). Bush is young and talent, but he wouldn’t come without a little injury concern himself. I could see a team bring him in as a compliment, pretty much in the same role he was used in Oakland (comparable to Ben Tate). I think Baltimore, Philadelphia would make the most sense – but Pittsburgh would be interested if the they could afford him (Mendenhall may miss all or most of the 2012 season).
Stay tuned for more NFL Free-Agent News. Check back for a Free-Agent Tracker and more expectations on what teams have, may, or will do this offseason.