This year’s free agent class might not be filled with many big name talents but certainly boasts much depth at some critical positions. Something also important to note is that the salary cap for NFL teams has risen from $123 million in 2013 to $133 million this year. After last year’s lack of many big time contracts look to see more this offseason with the inclusion of a greater salary cap and deeper talent.
Note: Parentheses denote current team
1) Michael Vick (Eagles)
In a weak QB free agent class compared to years past, Vick controls his fate and has the ability to make some decisions. For one of the first times in his career, he may be underrated by GMs around the league. At the age of 33, Vick still possesses his signature arm strength and athleticism. Initially, Minnesota showed interest in him but that soon disappeared after inking QB Matt Cassel to a two year deal. At this point, the most plausible option for Vick seems to be the Jets. They have a clear need for improvement at the position with QB Geno Smith offering very little for the future. But no team will be willing to offer him a long term deal with his advanced age. Whoever decides to sign him may be able to salvage a few good seasons.
2) Josh McCown (Bears)
McCown proved that he is worthy of a starting job after QB Jay Cutler went down with a groin injury for five games last season. In Cutler’s absence, McCown threw for 1,829 yards and a TD to interception ratio of 13:1 in eight games (five games started). He has stated that he is willing to leave Chicago for a starting job somewhere else. Tampa Bay is a good fit because he has a good chance of beating out QB Mike Glennon for the starting Buccaneers job.
3) Matt Flynn (Packers)
The most important part of his decision is whether or not he is willing to remain in a backup capacity or wants to vie for a starting role. Last season, he won both games he started in QB Aaron Rodgers’ absence. He provided stability for the Packers, which was something hard to come by with QB Scott Tolzien. His best fit is with Green Bay because he fits well into Mike McCarthy’s offensive system. He experienced far less success in Seattle, Oakland, and Buffalo in the last couple seasons.
1) Knowshon Moreno (Broncos)
Coming off the best season of his career in Denver, Moreno is sure to garner a lot of interest. Perhaps overshadowed by Peyton’s monster numbers in the Broncos’ offense, Moreno put up 1,038 yards and 10 TDs on the ground with 548 yards through the air on 60 catches. At the beginning of the season, he was in a competition with RB Montee Ball and RB Ronnie Hillman for the starting job, but by season’s end he had a firm grasp on the starting running back position. He’ll probably be best suited for Denver in the end because of his adaptability in Manning’s offense.
2) Darren McFadden (Raiders)
The injury bug has kept McFadden from breaking out in the past with Oakland. The talented back has missed approximately three to five games each season. McFadden had two of his most successful seasons though under current Bengals Offensive Coordinator Hue Jackson. He had 11 rushing touchdowns, four receiving touchdowns and 2,432 total yards of offense in those couple seasons. This has led to speculation of him signing with Cincinnati to revitalize his career.
3) Maurice Jones-Drew (Jaguars)
The current MJD is nowhere near as explosive or durable as the MJD of a couple years ago. He has failed to rush for 1000 yards since his 2011 campaign two years ago. This can be partially attributed to his frequent ankle, hamstring, and knee injuries. Yet, he also averaged a career low 3.4 yards per carry last season. The Jags do not seem to be interested in his services in the future with them failing to aggressively chase after him. They will most probably offer him a two year deal but Jones-Drew has said that he wants something longer. He will not garner that much interest in the market, so I predict he will actually return to Jacksonville with a more limited role in the offense.
1) Eric Decker (Broncos)
Decker has been exceptional with Peyton Manning under center in Denver. In the past two seasons with Manning, Decker has caught 172 receptions for 2,352 yards to along with 24 touchdowns. His production as a No. 2 WR in the offense behind WR Demaryius Thomas make his numbers look even more impressive. The biggest problem with him appears to be his financial demands. His target deal is $10 million a year, but very few teams will be willing to offer that to any great receiver. And “great” may not be a suitable adjective for Decker despite his recent production. Although, he wants to be a No. 1 WR with a team, he’ll most probably end up being a No. 2 alongside a superior wideout such as WR Josh Gordon in Cleveland.
2) Hakeem Nicks (Giants)
The talented Nicks has allowed inconsistency and injuries to deter him to become just an average receiver when he had the potential to become an exceptional one. He failed to register a single touchdown reception in the 2013 season with the G-Men. His statistics the last couple seasons (failing to reach at least 60 receptions or 900 yards in either season) point to a player lacking any sort of motivation. He has also never played a full 16 game season. Any team that wants to sign Nicks is certainly taking a risk, but the reward still remains in question. If they can get pre-2012 Nicks production, then he is definitely worth a mid-level contract.
3) James Jones (Packers)
In the last couple seasons, James Jones has recorded 17 touchdowns. One of the biggest redzone threats in the NFL is actually one of the quietest talents in the league. His production cannot be understated as a No. 2 receiver. He’ll also come to teams relatively cheap and with low demands making for a great team player. A few teams have expressed interest in signing Jones and I think he will eventually fall to Detroit. In the Lions offense, he can be a potent No. 2 receiver behind the league’s best in Calvin Johnson. With the help of Megatron, Jones will be able to remain consistent in a new environment.
1) Jermichael Finley (Packers)
TE Jimmy Graham would definitely be #1 on the list if it weren’t for the Saints applying a franchise tag on him. TE Dustin Keller would also be very high on this list if he hadn’t just missed an entire season recovering from a torn MCL, ACL, PCL, and a dislocated knee. Nevertheless, Finley top this list because of he provides a team with a very talented big target. In 2011 and 2012, Finley caught 116 passes for 1,434 yards and 10 scores. He’s coming off a season in which he suffered a terrible neck injury but should be completely healthy and prepared for next season. There is certainly tremendous upside but teams must ask themselves if he’s a risk worth taking.
2) Brandon Pettigrew (Lions)
Pettigrew is an enigmatic talent to say the least. He has enough raw talent and blocking prowess to become one of the best at his position. However, his drops and lack of route running have forced him to become an average player. His inefficiency has led to him being undervalued by GMs around the NFL but some teams would be content to have him as a weapon. His best option is the Giants who are in great need for a tight end to help the offensive line block for Eli and the running game.
3) Garrett Graham (Texans)
Last season, the young talent out of Wisconsin had 49 receptions for 545 yards and five scores in his first year with extended playing time. After starting TE Owen Daniels battled injuries all of last season, Graham was able to fill his spot smoothly. The recent release of Daniels also indicates the Texans desire for Graham to stay with the team. Look for Houston to sign him to a long-term deal soon.