In an off-season that has been filled with big cuts by numerous teams, plenty of Pro Bowl talent is being expected to find itself sitting in prime position for signing contracts with new teams. So much so, that we could see another true “dream team” being built as teams are continuing to make new deals or cuts that will free up cap space.
Of course, in today’s NFL, offense is what sells the tickets, and there will be no shortage of talent expected to be available, especially on the Offensive Line where no fewer than 3 different Pro Bowl LTs are poised to make themselves available for a new team hungry to solve their issues on the “blindside”. To begin our list, our first big name is:
Jake Long, LT, Miami Dolphins – He is one of the 3 Pro Bowl LTs that are currently expected to land themselves in free agency, with Jermon Bushrod (Saints) and Branden Albert (Chiefs) being the other two. Now, he may not be the best out of those 3, but he’s easily the biggest name, as before his recent injury history and resulting decline of his overall play, he was an elite LT that had certainly seemed to deserve the #1 overall selection status made long ago (pun not intended). And, he’s still able to play at a high level for any team wanting to take a chance on this guy, so it’s not like he’s in his late 30′s and on his last legs. Rather, he’s but 27 years old, and again he’s still a very effective LT, it really depends on where he lands. Of course, he will still be looking for a top 5 contract in terms of LT type money, the question will be if he gets to see that money. Nevertheless, there are teams who absolutely need a LT, and his list of suitors will be a lengthy one. Possible suitors: St. Louis Rams, Arizona Cardinals, Chicago Bears.
Mike Wallace, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers – In a receiver class that may include both Wes Welker (Patriots) and Dwayne Bowe (Chiefs), he’s well on his way to becoming a free agent, a free agent that will be an extremely hot commodity in this pass happy league. What he has going for him, is his well known reputation for being a prime example on what a legitimate deep threat looks like. He’s got speed, a lot of speed, and he does not drop a lot of his passes. To summarize, you let him beat you deep, then it’s likely 6 on the board. Unlike the OT market, the other two players I mentioned (Welker & Bowe) may both be locked up by their respective teams, so he could be set to become the headliner of this WR free agency class. The type of contract he will be seeking is a contract that will pay him like a top receivier in the league, and he’s young enough at 26 as well as extremely explosive where he would provide the signing team a player who’s entering their prime. This could be a player who will be the center of a major bidding war. Potential suitors: Miami Dolphins, New England Patriots, St. Louis Rams.
Steve Jackson, RB, St. Louis Rams – It would be a real shame to watch his legacy come to an end in St. Louis, as he’s been the face of their franchise for quite sometime now. And, the St. Louis Rams are aiming at bringing this bruising RB back for another few years to be the main security blanket for Sam Bradford, in an offense that could use all the talent it can put together. But, if that doesn’t happen, then he will be joining the likes of Reggie Bush (Dophins) and Michael Turner (Falcons) in a not so deep class of RBs, that teams from all over will come to pursue. He is on the gradual decline of his career, where he is 29 years old, which is ancient for a RB. But, one thing that helps his cause, is his playing style. Teams that feature a dynamic and more finess type of passing game, will take a hard look into adding a RB who can pound defenses into committing against the run game, which would then open things up like play action opportunities. Rest assure, if he does part ways with the Rams, he will sign with someone, albeit to a smaller contract given how the league shys away from long term contracts with RBs. Potential suitors: Green Bay Packers, Detroit Lions, Arizona Cardinals.
Tony Gonzalez, TE, Atlanta Falcons – He publically stated that the 2012 season would be his last season in the NFL, where he hoped to end his story much in the way Ray Lewis had with the Ravens by winning the Super Bowl. Well, it didn’t happen quite like that, where the Falcons were bounced by the San Francisco 49ers at home in the NFC Championship Game, and surprisingly enough, Tony Gonzalez has yet to file his retirement papers. It is well known the Atlanta Falcons’ top priority this off-season, is bringing him back for one last season, but if it doesn’t pan out then there could be teams looking to use his services short term to help boost their passing game. Seeing how the next available options could be Jared Cook (Titans) and Jermichael Finley (Packers) he will draw interest simply because of his name, as well as the perception he could sign a very small 1-2 year contract with a championship caliber that’s considerably smaller than what either Cook or Finley could fetch on the open market. His age will be a major focal point in any major negotiation (he’s 38), but seeing how he still went over 1,200 receiving yards last season, he could still help a contending team in need of a major threat in the middle. Potential suitors: Chicago Bears, Seattle Seahawks, New England Patriots.
Matt Moore, QB, Miami Dolphins – To round out our top 5, we dive into the extremely shallow QB class, where there are more teams that are looking into a new starting QB, than there are available in Free Agency. Of course, the biggest names right now are Joe Flacco, who has zero chance of being moved out of Baltimore, and Alex Smith, where he’s still under contract with the 49ers, and thus only available in a trade. So, in a class that is defined by a very long list of back-ups, starting from Drew Stanton (Colts) and Jason Campbell (Bears) then going on down, Matt Moore is perhaps the only QB available in the market that could warrent any serious consideration as a starter on another team, that won’t cost any draft picks to obtain. He’s never been really impressive at any point of his career, but he’s also been named the starting QB for the season only once in his career (2011) where he didn’t perform too badly in an offense that was severely limited in it’s capabilities. He’s shown enough where he can be brought in to a team absolutely desperate for a new QB, and be allowed to compete for a job. Or, he could be brought in as a capable back-up much like what the other QBs could wind up doing. Potential suitors: Arizona Cardinals, Cleveland Browns, Jacksonville Jaguars.
Who do you believe are the top names available in free agency? Who do you want your team to sign on the offensive side of the ball? List them all in the comments section below. And, feel free to add any of the latest cuts onto this page, as only more cuts are bound to happen as time passes from now until March 12.