The NFL is now less than a month away from the start of its next season; free agency. Teams have until March 13 to re-sign players whose current contract expired at the end of the season. After that point, any player who is not classified as an unrestricted free agent or has the team’s ‘Franchise Tag’ placed on them is free to sign with any other team that may extend an offer.
Last year’s free agency signing period was crammed into the first two weeks of August due to the league’s labor issues, but with a new CBA (collective bargaining agreement) firmly in-place for the foreseeable future, it is business as usual in the NFL this offseason. That means all 32 teams will have ample time to size up the market to determine which available players’ best fit their current needs. The following is a look at some of the biggest names that might be available come March 13.
The biggest name of this list by far is quarterback Drew Brees of the New Orleans Saints. Before you start salivating at the chance that your team makes a play to land Brees, it is fairly clear that the Saints have all intentions of placing the Franchise Tag on Brees if a long-term deal cannot be worked out in time, so it is very doubtful he ever hits the open market.
A big-name player of the defensive side of the ball that just might be available is defensive end/outside linebacker Mario Williams of the Houston Texans. Williams went down with a torn chest muscle early last season and was placed on Injured Reserve, but Houston’s defense continued to play at a high level in his absence. This means it may be reluctant to use its Franchise Tag on the two-time Pro Bowler considering it could cost as much as $23 million.
A pair of running backs that could be up for grabs are Ray Rice of Baltimore and Chicago’s Matt Forte. Each are coming off productive seasons and each have established themselves as one of the most versatile players in the league at their position, but neither the Ravens nor the Bears have had much success at ironing-out a long-term deal. Both teams have indicated a willingness to use their Franchise Tag to extend the process of reaching a deal, but running backs, no matter how productive, have proven to be expendable in this league with younger and fresher legs always available in the draft.
A couple of high-profile wide receivers could hit the open market include New England’s Wes Welker, Indianapolis’ Reggie Wayne, San Diego’s Vincent Jackson, and Philadelphia’s DeSean Jackson, which are all scheduled to be free agents come March 13. Of these four, look for Wayne and Vincent Jackson to most likely become available, as both the Patriots and Eagles have already indicated that they would resort to using the Franchise Tag to keep Welker and DeSean Jackson in town.
If the Colts decide to keep Peyton Manning as their starter, then the sentiment may be to keep Wayne, but the changing of the guard at the top of this organization could signal the start of a complete reclamation process in Indy. San Diego has already had its contact go-rounds with Jackson and despite his productivity this past season, may be ready to part ways if a long-term deal cannot be reached in time.
A few other big-name players you can add to this free-agent watch list are Tennessee cornerback Cortland Finnegan, Arizona defensive end Calais Campbell, Kansas City wide receiver Dwayne Bowe, and New Orleans wide receiver Marques Colston.
DJ is a freelance writer that concentrates on his true passion in life; the world of sports. He produces a number of articles each week for BangTheBook.com as well as a select group of other websites that specialize in providing the most up-to-date information for the sports gaming industry. His goal is to write insightful articles on a wide variety of sporting topics that can provide an edge to today's sophisticated online player.