Here’s a handy guide to the NFL’s skill position free agents: (Updated for Franchise Tags)
Updates in RED
This quarterback group is un-inspiring for teams looking for a starter, however there are some fantastic back up options for teams that need a dependable second stringer.
Kyle has what it takes to start in the NFL, however he doesn’t have the ability to take over a game and win for you. He’s a .500 winning percentage quarterback and in his career he’s thrown for 80 touchdowns and 57 interceptions. This year has proven that a backup quarterback is nearly as important as a starting quarterback, so teams will be looking to solidify that position on their roster.
Connected to Jags, Skins, and Chiefs.
Flynn’s stock has never been higher than it will be this offseason. If the Packers think they can get anything like the Eagles’ return for Kevin Kolb last year (Rodgers-Cromartie and a 2nd round pick) then they’ll put their franchise tag on Flynn and find a team to trade him to.
Drew Brees- FRANCHISED
ESPN has reported that Drew Brees’ agent is “baffled” at how slow negations have been progressing. In my mind there’s no way this doesn’t get done. Brees will be a Saint next year.
Who would’ve thought it would be this hard to lock up Brees? He’ll be a Saint next year and I still think a long term deal is struck, but this does mean that its very likely that guard Carl Nicks and receiver Colston will walk in free agency.
His career TD:INT ratio is 3-2 and has a passer rating of 82 with a 60% completion percentage. For the same reasons that Orton is going to be a sought after free agent, Campbell will find himself as a very solid #2 in the league next year.
Connected to Jets and Chiefs.
The “Dream Team” comment was certainly a SNAFU, and related or not it’s been reported by a few media outlets in Philly that Young will not be back in 2012. Teams with a scrambling starting QB (Carolina, Denver, and to a lesser extent Pittsburgh) could look to add Vince Young.
There are some big-name running backs that are going to be franchised, but there are one or two that could be moving this offseason.
Snelling saw his playing time cut by nearly half when the Falcons drafted Jacquizz Rodgers. As he showed by catching 40 passes in part-time action in 2010, he can become an effective 3rd down running back.
Ray Rice- FRANCHISED
According to Steve Bisciotti, Ravens owner, “Ray will be a part of this football team next year.” The Ravens have a few big, no pun intended, free agents like LG Ben Grubbs that they’ll try to sign in order to be able give Rice the franchise tag. By signing Rice to the tag they’ll give themselves more time to work out a long term deal. According to Rotoworld.com the franchise tag for running backs will be around $8 million, which is a bargain for a 25 year old stud running back.
Matt Forte- FRANCHISED
There will be talk of his recovery from his knee injury this offseason, but both him and Jay Cutler could have played in week 17 if the Bears had any chance of a playoff appearance. Forte could have held out last year but chose to play on good faith that the Bears would give him a contract extension. The Bears offered a deal in the $15 million per year range, however Forte turned it down. This has a chance to get really ugly in the offseason. Forte could be franchised, but in order for him to be ‘happy’ he’s going to have to sign an $18 million per year contract.
In the last month the conversation around Hillis has moved from, “most likely gone” to “he’s worked his way back into the teams good graces, and we want him back”. Hillis is going to be 26 with a bruising running style. Most likely he’ll wind up in a 2-back system where he can limit his workload.
Going to the C.I.A… Ummm… I mean said he’d give Cleveland a discount to resign him. Odds are he will be a Brown and a very cheap one at that.
The Raiders have arguably the best 1-2 punch at running back in the NFL. I don’t buy the rumors that Darren McFadden is going to be traded. The Raiders should tag Bush to give themselves insurance for the oft-injured McFadden. if they don’t franchise tag him, Bush would be the only other back available on the market (assuming Rice Lynch and Forte are tagged) that I would be comfortable with giving the ball to as a feature back.
The Raiders used the tag on Branch (a safety) so its very likely he’ll be the best back on the market for teams needing a runner. Cincinnati is a likely place for him to land due to Hue Jackson taking a position with the Bengals, and the Bengals needing some RB help.
Marshawn Lynch- Resigned w. Seahawks for 4 years
Completely under-utilized in Buffalo, Lynch has really blossomed in Seattle. “Skittles” is a solid yet unspectacular running back that allows Seattle to work on rounding out other areas of their roster without having to worry about the running game.
Definitely the deepest position that we’ll go over today, with a good mix of old veterans, players in their prime, and young unproven wideouts.
Stevie Johnson- Resigned w. Bills for 5 years
Although both sides have said the right things in the offseason, there has been no public talk of a long term contract for Stevie Johnson. Still only 25 years old and 6’2” he’s shown plenty of promise as a #1 WR. What is really going to hurt him is drops in big time games.
Robinson has said that he wants to stay in Dallas no matter what, and that it doesn’t matter whether he’s a number 3 or a number 1. We’ll see if that changes at all when teams start calling his agent with offers.
Wayne is 33. The question remains as to whether Wayne can be an elite wideout at this age, and also, how will he play without Peyton Manning throwing him the ball. Is there a chance that Wayne follows Manning wherever he goes?
Dwayne Bowe- FRANCHISED
A prime candidate to get franchised, both he and CB Carr are free agents, according to multiple sources the Chiefs are expected to sing one of the two to a long term contract and franchise the other.
Wes Welker- FRANCHISED
The common belief is that the Patriots will franchise Welker. I wouldn’t be so quick to jump to that conclusion because thats not the Patriot way. Typically they let aging free agents go before they have to open the checkbook. Even if they do franchise him, its unlikely that he stays with the Patriots much longer. Players who left either the year of, or the year after the franchise tag in New England: 2005 Vinatieri, 2007 Samuel, and in 2009 Cassel. The only other two players since 2005 franchised by New England are Wilfork in 2010, and Mankins in 2011.
The Saints will probably lose one of Brees, Nicks, and Colston, with Marques being the most likely to depart. Colston is an interesting argument. He’s been remarkably consistent since coming into the league in 2006, but how much of that production is because he plays in Brees’ high powered offense? Also an argument could be made that his numbers would be much higher if he didn’t have to share the ball with so many other weapons. I expect Colston to leave New Orleans, but to probably see a downturn in his numbers.
Still the most likely to leave New Orleans, and will probably be considered second only to Vincent Jackson on the free agent market.
Although he doesn’t give you much anywhere else on the field, Plaxico is one of the top red-zone threats in the NFL. Any team going after ‘Plax’ to be a top wideout is going to be unhappy with their signing. However any team looking for a big slot guy, or a top situational receiver should certainly consider Burress a top option in the FA class.
Has said the the Eagles are his first choice to play for, but expect the teams needing some depth to make a run at him.
DeSean Jackson- FRANCHISED
Despite recent reports to the contrary, I believe Jackson is done in Philadelphia. There’s just too much bad blood between the front office with the fans and DeSean. If I were a fan of the Eagles I don’t think I could trust Jackson as arguably my best wideout.
With the Chargers most likely using their franchise tag elsewhere, ‘VJax’ is set to become a free agent this offseason. A big receiver at 6’5” 230, he has the ability to be a wide receiver needy team’s number 1. The only knock on Jackson is that for his size, I would expect much better redzone numbers from him. He’s never scored more than 9 TDs in a season.
VJAX is about to get PAID. He’s been connected to just about every team that has any cap room. The Boston Globe is reporting that the Patriots will have a “large” contract offer for Jackson on Day 1 of Free Agency.
Looking at Lloyds career stats will not wow you, however he’s shown both in Denver and in St. Louis that he can be the go-to receiver on his team. He also has a great habit of making difficult catches at clutch moments in games.
Reports are that Lloyd will not be tagged in St. Louis. Could he team up with McDaniels again in New England?
I didn’t include the blocking specialist, but these two guys will get a lot of attention with the league moving to big, athletic, pass catching tight ends.
Jermichael Finley- Resigns w. Packers for 2 years
If Flynn gets franchised, then Finley will probably hit the open market. Even if Finley gets franchised, it will be a long process because Finley is going to press the league to classify him as a wideout. If Finley hits the open market, look for him to receive a large long term contract due to the emergence of the big play tight ends like Graham and Gronkowski.
Fred Davis- FRANCHISED
Another candidate for the franchise tag, a long term deal is unlikely due to his failed drug test. If he does sign a long-term deal, look for it to be incentive laden.