Offseason Primer: Free Agency Predictions
The Scouting Combine is in the books and all the attention will be turned to pro days and free agency. With the 2013 salary cap appearing to remain pretty stagnant, teams will be re-shuffling their rosters over the course of the next two weeks to get under the salary cap by March 12. With teams looking to cut high priced veterans, this list could grow as teams make tough decisions on players soaking up cap room.
Today, we play Nostradamus with the top twenty-five unrestricted free agents. Tomorrow we will look at 26-50. This list, in its totality, serves as a top fifty ranking of NFL free agents as well. Enjoy.
1. Joe Flacco, Baltimore Ravens, QB, 28
It’s just a matter of time at this point. I have a greater chance of signing with a team than Flacco does of leaving Baltimore. At this point the only matter of contention is just how much the Ravens will pony up for their franchise quarterback.
Destination Point: Baltimore for six years, $120 million
UPDATE: Joe Flacco was re-signed by Baltimore for 6 years, $120.6 million
2. Ryan Clady, Denver Broncos, OT, 26
John Elway has been clear that Ryan Clady isn’t going anywhere but Denver. This one comes down to whether the Broncos can get a deal done or have to franchise him. I think they wind up paying Clady as they restructure deals. He’s a franchise LT that is one of the best in the league and he’s only 26.
Destination Point: Denver for seven years, $84 million
UPDATE: Clady franchised by the Broncos on March 1
3. Jairus Byrd, Buffalo Bills, S, 26
Eventually Jairus Byrd is going to be the highest paid safety in the league. The Bills have to franchise him to avoid a team opening their wallet for him. I would have to think a team like Philadelphia would be willing to pay the man. They won’t or shouldn’t get a shot at this guy. He’s one of the best if not the best safety in the draft. Buffalo franchises him in the hopes of working out a long-term deal.
Destination Point: Buffalo via the franchise tag
UPDATE: Byrd franchised by the Bills on March 1
4. Henry Melton, Chicago Bears, DT, 26
Melton is one of the bright, young up and comers in the league. Chicago would be foolish to let him walk and I don’t see any possibility of that occurring. The Bears will tag this guy with the hopes of signing him to a long-term deal.
Destination Point: Chicago via the franchise tag
UPDATE: Melton franchised by the Bears on March 1
5. Brandon Albert, Kansas City Chiefs, OT, 28
The Chiefs could be headed towards drafting Luke Joeckel or Eric Fisher at the top of the draft. If Albert isn’t back, it’s a sure sign of which direction they will be going in the draft. Albert has back issues which could be a red flag for a long-term deal. If healthy he is a stud LT that is capable of being a perennial Pro Bowler.
Destination Point: Chicago Bears for five years, $42.5 million
UPDATE: Albert was franchised by the Chiefs on March 4
6. Dwayne Bowe, Kansas City Chiefs, WR, 28
Leaving Alex Smith without a WR would be criminal
Alex Smith is headed to KC. Leaving him without a WR would be criminal. Bowe could be tagged in hopes of reaching a deal but I think KC gets this one out of the way and signs him to a Vincent Jackson-esque deal.
Destination Point: Kansas City for 6 years, $67.5 million
UPDATE: Bowe was re-signed by the Chiefs on March 4 for 5 years, $56 million
7. Sebastian Vollmer, New England Patriots, OT, 28
Vollmer is coming off knee surgery but he’s one of the better right tackles in the game and still relatively young. The Patriots have Marcus Cannon waiting in the wings and may opt to let Vollmer walk with Welker and Talib taking precedence. The Eagles are clearing cap space and may be dead set on rebuilding the roster in a talented free agent class. Vollmer allows them to slide Todd Heremans inside and gives them a versatile RT, important if Vick is the starter.
Destination Point: Philadelphia for 5 years, $37 million
8. Wes Welker, New England Patriots, WR, 32
Tom Brady signs an extension to stay in New England. The deal carves cap space for this year which could open the door for them to re-sign Welker. Welker isn’t an option to tag him but I can’t see them letting Brady’s boy walk…probably the reason Brady freed up money.
Destination Point: New England for 4 years, $36 million
9. Andre Smith, Cincinnati Bengals, OT, 26
The Bengals are going to spend their enormous cap space on their own guys and it starts with Smith and Michael Johnson. Smith has emerged as one of the better RT’s in the league and if he can keep his motivation he could be a premier RT in the league.
Destination Point: Cincinnati for 7 years, $42.5 million
10. Andy Levitre, OG, Buffalo Bills, 27
Levitre is a vastly undervalued guard that I think teams will be all over if he makes it to the open market. He can play all three interior spots and can kick outside if needed. Buffalo has struggled on the offensive line for years and are starting to find continuity on the OL. Letting Levitre walk would be a bad move but this one could be tough as he’ll want big money. I’m torn but I think he stays in Buffalo.
Destination Point: Buffalo for six years, $40 million
11. Mike Wallace, Pittsburgh Steelers, WR, 27
The Browns and Dolphins could be locked in a bidding war for the services of the speedy Wallace. At the end of the day, the Dolphins win out on this one as they get aggressive at over $12 million a season.
Destination Point: Miami for five years, $62.5 million