Top fifty free agent predictions updated after franchise tags doled out
Last week we ranked the top fifty (possible) free agents with our best guesses on where they would land. The franchise tags have been doled out, drastically changing our top fifty. March 12 will mark the beginning of free agency, so I would expect this list to change over the course of the next six days as teams look to lock up their own guys before they can hit the open market on the 12th.
1. 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 just shy of $12 million a season.
Destination Point: Miami for five years, $58.5 million
2. 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
3. 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
4. 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. Smith is looking for $9 million but his conditioning history may keep him south of that number. Keeping Smith is a must for this team in my book.
Destination Point: Cincinnati for 7 years, $58.5 million
5. 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
6. Paul Kruger, Baltimore Ravens, OLB, 27
Paul Kruger can get after the quarterback. The 3-4 teams will be hot after this pass rusher. He had a nice run in the playoffs and made himself some money. Indianapolis needs a replacement for Dwight Freeney and have some nice cap space to work with. He joins his former coach Chuck Pagano in Indy.
Destination Point: Indianapolis for five years, $51.5 million
7. Greg Jennings, Green Bay, WR, 29
Greg Jennings wants $14 million a year. That’s utter foolishness if a team gives him that money. Jennings spent much of 2012 on the shelf and is aging quickly. I can’t see a team willing to give him more than $8 million per. He stays in the division as the Vikings need a solid receiver to pair with Percy Harvin and Kyle Rudolph. Jennings has said he wants to play in a warmer climate but the money may be north.
Destination Point: Minnesota for four years, $28.8 million
8. Aqib Talib, New England Patriots, CB, 27
Team will have to weigh the risk vs. the reward with this guy. He’s got a past that is worrisome but seemed to revitalize himself in New England. He would be wise to sign in New England for less cash but the lure of bigger money could draw him out of Foxboro. The Pats were a different defense with him out there and opt to re-sign him on a decent contract after a down market.
Destination Point: New England for four years, $30 million
9. Dashon Goldson, San Francisco 49ers, S, 28
Goldson is coming off a solid season but didn’t look at his best in the playoffs. I think he’s a little overrated and will be paid too much. I don’t know that it’s in San Francisco. San Francisco has a boatload of picks and paying the 28-year old safety may not be a high priority as this is a deep safety class. Goldson’s market may not be as he expects but someone will give him a nice deal. After working out deals for their own, Cincinnati will still have plenty of cap to sign whoever they want. It’s not typical of Cincinnati but safety is a huge need and Goldson and Nelson give them two playmaking, interchangeable safeties.
If the Super Bowl runner-up Niners won’t reward him so he can stay put where he prefers, Goldson said he would pursue opportunities with any of the other NFL teams.
Destination Point: Cincinnati for four years, $26.5 million
10. Cliff Avril, Detroit Lions, DE, 26
Cliff isn’t likely to be back in Detroit. They just don’t have the cap space to make this happen despite the need at the position. Avril has flirted with being a top notch pass rusher but hasn’t quite taken the next step. I’m going with a surprise on this one with the Titans making a run at him. They lack a consistent threat off the edge. Kam Wimbley and Derrick Morgan are very average off the edge and and one of them need to be relegated to the bench. Avril’s presence in Tennessee allows the Titans to move on with a solid young pass rusher that appears ready for a change of scenary.
Destination Point: Tennessee for five years, $48.5 million
11. Sean Smith, Miami Dolphins, CB, 26
Sean Smith has two big things in his favor. He’s young and there are plenty of teams that want a big corner. This one could be a bidding war between Tampa, Jacksonville, and Philadelphia. Those three will out price the others and he will get a payday. Philadelphia gets aggressive on this one.
Destination Point: Philadelphia for five years, $52.5 million
12. Michael Bennett, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, DE, 27
Bennett was very solid in 2012 with nine sacks and the Bucs really need edge rushers. They have the cap space to make a deal with Bennett and I can’t see him leaving.
Destination Point: Tampa Bay for four years, $29.5 million
13. Jake Long, Miami Dolphins, OT, 28
How much of a market will there be for the former No. 1 overall pick? With the strength of the free agent and draft class at the tackle position he could be surprised by the market. San Diego has a need and just enough cap space to work with.
Destination Point: San Diego for five years, $39 million
14. Desmond Bryant, DT, Oakland Raiders, 27
How much will his recent arrest affect his free agency? By all accounts it shouldn’t as it’s not a pattern with this guy. The Seahawks will be in the market for a guy like Bryant and could be a nice place for him to get some well deserved notoriety.
Destination Point: Seattle for four years, $26 million
15. Derek Cox, Jacksonville Jaguars, CB, 26
He’s young, underrated, and gets lost on a bad team. There are some durability red flags with Cox which could keep his market down a bit. He will be looking for big time money but I’m not sure a team will be willing to dole out big dollars to the injury-prone Cox. Tampa Bay is absolutely broke at the corner position and look to revamp the position with a talented but risky guy in Cox.
Destination Point: Tampa Bay for four years, $31 million
16. William Moore, Atlanta Falcons, S, 28
Getting a deal done with Moore is priority one for the Falcons. They can’t afford to lose a talent like Moore. He’s relatively young and looks to be in the prime of his career. He’s (almost) a lock to re-sign with his team.
Destination Point: Atlanta for five years, $32.5 million
17. Brent Grimes, Atlanta Falcons, CB, 30
Brent Grimes may be the toughest prediction in this free agency class. He’s come off a season-ending knee injury. Before the injury Grimes was working his way into a premier corner in the league. Two factors that will affect Grimes market will be his age and injury. Just not sure the Falcons will be able to afford paying Moore and Gonzalez. The Dolphins would be an intriguing place for Grimes to resurface on a one year deal.
Destination Point: Miami for one year, $6 million
18. Tony Gonzalez, Atlanta Falcons, TE, 37
The only decision will be if Gonzalez is retiring or not. It looks to be a strong lean towards one more year. It will be in Atlanta.
Destination Point: Atlanta for one year, $7.5 million
19. Osi Umenyiora, New York Giants, DE, 31
He’s capable of producing at a clip of 7-10 sacks a year
Bill Sheridan may bang the table to bring Umenyiora in as a pass rusher in Tampa’s defense. He’s not an everydown DE but as a situational pass rusher he’s capable of producing at a clip of 7-10 sacks a year. Sign the Bucs up for that.
Destination Point: Tampa Bay for four years, $26 million
20. Ed Reed, Baltimore Ravens, S, 34
Will the Ravens be able to bring Ed Reed back with Flacco’s megadeal? That’s the question. I think they find a way to bring Ed back to finish his career where it all started.
Destination Point: Baltimore for one year, $5 million
21. Keenan Lewis, Pittsburgh Steelers, CB, 26
I can’t see how the Steelers can retain Lewis. He came into his own in 2012 and could be headed towards a nice payday. The Browns would love to steal Lewis from their divisional rival. They may be willing to overpay for his services as they lose out on some of the top CB’s.
Destination Point: Cleveland for five years, $33 million
22. Danny Amendola, St. Louis Rams, WR, 27
Danny Amendola was prime for a big payday before his injury in 2012. His market will be a little more conservative and the Rams could convince him to stay with Sam Bradford. Denver could be in the market for a Danny Amendola type but St. Louis wins out on this one.
Destination Point: St. Louis for four years, $24.5 million
23. Phil Loadholt, Minnesota Vikings, OT, 27
Loadholt is a mauler at RT and very important piece to the success of the Vikings run game. I can’t see Minnesota letting him walk without throwing some cash his way. He winds up a Viking on a solid deal.
Destination Point: Minnesota for four years, $28.5 million
24. Sam Baker, Atlanta Falcons, OT, 28
Baker played at his best in 2012 and helped himself out in a major way in a contract year. The Falcons really can’t afford to let Baker go. I think they get a deal done to bring Baker back to protect Matt Ryan’s blindside.
Destination Point: Atlanta for five years, $30 million
25. Jermon Bushrod, New Orleans Saints, OT, 29
I don’t see any way the Saints can let Bushrod walk. They have nothing to replace him and don’t have the cap space to sign someone on the open market. Despite not having cap, the Saints will carve out room to get Drew Brees’ blindside protector locked up.
Destination Point: New Orleans for four years, $26 million