The draft is always fun but nothing gets an off-season going like the bidding wars for current stars. The 2014 NFL free agency period should feature plenty of drama. Which players are looking at cashing in big?
Jermichael Finley – TE – Green Bay Packers – Stock: Down
Aaron Rodgers is proving that he can adjust no matter how many weapons he loses. Granted he’s faced some bad defenses recently but the Green Bay Packers offense has continued to score points regardless of how many receivers they lose, including tight end Jermichael Finley. His frightening neck injury that landed him in the hospital in week seven not only threatened his livelihood on the football field but his life as well. That alone will make teams wary of him on the market next year. Throw in the Packers moving on just fine without him and that is a pretty good indicator of where his stock is.
T.J. Ward – S – Cleveland Browns – Stock: Up
Almost nobody is talking about him because the Cleveland Browns continue to stumble after their ever-so-brief surge to lead the AFC North but it’s clear T.J. Ward has become one of the better safeties in the league. Week eight marked the third-straight game he had double digit tackles, making it 57 already for the year. On top of that he recorded a sack on Kansas City quarterback Alex Smith. Throw in two interceptions and a defensive touchdown and it’s clear Ward is turning himself into a playmaker. The switch to a 3-4 defense under Ray Horton has clearly changed his game for the better and might interest similar teams in 2014 NFL free agency next season.
Hakeem Nicks – WR – New York Giants – Stock: Down
For a guy who fancies himself a number one wide receiver, Hakeem Nicks isn’t playing like one. The New York Giants receiver caught just seven passes for 51 yards despite going against the 31st ranked Philadelphia Eagles pass defense. It also marked the continuance of the streak this season without a touchdown catch. Whatever it is that ails the 25-year old he better start figuring it out because the longer he goes without proving he can take over games, the less money the Giants or any other team will pay next March. It will also prove New York was correct to pay Victor Cruz instead.
Brian Orakpo – OLB – Washington Redskins – Stock: Up
His sacks total hasn’t gotten the boost many have expected but that hasn’t stopped Brian Orakpo from finding ways to have an impact for a bad Washington Redskins defense in 2013. Outside of his three sacks he has boost his stock recently with two deflected passes, an interception returned for a touchdown and a highlight reel fumble recovery in Denver. He’s doing all he can despite playing in front of one of the worst secondaries in football. As his body continues to recover from an injury that knocked him out early last season he should round into his old, disruptive form before the season ends. That could mean a big pay day.
Branden Albert – OT – Kansas City Chiefs – Stock: Down
Offensive tackles tend to get paid well during the rare times they land on the market. There is no question that is the hope for Branden Albert heading towards 2014 NFL free agency. Forced to player for the Kansas City Chiefs under the franchise tag, he was quietly having a terrific season protecting new quarterback Alex Smith. Unfortunately that run hit a rather noticeable bump when the Cleveland Brown blew through Albert and the rest of the Chiefs line to sack Smith six times. Kansas City won the game but that tape will be hard for teams to ignore when considering whether Albert is worth the big bucks he’s obviously searching for.
Linval Joseph – DT – New York Giants – Stock: Up
Solid defensive tackles who can do everything well are much harder to find than the casual fan realizes. So teams tend to target them when they become available. That could end up happening for Linval Joseph. After a rough start to 2013 the 25-year old has come around for the New York Giants. He is becoming a major factor in their run defense which held LeSean McCoy to 48 yards in week eight and Adrian Peterson to 28-yard in week seven. On top of that Joseph has improved his pass rush, collecting a sack against Philadelphia. If he can finish the season strong he might be one of the hottest commodities when the market goes active next year.