Mock drafts are the typical avenue for predicting the NFL future, but it’s also important to ask where the top free agents will head as well.
Jimmy Graham – TE – New team: Cleveland Browns
The New Orleans Saints are certain to try everything possible to re-sign Jimmy Graham since he’s the best tight end in football but should they fail the Cleveland Browns, who are likely to draft a quarterback, could put Graham alongside Josh Gordon and Jordan Cameron to create a potent new offense around whichever rookie passer they take.
Jay Cutler – QB – New team: Tennessee Titans
The Chicago Bears have remained mum on their future plans for Jay Cutler, only saying every avenue is still open. If he falls flat in the finale he could be on his way out. There will be interest in him for sure, and the Tennessee Titans make the most sense since he has a home in Nashville and the Titans have a need for an experienced quarterback.
Greg Hardy – DE – New team: Chicago Bears
Salary cap problems await the Carolina Panthers, and they could have serious trouble hanging onto Greg Hardy, who has 11 sacks for the second-straight year. Changes are coming on the Chicago Bears defense and they have a need for pass rush help up front. Hardy is a perfect fit for their scheme.
Brian Orakpo – OLB – New team: Indianapolis Colts
Robert Mathis has been outstanding all year long for the Indianapolis Colts but outside of him their pass rush is not overpowering. Adding another rusher would be ideal and Brian Orakpo could become available after another failed season in Washington. He is young, healthy and has 10 sacks in 2013.
Aqib Talib – CB – New team: Washington Redskins
Once again without a first round pick, NFL free agency is the best chance the Washington Redskins have to improve their roster quickly. Their secondary is certain to see changes from cornerback to safety. Aqib Talib is a name that could help them immensely, especially in coverage.
Jairus Byrd – FS – New team: Cincinnati Bengals
The Cincinnati Bengals defense remains one of the best in football but they are not without their weak spots. Safety is a position they haven’t really settled with any talent. Adding one could take them from good to great. Jairus Byrd is a touch inconsistent for Buffalo but he is a playmaker and would fit the Bengals system.
Alterraun Verner – CB – New team: Minnesota Vikings
One of the bigger revelations of 2013, Alterraun Verner has become a ball hawk for a revamped Tennessee defense. He is sure to garner interest from teams in need of secondary help and the Minnesota Vikings are at the top of that list. Verner would add valuable experience to their young secondary and a little Gregg Williams attitude.
Eric Decker – WR – New team: New York Jets
The New York Jets need wide receivers. Geno Smith has gotten by with ailing veterans and second-rate role players. He needs somebody proven who can carry the load. Eric Decker is the fourth option in Denver, but he’s shown in the past he can become the go-to guy. His numbers in 2013 show what he is capable off. The Jets would love having him.