Dec 22, 2013; Charlotte, NC, USA; Carolina Panthers defensive end Greg Hardy (76) sacks New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees (9) during the second quarter at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

2014 NFL Free Agency Mock Update: Defensive End Sweepstakes

Mock drafts always dominate through the winter months but what about a mock look at the upcoming frenzy of 2014 NFL free agency?

Oakland Raiders – Cap Space:  $63 million – Target:  Greg Hardy

At present no team is going to have more money to spend in free agency than the Silver and Black.  That means they can likely go after anybody they want.  Considering how much the Oakland Raiders need help with their pass rush, which finished with 38 sacks in 2013, they will likely pursue defensive end Greg Hardy.  Just 25-years old, he has posted back-to-back seasons of at least 11 sacks for the Carolina Panthers.

Jacksonville Jaguars – Cap Space:  $53 million – Target:  Michael Johnson

Another team in need of help with their pass rush, the Jacksonville Jaguars will have even more money to burn if they cut certain players.  Gus Bradley loves versatile defensive linemen, which could mean if Hardy isn’t in the picture then the Jaguars could become favorites to land Michael Johnson from the Cincinnati Bengals.  While not as productive in terms of sacks, the defensive end gets frequent pressure and also does others things well such as batting down passes and forcing fumbles.

Cleveland Browns – Cap Space:  $50 million – Target:  Knowshon Moreno

If last year proved anything for the Cleveland Browns, it’s that having a lot of money to spend doesn’t mean they will blow it all.  However, they can be expected to tackle some areas of need.  One of note is the running back position, which was a serious issue for them all season long.  The best that could be available in March is Knowshon Moreno from Denver.  He’s 27-years old and has posted the best season of his career so far with over 1,500 total yards and 13 touchdowns.

Indianapolis Colts – Cap Space:  $36 million – Target:  Brian Orakpo

Most fans would implore the Indianapolis Colts to fix their run defense first after what happened in New England but 2014 NFL free agency won’t offer much help in that area.  Another thing they can and should do is get Robert Mathis some help to rush the passer.  With the money they will have, Indy should have great incentive to pursue Washington Redskins outside linebacker Brian Orakpo.  He posted 10 sacks in 2013 and is one of the better 3-4 pass rushers in the league.  Adding him would take tons of heat off Mathis.

Miami Dolphins – Cap Space:  $35 million – Target:  Jared Veldheer

Everything about free agency and the draft for the Miami Dolphins will be about fixing the worst offensive line in football.  One position they would love to get nailed down for the long-term is left tackle.  There might be some good choices available, but the ideal one has to be Jared Veldheer.  Though he missed a considerable part of the 2013 season with injury, the Raiders tackle is still one of the better players at his position in the league.  Locking him up could allow the Dolphins to focus their draft on bolstering depth.

Cincinnati Bengals – Cap Space:  $26 million – Target:  Jairus Byrd

There really aren’t a lot of holes on the roster for the Cincinnati Bengals to fill.  However, one position they could really use an upgrade at is safety.  While the money demanded is still unclear, they should seriously think about making a run Buffalo Bills free safety Jairus Byrd.  A two-time Pro Bowler at age 26, he is the best at his position expected in 2014 NFL free agency.  His range and natural ball hawk ability would be most welcome for the Bengals secondary.

Minnesota Vikings – Cap Space:  $25 million – Target:  Alterraun Verner

Defensive line would be a first priority but the Minnesota Vikings need to find any way they can to improve their pass defense.  Another area they could target is cornerback where they have some young talent but could use more help and experience.  Alterraun Verner has developed into a playmaker in Tennessee, able to stick with receivers and cut off passing lanes when tested too often.  He would be a nice fit for the Vikings’ system.

Buffalo Bills – Cap Space:  $23 million – Target:  Dennis Pitta

Jimmy Graham would undoubtedly be the golden goose but it’s not likely the Buffalo Bills could afford what he’ll be asking.  They still need an upgrade at tight end though to help E.J. Manuel.  One name they should consider is Dennis Pitta.  The Baltimore Ravens veteran has become a favorite of Joe Flacco, showing off excellent hands and the ability to get open down the middle.  His size would certainly add a dimension to the Bills offense as well.

New York Jets – Cap Space:  $22 million – Target:  Eric Decker

If they decide to test 2014 NFL free agency, the New York Jets will likely have enough for one good shot.  That means they would do best to pursue an area of need, which would undoubtedly be a wide receiver who can help Geno Smith.  The best option available in the current class is Eric Decker of the Denver Broncos.  His 6’3″ frame and deceptive speed have allowed him to become the unsung hero of the Broncos offense, collecting 1,288 yards and 11 touchdowns this season.  He’s not a #1 guy, but he would become a superb #2 if the Jets can then find somebody in the draft.

Salary cap figures were provided by www.overthecap.com

Tags: 2014 Nfl Free Agency Buffalo Bills Cincinnati Bengals Cleveland Browns Indianapolis Colts Jacksonville Jaguars Miami Dolphins Minnesota Vikings New York Jets Oakland Raiders

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