A list of the top 25 free agents appeared on NFL.com. With 2014 NFL free agency ahead, what is in store for the top ten names?
1. Jimmy Graham – TE – New Orleans Saints – FA result: Re-signs
He is the best overall free agent set to become available, and the New Orleans Saints know that. If Jimmy Graham doesn’t get paid by them, he will by somebody else. So expect the them to do whatever it takes to clear the cap space necessary, be it cutting some veteran or re-negotiating with Drew Brees to make sure Graham stays in black and gold.
2. Greg Hardy – DE – Carolina Panthers – FA result: Franchise tag
Finishing the regular season with seven sacks in two games was a testament how good defensive end Greg Hardy has become. He’s just entering his prime and has no durability issues. The Carolina Panthers know their defense runs through the front seven. Losing him would set things back considerably. Given their salary cap constraints though, they might choose to hang on to him with the franchise tag.
3. Brian Orakpo – OLB – Washington Redskins – FA result: Franchise tag
Money isn’t as big of a problem since the salary cap restrictions will be lifted on the Washington Redskins. Their problem is figuring out whether outside linebacker Brian Orakpo wants to stay. After going 3-13 and enduring a coaching change, he might not want to return for a possible rebuilding process. That is why it might be more likely the Redskins will have to use the franchise tag to keep him in house.
4. Jairus Byrd – FS – Buffalo Bills – FA result: Open market
Demand for a playmaking safety is high. Jairus Byrd knows this and after another losing season with the Buffalo Bills he may be inclined to shop his wares. The Bills already used the tag on him once and may not want to do it again. If they can’t reach an extension agreement, then the two-time Pro Bowler should hit the open market in March.
5. T.J. Ward – SS – Cleveland Browns – FA result: Re-signs
Continuity has been a serious problem for the Cleveland Browns for years, and T.J. Ward has had to sit in the middle of that. Yet despite it all he has said he’d like to stay with the team. He plays on a very good defense and made his first Pro Bowl in 2013. Cleveland will have the necessary money to meet his price as well. Unless the upcoming coaching hire changes things, Ward has a good chance to return to the Browns.
6. Alterraun Verner – CB – Tennessee Titans – FA result: Open market
This situation is going to be interesting. Alterraun Verner made his name in a 4-3 defense with the Tennessee Titans and now the team is on the precipice of a shift under new coordinator Ray Horton who runs a 3-4. Verner doesn’t have the ideal size to play the coverage that is often required in that defense. If he feels the same way he may elect to seek out a job elsewhere that features his preferred scheme of defense.
7. Branden Albert – OT – Kansas City Chiefs – FA result: Open market
He got the franchise tag the first time but the question at hand is whether the Kansas City Chiefs were simply buying a year to let 2013 first round pick Eric Fisher get some experience before shifting him to the left side. If so then Branden Albert won’t be getting the money he wants from them and will enter 2014 NFL free agency as one of the better tackle options.
8. Michael Johnson – DE – Cincinnati Bengals – FA result: Open market
He didn’t have a terrible year but Michael Johnson failed to duplicated his 11-sack season from 2012, which is why the Cincinnati Bengals used the franchise tag on him last year. Johnson may not get the payday he wants from them, which means a trip onto the market where he could possibly rejoin his former coordinator Mike Zimmer in Minnesota, a team that badly needs pass rush help.
9. Lamarr Houston – DE – Oakland Raiders – FA result: Re-signs
His sack total was modest in 2013 but Lamarr Houston was still the best defensive lineman on the Oakland Raiders front. He’s very difficult to run against and active in the pass rush. Given the amount of money the Raiders will have to spend in March, it’s highly unlikely Houston goes anywhere unless the team has eyes for one of the other defensive ends on the list.
10. Brent Grimes – CB – Miami Dolphins – FA result: Re-signs
One of the most underrated signings of 2013 free agency was the Miami Dolphins bringing in cornerback Brent Grimes. He was a huge help all around for their defense, making 60 tackles and intercepting four passes. It was enough to earn Pro Bowl honors and dutifully enough to warrant a new contract from his team. However, it must be noted that things might change with a new general manager coming in.
Tags: 2014 Nfl Free Agency Brian Orakpo Buffalo Bills Carolina Panthers Cincinnati Bengals Cleveland Browns Greg Hardy Jairus Byrd Jimmy Graham Kansas City Chiefs Miami Dolphins New Orleans Saints Oakland Raiders Tennessee Titans Washington Redskins