Top NFL Free Agents

Story posted February 22, 2013 in Sports, CommRadio, NFL Draft by Mike Esse

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Joe Flacco is likely back with Baltimore, but he will garner tons of interest

With Super Bowl XLVII in the rearview mirror, it is time to take a look at the free agents headlining the 2013 NFL offseason. The list is rich with wide receivers and offensive linemen and includes players from both Super Bowl teams. While some of these players will certainly re-sign, there are others with intriguing opportunities to consider.

1. Joe Flacco, QB - Baltimore Ravens

Flacco answered many of the questions surrounding his ability heading into the 2012 season with a stellar postseason performance. The Super Bowl MVP wants to be back in Baltimore and it is safe to assume that Baltimore wants him back as well. The only question remaining is how much it will cost the Ravens to keep him. It is highly unlikely that the two sides do not come to an agreement on the 28-year-old, which makes this an easy prediction. 

Likely Destination: Baltimore

2. Ryan Clady, OT - Denver Broncos

Clady has been a mainstay on the offensive line for Denver even during the Kyle Orton/Tim Tebow era. Now that the Broncos are set in the near future at the quarterback position, it makes it even easier to see Clady staying in Denver. John Elway and company could use the franchise tag on Clady to avoid a long-term deal right now, but that will still come at a hefty price. The only concern of a long-term deal would be his shoulder, which is a reason why they might franchise him. Either way, Denver needs Clady more than Clady needs Denver. The 6-foot-6 tackle would be a hot commodity on the free agent market if Denver can’t lock him up. 

Likely Destination: Denver

3. Jarius Byrd, S - Buffalo Bills

Byrd produces. He’s not fast on a stopwatch, but he makes plays. That is what he brought to Buffalo in 2012 with 76 total tackles and four forced fumbles. Unlike a Louis Delmas, Byrd is a great cover safety and he showed that in 2012 with five interceptions. He gets forgotten about at times, but this year Byrd highlights a pretty deep safety class and a few teams could go after him should he leave Buffalo. The Philadelphia Eagles need a safety that not only can hit, but make plays on the ball. Byrd would be a good fit there, as well as in Cleveland where they need to solidify their secondary. Byrd would certainly do that. You can’t write off his return to Buffalo, but it would be safe to say he might want to get to a bigger market, like Philadelphia. Because of his ability to make plays on the ball, Buffalo will want him to come back for the right price. But if the price isn’t there, Philadelphia could be primed to pick up one of the top safeties in this free agent class.

Likely Destinations: Buffalo, Philadelphia, Cleveland

4. Henry Melton, DT - Chicago Bears

Melton is limited as far as the market is concerned because of the scheme he has to play in. He only fits realistically in the Tampa-2 defense at 6-foot-3 and 295 pounds, which makes it likely that he will stay in Chicago. Dallas is a team that could use a guy like Melton, but he wouldn’t be at the top of their list defensively. Melton is a perfect fit for Chicago because of his ability to get to the quarterback. He had six sacks in 2012 on his way to a Pro Bowl season which brings the possibility of him coming at a hefty price should he stay in Chicago. Financially, the Bears can afford him. But if they do not keep him and Anthony Spencer doesn’t stay or command a lot of money in Dallas, Melton could get some looks from Big D.

Possible Destinations: Chicago, Dallas

Jennings

Greg Jennings is one of a few top free agents that is not expected to return to his 2012 team

5. Greg Jennings, WR - Green Bay Packers

It was seems odd that Green Bay might want to move on from Jennings after an injury plagued 2012 season. However, his game changing ability is still there and that makes him one of the top receivers on the market. When healthy, he is consistent and can be a home run threat in many different situations. What team needs a consistent, downfield threat more than the New York Jets? No matter who is the quarterback for Rex Ryan in 2013, they need a legit threat on the outside and Jennings would be exactly that. New York is a possibility, but could be a stretch since they have other offensive issues that would take priority over a signing of a guy like Jennings. A reunion with his former offensive coordinator, Joe Philbin, in Miami could be likely. Jennings would easily be the best receiver on that roster and be an instant upgrade for Ryan Tannehill. Another young quarterback that could use a guy like Jennings would be the Packers divisional rival, Minnesota. Paired with Percy Harvin, this could make the Vikings offense multi-dimensional as opposed to simply the Adrian Peterson show. Jennings has to be one of the most intriguing free agents on this list simply because a return to the Packers seems more and more unlikely with each passing day.

Possible Destinations: New York Jets, Minnesota, Miami

6. Dwayne Bowe, WR - Kansas City Chiefs

His numbers were down in 2012 with only three touchdowns on 59 receptions, but there are a few reasons for it. The most glaring one is the quarterback play of the Chiefs, which was beyond poor. If Bowe gets on a team with a good quarterback, it makes him one of the best receivers on the market. However, something else that holds him back even more is his inconsistency catching the ball. At times his hands are great, other times they are not. Regardless, teams are going to want to take a chance on a guy that has game changing ability over the top. Potential suitors are similar to Jennings’: Miami, New York Jets and Minnesota. A team that is an intriguing possibility is San Diego. Imagine Philip Rivers throwing deep balls to Dwayne Bowe, assuming he catches them. Rivers clearly missed Steven Jackson last year and Bowe could be just as good for Rivers. The Jets are a possibility, but aren’t as realistic as a team like Miami or Minnesota. Still, it is a risk because both of those teams have two young quarterbacks and with Bowe’s hands, he might be better off with a proven signal caller. Nothing is certain as to where he will end up, except for the fact that he won’t be returning to Kansas City in 2013.

Possible Destinations: San Diego, New York Jets, Minnesota, Miami

7. Sebastian Vollmer, OT - New England Patriots

Vollmer can pass protect with the best of them, that much is obvious. He has had some injury concerns in the past, but only missed one game in 2012. He is 6-foot-8 and 320 pounds, which is perfect for a tackle in a passing based offense, which makes this one easy. Vollmer will likely be back in New England, but should he not return to Tom Brady’s offensive line, the Arizona Cardinals could be a team that could target Vollmer. Just like any player on this list, he will require a lot of money and the Cardinals have other problems offensively, especially at the quarterback position. It would be interesting if Vollmer left New England, but it isn’t likely in the early part of the offseason.

Possible Destinations: New England, Arizona

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Despite a rough Super Bowl, Goldson was apart of a dominant 49ers defense in 2012

8. Dashon Goldson, S - San Francisco 49ers

This one is easy. One way or another Goldson will be back in San Francisco. This is the third straight year the season has ended and he hasn’t had a contract. The 49ers could franchise him again, but that isn’t what Goldson wants. The safety wants around $8 million per year; the only question is if the 49ers pay that. He deserves to be rewarded based off of his 2013 production, which makes it easy to see him back in San Francisco. 

Likely Destination: San Francisco

9. Wes Welker, WR - New England Patriots

Welker and Jennings have to be the most intriguing free agents on the market. Welker’s intrigue simply comes from the possibilities of where he would go if he left New England. We only know Brady and Welker, but what about Schaub and Welker or even Romo and Welker? The possibilities are very fascinating. Some think Welker is a system guy, but he certainly could thrive in a few other dynamic offenses. He had over 1,300 yards receiving and six touchdowns in 2012 and it isn’t certain he will return to New England. Robert Kraft wants him, but it is about the money here. Welker was franchised last year because he wanted big bucks and will probably want the same this year. Houston and Dallas are intriguing because of what they already have on the outside but they would be taking a financial leap. Don’t forget about the Eagles either, they might already have Jackson and Maclin, but Welker could work in Chip Kelly’s offense.

Possible Destinations: New England, Houston, Philadelphia, Dallas

10. Jake Long, OT - Miami Dolphins

Long has fell on a lot of boards because of injuries and lack of production, but he still is the number one overall pick from a few years ago. He is big, he is strong and more importantly he can pass protect. Miami is still in the mix here, but Long could end up elsewhere. He is a liability because of the number of games he has played, but is only 28 so he still has tremendous value. Two teams pop up immediately as far as offensive line needs: St. Louis and Arizona. Long would be an instant upgrade at both places, but it wouldn’t be an upgrade for Long himself. It would be more likely for Long to stay before he goes to a team with more question marks than Miami like the Rams. 

Possible Destinations: Miami, St. Louis, Arizona

Mike Esse is a sophomore majoring in broadcast journalism, a ComRadio Sports Director and an NFL Draft Show Producer. To contact him, email mje5164@gmail.com.