This year’s NFL Free Agency class isn’t as filled with top guys at all positions, but there is some value at every spot. Teams looking for a wide receiver will have plenty of options to choose from. Below I will give a list of the top 5 players from each position. But keep in mind, this list WILL change once we get closer to the official start of the 2013 offseason. With restricted free agent tags, franchise tags and last-minute contract extension agreements, many of these players will find themselves right back where they were in 2012. There should also be more “named” players who will find themselves on the market due to financial reasons. Anquan Boldin and Ahmad Bradshaw are two who could find themselves looking for work.
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As you can see, this isn’t the best year for teams to be looking at quarterback upgrades through free agency, or even the draft with a very weak class coming out for 2013. Joe Flacco will get locked up, whether it be through the franchise tag, or through a long-term deal. He’s not leaving Baltimore with his playoff track record and a chance for Super Bowl glory. But like I said in the intro, he’s heading towards free agency as of now. I added David Garrard as the No. 2 option because, with a year off and a healthy knee, there is a decent chance he could be playing for a starting job somewhere in 2013. Or at least battle with someone in training camp. It’s a long shot, but possible. Jason Campbell, Matt Moore and Tarvaris Jackson are lumped in with Garrard as, what the New York Times considers, cheaper veterans the Jets could bring in to push Mark Sanchez. That really isn’t saying much. But with guys like Vince Young and Donovan McNabb still looking for work, these four guys are the best options to nab a starting job next season.
I am sure there will be some debate whether or not Shonn Greene deserves to be on this list at all. As a fantasy owner who has given Greene a pass two years in a row, I can say there is absolutely nothing I like about the guy. Fine. He isn’t known as a pass catcher. Neither are Rashard Mendenhall and Cedric Benson. But damn, Greene can’t seem to get through the first wave of defenders if he paid them. Someone will kick Greene’s tires to see what he has left, but I’d be in total awe if he was able to land a backup job somewhere else. Even that is too deserving. There’s been some back and forth news as to whether or not Reggie Bush will be back with the Dolphins. The Miami Herald last reported that Bush’s camp was surprised the team hadn’t addressed his contract, even though they had made offers to Brian Hartline, Jake Long and Randy Starks. If I had to give a prediction, I say the Dolphins offer Bush a low-ball deal and he goes elsewhere as a change-of-pace backup. MLive.com believes Bush would be a perfect fit as Mikel Leshoure’s backup. After failing to take full control of the starting job while DeMarco Murray was out, Felix Jones and the Cowboys are also expected to part ways. Unlike Mendy, Benson and Greene, Jones does have some value as a pass catcher. But don’t expect him to be anything more than what he has been in Dallas the last two seasons.
On a side note: Steven Jackson has yet to inform the Rams whether or not he will void the last year of his contract, which is worth $7 million. March 12 is the first day of free agency, so Jackson will obviously have to make a decision before then. Three things could happen: Jackson voids the deal and either re-signs a team-friendly deal, he voids the deal and signs on with a new team. Or, according to NFL.com, Jackson has been mulling over retirement. Personally I hope he voids the deal and winds up going somewhere like the Packers. Imagine how potent that offense would be with Aaron Rodgers AND Jackson? A scary thought. So as of now, Jackson technically isn’t a free agent, but is certainly on the cusp.
I had initially expected Dwayne Bowe to hit free agency like a bolt of lightning after having been stuck with some very crappy talent at quarterback over the years. The question now is will the hiring of Andy Reid as head coach change Bowe’s mind? Will the Chiefs even want him back? Bowe is going to command top dollar as arguably the best offensive free agent this season. And with so many receiver-needy teams in the NFL right now, he should land a big contract, much like Vincent Jackson did in Tampa last year. I have yet to read anywhere that Bowe will give the Chiefs a “hometown discount.”
All Wes Welker does is catch passes. All the Patriots do is let players go who they feel aren’t worth top dollar, even if they are still playing at a high level. While I had agreed with this notion in the past, I don’t here. It initially looked like the Patriots were deliberately attempting to phase Welker out of the offense earlier in the year. But once one half of the dynamic duo of Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez went down, Tom Brady knew he could, once again, count on Welker to carry the burden. After being franchised in 2011, the Patriots tagging Welker for the second-straight year would mean giving up a whopping $11.4 million. New England could surprise us and franchise Welker again, but it’s looking more and more like he will take his PPR magic elsewhere next season.
Mike Wallace and Greg Jennings will be vying for the No. 3 rated free agent receiver spot. Although I think Wallace is the more intriguing option. There are some who say Jennings’ numbers were the the benefactor ofAaron Rodgers throwing to him. While that may be, there been talk that the Dolphins want to upgrade their receiving corps. Jennings could be that guy with Jennings having played under head coach Joe Philbin in Green Bay. Wallace’s future is muddy in terms of where he could land. Outside of, possibly, Miami, there has yet to be any more concrete rumors as to whom is looking at him. There is still plenty of upside, even if the Steelers don’t feel he is worth being back.
Danny Amendola is definitely an interesting prospect. When healthy, he is a poor man’s Wes Welker in terms of being there when he needs to be in the route tree. The Patriots have been linked, which would make a lot of sense. He’d be cheaper than bringing Welker back, but the biggest question make is whether the Patriots will look past his recent injury history. There is also the chance the Rams feel they need Amendola back as the safety net for Sam Bradford.
Any tight end who can put up strong stats, even if inconsistent at times, with Mark Sanchez throwing to him deserves to be the No. 1 rated free agent tight end. However, Keller climbs to the top due to circumstances from the other players in this list. There is a chance, albeit not a great one, that the Titans slap Jared Cook with the franchise tag. With the tight end franchise tag a mere $5.962 million in 2013, the Titans could do just that. Fred Davis’ Achilles injury could land him on the PUP list to start the season. So I believe it’s either the Redskins or bust. Washington has garbage at the tight end spot right now. Bennett’s situation is up in the air, but his 2012 numbers push him ahead of Cook and Davis right now. For me, the problem is was last season a fluke? After such a horrible reputation and work ethic in Dallas, Bennett could wind up back in New York. He’s already said he’d take a “hometown discount” to stay as Eli Manning’s teammate. Gonzalez, of course, appears to be retired at the moment, although not yet officially. Chris Mortenson reported on ESPN that the Falcons are going to do all they can to get him to play at least another year. That’s great news for Matt Ryan if it comes to fruition.