The final gun that officially ends the Super Bowl starts up the longest month of the year for NFL fans and fantasy football fans alike. The month of February offers nothing outside of draft rumors, hearsay and a lot of recycled news for four weeks straight (Just watch ESPN). The 2014 NFL Free Agency period is really when things start rolling and excitement hits the air again. This year is no different as several big-name players are looking to make a big score money-wise with a new team, or make big bucks with their existing franchise.
Last year's prize, WR Mike Wallace, hauled in a five-year/$60 million from the Dolphins. Who will be this year's top prize? Below are the top 5 players at each offensive spot. Keep in mind that some of these players could wind up re-signing with their own teams once free agency starts, or get slapped with the franchise tag.
Michael Vick has stated that he would have no problems staying with the Eagles as Nick Foles' backup. For me, it's hard to see a team offering a starting position to a 33 year old who can't stay healthy. Josh McCown did so well while Jay Cutler missed a chunk of the season that it wouldn't be a shock to see him stay on as Cutler's backup. Josh Freeman, Chad Henne and Tarvaris Jackson will find their market value terribly low. Especially Freeman, whose short stint with the Vikings was a disaster.
1. Ben Tate
2. Rashad Jennings
3. Darren McFadden
4. Knowshon Moreno
5. Maurice Jones-Drew
There are other names like Andre Brown also entering free agency, but these are the 5 guys who should get the most attention. Ben Tate wound up going from the league's top backup to an injury-plagued mess in 2013. However, he has shown enough when healthy that there will be a few teams who view him as a possible starter. The Browns might come knocking. With both Rashad Jennings and Darren McFadden hitting free agency, I expect Jennings to re-sign and the Raiders to draft competition. McFadden has already been linked to the Bengals with Hue Jackson taking over offensive coordinator duties. Maurice Jones-Drew is only 28, but has a lot of tread on his tires. Some might think he can still churn out yardage like a starter, but he could wind up in a timeshare somewhere else as a scatback. The Jaguars are expected to let him test the free agent waters. Knowshon Moreno's fate lies on whether or not the Broncos feel Montee Ball can be THE guy in the backfield after only one year.
Coming off back-to-back 1000+ yard seasons, Decker could be this year's Wes Welker in that many see talent, but others see a player who benefited from the system and his quarterback. The Broncos have plenty of options with Decker out of the line-up. Not to mention they will need money to sign Demaryius Thomas, who has one year left on his deal. I wouldn't be shocked to see Decker starting elsewhere. Hakeem Nicks is big in name only as he wore out his welcome fast by getting hit with the injury tag and also becoming a problem within the organization. Still only 26, Nicks is a high-risk/high-reward signing for a team who views him as a potential starter. Jeremy Maclin said he is willing to settle for a one-year "prove it" deal, but whether that will be with the Eagles remains to be seen. Don't be surprised to see his old coach, current Chiefs coach, Andy Reid come sniffing around if the price is right. Maclin would be a huge improvement over what the Chiefs fielded across from Dwayne Bowe last season. Julian Edelman's value, in my opinion, lies solely on re-signing with the Patriots. A poor man's Wes Welker, Edelman benefited greatly by an underwhelming injury-plagued receiving corps in 2013. I don't see his value improving anywhere else. Anquan Boldin showed the Ravens just how wrong they were by giving up on the veteran, even after having huge Super Bowl stats one year ago. I know Boldin's price tag was high, but we saw just how much the Ravens missed him this past year. Churning out his first 1,000-yard season since 2009, it would behoove the 49ers to re-sign Boldin on a, at least, another 2-year deal, with a team option for a 3rd. There is still plenty of gas left in the tank.
I omitted such names as Brandon Myers, who failed to live up to the 2012 hype. I also took out Fred Davis, who is facing a six-game suspension for violation of the substance-abuse policy. I won't say much about Jimmy Graham or Dennis Pitta since both players are not going to be leaving their respective teams. Both will receive the franchise tag if neither are signed to long-term deals. Jermichael Finley is coming off a career-threatening neck injury, but could be worth signing if a team is that needy for a tight end upgrade. Finley failed to capitalize on his talent with one of the best quarterbacks in the league throwing to him, so it's hard to see him bouncing back somewhere else. Brandon Pettigrew is another who will find his market cold once free agency hits. Since his 83 catches in 2011, Pettigrew's numbers have dropped in the years that followed. He could re-sign on the cheap with Detroit. I took a chance and threw in Dustin Keller to round out the top 5 because he will be close to a year removed from multiple knee tears when the regular season rolls around. Keller opted for just a one-year deal when the Dolphins offered, what Keller considered, a low-ball contract. With the tight end pool being as shallow as it is, I see a couple teams looking at Keller to see just how much his injury zapped his speed. He certainly adds just as much, if not more, upside as Finley and Pettigrew.