The 2014 NFL free agency period gives underdogs a chance to begin a renaissance period. Teams like the Browns, Raiders, Bills, and Jaguars have a chance to go from a bunch of ragtag teams that get a few lucky wins to consistent winners who dream of grandeur in the playoffs.
Here are several interesting names to look at in various positions:
1. Eric Decker– It is a big surprise Decker has not re-signed with the Broncos considering he had Peyton Manning throwing to him. Is he willing to go from playing with a championship pedigree Quarterback to an unknown or unproven quarterback?
Possible Fits: New York Jets, Cleveland Browns, Buffalo Bills, Houston Texans, Denver Broncos
2. Jeremy Maclin– The Eagles returned to the playoffs last year so it’s a little surprising Maclin is on the market. He is capable of gaining over 1,000 receiving yards and being the number one receiver in any offense.
Possible fits: Houston Texans, Buffalo Bills, and Cleveland Browns
3. Hakeem Nicks– Eli Manning is throwing a lot of interceptions which is costing the New York Giants dearly in the win-loss column. Nicks testing the market is no big surprise at all.
Possible Fits: Buffalo Bills, Houston Texans, Baltimore Ravens, Pittsburgh Steelers
4. Golden Tate– Tate hitting the market is unexpected. Seattle won the Super Bowl so he should probably stay put or be a part of team that is going to win.
Possible fits: Seattle Seahawks, Denver Broncos, Baltimore Ravens, San Diego Chargers, Kansas City Chiefs, and Indianapolis Colts
5. James Jones– Jones was a beast last year with 817 receiving yards. He only scored 3 touchdowns but he played alongside Randall Cobb.
Possible fits: San Diego Chargers, Indianapolis Colts, New England Patriots, and Cleveland Browns
6. Julian Edelman– Edelman is an out of nowhere success. He posted 1056 receiving yards last season. Some teams may bet he will continue to post over 850 receiving yards but the New England Patriots are trying hard to keep him.
Possible fits: New England Patriots, San Diego Chargers, Kansas City Chiefs, Denver Broncos, Cleveland Browns, and Pittsburgh Steelers
7. Emmanuel Sanders– Sanders posted 740 receiving yards and six touchdowns. Look for the Cleveland Browns to stage a coup in the AFC North if Pittsburgh is unable to reach a deal with him.
Possible fits: Pittsburgh Steelers, Cleveland Browns, New England Patriots, San Diego Chargers, Kansas City Chiefs, and New York Jets
1. Maurice Jones-Drew– Jones-Drew wants to be on a winning team or a team expected to rise up from their underdog status. There are a few good teams for him if they willing to pay. Some teams may question how much longer he can play. However, he consistently dominates defenses, only having one bad season in 2012 when he rushed for 414 yards. It is the only time in his career
Possible Fits: Cleveland Browns, Pittsburgh Steelers, Denver Broncos, Oakland Raiders
2. Ben Tate– When Tate is healthy, he can be very productive. He’s already been linked to the Browns, a team expected to sign a free agent running back in addition to drafting a runner.
Possible Fits: Cleveland Browns, Jacksonville Jaguars, Pittsburgh Steelers
3. Knowshown Moreno– Moreno is another surprise name on the market. Considering the Denver Broncos were in the Super Bowl, it is a bit shocking to see him test the market.
Possible fits: Cleveland Browns, Denver Broncos, Oakland Raiders
4. Darren McFadden– McFadden missed 5 games last year so he rushed for 379 and 5 touchdowns last season. The only season that he posted over 750 yards was in 2010 when he rushed for 1,157 yards. He needs to stay healthy to do damage. McFadden has played in the NFL since 2008 so he has some experience to bring to the table. He is looking to have a breakout season.
Best Fits: Denver Broncos, Pittsburgh Steelers, Cleveland Browns
There aren’t too many interesting names for teams looking for their next franchise quarterback. The draft presents better options but here are few quarterbacks teams may look to sign
1. Michael Vick– The injury prone quarterback is a shell of what he was. His prison sentence for his involvement in a dogfighting ring may have effectively thrown his career into chaos. It will be tough for him to bounce back.
Possible fits: Oakland Raiders, Jacksonville Jaguars
2. Josh Freeman– If there is any quarterback on the market that has true intrigue, it is Freeman. His career didn’t end well in Tampa Bay but he has skills that cannot be ignored. Will he stay with the Minnesota Vikings?
Possible fits: Cleveland Browns, Oakland Raiders, St. Louis Rams, and Minnesota Vikings
3. Josh McCown– He is not looking like a starter. He is better staying the backup quarterback. What team will take a risk on this 35-year-old quarterback?
Possible fits: Chicago Bears, Oakland Raiders
1. Jermichael Finley– Finley suffered a season ending injury last year against the Browns. If he can bounce back, he will be a top 5 Tight End all season long. He posted over 650 yards for three of his six seasons and would have had a monster year last year if he didn’t suffer the spinal injury. According to reports, there is a 99.9 chance he will fully recover. He will likely remain with the Green Bay Packers.
Possible Fits: Green Bay Packers, Detroit Lions, Miami Dolphins
2. Brandon Pettigrew– Pettigrew is not the elite Tight End many teams dream of signing. However, he is a breakout candidate. He has two seasons where he posted monster numbers with 722 yards in 2010 and 777 yards in 2011. If he posts those numbers again, he will rejoin the ranks of the elite Tight Ends.
Possible fits: Detroit Lions, Green Bay Packers, and Miami Dolphins
3. Dustin Keller– A knee injury sidelined Keller last year. He is capable of posting over 500 yards but he is a risky signing. He tore his ACL, MCL and PCL. He may re-sign with the Dolphins if they are willing to take a chance on him. It will be difficult to convince many other teams to roll the dice on him.
Possible fits: Miami Dolphins, Green Bay Packers, and Detroit Lions
1. Alex Mack: The Cleveland Browns put the transition tag on Mack. Chances are he will stay in Cleveland given the Browns can match any offer. It is unrealistic to expect Mack to leave. Cleveland
Possible Fits: Cleveland Browns, New Orleans Saints, Green Bay Packers
2. Eugene Monroe– Monroe and the Ravens have a rocky relationship to say the least. Expect him to leave Baltimore and rub it in their face by joining a division rival
Possible Fits: Cleveland Browns, Pittsburgh Steelers, Green Bay Packers, New Orleans Saints, St. Louis Rams
3. Jared Veldheer– The Oakland Raiders will do everything to keep Veldheer. He may decide to go with a team that is expected to rise with the right roster moves or a team that is currently a playoff contender.
Possible fits: Baltimore Ravens, Pittsburgh Steelers, Cleveland Browns, Denver Broncos, and New Orleans Saints
4. Brandon Albert– The Kansas City Chiefs would upset the fan base by letting Albert go. It is likely he will stay put but other teams will be knocking on the door for him
Possible fits: Kansas City Chiefs, Cleveland Browns, Pittsburgh Steelers, and Baltimore Ravens
1. Michael Johnson– The Cincinnati Bengals should do what they can to keep their defensive unit intact. Their future road to the Super Bowl depends on it.
Possible fits: Cincinnati Bengals, Baltimore Ravens, and Miami Dolphins
2. Lamarr Houston– What is intriguing about in staying with the Oakland Raiders? They are a team in disarray and the Oakland coliseum needs a complete makeover.
Possible fits: Baltimore Ravens, Miami Dolphins
3. Jared Allen– Allen may be headed to Tampa Bay. He is a true enforcer and would be great for any defense.
Possible fits: Seattle Seahawks, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Cleveland Browns, Pittsburgh Steelers, Buffalo Bills, Baltimore Ravens, and Miami Dolphins
1. LaMarr Woodley– Woodley is a known commodity. The Steelers would be insane to let him walk.
Possible fits: Pittsburgh Steelers, Miami Dolphins, and Cleveland Browns
2. Brandon Spikes– Spikes has been a cog wheel for the Patriots. He may stay but there will be teams that want him
Possible fits: New England Patriots, Pittsburgh Steelers, and Baltimore Ravens
3. Karlos Dansby– Dansby could fit in nicely an innovative defense or a top dog
Possible fits: Arizona Cardinals, Cleveland Browns, Seattle Seahawks, Baltimore Ravens, and Miami Dolphins
Safeties and Cornerbacks
Teams need a dominant secondary to shut down the passing attack. The NFL is progressively becoming more of a passing league, which means teams need interception machines, punishing hammers, and anyone can consistently swat away passes.
1. Aqib Talib– Talib is the cornerstone of the Patriots defense. There are many teams would gladly pay him what he is worth.
Possible fits: New England Patriots, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and Cleveland Browns
2. Alterraun Verner– Verner is a rising star who can swat passes down at will.
Possible fits: New England Patriots, Cleveland Browns, and Tampa Bay Buccaneers
3. Jairus Byrd– There is a lot of speculation that Byrd will be joining the Browns. There are plenty of options for this true shutdown Safety
Possible fits: Cleveland Browns, New England Patriots, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and Buffalo Bills
4. T.J. Ward– The Browns are doing everything they can to keep Ward. He has several suitors.
Possible fits: Cleveland Browns, Buffalo Bills, New England Patriots, and Tampa Bay Buccaneers
What surprises will fans see in the NFL 2014 Free Agency? Will this be the day the underdogs build a new brand to challenge the favorites or will the status quo remain unchallenged?