With the 2012 NFL offseason just around the corner, let's take a look at six impact free agents who will re-define their respective teams if they find new homes.
Although the NFL draft can remedy many of a team's problems, some teams just have too many holes to fill or need an instant playmaker to be a Super Bowl contender. Many of these teams will be willing to pay a pretty penny for an impact free agent.
Here are six of those players who, if they do not re-sign with their current team, could reverse their new team's fortunes.
The only reason Matt Flynn is currently a backup is because he is sitting behind Aaron Rodgers.
But with Flynn's recent 480-yard, six touchdown performance against the Detroit Lions, he likely won't be a backup much longer. Quarterback-needy teams who aren't able to get Andrew Luck or Robert Griffin III in the upcoming draft could do themselves very well by offering Flynn a nice contract.
Interested parties should try to avoid offering him a Matt Cassel-like deal since he is still relatively unproven. But teams like the Washington Redskins, Miami Dolphins or Seattle Seahawks could become instant playoff contenders with Flynn behind center.
How's that for re-defining?
It would have been absurd to think Forte had a chance of leaving Chicago just a few weeks ago, but now that GM Jerry Angelo has been let go, who knows if Forte wants to stick around, especially if he doesn't get the contract he has been playing so well for?
I would think head coach Lovie Smith would do everything he can to keep Forte around, but he could get a huge contract from just about any team in need of a running back and completely turn around their running game.
Forte would be a focal point for any offense he chose to walk into, and teams like the Giants or Lions could go from worst to first in the running game with such a signing.
Vincent Jackson is one of the most talented receivers in the NFL, and although it's pretty likely the Chargers retain him, their past differences can't be forgotten.
If another contract dispute ensues and Jackson and the Chargers decide to part ways, there would be plenty of other teams in dire need of receiver help that would pay handsomely for his services.
Jackson is a game-changing receiver that could turn a mediocre passing offense into one of the league's best. Teams like the Rams, Browns, Vikings, Raiders and Redskins could potentially be interested.
Jermichael Finley is one of the most talented young tight ends in the league, and if I were him I would want to stick with the Packers, who look like they could be perennial Super Bowl contenders for years to come.
But if the Packers don't offer Finley enough and/or he wants to go elsewhere, he could have a huge impact on any passing game.
Finley's size and athleticism makes him a constant mismatch, and a team in need of some extra firepower could get a big time boost with Finley catching passes. He could be the instant go-to guy in any system that is lacking in the passing game.
It might be difficult for a guard to completely re-define a team, but if there's a guy that can do it, it's Carl Nicks. He and Jahri Evans form the top guard tandem in the NFL, but if the Saints aren't willing to pay Nicks enough, he could go play elsewhere.
Teams whose offensive lines have struggled this year would get an instant and drastic upgrade in both the passing game and the running game. Nicks alone could elevate some offenses from middle-of-the-road to top-notch.
Mario Williams was a controversial first overall pick the same year that Reggie Bush and Vince Young were drafted, but Williams has turned out to be the best player of the three. He was having an outstanding season for the Houston Texans before sustaining a season-ending injury.
As good as Williams is, though, the Texans may decide to save the money and let him walk, as their defense was performing very well even in his absence.
Williams would instantly upgrade any 4-3 defense hurting for a defensive end or any 3-4 defense hurting for an outside linebacker. His speed and size make him versatile, and his pass rushing skills are equally strong at either position.
If Williams does leave Houston, he will likely get a huge contract from a Super Bowl contender that wants to win now but needs help at his position. He is good enough to make that difference.