2012 NFL Free Agents: Difference Makers No One Is Talking About

Josh MartinNBA Lead WriterMarch 5, 2012

ORCHARD PARK, NY - NOVEMBER 23:  Quarterback Peyton Manning #18 and wide receiver Reggie Wayne #87 of the Indianapolis Colts confer on the bench during the game against the Buffalo Bills on November 23, 2003 at Ralph Wilson Stadium in Orchard Park, New York. The Colts defeated the Bills 17-14. (Photo by Rick Stewart/Getty Images)
Rick Stewart/Getty Images

Peyton Manning this, Matt Flynn that. Marshawn Lynch gets a new deal, as do Arian Foster and Stevie Johnson.

That's all well and good, but what about scores of quality NFL veterans set to hit free agency on March 13 who aren't getting slapped with the franchise tag or whose names aren't being slathered about message boards and rumor mills?

Surely, they deserve some love too, and likely will once the market opens up later this month.


Reggie Wayne

Speaking of Peyton Manning, he's not the only future Hall of Famer likely to leave the Indianapolis Colts for greener pastures.

Granted, Reggie Wayne, who will be approaching his 34th birthday when the 2012 season kicks off, isn't exactly a spry young chick on the outside anymore, though he probably would've cracked the 1,000-yard mark for the eighth year in a row had Manning's neck not kept him out all season.

That being said, Wayne still wound up with 960 yards with an amalgamation of scrap-heap QBs throwing him the ball. If Wayne does, indeed, follow Manning to his next destination, as SI's Peter King suggests, then one lucky team could be looking at one of the NFL's most explosive offenses from the get-go. 

Michael Bush

OAKLAND, CA - DECEMBER 18:  Michael Bush #29 of the Oakland Raiders runs with the ball against the Detroit Lions at O.co Coliseum on December 18, 2011 in Oakland, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Marshawn Lynch gets paid, Arian Foster gets paid and Michael Bush...well, he's still waiting on his new contract.

The Oakland Raiders used their franchise tag on strong safety Tyvon Branch, leaving Bush all but free to pursue employment elsewhere once free agency officially opens up. The bruising 'back tallied nearly 1,400 yards from scrimmage last season, despite spending the first six games of the season backing up Darren McFadden.

There will certainly be a lucrative deal in store somewhere for a guy with Bush's particular blend of talent, size and lack of wear-and-tear. The Cincinnati Bengals appear poised to be among those ready, willing and able to make Bush such a rich man.

Cortland Finnegan

NASHVILLE, TN - NOVEMBER 1:  Cortland Finnegan #31 of the Tennessee Titans returns an interception during the game against the Jacksonville Jaguars at LP Field on November 1, 2009 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

With cornerback being as important a position as it is and quality players being so scarce, it's a wonder Cortland Finnegan hasn't gotten more publicity on his own merits.

True, Finnegan's a bit of a knucklehead, between picking fights with Andre Johnson and...errr, picking fights with Tennessee Titans management, thereby leading the team to ascribe its franchise tag to Michael Griffin instead.

But, Finnegan is still a top-10 talent at corner and, to be fair, he's garnering plenty of chatter, albeit mostly beneath the surface. According to Gregg Rosenthal of NBC Sports, Finnegan already has a quartet of teams on his case.

League source: Cowboys, Bucs, Bears, and Vikings expected to be favorites for Finnegan.

— gregg rosenthal (@greggrosenthal) March 5, 2012

One of those teams will be thankful for the much-improved secondary of which Finnegan is a part next season.