Christmas comes early for NFL teams.
March 13th is quickly approaching and while a record 21 players were slapped with the franchise tag, there are still plenty of desirable free agents that can have a gigantic impact on their new team.
Here are five stars that will be playing for a new squad in 2012, with their best potential landing spot.
1. Peyton Manning, QB
ESPN’s Chris Mortensen broke the news Tuesday night that the team plans to part ways with Manning on Wednesday, making him an unrestricted free agent.
Best Destination: Miami Dolphins
A quick look at the roster makes you realize this is a strong team that was a QB away from being a really outstanding team. The defense finished third in the league against the rush (95.6 ypg), and allowed 20 points or fewer in 8-of-11 games to close the season.
Behind the duo of Reggie Bush and rookie Daniel Thomas the team was able to secure the 11th most rushing yards (124.2) in the NFL. Receiver Brandon Marshall (1214 yards, six TDs) is a player Manning would love to have and the ‘Fins have the cap space to sign Manning’s former teammate Reggie Wayne as well.
The Dolphins can offer a blank check, warm weather and a strong foundation. No other team can say as much.
Other Potential Options: Arizona Cardinals, Seattle Seahawks, Washington Redskins and New York Jets
2. Vincent Jackson, WR
The San Diego Chargers decided not to franchise tag Jackson, which means he is now the biggest receiver on the free-agent market.
Where Will Jackson Sign?
Best Destination: Chicago Bears
The Chicago Tribune has reported the Bears will be in heavy pursuit of Jackson and it makes plenty of sense.
Name me the last legit No. 1 receiver the Bears have had…..I’m still waiting…
Other Potential Options: Buffalo Bills, Washington Redskins, San Francisco 49ers, St. Louis Rams
3. Michael Bush, RB
With Darren McFadden firmly entrenched as the starter, there isn’t enough money and touches for Bush in 2012.
Best Destination: Cincinnati Bengals
Bush is looking to become the full-time starter and the Bengals could provide him with 20 carries a game. Cedric Benson is a free agent and has been publicly critical of the offensive play-calling, signaling that his time in the Queen City is over.
With former Raiders head coach Hue Jackson heading to town, it makes plenty of sense for Bush to follow.
Other Potential Options: Washington Redskins, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Indianapolis Colts, Detroit Lions
4. Matt Flynn, QB
One six touchdown game and Flynn is magically one of the hottest QB commodities in the market not named Manning, Luck or RGIII.
Best Destination: Washington Redskins
The ‘Skins don’t have the cap space for Manning and the draft picks to trade up for Robert Griffin III. Owner Daniel Snyder is notorious for overpaying overrated free agents and Flynn would have the opportunity to start from day one under a Super Bowl-winning head coach.
Other Potential Options: Miami Dolphins, Cleveland Browns, Seattle Seahawks
5. Brandon Lloyd, WR
After resurrecting his career with the Denver Broncos, he was the first one to go when Tim Tebow was named starter. He made it clear he didn’t like anything about the guy and ended up having a productive season with the St. Louis Rams.
Best Destination: New England Patriots
The numbers don’t lie: Lloyd has put up 2,414 yards and 16 TDs under Josh McDaniels in two seasons and now the coach resides in New England.
Other Potential Options: San Diego Chargers, Washington Redskins, Jacksonville Jaguars