2012 NFL Free Agents: Predicting Which Teams Will Be Spending the Most
We're coming up on that wonderful time in the NFL, when the terrible post-Super Bowl doldrums end, and the free-agency frenzy begins.
Make sure to take a moment and appreciate the fact that the last time you were able to talk about free agency in March, the year was 2010, and the New Orleans Saints had just won the Super Bowl.
Thanks to 2011's contracted free-agency period, many teams who might have been major players in the talent market instead chose to hoard their money and wait for the right opportunity to strike.
2012 is that time. This free-agent class is loaded, and there are some teams out there with a serious lack of talent and a major surplus of cash.
Who will be spending the big bucks next week?
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Oh, woe is Josh Freeman. Tampa Bay's awful ballclub last year might have been one of the biggest overall sports disappointments of 2011, and Freeman caught way too much blame.
Yes, second-year receiver Mike Williams is a decent target, but can you name the No. 2 wideout? Arrelious Benn? Seriously?
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers desperately need a new pair of steady hands to catch balls thrown by the once-clutch Freeman; and given their various other needs that can be addressed via the draft, plus the strength of this year's wide receiver class, all indications are pointing to a major signing.
They have already been linked to Mario Manningham and could likely be eyeballing Vincent Jackson. This is without considering possible offensive line and defensive secondary upgrades via free agency.
The 4-12 Bucs have over $55 million in cap room and a very angry fanbase. Look for them to spend, spend, spend.
Kansas City Chiefs
Where to start?
The Kansas City Chiefs have all the money in the football world ($60 million) and plenty of positions to upgrade. They are one of the prime candidates to try and go after Peyton Manning, especially since their roster is heavily built for a "win now" scenario.
Even without Manning, the Chiefs are flush with extra cash and will likely look to sign marquee free agents such as Mario Williams or Cortland Finnegan to upgrade their defense.
No matter who they sign, this will not be a quiet club during the 2012 NFL free-agency period.
The Miami Dolphins do not have a bulging purse the way some of their competitors do. They are not flush with extra funds and will need wiggle room with their current contracts in order to upgrade their roster.
However, newly hired head coach Joe Philbin has a history with the second-hottest free-agent quarterback on the market. As the Green Bay Packers' former offensive coordinator, he knows a thing or two about Matt Flynn, who could be the quarterback everyone always wanted Kevin Kolb to be.
Thanks largely in part to his 480-yard, six-touchdown game (a Packers record), Flynn should command a big deal on the open market.
Look for Miami to pursue him heavily, given its lack of assets to secure the No. 2 pick for Robert Griffin III.
The Dolphins' remaining cap money could go to upgrade their pass rush with a bargain option like Andre Carter, formerly of the rival New England Patriots.
It must be fun to be the Cincinnati Bengals. Their ballclub is projected to not only have the most cap space in free agency, but they are also the only team on this list to have made the playoffs in 2011.
They could certainly use upgrades at a couple of positions, given their early playoff exit, and are going to be very active with a projected $58 million coming up in cap space.
Mario Williams? Carl Nicks? Jeremy Mincey? Vincent Jackson? The possibilities are endless for the team with the league's deepest pockets.
The Washington Redskins are notorious players in the free-agent market every year. Owner Dan Snyder is infamous for giving out ridiculous contracts, like the $100 million Albert Haynesworth deal.
Still, this might be the one year in which he gets vindicated for his heavy spending.
With $41 million coming up in salary cap space, look for the Redskins to first add a wide receiver via free agency and then offer a nice, fat contract to entice the newly-single Peyton Manning into their camp. Considering the immense strength of their defense, Washington needs only to upgrade at wide receiver via a deep free-agent class before it makes its offer to Manning.
Given their defensive prowess and coach Mike Shanahan's track record, the Redskins' big offer could very well be the one Manning takes.
Stay tuned to find out.