Quite a few key free agents have already been signed to new deals in the 2012 offseason, but there are still some big names that have yet to sign on the dotted line. We might be down to the "third-wave" of the 2012 free-agency season, so while the majority of big-name talent is gone, there are still some players available who can help teams out or at least improve their depth.
While team-needs continue to change with every new free-agent deal that is signed, the question then becomes, do you continue to sign more free agents for depth purposes or wait for the draft instead?
If you are the New England Patriots then you do both, as they have signed at least 10 free agents so far. When you consider how many draft picks they have in 2012, that seems like a lot of new players coming in to challenge for a roster spot on a team that won the AFC Championship game.
Some teams are waiting for some of the free agents to start dropping their current asking prices before they will swoop in with an offer. Other free agents need to finish their rehabs before they go on team visits, as they probably aren't ready to go through a complete team physical yet.
Then we have the restricted free agents and, as of now, we have yet to have any team come up with an offer sheet to a restricted free agent who was tendered an offer by his original team.
For the top remaining 36 free agents, we are going to predict who will wind up signing them to a new deal. Please note that we are focusing on unrestricted free agents, since the probability of any team actually trying to sign a restricted free agent is minimal at best. The only possible restricted free agent who could get an offer is Mike Wallace, so he will have his own bonus slide at the very end of the presentation.
Just on Wednesday alone, Mark Anderson, BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Ronde Barber, Samson Satele and Brodrick Bunkley signed new deals. The Broncos traded Tim Tebow to the Jets, the NFL handed out the "bounty-penalties" to the New Orleans Saints and teams were trying to coax Aaron Schobel out of retirement. Ho hum.
The 36 players are listed in alphabetical order. I started the week with more than 50 names, but every day more free agents keep signing new offers, shrinking the presentation down to the current size.
As of March 20, 2012, the following list has the 10 NFL teams with the most available salary cap space left to land existing free agents. Our source for this information is from Spotrac.com, and a link to them can be found right here.
Please note that Spotrac will update the salary cap figures once the contracts of free agents' deals are publicly revealed, so some of these teams will need to be adjusted in the near term, as you will see towards the bottom of every team page that some contracts are still not publicly known.
This page is devoted to the teams that have the most room to add contracts in free agency. Just because they have room doesn't mean that they are in a rush to spend. The 2012 salary cap figure is set at $120,600,000.
The 10 NFL teams with the least amount of money spent for 2012 are:
1. Cincinnati Bengals: $57,784,529
2. Seattle Seahawks: $65,387,360
3. New England Patriots: $79,938,265
4. Cleveland Browns: $80,028,201
5. Tennessee Titans: $81,791,402
6. Miami Dolphins: $82,513,571
7. Kansas City Chiefs: $83,226,541
8. Denver Broncos: $84,545,511
9. San Francisco 49ers: $87,293,157
10. Minnesota Vikings: $89,049,970
Rather interesting that the vast majority of the teams Peyton Manning expressed interest in (except for Arizona) were on this list. The Broncos' figure looks like they are already accounting for Manning's 2012 salary, for what it is worth.
As we sited on the previous page, our source for these figures are from Spotrac. This is the list of the remaining 22 teams and what their sum salary-cap hits for the 2012 season are to date.
These teams are ranked 11-20 on least amount spent (in the millions), and none of them have cracked the $100 million total yet:
Washington Redskins ($90,858,360), Indianapolis Colts ($91,349,679), Jacksonville Jaguars ($91,832,044), St. Louis Rams ($93,947,551), Dallas Cowboys ($93,992,267), Oakland Raiders ($94,143,135), Houston Texans ($94,616,794), Buffalo Bills ($95,779,743), New Orleans Saints ($97,573,254) and San Diego Chargers ($99,261,715).
Final 12 teams, ranked 21-32, have all topped $100 million in salary-cap space for 2012:
Philadelphia Eagles ($100,578,036), Pittsburgh Steelers ($100,692,874), Baltimore Ravens ($101,147,953), Detroit Lions ($103,769,492), Tampa Bay Buccaneers ($105,941,929), Carolina Panthers ($107,310,019), Arizona Cardinals ($107,518,758), Chicago Bears ($110,452,619), New York Jets ($110,677,265), New York Giants ($111,460,429), Green Bay Packers ($114,028,821) and Atlanta Falcons ($114,473,123).
The Redskins are still waiting to find out what happens with the NFL ruling about stripping away some of their salary cap, so until a final decision is made, their total could be subject to change.
Free-agent safety O.J. Atogwe is in the market for a job in 2012.
Three teams that have been checking out Atogwe so far are the Detroit Lions, Minnesota Vikings and the New York Jets. The Lions just had a visit with Atogwe last week according to Detroit Lions.com article. The Jets interest in Atogwe was spelled out in this New York Daily News article. Finally, here is a tweet from Pioneer Press showing that the Vikings are an interested party as well.
While it is possible that another team could jump in to the mix, it is likely that he will land with one of the three teams.
Atogwe has 25 interceptions in his NFL career, so if you are looking for a ball-hawking safety, he is somebody to covet.
Prediction: Atogwe will sign with the Minnesota Vikings, who have the most money by far of the three contenders to entice Atogwe.
Left tackle Demetrius Bell has conducted visits to the Arizona Cardinals and Washington Redskins. Neither team gave him an offer, which proves that the grass is not always greener away from home.
The Buffalo Bills have made a formal offer to Bell, but he must have thought he could do better elsewhere. If he continues to drag his heels and can't find anything sweeter, he better hope that the Bills don't pull their offer, or he could be left holding an empty bag.
The Redskins are thought to still be in talks with Bell, according to this tweet from John Keim, but the reality is that they might be starting to run into salary-cap issues of their own.
The current salary-cap figure at Spotrac.com is set at $90,858,360, which doesn't include the salaries for Rex Grossman and Brandon Meriweather. The NFL is giving the Redskins a hit of at least $18 million for their front-loaded salaries in 2011. Then you factor in the money needed to draft Robert Griffin III and the rest of the 2012 class, and the Redskins might be tapped out.
The Bills, on the other hand, addressed their primary need when they signed Mario Williams last week. So, the Bills can now use their No. 10 overall pick on a tackle to replace Bell. There was no mention of how much the offer to Bell was for. It could be that the Bills didn't overwhelm Bell with the offer, because Bell hasn't been that overwhelming as a player. He frequently misses games due to injury, and that has to figure in to the equation.
Bell has only played in at least eight games just one season so far in his career, according to the Pro Football Weekly article, which makes him less-than-reliable. As a result, the offers he receives have to be impacted by his health issues.
Prediction: Bell will continue to talk to other teams, but will ultimately realize that the Bills made him the best offer he is going to get. He comes back to the Bills.
Cincinnati Bengals running back Cedric Benson is a free agent, but you don't really hear much going on with his name being connected to any NFL team.
Teams looking for a starting running back look like they are more interested in Trent Richardson, or one of the other upcoming rookies in the 2012 draft, than they are in Cedric Benson.
Benson may need to lower his sights for 2012 and consider a backup job. One such possible landing spot is the Baltimore Ravens, according to CSN Baltimore.com. Benson knows the AFC North division very well, and would help to take some of the wear and tear off of Ray Rice.
For now, it looks like it is going to be quiet for the next few weeks for Benson.
Prediction: Benson will have to settle for a backup running back job, and I predict that team will be the Baltimore Ravens.
Deion Branch has gone from playing in Super Bowl XLVI to wondering if anyone wants to hire him in 2012.
The Patriots have been bringing in other wide receivers, such as Brandon Lloyd, Donte' Stallworth and Anthony Gonzalez. They re-signed Matt Slater. With Wes Welker on board with his franchise tag, it appears there is not much room left for Branch, so perhaps he should consider branching out?
There are a number of teams that will need to sign some wide receivers, but it doesn't help receivers like Branch when there is a deep crop of fast wide receivers in the 2012 draft class.
Prediction: Branch will go to a surprise team that adds him for depth, like Tampa Bay or Minnesota. It is that or retirement. I predict he will go to Tampa Bay.
Plaxico Burress is nearing the end of his career, but he can still be an effective target in the red zone. The question is, who wants to employ him to find out what he has left in the tank?
Burress seems to have limited his search to the states of Pennsylvania (Pittsburgh and Philadelphia) and New Jersey (assuming we can say that the Jets and Giants play their games in New Jersey). Burress had been a guest on Sirius XM NFL radio, according to a tweet from Ralph Vacchiano.
So, out of those four teams, the chances that Burress lands with one of them is strong.
Prediction: Burress will sign with the Philadelphia Eagles.
Running back Michael Bush has been busy during free agency, as he has been actively talking to teams but has not signed on the dotted line yet.
Options for Bush are Seattle, Oakland, New York Jets, Cincinnati and Chicago, according to this blog update from Jason LaCanfora of NFL Network. All five teams have a starting running back already on their roster, so Bush appears to be relegated to the backup role and to be the goal-line specialist.
It seemed unlikely that Bush would come back to the Raiders, but no other team is jumping in with both feet to try to seal a deal with him.
Due to lack of interest in the running back market, Bush could easily come back to Oakland and take the same role he had in 2011. At least the Raiders freed up some space by releasing Kamerion Wimbley.
Prediction: When the Bengals signed BenJarvus Green-Ellis, that took away one of the top options for Bush. I could see him going to Cleveland as a surprise choice, but my prediction is that he will return to Oakland.
Defensive end Andre Carter had a strong 2011 season, with 10 sacks. Now that Mario Williams, John Abraham, Mark Anderson and Kamerion Wimbley have signed new deals, the number of decent pass-rushers available in the market has dropped off dramatically.
So, that means that the teams still in need of pass-rushers should be falling over themselves to sign Carter to a new deal.
However, teams have been reluctant to bring Carter in, as he hasn't had any known visits yet. The longer he remains as a free agent without any team showing interest, the more likely it will be that he returns to the Patriots, even with a hometown discount.
Prediction: The lack of activity strongly links Carter as probably headed back to New England, unlike his teammate Mark Anderson, who signed with the Buffalo Bills earlier today.
Luis Castillo has spent his entire seven-year NFL career with the San Diego Chargers, but now it looks like Castillo may need to find a new employer.
Castillo visited the New England Patriots in the past week, according to this tweet from Greg Bedard, but that is the only team that he has visited. That is not the only team that Castillo has visited, as this San Diego Union-Tribune.com article states that Castillo has also met with the Kansas City Chiefs.
The Chargers have made a standing offer to Castillo, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune.com article, but he has not accepted nor rejected that offer yet.
While Castillo was absent for most of 2011 due to injury, he still is young enough to have years of football ahead of him.
The market right now appears to be boiling down to the Chargers or the Patriots. Both teams have been active in free agency so far this year.
Prediction: Castillo signs with the New England Patriots.
With as much chemistry as Peyton Manning has developed over the years with Dallas Clark, would it surprise anybody if Clark and Manning became teammates again?
Of course, that would require Clark signing with the Denver Broncos, but since nobody has picked him up yet, it might as well be the Broncos.
Clark is not the player he once was. He has become a liability from a health perspective, as he played in 17 games and missed 15 games in the last two years.
Prediction: Clark will follow Peyton Manning and sign with the Denver Broncos.
Jerricho Cotchery played for the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2011. With the news that Hines Ward has officially retired from the NFL, that might open up a roster spot for Cotchery to remain with the Steelers beyond 2011.
The two teams that have made the most noise about Cotchery are the New York Jets and the Kansas City Chiefs. Ben Roethlisberger would be open to Cotchery returning, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.com.
The Jets interest in Cotchery has waned lately, according to this feedback from ESPN New York.
The top end of the wide receiver market has come and gone, so the market appears to be fairly saturated at this second. Once teams and the players' agents realize that they can probably sign the remaining receivers for less, more visits will happen and additional contracts will be signed.
Prediction: Cotchery will sign with the Kansas City Chiefs, who can afford to give Cotchery more than either the Jets or Pittsburgh can. It also makes sense, because on the surface, the Steelers and Jets are going to be more committed to the running game.
Braylon Edwards' career hit a rough patch in 2011 as a member of the San Francisco 49ers. As a result, there has been zero interest expressed in Edwards so far in 2012 free agency.
While it might take many more weeks for somebody to call Edwards, I think that eventually the New York Jets will look to return him to the East Coast.
Why? Good question, and I can't give you a great answer. Call it a hunch. He needs to re-establish himself as a viable receiver again, so he goes to where he had recent success.
Prediction: Edwards will eventually sign a deal with the New York Jets.
After Lee Evans made the "infamous drop" against the New England Patriots that cost the Baltimore Ravens a chance to advance to play in Super Bowl XLVI, you knew it was highly unlikely that he would be back in Baltimore in 2012.
So, where will Evans land, if he lands anywhere at all?
One team apparently that has surfaced is the Jacksonville Jaguars, according to this article from Jacksonville.com. Evans is in the twilight of his career, but he won't be a locker room distraction in Jacksonville. He is far removed from being a diva.
Prediction: Evans will sign with the Jacksonville Jaguars, but who will be throwing him passes in 2012 for the Jaguars is a whole different story. Could be Blaine Gabbert, Chad Henne or Tim Tebow.
Free-agent linebacker London Fletcher continues to play at a level that is amazing for his age. Even though Fletcher is 36 years old, he led the entire NFL in tackles in 2011 with 166. That figure was exactly 76 more tackles than DeAngelo Hall, who finished in second place on the team with 90 tackles. Fletcher continues to defy the odds.
Not only did Fletcher lead the NFL in tackles, but he made plays across the board. He had eight passes that he defended, forced three fumbles and had two interceptions. He came up with 1.5 sacks as well.
It is strange that no teams have brought Fletcher in for a visit yet. The Eagles traded for DeMeco Ryans yesterday, but they could have signed Fletcher without surrendering a draft pick.
The lack of suitors for Fletcher in the market means that Fletcher will probably have to return to the Redskins, assuming that they can find some salary-cap space to sign him to a new deal.
Prediction: London Fletcher returns to the Washington Redskins due to lack of interest from any other NFL team.
Pittsburgh Steelers free-agent corner William Gay has yet to land anywhere in 2012.
Four teams have tossed their hat in the ring since free agency began. They are the Denver Broncos, Tennessee Titans, Arizona Cardinals and Pittsburgh Steelers. According to a tweet from Gay, he is going to be making a decision soon, now that his visits are finished.
Prediction: The Broncos are going to be busy entertaining all of Peyton Manning's old teammates. I think Gay will join the Tennessee Titans, who need more depth in the secondary after losing Cortland Finnegan.
We don't want to ignore special teams, so let's take a look at what is going on with special teams star Ted Ginn Jr. for 2012.
Ginn is in that tricky area, where he is a special teams returner who wants to evolve into more of a wide receiver, but the rest of the NFL sees him as a return specialist who sometimes catches passes.
To date, Ginn has been talking with Detroit, Baltimore and Minnesota. This tweet from Adam Kaplan announced that Ginn was visiting with the Lions and the Ravens. This tweet from the Pioneer Press explained that Ginn was also visiting with the Vikings.
Prediction: I see Ginn leaving the 49ers for teams that will give him some more snaps as a wide receiver. The team with the most money to spend and give him a chance is the Minnesota Vikings, so that is my prediction on where he lands.
Just like London Fletcher, David Hawthorne is another free-agent linebacker who is trying to find a new home.
Hawthorne has drummed up more interest than Fletcher has, however, and it seems like only NFC teams are looking to land him. The four teams in play for Fletcher are the Chicago Bears, Seattle Seahawks, New Orleans Saints and Detroit Lions.
You can probably cross the Lions off of the list after they just signed Stephen Tulloch to a big deal. In light of the potential defensive players being suspended by the New Orleans Saints, it would make sense for the Saints to amass as much depth as they can across the board.
Prediction: The Saints will need to jump all over Hawthorne before other teams realize that the Saints are desperate to sign quality defensive players.
Another linebacker waiting for the phone to ring is Erin Henderson of the Minnesota Vikings. He has been waiting and waiting, but nothing much is going on.
Henderson is thought to be interested in coming back to Minnesota, where there seems to be an interest in having him back. The reason that nothing has happened is due to the gap in what each side thinks that Henderson should earn in 2012, according to this article from ESPN 1500 Twin Cities. .
Right now, neither party is willing to blink first, so they are in a stalemate.
The Vikings have tons of cap space to work with, so if they truly value Henderson, they can at least negotiate with him in good faith. Otherwise, he will be so grateful if another team shows interest in him, that he might be swept away for a deal that the Vikings wished they were part of.
Prediction: Common sense prevails and Henderson signs with the Vikings.
Philadelphia Eagles center Jamaal Jackson has been talking to the Tennessee Titans. They seem to be the team that is most interested in him right now, as per this tweet from Tyler Dunne.
While the Titans were courting Peyton Manning, they saw top center options Scott Wells and Chris Myers sign with other teams. The talent level gets pretty thin after Jackson, so look for the Titans to hop on him.
Prediction: Jackson signs with the Tennessee Titans.
Brandon Jacobs joined the 2012 class of free agents when the New York Giants released him on March 9. Since then, no NFL teams have come calling requesting a visit, so Jacobs is trying to drum up some interest.
This article from the New York Post suggests that Jacobs would be open to playing for the New York Jets, who want to return to more of a running attack, which is hard for the Giants to do with Eli Manning and his capable receivers.
If nobody else comes calling, Jacobs might get his wish—but the Jets will realize that Jacobs' best days are behind him now.
Prediction: Jacobs signs with the New York Jets.
He didn't see any action as a rookie with Tampa Bay in 2008, but since then, quarterback Josh Johnson has appeared in 26 games. In his limited pro career, Johnson has completed 96-of-177 passes for 1,042 yards. He has thrown five touchdown passes compared to 10 interceptions.
While Johnson doesn't appear likely to be a starter, he is considered to be a quality backup quarterback. The two teams that have been expressing the most interest in Johnson in free agency are the Washington Redskins and the San Francisco 49ers, according to this article from the San Jose Mercury News.
While each team has a veteran and a young guy duo in place (Grossman and probably RG3 in Washington, while Kaepernick and Smith in San Francisco), Johnson could serve as the bridge between the two for either team.
Prediction: I think the Redskins need to resolve their salary-cap-fine issue with Commissioner Roger Goodell before they sign any more free agents. As a result, I predict Johnson lands in San Francisco.
The Cincinnati Bengals have been able to put up with Adam "Pac-Man" Jones' antics over the years, and since no teams are expressing interest in bringing him in for a visit, this appears to be an easy, open-and-shut case.
Prediction: Jones will sign a contract to return to the Cincinnati Bengals.
Are you starting to get the feeling that the market is rather soft for linebackers right now? Manny Lawson of the Cincinnati Bengals is probably thinking the same thing.
Even though offers haven't been made yet, there is interest in Lawson from Cleveland, Indianapolis, Oakland and Cincinnati, according to a report from Aaron Wilson of Scout.com.
The two teams here with the most salary-cap room that are interested in Lawson are Cleveland and Cincinnati, so best bet is that he stays in Ohio. Which team will he play for?
Prediction: Lawson will sign with the Cleveland Browns. The Browns have cash to spend, and they like that Lawson knows the AFC North so well—it is likely the Browns will outbid the Bengals to land Lawson.
Who is going to be the backup quarterback in Denver for Peyton Manning?
There are a number of unemployed quarterbacks who could qualify as a backup to Manning in Denver. The candidates range from Matt Leinart, Vince Young, Billy Volek and Josh Johnson, to name a few.
The Texans don't seem to have any interest in bringing Leinart back due to the emergence of rookie T.J. Yates. I am thinking that Leinart would be a good fit with Manning, as he has enough experience that he could step in if Manning got hurt again.
Prediction: Matt Leinart will sign with the Denver Broncos.
Curtis Lofton is yet another linebacker who is waiting to sign a 2012 contract.
After a week of free agency has passed, the two teams that have expressed interest are both from the NFC South. They are Tampa Bay and New Orleans, and Lofton is getting ready to visit with the Saints, according to this article from the New Orleans Times-Picayune. The interest from Tampa Bay was still there as per this tweet from Ira Kauffman.
It looks likely that Lofton is staying in the division, so which team does he play for?
New Orleans has the greater sense of urgency due to the upcoming bounty penalties that will be handed out by the NFL, and they have more salary-cap room than Tampa Bay does, so that takes out the guess work.
Prediction: Lofton will join the New Orleans Saints.
Donovan McNabb had a rough 2011 season and was ultimately released by the Minnesota Vikings. Already into our second week of free agency and quarterbacks like David Garrard are getting new deals, but the phone is very quiet for Donovan McNabb.
During the week leading up to the Super Bowl, McNabb was a guest on NFL Network. At that point in time, he speculated that there were at least three teams that he thought could benefit from his leadership abilities.
Well, that shows that McNabb's ego is still fine, but his projected self-worth and reality are nowhere close to each other.
Prediction: McNabb will not get an offer in 2012 and will announce his retirement from the NFL. Of course, there could always be a rash of quarterback injuries and...never mind.
When the San Diego Chargers opted to sign Jared Gaither to a long-term deal, that left Marcus McNeill without a home. The left tackle had a rough 2011 season due to injury, so his prospect for landing a strong offer for 2012 will depend on his health.
The three teams that seem to have demonstrated the most interest in McNeill were the Detroit Lions, the Atlanta Falcons and the Kansas City Chiefs, according to this tweet from Dave Birkett. The Lions visit was highlighted in this article from Detroit Lions.com.
Of those three, the Lions have already re-signed Jeff Backus, so that would seem to drop them out of the running. The Falcons have next to nothing left in salary-cap space. So, by process of elimination, we deduce it is Kansas City that will get him. The Chiefs have tons of money left and will place a higher value on his knowledge of AFC West foes.
Prediction: McNeill will play for the Kansas City Chiefs.
Dallas Cowboys corner Terence Newman became a free agent when the Cowboys released him last week.
Since then, the only team that has stepped up with a degree of interest is the Cincinnati Bengals, as per this tweet from Bryan Broaddus. Newman is 33 years old and his career is clearly in decline, so he would be well advised to take any team that shows interest in him seriously.
Due to lack of interest from the rest of the market, we can see Newman playing for the Bengals in 2012.
Prediction: Newman will join the Cincinnati Bengals.
We are curious to learn if Tracy Porter is one of the New Orleans Saints players who will be suspended for any games in 2012 due to the bounty-hunting scheme that the Saints employed while Porter played there. That doesn't seem to stop teams from talking to Porter, as he has received interest from a number of potential suitors ranging from Cincinnati, Tennessee, Oakland, St. Louis and Denver.
With this many teams potentially involved, the team that steps up with the most serious financial offer will command Porter's attention. Of the various teams in question, the two in the best position to make him financially happy are Cincinnati, Denver and Tennessee.
The Broncos will start to attract more free agents due to Peyton Manning, and Porter could be the first example of a free agent coming in who wasn't playing with Manning before in Indianapolis.
Prediction: Porter will want to jump on the Broncos ship, trying to escape the madness going on in New Orleans.
For the vast majority of his career, Peyton Manning is accustomed to having the ball hiked to him by Jeff Saturday. So, it would seem quite likely that Saturday would also be wearing the bright orange jersey in 2012, right?
Other teams have lined up to talk to the free-agent center, so it is still up in the air where we will see Saturday on Sundays in 2012.
Potential suitors for Saturday include Green Bay, Tennessee and Denver. While it is possible that either Tennessee or Green Bay will step up and make Saturday a better offer, the bond that Manning has with Saturday is one that is very difficult to break up.
Prediction: Jeff Saturday will team up with Peyton Manning again and play for the Denver Broncos in 2012.
According to Jason LaCanfora of NFL.com, several teams are trying to coax ex-Buffalo Bills free-agent defensive end Aaron Schobel to come out of retirement.
Schobel is obviously rusty since he hasn't played since 2009. When Schobel retired, he was ranked as the No. 2 all-time sacker in Buffalo Bills history.
Randy Moss has come back after being out of the league for over a year. Schobel has been out for two years. He is either very rusty or his batteries are very charged and he is ready to go—it depends if you are a glass-is-half-full or half-empty kind of person.
Coaches who Schobel played under include Perry Fewell (New York Giants), Dick Jauron (Cleveland Browns) and Mike Mularkey (Jacksonville Jaguars). To the extent that any of them would be interested, is yet to be known.
From a geographic standpoint, Schobel's best fit would be the Houston Texans.
Prediction: If Schobel decides to play, he will join the Houston Texans.
Shockey was thought to be a locker room cancer, and now with this new designation of revealing bounty issues about his own team, it would not surprise me if the league stays far away from Shockey in 2012, just like what MLB did to Jose Canseco.
For an interesting read on the reaction to Shockey being revealed as the Saints' snitch, here is a great article from Bleacher Report's own Collin McCollough that is worth a read.
Prediction: Shockey doesn't get a single offer from any NFL team, so will be out of the league in 2012.
Steve Smith, free-agent wide receiver of the Philadelphia Eagles, isn't a splashy free-agent name. He is your solid possession-type receiver who will keep the chains moving and round out a wide receiving corps.
Smith has received some interest from the St. Louis Rams and the New York Giants, but none to speak of from his last employer, the Philadelphia Eagles.
So who will Smith select: playing for the Super Bowl champs or for the upstart Rams?
Prediction: Steve Smith will play for the New York Giants in 2012.
The big-name, free-agent guards like Carl Nicks, Ben Grubbs, Steve Hutchinson, Mike Brisiel and Nate Livings, signed with new teams. Then there was a second wave of free-agent guards who signed smaller deals, such as Robert Gallery, Mike Gibson, Kory Lichtensteiger, Manuel Ramirez, Cooper Carlisle, Travelle Wharton and Paul McQuistan.
In addition to those recent deals, you also have a couple guards who saw extensive action in Buffalo last year in Kraig Urbik and Chad Rinehart. But both of them are restricted free agents, and the Bills have given them original draft pick (third round for both) tender offers, so they probably will remain in Buffalo.
So, with all this movement for guards going on around the NFL, where does that leave a player like Eric Steinbach, free agent of the Cleveland Browns?
One team that needs to identify a guard is the Baltimore Ravens, as they have not found anybody yet to replace Ben Grubbs. Steinbach is a guard the Ravens could consider. Based on the rest of Steinbach's competition out there in the market, which includes Bobbie Williams, Anthony Herrera, Kyle Kosier and Jake Scott, Steinbach stands a decent chance to land with the Ravens since he knows the AFC North so well.
Prediction: Steinbach signs with the Baltimore Ravens to replace Ben Grubbs.
Dave Tollefson has a Super Bowl ring to show for his 2011 season. In 2012, he might very well be playing for a new team.
As of now, the teams expressing the most interest are the Seattle Seahawks, Tampa Bay Bucs and the Green Bay Packers.
The Bucs and the Packers don't have very much salary-cap room to maneuver, so it appears that if the Seahawks want Tollefson, all they have to do is step up with a strong offer, and they can remove him from the free-agency market.
Prediction: Tollefson will play for the Seattle Seahawks in 2012.
Corner Marcus Trufant was just recently released by the Seattle Seahawks two weeks ago, making him a free agent. Since Trufant was an All-Pro player back in 2007, his name carries more clout. Is he still playing to that level? Not really, as he only played in four games in 2011 due to a back injury.
So far, Trufant has been visiting with the Denver Broncos, yet no offer has been extended. The interesting part about the Broncos situation involves Trufant's agent.
According to this update from Rotoworld.com, the agent is also employed by the Denver Broncos as the salary-cap official for the team. Is that a conflict of interest? If not, then he will have a very good idea of how much money Peyton Manning has left over for the Broncos to sign other free agents.
Luckily for Trufant, the Broncos were one of the 10 teams that had the most cash available to spend.
Prediction: Trufant will play for the Denver Broncos in 2012.
Free-agent quarterback Vince Young has never enjoyed a 3,000-yard passing season. In fact, he has only topped 2,200 yards one time in his six-year NFL career.
To date, there have been no rumors or mention of any team expressing interest in Young. The latest out of Philadelphia is that they have no interest in bringing Young back for 2012. Maybe they are afraid that he will make another fearless prediction or come up with a new label for the team.
Since there is nobody out there who seems to be showing interest, we will have to drum up some interest for Young on our own. There is nobody backing up Peyton Manning in Denver once Tim Tebow is traded away. How about in Oakland, where there is a big drop off in experience between Carson Palmer to Terrelle Pryor?
Prediction: The more I think about it, the more I like the Raiders' chances to sign Young to back up Carson Palmer.
As I mentioned on the cover slide, we weren't going to include the restricted free agents in the presentation because the reality is that NFL teams have shied away from signing RFAs to offer sheets. It is just not an accepted practice currently in the NFL.
The only possible exception to that rule of thumb in 2012 is Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Mike Wallace. The longer that teams can wait on signing Wallace to an offer sheet, the greater the chances that the Steelers will not be able to match the offer.
The Steelers have to give an answer within a week of receiving the offer sheet. If the offer is made approximately 10 days prior to the draft, that gives the Steelers very little time to re-work enough contracts to free up salary-cap space to fit Wallace in to the 2012 cap. If they have to let players go to make room, that further complicates their draft plans, not to mention most of the talent in free agency is then gone.
The two teams that I think have a reasonable chance to pull this off (meaning that they would be willing to part with their first-round draft pick and still have the salary-cap space to pull off an offer in excess of $10 million) would be the New England Patriots and the Denver Broncos. They both were in the bottom-10 list of having the most cash to spend, and both teams are drafting late in the first round due to winning their division.
Is Wallace worth that price for either team? I think the answer is yes, he is. But since the Patriots signed Brandon Lloyd, my educated guess is that the Broncos will step up and make Wallace a gift for Peyton Manning coming to Denver.
Prediction: Mike Wallace will play for the Denver Broncos.
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