2012 NFL Free Agents: The Best Players Left on the Market

Mike ShiekmanFeatured ColumnistMarch 21, 2012

PITTSBURGH, PA - DECEMBER 24:  Mike Wallace #17 of the Pittsburgh Steelers runs after the catch against the St. Louis Rams during the game on December 24, 2011 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  The Steelers won 27-0.  (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

Most of the big moves have been made in NFL Free Agency this past week, but there are still several big fish to be hooked in by NFL suitors.

Some of these names have observed the free agent market and now have a better idea of what team is best for them. Slow and steady wins the race.

Others have yet to see much publicity because more prominent free-agents were being recruited before they would get a call. Now it's their time to shine.

Here are the best players left on the market and predictions of where they'll end up.



Mike Wallace


With a first-round tender attached to him like a dog collar, there has been a lot of talk surrounding Mike Wallace, but no takers yet.

The newest flavor of the week is the Denver Broncos. Following their signing of Peyton Manning yesterday, they’re looking for potential targets to mesh with Manning. They own the 26th selection in the first round. Seems like an easy swap to acquire a deep threat who’s had 1,100 yards and averaged 18.8 yards per catch the past two seasons.

There is a caveat, though, before the Broncos, or any other interested teams (Patriots, 49ers, Rams) can make a deal. The contract will have to be front-loaded to keep the Steelers from resigning him, which may be a bigger burden than giving up a first-round pick.

The money here is on Wallace re-signing with Pittsburgh. The Steelers seemed to know what they were doing when they tendered Wallace. I wouldn't doubt their strategy considering their front-office pedigree.


He will sign with...

Pittsburgh Steelers



Tracy Porter


The former New Orleans Saint had his best season in 2009, posting five interceptions during the regular season. Come playoff time, he rose to the occasion, catching interceptions in the NFC Championship and Super Bowl wins.

Porter would provide quickness and big-play ability in the secondary, not to mention his knack for thriving in the big moments. The Broncos once again are in play for a top free-agent, hosting Porter today in Denver. 

The Saints would be willing to keep Porter, but it seems that another suitor will give him a contract they aren’t willing to match. The Denver secondary needs a boost after an inconsistent body of work in 2011, ranking in the bottom five of the league in interceptions and passes deflected.

How ironic would it be if Porter and Peyton Manning were teammates? Two players forever linked by Super Bowl lore against each other, wearing the same logo four years later. 

The intriguing storylines never end.


He will sign with...

Denver Broncos



Curtis Lofton 

Lofton is now the most sought-after linebacker on the free-agent market following Stephen Tulloch re-signing with the Lions today.

Lofton’s recruiting has made the race for his services up in the air. He visited Tampa Bay early on in the free-agency period, and it was reported initially he was going to sign there. A week later, Lofton is still entertaining offers and traveling the country.

His latest visit to New Orleans has really thrown his future in a loop. Lofton reportedly had dinner on Sunday with Saints General Manager Mickey Loomis, Head Coach Sean Payton, Defensive Coordinator Steve Spagnuolo and Linebackers Coach Joe Vitt.

Spagnuolo will be the only one working in week one. After the NFL handed out its punishments for Bounty-gate today, Lofton would not even be coached under Payton next year in New Orleans.

One can only guess where Lofton ends up next season. My money is on the Bucs to swoop in and have a better deal in place this time.


He will sign with...

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 


Michael Bush


The Oakland Raiders running back is in search of a new home. His recruiting tour just recently stopped in Cincinnati, where it’s reported they are mulling over contract options. Bush also took a visit to Seattle a of couple days ago following Matt Flynn’s signing there.

Both would be intriguing options for Bush, who has shown he can be a power option in the running game and has a few successful starts under his belt. He could stay out west by signing with the Seahawks and join with Marshawn Lynch to boast one of the bigger rushing tandems in the league. 

Matt Flynn recently mentioned the leadership in the Seahawks facilities were a focal point to his signing there. It may do wonders for Michael Bush as well.

On the other hand, Cincinnati looks like the best option for playing time with Cedric Benson no longer in a Bengal’s uniform. They also have a young passing foundation in Andy Dalton, A.J. Green and Jermaine Gresham. If Bush wants a full-time starting gig, say hello to Cincinnati, Michael.

For the right price, Bush could be a Bengal by the end of the day. He would be a huge acquisition for this franchise that looks to be on the rise.


He will sign with...

Cincinnati Bengals