Just over a week into NFL free agency, we have already seen a good chunk of big names signed, including Peyton Manning, Matt Flynn and Vincent Jackson. However, there are still plenty of hot players left on the market.
With a month left until the 2012 NFL draft, teams will be looking to shore up positions as they head into what is nothing more than an educated crap shoot. Free agents are the safer bet, as management is already well aware of what they bring to the field.
The four names below are some of the prize catches still out there waiting to be picked up. Here are some of the rumors swirling about where they may land.
Mike Wallace, WR
With Vincent Jackson picked up by Tampa Bay immediately after becoming a free agent, Wallace became the premier wideout left on the market. The Pro Bowler is highly coveted for his ability to extend the field and is often regarded as one of the fastest players in the league.
Wallace seems to think that his abilities exceed the very best in the league. The San Francisco 49ers were one of the first to inquire about him, but they laughed off the rumored eight-year, $120 million contract he was asking for.
That kind of money puts him up there with Larry Fitzgerald and Calvin Johnson. However, his performance does not.
This has not necessarily stopped the Niners' rumored interest. Being a restricted free agent, San Francisco would have to forfeit its first-round pick (no. 30 overall) to sign Wallace.
However, that is not the worst of circumstances considering the lack of depth in the draft overall. Getting a good wideout for Alex Smith to throw to could be more valuable.
Ultimately, Clark Judge of CBSsports.com reasonably argues that time is on the side of the Steelers, who are the likely candidates to re-sign their player. Former receiving partner Hines Ward recently weighed in on what Wallace should do. Via CBSSports.com:
I told Mike you may get a chance to go other places. But you don't get too many chances to play in a special place like Pittsburgh. I told Mike to look at it from that perspective. I hope he stays.
All signs point to him being back in Pittsburgh next season.
Michael Bush, RB
Bush is coming off of a season in which he saw himself become the No. 1 back when Darren McFadden went down with injuries, and he served the role well. He has always been a reliable backup in Oakland, regularly averaging 158 carries a season and 4.2 yards per attempt.
However, with cap space at a premium in Oakland, the Raiders may not be able to re-sign the legitimate No. 1 back.
Bush seems to be mulling his options, as he has been linked to everyone from Chicago to Cleveland. However, Cleveland looks unlikely now, as they recently signed New England Patriots tailback BenJarvus Green-Ellis.
The Seahawks present another landing spot for the former Louisville player. ESPN reported that Bush met with the staff in Seattle earlier this week. He would serve as a complement to fan favorite Marshawn Lynch, which may be the enticing part about signing him for the Seahawks.
It seems to be much tougher for Bush to find a spot than one would think. He has all of the ability to be an every-down back, but he seems to continue to be left out in the cold in preference of other players.
It seems like a stay in Oakland could be probable. Unfortunately for Bush, it will probably come at a discounted price.
Lardarius Webb, CB
Webb has spent his three-year career with one of the best and most consistent defenses in the league. In Baltimore, he has worked his way to being one of the top free-agent cornerbacks on the market and would likely be the big offseason signing for a majority of teams.
The Patriots are rumored to be the most likely team, according to Ravens Insider John Eisenberg of Comcast SportsNet Baltimore. It was no secret that New England is in desperate need of secondary help, and Webb would be an excellent addition there.
However, the Ravens would feel nervous about letting their biggest free agent go to a conference rival. They have smartly already placed a first-round tender on him, but Bill Belichick has been hoarding picks for years and may see this as the right time to use them.
According to Jeff Seidel of CSNWashington.com, “Webb should have a decent shot at staying” in Baltimore, but it looks like the Pats may go all in to get their man. Something the Ravens could not financially counter.
Tracy Porter, CB
Porter may be looking to get out of New Orleans, as the hammer fell hard on the team yesterday. The immense ruling handed down by the league with regard to the bounty scandal could see many free agents looking for work elsewhere. Porter is just one of the biggest names available.
Prior to the ruling, Porter had already expressed his desire to look at all of the options. He told nola.com:
Any player would be excited to see what other teams value you as. Because, you know, you're playing for one team and you've got teams around the league trying to break you down and find your weaknesses. It's exciting to see what they value me as and see what my strengths are. Outside of that, you're going to pick the place that will allow you to take care of your family as well as being in a situation to succeed. So I just have to wait and see what the Saints do as well as what the other teams do that are interested.
It is hard to put a finger on exactly where he will go. It will take more time to see, as things have certainly changed dramatically in New Orleans.
But this is a good time to test the Manning effect. If Porter heads outside of the AFC West or to Denver itself, it appears that Manning has already made an impact in the division. However, if Porter were to find himself in Oakland, then perhaps Manning has a little more work to do to prove himself in his new home.
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