Predicting Landing Spots for Top 15 NFL Free Agents Left on the Market
Even though NFL training camps begin this week, there will still be plenty of activity from teams and the top free agents on the market. While players like Braylon Edwards, Cedric Benson and E.J. Henderson may not be the top players at their respective positions, they still have plenty to offer to teams.
The only question that remains is which team will finally make an offer to the top free agents still available. That's what we'll predict today as we look at the most likely landing spots for the top 15 players still available.
Donovan McNabb, Quarterback
Predicted Landing Spot: Philadelphia Eagles
I know that this sounds crazy on the surface, but the Eagles bringing back Donovan McNabb actually makes complete sense.
For starters, the Eagles simply can't trust Michael Vick to play every snap of a 16-game season. The likelihood of Vick staying healthy is small, and if Philadelphia wants a chance in the NFC East, it'll need a more capable replacement than Mike Kafka, Nick Foles or Trent Edwards.
That is where McNabb makes perfect sense. He is already familiar with the offense that Andy Reid and Marty Mornhinweg run. In fact, he excelled in that offense for four years before being traded to the Washington Redskins before the 2010 season.
While he may be just a shell of his old self, he'd at least be a competent replacement until Vick could get back from whatever injury was plaguing him. This probably wouldn't be a popular move in Philadelphia, but with Reid's job on the line, it is a move that needs to be done.
Cedric Benson, Running Back
Predicted Landing Spot: Oakland Raiders
While the Seattle Seahawks will certainly be looking at Cedric Benson after Marshawn Lynch's recent arrest, the most likely landing spot for Benson is still Oakland.
The Seahawks have plenty of young and talented running backs to fill in for Lynch should he miss some games. The Raiders, however, don't have that type of talent behind Darren McFadden if he were to get injured.
The Raiders struggled last year after McFadden went down with an injury, and with a more competitive division this year, they simply can't afford not to have depth behind McFadden. Marcel Reece, Mike Goodson and Taiwan Jones are all good players, but none of them are quite as talented as Benson.
If the Raiders want a chance to win the AFC West, they'll need a player like Benson on their roster should McFadden's injury problems continue in 2012.
Ryan Grant, Running Back
Predicted Landing Spot: New York Jets
Ryan Grant started his career with the New York Giants, but the New York team that he'll likely land with this year is the Jets.
With the retirement of LaDainian Tomlinson, the Jets are extremely thin at running back. Shonn Greene is expected to have a breakout year (like he is every year), but he is still unproven as an every-down back in the league. Behind Greene on the depth chart are Joe McKnight, Bilal Powell and a load of other unimpressive backs.
While Grant is not a franchise running back at this point in his career, he is still capable of coming in and providing solid production for a team. In split time with the Green Bay Packers last year, Grant averaged over four yards per carry and was also capable as a receiver out of the backfield.
The one thing that the Jets really need heading into the 2012 season is some stability, and Grant can provide that at his position.
Plaxico Burress, Wide Receiver
Predicted Landing Spot: Buffalo Bills
The Bills were able to lock in their No. 1 wide receiver Stevie Johnson to a five-year deal early in the offseason, but they're still relatively thin at that position.
They certainly have plenty of young talent in Donald Jones, David Nelson and T.J. Graham, but none of those players are elite red-zone threats like Plaxico Burress. In his first year back from a two-year hiatus from the NFL, Burress was able to record 45 receptions, 612 yards and eight touchdowns.
Obviously there are some character concerns revolving around Burress, but Buffalo is about as safe a place as you could want for a potentially troubled player. As long as Burress can stay focused, he still has the ability to be a dangerous player in this league.
With a weapon like Burress added to their receiving corps, the Bills would have a potent offense to stick with the New England Patriots and New York Jets in the AFC East.
Braylon Edwards, Wide Receiver
Predicted Landing Spot: Tennessee Titans
With Kenny Britt's arrest last week, this time for a DUI, the Titans should certainly expect him to miss a chunk of time due to a suspension from the league.
That potential loss for the Titans will leave the team with Nate Washington, Kendall Wright and Damian Williams fighting for the No. 1 position on the team. While that trio is talented, none of them is ready to be the No. 1 receiver right now.
Braylon Edwards, on the other hand, is certainly still capable of being the top receiver for a team. He is the most talented free agent left on the market, and at only 29 years old, he still has plenty in the tank to offer.
The biggest issue surrounding Edwards has been getting him to play up to his abilities. One issue has been the lack of top quarterback play around him, but with either Matt Hasselbeck or Jake Locker starting in Tennessee, that shouldn't be an issue.
If Britt does get handed a long suspension from Roger Goodell, the Titans absolutely need to go after Edwards.
Visanthe Shiancoe, Tight End
Predicted Landing Spot: Oakland Raiders
Just three years ago it appeared as if Visanthe Shiancoe was going to become the next elite tight end in the league. He had 56 receptions, 566 yards and 11 touchdowns in 2009, but his production has dropped severely over the past two seasons.
However, Shiancoe is only 32 years old and still has plenty to provide for a team. The team that makes the most sense to pursue Shiancoe is the Raiders. They were hoping that Kevin Boss was a capable replacement for Zach Miller, but that experiment only lasted one year.
Now Oakland is stuck with Brandon Myers and David Ausberry as its top two tight ends. If the Raiders were to sign Shiancoe, he could step in from day one and be the No. 1 tight end on the roster.
While he may not be the weapon he was back in 2009, he can still be a valuable asset to a team looking to make a legitimate run at the playoffs this year like the Raiders.
Jeremy Shockey, Tight End
Predicted Landing Spot: Carolina Panthers
The Panthers brought Jeremy Shockey in before the 2011 season to be another target for rookie quarterback Cam Newton. However, Shockey struggled to provide consistency for the Panthers and wasn't re-signed following the season.
While the Panthers weren't ready to give Shockey a contract earlier in the year, they may be ready to do so now. First, Carolina would be able to bring him in for much less than it would have a few months ago.
Second, the Panthers could really use the depth at tight end. Other than Greg Olsen, Carolina is rather thin with Gary Barnidge and Ben Hartsock behind him on the roster. While Shockey clearly isn't going to be a top weapon in the league, he can still provide solid production as a No. 2 tight end on most rosters.
With the Panthers looking to make some noise in the NFC South, they could use all the firepower they can get. Shockey would definitely be able to provide that for them.
Marcus McNeill, Offensive Tackle
Predicted Landing Spot: St. Louis Rams
The biggest issue surrounding Marcus McNeill is his health. He missed the final seven games of last season with a neck injury, and that injury has scared away teams from signing this talented offensive tackle.
However, when McNeill is healthy, he has the ability to be a dependable starter in the league, as evidenced by him being voted to two Pro Bowls earlier in his career. If he is healthy, he could step in from day one and start at either left or right tackle for a team.
While there are plenty of teams that could use this type of talent on their offensive line, the team that needs him the most is the Rams. Neither Jason Smith nor Rodger Saffold instills much confidence, and protecting Sam Bradford needs to be of the utmost importance for this team.
As long as McNeill is back to full strength, there is no reason why St. Louis shouldn't sign him before the start of the preseason.
Jake Scott, Offensive Guard
Predicted Landing Spot: Miami Dolphins
According to reports from The Tennessean (via the South Florida Sun-Sentinel), the Dolphins have already brought in Jake Scott twice during the offseason. While neither of those visits resulted in a contract for Scott, there is clearly some major interest from Miami for the offensive guard's services.
With Artis Hicks and John Jerry currently battling to start at right guard, the Dolphins could clearly use an upgrade before the start of the 2012 season. At 31 years old, there is still plenty of gas left in Scott's tank should Miami decide to sign him.
Scott started every single game during his four years with the Tennessee Titans and was a key reason why Chris Johnson rushed for over 2,000 yards during the 2009 season. If the Dolphins want Reggie Bush to become the focal point of their offense, a run-oriented guard like Scott could become a necessity.
Matt Roth, Defensive End
Predicted Landing Spot: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Few teams have seen as many injuries to their defense as the Buccaneers have this offseason. It all started when Da'Quan Bowers suffered a possible season-ending injury to his Achilles tendon.
Things only got worse for the defensive line in Tampa Bay when Amobi Okoye underwent knee surgery early in June. While the surgery isn't expected to keep Okoye out of training camp, this type of surgery could certainly keep Okoye from making as big of an impact as expected at the start of the season.
That's where Matt Roth comes in. Despite suffering from injuries throughout his NFL career, Roth has proven to be a rather talented player when on the field. He is still capable of being an every-down defensive lineman in this league.
If the Buccaneers have any doubt that Bowers will return this season, the smartest move they could make would be to bring in Roth immediately.
Andre Carter, Defensive End
Predicted Landing Spot: New England Patriots
Andre Carter is another talented free agent who has yet to be signed because of injury concerns. His 2011 season was cut short by a quad injury, and at 33 years old there are certainly questions surrounding whether he'll still be the player he was early last year.
The team most likely to sign Carter, the Patriots, also seems to be the place where Carter hopes to play in 2012. According to a report from Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports, Carter had this to say about potentially returning to New England:
It would be great, it would be great. But as you know it's a business as well. I'm just training my mind and body to prepare for another season, and hopefully a team will be interested in me and take a chance and I can go out and perform the best way I can. If it's New England, that would be awesome.
As long as Carter can prove that he is actually at 100 percent, the only reason that the Patriots haven't brought him back is most likely money. Carter wants a long-term contract, and at this point in his career the Patriots simply aren't willing to commit to that.
However, as time continues to pass, both sides should come to an agreement to get Carter back to New England.
E.J. Henderson, Inside Linebacker
Predicted Landing Spot: Atlanta Falcons
The Falcons lost free agent Curtis Lofton to the New Orleans Saints this offseason and simply don't have anyone to replace him currently on their roster. Both Lofa Tatupu and Akeem Dent are more role players than key contributors.
One free agent who is capable of replacing Lofton's production is E.J. Henderson. In fact, Henderson was voted to the Pro Bowl in 2010.
Henderson's ability to play every down would be huge for the Falcons, who play in the pass-happy NFC South. With Jimmy Graham, Greg Olsen and Dallas Clark as the tight ends in their division, the Falcons could certainly use a middle linebacker capable of playing the pass like Henderson.
The fact that Henderson is still available is one of the biggest shockers of the 2012 offseason, but once training camps get in full swing, look for a team like Atlanta to bring him in and sign him to a contract.
Ernie Sims, Outside Linebacker
Predicted Landing Spot: Arizona Cardinals
The Cardinals lost Joey Porter to retirement this offseason, meaning that O'Brien Schofield is set to take over at left outside linebacker for the team. While Schofield is a talented player, he is more of a pass-rushing specialist right now.
What Arizona needs is an outside linebacker capable of playing the first two downs because of his all-around talent. That player is Ernie Sims, who has struggled to live up to the high expectations of being drafted with the ninth pick of the 2006 NFL draft.
However, just because Sims hasn't played like a top-10 pick over the course of his career doesn't mean he hasn't been a solid football player. He recorded 61 tackles last year for the Indianapolis Colts despite only playing in 13 games, and he started four of those games.
The biggest issue with Sims has been his up-and-down play, but when motivated, he is capable of playing at an extremely high level. Arizona needs a player like Sims who can consistently do the things that Schofield can't do this early in his career.
Bryant McFadden, Cornerback
Predicted Landing Spot: Detroit Lions
The biggest issue for the Lions in recent seasons has been their secondary. They've lacked a consistent producer at cornerback, which isn't good when going up against quarterbacks like Jay Cutler and Aaron Rodgers.
While the Lions didn't expect to have one of the better secondaries in the NFL this year, they certainly thought they'd be better than last year. However, with starting cornerback Aaron Berry getting arrested for the second time this month, that improvement seems to be in jeopardy.
One way that the Lions could improve is to bring in a veteran free agent like Bryant McFadden. While McFadden is no Darrelle Revis or Nnamdi Asomugha, he is still a talented cornerback who has plenty of experience in big games.
McFadden certainly isn't the long-term answer for Detroit's woes in the secondary, but he could definitely provide solid production during the 2012 season.
Jim Leonhard, Safety
Predicted Landing Spot: Green Bay Packers
Jim Leonhard may not be as talented as Ed Reed or Troy Polamalu, but you could certainly argue that he was just as important to the success of his team last year as either Reed or Polamalu. After Leonhard went down with a knee injury in Week 13 last year, the New York Jets lost their final three games to go 8-8 and miss the playoffs.
The Jets clearly didn't think Leonhard was important to the future of their team and decided to not re-sign him following the 2011 season. While the fact that Leonhard has ended the past two seasons on injured reserve is certainly an issue, he still has plenty of leadership to bring to a team.
One team in need of leadership at safety is the Packers. Their secondary was one of the worst units in the NFL last season after Nick Collins was lost for the year because of a neck injury. Now that Collins won't be back with the team, the Packers have to wonder if the young safeties on their roster will be capable of stepping up for a whole season.
Leonhard would likely be an inexpensive option for the Packers to add some depth and experience to the weakest position on their roster. If they want to make another run at the Super Bowl, they could definitely use a player like Leonhard.
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