Will Wes Welker be wearing a Patriots Jersey in 2013?
The 2012 NFL regular season is far from over, but do not think for one minute that NFL general managers and personnel directors are not looking at potential free agents for 2013.
Most teams will try and lock up their own players before mid-February, because once the NFL Combine starts, free agents can start talking with all the teams. The NFL changed the rule this season to give teams and agents a window to discuss deals before free agency hits in the new league year.
Here are moves that would make sense for all 32 teams during free agency. Every team will lose players. The key is to replace them with better ones for a team's particular system, or for the right price.
The Bills are a team with solid talent on both sides of the football, but with the exception of running back C.J. Spiller and wide receiver Stevie Johnson, the Bills do not have another dynamic offensive threat. The offensive line is a solid group, and Buffalo just re-signed offensive guard Kraig Urbik.
The Bills need to sign another offensive weapon. Buffalo may not be in play for the likes of receiver Dwayne Bowe, but current Rams receiver Danny Amendola would be a quality signing at a good value.
Amendola could be the Wes Welker of the Buffalo offense. The sure-handed Amendola would give quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick a boost in confidence. The two played for a short time together in St. Louis. Amendola would open up the outside for Johnson, bringing a dynamic to the Bills offense that they do not have.
The Dolphins could be looking to fill gaps on both sides of the football during free agency due to some losses of their own. Offensive tackle Jake Long, running back Reggie Bush and wide receiver Brian Hartline are a few of Miami's free agents on offense. Defensive tackle Randy Starks and cornerback Sean Smith are two solid players on the defensive side of the football that are free to leave.
Head coach Joe Philbin, working in unison with general manager Jeff Ireland, will look to put his own stamp on this Dolphin team. The Dolphins need to sign a veteran presence on offense that can take over a game and help quarterback Ryan Tannehill in his maturation process.
The Dolphins can get wide receiver Greg Jennings at a discounted price due to his relationship with Philbin. Jennings has had too many injuries the past two seasons to command top dollar. For Jennings, the move makes sense due to the fact he is no longer the No. 1 receiver threat in Green Bay. Both sides would win with this signing.
On a team that is loaded on both sides of the football, the re-signing of offensive tackle Sebastian Vollmer is a must. Vollmer is one of the best tackles in the NFL when healthy, as he gives the offensive line stability.
If the Patriots lose receiver Wes Welker, a replacement will need to be found, but a healthy Rob Gronkowski would soften the blow. The most glaring need for an upgrade is at cornerback. Starter Aqib Talib is on loan for the season and could be re-signed for cheap. But if the former Kansas Jayhawk leaves, look for the Patriots to make a play for Steelers cornerback Keenan Lewis.
Lewis is a young, solid cornerback who will instantly upgrade the Patriots' secondary without breaking the bank. The Patriots rarely overspend in free agency and could find good value in Lewis.
In recent years, free agency and the Jets have not mixed well. The Jets have overpaid far too many players, and do not have the wins to show for the money spent. The Jets need to improve in many areas, namely quarterback. With very few options available at that position, look for the Jets to try and make a splash at another offensive position.
The Jets will need to make some other moves to free up the cap space, but a great addition to the offense would be wide receiver Dwayne Bowe. By matching Bowe up with Santonio Holmes, the Jets would have a playmaker on both sides of the offensive formation.
Whoever the quarterback is for the Jets in 2013 will benefit greatly from being able to throw the football to those two star receivers.
The Ravens are tight against the salary cap, but any team can make moves to free up enough money to get the players they need. The Ravens have quite a few of their own free agents whose departure could free-up space: safety Ed Reed, cornerback Cary Williams, outside linebacker Paul Kruger and—the big-name quarterback on the market—Joe Flacco.
Assuming the Ravens use the franchise tag on Flacco, the best move for the Ravens to make in free agency is to get a player like Kansas City Chiefs offensive tackle Branden Albert. By signing Albert, the Ravens would strengthen their entire offensive line and improve the entire offense.
Albert at left tackle would allow Michael Oher to return to right tackle. Kelechi Osemele, who has been impressive as a rookie, could be plugged in at left guard. One of the best right guards in the game, Marshall Yanda, would continue to hold down that position.
The Bengals have a very good defense, but Cincinnati's offense has been hit-or-miss all season long. Wide receiver A.J. Green is one of the best in the game, but the Bengals are missing another dynamic playmaker on the offensive side of the football.
A great signing for the Bengals would be running back Reggie Bush. BenJarvus Green-Ellis is a solid running back, but he is better between the tackles. Bush would give quarterback Andy Dalton another offensive option out of the backfield.
Bush could be used in the screen game, and would be a perfect complement to the offense opposite Green-Ellis. Bush’s price tag should be affordable enough to make this marriage work.
A quick look at the Browns depth chart at www.ourlads.com shows that Cleveland has some talent on both sides of the football. The receiving corps is young and solid. Trent Richardson will be the bell cow out of the backfield for years to come. The offensive line is very good, and even quarterback Brandon Weeden deserves more time on the field.
The defensive front is solid. Where the Browns need to add some players is at the linebacker position. D’Qwell Jackson is a Pro Bowl talent, but too many street free agents have been playing too much.
The Browns can gain strength and weaken a division opponent by signing linebacker Rey Maualuga from the Bengals. The former USC Trojan has over 100 tackles already on the season and would bring extra toughness to the Browns defense.
The Steelers are an old team, especially on defense, and need some new blood to return to dominance. The Steelers will have quite a few holes to fill on both sides of the football in 2013.
Outside linebackers James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley have both missed time with injuries. Harrison has been a warrior for the Steelers for many years, but the time has come for the team to get younger.
In free agency, Pittsburgh can get younger and weaken a division rival at the same time. Ravens outside linebacker Paul Kruger is having a career year and would be a perfect fit opposite Woodley in the Steelers' 3-4 defensive package. And, if the Steelers kept Harrison as a backup, they would then have three outstanding pass rushers off the edge.
The Texans are one of the best teams in the AFC and do not look to have many holes. The offense and defense have good players that will be locked up at key positions for years to come.
The one area the Texans could address is the inside linebacker spot. Bradie James does not have much left in the tank, and the depth at the position is not great.
Oakland Raiders linebacker Philip Wheeler has had a career year in 2012 and will be looking for a pay raise in 2013. Wheeler has played in the AFC South before (with the Indianapolis Colts) and would be a fantastic addition to a defense that already has plenty of playmakers.
The Colts are one of the surprise teams of 2012, and yet Indianapolis will be active in free agency in 2013. An offensive line that had major question marks coming into the season has held up very well, and quarterback Andrew Luck seems to find a way to win close games.
The defense has been hit with injures but has held its own for most of the season. The Colts still have holes to fill along the defensive line, but a place to look for an upgrade will be the secondary.
Ravens cornerback Cary Williams is familiar with head coach Chuck Pagano’s system and would matchup very well opposite Vontae Davis in the Colts secondary. This would give the Colts two cornerbacks over 5’11” to handle bigger receivers in the division.
The Jaguars will have a new general manager making the free agent moves in 2013, and that individual will have a lot of holes to fill. The receiving corps looks solid for the future, especially with a healthy Maurice Jones-Drew, but the offense needs a quarterback.
Said quarterback will have to come through the NFL Draft. In free agency, the emphasis must jump to the other side of the football.
Cornerback Rashean Mathis is a free agent and will be allowed to walk. The Jaguars should counter that move by signing CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, who has been the Eagles' best secondary player this season. The big CB will fit well in Jacksonville.
Tennessee's offensive line, which used to be a strength for the Titans, is now the team's weakness. With two Hall of Famers as coaches, one would think that the Titans would have a dominant offensive line. Injures have played a part, but a lack of talent is to blame as well.
That all can change with one signing. Bills offensive guard Andy Levitre is the best interior lineman available and will command a large contract on the open market.
Levitre would automatically make the Titans offensive line tougher and more athletic. Offensive line coach Bruce Matthews would help shape Levitre into an All-Pro guard who could help RB Chris Johnson get back to the second level on more of his runs.
The best signing the Broncos can make this offseason would be to get tackle Ryan Clady under contract. Clady can make a case that he is the best OT in the NFL, and surely quarterback Peyton Manning will be campaigning for the Clady signing to get done.
Manning has proven he can make players around him better, and he looks to have added at least three more years to his career in Denver. Giving Manning another solid weapon would make the offense even more dominant.
A perfect fit for the Broncos would be running back Steven Jackson. Jackson wants to play on a winning team, and he still has enough juice left to give the Broncos offense another playmaker. Jackson is solid as a pass blocker and would force defenses to think twice about playing too much nickel defense.
As with any team going through change, the Chiefs' free-agent signings will be determined by whomever the organization names as general manager and head coach. Clearly, a change at quarterback needs to be addressed—and tickets need to be sold.
What better way to kill two birds with one stone than by signing Saints backup quarterback Chase Daniels to be the starter? Daniels has gained valuable experience learning from Drew Brees; now is his chance for him to prove himself.
Daniels is one of the best quarterbacks to ever play at the University of Missouri and would bring instant name recognition to the city. After Kansas City's failed quarterback moves in recent seasons, Daniels would at least give the Chiefs faithful something to cheer for.
General manager Reggie McKenzie has his work cut out for him this offseason. The Raiders lack talent in quite a few areas. If McKenzie follows the lead of former boss Ted Thompson, the Raiders GM will not make many moves in free agency.
But the Raiders have too many holes to stand pat, so McKenzie will have to hit on the right free agents. A good start would be to upgrade the safety position by signing Jairus Byrd. The current Bill is making a case that he can be the best safety in football and is the type of playmaker the Raiders can build around.
Head coach Dennis Allen is a defensive coach who would allow Byrd to direct traffic and make plays for the Raiders defense. Byrd is a Pro Bowl-type player that still has his best years ahead of him.
The Chargers are another team that will be under new management in 2013, which will strongly dictate the team's action during free agency.
San Diego needs help in a lot of areas, but the offensive line will need to be addressed immediately in order to keep quarterback Philip Rivers healthy. Signing offensive tackle Jake Long would be a great start.
The former Pro Bowl tackle had his struggles in 2012 but still is a better option than anyone currently on the Chargers roster. Long will get a healthy contract, and a change of scenery might do the Michigan man some good.
Lots of things are said about Dallas owner Jerry Jones, but one thing that cannot be said is that he is cheap. The Cowboys have almost the entire roster under contact for 2013. A solid free agent signing might be the key piece in a potential Super Bowl run.
Signing current Bengals right tackle Andre Smith would be the type of move that Jones typically likes to make. Smith had a rough start to his career, but www.profootballfocus.com current ranks him as the best RT in the NFL.
Smith would give the Cowboys two young tackles for years to come, while also adding years onto quarterback Tony Romo’s career.
The Giants may look to add some secondary help in the offseason, but a position that needs to be addressed first is middle linebacker. Chase Blackburn is a tough, physical player but his limitations are a liability to the Giants defense.
Michael Boley is a solid linebacker, and by adding another thumper who can also blitz well would allow the defensive ends more chances to get to the quarterback. General manager Jerry Reese will not break the bank signing a free agent, but he would find good value in linebacker Dannell Ellerbe.
Ellerbe has 4.5 sacks this season for the Ravens. If Ellerbe can stay healthy for a full season, that number could double.
The Eagles will have a new head coach in 2013, and the onus will be on general manager Howie Roseman to give that coach new toys to play with on both sides of the football.
This season, the offensive line was destroyed by injury. If all of the injured linemen can come back healthy, the Eagles should be okay. But taking into account that three starters will finish the season on injured reserve, the offensive line needs to be addressed.
Signing Jermon Bushrod would answer the Eagles' offensive line woes. Bushrod can play anywhere on the OL. The former Towson player would love to get back to the East Coast, and signing Bushrod would give the Eagles a formidable unit for the future.
The Redskins will have a quarterback in place for a long time. Alfred Morris has shown he can handle an NFL workload out of the backfield. The receiving corps, when healthy, is as explosive as any in the league.
The Redskins need a dynamic tight end to compliment the injured Fred Davis, and Dustin Keller would be just the right guy. Keller has shown he can be a vertical threat, and he would add another dimension to the Redskins offense.
Keller would benefit from having Robert Griffin III passing him the football, and the TE would make RG3's job a bit easier, too.
Due to the fact that middle linebacker Brian Urlacher may not be back next season, the Bears will need to look at filling his void in free agency. A good young player—who is already in the division—is Erin Henderson of the Vikings. Henderson is a five-year pro who would fit in well for the Bears.
Henderson would not be expensive and understands how to play in the NFC North. Henderson is a good-sized linebacker who would complement Lance Briggs nicely.
Henderson can be an every-down player in the right system and would be a solid addition to the Bears defense.
The Lions' first move this offseason will be to lock up defensive end Cliff Avril. Once that move is out of the way, the Lions will need to focus on getting some cornerback help.
Detroit has shown that they are willing to sign players with issues, so they might take a chance on cornerback Aqib Talib. When Talib is on the field, the former Kansas Jayhawk is a solid NFL starter.
Chris Houston has played solidly for the Lions this season. By adding Talib, Bill Bentley would be allowed to play the slot, and the Lions secondary would become a strength.
General manager Ted Thompson is not one to make a big splash in free agency. Thompson likes to build his teams through the NFL Draft.
However, one spot that desperately needs to be addressed is the kicker position. Mason Crosby has had countless struggles in 2012, and a new city may be in the cards for him.
Lawrence Tynes will be available and has shown the ability to kick in poor weather. Tynes has made big kicks in Green Bay before and would be a solid addition to a great offense in 2013.
As soon as wide receiver Percy Harvin got injured, the passing game in Minnesota became almost non-existent. While running back Adrian Peterson is the Vikings offense, the man needs some help.
The Vikings tried to get quarterback Christian Ponder some help last offseason by signing receiver Jerome Simpson, but that move did not pan out.
The Vikings need to make a splash by signing wide receiver Mike Wallace. The current Steeler would give Ponder a deep threat and open up the underneath routes for Harvin. With safeties having to worry about the deep pass, Peterson would have more room to run than he already does.
The Falcons do not have many holes. General manager Thomas Dimitroff has done a masterful job building Atlanta's roster.
The best free agent move the Falcons can make would be to get cornerback Brent Grimes back under contract. Before getting hurt early in the year, Grimes was playing on the franchise tag.
Grimes is one of the best young cornerbacks in the NFL. When Grimes is healthy, the Falcons have a top-three secondary in the NFL.
Another move Dimitroff may look to pull off would be to sign a better backup quarterback than Luke McCown in the offseason. A player like Matt Moore makes sense. Moore has started a lot of games and would give the Falcons solid insurance should Ryan ever get hurt.
The Panthers expected to compete for the NFC South crown in 2012. Instead, the general manager was fired, and Carolina may be looking for a new head coach.
The offensive line needs to be upgraded. A perfect fit would be William Beatty of the New York Giants. Beatty has shown the versatility to play both tackle positions.
With Beatty locking down the right side of the Panthers offensive line and Jordan Gross at left tackle, quarterback Cam Newton would have plenty of time to scan the field before delivering the football.
The Saints are loaded on the offensive side of the football. The defense needs to be addressed through the 2013 NFL Draft and free agency.
A solid free agent signing for the Saints that might not be glamorous—but would pay dividends—would be defensive tackle Randy Starks. Currently with the Dolphins, the nine-year veteran is ranked the ninth-best defensive tackle by www.profootballfocus.com for the 2012 season.
Starks is a pro’s pro who would fit in very well in the Saints locker room. Starks can work with the younger defensive linemen on the Saints to help improve their game. Starks is looking to win a Super Bowl and would welcome the chance to play in New Orleans.
Tight end Dallas Clark has been solid for the Buccaneers this season, but the former Colt is more like a stop-gap player at this point in his career.
Quarterback Josh Freeman has had an up-and-down season in 2012 and needs to play more consistently in 2013. Having an explosive TE would allow Freeman to use other options in the offense instead of relying on wide receiver Vincent Jackson so much.
Offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan brought the Giants' offense to Tampa. Tight end Martellus Bennett got his first exposure to that system this season and has excelled. By adding Bennett to an offense he already understands, he could walk in on day one as the starter and give Freeman a new weapon to work with.
The Cardinals have issues all across the board and will be very active in free agency. One player that would be a huge get for the Cardinals would be outside linebacker Anthony Spencer. The current Cowboy is the No.1 ranked 3-4 outside linebacker by www.profootballfocus.com.
Spencer would get to play for Coach Ray Horton, who may turn out to be the head coach next season. Horton is an aggressive play-caller who would let Spencer use his natural talents and rush the passer.
Spencer is an under-appreciated player in Dallas, where he would always be in the shadow of DeMarcus Ware. By heading to the desert, Spencer could blaze his own trail.
The Rams are one of the youngest teams in the NFL and have two very good defensive ends in Chris Long and Robert Quinn. Rookie defensive tackle Michael Brockers is starting to play like a first-rounder.
While the Rams could use some help on the offensive line, head coach Jeff Fisher is a defensive-minded coach. He will not be able to pass up defensive tackle Henry Melton. The current Bears defensive lineman would make a perfect complement to Brockers and would give the Rams a dominant front four.
Melton is a very capable pass rusher but is also stout enough to hold up versus the run. Signing Melton would instantly improve the Rams as a team.
The 49ers do not have many weaknesses or needs. The only major move the 49ers need to make in the offseason is to re-sign safety Dashon Goldson.
Goldson is a playmaker who runs the secondary for the 49ers. After playing this season on a franchise tag, Goldson will be looking for a long-term deal with more security. The former Washington Husky is worth the money.
General manager John Schneider is not afraid to buck traditions and go against the grain. The drafting of quarterback Russell Wilson has proven that, and so far Schneider looks right about that pick.
Schneider should make another bold move during free agency by signing wide receiver Wes Welker. The move would work on many levels. The Seahawks have deep threats in Sidney Rice and Golden Tate. Welker would fill the underneath voids and give Wilson an outlet when the young quarterback has to escape the pocket.
The Seahawks could pay Welker the money he will be looking for, and Welker would instantly make Wilson and the entire Seattle offense better.