2013 NFL Free Agents: Stars That Should Remain with Current Team

Justin Onslow@@JustinOnslowNFLContributor IIJanuary 22, 2013

JACKSONVILLE, FL - DECEMBER 23:  Wes Welker #83 of the New England Patriots dives after a catch during a game against the Jacksonville Jaguars at EverBank Field on December 23, 2012 in Jacksonville, Florida.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

With a hard salary cap in place as part of the NFL’s collective bargaining agreement, teams must be conscientious of their spending, especially when free agency rolls around.

The NFL free-agent period is fast approaching, and there are some big names on the block this year. While many of them will find new homes elsewhere in the league, there are several stars who should consider making a push to stay with their respective teams.

The free-agent market can be very difficult for players in search of big money or a spot on a championship roster, and the following players should consider staying put.

Greg Jennings

The weather in Miami may be a little nicer this time of year, but Green Bay offers what many teams cannot.

The Packers are perennial playoff contenders with arguably the best quarterback in the league. If Jennings wants a shot at another Super Bowl ring, he won’t find a better fit than with his current team.

Green Bay’s receiving corps is pretty crowded, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing for Jennings. Having other dangerous receiving threats on the roster means less attention paid to Jennings, and probably more touchdowns.

Jennings may find a bigger contract elsewhere, but the benefits of staying in Green Bay far outweigh the financial aspects. If he’s after another ring, he stands the best chance of getting it in Green Bay.

Ryan Clady

There’s very little chance Denver lets Clady become a free agent, even if the team has to slap a franchise tag on him for next season.

Clady is one of the best offensive tackles in the league. He’s invaluable as Peyton Manning’s blindside protector, and the Broncos will want to keep him at any cost.

Still, franchising a player means paying him money that puts him among the top-five paid NFL players at his position. If Denver feels the price is too steep, Clady may have to reconsider what he wants in a new contract.

The Broncos failed to make the Super Bowl this year, but their roster is built for sustained excellence. Next year promises another quality season and a chance at another playoff run.

Clady is going to get paid this offseason. Given the situation in Denver, he would be wise to accept an offer from the Broncos and remain with a team poised for another good year in 2013.

Joe Flacco

Flacco isn’t going to get a larger contract from any other team in the league. Still, the Baltimore Ravens have always been fair with their free agents, allowing players to search around for better offers before making an offer of their own.

If Flacco decides to weigh his options in free agency, there will be some interest around the league. Several teams are in need of a franchise quarterback, especially one with an impressive playoff resume.

Flacco is unlikely to find a better fit anywhere in the league, though. The teams that need a quarterback are the teams that are more than one player away from making a deep playoff run. Baltimore may be an aging team, but there is still a lot of talent on the roster.

Given the nature of previous contract discussions between Flacco and the Ravens, this offseason could be somewhat tumultuous for both parties. In the end, Flacco will probably remain with the team, and that’s definitely his best option.

Wes Welker

The Patriots stuck Welker with the franchise tag last year, inking him to a one-year deal for the 2012 season. With Welker soon to be a free agent, New England must start weighing its options.

Losing Rob Gronkowski to injury proved to be a major blow to the Patriots in the playoffs, and Welker’s value is now even more apparent. The Patriots must try to sign Welker to a new deal.

Given Welker’s production in New England, there’s little reason for the Patriots to not consider signing him. The price has to be right, though, and both parties must have to work together to find a suitable deal.

Welker will be one of the most high-profile free agents this offseason. Several teams are in need of a consistent receiver in the slot, and there isn’t a better slot receiver in the league.

With the Patriots falling short of another Super Bowl this year, questions about New England’s longevity may soon begin to swirl. Those concerns are without merit, though. The Patriots will continue to be a Super Bowl contender, and Welker will continue to be a staple of their offense.

It would be in the best interests of both parties to come to an agreement this offseason, keeping Welker in New England as Tom Brady’s favorite target. The money may be an issue, but there’s no question that it is the right fit for both Welker and the Patriots.

Branden Albert

What happens with Albert in free agency may well decide what the Chiefs do with the first pick in the draft this year.

Albert has been a solid left tackle for Kansas City, and keeping him in that spot should be a top priority for its front office this offseason. But as with most free-agent negotiations, it will all come down to money.

Albert is a good player, but he’ll likely be looking for top money this offseason. With Andy Reid now running the show, Albert may face a tougher time getting what he wants.

Ultimately, the Chiefs have all the leverage. If Albert wants more money, Kansas City can use either the No. 1 or No. 33 pick in the draft in search of a suitable replacement. That isn’t the best option for Albert, though.

The Chiefs aren’t too far from being a contender. Inconsistent quarterback play, and the blatant misuse of Jamaal Charles’ skills doomed the Chiefs this year, but Reid will be looking to make a lot of changes to right the ship.

Albert may get a good offer from Kansas City in hopes of using him as a foundation on which to build a better offense. He should choose to be part of the building process.

Cliff Avril

Avril wanted a contract extension last season and didn’t get it. He may not get it this year, either.

The Lions have a lot of holes to fill on the defensive side of the ball. The defensive end position isn’t an area of extreme concern, and Avril doesn’t warrant the top money for which he was asking.

Avril’s best choice is to sign a smaller contract in Detroit and continue playing on one of the best defensive lines in football, if for no other reason than that he may not get top money elsewhere.

This year’s draft class is loaded with 4-3 defensive end candidates. With free agency taking place before April’s draft, teams will be hesitant about signing a less-than-elite end to big money when they can find one in the draft for less.

Avril may decide to walk, but he probably won’t find a better offer on the free-agent market. In Detroit, he can at least be part of a defense that has the potential to be much better next season.


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