The 2013 NFL free-agent class will likely be full of players who can give teams that extra push necessary for a Super Bowl run.
Teams can always look to the NFL draft to find new talent, but free agents are much more of a sure thing and capable of producing immediately. There isn't the kind of adjustment period that some rookies need when hitting the NFL.
This year's class is loaded, however, it's unlikely that Joe Flacco or Jairus Byrd will be moving to a different team in the offseason.
Instead, here's four players who have a much greater chance of being available and providing immediate upgrades at their positions.
Jake Long's stock has fallen a bit. It's telling that the Miami Dolphins might be willing to part with an offensive tackle who's a four-time Pro Bowler and made two All-Pro teams.
He suffered a torn triceps and was placed on injured reserve on Dec. 4 (h/t Dan Hanzus of NFL.com). It was the second season in a row he ended up on injured reserve after a torn bicep ended his 2011.
The injury followed what had already been a poor 2012 for Long. Per Hanzus:
The injury concludes perhaps the worst season of Long's career. According to ProFootballFocus.com, Long is ranked 47th out 75 tackles this season. By comparison, Long was ranked 21st in 2011, second in 2010 and second again in 2009.
It's doubtful he'll get a new deal with the Dolphins. Gregg Rosenthal of NFL.com reported that Miami has "lowballed" Long.
Whichever team signs him is taking a serious gamble next season. His injury history is a concern. If he can stay healthy, though, Long can retain his status as one of the best linemen in the league.
Long could be motivated to stick it to Dolphins' management for not feeling he was worth the money he was asking for.
The Kansas City Chiefs put the franchise tag on Dwayne Bowe in 2012 and could do the same this year. However, with the No. 1 overall pick, management might want to begin building anew and determine to go in a different direction.
Bowe would likely be unhappy should he fail to receive a long-term deal from the team, so it might be worth it to simply let him go.
Much like the Chiefs as a whole, 2012 wasn't kind to Bowe. In December he was placed on injured reserve, playing only 11 games for the year (h/t ESPN.com).
Despite the injury, he's a proven commodity at the receiver position. Should he hit the open market, Bowe would get plenty of interest.
Three times—2008, 2010 and 2011—Bowe has gone over 1,000 yards receiving, and he led the league in receiving touchdowns in 2010.
His age, 28 years old, might deter some teams. Still, Bowe would be an automatic offensive improvement for a team and would be perfectly suited for a team like the Houston Texans that already has an established star.
Mike Wallace had one of the more prolonged contract disputes of this past offseason. He finally signed a one-year, $2.7 million deal in August, meaning he missed much of the preseason (h/t ESPN.com).
His lack of preparation before the start of the regular season seemed to have an affect on his 2012 output. Wallace's receptions and receiving yards were both down from what he put up in 2010 and 2011.
With Antonio Brown having signed a long-term deal prior to the season (h/t Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk), the Pittsburgh Steelers aren't going to be offering the kind of money Wallace will be demanding.
At only 26 years old, Wallace still has a lengthy career ahead of him. He still remains one of the fastest receivers in the league.
The drop in 2012 cannot all be attributed to Wallace, either. Ben Roethlisberger missed some time during the season, and the entire offense failed to click under Todd Haley.
For the teams that miss out on Bowe, Wallace is a very good contingency plan.
The Dallas Cowboys might have to sacrifice Anthony Spencer in order to get under the cap in 2013, as Calvin Watkins of ESPNDallas.com writes:
Spencer could get franchised again, a move that would cost Dallas $10.6 million in 2013. But the Cowboys are currently over the salary cap by roughly $18 million, and several decisions would have to be made before either franchising Spencer again or working out a long-term deal.
Spencer had a breakout 2012. Fans could see the talent he had but that wasn't exactly seen in the stat column. His 11 sacks this season were almost double his output in 2011.
Watkins also wrote that Spencer would be willing to play defensive end for the Cowboys with their switch to a 4-3 defense.
While that may not be all that useful for Dallas, it should be encouraging for other teams that might be looking at him this offseason.
That versatility to play either an outside linebacker or on the defensive line gives coaches some different options as to what to do with Spencer for next season.
Like the new article format? Send us feedback!