Super Bowl 2013: Impending Free Agents with Most to Gain in New Orleans

Jonathan IrwinContributor IIJanuary 23, 2013

Jan 12, 2013; Denver, CO, USA; Baltimore Ravens linebacker Paul Kruger (99) during the third quarter of the AFC divisional round playoff game against the Denver Broncos at Sports Authority Field.  The Ravens won 38-35 in double overtime.  Mandatory Credit: Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports
Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

In no time at all, the Big Game will be here and the Baltimore Ravens and San Francisco 49ers will duke it out for Harbaugh family supremacy.

But at the end of the day, the NFL is still a business. While it's great to win the Super Bowl, it's also great to make a lot of money and be rewarded as one of the best at your craft.

That's what NFL free agency is all about, and there are a few players playing in New Orleans that will be hitting the market in the offseason.

While each impending free agent has something to play for, none may be earning a bigger pay raise than these guys.


Paul Kruger, LB, Baltimore

Paul Kruger isn't the flashiest name on the Baltimore defense, but he has grown into a very effective pass-rusher.

Kruger followed up a solid 2011 campaign with 42 tackles and a team-leading 9.0 sacks this season.

He has the skill set and tools to be one of the best pass-rushers on the market. While Baltimore is sure to try to keep him around, it has more pressing needs and could inevitably let Kruger go.

The 26-year-old has been solid in the postseason, and he'll face a Niners O-line that has plenty of issues.

While Colin Kaepernick is as elusive as they come, the opportunity is there for Kruger to have a huge game and, in turn, earn a huge paycheck.


Dashon Goldson, FS, San Francisco

The 49ers franchise-tagged Dashon Goldson last season, and they would be foolish not to do it again this season.

But already near the cap limit, it's unknown if the Niners can find the wiggle room to make such a thing happen. Either way, Goldson will enter the Super Bowl looking for a big payday.

Goldson—having earned a reputation as one of the hardest hitting safeties in the NFL—made his first Pro Bowl last season, and registered 69 tackles and three interceptions this season. He also had a career-high 11 pass deflections.

While he's been somewhat quiet in the postseason, he does have 12 tackles and a forced fumble in two games.

San Francisco's secondary took a big jump forward this season, and they should keep Goldson. But there's plenty of other teams who would also like a hard-hitting veteran safety.

You can believe they'll all be watching Sunday as well.

If Goldson can put together a solid performance on the biggest stage of his life, he's sure to earn a nice raise in 2013.


Joe Flacco, QB, Baltimore

While the debate over whether Joe Flacco is "elite" or not continues, one thing is for sure: Flacco thinks he's elite, and as far as these playoffs go, he's proving it. 

The Raven's QB has been superb in the playoffs, completing 55 percent of his passes with eight touchdowns and zero interceptions. And for the first time in his career, Flacco has his team in the Super Bowl.

But all anybody remembers is the last game. Win or lose the Super Bowl, the outcome of this game could have a huge impact on Flacco's stock as a potential free agent.

This year's NFL draft is thin in quarterback prospects, so there should be many a suitor for the services of Flacco. But with no immediate backup on the roster, Baltimore can't afford to let him go.

On the other side of the coin is the inconsistencies Flacco has had in his career, meaning it's very likely the Ravens tag their QB and keep him around for at least one more season.

Flacco's been very outspoken in his career about how good he thinks he is. If push comes to shove, it wouldn't be surprising to see the 28-year-old hold out for either a new contract or a release.

As long as he shows up in the Super Bowl, Flacco will find a way to get the money that he feels he's earned.