2013 NFL Free Agents: Best Fits for Top Available Stars
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A number of high-profile NFL stars will hit the free-agent market this offseason, and while some should stay with their current teams, others should move on to greener pastures.
It's rare that a free-agent class boasts so much star power, but there'll be no shortage of Pro Bowl talent on the market. However, while franchise staples like Joe Flacco and Ryan Clady will likely be retained, there's less certainty about the rest of the class.
Will the New England Patriots bring back slot extraordinaire Wes Welker? How much do the Dallas Cowboys value Anthony Spencer now that they're shifting to a 4-3 defense?
Let's take a look at the best fits for the top available free agents of 2013.
Greg Jennings, WR, Green Bay Packers
Best Fit: Miami Dolphins
It was a tough season in Green Bay for YouTube sensation Greg Jennings.
Playing in a contract year, the two-time Pro Bowler missed half the season due to a torn abdominal muscle and groin injury. When he was in the lineup, Jennings didn't live up to his No. 1 receiver billing, recording 36 catches for 366 yards and four touchdowns.
Never a burner, the former second-round pick is regarded for his precise route running and reliable hands. By the time the 2013 season rolls around, Jennings will be 30—a red flag for any free-agent receiver.
The Packers have a terrific trio in Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb and James Jones—all younger and cheaper than Jennings—so he should take his talents to South Beach, where he can assume the No. 1 receiver role.
In Miami, Jennings could be Ryan Tannehill's go-to guy and help the 2012 first-round pick develop into a franchise quarterback.
Wes Welker, WR, New England Patriots
Best Fit: New England Patriots
No one knows what's going on in Bill Belichick's head, which makes the Wes Welker case even more perplexing.
Last offseason, Welker was slapped with the franchise tag, and he responded with 118 receptions, 1,354 yards and six scores. While those numbers look great on paper, Welker has a few red flags. He led the NFL in drops (15), he's a slot receiver, and he'll be 32 in May.
For a player who's so reliant on quickness and route running, losing a step or two could prove fatal.
There's no doubt that Welker is a premier receiving threat, but should a team offer him a lucrative long-term deal? Probably not.
The five-time Pro Bowler should stick with what's familiar and keep catching passes (most of the time) from Tom Brady.
Reggie Bush, RB, Miami Dolphins
Best Fit: Pittsburgh Steelers
In a span of two years, Reggie Bush has made everyone forget about his disappointing days as a New Orleans Saint.
The former second overall pick never lived up to expectations in New Orleans, but finally turned things around in South Beach. Operating as the No. 1 back, Bush proved critics wrong by running between the tackles and mostly staying healthy.
In 31 games as a Dolphin, Bush carried the ball 443 times for 2,072 yards and 12 rushing touchdowns. The versatile threat also caught 78 passes for 588 yards and three scores.
The Dolphins probably don't want to pay big money for a 27-year-old back with a pretty lengthy injury history, but Bush should still be a coveted commodity. His best fit would be in Pittsburgh, where he can run behind an upgraded offensive line.
The Steelers have devoted first- or second-round picks in a young, talented quartet in Marcus Gilbert, Maurkice Pouncey, David DeCastro and Mike Adams.
Put Bush behind that line and in an offense that features franchise QB Ben Roethlisberger and the results could be lethal.
Anthony Spencer, OLB/DE, Dallas Cowboys
Best Fit: New York Jets
It seems unfathomable that DeMarcus Ware wasn't the best outside linebacker on his team in 2012, but Anthony Spencer earned that honor.
Injuries slowed Ware, and Spencer stepped up his play.
The former first-round pick has always been a solid run stopper, but he finally found his pass-rushing magic in another playoff-less season in Dallas. The 6'4", 255-pounder set career-highs in tackles (95) and sacks (11) and was named a Pro Bowl replacement for Clay Matthews.
With the Cowboys shifting to a 4-3 defense, Spencer doesn't look like a good fit to return to Dallas. However, his complete game should make him highly sought after by 3-4 teams.
If he hits the market, the New York Jets should be first in line for his services. New York has some pieces in place, but needs a serious upgrade at outside linebacker. Adding Spencer to a lineup that features youngsters Quinton Coples and Muhammad Wilkerson would go a long way to helping the Jets get back in contention.
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