2013 NFL Free Agents: Power Ranking the Top Impact Players on the Market
For two teams, the 2012 NFL season has one more rather important game remaining. But the vast majority of NFL teams are already trying to put last year in the past and look ahead to the future.
For those teams, the first step in 2013 is free agency—whether it's the retention of their own players or the addition of others in an effort to strengthen their squads.
Many of this year's top free agents won't be going anywhere, but that doesn't mean that we cant dream. So, here's a position-by-position breakdown of some of the top players in the NFL that will be searching for new contracts.
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1. Joe Flacco, Baltimore Ravens: After leading the Ravens to Super Bowl XLVII and throwing for a career high 3,817 yards, there's no way that Joe Flacco hits the open market. The fifth-year pro is probably in line for a deal in excess of $100 million.
2. Matt Moore, Miami Dolphins: With Ryan Tannehill now entrenched as the starter in Miami, Moore may look to move on in search of more playing time. While he's not a world-beater by any stretch, several teams will likely show interest in Moore as a backup or a potential "bridge" to a rookie signal-caller.
3. Tarvaris Jackson, Seattle Seahawks: Jackson's days as a starting quarterback are all but certainly long gone, but the seven-year veteran's mobility could appeal to a team running the read-option in search of a viable backup.
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1. Reggie Bush, Miami Dolphins: Bush has topped four yards a carry and 1,200 total yards in each of his two seasons in Miami. The Dolphins appear lukewarm to the idea of having him back, but at only 27 years old there should be no shortage of potential suitors.
2. Steven Jackson, St. Louis Rams: Jackson is set to exercise a player option that will make the 29-year-old a free agent. No active running back in the NFL has more career carries, but there will still be plenty of interest in a back who has topped 1,000 yards on the ground in eight straight seasons.
3. Shonn Greene, New York Jets: The four-year veteran may be the very definition of a plodder at running back, but Greene is coming off a career-high 1,063 yards on the ground in 2012. At only 27 years old, he could generate a fair amount of interest as part of a committee backfield.
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1. Dwayne Bowe, Kansas City Chiefs: It's unknown whether Bowe is part of Andy Reid's plans in Kansas City. But if the 28-year-old hits the open market, he's sure to generate a ton of interest after leading the NFL in touchdown catches as recently as 2010.
2. Mike Wallace, Pittsburgh Steelers: A contentious 2012 season most likely spells the end of Wallace's tenure in the Steel City, but a 26-year-old burner with two 1,000-yard seasons in four years isn't going to have much trouble finding work.
3. Greg Jennings, Green Bay Packers: After injuries derailed each of his past two seasons, Jennings may not be as attractive a target as Wes Welker of the New England Patriots. But Jennings is much more likely to hit the open market given the depth of talent that the Packers have at wide receiver.
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1. Jared Cook, Tennessee Titans: Cook's pedestrian stats in 2012 say more about how the Titans used him than his talent. Given the premium on athletic tight ends in today's NFL, the market will be robust for the 25-year-old.
2. Dustin Keller, New York Jets: Keller lost more than half of the 2012 season to an assortment of injuries, but the 28-year-old topped 60 catches and 800 yards in 2011. He should have plenty of suitors if he can demonstrate that he's healthy.
3. Brandon Myers, Oakland Raiders: Myers was a surprise star at his position last year, topping 800 yards and averaging over 10 yards a catch. While the Raiders can ill-afford to lose him, their cap problems may prevent them from outbidding other teams for Myers' services.
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1. Jake Long, Miami Dolphins: There's next to no chance the Denver Broncos let Ryan Clady hit free agency. That leaves Jake Long as the top available offensive lineman. Long's play has declined over the past couple of seasons, but at only 28 years old, he may command a much larger deal than the Dolphins appear to be inclined to give him.
2. Brandon Albert, Kansas City Chiefs: One of the biggest questions facing the Chiefs this offseason is whether to re-sign the fifth-year tackle. While Albert's balky back is something of a concern, teams will be all over him if Kansas City decides to go in another direction.
3. Andre Smith, Cincinnati Bengals: After something of a rocky start to his career, Smith has developed into one of the better right tackles in football, grading out as the top player at his position in 2012 according to Pro Football Focus.
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1. Michael Johnson, Cincinnati Bengals: Johnson racked up as many sacks in 2012 as he did in his first three seasons combined. While the Bengals would be foolish to let the 25-year-old walk, a Cincinnati franchise with a reputation for being cheap may not be able to afford to keep him.
2. Cliff Avril, Detroit Lions: Avril played under the franchise tag in 2012 and saw his numbers drop across the board, but a 26-year-old pass rusher with 20.5 sacks over the past two years isn't going to have a hard time landing a fat contract.
3. Henry Melton, Chicago Bears: The 26-year-old defensive tackle had a career-high 44 tackles in 2012 and has 13 sacks over the past two seasons. The Bears will certainly try to re-up Melton, but a Dallas Cowboys team switching to the 4-3 defense could be very interested in Melton, as well.
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1. Anthony Spencer, Dallas Cowboys: Spencer responded to being franchise-tagged in 2012 by having the best season of his six-year career. Given the number of teams switching to the 3-4 defense this offseason, there will be plenty of interest in a 29-year-old coming off an 11-sack campaign.
2. Paul Kruger, Baltimore Ravens: With Terrell Suggs on the shelf for much of the season, Kruger emerged as Baltimore's most consistent pass rusher in 2012. The Ravens would no doubt like to keep him in the fold. But if the fourth-year pro hits the open market, the bidding is apt to become fierce.
3. Brian Urlacher, Chicago Bears: At 34 years of age, Urlacher isn't the defensive force he once was. The veteran would like to stay in Chicago, but a new regime in Chicago may not feel the same way, which would make Urlacher the cream of a weak crop of 4-3 free-agent linebackers this year.
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1. Sean Smith, Miami Dolphins: The Dolphins cut Vontae Davis loose before the 2012 season and were rewarded with a strong year from Sean Smith. But the question now becomes whether the two sides can narrow a significant gap in contract talks. If not, the market for the 25-year-old cornerback will be strong.
2. Brent Grimes, Atlanta Falcons: The Falcons franchise-tagged Grimes last year only to see the 29-year-old play in all of one game before getting hurt—and that injury clouds both Grimes' future and the potential market for his services.
3. William Moore, Atlanta Falcons: Buffalo's Jairus Byrd is easily the top safety on the free-agent market this year, but a low franchise tag number makes it a near certainty he stays with the Bills.
The same can't necessarily be said for Pro Bowler William Moore, who is more likely to be allowed to test the market and could command a pretty hefty payday in a shallow safety group.