For every NFL player, the opportunity to cash in on free agency usually only comes around once in a career. When it strikes, you have to take advantage of it.
This year's crop of free agents isn't especially deep, and that will only get worse as teams re-sign players or use the franchise tag if the situation warrants, but there are a few playmakers who have proven themselves worthy of getting a big-dollar deal.
With all the focus on the Super Bow right now, here are the free agents we are keeping a close eye on.
Joe Flacco, Quarterback
The Ravens' run to the Super Bowl this season almost makes this prediction too easy, but I want to present you with some interesting stats that will convince you Flacco isn't as bad as you think during the regular season.
We are going to use a partially blind-eye test for this. Here are the stats through five seasons for Flacco and another quarterback who signed a mega-extension prior to the 2009 season.
|8-4 (1 Super Bowl appearance)||Playoff W-L||4-3 (1 Super Bowl victory)|
The mystery quarterback is Eli Manning, who signed a six-year, $97.5 million contract extension with the New York Giants in 2009.
For some reason, Manning is regarded as elite based on two very good postseason runs, though most people would tell you the Giants defeated the Patriots in 2008 because of the defense.
Flacco gets derided for being inconsistent, which he is, but no more so than Manning. It would be a shock to see the Ravens lose Flacco, though the price has undoubtedly increased following his 8-to-0 touchdown-to-interception ratio this postseason.
Dashon Goldson, Safety
One of the key pieces to that dominant San Francisco defense, Goldson could be in line for a big payday if the 49ers decide not to use the franchise tag on him for a second consecutive season or can't afford to pay him.
Goldson is the glue to the 49ers' secondary, as he provides a stable presence down the field and the ability to go get the ball. He is also a heavy hitter who makes sure that opponents think twice before going over the middle.
While I wouldn't expect Goldson to get a deal close to what Kansas City gave Eric Berry three years ago (six years, $60 million), he is just 28 years old and has earned the contract he will (likely) get this offseason.
Eric Berry gets 6 years $60 million max with $34 guaranteed from the Chiefs - highest paid safety in NFL history— Jason La Canfora (@JasonLaCanfora) July 30, 2010
Greg Jennings, Wide Receiver
Which player will provide the most value in his next contract?
The sentiment seems to be that the Green Bay Packers are going to end up losing Jennings to free agency this offseason.
Most teams would not be able to suffer a loss like that to their offense and pick up where they left off, but the Packers have Aaron Rodgers at quarterback and receivers like Randall Cobb, James Jones and Jordy Nelson to fall back on.
For Jennings, while it will be strange to see him leave the only franchise he has known, he is 29 years old and coming off the worst season of his career. He played in just eight games, catching 36 passes for 366 yards and four touchdowns.
While the injury problems last season might knock Jennings' value down, he has built up a strong resume that is completely deserving of a big, multi-year deal from a team that sorely needs wide receiver help.