The 2013 NFL free-agent crop has its fair share of playmakers at multiple positions. Some teams will shy away from forking out the big-money contracts that it will take to reel in these high-profile players.
But some of them will exceed expectations and make general managers look like geniuses when going all-in on their new acquisitions.
Playmakers are the type of players who can change the makeup of a game with one play. They are scoring threats, but most importantly, game-changers that other teams must always account for when they’re on the field.
There are definitely a lot of talented players that teams will look at this offseason, but they should begin that search by exploring the following free agents.
Aqib Talib, Cornerback
The 27-year-old cornerback got dealt during the 2012 season by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers after being suspended for using Adderall as a PED. He made an instant impact in the weak New England Patriots secondary, helping them to an AFC Championship Game appearance.
After Talib left the game in the first quarter after a third-down pass deflection and did not return. New England folded in the second half, allowing Joe Flacco and the Baltimore Ravens to punch their ticket to Super Bowl XLVII.
While we’re not attributing all of the Ravens' success to Talib’s injury, we are noting the difference in the Patriots' secondary with him gone.
He’s the type of player who can react quickly and has the instincts and closing speed necessary to change games on the defensive side of the ball. If the Patriots let him go, he should be the top target for teams looking for a cornerback this offseason.
Mike Wallace, Wide Receiver
Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Mike Wallace did not report to training camp last season until two weeks prior to the start of the regular season. He was locked in to a one-year, $2.7 million tender, and the team did not attempt to negotiate with him during the season, as per team policy.
After signing wide receiver Antonio Brown to a long-term contract, it does not appear the Pittsburgh Steelers will have anywhere near the cap room necessary to ink Wallace to a deal.
Wallace is the biggest deep threat in this free-agent crop. The big and fast target will command a huge paycheck for a team to earn his services, but he’ll definitely be worth it.
There are some concerns about his drops, which helped lead to a decline in production in 2012. Wallace’s receiving yards (836), average yards per reception (13.1) and total receptions declined despite receiving the most targets of his career (119). A new team and environment could be exactly what the 26-year-old needs to get back to form.
Reggie Bush, Running Back
Reggie Bush, a 27-year-old running back, is currently “confused” as to why the Miami Dolphins have not yet extended him an offer, according to Ben Volin of the Palm Beach Post.
While Bush may want to come back to South Beach, the veteran back may not have the opportunity to because, as Volin noted, the team will be heavily relying on second-year back Lamar Miller next season. Daniel Thomas, who already shared some of the workload with Bush, would be a reliable partner for Miller in the event the Dolphins go in that direction.
If you remember, Bush said the Miami Dolphins team “stinks” following their midseason loss to the Tim Tebow-led Denver Broncos. If the Fins management had any reservations about Bush being their No. 1 ball-carrier, he didn’t do them any favors by adding some drama to the situation, albeit last season.
No one would confuse Bush for a workhorse and reliable running back. Although, for obvious athletic reasons, he does seem to be more productive the more he gets his hands on the football.
He received more than 20 carries just twice in 2012, rushing for more than 100 yards each time and scoring two touchdowns. In all 14 other appearances he failed to get 20 carries and did not eclipse the 100-yard mark even once.