2013 NFL Free Agent Predictions: Landing Spots for Top Players at Every Position

Jesse Reed@@JesseReed78Correspondent IMarch 6, 2013

2013 NFL Free Agent Predictions: Landing Spots for Top Players at Every Position

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    It's about to get hot and heavy for NFL front offices and the agents of players looking for lucrative contracts in 2013. 

    NFL teams can negotiate contracts with the impending crop of free agents starting on March 9, with March 12 being the official start of the signing period. 

    It's almost impossible to predict where players will ultimately land. Nobody thought Mario Williams would end up with the Buffalo Bills last year, yet that's what happened. 

    That said, it's fun to predict where the top players would fit in. Follow along as we attempt to predict the future for the best player at each position. 

Quarterback: Matt Moore

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    Previous Team: Miami Dolphins

    Experience: 5

    Height: 6'3" 

    Weight: 195 lbs.

    Career Record: 13-12

    Matt Moore shouldn't be too expensive to sign, as he's not an automatic starter. With Joe Flacco off the market, though, having signed a record-breaking deal with the Baltimore Ravens, Moore is the best quarterback available this spring.

    A player without a ton of upside, Moore has proven to be a competent signal-caller throughout his five-year career. He's averaged 211 yards, 1.32 touchdowns and 1 interception per game in 25 starts, with his best seasons coming in 2009 and 2011. 

    There's no shortage of quarterback-needy teams in the league. The Arizona Cardinals, Buffalo Bills, Jacksonville Jaguars, Oakland Raiders and New York Jets all represent teams that could land Moore in an attempt to bolster competition.

    That said, it won't be a surprise to see Moore land on a team with a proven quarterback already in place, as his experience in the league makes him a valuable backup. 


    Moore will land with the San Francisco 49ers to back up Colin Kaepernick. 

Running Back: Steven Jackson

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    Previous Team: St. Louis Rams

    Experience: 9

    Height: 6'3"

    Weight: 229 lbs. 

    Career Rushing Stats: 10,135 yards and 56 touchdowns

    Steven Jackson will be a prized catch for a contender in 2013. 

    He is a prototypical power back who still has enough speed to get around a well-blocked edge, and his ferocious mentality is always a spark for his offense.

    Jackson was being phased out as the No. 1 running back in St. Louis in favor of Daryl Richardson, but there's no doubt he still has plenty left in the tank for a team in need of a featured back. 

    Teams like the Green Bay Packers, Atlanta Falcons and Denver Broncos have the cap space and appeal as Super Bowl contenders to attract Jackson this upcoming season. 


    Jackson will land with the Falcons and be for Atlanta what Michael Turner couldn't be last season. 

Fullback: Jerome Felton

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    Previous Team: Minnesota Vikings

    Experience: 5

    Height: 6'0"

    Weight: 248 lbs. 

    Fullbacks are fast-becoming phased out of the NFL in favor of H-backs and single-back sets, but there are still a few teams that feature good, old-fashioned power-running games. 

    In four years as a pro, Jerome Felton has accumulated just 451 all-purpose yards and zero touchdowns. That said, his value as a blocking back cannot be measured by his own stats.

    Felton is one of the best pure fullbacks in the NFL, and he helped spur Adrian Peterson to a monster season in 2012—one that came within nine yards of breaking Eric Dickerson's all-time, single-season rushing record.


    The Vikings would surely love to bring Felton back in 2013 to continue blocking for A.D. And given the fact that Minnesota isn't strapped for cash, that's likely where he'll land. 

Wide Receiver: Mike Wallace

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    Previous Team: Pittsburgh Steelers

    Experience: 4

    Height: 6'0"

    Weight: 199 lbs.

    Career Receiving Totals: 235 receptions for 4,042 yards and 32 touchdowns

    In the NFL, speed is a valued commodity, especially when combined with production. 

    Wallace is a player who's been able to translate his raw speed into excellent production, and he's one of the hottest players in this year's class of free agents—especially now that Dwayne Bowe has signed on with the Kansas City Chiefs (h/t NFL Network's Albert Breer). 

    There are plenty of teams in need of a talented receiver, too.

    The Cleveland Browns and Cincinnati Bengals are both teams with massive amounts of cash to spend and the need for another receiver. The Indianapolis Colts could potentially make a deal with Wallace, though T.Y. Hilton came on strong in a similar role last year.

    Another team with a young quarterback and a need for a top-flight receiver is the Miami Dolphins, and the latest reports indicate that Miami is making Wallace a priority (h/t the Miami Herald's Armando Salguero). 


    Wallace lands in Miami to become Ryan Tannehill's top weapon for years to come. 

Tight End: Jared Cook

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    Previous Team: Tennessee Titans

    Experience: 4

    Height: 6'5"

    Weight: 248 lbs.

    Career Reception Totals: 131 catches for 1,717 yards and eight touchdowns

    Tony Gonzalez is this year's top free-agent tight end, but if he does come back to play in 2013, there's no intrigue as to where he'll land: He'll be with the Atlanta Falcons.

    After Gonzo, Cook is the top player at his position, and given the right circumstances, he has the talent to become one of the most dangerous tight ends in the league. 

    At 25 years of age, Cook is still a bit raw in terms of route-running and run-blocking, but he's a player with enough athleticism and pure speed (4.50-second 40 at the 2009 combine) to be a tantalizing target for teams in need of a dynamic tight end. 

    The Kansas City Chiefs are one team that could try to land Cook. Adding him to a lineup that includes Dwayne Bowe, Jon Baldwin, Dexter McCluster and Tony Moeaki would give Alex Smith plenty of weapons to work with. 

    Chicago would also seem like a likely landing spot for Cook, as Jay Cutler hasn't had a top tight end to work with since joining the team back in 2009. Unfortunately, Chicago isn't in great shape financially, so it will be a surprise to see him end up with the Bears.


    Cook will end up as a key cog in Chip Kelly's offense with the Philadelphia Eagles. Philly has the cap space to make a long-term deal, and the team has a big need at the tight end position. Cook's raw speed will be utilized properly with the Eagles in 2013. 

Offensive Tackle: Jake Long

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    Previous Team: Miami Dolphins

    Experience: 5

    Height: 6'7"

    Weight: 319 lbs.

    It's been a couple of years since Jake Long was an elite left tackle in the NFL, but there's no doubt he still has what it takes to regain that status.

    Just two years ago, Pro Football Focus (subscription required) ranked Long as its No. 2 offensive tackle for the 2010 season. 

    If he can stay healthy, Long is going to rebound in 2013 with a banner year, and one lucky team will have one of the top tackles in the league—likely at a discounted rate. 

    Long hopes to earn upwards of $11 million per year (h/t NFL Network's Ian Rapoport), but after his past couple of sub-par seasons, it's more likely that he receives a contract more in the $9-$10 million range. That's not cheap, but protecting quarterbacks never is. 

    The Indianapolis Colts have the money and the need. Andrew Luck was pummeled throughout his rookie season, and he'd be even more dangerous with some real protection. 

    The Jacksonville Jaguars and Green Bay Packers are both in the same boat, though both teams have significantly less to spend than Indy.


    Long will sign with the Packers and protect Rodgers' blind side for the next four to six years.

Offensive Guard: Andy Levitre

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    Previous Team: Buffalo Bills

    Experience: 4

    Height: 6'2"

    Weight: 305 lbs.

    Levitre is an incredibly gifted pass-blocking offensive guard who is competent in the running game. 

    He ranked No. 1 as Pro Football Focus' (subscription required) top pass-blocking guard in 2012, but he earned a slightly negative rating as a run-blocker. 

    For teams like the San Francisco 49ers and Seattle Seahawks, Levitre just doesn't fit. 

    But for teams like the Green Bay Packers, New England Patriots or Indianapolis Colts, he's a perfect player. 

    Speaking of the Colts...


    Levitre will sign on with the Colts in 2013 and be a key cog in the offensive line that protects Andrew Luck for years to come. 

Center: Dan Koppen

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    Previous Team: Denver Broncos

    Experience: 10

    Height: 6'2"

    Weight: 298 lbs.

    Koppen was Tom Brady's center for eight-plus years before fracturing his ankle at the beginning of the 2011 season. He was picked up by the Broncos on a one-year contract to snap to Peyton Manning this past year, where he performed admirably.

    And if we've learned anything about Manning and centers throughout his career, it's that he likes to stick with what he knows. 

    Koppen only allowed one sack last year and just six pressures, and though he isn't a dominating run-blocker, his ability to command the line of scrimmage and keep Manning clean means he's not going anywhere. 


    Koppen will re-sign with the Broncos in 2013 on a two- or three-year deal.

Defensive End: Cliff Avril

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    Previous Team: Detroit Lions

    Experience: 5

    Height: 6'3"

    Weight: 260 lbs.

    Career Defensive Totals: 125 solo tackles, 39.5 sacks, 16 forced fumbles and one interception

    Cliff Avril is ready to get paid

    He reportedly wants a contract similar to the one Mario Williams signed with the Buffalo Bills last year (h/t SiriusXM NFL Radio, via NFL.com's Dan Hanzus), and he just might get it. 

    The pass-rushing specialist has racked up 29 sacks and nine forced fumbles the past three seasons with the Lions, and though he isn't necessarily adept at stuffing the run, his ability to bring pressure off the edge will certainly garner plenty of interest throughout the league. 

    The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are a team to watch out for in this race, as the team is still sitting comfortably below the $123 million cap total for 2013. 

    Miami is also a team that could lure Avril, with plenty of cap space and a need for another pass-rusher to play opposite Cameron Wake. 

    We can't rule out the New England Patriots or Atlanta Falcons, either—both of which have cleared enough space to make such a move. 


    Avril will end up signing with the Falcons.

Defensive Tackle: Desmond Bryant

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    Previous Team: Oakland Raiders

    Experience: 4 

    Height: 6'6"

    Weight: 310 lbs.

    Career Defensive Stats: 93 solo tackles, 10.5 sacks, three forced fumbles and two blocked kicks

    Bryant recently made headlines for all the wrong reasons, getting arrested for "criminal mischief" and posing for one of the greatest mug shots we've ever seen. 

    His off-field antics aside, Bryant is a heck of a football player who will be highly valued by many general managers this spring. He's a disruptive player who fits well in a 4-3 alignment, and though his play warrants a fat contract, he won't break the bank.

    The Seattle Seahawks could be a sleeper team to watch for. They have a free-agent tackle of their own in Jason Jones, and Bryant would represent a bit of an upgrade. 

    The Denver Broncos have perhaps the greatest need of any team in the league for a defensive tackle, and his style of play meshes well with the player already in place.


    Bryant will sign with the Broncos in 2013 and wreak havoc in opposing backfields along with the rest of the young studs on Denver's defense.

3-4 Outside Linebacker: Paul Kruger

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    Previous Team: Baltimore Ravens

    Experience: 4

    Height: 6'4"

    Weight: 270 lbs.

    Career Defensive Stats: 47 solo tackles, 15.5 sacks, one forced fumble and two interceptions

    Kruger made himself a lot of money with his performance in the regular season and then came on like a freight train during the team's Super Bowl run.

    He logged nine sacks and one forced fumble during the regular season, playing in all 16 games. Then he totaled 4.5 sacks and a forced fumble in the team's four postseason games.

    3-4 outside linebackers who can generate consistent pressure from the edge are highly valued players in the league right now, and Kruger is going to earn a big contract this spring as a result. 

    The Cleveland Browns and Indianapolis Colts are both in need of pass-rushers for their 3-4 defenses, as are the New Orleans Saints and potentially the Philadelphia Eagles. 


    Kruger will sign with the Colts to play opposite Robert Mathis and terrorize opposing quarterbacks in 2013 and beyond. 

4-3 Outside Linebacker: Philip Wheeler

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    Previous Team: Oakland Raiders

    Experience: 5

    Height: 6'2"

    Weight: 240 lbs.

    Career Defensive Stats: 219 solo tackles, five sacks and four forced fumbles 

    Wheeler is an underrated player who isn't necessarily a top-flight athlete but who understands his role within the scheme he's playing.

    His 2012 season with the Raiders was by far the best of his career, and teams may wonder if he was playing for a contract or if he's capable of performing at that same high level in the years to come. 

    The Buffalo Bills stand out as a team in need of a Wheeler's talents. Buffalo's linebacking corps is really weak, and the team has the money to spend on him if it wants to do so. 

    Wheeler could also fit in with the Green Bay Packers or Baltimore Ravens as a weak-side inside linebacker in their 3-4 scheme.


    Wheeler will sign with Buffalo. The Bills' 4-3 scheme is better suited to his talents, and he'd be an immediate starter.

Inside Linebacker: Dannell Ellerbe

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    Previous Team: Baltimore Ravens

    Experience: 4

    Height: 6'1"

    Weight: 240 lbs.

    Career Defensive Stats: 142 solo tackles, 5.5 sacks, two forced fumbles and one interception

    Ellerbe is a talented young inside linebacker who can play in either a 3-4 scheme or in a 4-3. 

    He really stepped up his game as a fourth-year player in 2012 when Ray Lewis went down with the triceps injury that kept him out of most of the season, and his versatility and athleticism will make him an attractive option this spring.

    Like Philip Wheeler, Ellerbe could be targeted by the Buffalo Bills.

    Another team to keep an eye on is the Cincinnati Bengals, which has let Rey Maualuga hit the market and needs a veteran inside linebacker that can play all three downs. 


    Ellerbe will re-sign with the Ravens this spring. They don't want to lose him and will give him a long-term deal. 

Cornerback: Brent Grimes

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    Previous Team: Atlanta Falcons

    Experience: 6

    Height: 5'10"

    Weight: 183 lbs.

    Career Defensive Stats: 222 solo tackles, 13 interceptions and one forced fumble

    Brent Grimes had a rough 2012 season, getting injured in the opening game of the season with a torn Achilles' tendon. That said, head coach Mike Smith has said his recovery has been "outstanding," according to NFL.com's Marc Sessler.

    Grimes is an outstanding corner in a zone scheme. Before getting injured, he was making a name for himself as one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL. 

    As a result of his injury, Grimes may be easier to sign than some of the other cornerbacks on the market, as teams may be able to get away with a shorter contract with less guaranteed money. Achilles injuries are notoriously difficult to come back from, and Grimes may need to prove he can perform at the same high level he showed in 2011 before earning the monster contract he desires.

    The Falcons may be able to re-sign Grimes. If not, the Detroit Lions, Tennessee Titans, Philadelphia Eagles, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Indianapolis Colts and Miami Dolphins would all make sense.


    Grimes will re-sign with the Falcons in 2013 to a short-term deal, likely a three-year contract that earns him roughly $5-$6 million per year.

Safety: Dashon Goldson

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    Previous Team: San Francisco 49ers

    Experience: 6

    Height: 6'2"

    Weight: 200 lbs.

    Career Defensive Stats: 278 solo tackles, 14 interceptions, three sacks and five forced fumbles

    After the San Francisco 49ers decided not to use the franchise tag on Dashon Goldson, ESPN's Adam Schefter sent out this tweet in response to a question from one of his followers:

    RT @realestninerfan: what about dashon goldson? ... Don't expect him back in San Francisco. Goldson's going to be gone.

    — Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) March 5, 2013

    Goldson has been a guy that has made a lot of huge plays for the 49ers the past four seasons, and his unique blend of size, speed and big hits will surely garner a lot of attention from teams this March. It should be noted, however, that Goldson tends to abandon his deep coverage responsibilities at times, looking to annihilate receivers coming across the middle. 

    The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's Tyler Dunne recently reported that Goldson will be seeking a deal that pays him upwards of $8 million per season. That kind of demand will rule out some teams in need of a safety.

    The Cincinnati Bengals could bring Goldson in to play next to Reggie Nelson, giving defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer a talented duo to cover the middle of the field. 

    The Indianapolis Colts also have a need and the cash to sign Goldson this spring, as do the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Philadelphia Eagles.


    Goldson will sign with the Bengals in 2013. 

Kicker: Rob Bironas

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    Previous Team: Tennessee Titans

    Experience: 8

    Height: 6'0"

    Weight: 210 lbs.

    Career FG Percentage: 85.6 Percent

    Rob Bironas had an off year in 2012, converting just 80.6 percent of his field goals. He had converted over 90 percent in his two previous seasons, and it will be interesting to see how much this affects his 2013 contract.

    According to the Tennessean's Jim Wyatt, the Titans won't likely make it too interesting, as he expects the club to re-sign the star kicker. 

    If he hits the market, the San Francisco 49ers could make a push for him, as they recently cut David Akers, who really took a nose dive in 2012 (h/t PhiladelphiaEagles.com's Adam Caplan). 


    Bironas will re-sign with the Titans in 2013. 

Punter: Shane Lechler

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    Previous Team: Oakland Raiders

    Experience: 13

    Height: 6'2"

    Weight: 230 lbs.

    Career Net Average: 41.5 yards per punt

    Shane Lechler has been one of the top punters in the NFL for more than a decade, and at the age of 36, he still has some gas left in his tank.

    ESPN's Adam Schefter (via ESPN.com's Bill Williamson) has reported that Lechler would love to sign on with the Houston Texans, since he is from Texas.


    Lechler will sign a team-friendly deal with the Texans to finish out his career.

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