NFL Free Agents 2013: Hottest Buzz on Top Playmakers

John RozumCorrespondent IMarch 6, 2013

NFL Free Agents 2013: Hottest Buzz on Top Playmakers

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    The start to the 2013 NFL free-agency period is just around the corner, and it's going to be an onslaught of pro football chaos.

    When this event kicks off, the opportunity for players to get a fresh start in new uniforms is quite exciting, not only for the players but also for the teams and their dedicated fans. Factor in the NFL as a sport made popular by big hits, spectacular catches and genuine playmakers, and we naturally gravitate toward those big names.

    Aside from the actual games in the fall and winter, the middle of March through the NFL draft is an electric time frame for pro football. And the following playmakers have established themselves in wowing us on the field.

    So, let's check out the latest scoop on some popular athletes with free agency just around the bend.

     

    Note: Full unofficial list of 2013 free agents courtesy of NFL.com.

Wes Welker, WR

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    Wes Welker is reportedly expected to test the waters of free agency.

    According to Adam Schefter of ESPN.com, the veteran wideout plans to gauge the interest other teams have in him before making any commitment to the Pats:

    Patriots free-agent WR Wes Welker has no plans to re-sign with New England before first testing the free-agent market next week.

    — Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) March 6, 2013

    This is definitely an interesting move by Welker in the chess match that is free agency. 

    As Tom Brady's favorite receiving target for the New England Patriots as well as one of pro football finest receivers, Welker will be a hot commodity. Although it's a league taken over by offensive dominance, quick passes such as slants, outs, receiver screens and drags have become more popular.

    Given that Welker possesses the talent to beat anyone underneath man-to-man, his ability to accumulate yards after the catch is incredible. Not only is that less work for a quarterback, but it forces linebackers and nickel/dime backs to briefly freeze in coverage.

    This helps to set up play action and presents more opportunities to capitalize on single coverage downfield.

Ed Reed, Safety

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    Ed Reed is easily one of the most dependable playmakers in pro football.

    He's also on the brink of free agency.

    In an interview with NFL AM via Gregg Rosenthal of NFL.com, Reed discussed his feelings regarding his current situation:

    "I haven't spoken to anyone. Hopefully that call comes soon," Reed said.

    Asked about Bill Belichick's long-simmering appreciation of Reed, the Oscars correspondent made his intentions in free agency clear.

    "I'm a Raven. I plan on being a Raven. I couldn't see me anywhere else right now," Reed said. "If it happens, I'm a football player. I can adapt to any situation."

    Regardless of where Reed suits up next season, it's obvious he'll continue to make an impact.

    The veteran possesses the best instincts for a defensive back of his era and certainly among the best ever. And despite still having the athleticism to make plays, Reed's ability to decipher opponents pre-snap and get into position is what allows him to constantly make plays.

    Coming off a Super Bowl victory, he'll play with more confidence than ever before in 2013.

Victor Cruz, WR

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    Victor Cruz is one of the NFL's most exciting receivers.

    He also has one of the best touchdown celebrations.

    But as noted in an article by Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPNNewYork.com, Cruz and the New York Giants have yet to strike a deal with free agency on the horizon:

    [Tom] Coughlin understands "it takes two to tango" and knows there is a limitation to what the New York Giants can do to sign Cruz, a restricted free agent, to an extension.

    The Giants and Cruz remain apart as free agency approaches. The Giants will likely tender Cruz; if they give him the highest restricted free-agent tender, they would receive a first-round pick as compensation if they chose not to match an offer from another team.

    Obviously Cruz has been a key component of New York's offense since 2011. The majority of Eli Manning's targets, completions and touchdown passes have gone his direction during this brief time frame.

    Cruz's breakout season resulted in a Super Bowl win, and even with 2012's shortcomings, he still scored 10 touchdowns. Holding the acceleration, body control and top gear to stretch defenses and cut to underneath routes, Cruz's overall skill set will continue to siphon a secondary wherever he suits up.

Cliff Avril, DE

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    Should he become available, don't expect defensive end Cliff Avril to be on the market long.

    Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press reported the following about Avril's situation in Detroit:

    Avril will become an unrestricted free agent at 4 p.m. March 12 unless he and the Detroit Lions agree on a new long-term deal before then.

    "(This week will) give me a good idea of what's going on, if I'll be here or if I'll be gone," Avril said. "This week will definitely gauge that, I guess."

    So far, Avril said there has been only minimal contact between the Lions and his agent, Brian Mackler.

    Include fellow defensive linemen/pass-rushers in Michael Johnson, Henry Melton and Anthony Spencer getting the franchise tag—per Gregg Rosenthal of NFL.com—and that inflates Avril's marketability.

    He has collected 20.5 sacks and forced eight fumbles the past two years, so clearly Avril can disrupt a quarterback's timing. With the NFL being a pass-oriented league, applying pressure is to a defense's advantage.

    The power, quickness and consistency of Avril will only help anyone needing to bolster the pass rush.

Mike Wallace, WR

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    One of the NFL's fastest receivers, Mike Wallace, is of interest to the Miami Dolphins.

    Per ESPN.com's Adam Schefter on SportsCenter via Rotoworld, Miami could be a sneaky contender for the dynamic pass-catcher's services:

    A lot of people around the league believe that the Miami Dolphins are poised to make a major run at a player who many regard as the No. 1 free agent available," said Schefter, adding that the Dolphins are "desperate" for speed to surround Ryan Tannehill.

    This comes as no surprise, because Miami needs a deep-threat target to provide for Ryan Tannehill.

    The Dolphins lost too many close games last season. Presenting Wallace will field a more explosive attack. At the same time, other playmakers in Anthony Fasano—pending free agent—and Davone Bess will benefit as a result.

    Wallace stretching defenses opens up everything underneath, which will then prevent the coverage from consistently doubling him up. Factor in Tannehill's strong arm and mobility, and Miami will become playoff contenders in 2013.