With free agency officially beginning on March 12, several franchises still have decisions to make on franchise-caliber players—and some already have.
Most franchises find success by building through the draft and developing in-house talent. However, there are plenty of intriguing, rather big names on the market this offseason, which could prompt teams to spend a little extra to get insurance at needy positions.
Here is a breakdown of two of the hottest names on each side of the ball that are potentially seeking new NFL destinations in 2013.
Ed Reed, FS
Despite winning his first Super Bowl with the Baltimore Ravens—a franchise he has been with for his entire 11-year career—there is still a chance that Reed walks away from his longtime team.
Greg A. Berard of the Boston Globe notes that the New England Patriots—the very team that the Ravens beat in the AFC Championship Game en route to a Super Bowl XLVII triumph—are highly interested in Reed.
The team has confidence that [Tavon] Wilson progressed enough last season, and will take the expected leap to Year 2. However, it can’t be discounted that the team really has other plans at safety — league sources believe the Patriots will try for Ed Reed of the Ravens at about $5 million per season.
For a team that needs zero help on offense and as much as possible on defense, Reed seems like a strong fit.
Reed discusses the prospects of winning more Super Bowls with the Patriots in the video above, and it certainly seems feasible. New England gave up 271.4 yards per game through the air in 2012, which ranked 27th in the league.
There is no question that Reed could provide stability on the back end—and feast on the relatively faulty AFC East competition. Interception-prone QBs Mark Sanchez and Ryan Fitzpatrick would be easy pickings for Reed, while Ryan Tannehill of the Miami Dolphins is still susceptible to errors.
Dwight Freeney, DE
The connection to Peyton Manning from their days with the Indianapolis Colts may land Freeney a job with the Denver Broncos.
According to Mike Klis of the Denver Post, the Broncos are hoping to bring back pass-rushing dynamo Elvis Dumervil, but not at his current salary. Considering Freeney would be a projected cost of $7 million less, the investment in the aging DE seems more logical.
If the Broncos can’t work a pay reduction with Elvis Dumervil, a league source said the team would be interested in pursuing former Indianapolis Colt pass rusher and Peyton Manning teammate Dwight Freeney.
CBS Sports' NFL insider Jason La Canfora indicates that Dumervil is figuring to make $12 million in 2013, but that the team wants to restructure to lighten the salary cap burden. If that doesn't happen, Dumervil may be on his way out of town.
With Von Miller wreaking havoc off the edge himself, it wouldn't be too difficult for Freeney to be productive as a member of the Broncos' defense.
Although he isn't the player he once was, Freeney still has a dynamic spin move and would get more advantageous one-on-one matchups by playing with Miller.
Reggie Bush, RB
Not quite at the daunting age 30 plateau that has doomed running backs in recent years, Bush still should have a couple of good years left in the tank given his past two campaigns with the Miami Dolphins.
But GM Jeff Ireland doesn't seem intent on bringing him back. Adam H. Beasley of the Miami Herald reports that Bush entering free agency is a "near certainty."
That makes sense, considering Ireland praised Lamar Miller as a potential every-down back and the Dolphins also invested a 2011 second-round pick in former Kansas State standout RB Daniel Thomas.
Bush's incredible athleticism and exceptional receiving ability for a running back should garner plenty of attention on the open market, though. Among those vying for his services include the Detroit Lions, according to Beasley and ESPN's John Clayton.
Although there wasn't much substance provided by either of those assertions, Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press insists that the Lions' interest in Bush is legitimate.
The Lions' interest in Reggie Bush is real.
Who knows what happens with Bush at the end of the day, but plenty of NFL people at the combine believe the Lions will make Bush a primary target in free agency.
It might take $5 million or so a year to land the speedy running back, and Bush's desired destination isn't known. But the Lions' M.O. in recent years has been to try to surround Matthew Stafford with as much talent as possible...and that's not about to change.
Detroit has had trouble maintaining a balanced offense, and the combination of Bush and Mikel Leshoure could provide much-needed substance to the running game, which ranked 23rd last season.
Jared Cook, TE
After the Tennessee Titans decided not to franchise the extremely athletic tight end, Cook should be a relatively hot commodity on the free-agent market.
Adam Caplan of PhiladelphiaEagles.com indicates that the Titans were scared off by Cook's leverage in arbitration, since he is essentially a wide receiver and therefore would command more money with the tag. He speculates that Philadelphia will become interested.
Now that [Tennessee] didn't tag him, I'd expect the Eagles to have varying levels of interest depending on where the market goes for him. And Cook is perhaps the most intriguing free-agent skill position player I've seen on tape when it comes to being a fit for Kelly's offense.
Caplan notes, though, that the tight end class is strong and that the Eagles could address that position with a rookie. Still, that doesn't mean other teams aren't going to be ringing.
Sean Jensen of the Chicago Sun-Times cites a source that tells him the Chicago Bears will be highly interested in Cook. He would be a nice vertical threat to pair with strong-armed QB Jay Cutler in Marc Trestman's new West Coast offense.
Ben Volin of the Palm Beach Post expects the Miami Dolphins to get in on the action, too.
La Canfora believes the St. Louis Rams will take a hard look at Cook as well, with his Tennessee connection to current Rams head coach Jeff Fisher.
According to Jim Wyatt of The Tennessean, Cook and the Titans will likely continue negotiations on a long-term deal up until March 12, but the two sides are very far apart on money right now.
Needless to say, the 25-year-old has enough upside as an explosive receiving target at tight end to warrant a multitude of interest—and it should result in a rather hefty payday despite his inconsistent production to date.