NFL free agency is finally upon us, folks, and man is it exciting. While there aren't too many marquee names available—Mike Wallace tops that list—there is plenty of depth at key positions that teams will begin targeting on Tuesday afternoon at 4 p.m. ET.
Here, we'll attempt to round up all of the rumors circulating around the biggest names on the market. If your team is showing interest in adding a key piece during free agency, you'll find all of the buzz surrounding that possible move here.
After Monday's trades for Percy Harvin and Anquan Boldin, things got fun. Now everything will really heat up with free agency set to begin.
Don't be surprised if Mike Wallace is the first free agent to sign with a new team once the NFL's free-agency period begins at 4 p.m. ET on Tuesday. Wallace is the biggest name in free agency and a true game-changer at the wide receiver position.
But where is Wallace going to sign?
That probably depends on whom you ask, but it seems most likely that he'll either sign with the Miami Dolphins or Minnesota Vikings. If you ask Adam Schefter of ESPN, he'll probably tell you it will be the Dolphins:
League-wide expectation is that WR Mike Wallace winds up in Miami with the Dolphins.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) March 11, 2013
But don't sleep on the Vikings. The Dolphins aren't, according to Jeff Darlington of NFL Network (via Pro Football Talk):
According to Jeff Darlington of NFL Network, the Dolphins expect the Vikings to get involved in the Wallace sweepstakes, and the Dolphins believe that landing Wallace may cost up to $13 million a year.
While those teams seem to be the most likely to go after Wallace, other teams needing an upgrade at wide receiver such as the Cleveland Browns, St. Louis Rams and perhaps even New England Patriots, if they don't re-sign Wes Welker, could go after Wallace.
Once Mike Wallace is signed, sealed and delivered to his new team, the market for Jennings will open. Essentially, the Wallace contract will help determine what Jennings is paid.
But who will pay him?
All of the suitors for Wallace will also likely target Jennings. But Jennings also gave a glimpse into his own decision-making process when it comes to signing with a team, via Robert Klemko of USA Today:
"Coaching means a lot, the dynamic of the team," he told USA TODAY Sports. "To me, the quarterback means a lot, if they have one or not, and I have to make sure my family is comfortable.
If the quarterback is that important, it could eliminate quite a few teams. Meanwhile, squads you might not think would make major pushes for a marquee wide receiver—for example, the Baltimore Ravens or Indianapolis Colts (though Mike Chappell of the Indianapolis Star reported the Colts aren't interested)—could enter the fray.
That's speculation, of course, but don't be shocked if Jennings ends up pairing with a solid quarterback.
At this point, the consensus seems to be that two teams will be in the running for Reggie Bush: the Arizona Cardinals and Detroit Lions.
We start with John Clayton of ESPN:
With the Arizona Cardinals releasing Beanie Wells, the Cards will make a run on Reggie Bush, but they could lose him to Detroit— John Clayton (@ClaytonESPN) March 11, 2013
Ian Rapoport of NFL.com mirrors that report:
For now, this seems to be a two-team race. Don't be shocked if a mystery team—the St. Louis Rams, perhaps?—enters the fray, however.
The market for Wes Welker is likely to develop a bit more slowly than it will for Mike Wallace and Greg Jennings, since Welker is primarily a slot receiver. For now, Welker is probably most likely to return to the New England Patriots.
Owner Robert Kraft would certainly like him back according to Bart Hubbuch of the New York Post:
Bob Kraft: “We want Wes [Welker]. We really do.” #patriots— Bart Hubbuch (@HubbuchNYP) March 11, 2013
Darren Rovell of ESPN had more from Kraft:
Pats owner Robert Kraft on Wes Welker: “I love Wes Welker. I hope he remains a Patriot for life. Just like Tom Brady.”— darren rovell (@darrenrovell) March 11, 2013
I still think Welker will return to the Pats, but you can't bet against a team paying him big bucks and luring him away from New England.
Could Dwight Freeney and Peyton Manning be reunited in Denver?
According to Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk:
Dumervil and his $12 million base salary will be dumped by Saturday, at which time the payment becomes fully guaranteed.
While the Broncos have plenty of options, we’re told that Manning wants Freeney. Though Manning has no plan to make a power play, he has a way of getting his point across.
But the Broncos aren't the only team reportedly interested in Freeney. Peter King of Sports Illustrated thinks the New England Patriots will pursue Freeney. Terry McCormick of the National Football Post reports the Atlanta Falcons are interested as well.
Expect a vibrant market for the veteran defensive end.
Ed Reed should have no shortage of interested parties, though whether the veteran gets the sort of money he wants on the market remains to be seen.
We start with Jason La Canfora of CBS:
Ed Reed could still fetch $5 million per year on the open market—Miami and Indianapolis are among the teams considering him, sources said—and the overall depth of this position in the draft could work against these free agents, too.
Meanwhile, Adam Schefter of ESPN is reporting the San Francisco 49ers could throw themselves in the mix:
If 49ers lose S Dashon Goldson, some around league expecting them to make push for free-agent S Ed Reed. Could be Reed and Boldin in SF.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) March 12, 2013
And of course, there is always the possibility that Reed will return to the Ravens. The future Hall of Famer will likely get the payday he wants, as his market has seemingly heated up.
We start with Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, who reports, "One of the available offensive tackles, Miami’s Jake Long, has been linked to St. Louis via rumor. The parties have talked. But as of Monday evening, the Rams had not offered a contract."
Daniel Jeremiah of NFL.com adds the following:
FWIW...I keep hearing STL and CHI for Jake Long— Daniel Jeremiah (@MoveTheSticks) March 11, 2013
Finally, Jason La Canfora of CBS notes,
Jake Long isn't the catch some thought he would be. The injuries and waning production have taken a toll. He'll still be the highest-paid offensive lineman, but we're not shattering any spending records here.The Dolphins (go figure), Saints, Falcons, Bears and Chargers are the teams in hottest pursuit of help here.
It looks like the market for Long is the Bears and Rams, at least for now. But free agency is always a bit unpredictable, so a mystery suitor could arise from the shadows and throw big money his way.
The New England Patriots would like to keep Wes Welker, yes, but according to Greg A. Bedard of the Boston Globe, the team has also made re-signing cornerback Aqib Talib a top priority:
According to multiple sources, the Patriots would like to get cornerback Aqib Talib done soon. This makes sense for a few reasons:
a) the Patriots don't have any real cornerbacks beyond Alfonzo Dennard;
b) the Patriots gave up a fourth-round pick for Talib so if he walks, it would look pretty bad;
c) with a flooded market at cornerback, the Patriots are probably playing the, "You should take our deal because once you get out there, your price is only going to do down.";
But here's a twist for you—according to Mike Garafolo of USA Today, the Washington Redskins are also interested in signing the corner and will make a push to land him.
Talib is arguably the top corner available, so I'm sure he'll have plenty of suitors. Don't expect him to re-sign with the Pats right off the bat.
On Sunday, Aaron Wilson of The Baltimore Sun reported that the Cleveland Browns and Indianapolis Colts were set to do battle to sign outside linebacker Paul Kruger:
A bidding war is expected to unfold between the Cleveland Browns and the Indianapolis Colts for Ravens outside linebacker Paul Kruger, according to league sources with knowledge of the situation.
The Browns have been particularly aggressive in expressing strong interest in Kruger, one of the top free agent pass rushers along with Detroit Lions defensive end Cliff Avril.
On Tuesday, Wilson tweeted the following:
Sources say Browns are closing in on their target: Ravens pass rushing outside linebacker Paul Kruger. Nothing official yet of course— Aaron Wilson (@RavensInsider) March 12, 2013
Looks like the Browns are going to get their guy. Don't be shocked if the Colts are still players for Kruger, however, and steal him away from Cleveland.
Cliff Avril is sure to draw plenty of interest around the NFL, both for defenses running a 4-3 and those employing a 3-4, as Avril is likely athletic enough to play outside linebacker.
One team that has emerged as a favorite to land him is the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, according to Jason La Canfora of CBS:
Cliff Avril is the best in breed here, and the Lions desperately want to retain him, though that seems less likely by the day. The question is whether he reaches $10 million per year, which would help set the rest of the market for pass rushers. Tampa Bay is pushing hard for a pass rusher and several league sources believe they'll do what it takes to get Avril.
The Cleveland Browns have been rumored to have interest as well (via Mary Kay Cabot of the The Plain Dealer), while Aaron Wilson of The Baltimore Sun is reporting the Indianapolis Colts could end up signing Avril:
Hearing good chance Cliff Avril will go to the Colts, but nothing concrete yet.— Aaron Wilson (@RavensInsider) March 12, 2013
Don't be surprised if Avril is signed early on Tuesday evening. It sounds as though he has a healthy market for his services.
At the moment, it would appear the market for Dannell Ellerbe consists of the Baltimore Ravens, Cleveland Browns and St. Louis Rams.
Wait, the Rams? Yes, the Rams, according to Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:
At linebacker, the Rams have expressed interest in Baltimore linebacker Dannell Ellerbe, but indications are that the Ravens are trying to re-sign him. Plus, he may prove to be too expensive for a strongside linebacker, which would be his likely role in St. Louis.
After the retirement of Ray Lewis, I would be pretty shocked if the Ravens failed to re-sign Ellerbe. According to Mary Kay Cabot of The Plain Dealer, the Browns are also going to make a push for Ellerbe, so this could get very interesting over the next day or so.
At the moment, it appears the Philadelphia Eagles will be the team that ends up signing safety Dashon Goldson. According to Jason La Canfora of CBS, "As for the safeties, I continue to hear the Eagles will be the team to pay Dashon Goldson what he wants, or close to it."
It makes sense—the Eagles have been very weak at safety since Brian Dawkins left town.
The Eagles won't be the only team in the running, however, according to Adam Schefter of ESPN:
Four teams - SF, PHIL, DET, TB - in play on Dashon Goldson - but DET, TB considered favorites. TB also in on CBs Sean Smith, B. Grimes, DRC.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) March 12, 2013
Expect a healthy market for Goldson.