NFL free agency finally opened officially on Tuesday at 4 p.m. ET. The excitement that the offseason brings with it truly begins here, as teams seek instant upgrades to improve their roster for the immediate future.
Future Hall of Famers and franchise record-setters litter the pool of those on the market. That makes things all the more interesting in terms of the viability and risk of investing a lucrative deal in an older player.
Here is a look at some of the biggest names that are being heavily talked about on the rumor mill—and where they might land.
Coming off of his first Super Bowl with the Baltimore Ravens, there seems to be no room for the team to keep their longtime star due to commitments to other younger impact players.
ESPN's Adam Schefter points out that Reed could join his former Ravens teammate, Anquan Boldin, with the San Francisco 49ers.
Adam Schefter @AdamSchefter
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.2013-3-12 13:20:29
As Cindy Boren of the Washington Post reports, Reed hired an agent for the first time in his career on Monday, which is another sign that a change could be coming.
And it wasn't just any agent—it was David Dunn, who represents 49ers GM Trent Baalke and head coach Jim Harbaugh, according to Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com.
Reed showed last season that he has something left in the tank, and any secondary in search of safety help should be happy to pull him in. Replacing a Pro Bowl safety like Dashon Goldson is tough, but Reed has the unique ball-hawking ability and the leeway to be aggressive for the Niners defense to be successful.
At age 34, it's clear that Urlacher is in the twilight of his career. Considering he is coming off of hamstring and knee injuries that slowed him down in 2012 and held him out of four games, it may be too risky of an investment.
However, CBS Sports' Jason La Canfora reports that the market has been kinder than expected to the Chicago Bears star.
This is the first time that Urlacher has tested free agency, but contrary to La Canfora's assertion, NFL Network's Ian Rapoport doesn't like the linebacker's chances of landing anywhere outside of Chicago.
Ian Rapoport @RapSheet
If it's not the Bears? I don't think anywhere. RT @dietzdpd: @RapSheet Where's Brian Urlacher gonna land?2013-3-13 03:08:31
Urlacher recently submitted a contract proposal to the Chicago brass, and didn't get a response in time for the 4 p.m. ET deadline. As ESPN Chicago's Jeff Dickerson mentions in the above report, Urlacher counted $9.7 million against the Bears' cap in 2012, and the deal he's seeking is likely less than that.
Sean Jensen of the Chicago Sun-Times indicates that talks between Urlacher and the Bears are at a standstill at the moment—although that shouldn't be the case in the near future.
Sean Jensen @seankjensen
Regarding Brian Urlacher: I've gotten no indication #Bears have responded to his agents initial parameters. Would guess that'll happen soon.2013-3-13 03:15:07
It will definitely be interesting to see what becomes of Urlacher's situation in the impending days. The Bears got good play out of Nick Roach and Geno Hayes at the linebacker spot when Urlacher missed the final four games last season, and both of them are free agents as well.
Michael Silver of Yahoo! indicates that the Dallas Cowboys haven't ruled out Urlacher, who could plug right into Monte Kiffin's Tampa 2 scheme.
There's no apparent sense of urgency on Chicago's side to get a deal done.
A lot of speculation has engulfed the St. Louis Rams' all-time leading rusher. After years on a struggling team, it is time for Jackson to finally seek greener pastures. According to Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the Atlanta Falcons are the top contenders to land the standout running back.
...There weren’t a lot of phone calls inquiring about him Saturday according to those close to Jackson. But Atlanta still is regarded as the frontrunner for his services, and the Falcons aren’t the only team interested.
Since the Falcons parted ways with Michael Turner, the acquisition of Jackson to pair with Jacquizz Rodgers would make a lot of sense.
The Detroit Lions, Cincinnati Bengals, Green Bay Packers and Pittsburgh Steelers are all reportedly interested in Jackson as well, according to D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal Constitution.
Conflicting reports are out about Jackson's possible landing spot being in Green Bay. Pro Football Talk indicates that the Packers are the leaders to land Jackson:
Packers are the current leaders for RB Steven Jackson.2013-3-12 20:42:47
Meanwhile, the USA TODAY's Mike Garafolo doesn't get the same impression.
Mike Garafolo @MikeGarafolo
The Packers and Steven Jackson's agent have talked but I don't sense there's a great push from GB for him.2013-3-12 21:41:37
One red flag is that Jackson is approaching the daunting age 30 milestone, which has spelled doom for many running backs in recent years. Jackson should still be productive as long as he's on a timeshare with one or two other backs, although he did convey his desire to still be the "bell cow" this past week.
Whatever role he takes on, some team will take a chance on someone as consistently productive as Jackson, who has posted eight consecutive 1,000-yard seasons.