NFL Free Agents 2013: Who Needs to Take Big Risks in Open Market?

PJ BernackiCorrespondent IMarch 22, 2013

PITTSBURGH, PA - OCTOBER 28:  James Harrison #92 of the Pittsburgh Steelers looks on from the sideline against the Washington Redskins during the game on October 28, 2012 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  The Steelers defeated the Redskins 27-12.  (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

Free agents are being signed left and right, but it is not even close to being over. It's been entertaining so far with seeing Wes Welker divorce the Patriots for Denver, the Jets squirm over what to do with Darrelle Revis and Greg Jennings sign with the Vikings. However, there are still many great, experienced players out there who can still make an impact in the NFL. There is still plenty of time and talent for teams who have been quiet this offseason to make some moves. 

A franchise that needs to be involved is the Baltimore Ravens.

In this free agency period, the Super Bowl Champs have lost so many key players on offense and defense, like Anquan Boldin and Ed Reed, as well as losing Ray Lewis to retirement. They look to rebuild in the draft, but if they hope to be playoff contenders then they need to take a risk and sign some veterans to fill those roles.

The Ravens have a strong need at linebacker, and James Harrison, recently cut by the rival Steelers, might be just the risk they need to take.

At 34 years of age, the five-time Pro Bowler has certainly reached the last few years of his great career. After getting the starting job in 2007, Harrison started 63 out of 64 games. He’s missed eight games in the last two seasons combined.

Age and health clearly make Harrison a risk for the Ravens, but with the high-quality linebackers projected to get drafted before Baltimore’s pick, they may need to sign a free agent. Harrison would bring veteran leadership that is absent from the team right now, but that may be a risk in and of itself. Imagine the leader of your most hated rival coming to replace your beloved leader…

Money won’t be the issue if both sides decide to take this risk, but whether Harrison can stay healthy and how the chemistry will be in the locker room is a toss-up.

Staying in the AFC North, the Cincinnati Bengals have the most cap room in the league and should be willing to spend their money. With Baltimore in a semi-rebuilding process, questions surrounding the Steelers and the Browns on the verge of being good, the Bengals’ time is now.


Their biggest needs come at linebacker, running back and wide receiver. I don’t suggest that Cincy should take a risk on Ahmad Bradshaw or Beanie Wells, who seem to be the best backs in free agency. And they probably won’t be willing to spend money on Brandon Lloyd or Darrius Heyward-Bey.

But the linebacker position could possibly be addressed with veteran Brian Urlacher.

Despite a great pass rush, the Bengals were constantly plagued by inconsistent play from Rey Maualuga, who is now a free agent. After he turned down the Bears’ “disrespectful” offer, Urlacher is now on the free agent market, but not many teams seem to be interested.

It would be a risk for the 13-year pro to come to Cincy in his final years when they are not a definite Super Bowl contender at the moment, but he could provide the leadership on defense the Bengals so desperately need. Also, he can be the perfect mentor for the young Vontaze Burfict, who has a bright future ahead of him.

The Bengals have the money to pay the extra few million dollars Urlacher was looking for, but that it still a pretty big risk for a 34-year-old, whose production has declined.

When you really look at it, both the Bengals and Ravens have a need for a linebacker, and veterans can fit into their respective systems, Harrison for the Ravens and Urlacher for the Bengals. It all depends on if any of the parties are willing to pull the trigger.