The free-agent signing period is a time of hope, but it's also a time when guys can get overpaid because of a shortage of top-notch talent at their position.
Middle-of-the-line veteran performers get big-time contracts, but young, up-and-coming players can also get the deals that match their future stardom.
With a little bit of both types sprinkled in this short list, the following players will be high on the lists of teams with needs at their positions.
Michael Vick, QB
Laugh all you want, but based on who's available at the position, Vick is the most proven and talented free-agent quarterback out there. Josh McCown is perhaps the hottest name, but at 34 years old, he isn't even sure he's going to continue his career, per Adam Jahns of the Chicago Sun-Times.
He was great in 2013 in relief of the injured Jay Cutler for the Chicago Bears, but with that uncertainty and McCown's short span of positive play, Vick is still a more attractive option for a team looking for a free-agent quarterback.
His durability and ball control are obviously still a concern, but as he mentions in speaking to Reuben Frank of Comcast Sports Philly, he still has the tools. Vick said:
"My skill set is still there, my arm is still there, my legs are still there, I'm still a playmaker, that's evident. I think at some point, I'll be playing somewhere."
Michael Johnson, DE
At just 26 years old, Johnson is the most-attractive free agent pass rusher who will likely remain available. The Carolina Panthers' Greg Hardy is also set to be a free agent, but chances are the Panthers won't let him get away.
Who will make the most significant impact for their new or old team in 2014?
The Cincinnati Bengals have depth at defensive end. They probably won't choose to out-bid a team for Johnson's services. He had 12.5 sacks in 2012, but fell off a bit to only tally 3.5 in 2013.
Part of that could have been due to sharing time with all of the Bengals' talented pass rushers. In any case, the 6'7" 260-pound freakish athlete will draw major love from teams looking for an impact pass rusher. Don't rule him out as a possible fit at outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme.
NFL.com wrote this about Johnson in 2009 before the NFL Combine:
Johnson might have a future as a pass-rushing linebacker in the 3-4 scheme so he can use his length and agility in coverage.
Rare athleticism for the position, making a switch to outside linebacker possible at the next level.
Alex Mack, C
The Cleveland Browns' 28-year-old stalwart at center will get plenty of attention. He's been a leader from Day One in Cleveland when the team took him with the 21st-pick in the 2009 NFL draft. Mack made the Pro Bowl in 2010 and hasn't missed a game in his career.
Mack said he will give the Browns the chance to match any offer he receives, per Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com.
Chemistry and continuity are important on the offensive line. The Browns will want to maintain the services of Mack as the team continues its head coaching search, and ultimately installs a new offense.
That said, other teams will work hard to pry such a durable and productive player away.
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