2014 NFL Free Agency: What Are the Best Free Agent, Team Fits?
The NFL playoffs march on. So do the weeks, which count down to the start of the new league year. It brings free agency with it.
The top free agents available have been listed here. But where will they land? Or, perhaps more interestingly, where should they land?
Here are eight top free-agents-to-be that are likely to leave for greener pastures and where they might land.
Eric Decker, WR—Jacksonville Jaguars
The Jaguars have plenty to upgrade around their roster, but the offense needs the most help. That's where receiver Eric Decker comes in.
Granted, Decker isn't exactly Demaryius Thomas, but he has been pretty good in his own right. True, he has had Thomas as a running mate—not to mention future Hall of Fame quarterback Peyton Manning in the past two seasons—but 32 touchdowns over the past three seasons is nothing to sneeze at.
With Justin Blackmon suspended indefinitely and Cecil Shorts III constantly battling health issues, the Jaguars need some stability on top of talent at the position. Decker provides the best of both worlds, at least in terms of available free agents.
Jairus Byrd, S—Oakland Raiders
It's been a few years since the Raiders had a decent secondary. Not since the days cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha pressed opposing receivers into submission has Oakland seen quality play on that side of the ball.
Alright, that wasn't too long ago—Oakland had the second-best pass defense in Asomugha's last season there in 2010—but it seems like ages ago.
Raiders fans have walked through the valley of the shadow of the Black Hole in recent years, but they are climbing
Jairus Byrd isn't exactly Asomugha—for starters, they play different positions—but he is one of the best safeties in the league. Putting him alongside a healthy Tyvon Branch could make for a scary combination for opposing offenses.
Hakeem Nicks, WR—Carolina Panthers
Things haven't quite turned out as hoped in New York for receiver Hakeem Nicks.
The big receiver has been plagued by injuries and inconsistent play since arriving in the league, despite flashing potential at times. He heads into free agency with far less fanfare.
Nicks still possesses talent, though, and there are still teams that need help at receiver. Few teams could say that more than the Panthers, who have gone years relying on aging Steve Smith at the position.
NFL.com's Gil Brandt actually thought Nicks being traded to Carolina last season would make sense. The Giants wideout could easily land there come March.
Jared Allen, DE—Tampa Bay Buccaneers
It seems like forever and a day since defensive end Jared Allen signed that massive $73-million contract with the Vikings, but six years have come and gone for the talented pass rusher.
The Buccaneers need help at defensive end, and Allen might be the most affordable quality option in free agency.
That is not to say Allen will come cheap, but the 31-year-old won't command another massive contract like the last one he signed.
An upgraded pass rush could weaponize Tampa Bay's defense, especially if new head coach Lovie Smith works his defensive magic early. Allen might not be in his prime anymore, but he can still get to the quarterback, as evidenced by the fact he has double-digit sacks in each of the past six years.
Branden Albert, OT—Miami Dolphins
The Dolphins tried to trade for offensive tackle Branden Albert last season, but a deal didn't quite materialize before the NFL draft began. So Albert spent last season with the Chiefs while future left tackle Eric Fisher plied his trade on the right side.
Albert should hit free agency this year, though, and the Dolphins are worse for wear along that offensive line.
The ill-fated Jonathan Martin experiment is all but over, and Miami needs to do something to keep quarterback Ryan Tannehill cleaner next season. Outside the draft, Albert makes a ton of sense.
Ben Tate, RB—Cleveland Browns
The Browns drafted plodding running back Trent Richardson with the No. 3-overall pick just a scant two years ago. They were fortunate enough to recover a first-round pick for him before his value fell off a cliff, but that left a gaping hole at running back.
There aren't too many great options in free agency—most are injury-prone or getting long in the tooth—but Ben Tate could be Cleveland's huckleberry.
Tate had a bit of a down season, to be sure. Then again, so did the entire Texans organization.
The four-year veteran has shown what he can do in the past, however, and he has fresh legs given he was stuck behind Arian Foster for much of his tenure in Houston.
Chris Harris, CB—Oakland Raiders
As detailed earlier in this column, the Raiders haven't been very good in pass defense. Also detailed previously is the fact they will have a ton of money to spend this coming offseason.
Jairus Byrd will be a nice upgrade at safety, but it will take more than that.
What better way to improve at cornerback than to steal a quality player away from a division rival? Chris Harris has been outstanding for the Broncos since he signed with them as an undrafted free agent in 2010.
Pairing Harris with second-year D.J. Hayden could give that unit a massive boost, especially if the Raiders focus on adding talent all around that defense.
Anthony Spencer, OLB—Philadelphia Eagles
The Eagles need some help on the defensive side, particularly with the pass rush.
Linebacker Anthony Spencer has spent his entire career with the Cowboys, but his time in Dallas might be up.
The former first-rounder was slapped with the franchise tag in two consecutive seasons, but the Cowboys cannot afford to keep him without some drastic measures.
Philadelphia doesn't have a ton of cap space, but Spencer might not have a terribly expensive price tag. He is coming off an injury, and he has just one productive pass-rushing season under his belt—his 11-sack 2012 campaign.
The veteran has always been a well-rounded edge rusher, and he would be going back to his original position in Philadelphia.