The 2014 NFL offseason has begun for most of the teams across the league, and the focus has shifted to this year’s free-agent class and which players must sign with a new franchise.
With huge names like Darren McFadden, Jared Allen and Hakeem Nicks all possibly hitting the open market, there will be teams lining up to at least give these talented players the chance to prove their worth.
Here are the three athletes that would benefit the most from a change of scenery next season.
Darren McFadden, RB
Whether it was injuries, the inconsistency of the play at quarterback or the lack of rhythm from an ever-changing coaching staff—more likely a combination of all three—Oakland Raiders running back Darren McFadden needs to find a new home this offseason.
As Steve Corkran of the Contra Costa Times is reporting, the Cincinnati Bengals are a possible landing spot:
As @JoshDubowAP said, Darren McFadden destined to sign w/ Cincy, be paired with Hue & Giovani Bernard, acquired with pick from Palmer trade.— Steve Corkran (@CorkOnTheNFL) January 10, 2014
McFadden has failed to complete a full season in his six-year career, suffering with constant injuries as he has missed at least three games each season since coming to the NFL. His new team must understand his physical limitations and use him in a platoon as a change-of-pace back.
There is no denying McFadden’s drop in numbers this year even when he was healthy, but with his stock as low as it has ever been during his career, he should be the reasonably priced weapon that the Bengals have been searching to find.
With Bernard as the No. 1 and McFadden as the backup, Cincinnati’s rushing attack would be one of the best in the NFL, and Run DMC would have a chance to stay healthy without the pressure of being the workhorse.
Predicted Landing Spot: Cincinnati Bengals
Jared Allen, DE
If the Minnesota Vikings don’t re-sign free-agent defensive end Jared Allen this offseason—he made more than $17 million in 2013, via Ben Goessling of ESPN.com—the charismatic defender will hit the open market.
In the pass-happy NFL, Allen’s ability to rush the quarterback makes him one of the most valuable players in this year’s free-agent class. The best landing spot, though, would be with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Ira Kaufman of The Tampa Tribune also sees this as a possible fit due to the relationship between the defensive end and former Vikings head coach Leslie Frazier:
Leslie Frazier's presence on Lovie Smith's staff could help the Bucs lure Jared Allen to Tampa if the Vikings allow him to hit free agency— Ira Kaufman (@IKaufmanTBO) January 7, 2014
Allen didn’t have the most impressive season of his career, racking up just 11.5 sacks and 33 tackles, but he still has the ability to make an impact on the field.
Whether it’s Allen getting to the opposing quarterback or the double teams sent his way that open up chances for other players, his impact on a defensive line is undeniable. Tampa Bay needs that presence desperately.
Predicted Landing Spot: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Hakeem Nicks, WR
New York Giants wide receiver Hakeem Nicks had one of the worst statistical seasons of his career, and the struggles couldn’t have come at a worse time for a player trying to get a big free-agent contract.
Which player needs the change of scenery the most?
Even after the lackluster 2013 campaign, the Baltimore Ravens should sign Nicks to a multiyear deal.
With Ravens No. 1 wide receiver Torrey Smith needing a quality complement on the other side of the field that can draw coverage away and quarterback Joe Flacco needing all the weapons he can find, Nicks would be a competitively priced answer to the franchise’s needs.
Predicted Landing Spot: Baltimore Ravens
All stats via NFL.com.