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NFL Free Agency 2014: Start Date, Rumors and Early Predictions

GREEN BAY, WI - OCTOBER 6:  James Jones #89 of the Green Bay Packers runs during a 83 yard touchdown catch against the Chris Houston #23 of the Detroit Lions at Lambeau Field on October 6, 2013 in Green Bay, Wisconsin.  The Packers defeated the Lions 22-9.  (Photo Tom Lynn /Getty Images)
Tom Lynn/Getty Images
Tim DanielsFeatured ColumnistFebruary 3, 2014

As one NFL season comes to a close, the focus on the next one begins to intensify. Teams around the league will begin searching for ways to plug holes so they can end up in the same place the Seattle Seahawks and Denver Broncos did this season.

While the Super Bowl might not be a realistic goal from every team next season, improving the roster to take steps in that direction is always key. Of course, free agency is an important part of that process and will soon take center stage along with the draft.

With that in mind, let's check out all of the important information with just over a month until the free-agent period gets underway. The details are followed by a look at some early rumors and predictions as teams begin to plot their strategies.

 

Start Date: Tuesday, March 11

Start Time: 4 p.m. ET

Free Agents: Positional List (via NFL.com)

 

Mark Sanchez

ORCHARD PARK, NY - DECEMBER 30: Mark Sanchez #6 of the New York Jets calls an audible during an NFL game against the Buffalo Bills at Ralph Wilson Stadium on December 30, 2012 in Orchard Park, New York. (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)
Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images

Sanchez missed the entire 2013 season after suffering a shoulder injury in the team's third exhibition game. It forced the New York Jets to go with rookie Geno Smith, who predictably struggled but showed signs of progress during the final month of the season.

Even though Sanchez posted a lackluster quarterback rating only a shade above 70 during four seasons with the Jets, he could still generate interest if he hits the market. Brian Costello of the New York Post reports sources around the league believe he will be released, and teams are ready to pounce:

One coach of a quarterback-needy team said his team already has discussed Sanchez internally as an option to be its starting quarterback in 2014.

"We'd take Sanchez. He'd be the starter as soon as he walked in the door for us."

Rich Cimini of ESPN passed along comments former quarterback Mark Brunell made on NFL Live, in which he says the USC product just needs a change of scenery:

There are several teams looking for quarterback help heading into the offseason, so perhaps the reported interest shouldn't come as a major surprise. That said, Sanchez has never shown he has what it takes to become a franchise signal-caller either.

Prediction: Oakland Raiders

 

James Jones

GREEN BAY, WI - SEPTEMBER 15:  James Jones #89 of the Green Bay Packers runs after making a reception against the Washington Redskins at Lambeau Field on September 15, 2013 in Green Bay, Wisconsin.  (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

Most of Jones' numbers remained pretty constant over the past two seasons, but there was a major drop-off in touchdowns. He caught 14 during the 2012 season. He was only able to follow it up with three, however, as the added defensive attention made it tougher for him to get open in the red zone.

Jones probably wishes those seasons were reversed as he gets ready to potentially become a free agent. Tyler Dunne of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that there's a lot of uncertainty around the Green Bay Packers' free-agent situation and that the wideout is likely to test the market:

The longtime Packers receiver shouldn't be viewed as a true No. 1 option if he does become a free agent. Rather, he's a solid No. 2 or 3 target who can help round out a passing game. There will be multiple teams in search of that type of player.

Prediction: Miami Dolphins

 

Miles Austin

Tim Sharp/Associated Press

Austin is coming off the worst season of his career. He appeared in just 11 games, racking up 24 catches for 244 yards and no touchdowns. The emergence of Terrance Williams behind Dez Bryant and Jason Witten led to a lesser role in the Dallas Cowboys offense for the veteran.

Knowing that, it doesn't come as a major surprise that Todd Archer of ESPN Dallas reports the wide receiver is on the chopping block. Dallas would free up a lot of money it would then be able to use to lock up other assets:

Wide receiver Miles Austin figures to be a June 1 casualty, which will open up $5.5 million in space, but would carry more than $5 million in dead money in 2015. Most of that money will be used to sign the draft picks.

For what it's worth, ESPN Dallas' Calvin Watkins noted that Jerry Jones wasn't ready to talk about contract decisions quite yet:

It wouldn't make much sense for him to return to the Cowboys at this point. Assuming he does get let go, he should eventually land with a team that features far less receiving depth, thus giving him a chance to become an impact player again.

Prediction: Buffalo Bills

 

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