The NFL offseason is always intriguing, but this year the anticipation is especially high given a really strong draft class and the possibility of a pretty vibrant free-agency market.
Be honest—about five minutes after your favorite team's season ended, you were already thinking about draft picks and free agents, right?
I know you were because I was doing the same thing. So to satiate your never-ending thirst for all things NFL, I've rounded up the latest rumors surrounding three big free agents this year and left my prediction for where they would end up.
Be sure to leave your predictions in the comments, along with your thoughts on where some other big free agents would end up.
Michael Vick, QB
Without question, Michael Vick is going to be the top quarterback on the free-agent market this year. With Nick Foles entrenched as the starter and Matt Barkley developing as the backup, there really isn't a place in Philadelphia for Vick, especially if he wants to start.
According to Adam Schefter of ESPN, at least two teams are already showing interest in the athletic quarterback:
Two teams likely to have some level of interest in Eagles free-agent-to-be QB Michael Vick: Buccaneers and Jets.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) February 2, 2014
Those are both interesting choices, though both have young quarterbacks—Mike Glennon in Tampa Bay and Geno Smith in New York—who would seemingly be the incumbents for the starting job. It's hard to see Vick signing with either team to be the backup.
Prediction: Jacksonville Jaguars
In my opinion, it makes more sense for a team without a clear starting quarterback that may draft one this year to bring Vick aboard. Teams like the Houston Texans, Jaguars, Oakland Raiders or Minnesota Vikings would make more sense given that logic.
The Texans will have their choice at quarterback, so they are out. And both the Raiders and Vikings have players they may be comfortable turning to if they decide to groom a rookie rather than start him immediately.
But the Jags could see two quarterbacks go off the board before they pick No. 3—if the St. Louis Rams trade that No. 2 pick, which they probably will—and may not be able to pass up on a dynamic pass-rusher like Jadeveon Clowney. If that's the case, they could wait until the second round to select a quarterback and thus would want to find a veteran to bide the team until that player was ready.
Plus, Vick would sell tickets. And in Jacksonville, selling tickets is always a major consideration.
Eric Decker, WR
There's a very good chance Eric Decker won't return to the Denver Broncos. While there is a pretty vibrant potential wide receiver market—Hakeem Nicks, Jeremy Maclin and Anquan Boldin could also be available—and the draft is rich with receiving prospects, Decker is still the head honcho available for teams.
Yes, there is a worry that he is a product of the system he is in (a similar argument for Riley Cooper should he hit free agency), but when has that ever stopped teams from overpaying for a player?
And according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com, Decker will indeed hit the market:
Pre-emptive deals with star players such as wide receiver Decker, cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and running back Knowshon Moreno are unlikely. This way, the player and the club will have a better understanding of the player's market value.
"Then we'll see if we're in the ballpark," [John] Elway said.
The risk of losing a star player, though, becomes greater once he becomes available to the highest bidder. Interest from competing teams in Decker figures to be strong.
"I do hope it works out," Decker said Monday morning before departing with his team for home. "I love the city of Denver. I love the organization. I love everything about it. I understand it's a business, and we'll see what happens. I have enjoyed my time here."
Players like Zane Beadles, Shaun Phillips, Mike Adams, Robert Ayers and Paris Lenon, among others, will also be allowed to hit the market. But Decker is the big fish.
Prediction: Indianapolis Colts
Reggie Wayne isn't getting younger and will be coming off an ACL tear. T.Y. Hilton has a lot of talent but is unpredictable. Da'Rick Rogers is still an unknown, though he has dynamic ability. The Colts don't have a first-round pick, but they will have some cap space.
It isn't hard to see a fit in Indianapolis for Decker, who could settle into a No. 2 role behind Wayne should he return healthy.
Of course, there will be a long line of suitors. Decker could end up anywhere from the New England Patriots, San Francisco 49ers and Carolina Panthers to the New York Jets.
Jeremy Maclin, WR
There was some buzz last week that Maclin might be in the process of signing a contract extension with the Eagles, but that was quickly dismissed by Les Bowen of the Philadelphia Daily News:
Sorry to disappoint fans who were getting all excited, but I'm told by source w/knowledge of situation, nothing imminent w/Jeremy Maclin— Les Bowen (@LesBowen) February 1, 2014
Again, I still think Maclin returns to the Eagles, but right now is really early for stuff like that.— Les Bowen (@LesBowen) February 1, 2014
Maclin will be as intriguing to teams as Decker or Nicks, but it seems likely he'll return to the Eagles.
Prediction: Philadelphia Eagles
Maclin just seems like the perfect fit for the Eagles' spread offense, even if his injuries are a concern. In that regard, it would hardly be shocking to see him sign a one-year deal with the team.
But both Maclin and Cooper will probably be retained because the former seems like a natural fit for Chip Kelly's high-tempo, read-option attack and because the latter clearly established a rapport with Nick Foles this year.
Plus, both can be brought back for reasonable amounts, mostly because Maclin's injury concerns lower his value. Expect him to return to Philly.
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