2014 NFL Free Agent Predictions: Forecast for Best Offensive Options

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2014 NFL Free Agent Predictions: Forecast for Best Offensive Options
Dustin Bradford/Getty Images

The NFL free-agent class is highlighted more by depth than top-end talent, at least on the offensive side of the ball. That's good news for the best players available, because it means they should be able to attract a lot of attention on the open market.

Ultimately, teams will be forced to make a decision once the signing period opens on March 11. They can either attempt to attract one of the top players available, but risk losing a bidding war, or try to ink a secondary option to fill the void while others battle for the main options.

Let's examine the best offensive players who should be available when the market opens and predict where each will land. Players like New Orleans Saints superstar tight end Jimmy Graham aren't included due to the high likelihood of the franchise tag being used.

 

Michael Vick

Nick Foles stepped into a starting role for the Philadelphia Eagles and proceeded to throw 27 touchdowns with just two interceptions. His play ensured Vick wasn't going to re-assume the No. 1 spot in Philadelphia, but Vick is still good enough to latch on with a quarterback-needy team.

He was actually having a solid season before suffering a hamstring injury, allowing Foles to take the football world be storm. He had a quarterback rating slightly above 86, more than five points above his career average, and also averaged his most yards per rush since his rookie campaign.

Dan Hanzus of NFL.com passed along comments from the quarterback during the run-up to the Super Bowl about whether he thinks he'll be a starter in Week 1 next season and if the New York Jets are an option:

"Absolutely," he replied. "I can't see no other way."

Given the Gotham setting, we asked if the Jets might be a good fit in his quest to get back to the top of an NFL depth chart.

"I don't know," he said. "Who knows? What I am is really excited about the opportunity to play again in 2014 and that's what's important."

Although Vick wasn't ready to talk about any specific team, the Jets certainly seem like a perfect fit. Geno Smith failed to impress during his rookie season, and New York is drafting at a point in the first round where the top prospects will likely be gone.

Vick is a good stopgap option who can bring playmaking ability to a Jets squad that ranked 29th in points per game.

Prediction: New York Jets

 

Ben Tate

Phelan M. Ebenhack/Associated Press

Tate averaged nearly five yards per carry across 40 games with the Houston Texans. With Arian Foster still atop the team's running back depth chart, however, it wouldn't make much sense for Houston to give him any type of sizable contract.

Instead, he'll likely head to the open market as the most intriguing back available. He's been forced to overcome multiple injury issues throughout his career. That said, when healthy, the Auburn product has flashed the ability to handle a starting role.

One team certainly in the market for a player to lead the rushing attack is the Cleveland Browns. Marc Sessler of NFL.com notes a strong connection is forming between them and Tate:

The Browns could sign Tate and then draft a running back from the deep class in the middle rounds. It's a better option than having to use an early selection on a back considering the lack of disparity between the available prospects.

Add in their two first-round picks, and the Browns could have an entirely rebuilt offense by Week 1.

Prediction: Cleveland Browns

 

Eric Decker

Decker is an interesting case. He was a perfect fit for the Denver Broncos because he could exploit matchups created by Demaryius Thomas stretching the field and Julius Thomas working over the middle. Only time will tell if can he move to another team and become a true No. 1 wideout.

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It's a scenario that's likely to happen because Decker is the top receiver available and there's a definite need around the league. He's coming off a season that saw him make 87 catches for nearly 1,300 yards and 11 touchdowns as a part of Peyton Manning's record-breaking season.

The Indianapolis Colts and Oakland Raiders are both teams to keep an eye on in the sweepstakes. That said, the best fit could very well end up being the Carolina Panthers.

Steve Smith's days as a No. 1 receiver are a thing of the past. He lacked the downfield playmaking ability that made him a major threat during his prime. That made things a lot more difficult on Cam Newton.

Signing Decker would give Newton a more reliable top target, one capable of running those deep routes but also equally capable of working underneath. It would be a major step in the right direction for a team that watched its offense lag behind its terrific defense in 2013.

Prediction: Carolina Panthers

 

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