The beginning of NFL free agency is just days away—starting at 4 p.m. EDT March 11, to be exact—and the rumors are already starting to heat up around the league.
While players like Jimmy Graham and Greg Hardy will steal many of the headlines, there are several players hitting the market that could make a difference for a new franchise or return to their current team.
Whether it's a defensive player filling a hole for a team looking to make the playoffs or a dynamic playmaker that has the ability to change an offense each time he touches the ball, multiple teams are looking to make the leap with a new player on their roster.
Before free agency officially begins, here's a look at the latest on a few of the big names and where they could possibly land.
Bills Unlikely to Tag, Re-Sign Jairus Byrd
As much as the fans, ownership and coaching staff likely want Jairus Byrd back in a Buffalo Bills jersey, it's becoming increasingly more evident that he won't be returning.
According to Joe Buscaglia of WGR 550, the Bills have attempted to re-sign the safety but cannot come to an agreement:
The Buffalo Bills are unlikely to sign Jairus Byrd before the start of free agency on March 11, and it doesn't appear the franchise tag is in their plans either.
There are further details that shed some light on the situation that appears to be headed for a parting of the ways. According to a league source, the Bills made a "substantial" offer to Byrd to keep him on a long-term deal, and provided a big effort to keep him in western New York for quite some time.
The Bills are reluctant to use the franchise tag for another year likely due to two factors: The price tag is high—franchising a safety will cost the team $8.43 million—and Byrd just doesn't seem extremely interested in signing a contract after that point.
Buscaglia even reports on Twitter that earlier the Bills looked into potentially trading away Byrd, but attempts were unsuccessful:
I'm hearing the #Bills explored all their options including a trade of Byrd and now they're unlikely to tag him.— Joe Buscaglia (@JoeBuscaglia) March 2, 2014
Byrd is a great defensive player and has been throughout his career with the Bills, but the 27-year-old safety's reluctance to agree to a deal makes it difficult to keep him in Buffalo.
As for possible landing spots for Byrd, Eliot Shorr-Parks of NJ.com reports that the Philadelphia Eagles might take a look at the safety. With Byrd playing for Oregon, being coached by Chip Kelly in the NFL might be a perfect fit.
For now, the Bills will continue to try working out a contract with Byrd before free agency begins. But with an offer already being turned down, the optimism in Buffalo is decreasing about keeping Byrd with the team.
Redskins Mulling Over Bringing Brian Orakpo Back
Over the course of his five seasons in the NFL, Brian Orakpo has been one of the most feared pass rushers in the league. He's also never worn another jersey outside of the gold and burgundy of the Washington Redskins.
The Washington front office has been debating whether or not Orakpo is worth signing to a long-term contract or slapping the franchise tag on him, per Mike Jones and Mark Maske of The Washington Post:
Washington Redskins officials were in final deliberations this weekend over what was described as a difficult decision about whether to devote the financial resources necessary to retain outside linebacker Brian Orakpo.
According to several people familiar with the situation, the Redskins like Orakpo as a player and ideally would prefer to keep him. But there have been differing views within the organization, according to those sources, about the wisdom of either using the franchise player tag or pursing an expensive long-term contract with Orakpo when that money and salary cap space instead could be used to address other needs.
“I think there’s a lot of back and forth on it,” said one person with knowledge of the team’s deliberations. “I don’t think it’s clear cut.”
Those differing views could lead to the Redskins waiting until just before free agency begins to secure Orakpo for the future.
While there could be concerns over his injury history which kept him on the sidelines for all but two games back in 2012, he has been a terror in the NFC East division throughout his other four seasons.
In 64 career games, Orakpo has totaled 39.5 sacks to go along with 155 total tackles. He's also forced six forced fumbles.
With the likely loss of London Fletcher, though he's still left the door slightly open, locking up Orakpo long term is the best option for the Redskins. The injuries might be a concern, but they are not a big enough one to run the risk of paying a franchise tag or losing him to free agency.
Ravens Turn Attention to Eugene Monroe
After officially re-signing tight end Dennis Pitta to a long-term deal, the Baltimore Ravens are now turning their sights toward locking up left offensive tackle Eugene Monroe.
The Ravens could go in a few different directions when looking at the lineman, according to Aaron Wilson of The Baltimore Sun:
The Ravens will now make left offensive tackle Eugene Monroe their highest negotiating priority, but no deal is imminent, according to sources. Monroe, 26, could wind up being even more expensive than Pitta. At this point, the Ravens aren’t expected to use the franchise tag on Monroe, which would cost the team $11.654 million.
The 26-year-old has been a consistent force for the Ravens on the line of the past several years, but there is already a lot of money tied up in big contracts for the franchise.
With the financial strap of paying franchise players like Joe Flacco and Terrell Suggs, who re-signed this offseason, Monroe's contract is yet another one that will be important for Baltimore.
Monroe's status could reach free agency, but the Ravens will likely try to sign him, or at worst, franchise the tackle before he gets to that point.
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