The 2014 NFL free-agency period officially begins on March 11, which normally sets off an exciting period of signings and other offseason transactions.
As usual, there is no shortage of rumors and other speculation surrounding the players and teams poised to be involved in this free-agency frenzy.
Let’s take a look at some of the best and most compelling rumors regarding some of the top targets set to hit the open market.
Decker to Colts?
Eric Decker is one of the premier free agents currently on the open market, and it’s no surprise that there are plenty of rumors swirling about concerning the Denver Broncos wideout.
As per Vic Lombardi of CBS 4 Denver, the Indianapolis Colts have reportedly expressed interest in the 26-year-old star and could very well be a potential landing destination:
Among the teams that have interest in Eric Decker ... Indy. If he can't play with PFM, he'd love to roll with Andrew Luck.— Vic Lombardi (@VicLombardi) February 27, 2014
It would make for an intriguing situation for the Colts, who advanced to the divisional round of the playoffs under young quarterback Andrew Luck last season.
Decker would be a great option to pair with upcoming star T.Y. Hilton and aging veteran Reggie Wayne, who is in the twilight of his career and coming off a debilitating ACL injury suffered during the 2013 season.
The Broncos reportedly do not consider Decker a No. 1 receiver and likely won’t shell out top money to keep someone they consider a No. 2 at best.
That alone makes it plausible that the Colts can swoop in with a rich offer and pry the star away from the team that drafted him in the third round of the 2010 draft.
Decker is coming off an 87-catch, 1,288-yard, 11-touchdown season and was one of quarterback Peyton Manning’s favorite targets during a record-setting campaign. He put up No. 1 numbers and may continue to reach those marks with another team, like the Colts, if Denver’s brass does not open its wallet.
Graham Has Options
Garrett Graham burst onto the scene in 2013, replacing the injured Owen Daniels and filling in at a high level for the Houston Texans. Now he’s set to hit free agency, and the team is working hard to make sure that doesn’t happen.
According to NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport, Houston does not want Graham to get to the open market, where suitors such as the Green Bay Packers have already expressed interest in the 27-year-old’s services:
#Packers have been fans of TE Garrett Graham since he came out of Wisconsin. Fits their scheme. But we’ll see if he makes it to the market— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) March 4, 2014
Graham is coming off by far his best season as a pro, hauling in 49 passes (on 88 targets) for 545 yards and five touchdowns in 13 appearances. The Wisconsin product took a few years to finally make a big impact in the league after he was drafted in 2011, but it appears he is here to stay.
It remains to be seen what Graham’s representatives are seeking for their client. He did earn some valuable starting reps this past season, but he ultimately isn’t a proven, high-level starter like some of the other tight ends available.
As long as it’s reasonable, it’s safe to assume that the Texans will do their best to come to terms on a new contract before the rest of the league has a chance to talk with Graham next week.
Lions Need Suh to Renegotiate for Flexibility, Star May Represent Himself
It isn’t unheard of for NFL players to represent themselves as their own agents, and it seems that Detroit Lions star Ndamukong Suh may soon join those ranks.
According to Rapoport, the defensive tackle is mulling his options and may choose to negotiate his next deal without the help of an agent:
Interesting Bernard Pollard negotiated his own deal, per @jwyattsports. Ndamukong Suh considering doing the same. A new (troubling) trend?— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) March 4, 2014
The Lions are pushing him toward making that choice soon, as they would like to extend the superstar in order to lower his cap hit and have more money to spend this coming free-agency period.
As per Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio, the defensive tackle will make a decision on his representation by the end of the week. Florio also attempted to rationalize this decision, which he believes may stem from Suh’s recent decision to hire Jay-Z to oversee his marketing interests:
The cynical, knee-jerk reaction to the possibility of Suh handling his own deal (I don’t know any cynics, unless they’re all lying) is that Suh would simply do whatever Jay Z advises him to do, given that: (1) Suh has hired Jay Z to represent Suh’s marketing interests; and (2) Jay Z isn’t certified to officially represent players for their football contracts.
The more accurate explanation could be that it’s simply what Suh wants to do.
Agents tend to collect a percentage of a client’s contract, so Suh stands to retain a good chunk of change if he elects to negotiate his next contract solo.
What should Suh do?
However, the advantages of having representation are numerous, especially in an era where cap numbers lord over all. Having someone on your side that understands the ins and outs of the newest CBA and contractual negotiations isn’t just beneficial; it’s practically a necessity in 2014.
Should Suh decide to forgo an agent to negotiate with the Lions brass by himself, he will become one of the highest-profile players to ever make that decision. Detroit may not be satisfied with the result, but getting him to renegotiate his massive deal will be a major boost toward their financial flexibility this spring.
Expect the sports world to keep a close eye on this situation, as the outcome could have a lasting impact.