2014 NFL Free Agency: Analyzing Rumors That Will Come to Fruition

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2014 NFL Free Agency: Analyzing Rumors That Will Come to Fruition
Peter Aiken/Getty Images
Branden Albert is one of the premier tackles in the league. Where will he end up?

March 11 marks the opening of NFL free agency, but the “legal tampering” period of free agency is in full swing, and many deals will be all but done well before free agency officially opens. As you can expect, this period is filled with reports, rumors, inklings and inside (mis)information that can make it hard to figure out what news to pay attention to.

But these rumors are certain to come true.

I may have consulted my crystal ball and my personal psychic, but these deals make too much sense not to happen.

 

Miami Dolphins Sign Left Tackle Branden Albert

Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

The trials and tribulations of the Miami Dolphins offensive line are well documented, and they are definitely going to sign a left tackle to protect the blind side of promising young quarterback Ryan Tannehill.

Why is everyone so sure that they’ll add a left tackle?

Probably because Tannehill was the most-sacked quarterback in the NFL last year (58 times), and the Dolphins O-line gave up the fifth-most quarterback hits.

Miami has reached out to a number of tackles, but Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald reports that Branden Albert is “very, very high on Miami’s wish list” and cited an unnamed source claiming that Miami is “the clear front-runner for Albert.”

The Dolphins have the sixth-most cap space in the league with about $34 million of loose change to spend on free agents.

As we learned last year, Miami isn’t afraid to shell out the big bucks for free agents, and it seems unlikely that the Dolphins will be outbid for whichever tackle they choose to pursue.

You may as well lock it in right now: Albert is heading to South Beach.

 

Michael Bennett Joins His Brother in Chicago

Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

The Chicago Bears organization is rooted in physical, hard-nosed defense, but that certainly wasn’t the case last season. Consequently, you can be sure that general manager Phil Emery will be determined to rebuild the Bears defense, and one key area where an upgrade is necessary is the pass rush.

Chicago finished last year tied for last place in terms of sacks with 31. Its supposed sack artist was defensive end Julius Peppers, but he was a nonfactor for most of the season and is slated to earn $18 million this season and a gaudy $20 million next year.

Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sport
Has Julius Peppers played his last game for the Bears?

Considering the considerable cap savings the Bears would gain by releasing Peppers, it is practically certain that the former superstar pass-rusher will be a free agent at some point this offseason.

If and when that happens, the Bears will be in the market for a 4-3 defensive end, and Michael Bennett fits the bill—and already has their eye.

Brad Briggs of the Chicago Tribune reports that the team has interest in the reigning champion. Perhaps the front office wants to orchestrate a Bennett family reunion in Chicago by adding Michael Bennett to the team alongside his younger brother, Martellus.

On second thought, maybe the interest is purely football-related.

Bennett has totaled 17.5 sacks in the last two seasons and was an integral member of the Seattle Seahawks’ Super Bowl-winning defense. According to Pro Football Focus (subscription required), Bennett was the fifth-best 4-3 end in the league last year—right behind studs like Greg Hardy and Cameron Wake.

The need for Chicago is tremendous: The money will be there after Peppers is released, and could Michael really turn down the opportunity to play alongside his brother on a team with the potential to make noise in the playoffs?

Probably not. Check that—definitely not.

 

Aqib Talib Goes to Washington

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Robert Griffin III has been a lightning rod for criticism following his team’s abysmal 2013 season, but while some of that disparagement has been deserved, he is not the biggest cause of the Washington Redskins’ failure.

No, that honor belongs to the atrocious defense—specifically the secondary.

Washington's Lack of Defense
Category Stat NFL Rank
Passing Yards Allowed/Game 244 20th
QB Rating Against 96.1 27th
Yards/Attempt 8 31st
Passing TDs Allowed 29 21st

ESPN.com

Washington already re-signed DeAngelo Hall to a four-year deal, but there is still a dire need for another starting cornerback.

One of the names that has been connected to the Washington defense is former New England Patriots cornerback Aqib Talib—which should have Redskins fans jumping for joy.

Washington has almost twice the cap room of the Patriots, and owner Daniel Snyder has never been shy about throwing his weight (and money) around. 

If the Redskins want Talib—and Bleacher Report NFL analyst Chris Simms indicates that is the case in the video above—it’s very likely that they get him. After all, money talks in this league.

Additionally, it will be more than money that talks in this deal. The Washington secondary coach is Raheem Morris, who has a connection with Talib from their shared time with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Next is the perfect fit alongside Hall that would see Talib kicking inside to the slot whenever necessary—slot coverage was a serious problem for the Washington defense last year.

Talib is one of the game’s best corners, and the Redskins will pay him like it. For that reason, he’ll start the 2014 season in Washington.

 

Cap figures via OverTheCap.com unless otherwise noted. 

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