Predicting where the top NFL free agents will land is an exercise in reading between the lines, along with a bit of good luck.
Teams are sending out so many smoke screens at this point in the proceedings that it can be difficult—if not impossible—to accurately pinpoint what will happen once players can be signed March 11.
But it sure is fun to try.
Here's a look at the latest buzz surrounding a few top free agents, along with a final prediction for where they'll land.
Michael Vick, Quarterback
@MikeVick would intently make the vikings a playoff team!— Adrian Peterson (@AdrianPeterson) March 6, 2014
Michael Vick won't likely ever be as electric as he was during his heyday, but there's no doubt the talented quarterback still has enough juice to help a team in need of a passer.
One team that doesn't need a quarterback is the Philadelphia Eagles thanks to the emergence of Nick Foles. Additionally, Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports reports the Eagles "are not interested" in bringing Vick back as Foles' backup in 2014.
One team that appeared to be a potential fit was the Minnesota Vikings, especially after Adrian Peterson tweeted this message:
However, after the Vikings re-signed Matt Cassell to a two-year deal worth $10 million, it appears Vick won't be headed to Minnesota to play with Peterson.
The team that appears to be the best fit is the New York Jets, as La Canfora elaborates:
Geno Smith is by no means entrenched as the answer at quarterback. Vick has displayed a willingness to work with a young QB, he has a life's worth of ups and downs and real life experience to share with Smith and try to keep him on the right path, and Vick has played the best football of his career under offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg in Philadelphia, who is the coordinator in New York.
Vick to @DanHanzus: I will "absolutely" be starter Week 1 next season.— NFL: AroundTheLeague (@NFL_ATL) January 30, 2014
There won't be a huge market (money-wise) for Vick's services. He's not viewed as a franchise option anymore at the age of 33 and with a history of injuries. However, he still has plenty to offer a quarterback-needy team in the short term, and he has intentions of starting in Week 1 for a new team, as he told NFL.com's Dan Hanzus, via NFL: AroundTheLeague:
Of all the teams he could potentially play for, the Jets appear to be the best landing spot for him to start immediately.
Predicted Landing Spot: New York Jets
Michael Johnson, Defensive End
#Vikings have called to express interest on Bengals DE Michael Johnson, too. Told he's not going back to Cincy.— Ben Goessling (@GoesslingESPN) March 8, 2014
Not surprisingly, defensive end Michael Johnson is being hotly pursued by more than a few teams as free agency approaches. ESPN's Ben Goessling reported Minnesota as being one of those teams while noting that seven total franchises had called on the pass-rusher, including some that run a 3-4 scheme:
League source says seven teams have called on Michael Johnson, including a few that run a 3-4 scheme. #Vikings will have competition.— Ben Goessling (@GoesslingESPN) March 8, 2014
Michael Johnson really is the walking definition of fools gold in free agency. Physical freak never quite lived up to it, but threatened to— Sam Monson (@PFF_Sam) March 9, 2014
Johnson burst onto the national scene in 2012 with 11.5 sacks, showing what he can do when he puts his incredible physical tools to use. The 6'7", 260-pound freak of nature is exactly the kind of athlete teams are looking for to rush the passer.
Some are worried he'll never blossom into his full potential, however, like Sam Monson of Pro Football Focus, who calls him "fools gold":
Chances are, though, that teams will still clamor for his services given his immense potential.
While Minnesota would appear to be a terrific landing spot for Johnson, there's another team in the mix that could steal him away. According to Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune, Lovie Smith and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are charging hard to land the talented pass-rusher.
Given the amount of rumored interest surrounding Johnson, it seems he'll certainly land a lucrative long-term deal. The only question that remains is where he'll end up.
Predicted Landing Spot: Minnesota Vikings
Aqib Talib, Cornerback
It's looking more and more like Aqib Talib won't be with the New England Patriots in 2014. Jeffe Jowe of the Boston Herald recently reported that Talib wants a "top-of-the-market deal" to stay.
With Sam Shields earning a four-year deal worth $39 million and Brent Grimes signing a four-year deal worth $32 million, the market appears to be set for the cornerback position.
Even before those contracts were awarded, though, owner Robert Kraft didn't seem enthused about his team's chances of keeping the defensive back.
“Well, we want to retain all the good players we can retain,” Kraft said about Talib in an interview with Michael Felger and Tony Massarotti of CBS Sports Radio during the week leading up to the Super Bowl. “It’s not like we have unlimited funding so...He wasn’t on the field a lot of the time since he’s been with us. It’s a balance of us balancing all that out and what is he worth.”
One team that might be willing to make a deal in that range for Talib is the Washington Redskins.
Bleacher Report's Chris Simms recently noted the 'Skins will be “major players” in the mix to sign the talented defender. Simms pointed out the connection to defensive backs coach Raheem Morris, who coached Talib in Tampa Bay—not to mention Washington's obvious need for secondary help.
It makes sense. Owner Daniel Snyder has never been shy about pursuing players he feels will help to build a winner, and Talib is looking to get paid.
Predicted Landing Spot: Washington Redskins