This year's free-agency class is littered with franchise-altering talent that is guaranteed to don different uniforms in 2014.
Over the next couple of months, each of the 32 teams around the league will fight tooth and nail to better their respective rosters. Some will look to secure some of their own talent for the long haul, while others will look elsewhere for production.
All in all, expect a lot of noise when free agency officially opens at 4 p.m. ET on Tuesday.
Here are predictions for some of the most intriguing stars on the market:
|Name||Position||Former Team||Predicted Team|
|Branden Albert||OT||Kansas City Chiefs||Miami Dolphins|
|Michael Bennett||DE||Seattle Seahawks||Chicago Bears|
|Jairus Byrd||S||Buffalo Bills||Philadelphia Eagles|
|Eric Decker||WR||Denver Broncos||Indianapolis Colts|
|Michael Johnson||DE||Cincinnati Bengals||Minnesota Vikings|
|Hakeem Nicks||WR||New York Giants||Carolina Panthers|
|Aqib Talib||CB||New England Patriots||Washington Redskins|
|Ben Tate||RB||Houston Texans||Cleveland Browns|
|Alterraun Verner||CB||Tennessee Titans||St. Louis Rams|
|Michael Vick||QB||Philadelphia Eagles||New York Jets|
Aqib Talib, CB
Talib starred for the New England Patriots this past season.
Playing on a one-year, $4.8 million contract, the 28-year-old recorded 41 tackles, one fumble forced and four interceptions in 13 games. Not only did he establish himself as the heart and soul of the Patriots defense, but he also made a name for himself as one of the NFL’s premier shutdown corners.
His value was only reaffirmed by how New England’s secondary suffered without him in a 26-16 loss to the Denver Broncos in the AFC Championship.
Time and time again, the Patriots were burnt deep by Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning. He seemed to be able to get whatever he wanted, throwing for 400 yards and two touchdowns on 32-of-43 passing.
Although New England would love to keep him, they might not be able to afford him. After all, the team only has $12.7 million to play with.
Given Talib’s injury history, it’s doubtful the Patriots make him a top offer that isn’t incentive-based as USA Today’s Mike Loyko states:
There is no way the #Patriots are signing Talib to big money and not building in performance bonus based on games/snaps played.— Mike Loyko (@NEPD_Loyko) March 3, 2014
Meanwhile, the Washington Redskins seem to be interested in the Cleveland native’s services, per The Washington Post’s Mike Jones. According to the article, the Redskins plan on “making a statement at DB.”
There wouldn’t be a bigger statement than bringing in Talib. And with $20.4 million to work with, adding him to a secondary that conceded 244 passing yards per game and 29 touchdowns last season seems to be a no-brainer for Washington.
Paired with veteran cornerback DeAngelo Hall, Talib would once again showcase why quarterbacks should think twice before testing him.
Michael Bennett, DE
One of the top free agents available, Bennett has been drawing a lot of interest during the offseason.
The Chicago Bears have emerged as front-runners for the 28-year-old. As Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio reports, “The team expects to sign Bennett once the free agency period opens on Tuesday.”
According to the Chicago Sun-Times’ Patrick Finley, Bennett’s brother and current Bears tight end Martellus could play a major role:
Bennett was a large key to the Seattle Seahawks' Super Bowl run last season.
In 16 games, he recorded 31 tackles, 8.5 sacks, one fumble forced and one fumble recovery. Whether it was pestering quarterbacks or containing running backs, Bennett made a living by creating havoc in the backfield.
Even when he isn't directly involved in the play, the Avondale, La., native's presence alone is enough to alter a play. He can force the opposition to hesitate before moving the ball in his direction.
Bennett would also go a long way in helping the Bears forget about Julius Peppers.
Michael Vick, QB
There’s no doubt that the two would pair up to create one of the most dynamic and exciting backfields in the NFL. However, any and all hope for a possible move to the north for Vick was dashed when the Vikings re-signed quarterback Matt Cassel to a two-year deal, via CBS Sports’ John Breech.
Still, as NFL Around the League's Dan Hanzus notes, Vick seems confident in his chances come opening week:
Vick to @DanHanzus: I will "absolutely" be starter Week 1 next season.— NFL: AroundTheLeague (@NFL_ATL) January 30, 2014
The most likely candidate to pick up the 33-year-old seems to be the New York Jets. Not only does the team have Vick’s former offensive coordinator in Marty Mornhinweg, but Vick has also shown a willingness to work with a young quarterback, per CBS Sports’ Jason La Canfora.
Furthermore, following an up-and-down rookie season, there’s reason to doubt whether or not quarterback Geno Smith is the future for the Jets.
Although Vick has been injury-prone over the last couple of years, his experience and knowledge could prove to be vital to the 23-year-old Smith. Over the past five seasons, the Philadelphia Eagles went 20-20 with Vick in a starting role.