NFL Free Agents 2014: Predictions on Landing Spots for Top Players on Market

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NFL Free Agents 2014: Predictions on Landing Spots for Top Players on Market
Tim Sharp/Associated Press

Free agency is always difficult to predict, mostly because you never quite know which teams will be willing to dramatically overpay for certain players or which teams will be more patient and look for excellent value rather than big splashes.

And of course, you can't get inside a player's head either. Is he only looking for a big payday? A scheme that fits his strengths? A city where he'll feel comfortable raising a family? All of the above?

But you can break down fits, analyze the cap room teams have and make educated guesses as to where players will end up. After a busy first day of free agency, a ton of players inked new deals. Let's take a look at where some of the biggest names remaining are most likely to end up.

  

Eric Decker, WR

Elsa/Getty Images

It seems unlikely that Eric Decker will be back with the Denver Broncos, so when you're looking at his potential market, you're trying to find two things: need at the position and a potential willingness to pay him good money. 

Teams such as the Oakland Raiders, Jacksonville Jaguars, Cleveland Browns, New York Jets and Buffalo Bills, among others, could all make a play for Decker. Decker isn't a proven No. 1 receiver, so a team that has a proven top guy would make more sense. 

Decker would certainly make a lot of sense paired with Josh Gordon in Cleveland, especially if the team is looking to add a young quarterback, such as Johnny Manziel, via the draft.

But the Jets were so starved for weapons a season ago that it wouldn't be surprising to see them throw down the big bucks on Decker. Of course, Decker may wait to see how the team's quarterback situation plays out before committing to New York. More on that later. For now, the Jets are the pick.

Prediction: Jets

 

DeMarcus Ware, DE

Jeff Gross/Getty Images

No sooner was DeMarcus Ware cut than his market started to heat up. Seriously, teams are very, very interested in Ware. From Ian Rapoport of NFL.com:

Adam Caplan of ESPN thinks he has identified one of those teams:

And Louis Riddick of ESPN thinks Philly will go hard to land Ware:

But Kent Somers of AZCentral Sports thinks the Arizona Cardinals could be in play for the veteran pass-rusher:

Ware is probably going to get paid pretty good money, though it remains to be seen how much a 31-year-old who struggled with injuries in 2013 and finished with just six sacks is worth on the market. He would certainly make plenty of sense for the Eagles, though it seems unlikely they would splash big bucks as they build around young talent and head coach Chip Kelly. 

A team that hasn't been mentioned here but would make a lot of sense is the Denver Broncos, as they're looking to add a rusher opposite Von Miller. Don't be surprised if Denver swoops in and steals Ware.

Prediction: Broncos

 

Michael Vick, QB

Adam Bettcher/Getty Images

It's always sort of felt as though Michael Vick would be a New York Jet, just because it seems like such a Jets thing to do. And yes, it seems like New York is the early favorite to land Vick. From Rich Cimini of ESPN:

Meanwhile, Vick has reportedly gone so far as to tell his former teammates in Philadelphia that he thinks he'll land in New York:

So there's that.

Somebody would be getting the raw end of the deal if Vick ended up with the Jets. If the team wants him to be a backup for Geno Smith, Vick isn't getting what he wants. If the team wants him to come in and start, they'll likely stunt the growth of Smith (or they'll basically be making a public declaration that Smith isn't their future quarterback).

It's an odd pairing, and Vick seemingly would make more sense for the Jacksonville Jaguars or the Oakland Raiders, as it would allow them to draft a quarterback and groom him for a year. But for now, Vick seems most likely to be a Jet next season.

Prediction: Jets

 

Julius Peppers, DE

Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Brent Sobleski of USA Today thinks the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the Denver Broncos, the New England Patriots, the Seattle Seahawks and the Jacksonville Jaguars make the most sense as potential suitors for Peppers. He doesn't particularly seem suited for a 3-4 scheme, however, so the Broncos and Patriots might be a stretch.

And Seattle is pretty stacked at the position and probably wouldn't be willing to toss out big bucks for the veteran defensive end.

That leaves the Bucs and the Jags. The Jags seem like they could be in play for Jadeveon Clowney if he drops to them at No. 3, so they might be hesitant to pay Peppers big money. But Lovie Smith in Tampa is familiar with his former player, and his system is reliant on getting pressure with a front four, so pairing Peppers with Michael Johnson would make sense if Peppers doesn't try to break the bank. 

To reunite with Smith, Peppers might take a small pay cut. For now, the Bucs are the slight leaders in this clubhouse.

Prediction: Buccaneers

 

Hakeem Nicks, WR

Jeff Gross/Getty Images

Hakeem Nicks has a ton of talent, but injuries are always a concern. Still, a healthy Nicks is probably the only true No. 1 receiver on the market, and the Carolina Panthers are desperate for a true No. 1 to pair with Cam Newton.

And it seems like there is a mutual interest between the parties. From NFL Media PR on Twitter:

Nicks is a game changer when he's happy and on the field, which he often wasn't in New York. With the Steve Smith situation appearing to be headed toward the veteran getting cut, Nicks would instantly be the main man in Carolina.

Oh, and they'd probably pay him some serious coin too.

Prediction: Panthers 


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