The 2014 NFL free-agency period began with a flurry of activity due to the legal tampering period, but there are still several big-name stars on the open market.
With a pair of the best defensive ends in the league still available—DeMarcus Ware and Jared Allen—as well as the top receiver available this offseason Eric Decker, there is still a chance for each franchise to make a splash.
Here are the top stars still available and where they are predicted to land.
DeMarcus Ware, Defensive End
Former Dallas Cowboys pass-rushing defensive end DeMarcus Ware is not getting any younger (31 years old), but he proved last season that he still has plenty left in the tank. After Dallas cut the high-priced end, Ware became one of the hottest names on the free-agent market.
Any team with a need for a dominant pass-rusher at the 3-4 outside linebacker or 4-3 defensive end positions should be kicking the tires on Ware, and there is already reported interest from the defending AFC champions.
Broncos aren't done. Team sources confident about impending DeMarcus Ware visit.— Lindsay Jones (@bylindsayhjones) March 12, 2014
According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, the Denver Broncos are the likely destination for Ware:
Filed to ESPN: Denver has emerged as the favorite to land former Dallas DE DeMarcus Ware, per league sources.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) March 12, 2014
There have been issues of consistency and injuries with Denver’s top pass-rusher Von Miller, and Ware would act as both a complement on the other side of the defensive line and a matchup nightmare for opposing offensive lines.
The 2014 defensive end class in free agency is deep with both Jared Allen and Julius Peppers also on the market, but the Broncos' focus on the biggest names is a true indication that the franchise is in win-now mode.
If Denver lands Ware on top of already signed cornerback Aqib Talib and safety T.J. Ward, the defensive unit in the Mile High City will be as explosive as the high-powered offense.
Predicted Landing Spot: Denver Broncos
Eric Decker, Wide Receiver
There are few elite skill players left on the free-agency wire this offseason, but the best wide receiver available, Eric Decker, still has not found a home yet. The New York Jets could be the team that finally seals the deal.
According to Kimberly Jones of NFL Network, Decker will visit New York on Wednesday:
Eric Decker visiting Jets today.— Kimberly Jones (@KimJonesSports) March 12, 2014
This could simply be the Jets kicking the tires on a player at a position of need, but with the release of veteran Santonio Holmes and the lack of depth at wide receiver, the organization must make a splash via free agency.
Which of the following stars is the best free-agent option?
While there is no doubt that his numbers will drop with a second-year quarterback like Geno Smith under center, Decker knows how to go up and catch passes at their highest point and can make the tough receptions in traffic.
Smith will benefit greatly from having a reliable weapon like Decker, and New York is able to afford a contract enticing enough to sway him to join the Jets. Add in Decker’s affinity for being on television, and the bright lights of New York make sense.
Predicted Landing Spot: New York Jets
Jared Allen, Defensive End
There were rumors initially that tied former Minnesota Vikings defensive end Jared Allen to the Denver Broncos as a free-agent target, but the visit from Ware indicates the franchise is moving in another direction.
According to Pro Football Talk, Denver likely had an issue with Allen’s requested salary:
Possible impediment to Jared Allen to Broncos? Allen may want too much money, per league source. And he currently has no other suitors.— ProFootballTalk (@ProFootballTalk) March 11, 2014
When one door closes, another door opens. In a report from Schefter, Allen has indeed drawn interest from several other teams, including the defending Super Bowl champions:
While Denver focuses on DeMarcus Ware…Vikings free-agent DE Jared Allen is talking with the Bears and Seattle Seahawks, per league source.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) March 12, 2014
Allen is the best pure 4-3 defensive end on the market right now and would make a great short-term addition to a franchise that desperately needs consistency in the pass rush. After racking up double-digit sacks (11.5) for the seventh straight year, this is a player who can still contribute.
While a deal won’t be cheap, Allen’s contributions could be the ultimate difference for a team on the cusp of contending for a championship.
Predicted Landing Spot: Chicago Bears
*All stats via NFL.com.