The free-agency market has already been entertaining to this point, but some of the most intriguing options remain on the market.
Some of the top defensive players like DeMarcus Ware and Jairus Byrd have already been locked up. Top targets on the offensive side like Josh McCown and Golden Tate have also signed deals with new teams.
As for the other top receivers like Julian Edelman and Hakeem Nicks, the market is still wide open for both wideouts. While it looks like both are narrowing down their selections, either could send shockwaves through the league by signing with a surprise team.
On the defensive side of the ball, one name that has been popular is Justin Tuck. While the New York Giants clearly want him back in blue, another team might be ready to steal him away out west.
With rumors flying about all of these dynamic players, here's a look at the latest on each of them and where they could potentially land during the free-agency frenzy.
Hakeem Nicks Likely to Return Home
On Jan. 14, 1988, a baby was brought into the world by the name of Hakeem Nicks in Charlotte, N.C. Now, over 26 years later, the famed wide receiver might soon be making Charlotte his home again.
The former North Carolina Tar Heels receiver spent five productive seasons with the New York Giants, but he could soon be signing with the Carolina Panthers, according to NFL.com's Ian Rapoport (via Will Brinson of CBS Sports):
Just now on NFLN @rapsheet says most likely landing spot for Hakeem Nicks is Carolina Panthers.— Will Brinson (@WillBrinson) March 11, 2014
The move to Carolina has to seem more enticing now for fans with Steve Smith likely out the door, per Steve Reed of the Associated Press, and Brandon LaFell reportedly being wined and dined by teams like the Patriots, per ESPN's Adam Schefter (h/t Pats Pulpit's Greg Knopping).
As for Nicks' thoughts on the situation, he has said he simply wants to go to a team where he's wanted. On that list was the potential of tallying receptions for Cam Newton, per Josina Anderson of ESPN:
Ideally this is what I want: I want to go to a team where I'm the missing link. There are a number of teams that I have my eye on once I hit the market. I know if I went to a place like Indianapolis I would be dangerous with a quarterback like Andrew Luck.
I can see myself catching passes from Cam Newton or even Philip Rivers. Players have already started to reach out to me from other teams saying they would love for me to come join them. I just want to make it clear that I want a long-term deal and I want to be happy. I'm excited about talking to teams and making it work.
While Carolina looks like the most likely destination for the former Tar Heel and Giant, Nicks is clearly leaving the door wide open for other teams—namely anyone that is interested in a receiver with gigantic hands who is still capable of eclipsing 1,000 yards as he did twice with New York.
Julian Edelman Still Negotiating with Patriots
It's not often that a team allows a standout receiver who put up huge numbers the year prior to walk. And after doing just that last year with Wes Welker, the Pats likely won't allow it to happen again with Edelman.
New England is attempting to re-sign the slot receiver but hasn't been able to come to a deal, according to Ben Volin of The Boston Globe:
Edelman would like to return to the Patriots, but doesn’t seem intent on giving them a hometown discount. Last year, he barely received any interest in free agency and he returned to the Patriots on a 1-year, league-minimum contract with incentives.
After establishing himself as the team’s top receiver, Edelman wants to cash in this time, especially since big NFL pay days only come once or twice in a career.
“It’s just business,” the source said.
Rapoport also noted on Tuesday that the Pats had offered Edelman a long-term contract and wanted to keep him in New England:
#Patriots offered WR Julian Edelman a three-year deal, per source. Would like an answer by the start of free agency. They want to keep him— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) March 11, 2014
Which WR is the best left on the market?
While the Patriots clearly want to re-sign Edelman, it's simply a matter of whether or not he wants to return. As Volin mentioned, the team should have locked him in last season to avoid issues like this over money.
After being thrust into the starting position following Welker's departure, the former Kent State wideout totaled 105 receptions for 1,056 yards—both of which were more than his first four seasons combined in New England.
As for potential replacements if Edelman can't come to an agreement, the Patriots could go after the aforementioned Smith if he's released, as Tom E. Curran of CSN New England brings up.
Justin Tuck in Silver and Black?
After years of being one of the nastiest defensive linemen in the NFC East, Justin Tuck might just be joining one of the grittiest franchises in the league in the AFC West.
The Oakland Raiders are hosting a plethora of free agents this week, and one of them just so happens to be the former Giants defensive end, per Schefter:
Not only is Giants DE Justin Tuck visiting the Oakland Raiders today but so is Giants CB Terrell Thomas.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) March 12, 2014
Not only is the decision to leave New York for Oakland one that could make him very wealthy—they have a lot of cap space—it could also make him one of the faces of the franchise. For a franchise like the Raiders that has been void of great players for a while, that is certainly a welcome sight.
As for how the talks were going, apparently Tuck thought enough of his potential new teammates that he joined them for a feast, according to Mike Garafolo of Fox Sports 1:
Meanwhile, Justin Tuck's visit with the Raiders is not over. He's dining with the team tonight.— Mike Garafolo (@MikeGarafolo) March 13, 2014
The Raiders might just strike gold with the defensive lineman who, at 30 years old, still had one of his most productive seasons in 2013. After two down years with a combined total of nine sacks in 2011 and 2012, Tuck recorded 11 sacks last season for a hapless Giants team.
If he can at least finish somewhere in that neighborhood while taking down both Peyton Manning, Alex Smith and Philip Rivers a few times in the process, Tuck will be worth the money. Unfortunately, the addition of one defensive end doesn't make the Raiders competitive.
Only time will tell with Tuck. Only time will tell with the Raiders.