NFL Free Agents 2014: Breaking Down Best Fits for Top Players Left on Market

Tim Daniels@TimDanielsBRFeatured ColumnistMarch 15, 2014

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - DECEMBER 29: Jared Allen #69 of the Minnesota Vikings looks on before the game against the Detroit Lions on December 29, 2013 at Mall of America Field at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

The initial wave of free agency has come to a close. A lot of players found new homes and some others were released, adding them to the group trying to find the right landing spot for 2014. Now that the frenzy has slowed, the market has a little more stability.

Oftentimes, free agents who don't sign during that initial rush are best off waiting a little while as teams evaluate their needs and the draft outlook. Not only does that help in determining the best fit, but it also could lead to a little better contract should a team become more desperate.

So let's check out a trio of impact players who are currently going through the process of finding a team, break down what they can provide and predict where they will end up. Finding the right fit is essential to their success looking ahead to next season.


1. Jared Allen

At 31, Allen obviously isn't a long-term option for teams seeking help at defensive end. That said, in terms of the type of impact he could make in 2014, he's the best player available. The longtime star is still a very good attacking quarterbacks off the edge and is solid against the run.

The Idaho State product has played a decade in the NFL and never registered fewer than seven sacks. It's a streak he continued last season with the Minnesota Vikings while also racking up 52 total tackles, six passes defended and two forced fumbles. John Buccigross of ESPN notes how Allen ranks among other big names in sacks:

There is no shortage of teams seeking more pass-rushing options. That said, the most intriguing one in regards to Allen is the defending champion Seattle Seahawks. The team uses a lot of rotation up front, which would help keep the veteran fresh and also put him in title hunt.

Prediction: Seahawks


2. Henry Melton

Melton hasn't generated as much buzz as expected since the signing period opened. Yes, he missed a vast majority of last season due to an ACL injury. Prior to that, however, he was one of the most promising interior defensive linemen in the league with 13 sacks over two years.

There are certainly questions about whether he'll be able to get back to that level after the injury. Driving with his legs is a key component for any defensive tackle, so it may take some time for Melton to get back on track. That said, there are far worse things than taking a chance on a 27-year-old player who flashed dominant play in the past.

One team that could use some talent up front is the Dallas Cowboys. The Cowboys don't have a reliable option in the middle and finished 25th in sacks last season. Adding Melton to the mix would give them a little more firepower on the interior, assuming he can at least get close to full strength.

Prediction: Cowboys


3. Michael Vick

If Vick wants to serve as a starting quarterback next season, there are seemingly two options available: the New York Jets and Oakland Raiders. The number could increase if some of the quarterback-needy teams near the top of the draft pass on the available signal-callers in Round 1.

Whether Vick is willing to wait that long to see if more opportunities arise is unclear. One thing that's certain is his desire to sit atop the depth chart entering next season. Dan Hanzus of passed along comments from the quarterback about wanting to start and the Jets before the Super Bowl:

"Absolutely," he replied. "I can't see no other way."

Given the Gotham setting, we asked if the Jets might be a good fit in his quest to get back to the top of an NFL depth chart.

"I don't know," he said. "Who knows? What I am is really excited about the opportunity to play again in 2014 and that's what's important."

The Jets and Raiders could both use starters. New York might not be totally willing to give up on Geno Smith quite yet, though. Oakland represents a clearer path for Vick and could allow the team to go after wideout Sammy Watkins instead of a quarterback in the draft.

Prediction: Raiders