The frenzy that characterized the beginning of NFL free agency in 2014 has subsided, but there are still plenty of big names on the open market still seeking a new destination for the upcoming season.
As far as rumors are concerned, chatter hasn't surfaced about some players for days, but there are some more recent, notable developments to delve into. One of the most exciting quarterbacks in the league is seeking one last opportunity to revamp his career, a premium pass-rusher is weighing his options and a top-tier center is still trying to find an interested suitor.
Below is a closer look at the latest buzz on a trio of stars, along with predictions as to where they'll ultimately land based on the current insider information.
Michael Vick Reportedly Visiting with New York Jets
The link between Vick and the New York Jets is one that has been speculated on, due to the simple fact that play-caller Marty Mornhinweg was Vick's offensive coordinator for the Philadelphia Eagles during his career renaissance.
Lightning apparently doesn't strike twice in some cases, but Vick is at least pursuing the possibility of recapturing the magic in a bottle by considering a move to New York. According to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport, Vick will visit the Jets on Friday—and it's the only team he's lined up a visit with:
There's a reason this is the only team Vick has scheduled—and it may be the only team. He wants a shot to start, and the Jets provide the chance for that.
As of January, Vick was confident that he could still play in the NFL despite being unseated in Philadelphia by young QB Nick Foles, per CSNPhilly.com's Reuben Frank:
I don’t worry about it. My skill set is still there, my arm is still there, my legs are still there, I’m still a playmaker, that’s evident. I think at some point, I’ll be playing somewhere...I’m playing again next year, that’s the way I look at it. I know at some point I’ll be back out there.
This situation with the Jets is one where Vick knows the system, has had success in it before and is competing against a far less certain commodity in Geno Smith, who had a rough rookie campaign by most measures. Confidence is something Smith hasn't often lacked, but the mutual interest between Vick and the Jets has to have him feeling at least somewhat anxious.
Vick makes sense for some other QB-needy teams, but it's doubtful Mornhinweg lets him leave without a deal done.
Prediction: Vick signs with Jets
Jared Allen Weighing Options After Dallas Cowboys Visit
America's Team needs serious help defensively, which Allen could provide after he registered 11.5 sacks in 2013 even with the Minnesota Vikings struggling to last place in the NFC North. Allen is turning 32 next month, though, so his window to produce at an elite level is starting to close.
Rapoport reports that Allen has not come to a final decision on what will likely be the last stop in his storied career:
Jared Allen plans to head back home after his #Cowboys visit to weigh his options. Don’t expect a decision today. He’ll talk to his wife 1st— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) March 18, 2014
CBSSports.com's Jason La Canfora reported on March 16 that Allen had completed a visit with the reigning Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks. Cian Fahey of Bleacher Report and Football Outsiders feels that Allen would be a great fit there since Seattle lost Chris Clemons and Red Bryant on the defensive front in free agency:
Seattle D is still VERY good, but there will be a drop off next year. Clemons and Bryant are notable losses.Jared Allen should sign for 1 yr— Cian Fahey (@Cianaf) March 13, 2014
That seems like the more logical fit. The Cowboys have so many moving pieces on defense and were so bad as a unit last season that Allen should be discouraged to go there despite the strong impact he'd likely make. Fox Sports 1's Mike Garafolo reported that Allen probably wouldn't sign:
One more Cowboys note: DE Jared Allen unlikely to sign with Dallas after visiting today, per source. Other teams in play. Still developing.— Mike Garafolo (@MikeGarafolo) March 19, 2014
Ed Werder of ESPN suggests that the price Allen is demanding is too high, which seems ridiculous considering how thin the Cowboys are up front:
I'm told Jared Allen wants close to $10 million per year like DeMarcus Ware and Julius Peppers. Cowboys not interested at that price.— Ed Werder (@Edwerderespn) March 19, 2014
Werder then reported that the Seahawks seem to have emerged as the front-runner:
Sources: Jared Allen making second visit to SB champion Seahawks and could decide whether to join them in next few days.— Ed Werder (@Edwerderespn) March 20, 2014
Allen has never won a Lombardi Trophy, and even with his ties as a Dallas native, passing up the opportunity to play for an almost certain contender could be something he regrets.
It has to be a dilemma of sentimentalism versus overall results on the gridiron. A turnaround with the Cowboys doesn't seem imminent, that's for sure. With the winning, laid-back environment Seahawks coach Pete Carroll has established in Seattle, it would make sense to see the free-spirited Allen land there as long as the money is right.
Prediction: Allen signs with Seahawks
Alex Mack Not Drawing Much Interest from Other Teams
The Cleveland Browns' Pro Bowl center was hit with the transitions tag this offseason, which gives him a one-year deal worth $10.04 million yet allows Mack to explore other options, according to Spotrac.com. Cleveland has the power to match, but it's hard to see another team offering Mack more than the Browns will give him in 2014 if he stays.
Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com reports that no team is interested in Mack and provides his take as to why that is:
A full week into free agency, Mack has had no visits and by all appearances has generated no interest. And for good reason. With the poison pill eliminated under the 2011 labor deal, there’s no way to craft a long-term deal that puts the Browns in a corner without putting the team that signs Mack to an offer sheet into that same corner.
Perhaps there would be more interest if several of the likelier destinations for the elite center hadn't already found more cost-effective solutions. Brent Sobleski of USA Today wondered if the Oakland Raiders would be a fit since the Indianapolis Colts signed Phil Costa and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers inked Evan Dietrich Smith to a deal:
Colts signed Costa. Dietrich-Smith signs in Tampa. Top two destinations for Alex Mack now gone. Raiders?— Brent Sobleski (@brentsobleski) March 14, 2014
Moving to Oakland would put Mack near the area where he went to college at the University of California, yet it would be another organization with instability at the top and shaky promise of competing anytime soon.
That is purely conjecture, as is the opinion of ESPNCleveland.com's Tony Grossi that Mack will play for the Browns this coming season:
"@bobhunt18 where's Alex Mack playing next year if you were guessing? // Cleveland.— Tony Grossi (@TonyGrossi) March 19, 2014
Which free agent will have the biggest impact on their team in 2014?
For a center, it's too much money to drop. The hope is that the Browns can get Mack to buy in for one more season despite all the losing he's endured and try to lock him up. If Mack remains in Cleveland under the transition tag, he'll still be playing for a long-term contract as it is. So while there is an opportunity for him to move now, he's more likely to leave in 2015 for a lucrative new deal.
Winning in Cleveland after years of turmoil would do wonders for Mack if he goes on the open market after this next season. Then again, if the Browns can establish a winning culture, perhaps they can sway Mack to stay for the long haul after all. It's not often a center generates a ton of buzz, but in Mack's case, it's warranted. Just don't expect any change to ultimately come of it—at least not yet.
Prediction: Mack remains with Cleveland Browns