NFL Free Agents 2014: Best Fits for Top 8 Remaining Players
The 2014 NFL free-agent period might be nearly two weeks old, but a number of excellent players remain available, and it's time to explore the best fits for those remaining athletes.
While the first wave of free agency crashed down in thunderous and spectacular fashion, the next wave is just as important. Last year, players like Elvis Dumervil (Baltimore), Daryl Smith (Baltimore), John Abraham (Arizona), Dwight Freeney (San Diego), Karlos Dansby (Arizona) and Brent Grimes (Miami) were all snatched up on the less-ballyhooed second wave.
The players and teams on this list were married to each other for a cornucopia of rationale.
Of paramount importance is the on-field fit. Can the player make an immediate impact on his new team and help to win a few games?
Also vital is exploring the team's depth chart at the position. Some franchises need help at certain positions like Calvin Harris and Ellie Goulding need your love.
Finally, convenience plays a large role as well. Sometimes, the best fit for a player is the same place he spent the previous season or seasons.
The players themselves were chosen because they are eight potential difference-makers. Mark Sanchez is now the best quarterback on the market, and the others are all capable of making a large impact in 2014 and beyond.
Here are the best fits for the top eight remaining players in 2014 NFL free agency.
Jared Allen: Seattle Seahawks
Over the course of his career, free-agent defensive end Jared Allen has caused quarterbacks more nightmares than any horror movie could hope to inspire. He's accumulated 128.5 career sacks and has averaged 14.5 sacks over the last seven seasons.
But despite all the on-field and financial success, one goal has eluded his grasp, the Moby Dick to Allen's Captain Ahab: a Super Bowl ring.
That's why the defending champion Seattle Seahawks slot in as his best fit.
Yes, Seattle re-signed defensive end Michael Bennett, but a team can never have enough good pass-rushers. Teaming Allen with Bennett and fellow defensive end Cliff Avril would give the Seahawks a tantalizingly talented trio of sack artists.
Plus, Allen would have an excellent opportunity to win a Super Bowl if he took his talents to the Pacific Northwest.
Per NFL.com's Ian Rapoport (h/t Kevin Patra of NFL.com), Allen has visited the Seahawks twice in the free-agent period. Todd Dybas of The News Tribune reported that he is taking time to mull his options over.
If Allen chooses to continue his NFL career (earlier in the free-agent period, Rapoport reported that Allen would consider retirement if he didn't receive an offer to his liking), there's no doubt that the Seahawks are the best fit. Allen joining the Seahawks makes too much sense for both player and team.
Maurice Jones-Drew: Pittsburgh Steelers
2013 second-round pick Le'Veon Bell sits atop the Pittsburgh Steelers depth chart at running back, but the names behind him aren't exactly of the household variety. Fortunately for the team, former Jacksonville Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew remains on the market, and he'd be an excellent fit in the Steel City.
We need to add quality depth to that position, whether it’s through free agency or the draft. Le’Veon Bell is a talented player, but he’s also a young player. It would be good to get a been-there, done-that type of guy in the room to maybe help him with his growth and development, but I don’t view it as a necessity.
Jones-Drew certainly fits the bill.
The 2011 rushing champion would be an excellent addition as Bell's backup and someone who could step into the starting lineup in the event of an injury. Bell did miss the first three games of last season, and it's no coincidence that the Steelers lost all three.
Jones-Drew is only 29, and while his days as a bell-cow back are likely over, he can still help a team.
The Steelers are the best fit.
Jermichael Finley: New York Giants
Green Bay Packers free-agent tight end Jermichael Finley suffered a frightening neck injury in the team's Week 7 win over the Cleveland Browns and had to undergo spinal fusion surgery as a result.
While his agent, Blake Baratz, told Paul Schwartz of the New York Post in February that Finley would be ready for contact in "the coming weeks," Bob McGinn of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported on March 20 that he's "at least two months away" from signing with a team.
When Finley is ready to sign, the New York Giants should come calling. They're his best fit.
The Giants lost tight end Brandon Myers to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and are coming off a miserable 7-9 campaign. Adding weapons in the passing attack for quarterback Eli Manning is of vital importance.
Finley proved to be a capable pass-catcher during his time in Green Bay, and he has the potential to be a difference-maker. He'd be a worthy roll of the dice for Giants general manager Jerry Reese.
Kenny Britt: Carolina Panthers
Much like when Lloyd Christmas and Harry Dunne moved to Aspen in Dumb and Dumber, Titans free-agent receiver Kenny Britt is in desperate need of a fresh start.
Since being selected with the 30th overall pick of the 2009 draft, Britt has only caught 157 passes and 19 touchdowns. He's also had staggering nine arrests and run-ins with police, per NFL.com's Dan Hanzus.
Britt was so bad in 2013 that he finished the year ranked as Pro Football Focus' (subscription required) 110th-best receiver. There were 111 receivers ranked. That's atrocious.
But Britt is still bursting with potential and possesses terrific size and ability. It wouldn't be a huge surprise if he ended up resuscitating his career in a new city.
Enter the Carolina Panthers, who currently boast new signing Jerricho Cotchery—who caught a grand total of 46 passes in 2013—as their No. 1 receiver.
The Panthers are in desperate need of pass-catchers, and Britt would be an intriguing option for quarterback Cam Newton.
Mark Sanchez: St. Louis Rams
This past weekend, the New York Jets released quarterback Mark Sanchez (per ESPN.com's Rich Cimini) after five seasons in Gotham that contained more dramatic thrills and twists and turns than a stellar Broadway production.
While Missouri doesn't quite possess the glitz and glamour of New York City, that could be a good thing for Sanchez. His next team should be the St. Louis Rams.
Speaking this weekend at the league's owners meetings, Rams coach Jeff Fisher confirmed his team's interest in Sanchez, telling Jim Corbett of USA Today, "I'd say that there is interest (in Sanchez). I can't say how much. But there certainly would be interest. I don't have a backup with experience on the roster right now."
Sanchez played under Rams offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer in New York for three seasons, so a familiarity exists. Under Schottenheimer's stewardship, he led the Jets to back-to-back AFC Championship Games following the 2009 and 2010 campaigns.
Plus, the position of backup quarterback takes on added importance in St. Louis, where starter Sam Bradford missed nine games last season.
The 27-year-old Sanchez owns a 33-29 career record as a starter and has tossed 68 career touchdown passes against 69 interceptions. He'd be one of the better backup options in the league.
If he joined the Rams, he'd be reunited with his old offensive coordinator and have the potential to play if Bradford missed time again.
That's what makes the Rams his best fit.
Knowshon Moreno: Miami Dolphins
Free-agent running back Knowshon Moreno was a significant cog in the greatest offensive machine in NFL regular-season history, the 2013 Denver Broncos.
And as of this writing, he's only made one free-agent visit, with the Miami Dolphins.
That should be the team that signs Moreno.
The Dolphins need more production from the running back position, as Lamar Miller and Daniel Thomas disappointed in 2013. Moreno rushed for 1,038 yards, caught 60 passes and scored 13 touchdowns last year.
Above all others (and there were many), the albatross that ultimately prevented the Dolphins from qualifying for the postseason was their horrendous pass protection, as they allowed a league-high 58 sacks. Moreno is an extremely adept pass protector and would provide much-needed security for quarterback Ryan Tannehill.
Moreno's blend of rushing ability, pass-catching aplomb and blocking merit would make him an excellent addition to the Dolphins roster.
Owen Daniels: Green Bay Packers
Former Houston Texans tight end Owen Daniels has had a nice NFL career, hauling in 385 receptions and catching 29 touchdown passes.
His best fit in free agency is a team with a strong quarterback that would utilize his pass-catching ability.
That team is the Green Bay Packers.
With Jermichael Finley dipping his toe in the free-agent waters, the Packers will need to add a tight end to pair with the recently re-signed Andrew Quarless, and Daniels is a very strong option. Just imagine him catching passes from quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
Daniels has already visited with the Packers, and the team would be wise to bring him into the fold.
Pat Sims: Oakland Raiders
Oakland Raiders defensive tackle Pat Sims is perhaps the most underrated player remaining on the free-agent market.
The 28-year-old Sims finished 2013 ranked as Pro Football Focus' 17th-ranked defensive tackle. He was solid against the run and contributed two sacks.
Which team represents Sims' best fit? The same team he played for in 2013: the Raiders.
Oakland still has $30.8 million of salary cap space (per Spotrac.com), and Sims is a quality defensive tackle. The Raiders trotted out the NFL's worst 53-man roster in 2013, so keeping one of their better players should be a priority.
Sims visited the Tennessee Titans earlier in the free-agent period, and while he'd look good in Ray Horton's defense, the Raiders are still his best fit.
Nick Kostos is a featured NFL columnist for Bleacher Report and an executive producer for SiriusXM's Mad Dog Sports Radio. You can follow him on Twitter here.