Chargers receiver Vincent Jackson
One of the most exciting things about the holiday season are all the great story lines surrounding the NFL and the playoffs being right around the corner.
Sadly, it won't last forever.
And after February 6, 2011, we will all be stuck trying to find something productive to do on Sundays.
But all the real fanatics know the football season doesn't end with the Super Bowl.
In fact, the offseason is just another exciting part of this sport.
And just like there are previews and predictions before the season, it only seems proper to have a preview for the offseason with a list of all the top free agents at each position and where they may end up.
1. Peyton Manning - Don't get your hopes up. Indianapolis will elect him mayor of the city before they let him leave.
2. Michael Vick - Again, don't get your hopes up. Vick has won the hearts of Eagles fans and he's not going anywhere.
3. Brett Favre - I actually believe there is a 100-percent chance that Favre will retire for good this season. But the fact remains, you just never know with this guy.
4. Matt Leinart - Big jump as far as talent goes, isn't it? But the fact remains, someone is likely to take a chance on Leinart. Should Jeff Fisher remain in Tennessee, don't be surprised if he finds a way to bring in the man he wanted to take instead of Vince Young in the 2006 NFL Draft.
5. Alex Smith - The quarterback situation in San Francisco has been a very sticky one this season. Many people like what they saw out of Troy Smith and some even want to see David Carr come in and give it a shot. If Alex isn't resigned by the 49ers, he will find a home somewhere. Whether or not he will be a backup or not depends on where that home is.
Notables: Matt Moore, Troy Smith, Tarvaris Jackson, Kerry Collins
Side note: Although he technically signed an extension this season, it is likely Donovan McNabb will be released after the season and will be looking for a new home as well. My guess is Minnesota. The Vikings are going to need a quarterback after this season is over and McNabb has the experience and talent to make the Vikings a good team.
1. DeAngelo Williams - The Carolina Panthers like DeAngelo Williams. The only problem here is money. Williams is going to want a decent contract and would like to be a more featured back. With Mike Goodson making a name for himself this season, Williams might not be a Panther next season. The first team that comes to mind: Indianapolis, and No. 2 on the list is why.
2. Joseph Addai - Addai knows his role in Indianapolis is minimal with Peyton Manning leading this offense. He has to be at least slightly interested in trying to prove himself as a solid back in this league and not just the guy Peyton dumps it off to when no one is open down the field.
3. Cedric Benson - The Bengals like Benson, but he hasn't performed the way they hoped he would this season. Granted, it has been a pass first offense, Cincinnati will have to decide if they want to bring Benson back. Otherwise, he is one of the top backs available.
4. Ronnie Brown - In my opinion, Brown stays with the Dolphins. Unless he just wants to leave a team where he is one of the leaders, I can't see him anywhere else but Miami next season.
5. Jerome Harrison - Harrison was traded from Cleveland to Philadelphia earlier this season when Peyton Hillis began to emerge as the future running back of the Browns. With him sitting behind LeSean McCoy in Philadelphia, his carries are limited and he doesn't like that. He wants some decent money and a starting job. Depending on a few things, I could see him going out west to Denver or Seattle.
Notables: Mike Tolbert, Le'Ron McClain (FB), Ricky Williams, Michael Bush, Tim Hightower, Jerious Norwood
1. Randy Moss - The likelihood he stays in Tennessee is very low. Moss is keeping his cool right now as a bench warmer and mentor to Kenny Britt, but the bottom line is he wants to play. Plenty of teams realize his talent, but many are still hesitant to bring him in. I suppose if no one else will take him, Jeff Fisher will be glad to keep him around, but I would expect one of the other 31 NFL teams to show some interest.
2. Vincent Jackson - Jackson showed the Chargers organization what they have been missing out on by keeping him from playing most of the season. I highly doubt he will be in San Diego next season unless the owner intervenes and offers a fat contract. Jackson wants to get paid, plain and simple. So find a team that has a lot of money and needs a top notch wide receiver and you will find a team interested in Jackson.
3. Sidney Rice - The Minnesota Vikings are going to have to make a few big decisions in the offseason. One of them will be whether or not to keep one of the best unsung heroes of the NFL wide receivers. He isn't the fastest or flashiest receiver, but he is one of the best route runners and possession receivers in the league.
4. Santonio Holmes - The Jets really like Holmes and Holmes likes the Jets. I suppose he could leave, but he is the primary receiver on a potential Super Bowl team. Why would he want to leave?
5. Terrell Owens - Well, the Bengals gave it a shot, and for a while there, Owens was the only thing actually putting up decent numbers on this offense. Unfortunately, two things will keep him from being resigned: his injury, and the Bengals dreadful season.
Notables: Malcom Floyd, Braylon Edwards, Santana Moss, Steve Smith (Giants), Mike Sims-Walker
1. Zach Miller - Zach Miller is an Oakland Raider. He is one of the most talented players on this Raiders team. Al Davis and Tom Cable know that. On a more powerful offensive team, Zach Miller could be great. But I just can't see Miller leaving Oakland.
2. Owen Daniels - Last season, Owen Daniels was having one of the best seasons a tight end could have until he tore is ACL and was out for the rest of the season. So far this season, he hasn't been able to find that same groove of success. Depending on the coaching situation and a post-season evaluation of the tight end position, Owen Daniels could be a toss up on whether or not he resigns with the Texans or not.
3. Kevin Boss - Eli Manning likes him. If Eli likes him, odds are he will stay in New York. He has built a great chemistry with this offense and has done a decent job replacing Jeremy Shockey since he left for the Saints. We'll see if the Giants organization feels the same way by resigning him after the season is over.
Notables: Bo Scaife, Tony Scheffler, Mercedes Lewis
1. Jared Gaither - Word has it that Gaither is open to offers around the league. The likelihood of him staying in Baltimore is low, but should the right offer and situation come around from the Ravens, Gaither could be resigned. But again, I think he is more likely to find a new home next season.
2. Matt Light - The only person that must be kept a Patriot for the rest of their life is Tom Brady. Any one else, especially a 32-year-old offensive lineman, Bill Belichick can find a replacement for. I expect Light to be on the market after the season.
3. Alan Faneca - Faneca was signed by the Cardinals to a one year deal to see how it would work out more or less. It's been a pretty good season for Faneca and he is too old to be changing teams every year. I expect him to find a way to finish his career in Arizona.
4. Willie Colon - Colon is one of the few guys I really just can't see leaving. He has started 50 consecutive games and Ben Roethlisberger likes having colon as protection. Expect to see Colon in black and yellow for a while.
5. Carl Nicks - As one of the best guards in the NFL, the Saints will have to decide if he is good enough to sign when they have recently given another great guard, Jahri Evans, a nice fat contract as well. If the Saints can't afford Nicks or if they just can't come to a deal, he will be looking for a new team next season.
Notables: Logan Mankins, Daryn Colledge, Ryan Kalil
1. Ray Edwards - I really like Edwards. He is a leader of this defense and goes great with Jared Allen on the other side of the line. Unfortunately for the Vikings he is probably going to want a pretty penny. With Minnesota worrying about finding a quarterback and resigning other big names as well, I'm thinking Edwards will not be in Minnesota next season.
2. Richard Seymour - Seymour fits perfectly into the Raiders system. Only because he has a temper and plays dirty. Nonetheless, Oakland has paid a lot of money for Seymour already. Why not pay a little more to keep the big guy around? He will likely be open to offers, but I see him in black and silver next season.
3. Mathias Kiwanuka - Kiwanuka isn't exactly Justin Tuck, but he is still not too bad. He gives the defensive line a little something extra that New York would be crazy to let go. Kiwanuka will likely hear offers from other teams and given the right offer, he may take it. But I see him as a Giant next season.
4. Shaun Ellis - The Jets are going to have to prioritize who they want to resign and who they are going to let go. Ellis wants a long term contract and the Jets rejected his request for one already. If Ellis isn't on the Jets' priority list, he will be find someone to give him that long term deal.
5. Tamba Hali - I know, Hali has moved to linebacker. But every once in a while he lines up at the end position. In other words, he is diverse and very talented. Kansas City's defense is finally stepping up and looking halfway decent in most games. The only question now is, do the Chiefs want to pay a key player the money it will take to keep it that way.
Notables: Marcus Spears, Trevor Pryce
1. Haloti Ngata - If Ngata goes anywhere besides Baltimore, I would be shocked. He is arguably the best defensive lineman in the NFL right now. Baltimore knows that, and letting him go is out of the question. I hope Ngata enjoys the fat contract he will get in the offseason.
2. Pat Williams - Another Viking free agent, Pat Williams is getting older and that means he doesn't want to change teams so late in his career. He may not get the money he wants, but I think he and the Vikings will figure something out.
3. Brandon Mebane - Mebane is a very talented, young player and has proven his worth as a very undersized player. He is one of the few things the Seahawks has going for them. Pete Carrol and the rest of this Seahawks teams know this and they will try very hard to keep him in Seattle next season.
Notables: Aubrayo Franklin, Johnny Jolly
Side Note: Albert Haynesworth is likely to be released from the Redskins by the end of season as well.
1. LaMarr Woodley - The man with the Wolverine tattoo isn't going anywhere. He'll be in Pittsburgh for many years to come.
2. Shawne Merriman - Merriman has developed that "injured early, injured often" reputation and it's going to be difficult for him to get the contract he wants. No doubt, when he is healthy he is a great player. But it doesn't matter how good you are if you can't play. Still, someone will take a chance on him. I could see him as a Jet if David Harris isn't resigned.
3. David Harris - Speaking of David Harris, I just can't see the guy being resigned by this Jets team. He wants money and he has earned it. But like I said, New York has a lot of prioritizing to do. I don't think Rex Ryan and the Jets will be able to bring him back next season.
4. Kirk Morrison - Morrison is only averaging about five tackles a game this season. Other than that, he isn't the same old Kirk Morrison we remember. Jacksonville could either sign him to a small contract or just find a better replacement. I'm thinking the latter.
5. Chad Greenway - Are we seeing a trend of Vikings players on this list? Greenway has been a solid, consistent player for this Minnesota defense. He won't demand a ton of money, but will bring a good game every week. With all the other stuff Minnesota has going on this offseason, Greenway may get overlooked and not resigned, but the Vikings would be foolish to do so.
Notables: Mike Peterson, David Thornton, Clint Session, Manny Lawson
1. Champ Bailey - One of the best corners of all-time, Champ Bailey is getting older. Still, he is one of the best cover corners in the game. His numbers have declined over the recent years but he still has the talent to play. But I admit, I don't think it will be for Denver next season.
2. Antonio Cromartie - Cromartie has been a great fit for the Jets and opposite Darrelle Revis, they are arguably the best package of starting corners in the NFL. Even with all the other free agents the Jets have to worry about, I can't see them overlooking this one.
3. Carlos Rogers - Carlos Rogers is often overlooked because of DeAngelo Hall on the other side of the field. Still, Rogers is a very good player and the Redskins would be foolish to not resign him.
4. Johnathan Joseph - This guy is a big reason the Bengals defense was one of the first defenses drafted in fantasy football this season. Boy was that a bust. Joseph could be one of the few good things remaining about the Bengals defense. We'll see if Cincinnati feels the same way.
5. Eric Wright - Wright is only 25 and is becoming one of the best corners in the NFL. He isn't going anywhere. Cleveland loves this guy.
Notables: Fabian Washington, Richard Marshall, Michael Adams
1. Quintin Mikell - Philadelphia has pretty good secondary and they know they can't let Mikell walk. He will get paid and he will stay with the Eagles.
2. Bernard Pollard - Absolutely the only thing going for Houston's secondary is Bernard Pollard. The Texans aren't a bad team and they know the biggest thing have to fix this offseason is their secondary. With Pollard as the first piece of the puzzle, they can begin building a decent secondary.
3. Darren Sharper - Sharper has hit the downside of his career. He is still a great safety in this league, but the Saints will have to choose whether or not they want to bring Sharper back and pay him, or let him walk. Again, I'm thinking the latter.
4. Eric Weddle - Weddle, in my opinion, is one of the most underrated defensive backs in the NFL. If San Diego wants to keep one of the best pass defenses in the league, they will make sure they keep Weddle on this team. I expect them to do that.
5. Chinedum Ndukwe - Another reason the Bengals defense was predicted to be pretty good, Ndukwe has the talent, but he hasn't performed up to his full potential this season. None of the Bengals really have. This is one guy I could actually see the Bengals letting go.
Notables: Roy Williams, Danieal Manning
1. Ryan Longwell - Vikings free agent No. 482. Longwell is one of the best kickers in the league and Minnesota would be wise to keep him around. Reliable kickers are hard to come by. Just ask the Redskins. Kickers don't demand a ton of money and at 36, Longwell still has a good three or four years in him.
2. Mason Crosby - Being 20 for 26 isn't the best percentage in the world for an NFL kicker, but he is still a pretty good kicker. Green Bay might take a chance on another kicker in the offseason, but I think seeing Crosby in yellow and green next season is more likely.
3. Adam Vinatieri - The man with the foot who helped two different teams win three Super Bowls. He is 22 of 24 this season and at 37, he looks like he could keep going for several years to come. Indianapolis would be smart to keep him around.
Notables: David Akers, Olindo Mare