NFL Free Agency Speculation: 10 Teams with the Most to Gain
No one knows when free agency is going to start up. Heck, no one knows when training camp or even the season will get under way. Yet because in America, football (OUR football) is king, that's not going to stop us from pondering potential free agency moves.
While NFL free agency isn't as big a deal as it is in the other major sports (last time I checked, no player ever scheduled a show on ESPN to notify the world they were taking their "talents to Titletown"), it is a time where teams look to fill holes that they elected not to in the draft.
Because of the uncertainty of what free agency is even going to look like in the future, we're going to assume that it doesn't change.
Big names who are scheduled to be free agents and have a decent chance of looking for new teams include running backs Ronnie Brown and Cedric Benson, wide receiving divas Terrell Owens, Braylon Edwards and Randy Moss, defensive linemen Haloti Ngata and Cullen Jenkins and possibly the biggest prize of this offseason: cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha.
Sorry Cardinals fans, Kurt Warner's going to stay in that suit and Larry Fitzgerald is still going to get passes thrown over his head. UNLESS, the Cardinals realize that the combination of Derek Anderson and John Skelton is not the answer at quarterback.
The Cardinals had the second worst passing offense in the league last year, and when you have arguably the best receiver in football, that shouldn't happen.
While the quarterback market this year isn't good as Peyton Manning and Michael Vick are both expected to return to their respective teams, bringing in a veteran like Matt Hasselbeck or even Kerry Collins for a year would improve this team drastically.
Neither guy is that good and would clearly be a one- or two-year rental until they pick someone up in an upcoming draft, but they should be able to get Fitz the ball.
While Atlanta's offense may end up being one of the best in the league next year with the addition of Julio Jones, their defense was exposed by the Packers in the playoffs. Green Bay scored at will and dominated the Falcons in the Georgia Dome.
For a team expecting to contend for a championship, personnel need to change on defense. Defensive end John Abraham was the only player to record over four sacks, and he's getting up there in age.
Obviously bringing in a guy like Haloti Ngata would be incredible, but pairing a guy like Minnesota's Ray Edwards up opposite Abraham would give the Falcons a pretty potent pass-rush.
In the secondary, they could go after a guy like Carlos Rogers to be their other corner opposite Brent Grimes who's also a free agent, but I expect him to be re-signed by the Falcons.
To say the Bills were able to stop teams from running would be like saying Oprah isn't that popular. Buffalo had the worst rush defense in the league and gave up almost 27 points per game. For a team whose offense was mediocre, that clearly is not going to get it done.
Luckily, the Bills answered some of those issues by drafting seven defensive players in the NFL draft, led by defensive tackle Marcell Dareus. While those players will certainly help, going out and signing a few veterans to fill some holes, particularly at linebacker, would really help the rookies out.
Also, it's uncertain as to whether Fred Jackson is the answer at running back, and with a couple solid backs available (Benson primarily), it might not hurt to go after one unless the organization feels like C.J. Spiller will live up to the expectations he didn't meet in his rookie season.
If anyone thought the worst team WOULDN'T be on this list, then I have some flying carpets I'd like to sell you.
Much like the Cardinals, having a dynamic wide receiver (a little overrated in my eyes, but still good) yet being one of the worst passing teams in the league meant a change was needed at quarterback.
Obviously, the Panthers attempted to alleviate that huge need by grabbing Cam Newton with the first overall pick.
Still, with Smith being the only legit wide receiver, Newton could certainly use some guys to throw the ball to. While I don't think any of the WR divas would be a good fit, bringing in a guy like Steve Breaston or James Jones, guys who are itching to make a name for themselves, might work.
Then there's the defense, which could use a pass rusher to pair with Charles Johnson and a defensive playmaker to help the unit as a whole.
The Panthers are clearly in rebuilding mode, but that doesn't mean they shouldn't grab some guys for cheap that will still improve their team. Right now, almost anyone will help.
The sexy decision for the Browns on draft day would have been to find a way to grab wide receiver A.J. Green and let he and budding quarterback Colt McCoy mesh together for years to come.
Sadly it didn't happen, the Browns didn't want to grab Julio Jones at No. 6, traded down, and ultimately focused on defense during the draft.
They were able to grab North Carolina wide receiver Greg Little in the second round, but he doesn't project to be a number one wide receiver. A solid number two or three? Absolutely.
McCoy still needs that go-to-guy to get the ball to in order for the Browns offense to be set for the future. Again bring in a Randy Moss or T.O. just wouldn't work, and it's more likely for the Cavs to bring back LeBron than it would be for them to bring back Braylon.
The top guy on their list should be San Diego's Malcolm Floyd. He's got the size and has shown flashes of being able to be that top receiver on a good team. Bringing him in would give the Browns a good and balanced offense for the future.
For a team as talented as the Cowboys and as good offensively with guys like Tony Romo, Miles Austin and their slew of running backs, a 6-10 record was simply inexcusable. I'm pretty sure Jerry Jones agrees with me on that.
Their main problem? Pass and scoring defense. They finished below 25th in the league in both categories, giving up close to 250 yards through the air and 27 points per contest.
In the draft they selected only one defensive back, in Round 5 and only one other defensive player in linebacker Bruce Carter in the second round.
That's definitely not going to be enough to fix a poor defense. Obviously Asomugha will be a target of theirs as Jerry loves spending his money. At safety, Eric Weddle of San Diego and Dawan Landry of Baltimore seem like solid options.
It also might not be a bad idea to look for a guy to put opposite of sack master DeMarcus Ware. Anthony Spencer isn't a bad guy on the other side (had five sacks last season), but it's certainly possible to find an upgrade.
Oooh Denver, how horrendous was their defense last season? Enough to finish dead last in total defense and scoring defense.
Thankfully, with new coach John Fox, and a draft that saw the Broncos use four of their first five picks on defensive players (including Von Miller second overall, the second coming of Simon Fletcher), the defense should improve.
Sure, grabbing a younger guy for the secondary with both Champ Bailey and Brian Dawkins hitting the end of their careers sooner than later wouldn't be a bad thing.
There's no way they could possibly be worse.
Their other issue is at running back, which they failed to address. Fox loves to use two running backs, and while Knowshon Moreno is pretty good, they don't have another legit guy (sorry, Correll Buckhalter and Laurence Maroney). Bringing in Arian Foster, Ahmad Bradshaw or Mike Tolbert would make the Broncos a run-first team which would allow Tim Tebow to rely on the running game.
Want to know the team with arguably the second worst defense in all of football? That'd be these guys, the Houston Texans.
Despite having one of the best offenses in the league, they finished the season a disappointing 6-10 primarily because their defense couldn't stop a high school team, especially through the air, where they were dead last in the league in pass defense.
In the draft, they helped out the secondary by drafting two defensive backs, one in the second and the other in the fourth.
Still, for a team that was absolutely inept at stopping quarterbacks, two rookies isn't going to cut it.
Of anybody on this list, the Texans should do whatever it takes to land Nnamdi Asomugha. Giving them a guy that shuts off a good portion of the field would let the safeties focus on the other side and give the opposite corner the confidence that if he does get beat, there will definitely be help over top.
If they're not able to land the stud of the group, splitting that money and giving it to two good corners like Carlos Rogers and Richard Marshall wouldn't be a bad second option.
Regardless, if the Texans expect to finally make the playoffs next season, they'll have to spend some money in the secondary to make it happen.
San Francisco 49ers
Is it safe to say that Alex Smith is not the answer at quarterback yet? I mean, we're on what, year six? Considering he's expected to be a free agent, I don't see the 49ers requesting his services again. Six years of disappointment was hopefully enough.
San Francisco did draft their hopeful quarterback of the future in Colin Kaepernick in the second round, but he shouldn't start this upcoming season.
This means that, like the Arizona Cardinals, they need to go out and rent a veteran QB for a year or two to let Kaepernick watch and learn. Again, guys like Hasselbeck and Collins wouldn't be horrible choices.
Maybe even bringing in Donovan McNabb would be a good idea if the organization feels it's close to getting back to the playoffs.
The final team on the list actually made the playoffs last season in the Seattle Seahawks, owners of one of the worst regular season records of a team that advanced to the postseason.
While making the playoffs is an accomplishment that should be honored, doing so while going 7-9 puts a little dent in that accolade.
Head coach Pete Carroll clearly improved the team, but he has a ways to go before it's a perennial playoff team the way it was in the mid-2000s.
Offensively they could really use a dynamic running back, especially if they elect to let long-time play caller Matt Hasselbeck leave and start Charlie Whitehurst.
The guy out there who makes the most sense would be either Cedric Benson or DeAngelo Williams. When both are healthy, they can grab 1,200 yards in a season. The issue is, both have had their share of injuries, so it's unlikely either is able to stay healthy for a full season.
On the defensive side of the ball, they'll probably look to re-sign safety Jordan Babineaux and defensive end Raheem Brock. Both were solid in their roles and should be brought back as long as their asking price isn't outrageous.
The Seahawks should probably consider looking at nabbing a young cornerback, as Marcus Trufant is getting up there in age (30), and no corner had multiple interceptions last season, not even Trufant. A guy like Jonathan Joseph or Eric Wright wouldn't be a bad gamble.