NFL Free Agency Speculation: 10 Rookies Who Will Get Huge Deals in 2015
NFL rookies may receive nice deals and signing bonuses to begin with, but the big money is earned once they have proven their worth for a few years.
Ten rookies this year will be in line for big deals come 2015, and some selections may shock readers (just look at the guy in the picture to the left).
With money a hot-button issue in the NFL right now, let's speculate about monetary proceedings for 2015.
Here are the ten current rookies who will earn nice paydays come 2015.
MLB Colin McCarthy
Colin McCarthy is the obvious heir apparent to Stephen Tulloch in Tennessee, and the rookie may well take the reins this year.
McCarthy is from the University of Miami and plays a tough-nosed style a la Paul Posluszny of the Buffalo Bills.
Tennessee's defense is very linebacker-friendly—Tulloch had a career year last year and is using it for leverage in contract negotiations.
McCarthy could jump on that bandwagon of success for a few years and parlay it into a big deal come 2015.
QB Christian Ponder
Christian Ponder was the most pro-ready signal-caller in this year's class and will give the Vikings a true, long-term solution at quarterback.
Ponder comes from the pro-style Florida State offense and will look to carry his success from the collegiate level to the NFL.
After the Vikings picked Ponder 12th overall, some Viking fans cringed, but upon further review, the pick was justifiable.
Look for Ponder to become the franchise quarterback in Minnesota and put himself in prime position for a huge contract come 2015.
OT Jah Reid
Jah Reid was one of the most underrated tackle prospects in this year's draft class, and the Baltimore Ravens traded up to get him in the third round.
Reid is a bit developmental, but coach John Harbaugh says that the UCF product could be the Day One starter at right tackle.
The tackle is big (6'7", 330 pounds) and plays athletically for a man of his size and stature. He looked very good in positional drills at the NFL Scouting Combine by my own personal evaluation.
Look for Reid to lock down the right tackle spot and become an invaluable member of the Ravens' offensive line, eventually putting himself in line for a huge contract.
QB Ryan Mallett
Ryan Mallett is some team's future franchise quarterback. That team could very well be the New England Patriots.
By 2015, Tom Brady will probably be out of New England and Mallett will have taken the reins.
Mallett has a big arm and could ride a team to a Super Bowl under the right circumstances.
From what we saw of him at Arkansas, the 6'7" quarterback knows how to win and work the ball down the field. Some NFL team will fall in love with Mallett as their franchise quarterback.
WR AJ Green
AJ Green was the top-rated receiver in this year's draft class, and for good reason—he has all the tools to be a difference-maker at the next level.
The big wide receiver has exceptional body control and will finally give the Bengals a low-key No. 1 wideout who produces more on-the-field than off of it.
The University of Georgia standout will become one of the faces of the franchise in Cincinnati and bring hope to a fanbase starved of peace of mind.
Look for the Bengals to build their team around Green and the player on the next slide, as the team finally has a real future to look forward to.
QB Andy Dalton
Andy Dalton is a proven leader and winner, bringing intangible qualities to the quarterback position in Cincinnati that some Bengals fans have never experienced in their lifetime.
Dalton will replace Carson Palmer under center—a changing of the guard that is long past its due date at this point for Cincinnati.
The team will look to assemble pieces around Dalton (such as AJ Green) to give the young signal-caller as many options as he needs for success.
After taking an average TCU team all the way to a bowl game win over Wisconsin, Dalton has a chance to become a winner in the NFL and parlay it into a big contract.
CB Jimmy Smith
As this generation's legendary Raven players like Ed Reed and Ray Lewis make their way out, it is high-time for new players to step up.
Despite his off-the-field issues, look for Smith to mature into the shutdown corner the Ravens envision him to become.
The Colorado corner will be a face of the Ravens defense for the next ten years and will be in line for a huge deal come 2015.
Look for Ed Reed to impart his wisdom to Smith as Reed puts the finishing touches on his storied career, and then watch as Smith carries the torch for Baltimore.
DE Cameron Heyward
Questions about Heyward's health slid him down the draft boards, but the Pittsburgh Steelers were smart enough to nab the young defensive end.
With Brett Keisel and Aaron Smith getting progressively older, Pittsburgh addressed a need before it became a need at the 5-technique.
Look for Heyward to step into that defense when he is ready and have success from the first rep he takes.
Surrounded by talent, Heyward will look like a true top player, and in effect will force the Steelers to give him a big deal.
S Rahim Moore
Rahim Moore is both flashy and productive—a combination that the Broncos need in their defensive backfield.
Brian Dawkins is a shell of his former self and Champ Bailey has only a few more big years left in him. Look for Moore to become the face of the secondary in Denver.
With all of the issues that this team had against the pass last year, Denver will give Moore every opportunity to be a difference-maker in the NFL.
Moore is exciting, talented, and will be a must-sign for the Broncos come 2015.
WR Greg Little
The Cleveland Browns didn't draft Greg Little to sit behind Mohammed Massaquoi and Brian Robiskie—Little will be the No. 1 wideout from the moment he sets foot in Cleveland facilities (when ever that may be).
The UNC product is big, athletic, and likes to use his body to box out smaller cornerbacks on routes like slants, fades, and outs.
Colt McCoy will develop instant rapport with Little, and the two will become a formidable passing combination on the Browns for years to come.
Little will be a ten-year starter at No. 1 wideout for the Browns, and come 2015, the former Tar Heel will be a no-brainer for a big deal.
Notable First-Round Exceptions
I left off the top three picks because using slides to discuss players like Marcell Dareus is pointless in a discussion-sparking slideshow like this.
Patrick Peterson may not get the big deal because he will be the second cornerback, not the No. 1 guy, and the same goes for Julio Jones at the wideout position.
Also, too many questions surrounding guys like Jake Locker and Aldon Smith didn't give them compelling enough arguments.
Just missing the list (he would have made it if this was an 11-person list) was Ryan Kerrigan, who still needs to show that he can be an outside linebacker.