Everyone is focused on the 2011 class of free agents and rightly so. After all, teams could find that missing piece just waiting to be signed.
Other teams, though, have several missing pieces. While they may start to turn around in 2011, making a winning team out of losing franchise is a long term process. It can take a couple of years for rookies to reach their potential and teams to mesh well enough to move up to that next level. That is when those teams will be looking for the missing piece.
Smart teams will be looking, not only a year down the road, but looking to 2013 and beyond, identifying potential players that could make the difference for their team. These players’ teams will try as hard as they can to keep these valuable players, but inevitably a few will slip away into free agency.
2013 will have several players who will be able to test the free agent market. If they decide to, there will be a number of teams ready for them.
For any team looking for a solid quarterback, Matt Schaub is the ideal candidate.
Schaub has thrown for over 4,000 yards his last two season. With a career quarterback rating of 91.5, you know that Schaub is effective. Sure, he gets sacked a little bit more than most teams would prefer, but with a solid offensive line, Schaub can get the job done.
When 2013 comes around, Schaub will only be 31, giving him several more good years before he retires. If the Texans are not able to keep Schaub, there will be several teams who will be looking for a shot at him.
Maurice Jones-Drew has rushed for over 1,300 yards the last two seasons, proving himself to be one of the most effective running backs in the NFL. The two-time Pro Bowler has 54 rushing touchdowns in five seasons, making him one of the most dangerous scoring threats in the NFL.
Yes, when 2013 rolls around, he will be 28, an age where many running backs begin to decline and yes, he has had injuries, playing all of 2010 with a torn meniscus in his left knee. If Jones-Drew is able to continue to produce, though, he will be a hot commodity in 2013 and a back that many teams will not be able to resist.
In only four seasons, Calvin Johnson has gained over 4,000 yards receiving, a staggering total for a wide receiver who has had six different quarterbacks over that time. Johnson has proven that he will make the big play when given the chance.
Johnson will be 27 in 2013, putting him in his prime. If Johnson tests free agency, there are several teams who will be biting.
Jason Witten has become one of the premier tight ends in football. Having been to the Pro Bowl every year since 2004, Witten has proven himself to be a vital part of the Dallas Cowboys offense.
Witten is just now hitting his full potential, gaining 1,000 yards receiving three out of the last four years while proving his toughness, starting every game through that span. Only 29, Witten will have several more productive years left.
2013 will make him 31. While he may be slightly past his prime at that point, he will no doubt be able to produce at a level that would make him valuable to many teams.
Man to man, Darrelle Revis is one of the best cornerbacks in the game. Revis proved this in the playoffs, holding Indianapolis Colts wide receiver Reggie Wayne to just one yard receiving in the AFC wildcard game.
While Revis did have hamstring issues in 2010, this is nothing to worry about. Revis should return to his 2009 form, a year when he pulled down six interceptions, and continue to play at Pro Bowl levels.
Any team looking for a boost on defense would be more than happy to have Revis.
Quentin Jammer has already had a great career, being named one of the 50 best San Diego Chargers. While never the flashiest of cornerbacks, Jammer gets the job done every year, putting up consistent numbers. This kind of play may have kept Jammer out of the Pro Bowl, but it definitely has not kept him from being a powerful force on the field.
Jammer will be 33 in 2013. While there will be teams concerned with his age, most would be happy to have a player of this caliber helping out their defense.
A six-time Pro Bowler, Dwight Freeney has been a stellar defensive lineman for the Indianapolis Colts. Freeney has racked up 94 sacks, enough to rank 33rd all time.
2010 showed Freeney playing his best, getting 10 sacks while causing five fumbles.
Yes, a 33-year-old defensive lineman is not ideal to a lot of teams. If Freeney continues to produce, though, he will be on a lot of teams watch lists. There are certainly a lot of teams that would love to see him climb up that career sack list in their uniform.