NFL Free Agency 2012: Predicting Where Next Year's Top 25 FAs Will Sign

Matt Stein@MatthewJSteinCorrespondent IIOctober 26, 2011

NFL Free Agency 2012: Predicting Where Next Year's Top 25 FAs Will Sign

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    With players like Drew Brees, Ray Rice, DeSean Jackson and Mario Williams all set to become free agents in 2012, it is very possible that this year's free-agent class may be more talented than last year's.

    We most likely won't see the type of free-agent frenzy we saw last year, but the 2012 free-agent signing period will certainly be exciting.

    Today we'll take a very early look at where the top 25 free agents of 2012 will be predicted to sign.

Drew Brees, Quarterback

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    Predicted Team to Sign With: New Orleans Saints


    Drew Brees is the crowned jewel of the 2012 free-agency class.

    Teams like the Miami Dolphins and Seattle Seahawks would give their right kidney to get him. Unfortunately, no amount of money is going be able to remove Brees from New Orleans.

    He is that franchise, and just like Peyton Manning this year, the Saints simply aren't going to let him get away.

Matt Flynn, Quarterback

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    Predicted Team to Sign With: Washington Redskins


    Some might say that Matt Flynn isn't one of the top 25 free agents, but with a weak quarterback group, there will be plenty of teams looking Flynn's way.

    In his time with the Green Bay Packers, Flynn has proven to have the abilities to lead an NFL franchise.

    He is simply too good to stick around with the Packers as a backup.

    The reason that Flynn will be heading to the Redskins is because of Dan Snyder's dislike of drafting rookie quarterbacks. With Flynn still young, Snyder will offer him a contract he can't resist.

    Hopefully his career doesn't end like every other quarterback that heads to Washington a la Donovan McNabb.

Ray Rice, Running Back

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    Predicted Team to Sign With: Baltimore Ravens


    The Ravens simply don't have enough offensive weapons to let Ray Rice get away from them. He is currently one of the top dual-threat running backs in the league, and he should be in for a huge payday from Baltimore.

    With Joe Flacco looking extremely inconsistent this year and no real threat at wide receiver, Rice is basically the entire offense for the Ravens.

    If he left, it wouldn't be surprising to see this team fall into mediocrity.

    Don't be surprised if Baltimore locks Rice up to a big deal later in the season, especially if they start struggling down the stretch.

Arian Foster (Restricted), Running Back

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    Predicted Team to Sign With: Houston Texans


    After a breakout season in 2010, Arian Foster has proven that he is the real deal by his play in the current season.

    He struggled with injuries early on, but now that he is healthy, he looks better than he ever did last year. Not only is Foster extremely explosive as a running back, but he also has soft hands.

    It is nearly impossible to stop him in the open field, and once he gets momentum on his side, he is difficult to take down.

    Right now, Foster is playing like a top-five running back. There is no way Houston doesn't bring him back.

Peyton Hillis, Running Back

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    Predicted Team to Sign With: Atlanta Falcons


    After Peyton Hillis' 2010 season, I would have never thought that the Cleveland Browns wouldn't sign him to a big contract.

    However, after a very "interesting" 2011 season, I just can't see Hillis staying with them.

    Hillis is a power running back, and the Falcons have had very good success with that style of running in the past.

    With Michael Turner nearing the end of his usefulness, Hillis would be able to come in and provide a nice complement to Turner.

    Losing Hillis could be a big blow to the Browns, but it just doesn't look like these two sides will resolve their issues anytime soon.

Matt Forte, Running Back

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    Predicted Team to Sign With: Chicago Bears


    I'm not sure if there is a more important offensive player to their team than Matt Forte.

    It literally feels like he is responsible for 90 percent of Chicago's offense every single week.

    Now that Forte has started to produce much better as a runner, the Bears simply can't afford to not pay him like a top running back.

    Even though these two sides had contract issues in the offseason and Forte was a hot name during trade rumors, he is too valuable for this team to not re-sign him.

    While I would love to see Forte out of the NFC North, it just isn't going to happen.

DeSean Jackson, Wide Receiver

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    Predicted Team to Sign With: Philadelphia Eagles


    At first I wanted to predict that DeSean Jackson would be leaving the Eagles. However, after thinking about it more, I can't see them letting him go.

    Jackson is a special player who has elite speed and playmaking ability. He also happens to be Michael Vick's favorite target, and Philadelphia is in no position to make their franchise quarterback unhappy.

    Right now, Jackson may not warrant a huge contract, but plenty of teams could use him, so the Eagles will be forced to pay up to keep him.

Vincent Jackson, Wide Receiver

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    Predicted Team to Sign With: Minnesota Vikings


    It seems that Vincent Jackson has been desiring to get out of San Diego for the past few seasons.

    In 2012, Jackson will get his wish, as the San Diego Chargers will choose to not give him an offer.

    There are numerous teams that desperately need a true top receiver, but the Vikings will outbid them all.

    With Christian Ponder looking like the real deal, Minnesota is going to attempt to get as many weapons as possible for him to thrive.

    While Percy Harvin has played well this year, he just isn't a No. 1 receiver and would be better utilized as a second option.

    With Jackson, Harvin and Adrian Peterson all at Ponder's beckoning call, the Vikings could be a Super Bowl dark horse next year.

Mike Wallace (Restricted), Wide Receiver

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    Predicted Team to Sign With: Pittsburgh Steelers


    There is no doubt that Mike Wallace is one of the best receivers in the league.

    Considering the fact that Wallace is still very young and can still improve, there is no way the Steelers let him leave.

    Very few wide receivers have as much big-play ability as Wallace does. It seems that every game he plays, it is almost guaranteed that he will make at least one huge play.

    With Hines Ward seeming older with every day that passes, the Steelers would be idiots to not sign Wallace to a contract spanning many years.

Wes Welker, New England Patriots

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    Predicted Team to Sign With: New England Patriots


    Is there really any doubt that Tom Brady would ever allow the Patriots to not re-sign Wes Welker?

    Sorry, it doesn't matter how much another team puts out there, New England will do whatever Brady says, and I guarantee Brady says that Welker stays.

Reggie Wayne, Wide Receiver

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    Predicted Team to Sign With: Indianapolis Colts


    The signing of Reggie Wayne all depends on what happens with Peyton Manning.

    If Wayne believes that Manning will be back to full strength next season, I think he stays. However, if he gets even the tiniest scent that something is still wrong with Manning, he will leave.

    My gut tells me that Manning will be back, but my gut also tells me that Taco Bell is a bad idea. You can't always trust your gut.

Stevie Johnson, Wide Receiver

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    Predicted Team to Sign With: Buffalo Bills


    Before the 2010 season, Stevie Johnson was an unknown player.

    Now he is one of the top receivers in the AFC and is getting ready for a huge payday in the offseason.

    The future looks pretty bright in Buffalo these days and Johnson is a big reason for that.

    While the Bills will struggle for a playoff spot this year, if they can keep their big-name players like Johnson, they should be in contention for many years to come.

Dwayne Bowe, Wide Receiver

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    Predicted Team to Sign With: Cleveland Browns


    Things are a mess in Kansas City right now, and I can't see Dwayne Bowe sticking around after this season.

    With Jonathan Baldwin and Steve Breaston both on the Kansas City Chiefs' roster, Bowe won't get the money he deserves from them.

    The Browns, who look to be on the rise, have a huge need for a legitimate target for Colt McCoy, and they will shell out the cash for Bowe. 

    With Bowe, the Browns have the possibility to become major contenders in the AFC North.

Marques Colston, Wide Receiver

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    Predicted Team to Sign With: San Diego Chargers


    While it will be hard for the New Orleans Saints to let Marques Colston go, it is going to happen.

    The Saints boast one of the deepest receiving corps in the NFL and Drew Brees is simply too good to let this team drop too far without Colston.

    Many suitors will line up at Colston's door, but the Chargers will make the best offer after losing Vincent Jackson to free agency.

    After this signing, the Saints will still be good, the Chargers will still be good and Colston will be much richer.

Jermichael Finley, Tight End

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    Predicted Team to Sign With: Philadelphia Eagles


    As much as I would love Jermichael Finley to stay with the Green Bay Packers, I just don't see it happening.

    There isn't a single tight end in the league with as much potential as Finley, but he has yet to fully tap into it.

    One game he looks like the best tight end in the league, and the next game he has two receptions for 13 yards.

    With four other tight ends currently on the Packers' roster, they won't shell out the cash that Finley will almost certainly get in free agency.

    Watch for the Eagles to make a big offer to add another weapon to Michael Vick's arsenal.

Ben Grubbs, Offensive Guard

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    Predicted Team to Sign With: Chicago Bears


    No team needs to improve their offensive line more than the Bears.

    Some games, it literally appears as if Jay Cutler is nothing more than a tackling dummy for opposing defenses.

    While Ben Grubbs has been a very solid player for the Baltimore Ravens, they won't be willing to match the type of offer that Chicago gives him.

Robert Mathis, Defense End

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    Predicted Team to Sign With: Oakland Raiders


    You have to like what the Raiders are doing this year and what their future looks like.

    Darren McFadden is an absolute star, and the defense is young and motivated.

    Adding a big-name pass rusher like Robert Mathis will only make this team even scarier. Even though Mathis is starting to get up there in age, he is still very effective at getting after the quarterback.

    We also need to remember that Oakland doesn't have a problem with bringing in older players to their team.

    Not only with Mathis bring maturity to the field, but he will also bring it to the locker room, which could really help this franchise.

    Watch out, NFL, the Raiders are on the rise and have no intention of stopping.

John Abraham, Defensive End

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    Predicted Team to Sign With: Atlanta Falcons


    At first I had thought that John Abraham might leave Atlanta after this year, but I think he is far too valuable to this franchise.

    With Abraham rushing on one side and Ray Edwards on the other, the Falcons have two of the top defensive ends in the game.

    Their defense thrives when they can get pressure on a quarterback, and losing a player like Abraham would certainly hinder their endeavours.

    I wouldn't be surprised if Abraham is locked up to a long contract that allows him to eventually retire with Atlanta.

Mario Williams, Defensive End/Outside Linebacker

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    Predicted Team to Sign With: Houston Texans


    It was a shame that Mario Williams went down for the season with a pectoral injury because he was looking very, very good in Wade Phillips' defense.

    Since being the top draft pick in the 2006 NFL draft, Williams has been a dominant player for the Texans. He is only 26-years old, so he still has plenty of years to continue that dominance.

    Williams is to Houston's defense what Andre Johnson is to their offense.

    They certainly wouldn't let Johnson leave via free agency, so it absolutely won't happen with Williams, either.

Paul Soliai, Defensive Tackle

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    Predicted Team to Sign With: Chicago Bears


    As the top defensive tackle free agent, Paul Soliai could see plenty of offers this offseason.

    The Miami Dolphins will be in the mix, but ultimately, I believe the Bears will make a last-second offer.

    Just remember how good Chicago's defense was when they had an ultra-talented defensive tackle like Tommie Harris on their roster. Soliai is a superb player and could really bring that defense back to where it was.

    It won't be an easy fight for the Bears, and they may have more pressing issues, but signing a big-name player like Soliai will make their defense much better.

Cortland Finnegan, Cornerback

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    Predicted Team to Sign With: Pittsburgh Steelers


    During last year's free agency period, the Steelers were relatively silent.

    Many thought that they would go after a cornerback, but they simply re-signed Ike Taylor and went on their merry way. 

    With cornerback still being a very big need for Pittsburgh, they won't be silent during another free agency period.

    They'll go after a big-name player like Cortland Finnegan and be successful at luring him away from the Tennessee Titans.

    It will be difficult to see Finnegan leave Tennessee, but the Steelers are too desperate for an elite cornerback to not sign him.

Tracy Porter, Cornerback

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    Predicted Team to Sign With: New Orleans Saints


    The hero of Super Bowl XLIV is nearly just as valuable as Drew Brees is to the Saints' franchise.

    Since being drafted in 2008, Porter has been a very good cover cornerback for New Orleans. He always seems to make big plays when his team needs them the most.

    New Orleans would be foolish to let Porter leave, and even though he will receive plenty of offers, I think he loves this franchise too much to just walk away.

Brandon Carr, Cornerback

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    Predicted Team to Sign With: Kansas City Chiefs


    Brandon Carr is a very interesting free-agent prospect in the 2012 class.

    He is an extremely young player with tons of talent. The continued combination of Carr, Brandon Flowers and Eric Berry would be a very potent one, and the Chiefs would be wise to keep it intact.

    Kansas City looks like a total mess right now, but if they can re-sign Carr, it could go a long way to helping them out.

Michael Griffin, Safety

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    Predicted Team to Sign With: Tennessee Titans


    After a few years of mediocrity, Michael Griffin really stepped up his game last year. He is having another good season, so it would be safe to say that Griffin is finally living up to his potential.

    With the Titans losing Stephen Tulloch last year and predicted to lose Cortland Finnegan this year, they can't afford losing Griffin also.

    Even if Griffin wants more than he is really worth, I think Tennessee will pay him.

    The signing of Griffin to the Titans could be very similar to how the San Diego Chargers handled the signing of Eric Weddle last offseason. They may overpay, but he is a necessary part of this team.

LaRon Landry, Safety

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    Predicted Team to Sign With: New England Patriots


    LaRon Landry was the most difficult player to predict as far as where he would end up.

    While the Washington Redskins will always have a chance with any free agent, I just can't see Landry sticking around with that franchise.

    Many teams will be interested in him once he makes known his intentions to leave Washington, and I see the Patriots swooping in and locking him up.

    New England's pass defense has been horrid this year and Landry would go a long way toward improving that.

    His signing in the offseason will make the Patriots the early favorites for the Super Bowl, very much like trading for Chad Ochocinco and Albert Haynesworth did this offseason.

    Let's just pray that Landry doesn't play as poorly as those two have this year.