NFL Free Agency 2012: Predictions for Contracts for the Top 20 Free Agents
The list of 2012 NFL free agents consists of a ton of playmakers on both sides of the ball. Between perennial Pro Bowlers and young up-and-comers, there is plenty of talent for your favorite team to pick from.
Will Jermichael Finley sacrifice wins for production and be a focal point of someone else's offense?
Will Drew Brees sign elsewhere and shake up the NFL's hierarchy for the second time in his career?
Here are the NFL's top 20 free agents, as well as a prediction of where they will end up.
Dwayne Bowe has been the model of consistency for the Kansas City Chiefs.
With the exception of his injury-plagued 2009 season, Bowe has hauled in at least 70 passes and 995 yards in every campaign.
He is on pace to easily eclipse both of those marks again this year.
With that being said, I think the Chiefs are prepared to say goodbye to the dependable wideout.
They drafted Jonathan Baldwin (who looks like he will be a monster, by the way) and brought in Steve Breaston.
Team: St. Louis Rams
Wide receiver is hardly the team's only weakness, but a corps of Danario Alexander and Danny Amendola is hardly doing Sam Bradford any favors. It is time to find the franchise quarterback a consistent threat at wide receiver. Bowe would be a great weapon for the young Rams.
I know the team traded for Brandon Lloyd, but he is not dependable from year-to-year. Also, Lloyd is a free agent after this season as well.
I just cannot see Mario Williams in another uniform.
As a No. 1 overall pick, Williams already has an outlandish contract (remember rookie contracts were a big sticking point in the NFL lockout), so it is not like the Texans will have to crunch the numbers to get him under the cap.
I cannot wait to see what Williams will continue to do as a 6'6" 280-lbs. outside linebacker.
In his first season there, he had five sacks in five games and was a huge factor in the team's win over the Pittsburgh Steelers. Then a torn pectoral ended his season.
Williams will only get better as he learns the nuances of his new position.
The injury could actually help, as he can study the playbook and film of the great outside linebackers. Williams should return hungry and focused, with a long-term contract keeping him in Houston.
Team: Houston Texans
Brees' contract will probably be locked up by the time the NFL's free agency period begins.
The last time he was a free agent, he turned a franchise without a playoff victory into a perennial Super Bowl contender.
In 2009, Brees probably confirmed he would never play for another team by delivering the Super Bowl title.
D. Breesy will not sign anywhere but the the Big Easy.
Team: New Orleans Saints
Jermichael Finley is 6'5," 247 lbs and has incredible hands.
That being said, Finley will never reach his individual ceiling with the Green Bay Packers.
The team has too many weapons, and Aaron Rodgers spreads the ball to all of them.
As the focal point of an offense, Finley could have an Antonio Gates-like impact. The Packers have proven they can win without him (he was injured for most of 2010) and will not get into a bidding war.
The team is getting bargains on stars like Greg Jennings and Clay Matthews, but those guys will need new contracts soon enough.
Team: Oakland Raiders
The Oakland Raiders have a bevy of receivers that can fly down the field for the big play.
The loss of Zach Miller cost them their only dependable receiver to make the tough plays in the middle of the field. Finley would quickly be Carson Palmer's go-to receiver and have 1,000 yards and 10 touchdowns.
Darnell Dockett has been the Arizona Cardinals' most dependable defensive player for nearly a decade.
Unfortunately, he has not had much help.
Dockett is getting up in years and probably realizes this will be his last long-term contract.
He will likely not spend it for a team in complete rebuilding mode.
Team: Denver Broncos
Dockett will bring toughness, tenacity and experience to wherever he goes, and he will make a big impact for a veteran team soft on the defensive line.
The Broncos stand out as a perfect fit. He would team with Broderick Bunkley to complete the overhaul of a Denver Broncos rush defense that was among the worst in the league not long ago.
Marques Colston has been the New Orleans Saints' top wideout, but this team will go as far as Drew Brees takes them.
The Saints will be distracted by signing Brees, and Colston could easily slip from their grasp.
Someone will enter a bidding war with the Saints and probably win.
Brees will spin it to whoever is open, and the Saints can find a suitable replacement for Colston.
Team: Washington Redskins
The Redskins have not had an effective, tall receiver for as long as I can remember. The lanky Colston would be a perfect complement to the small and speedy Santonio Holmes.
The Redskins have backed off of their free-agent frenzy ways, but I think they hop back in with this signing. And it is one that actually makes sense, for a change.
Wes Welker has had no fewer than 86 catches per year since signing with the New England Patriots.
He and Tom Brady seem prepared to do this dance until one of them retires.
Welker quickly stepped in as Brady's favorite target and is a perfect fit for the Patriots offense.
I don't think he does it this time. He experienced first-hand what Wes Welker can do to and for his team—he was a Patriot-killer for the Miami Dolphins and is a hero in New England.
Welker seems set to obliterate his career-high of 123 catches this season.
Team: New England Patriots
Jason Campbell has had a rough time of it in his NFL career.
Coming into the 2005 NFL draft, I thought Campbell had a chance to be a very good quarterback.
He has a cannon and is an excellent athlete, but he had to go to a stable franchise.
Of course, he was drafted by the Washington Redskins—the least stable team in the NFL. Three coaches later, he was traded to the Oakland Raiders, a coach-a-year franchise themselves.
Once he finally had something good going there, he broke his collarbone and the team said goodbye to him by trading for Carson Palmer.
Campbell has one more chance to get this right.
Unfortunately, just about every team has a quarterback they like, whether he is a proven commodity or a rookie. The Redskins are a team without either, but there is no way he goes back there.
Team: Seattle Seahawks
Tarvaris Jackson has 30 touchdowns and 31 interceptions in his career.
Playing without someone over his shoulder has not been the answer—he has six touchdowns and nine picks this season. He is not a franchise QB, and the Seahawks need one.
They have the makings of a very good team everywhere but quarterback. Campbell could provide the steady hand they need there.
Kyle Orton has been a serviceable quarterback in his NFL career.
He took the Chicago Bears to the playoffs in 2005 and finished in the top 10 in passing yards with the Denver Broncos.
His ceiling is getting a team to the playoffs, but there are a lot of teams out there that would take it.
Team: Washington Redskins
The gun-slinging, whiskey-chugging quarterback's best situation would probably be as yet another stopgap for a rookie quarterback.
The Redskins have won just enough games to take them out of the Andrew Luck sweepstakes, but there are some other intriguing prospects out there. Orton can keep the team competitive as they develop a long-term solution.
Arian Foster has been a revelation for the Houston Texans, and i think that is where he stays.
There might be something special brewing in Houston, and I think Foster wants to be a part of it.
The team should have the money to make it happen.
After being hampered by a bum hamstring for the first few weeks of the season, Foster has proven he is no one-year wonder.
Foster has rushed for well over 100 yards in four of his seven games since returning from the injury.
Team: Houston Texans
Ray Rice might be the most important player on the Baltimore Ravens' roster—he is the only reliable offensive threat week in and week out.
Rice is also one of the most explosive and versatile players in the NFL and is on pace for another season of 2,000 yards from scrimmage.
The Baltimore Ravens take care of their own.
Ed Reed, Ray Lewis, Terrell Suggs and Haloti Ngata have only played in B-More. For all those reasons, Ray Rice is staying in Baltimore.
Team: Baltimore Ravens
Peyton Hillis has gone from Madden cover-boy to persona non grata with the Cleveland Browns.
For the season, Hillis has just 26 more yards than he did in one game against the New England Patriots last year.
Hillis has supposedly battled everything from strep throat to a pulled hamstring.
I am guessing there is a contingency in Cleveland that is not buying it, believing it is all a ploy to get paid.
Hillis was supposed to be the star of a resurgent Browns team expected to compete in the AFC North.
Instead, Hillis has left his team high and dry, and the Browns have slumped to dead-last in the division. I doubt he has many friends left in the locker room.
Hillis will get his contract all right, but not in Cleveland.
Team: New York Jets
The Jets are going to have to start rebuilding soon. Every game LaDanian Tomlinson plays is another closer to retirement.
Shonn Greene was supposed to be the team's next star back, but he has been mediocre at best.
Greene is also only under contract through 2013 and is inexpensive, so the Jets will not have to worry about any real running back controversy.
New York is not afraid to open their checkbooks or bring in players with questionable character. For a supposed "ground-and-pound" team, the 250-lbs. Hillis would be a perfect fit to carry the offense.
DeSean Jackson is one of the most explosive wideouts in the NFL.
He has also left his Philadelphia Eagle teammates hanging while he battles with management for a new contract.
Jackson has stated publicly he will not go across the middle until he gets paid.
He has skipped meetings and was benched for the game that all but eliminated the Eagles from playoff contention. He is having his worst season since he was a rookie.
Given his talent and the dangerous combination he forms with Michael Vick, the Eagles might be able to overlook all that and bring him back.
Except I do not think they can afford him. Their trio of Pro Bowl cornerbacks will be hauling in over $21 million next season, while Vick will bring in another $12.5 million.
Team: Arizona Cardinals
If Kevin Kolb is worth half of the contract the Cardinals signed him to, can you imagine the damage Larry Fitzgerald and DeSean Jackson would do to opposing defensive backs?
Jackson would be the best No. 2 receiver in the league, and Fitzgerald would remind everyone just how special he is. The Cardinals offense would be scary good if they pulled this off.
Vincent Jackson's feud with the San Diego Chargers has gone far enough.
He helped sabotage their 2010 season by holding out and playing just five games.
This year, he has been horribly inconsistent. Jackson has three games with over 100 yards receiving but five with under 50.
He appears disinterested and has visibly frustrated Phillip Rivers.
Jackson has given up on jump balls which should be the 6'5" Jackson's specialty. It would be best for both parties to say goodbye.
Team: Chicago Bears
It is year three of the Jay Cutler era in Chicago, and the team still has not found him a primary wide receiver.
Roy Williams certainly is not the answer. The Bears have brought in some big-name free agents recently but still should be able to afford Jackson.
Robert Mathis has been one of the few players to show up on a weekly basis for the Indianapolis Colts.
As a quick and undersized defensive end, Mathis' stats have taken a hit due to the horrid Colts' season.
It is hard to sack a quarterback when the opponent is up by two touchdowns in the first quarter and can just run the ball the rest of the game.
Mathis has managed to be solid with 4.5 sacks on the year. Still, he will have a sour taste left from this season and will definitely shop the market.
Team: Atlanta Falcons
The Falcons have their own free agent defensive end, former pro bowler John Abraham.
Abraham is finally showing his age with only three sacks on the year. Abraham will be 34 years old before the start of the next season, and the team will probably be looking for an upgrade.
By dropping Abraham's $8 million, the team will have some extra cash to play with to do so. The Falcons are certainly a team with the talent to get a lead and let Mathis do what he does best—chase down the quarterback.
Reggie Wayne has taken the biggest personal hit from the loss of Peyton Manning.
It is unlikely Wayne will eclipse 1,000 yards for the first time since 2003.
In a season full of adversity, Wayne has stepped up as a leader.
He supported Curtis Painter as the team's starting quarterback since the news of Manning's injury broke. If the coaches had listened to him, the team may have one a game or two by now.
Wayne will be back to prove this season was just a nightmare scenario in Indy.
Team: Indianapolis Colts
Carlos Rogers has always been a solid cover corner, but his suspect hands have led him to drop easy interceptions.
Chalk Rogers' career up to another Jim Harbaugh has turned around with the San Francisco 49ers.
Rogers has five interceptions on the year—more than double his career-high.
The 49ers have something special brewing, and the players seem to really love going to war with Harbaugh.
San Francisco took a one-year flyer on Rogers, and I think both sides will come to a mutually beneficial multi-year deal.
Team: San Francisco 49ers
Brent Grimes has been an instrumental piece of the Atlanta Falcons defense.
Grimes has worked his way up from Division II Shippensburg University to be one of the more solid corners in the NFL.
In fact, Grimes teams with Dunta Robinson to form what ESPN's KC Joyner describes as the best cornerback tandem in the NFL.
I am not sure how Joyner makes that distinction, as they have combined for one interception—but regardless, Grimes has been very good.
In a pass-first league and with a conference that goes through Aaron Rodgers, a good cornerback cannot be overvalued. Grimes will not slip through the Falcons' grasp.
Team: Atlanta Falcons
Steve Johnson is Ryan Fitzpatrick's favorite target.
Seeing as how they just ponied up $62 million over seven years to keep the Harvard grad in town, they seem prepared to keep their new weapons in town.
Johnson is not going anywhere.
Team: Buffalo Bills
Cortland Finnegan is the type of player the Tennessee Titans love to play with and opponents hate to go against.
He talks smack, takes cheap shots and is one of the most physical corners in the league.
Finnegan also gets the absolute maximum production out of his talent.
He personifies this scrappy over-achieving Titans bunch and will be a Titan for a long time.
Team: Tennessee Titans