2013 NFL Free-Agent Predictions: Offensive Stars Most Likely to Stay Put

Jonathan IrwinContributor IIFebruary 7, 2013

Oct 21, 2012; Foxboro, Massachusetts, USA; New England Patriots tackle Sebastian Vollmer (76) during the fourth quarter against the New York Jets at Gillette Stadium.  The New England Patriots won 29-26.  Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports
Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

This year's draft class is a talented, albeit thin group, headlined by some of the biggest offensive names in today's game. While many teams would love to land such players, the chances are slim.

The NFL is becoming an increasingly offensive game. Passing for 4,000 yards is the new 3,000, as 11 quarterbacks threw for more than 4,000 in 2012.

Not to mention the 16 players who rushed for over 1,000 yards on the ground.

In such a high-octane game, teams know that to succeed, you need offensive game-changers. That's why these free agents won't be going anywhere new in 2013.

Ryan Clady, OT

Current Team: Denver Broncos

The Denver Broncos would be foolish to cut ties with tackle Ryan Clady, arguably this year's best offensive free agent.

The 6'6", 316-pound tackle has played six seasons in the NFL, starting all 16 games in each.

The Broncos ranked second in sacks allowed (21) this season and first in QB hits (46). In return, Denver had the fifth-ranked passing offense in the NFL.

Not to mention its 16th-ranked rushing offense.

At 28 years old, Clady is still young but provides plenty of veteran leadership to the line. He's one of the game's best, evidenced by his three Pro Bowl appearances.

Clady is just too valuable to let go, especially without any replacement waiting in the wings. If the Broncos want to keep Manning protected, they'll be sure to bring back Clady in 2013.

Wes Welker, WR

Current Team: New England Patriots

After averaging 111 catches and 1,221 receiving yards a year in his first five seasons with New England, Wes Welker was brought back in 2012 with a franchise tag.

Oddly enough, Welker was benched several times to start the season. Many theorized Bill Belichick was testing the waters of life without No. 83, as he's been known to let big names walk in the past.

Despite what Belichick wants, it's obvious Tom Brady wants his No. 1 receiver back. After the Patriots' playoff loss to Baltimore, the quarterback was quoted by SI.com as saying:

He’s [Welker] just a phenomenal player, and he’s been the heart and soul of what our team is all about. He’s been so selfless, and the way that he carries himself and commits himself to help our team win, it’s second-to-none

Usually what the franchise quarterback wants, the franchise quarterback gets. With a needed focus on defense this NFL draft—and no other immediate options—Belichick will bite the bullet and keep Welker.

Dwayne Bowe, WR

Current Team: Kansas City Chiefs

There aren't a whole lot of great things you can say about the Kansas City Chiefs these days, but the play of star receiver Dwayne Bowe is certainly one.

In six seasons with Kansas City, the 28-year-old has amassed 5,728 receiving yards and 39 touchdowns.

The Chiefs have a short list of effective skill players, but it's headlined by Bowe and running back Jamaal Charles. No one else on that team can provide a game-changing role like those two.

With the No. 1 pick in this year's draft, there's a very real chance the Chiefs select a quarterback—most likely West Virginia's Geno Smith.

If that's the case, they'll need some talent to build around Smith if they truly hope to save that offense. That makes keeping Bowe the smartest move possible.

Sebastian Vollmer, OT

Current Team: New England Patriots 

When he's healthy, you're hard-pressed to find any right tackle in the league better than New England's Sebastian Vollmer.

The 28-year-old is young, physical and athletic. Most of all, he's great at protecting Tom Brady.

But health remains the big concern here, as Vollmer has only started 20 games the past two seasons. He played in all 16 this year (started 15), but a nagging back injury limited his effectiveness.

The Pats' offensive line has always been a strength, but age continues to be an issue, with both Dan Connolly and Logan Mankins over 30 years old.

This year's draft is as deep as it comes in offensive linemen, but New England has much bigger concerns on defense it needs to address.

Despite the injury issues, New England needs someone with Vollmer's talent on its O-line for 2013. Slim chance they let him slip away.

Joe Flacco, QB

Current Team: Baltimore Ravens 

Joe Flacco wants to be paid like one of the game's best. While it's debatable whether he's among the NFL's elite, it's tough to look past what he's done on the field.

The 27-year-old has passed for at least 3,600 yards and 20 touchdowns in each of his last four years, compiling a record of 43-21.

He's also led his team to the playoffs in each of his five seasons and most recently won Super Bowl XLVII, walking away MVP of the game.

In a recent interview with David Letterman, Flacco had this to say about his current situation with Ravens owner Steve Biscotti:

If what Flacco says is true, it seems like the Ravens would like to keep him. And with no immediate aid (in the draft or off the bench), Baltimore would be foolish to let its quarterback go.


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