The Super Bowl is no longer a realistic goal for the majority of NFL teams with Week 17 on the horizon, so free agency is starting to take center stage. A handful of shrewd additions during the offseason, in addition to wise drafting, can lead to an immediate turnaround.
Fortunately for those franchises looking to make moves, there are a handful of talented free agents prepared to hit the market.
With that in mind, here is a look at the latest speculation from around the league, as well as some predictions for landing spots.
Dwayne Allen Reportedly Not Interested in Returning to Indianapolis
Dwayne Allen was a touchdown machine last season, but he has largely been a non-factor in 2015. As a result, Mike Chappell of IndySportsCentral.com said he is “not certain Allen wants to return. Never was happy with a diminished role this year. Almost was an extra O-lineman.”
The Colts placed Allen on the injured reserve Wednesday, which ended his 2015 campaign.
He has a measly 16 catches for 109 yards and a score this year, but he turned heads last season with eight touchdown catches. As Chappell said, Allen has looked more like an offensive lineman than a tight end a handful of times.
To be fair, Andrew Luck has only played seven games in 2015 because of injuries, which left the Colts with Matt Hasselbeck and Charlie Whitehurst under center. That’s not exactly a great combination for a pass-catching tight end, especially since Luck found Allen and Coby Fleener for a combined 16 touchdown catches in 2014 and consistently targeted them in the red zone.
Fleener is also set to be a free agent this offseason, which means the Colts will likely only bring one back. Considering Allen suffered a season-ending injury in Week 1 at the end of the 2013 campaign, missed three contests to injury in 2014 and is out now with a setback, his health will likely play a factor in Indianapolis’ decision.
Prediction: Colts will re-sign Fleener and let Allen hit the market.
Bears Reportedly Want to Keep Alshon Jeffery
The 2015 campaign has been a disappointment for the Chicago Bears, but there is plenty of talent in place to potentially make a playoff charge in 2016. However, wide receiver Alshon Jeffery is arguably the most talented player on the roster and is set to be a free agent this offseason.
John Mullin of CSNChicago.com discussed Chicago’s desire to keep the playmaker:
But indications now are that the Bears are seriously interested in the possibilities of a long-term deal with the highly productive wide receiver who is squarely in his playing prime. If contract numbers cannot be mutually agreed upon, the Bears still can secure Jeffery for one year with their franchise tag, or at least extend their negotiating window without Jeffery going uncovered into free agency next March.
It is no wonder the Bears are interested in bringing back the receiver Ian Rapoport of NFL.com called the “top free-agent skill player available.”
It is important to point out Mullin noted “the 2016 franchise tag for wide receivers is expected to approach $14.5 million. That is slightly more than the per-year average for the five-year contracts the Dallas Cowboys signed with wide receiver Dez Bryant and the Denver Broncos did with Demaryius Thomas.”
It is certainly a potential hefty sum, especially since Jeffery has dealt with injuries all year. Still, he played in 37 straight games before a hamstring injury forced him out in Week 2.
Jeffery only appeared in nine games this year and tallied 807 receiving yards and four touchdown catches, but Rich Mayor of the Chicago Tribune put his numbers in context:
Jeffery checks in at 6’3” and 216 pounds and is a legitimate red-zone threat with the ability to high-point jump balls and burn past defenders in the open field. He is the Bears’ best chance at having a dynamic passing attack in 2016 alongside youngster Kevin White, and the team will respond accordingly this offseason.
Prediction: Bears re-sign Jeffery.
Jason Pierre-Paul Could Stay in the Big Apple
Jason Pierre-Paul made plenty of headlines this offseason when a July 4 fireworks incident eventually led to the amputation of his finger and damage elsewhere on his hand. He is playing with a club on that hand, but the team is reportedly interested in bringing him back in 2016.
"The Giants are interested in bringing JPP back next season, according to a team source," Ralph Vacchiano of the New York Daily News noted. "They’ve gotten past the hard feelings from when the accident first happened and Pierre-Paul (or his agent) froze the Giants and their medical staff out, and he has far exceeded their expectations on the field."
Vacchiano also noted “several NFL agents” thought the defensive end could make near $10 million a year with a new contract. Part of the reason is the lack of available talent at the position, and Vacchiano said “after the Jets’ Muhammad Wilkerson, JPP might be the best on the board.”
Pierre-Paul also insisted offseason surgeries will possibly help him play without the club next year and improve moving forward.
The defensive end only has one sack this year, but he is a two-time Pro Bowler and was a member of the 2011 All-Pro first team. He won a Super Bowl in his prime with the Giants and racked up 16.5 sacks in 2011 and 12.5 sacks in 2014.
At his best, Pierre-Paul is an explosive athlete on the outside who can blow past offensive tackles and put pressure on quarterbacks. That potential alone will lead the Giants, who are a dismal 30th in the league in total sacks this season, to bring the defensive playmaker back in 2016.
Prediction: Pierre-Paul re-signs with the Giants.