The 2014 NFL free agency period kicks off today as teams can start legally talking to agents of those players who are unrestricted free agents. These players are not allowed to officially sign with a new team until Tuesday, March 11.
There are plenty of big names available right now and teams will be ready to spend with the salary cap moving back up. Here are predictions on where the top 15 free agents (in my opinion) will end up.
1. Jairus Byrd, Safety (Buffalo Bills): Byrd is the best playmaker available and will get a nice chunk of change after playing under the franchise tag last season. The Cleveland Browns have a need, a lot of cap space and their new head coach was Byrd’s former defensive coordinator. Prediction: Byrd signs with the Cleveland Browns for 5 years, $60 million
2. Eugene Monroe, Left Tackle (Baltimore Ravens): Monroe is the best tackle available because of age and durability. Plenty of tackle-needy teams like the Arizona Cardinals, Miami Dolphins and Atlanta Falcons will be after him. Prediction: Monroe signs with the Miami Dolphins for 5 years, $48 million
3. Branden Albert, Left Tackle (Kansas City Chiefs): Albert is the best pass blocker of the available tackles but he’s older and has had some injury concerns which may hurt his market a little. Prediction: Albert signs with the Arizona Cardinals for 4 years, $36 million
4. Alterraun Verner, Cornerback (Tennessee Titans): Verner enjoyed his best season in a contract year with the Titans. The St. Louis Rams have to upgrade their secondary and Verner is familiar with coach Jeff Fisher having played under him in 2010. Prediction: Verner signs with the St. Louis Rams for 5 years, $40 million
5. Michael Johnson, Defensive End (Cincinnati Bengals): Johnson had a down year sack-wise but was still strong against the run. The Minnesota Vikings have a need at defensive end and Johnson’s former defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer is now at the helm. Prediction: Johnson signs with the Minnesota Vikings for 5 years, $38 million
6. Aqib Talib, Cornerback (New England Patriots): When healthy, Talib is a top corner in the NFL. His best fit is with the Patriots who have a need and have been able to keep his troublesome off the field behavior under control. Prediction: Talib re-signs with the New England Patriots for 3 years, $27 million
7. Michael Bennett, Defensive End (Seattle Seahawks): Bennett signed a one year deal with the Seahawks last season and was a huge factor in their championship run. He is going to the highest bidder this time. Prediction: Bennett signs with the Chicago Bears for 4 years, $30 million
8. Jared Veldheer, Offensive Tackle (Oakland Raiders): The Raiders have the most cap space in the NFL and have to re-sign some of their top players. Prediction: Veldheer re-signs with the Oakland Raiders for 6 years, $50 million
9. Lamarr Houston, Defensive End (Oakland Raiders): It is the same thing with Houston. The Raiders may have to overspend but they need to keep their top guys. Prediction: Houston re-signs for 5 years, $40 million
10. T.J. Ward, Safety (Cleveland Browns): The Denver Broncos need to upgrade their secondary badly. Prediction: Ward signs with the Denver Broncos for 4 years, $32 million
11. Eric Decker, Wide Receiver (Denver Broncos): Decker is going to get paid like a #1 receiver this offseason by a team desperate for playmakers. Prediction: Decker signs with the New York Jets for 4 years, $38 million
12. Vontae Davis, Cornerback (Indianapolis Colts): Davis finally put it all together last season for the Colts. They cannot afford to lose him. Prediction: Davis re-signs with the Indianapolis Colts for 4 years, $34 million
13. Randy Starks, Defensive Tackle (Miami Dolphins): Starks has been underrated for a long time and should have plenty of interest on the open market. Prediction: Starks signs with the Atlanta Falcons for 4 years, $24 million
14. Hakeem Nicks, Wide Receiver (New York Giants): Nicks was finally healthy in 2013 but did not score a touchdown. His best bet is to sign a one year deal and re-establish himself. What better way to do that than pair up with Calvin Johnson in Detroit? Prediction: Nicks signs with the Detroit Lions for 1 year, $5 million
15. Linval Joseph, Defensive Tackle (New York Giants): Joseph is rounding into form as one of the better defensive tackles in the NFL. The Miami Dolphins will have a need there since they are not expected to re-sign either Randy Starks or Paul Soliai. Prediction: Joseph signs with the Miami Dolphins for 4 years, $26 million
There you have it. Enjoy the free agent frenzy.