2015 NFL Free Agency Diary

  • NFC East Free Agency Preview

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    The NFC East was once considered among the strongest divisions in the National Football League, but in recent years — specifically last season — it became a bit of a laughingstock.

    The Washington Redskins rose to the top of the division in 2015 — becoming the third different Eastern Division team to win the crown in as many years — but even they were mired in mediocrity for most of the year before stringing together a late-season win streak to finish above .500. They enter the 2016 season as lead dog with a solid core, but they still have a lot to prove, and improve upon, if they hope to repeat atop the East.

    While Washington went from worst to first, they had some assistance as the rest of the division spent 2015 in shambles. The Philadelphia Eagles and New York Giants had successful offensive schemes but two of the three worst defenses in the league, and both fired their coaches after the season, turning the reins over to a different commander from the same background. Each new regime is likely to seek some big offseason moves to add some of their own to the talent pool.

    Then there were the Dallas Cowboys, who went into the 2015 season as the prohibitive favorite in the East, started 2-0, and then won just two of their final 14 games. Their weaknesses showed through, thanks in large part to the absence of quarterback Tony Romo, who broke his collarbone on two separate occasions. Dallas had other areas of concern as well, but would likely have pulled out the division title anyway, if not for a black hole at the quarterback position with Romo down. With a healthy Romo expected back atop the depth chart, the Cowboys are again the favorite in the East.

    But the results of the 2015 season showed that all four teams in what is now one of the league’s weakest divisions, where no team has won back-to-back division titles since Philadelphia won four straight from 2001-2004, have a plethora of needs entering the offseason. Here, we’ll break down what every team is prioritizing entering free agency and what each can do to fill out their roster.

    WASHINGTON REDSKINS


    Team needs: Defensive tackle, defensive back, running back, center, quarterback

    The defending NFC East Champions flirted with having a hole at the game's most important position, starting quarterback, but reports on Friday afternoon indicated that the Redskins are planning to tag quarterback Kirk Cousins, mitigating one of their biggest needs. However, with Robert Griffin III certain to be cut and Colt McCoy a free agent, they’ll need some insurance. More pressing will be finding some playmakers up front and on the back-end of the defense to bolster a group that has a strong core in the middle at linebacker. With Alfred Morris also a free agent, they’ll likely be in the market for a running back to tandem with Matt Jones, and they could also use some help protecting Cousins and setting the tone for the ground game in the middle of the offensive line. But the Redskins, who have been spending frugally of late after years of recklessness, should have quite a bit of cap space to address those needs.

    Top target that would make sense: Muhammad Wilkerson, DE/DT, New York Jets

    Wilkerson is one of the top prizes of this year’s free agent crop with a litany of teams expected to pursue him, should the Jets let him get to free agency and not use the franchise tag on him. If he gets to the open market, expect the Redskins to be in hot pursuit, despite being burned by a big money player in a similar position before -- hello Albert Haynesworth. Wilkerson is already one of the league’s top defensive linemen, and at 26 he’s just entering his prime. His ability to draw blocks and stop the run would open things up for Ryan Kerrigan and Trent Murphy to do what they do, even better.

    A few other targets: Malik Jackson DE/DT, Denver Broncos; Eric Weddle, S, San Diego Chargers; Janoris Jenkins, CB, Los Angeles Rams; Sean Smith, CB, Kansas City Chiefs; Prince Amukamara, CB, New York Giants; Matt Forte, RB, Chicago Bears; Ben Jones, C, Houston Texans.

    If Wilkerson doesn’t make it to free agency, Jackson becomes the target du jour of teams looking to fill a gap up front on defense, and he’d be an excellent consolation prize. Washington also needs playmakers in the secondary, proven by their move of DeAngelo Hall to safety last season. Weddle would be the best safety to reside in Washington since the late Sean Taylor. Jenkins, Smith or Amukamara could tandem with Bashaud Breeland, who emerged as a top tier corner last season, to lock down opposing receivers. and Amukamara would bring the added benefit of weakening a division rival while improving themselves. Bringing in Forte, a gifted pass catcher out of the backfield,would provide an excellent complement to incumbent running back Matt Jones. Ben Jones would be a power move to bolster an offensive line that made great strides in 2015.

    PHILADELPHIA EAGLES


    Team needs: Quarterback, guard, safety, wide receiver, outside linebacker

    Like the Redskins, the Eagles have an issue at the league's most vital position with a decision looming on starting quarterback Sam Bradford. They still seem interested in working out an agreement, however indecision at quarterback could have an extreme effect on the rest of their pursuits, and there are a lot of those. Primary among them will be the interior of the offensive line and keeping whoever is under center upright and healthy. The Eagles are also in line for help at safety alongside Malcolm Jenkins, with last year’s starter there Walter Thurmond set to become a free agent.

    Top target that would make sense: Kelechi Osemele, guard, Baltimore Ravens

    The Ravens announced on Friday that they’d be using the franchise tag on kicker Justin Tucker, meaning Osemele is in line to become a free agent and he leads a strong group of interior lineman hitting the open market in March. Philadelphia could go bargain shopping and find a good guard, but the Eagles have a decent amount of money to spend and can’t let the potential for a major upgrade up front get away. Putting Osemele between Jason Kelce and Jason Peters, or Kelce and Lane Johnson, would essentially provide a "do not enter" sign on one side of the offensive line.

    A few other targets: Chase Daniel, QB, Kansas City Chiefs; Brandon Brooks, G, Houston Texans; George Iloka, SS, Cincinnati Bengals; Anquan Boldin, WR, San Francisco 49ers; Travis Benjamin, WR, Cleveland Browns; Bruce Irvin, LB, Seattle Seahawks

    Daniel is a Doug Pederson disciple in Kansas City, and appeared to be closing in on the Chiefs starting quarterback job last offseason before Alex Smith re-emerged and led KC to the playoffs. Pederson bringing him to Philly, to either replace Bradford and compete for the starting job, or as an insurance policy, seems like a no-brainer. Brooks isn’t quite on the level of Osemele, but he’s a very strong fallback candidate to fill one of Philly’s two holes at guard, where they had two guys ranked among the worst in the league in 2015. Pairing Iloka with Malcolm Jenkins would instantly make the Eagles secondary much better, taking pressure off last year’s big addition, corner Byron Maxwell, as well as up-and-comer Eric Rowe. Philadelphia has several young receivers they’ve had high expectations for over the past couple years, but none have become the No. 1 guy they expected. Boldin would be a great fit to tutor the young receivers, while Benjamin could replace Riley Cooper and then some. Irvin may seem like a luxury for a team with a strong stable of linebackers, but you can never have too much talent at that position.

    NEW YORK GIANTS


    Team needs: Defensive end, offensive line, cornerback, running back, tight end, linebacker

    Few teams enter the offseason with as much money to spend as the Giants ($58.6 million in cap space) and they have plenty of needs to spend it on. Priority one for New York is to remake their defensive line, where more than half the position group is eligible for free agency. That’s actually a blessing for the Giants, as few of those players are worth keeping and they’ll have an organic opportunity to rebuild. New York could likewise stand to get better on the back end of the defense. They also need help for Eli Manning and Odell Beckham Jr. on offense, with several means available to provide it.

    Top target that would make sense: Olivier Vernon, defensive end, Miami Dolphins

    Vernon would be an ideal fit for the Giants to replace defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul, who is likely to depart after a tumultuous end to what was once a strong bond. But with several other teams heavily interested in the 25-year-old Dolphins defensive end, New York will have to pay handsomely to lock Vernon up. But that’s something they’ll simply have to do to keep him away from rivals, including Dallas, another team that is reportedly high on Vernon but that doesn’t have nearly the spending capacity of the Giants this offseason. If New York can nab Vernon and re-sign Robert Ayers, they have the chance to build a potentially potent pass rush in short order.

    A few other targets: Chris Long, DE, Los Angeles Rams; Kelechi Osemele, G, Baltimore Ravens; Kelvin Beachum, T, Pittsburgh Steelers; Chris Ivory, RB, New York Jets; Janoris Jenkins, CB, Los Angeles Rams; Dwayne Allen, TE, Indianapolis Colts; Rolando McClain, LB, Dallas Cowboys; James Laurinaitis, LB, Los Angeles Rams

    If the Giants strike out on Vernon, or the Dolphins place the franchise tag on him, they could turn their attention to Long, who has a connection with Giants defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo from St. Louis. The Giants threw rookie tackle Erick Flowers into the first last season and got burned badly, as he ranked worst among all tackles in the league according to Pro Football Focus. It’s too soon to give up on Flowers, but he and Justin Pugh need some help, and the Giants need to spend to give it to them. They can outbid many teams including Philly on Osemele and are in position to take the financial risk on Beachum, who is coming off an ACL tear and is a good risk-reward pickup. With Prince Amukamara also a free agent, New York will likely need to make a move to upgrade at cornerback opposite Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, and Jenkins does that and then some. Bringing Ivory across the Metlife Stadium locker room could be a big boost for their running back committee, and Allen would give Manning his best tight end target since Jeremy Shockey. If they can’t retain middle linebacker Jasper Brinkley, taking McClain out from under Dallas’ tree or bringing in Laurinaitis, who, like Long, has a history with Spagnuolo, would be a solid move to anchor the middle of the Giants defense.

    DALLAS COWBOYS


    Team Needs: Cornerback, defensive end, safety, defensive tackle, linebacker, running back, quarterback

    The Cowboys, a team ravaged by injury in 2015, enter the offseason in need of depth, amongst a laundry list of other things. It’s the Dallas defense that needs the most help, with free agents at almost every position, many of them likely to leave the team. The core of the offense is in place, but Dallas could also use an upgrade at running back. And then there’s quarterback, where finding a backup plan for the oft-injured Tony Romo might be priority one for the Cowboys in 2016.

    Top target that would make sense: Trumaine Johnson, CB, Los Angeles Rams

    The Cowboys have so many needs on defense, it’s hard to pick just one, but the addition of a corner like Johnson would set the ball in motion for a strong offseason in Dallas. The 26-year-old has developed into one of the top all-around corners in the league during his time in St. Louis and still has prime years ahead of him. Teaming him with Orlando Scandrick, Brandon Carr and Byron Jones would give Dallas a top tier cover group, clearing the way to draft Jalen Ramsey at No. 4 to fill out a formidable secondary. They could also move Jones to free safety and fill another need at No. 4. But Johnson, or another corner of his ilk, is a key piece to simplifying their draft strategy.

    A few other targets: Sean Smith, CB, Kansas City Chiefs; Janoris Jenkins, CB, Los Angeles Rams; Olivier Vernon, DE, Miami Dolphins; Jaye Howard; Eric Berry, S, Kansas City Chiefs; James Laurinaitis, LB, Los Angeles Rams; Lamar Miller, RB, Miami Dolphins; Alfred Morris, RB, Washington Redskins; Chase Daniel, QB, Kansas City Chiefs.

    Smith or Jenkins would be strong fallback options if Dallas is unable to obtain Johnson, allowing them to make the same moves. The Cowboys do have talent up front on defense, but inconsistency has plagued that group, and adding a solid piece like Vernon or Howard would go a long way toward stabilizing their front four. Safety is a spot that could be filled from within, or the draft, but if Berry isn’t franchised by KC, the Cowboys would be insane not to pursue him heavily. Laurinaitis would also be a strong move for the middle of the defense if McClain departs. On offense, Miller should be a prime target for Dallas this offseason, as he’s precisely the type of back they should be seeking to plug in behind their vaunted offensive line. As a fallback, Morris could provide a solid tandem with Darren McFadden. The Cowboys also must prioritize backup quarterback and if Daniel doesn’t get a starting job elsewhere, he’s the cream of the reserve crop.
  • 2016’s NFL Top Free Agent Wide Receivers

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    For this being a pass-happy league, this is one of the weakest wide receiver free agent classes in recent memory. Virtually none of these pass catchers are bonafide No. 1 options.

    Having said that, most of the players on this list are young and have potential to eventually pan out to be legitimate threats moving forward.

    1. Alshon Jeffery - After parting ways with Brandon Marshall, Jeffery was asked to step up as the team's top receiving threat. When Jeffrey was on the field, he produced.

    In nine games, the 26-year-old hauled in 54 catches for 807 yards to go along with four touchdowns.

    Jeffery's season was hindered with injuries, and if Chicago doesn't elect to retain him, there will be plenty of suitors out there for his services.

    General manager Ryan Pace spoke on the matter. 

    "We're actively and aggressively negotiating right now," Pace stated. "We understand the deadline is Tuesday for the franchise tag. That's an option. We have until Tuesday to make that decision. But right now that's ongoing. But, no, that option [the franchise tag] is still on the table."

    Best fits: Chicago, San Diego, San Francisco, Tennessee, Miami, Minnesota, Kansas City, Oakland, Cleveland, Carolina, St. Louis. 

    2. Travis Benjamin - Although Jeffery is atop the list here, some will argue that Travis Benjamin should be there. Through his first three seasons, Benjamin struggled to fit in to being an NFL wide receiver.

    With that being said, the 5-foot-10 receiver bursted onto the scene this past season. Benjamin caught 68 balls for nearly 1,000 yards to go along with five touchdowns.

    To put things into perspective, Benjamin totaled just 41 catches during his first three years.

    As contract discussions have broke down between Benjamin and Cleveland, the Miami product is set to hit the open market.

    Best fits: Dallas, Minnesota, Atlanta, St. Louis, Tennessee, Chicago, New York Giants, Cincinnati, Miami. 

    3. Marvin Jones - There were tons of questions surrounding Marvin Jones following the 2014 campaign, since he missed the entire season due to ankle problems.

    Nonetheless, Jones silenced the critics in a major way this past season.

    He caught 65 passes for 816 yards with four touchdowns to boot.

    In a couple of weeks, Jones will only be turning 26, so he still has plenty of room to grow. Sure, he may not be a number one receiver at this stage of his career, but he's definitely a very good number two option.

    Best fits: Carolina, New England, Los Angeles, Giants, San Diego, Oakland, Tennessee, Houston. 

    4. Anquan Boldin - Yes, we know he isn't the guy he once was.

    What he is, however, is a big body that will provide some quarterback a huge target on the perimeter. For whichever team decides to bring Boldin aboard, they'll not only be getting a quality receiver, but they'll also be receiving a high character guy on and off the field. 

    “I'm beyond humbled to be selected as the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year,” Boldin stressed. “I used to dream that I could play like Walter Payton when I was growing up, but he became even more of an inspiration to me as I learned about his legacy as a humanitarian."

    Best fits: Arizona, Oakland, New England, New York Jets, Chicago, Cleveland, Tennessee, Washington. 

    5. Rueben Randle - Expectations were high for Randle as he was selected in the second round of the 2012 NFL Draft.

    Unfortunately, things haven't quite panned out for Randle thus far.

    With Victor Cruz being injured for majority of the past two seasons, Randle's had the opportunity to step up in a major way, but it just hasn't worked out that way.

    Good thing for Randle is that he's only 24-years-old, so there's going to be suitors interested.

    Best fits: San Diego, Minnesota, New York Giants, New England, Oakland, Baltimore, Los Angeles, Miami.

    6. Jermaine Kearse - Former Super Bowl champion quarterback Russell Wilson clearly just had the best season of his young career. Multiple teammates played a role in Wilson's historic year, including Jermaine Kearse.

    Kearse had career-high in catches (49), yards (685) and touchdowns (5).

    In any other off-season, Kearse would be looked at as a plan b or c at his position, but considering how unappealing this receiver class is, a desperate team may be willing to overpay for his services.

    Best fits: Atlanta, New Orleans, Detroit, Chicago, New York Giants, Tampa Bay, Detroit, San Francisco, Seattle.

    7. Rishard Matthews - Despite missing five games, Matthews set career-highs in catches (43), yards (662) and touchdowns (4). Just like most of the receivers on this list, Matthews should benefit from a thin market.

    He's young at 26, so a team looking for an upgrade offensively may believe they can help take his game to the next level.

    Best fits: Miami, New England, Chicago, New York Giants, Oakland, Tampa Bay, Detroit.

    8. Mohamed Sanu - When looking at Sanu's numbers, you most likely won't be moved.

    On a bright note, Sanu still has time to turn his career around. He's been in the league five years, with all of them being in Cincinnati.

    The former college quarterback can be utilized on trick plays which gives him some added value.

    Perhaps a change of scenery will do him good?

    Best fits: New York Giants, Cleveland, Chicago, New Orleans, New England, Carolina, Atlanta.

    9. Brian Quick - In 2014, Quick appeared to show signs of being a playmaker.

    Things quickly changed when the 6-foot-3 receiver went down with a shoulder injury and he hasn't been the same since. Quick really struggled this past season, only making 10 catches in 13 games.

    If the Los Angeles Rams allow Quick to walk, some team could get him very cheap in hopes of him fulfilling his potential.

    Best fits: Tampa Bay, Cincinnati, Detroit, New England, Houston.

    10. Percy Harvin - The fact Harvin made the list just goes to show how naturally talented he is. Despite his track record for being injury prone and a problem in the locker room, Harvin could end up being a great reward for a team willing to take the chance.

    If a team takes a chance on Harvin, they'll be getting him for cheap and with this probably being his last chance, maybe he'll play motivated.

    Best fits: New England, Los Angeles, Tennessee, Indianapolis.

    To find the best free agent quarterbacks, click here. 

    To find the best free agent running backs, click here.

    To find the best free agent tight ends, click here.
  • AFC South Free Agency Preview

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    The AFC South is one of the more interesting divisions in football entering the 2016 season, as each of the four teams feel that they have a realistic chance of winning it.

    The Indianapolis Colts dominated the division with a healthy Andrew Luck, and he will begin 2016 healthy again; The Houston Texans are the defending champs, and they feel like their defense can lead them to great things; The Jacksonville Jaguars have a young, explosive offense and if they can iron out some of their wrinkles they can compete with anyone; The Tennessee Titans played a lot of close games last year and with Marcus Mariota having a full offseason to prepare and get better, along with the top pick in the NFL Draft, it's possible that they can make a quantum leap.

    Tennessee Titans


    Team needs: Offensive line, wide receiver, running back, inside linebacker, cornerback, safety.

    The Tennessee Titans have no shortage of team needs, and the best available player in the draft and best available free agents can certainly be a need.  Virtually any of the top names available can improve Mike Mularkey's roster and the Titans have plenty of cap space to accomplish making the team better.

    Top target that would make sense:  Lamar Miller, RB, Dolphins

    The Titans need to have a more balanced offense and the speedy Miller will help the spread offense with Mariota, who might be the fastest quarterback in the NFL.  Miller's presence alone will make defenses play with an extra man in the box which will make the passing game that much more productive for Mariota.

    A few other targets: Alfred Morris, RB, Washington; Malik Jackson, DE/DT, Denver; Eric Weddle, S, San Diego; Prince Amukamara, CB, N.Y. Giants. 

    If the Titans strike out on Miller, Morris will be a cheaper option that could fit in well in Mularkey's offense.  Jackson might be the prize of free agency and he would help any defense in football.  Weddle is the best available safety on the market and he will be paid as such.  Amukamara will be the best Titans cornerback and when healthy he is more than serviceable.

    Jacksonville Jaguars


    Team needs: Defensive end, safety, linebacker, center, offensive guard, cornerback

    The Jaguars offense appears to be ready to roll and most of their offseason is going to be spent on attempting to make the defense competitive.  They have the second-most cap space in the NFL so they can afford to overpay for some talented guys.

    Top target that would make sense: Malik Jackson, DE, Broncos

    Jackson is a young defensive end coming off his first contract and he's turning into a special player.  The Jaguars can pay more than just about anyone for his services, and he figures to fit in Gus Bradley's defense particularly well.  If you line him up along with 2015 first-round pick Dante Fowler, the Jaguars could make enormous strides.

    A few other targets: Eric Weddle, S, San Diego; Antonio Cromartie, CB, N.Y. Jets; George Iloka, S, Cincinnati; Derrick Johnson, ILB, Kansas City.

    The Jaguars safety tandem was the worst in football a season ago, and don't be surprised if they replace more than one of them.  Weddle is a proven veteran who is generally in the right position even if he's no longer a big-time playmaker.  Cromartie is the type of long, lanky cornerback that Bradley had in Seattle and he makes big plays, despite being a bit of a gambler.  If the team strikes out on Weddle, Ikoka is an up-and-coming safety who will get a look from plenty of teams.  He would immediately become the team's best player in the secondary.  Johnson is a higher priced guy in the middle of the defense and his presence would improve the athleticism of the second level for the Jaguars.

    Indianapolis Colts


    Team needs: offensive line, running back, defensive end, cornerback, defensive tackle.

    The Colts lack of depth and the poor roster construction came to a head in 2015 when Andrew Luck's level of play dropped along with his subsequent injury.  Indianapolis showed themselves to be a mediocre team around a great quarterback, and if they're going to take the next step in the postseason the roster is going to have to be improved.

    Top target that would make sense: Cordy Glenn, OT, Bills

    With all apologies to Jim Irsay, Andrew Luck is the most important person in the Colts franchise and 2015 was a lost season due to to his injuries.  The franchise quarterback must be protected at all costs and Glenn is the best offensive lineman on the market.  He would allow Anthony Castonzo to flip to right tackle and that will make the entire offensive line better.

    A few other targets: Richie Incognito, OG, Buffalo; Derrick Johnson, ILB, Kansas City; Lamar Miller, RB, Miami; Prince Amukamara, CB, N.Y. Giants.

    The Colts are known as a finesse team, and Incognito would add a certain physicality to change their image.  Johnson would immediately be the best player on the Colts defense and he'd likely be the best inside linebacker in team history.  The Colts haven't had a 100-yard rusher in two years and Miller would likely change that immediately.  He's the prize of the free agent market at running back and he would add another dimension to the Colts offense.  Amukamara would help the back end of the Indy defense as he's a very talented cover cornerback when healthy.

    Houston Texans


    Team needs: Quarterback, running back, offensive line, wide receiver, safety, defensive tackle.

    The Texans can't truly be taken seriously as a contender until they find a legitimate answer at quarterback, and that's likely to come in the draft.  In the meantime, they need to build up the offensive line and run the football more effectively to play ball control offense.

    Top target that would make sense: Doug Martin, RB, Tampa Bay

    The Texans need to run the football to be effective and it's likely that they'll be moving away from Arian Foster. Doug Martin can step right in and be a Pro-Bowl caliber back and the Houston offense will be more dynamic than it was a year ago, despite who is lining up under center.

    A few other targets: Chase Daniel, QB, Kansas City; Richie Incognito, OG, Buffalo; Marvin Jones, WR, Cincinnati, George Iloka, S, Cincinnati

    Daniel has been a functional backup quarterback and he can certainly compete for the starting job in Houston, and likely win it.  Incognito will help any offense become more physical and he was one of the best guards in football last season.  Jones will fit in perfectly opposite DeAndre Hopkins as he runs precise routes and has excellent hands.  Iloka certainly helps the back end of the Texans defense as they've been looking for a playmaking safety.
  • AFC West Free Agency Preview

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    Over the past five years, the AFC West crown has been won by none other than the Denver Broncos. In a league full of parity, that's an impressive feat.

    What's even more remarkable is that Denver has appeared in two Super Bowls during that time frame and of course, the second time was the charm.

    As John Elway's ball club prepares for life without Peyton Manning, they're well aware of how difficult winning the division for a sixth-straight year will be.

    If not for a brutal 1-5 start to the season, the Kansas City Chiefs could've very well been division champs. Andy Reid's team finished the regular season winning 10 straight, while also snapping their well documented losing streak in postseason play after trouncing Houston, 30-0.

    Meanwhile, Oakland Raiders fans finally have something to be excited about.

    After finishing 3-13 two years ago, Oakland experienced a four-game turnaround this past season, Behind the lethal up and coming duo that is Derek Carr and Amari Cooper, this Oakland team has plenty of promise from an offensive standpoint.

    Unfortunately, times aren't as bright in San Diego.

    Despite not being able to play in the 'big game', the Chargers were competitive year-in and year-out. However, this past season was a completely different scenario.

    Sure, all four of these teams need improvement in key areas.

    Some just need more than others, so with that being said, let's take a look at the specific needs and each team's realistic free agency targets.

    Denver Broncos 

    Team needs: Quarterback, Running Back, Offensive Line, Defensive Tackle

    Fresh off a Super Bowl victory, it may be human nature to let your foot off the gas a little. But with two-time Super Bowl winning quarterback John Elway running things, it's very unlikely to see anyone get complacent in the Mile High City.

    With Manning likely to retire, Denver must decide whether or not Brock Osweiler is the long-term answer.

    Also, with Ronnie Hillman likely to leave in free agency, the Broncos must find some depth at running back.

    Top target that would make sense: James Starks, RB, Packers

    Running backs C.J. Anderson and Ronnie Hillman are both free agents, but it's widely believed Anderson will remain in the blue and orange, while Hillman will take his talents elsewhere.

    This past season, the two backs split carries.

    With Hillman probably gone, it'll be essential for Denver to keep the dual-threat philosophy intact.

    Not only would James Starks be well within Denver's price range, he's arguably coming off the best season of his seven-year career.

    Starks finished with a career-high 601 yards on 148 carries to go along with two touchdowns.

    A few other targets: Alfred Morris, RB, Washington; Colt McCoy, QB, Washington; Haloti Ngata, DT, Detroit; Cordy Glenn, LT, Buffalo

    Denver can't go wrong either way with James Starks or Alfred Morris as their backup running back. Both guys have proven to be solid backs in this league and would provide great relief for C.J. Anderson.

    It appears that Brock Osweiler is the quarterback of the future, but who will be his backup?

    Colt McCoy would be a great acquisition, as he's shown the ability to be a low turnover guy and you can't forget the Elway factor. Plus, McCoy is good enough to put a little pressure on Osweiler, which could be a good thing.

    As Denver preps for their transition at quarterback, it'll be vital to make sure Osweiler's blindside is protected. Corey Glenn would be a great option.

    Sure, Haloti Ngati isn't the same player by any means.

    In Denver, does he really have to be that guy?

    He doesn't because he'll be surrounded by so many great pass rushers. All he'll have to do is take up space in the running game and be a voice in the locker room.

    Kansas City Chiefs

    Team needs: Backup Quarterback, Offensive Line, Cornerback, Outside Linebacker

    Although Denver has dominated the division for a few years now, it's safe to say Kansas City believes they're the team to take the crown.

    Before the Chiefs can fully take on the challenge of dethroning Denver, there's plenty of in-house stuff they must figure out. Guys like Eric Berry, Derrick Johnson, Sean Smith and Tambi Hali are set to hit the open market.

    It's unrealistic for Kansas City to retain all of these players, but the Chiefs are known for picking up a couple of low-key free agents each off-season.

    Top target that would make sense: DeShawn Shead, CB, Seattle

    Whether Sean Smith returns or not, DeShawn Shead makes too much sense for Kansas City. If Smith returns, Shead would be a major upgrade as the Chiefs third cornerback over the likes of Jamell Fleming and Marcus Cooper.

    If Smith bolts, Shead has proven to be a solid second cornerback.

    In Seattle, he's earned the spot opposite of Richard Sherman and he's a big corner at 6-foot-2 a la Smith.

    A few other targets: Morris Claiborne, CB, Dallas; Wes Welker, WR, Rams; Donald Penn, LT, Oakland

    In today's NFL, there's no such thing as having too many defensive backs. Kansas City found out the hard way as Tom Brady and company just spread them out, exploiting their lack of depth in the secondary.

    Morris Claiborne was the sixth-overall pick of the 2012 NFL Draft, but he hasn't lived up to the billing. However, he would come at a relatively cheap price and maybe a change of scenery would do wonders for him.

    Wide receiver has been an issue in Kansas City for quite some time now and while Wes Welker has been injury prone recently, he'll be a low-risk, high-reward type of signing. Considering Alex Smith loves check downs and short intermediate routes, Welker seems like an ideal fit, assuming he's healthy enough to play.

    In order to max out Smith's potential, his offensive line must be up to par and while this unit wasn't 'terrible' for the Chiefs, they could definitely use an upgrade and Donald Penn wouldn't be a bad option.

    Penn was a Pro Bowler back in 2010.

    Oakland Raiders 

    Team needs: Left Tackle, Cornerback, Safety, Inside Linebacker

    Oakland is one of the few teams in the NFL that's primed to ascend to the next level. Having said that, there's a few key areas general manager Reggie McKenzie must address.

    In the wake of Charles Woodson's retirement, it's vital for Oakland to find a veteran safety to help lead the back end of the defense. Also, it's important to note Oakland finished 26th in passing yards allowed this past season, so it wouldn't be a bad idea to upgrade at the cornerback position.

    It feels like forever ago when Oakland had a reliable man in the middle defensively. In 2010, they drafted Rolando McClain with the eighth-overall pick.

    Unfortunately, McClain was a trouble maker and when they finally gave up on him in 2012, they've had a new starter at the position every year since then.

    Top target that would make sense: Eric Weddle, S, San Diego

    How huge would this be?

    It would be enormous considering Charles Woodson is no longer there. Furthermore, Weddle will bring experience and a certain toughness to this young defensive unit.

    Weddle was the captain of the Chargers defense for the past four seasons.

    In nine seasons, he's totaled 19 interceptions, 74 passes defended and 680 tackles.

    A few other targets: Janoris Jenkins, CB, Rams; Jerrell Freeman, ILB, Indianapolis; Kelvin Beachum, LT, Pittsburgh; Casey Hayward, CB, Green Bay

    As aforementioned, there isn't a such thing as having too many functional defensive backs, especially in the case of the Raiders. With such a young core of cover guys, expect for them to explore all options in free agency.

    When keeping in mind potential and age, Denver's Danny Trevathan may be the biggest middle linebacker commodity this off-season, but obtaining Jerrell Freeman will be a lot easier for Oakland's front office. Freeman has been a starter in Indianapolis the past four seasons. He provides good coverage skills for a linebacker and he's improved against the run.

    On the other side of the ball, Oakland has tons of promise. Nonetheless, an improvement on the offensive line would never hurt anyone. This is where we look at Steelers left tackle Kelvin Beachum.

    Beachum's season was cut short after he tore his ACL in week 6 against Arizona. Depending on his asking price, Oakland should give Beachum a long and hard look.

    San Diego Chargers

    Team needs: Wide Receiver, Tight End, Safety, Defensive Tackle, Offensive Line

    This is a franchise in complete transition.

    After years of competing in the AFC, it appears it's time for San Diego to go into full rebuild mode at this point. Philip Rivers and Antonio Gates simply aren't getting any younger.

    With that being said, this is a very prideful organization and with Rivers on the backside of his career, they may attempt to make one last push.

    Top target that would make sense: Alshon Jeffery, WR, Chicago

    With Malcolm Floyd retiring, San Diego will look to add a big time receiver. In what's a weak free-agent class for pass catchers, Alshon Jeffery is the biggest fish out there.

    Last season, Danny Woodhead was the team's leading receiver with 80 catches, which isn't a good sign since Woodhead is technically a running back.

    Jeffery caught 54 balls for 807 yards to go along with four touchdowns this past season in Chicago. He would provide Rivers a big target and a much needed threat on the perimeter.

    A few other targets: Coby Fleener, TE, Indianapolis; Alex Mack, C, Cleveland; Walter Thurmond, S, Philadelphia

    If the Chargers truly want to make one last push with Rivers under center, they must address tight end and center. Gates isn't the same as he was, but if you pair him with Coby Fleener, things could get interesting.

    Even more importantly, going after Alex Mack would be a home run signing.

    Some are speculating that Mack will be the highest paid center of all-time when he reaches a new deal. Should San Diego go all in?

    Well, if they're serious about winning, they should.
  • 2016’s NFL Top Free Agent Tight Ends

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    As we continue ranking the top free agents at every position, we move to the tight ends.  Most of the available tight ends have an issue or two, whether it be age, hands or blocking, but there are plenty of guys who can be productive in the right situation.

    1. Dwayne Allen, Indianapolis Colts- Allen is clearly the best tight end on the market as he's just 25 years old and was underutilized as a member of the Colts.  Allen is a solid blocker who can be a great weapon in the passing game and he hasn't even hit his prime.  Best fits:  Indianapolis, New York Giants, New York Jets, Arizona, Chicago, Buffalo, Pittsburgh, San Diego, St. Louis, San Francisco, Houston, Oakland. 

    2. Coby Fleener, Indianapolis Colts- Fleener is more of a receiving threat than a great blocker and he had to split targets with Allen and all of the rest of the Colts receivers.  Indy will likely re-sign he or Allen, but almost definitely not both. Best fits: Arizona, Houston, New York Giants, Chicago, Buffalo, San Diego, Tampa Bay. 

    3. Jared Cook, Los Angeles Rams- Cook was released over the weekend and it was mainly due to the money he was due.  He's still a productive target but his numbers were down because of the quarterback situation with the Rams.  He has never really played with a better than average quarterback and that's likely what the 28-year old will be looking for in his next team. Best fits: New York Giants, San Diego, Tampa Bay, Buffalo. 

    4. Antonio Gates, San Diego Chargers- Gates will have a limited market due to his age (35), but he proved last season that when he did play he was a pretty good target in the passing game.  Best fits: San Diego, New York Giants, New York Jets, Arizona, San Francisco. 

    5. Ladarius Green, San Diego Chargers- Green looks the part and catches the football well.  Still, he doesn't make enough plays to justify his physical talents.  There will be teams interested in him.  Best fits: Houston, New York Giants, Denver, Oakland, San Francisco. 

    6. Vernon Davis, Denver Broncos- Davis' career has taken a sharp decline from the player who was a Pro Bowler in San Francisco. Part of it is due to the quarterbacks he was playing with and how much of it is declining skills is uncertain.  His lack of production and how he left the 49ers will limit his market. Best fits: Indianapolis, Arizona, New York Jets, Tampa Bay, Houston. 

    7. Marcedes Lewis, Jacksonville Jaguars- Lewis is an elite blocker and has inconsistent hands.  He's a professional who can make a roster better as a complementary tight end.  Best fits: Jacksonville, San Diego, Pittsburgh, New York Giants, Houston. 

    8. Andrew Quarless, Green Bay Packers- Quarless has been a good red zone target for the Packers but he missed 11 games in 2015.  At 27, he should still have a market. Best fits: Jacksonville, Tampa Bay, Green Bay, Pittsburgh, New York Jets.

    9. Ben Watson, New Orleans Saints- Watson had a nice revival last season playing with Drew Brees and he had the most productive year of his career.  His best bet is to re-sign with the Saints or play with another great quarterback.  Best fits: New Orleans, San Diego, Tampa Bay, Pittsburgh. 

    10. Zach Miller, Chicago Bears- Miller has had intriguing physical abilities for his entire career but he hasn't been able to stay healthy.  Miller had his best season last year in Chicago and developed a rapport with Jay Cutler.  Best fits: Chicago, New Orleans, San Diego, Tampa Bay, Buffalo. 


    To find the best free agent quarterbacks, click here. 

    To find the best free agent running backs, click here.
  • AFC North Free Agency Preview

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    The AFC North is perpetually one of the best divisions in the NFL; however, the Baltimore Ravens' disappointing season caused them to come back to Earth this season. The Cincinnati Bengals and Pittsburgh Steelers are Super-Bowl contenders, but the Ravens and Browns have a long ways to go to be playoff teams.

    Each team has a great opportunity to improve their team through free agency with this loaded class of free agents; therefore, let's look at each team's options entering the open market.

    Cleveland Browns


    Team needs: Quarterback, wide receiver, defensive end, inside linebacker

    As the second-worst team in the NFL, the Cleveland Browns have a number of holes that permeate their team. The roster has been put together in a poor manner, thanks to a constantly changing coaching staff and poor draft decisions.

    With a new coach and front office, the Browns may be in line to spend big in free agency as they try to change their perception throughout the league.

    Top target that would make sense:  Muhammad Wilkerson, DE New York Jets

    Under defensive coordinator Ray Horton, the Browns will utilize a 3-4 defense and Wilkerson is the best 3-4 defender in free agency. He may get the franchise tag, but if he hits the open market, the Browns should make every effort to bring him to Cleveland. Wilkerson is a powerful playmaker who can rush the passer and make plays versus the run. He would instantly improve a porous Cleveland defense.

    A few other targets: Robert Griffin III, QB, Washington; Alshon Jeffery, WR, Chicago; Bruce Irvin, DE/OLB, Seattle; Rolando McClain, ILB, Dallas. 

    Because of their cap space, the Browns can still target high priced players across other positions like Alshon Jeffery. An interesting name that they may be interested in is Robert Griffin III, if the Browns don't end up drafting a quarterback. He would give head coach Hue Jackson a young quarterback with a high ceiling, but it will be up to him to undue that damaged that was caused in Washington.

    Baltimore Ravens


    Team needs: Offensive line, wide receiver, outside linebacker, cornerback

    The Baltimore Ravens severely underachieved in 2015 and this offseason will be vital to whether they bounce back or not. Their main holes lie on the offensive side of the ball at wide receiver and offensive line.

    Unfortunately, the Ravens don't have a ton of room; therefore, they will have to be extremely frugal with their spending habits. Look for them to try and hit on under-the-radar names in free agency.

    Top target that would make sense:  Russell Okung, OT, Seattle Seahawks

    The Ravens have a big problem at offensive tackle entering the 2016 season and Okung would be a viable target to fill that hole. Okung isn't a top-flight offensive tackle, but he is serviceable and he will be within the Ravens' price range. Okung would solidify the edge for the Ravens, which would give Joe Flacco more time to throw the ball and find his (hopefully) improved core of weapons.

    A few other targets: Marvin Jones, WR, Cincinnati; Richie Incognito, OG, Buffalo; Anquan B0ldin, WR, San Francisco; Bruce Irvin, OLB, Seattle, Sean Smith, CB, Kansas City

    Because of their limited cap space, Baltimore will have to be fishing in the mid-tier of free agency. Marvin Jones would be a great get because he would give the Ravens a legitimate playmaker at wide receiver who runs good routes and has fantastic hands to boot. Bruce Irvin would be a great addition to their pass-rush and he would be a great piece to go with Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil.

    Pittsburgh Steelers


    Team needs: Offensive guard, outside linebacker, cornerback, tight end

    Like the Ravens, the Pittsburgh Steelers don't have a lot of cap space to work with; therefore, they will be looking for low-risk, high reward type of pickups. Also, they may look for veterans who can come in on the cheap.

    Cornerback is their biggest need as they were roasted through the air throughout the season. Furthermore, with Heath Miller's retirement, they will be in the market to find a tight end who can replace their star tight end.

    Top target that would make sense:  Richie Incognito, OG, Buffalo.

    Because of their low cap space, the Steelers won't be in the market for the top cornerbacks, which means they will likely address that need in the draft. One player who they could get for cheap, but who had a fantastic year last year is Richie Incognito. The former Bills guard is a dominant run-blocker who has made significant strides in pass protection and he fits the Steelers offense extremely well.

    A few other targets: Jahri Evans, OG, New Orleans; Kelechi Osemele, OG, Baltimore, Prince Amukamara, CB, New York, Coby Fleener, TE, Indianapolis

    Kelechi Osemele might be out of their price range, but he would be a great pick up, especially because they would be stealing him from the division-rival Ravens. Prince Amukamara isn't a sexy name but he is a significant upgrade over the cornerbacks currently on the roster. Coby Fleener would be an apt replacement for Miller.

    Cincinnati Bengals


    Team needs: Wide receiver, linebacker, center, nose tackle, safety

    The Cincinnati Bengals have one of the best rosters in the NFL thanks to apt drafting and smart decisions in free agency. With Mavin Jones potentially leaving, they have a big need at wide receiver. Furthermore, they really need to find an upgrade at center.

    The Bengals are blessed with a ton of cap space; therefore, there aren't any free agents who should be out of their price range.

    Top target that would make sense:  Derrick Johnson, LB, Kansas City.

    Though he may be expensive, Derrick Johnson would be a home-run find for the Bengals. He is fantastic against the run and he is better than most in coverage. He would be a great fit in the Bengals defense and behind their defensive line, he would be able to continue being as productive as he was in Kansas City.

    A few other targets: Eric Weddle, S, San Diego, Travis Benjamin, WR, Cleveland, Terrance Knighton, DT, Washington

    Eric Weddle may be getting old, but he is still one of the best safeties in the NFL. The only real concern is if he can stay healthy for a full season. Travis Benjamin would give the Bengals another big-play threat opposite of A.J. Green. Terrance Knighton would fill the hole in the middle and do a lot for their run defense.
  • 2016’s NFL Top Free Agent Running Backs

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    2015 saw somewhat of a return of the running game as a pair of run-first teams represented each conference in the Super Bowl.  Unlike the quarterback class, the free agent running back class has some potentially elite talents that will improve whatever offenses they are on.  Here are the top free agent running backs:

    1. Lamar Miller, Miami Dolphins- Miller is just 24 years old and his age and lack of wear and tear makes him the best available free agent running back option.  Miller is an explosive, productive back who was underutilized in Miami.  Best fits: Denver, Miami, Jacksonville, Chicago, Green Bay, Arizona, Tennessee, Indianapolis, Houston, Carolina.  

    2. Doug Martin, Tampa Bay Buccaneers- Doug Martin has been ultra-productive when healthy, and he can fit in just about any scheme.  He finished second in the NFL in rushing in 2015 behind an average offensive line and that should elevate his paycheck higher than the Bucs will go and he will likely get to explore the market. Best fits: Carolina, Denver, Green Bay, Tennessee, Indianapolis, Houston, Chicago, New York Giants. 

    3. Chris Ivory, New York Jets- Chris Ivory is a violent runner who adds a physical element to any offense.  At 27 years old and splitting carries throughout most of his career, he still has plenty of wear and tear left and can be a featured back for any team.  Best fits: New York Jets, New York Giants, Jacksonville, Houston, Chicago, Indianapolis. 

    4. Matt Forte, Chicago Bears- Matt Forte has been one of the most productive backs in the NFL for his entire career, but he's north of 30 years old and that will limit the amount of interest.  Forte has the hands of a receiver and has been mostly healthy throughout his career. Best fits: New York Giants, Houston, Denver, Indianapolis. 

    5. Chris Johnson, Arizona Cardinals- After being an afterthought, Johnson caught on with the Arizona Cardinals and had a very productive season before getting injured.  Johnson showed the explosivity that made him a 2,000 yard rusher earlier in his career in Tennessee.  Best fits: Arizona, New York Giants, Houston, Denver, Indianapolis, Jacksonville.

    6. Alfred Morris, Washington Redskins- Morris was ultra-productive as a rookie as he ran for over 1,600 yards.  His production has dropped each season and he is best in a zone blocking scheme.  Best fits: Houston, Denver, New York Giants, Indianapolis, Seattle, Tennessee, Carolina. 

    7. Joique Bell, Detroit Lions- Bell is a strong, north-south runner who has had some recent injuries which has limited his production.  He has always been part of a tandem backfield and shouldn't be counted on to be a primary back. Best fits: New York Giants, Seattle, Indianapolis, Tennessee, Chicago. 

    8. Matt Asiata, Minnesota Vikings- Asiata is a nice fullback/running back hybrid that can catch the ball out of the backfield and has some wiggle.  He would be a nice member of a tandem backfield.  Best fits: Minnesota, Jacksonville, Chicago, Green Bay. 

    9. Bobby Rainey, Tampa Bay Buccaneers- Rainey has legitimate running and receiving skills and has been miscast for much of his career. He has been productive when given the opportunity and he should be a nice change of pace back for some team. Best fits: Jacksonville, Miami, Minnesota, Green Bay, Indianapolis, Seattle.

    10. Ronnie Hillman, Denver Broncos- Hillman hasn't quite lived up to his draft hype when he got to Denver, but he's a useful member of a tandem backfield.  At 24 years old, there's plenty of optimism for him to succeed in a specific third-down role.  Best fits: Denver, Miami, Green Bay, Jacksonville, Seattle. 


    To find the best Free Agent Quarterbacks, click here. 
  • 2016’s Top NFL Free Agent Quarterbacks

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    There are plenty of teams around the NFL that need quarterbacks.  Whether it be starters or backups, there are plenty to choose from.  As we all know, elite level starters are difficult, if not impossible to come by in free agency so we rank the best of what's available and where they would fit best.

    1. Kirk Cousins, Washington Redskins- Cousins is ranked No. 1 because of his nine-game streak at the end of the year which vaulted Washington to the NFC East title.  He will be a starter somewhere next season, but it doesn't seem to make sense for the Redskins to franchise him, although it is a distinct possibility.  Best fits: Washington, Houston, Cleveland, Los Angeles, Denver. 

    2. Brock Osweiler, Denver Broncos- Osweiler has a small body of work, but he played well in his shot and was a big part of the Broncos Super Bowl title, even though he didn't play in the postseason.  In a perfect world, the Broncos and Osweiler will come to an agreement, but he will begin 2016 as a starting quarterback.  Best fits: Denver, Houston, Washington, Los Angeles, Cleveland. 

    3. Sam Bradford, Philadelphia Eagles- The perception of Bradford's talent seems to be much greater than his actual talent.  Still, he's a former No. 1 overall pick and that will get him some probably undeserved opportunities and he's going to get paid eight figures to play mediocre quarterback for some team.  Best fits: Philadelphia, Houston, Cleveland.

    4. Chase Daniel, Kansas City Chiefs- Daniel has never been given the chance to be a full-time starter, but he's looked great in relief.  He has great command of the West Coast offense and his arm strength limitations make him a good fit in a short passing game.  He'll likely be a backup again, but don't count out the chances of him going somewhere to compete for a starting job.  Best fits: Denver, Kansas City, Houston, Dallas, San Francisco.

    5. Ryan Fitzpatrick, New York Jets- Fitzpatrick was a solid starter, but he imploded when the team needed a win in the season finale.  He won't be a hot name based on his age (33), but he is a band-aid type of starter who can keep a team in contention while they groom his replacement. Best fits: New York Jets, Philadelphia, Washington. 

    6. Matt Hasselbeck, Indianapolis Colts- Hasselbeck is the consummate professional backup quarterback.  He can take over an offense and limit mistakes for a few weeks while instilling confidence in his team.  At 40 years old, he shouldn't be considered for any teams needing starters, but any team who believes they're a contender could use a guy like him. Best fits: Indianapolis, Dallas, Pittsburgh, Seattle, Green Bay, Denver, Baltimore, Buffalo, Atlanta, Arizona. 

    7. Drew Stanton, Arizona Cardinals- Stanton did an admirable job filling in for Carson Palmer in 2014 and is a solid backup for any contending team.  Stanton has mobility and would work best in a short passing game. Best fits: Arizona, Dallas, Houston, Indianapolis, Pittsburgh, San Francisco, Atlanta, Baltimore, Denver, Buffalo. 

    8. Matt Moore, Miami Dolphins- Moore has been a solid backup for his entire career and is comfortable in the role.  He's not a threat to any young starter and he can run most offenses.  That's a valuable commodity.  Best fits:  Miami, Dallas, Houston, Indianapolis, Pittsburgh, Atlanta. 

    9. Brandon Weeden, Houston Texans- After finding himself out of work, Weeden bounced around and played reasonably good football in the state of Texas. He'll never get another starting job, but he could have a nice backup career.  Best fits: Houston, Miami, Indianapolis, Atlanta, Denver, Baltimore. 

    10. Tavaris Jackson, Seattle Seahawks- Jackson has settled into being a nice backup quarterback with a good amount of mobility.  He can not only be a solid professional backup, but he can also mirror opposing mobile quarterbacks on the scout team.  Best fits: Seattle, Denver, Miami, Pittsburgh, Buffalo, Indianapolis. 

  • NFC South Free Agency Preview

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    The NFC South is a division of haves and have nots. The haves are the NFC champion Carolina Panthers who could be even better in 2016, and the have nots are the rest of the division who are just trying to get into the playoff picture.

    The New Orleans Saints once again find themselves with very little room to work on improving their team when it comes to salary cap space, while the Atlanta Falcons have a nice amount of money to spend, and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers once again have a ton of cap space for when the opening bell rings on free agency 2016.

    Atlanta Falcons


    Team needs: Center, Tight End, Defensive End, Linebacker, Cornerback

    The Atlanta Falcons offense is pretty strong, and while you could argue that they could use a little more depth at receiver, center and tight end are much bigger needs for the offense. Defensively, the team could use help all over the place. They’re going to have to replace Justin Durant, who they just released, and they could use some more depth at cornerback. The most glaring need defensively is still at pass rusher, even though the team spent their first-round pick last season on Vic Beasley.

    Top target that would make sense: Bruce Irvin, linebacker, Seattle

    He isn’t one of the first names that comes to mind when talking about great pass rushers, but Bruce Irvin is a versatile linebacker who would fit right into Falcons’ head coach and former Seattle Seahawks defensive coordinator Dan Quinn’s scheme. Irvin provides exactly the kind of attitude and energy that Quinn would love to add to the Atlanta defense.

    Other potential targets: Sean Smith, CB, Kansas City Chiefs; Robert Ayers, DE, New York Giants; Coby Fleener, TE, Indianapolis Colts; Marcedes Lewis, TE, Jacksonville Jaguars.

    Sean Smith is the kind of long, physical cornerback that Quinn covets, and Robert Ayers is coming off of a strong season in New York. Both players would be obvious fits for a defense that needs to improve, and either Marcedes Lewis and Coby Fleener could be the answer the team needs at tight end.

    Carolina Panthers


    Team needs: Running Back, Cornerback, Safety, O-line

    These are more like luxury items than team needs for the Carolina Panthers, because there are no glaring holes on this football team. Many of us spent the season arguing that Carolina was pedestrian at wide receiver without Kelvin Benjamin, but after what they accomplished without him, you could almost argue they’re pretty good at the position with his return. The offensive line and defensive backfield could be strengthened, but considering how often this team runs the ball and the fact that Jonathan Stewart isn’t getting any younger, finding another dynamic running back could be an offseason priority.

    Top target that would make sense: Doug Martin, running back, Tampa Bay

    This would be pretty pie in the sky for Carolina fans, as there’s a good chance Doug Martin remains with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but stealing a talent like Martin from a division opponent that’s chasing you would be quite the coup for the Panthers. Martin brings the kind of hard-nosed running that the “keep pounding” crowd would really appreciate, while simultaneously crushing the souls of a division rival’s fan base.

    Other potential targets: Eric Weddle, S, San Diego; Alfred Morris, RB, Washington; cornerbacks galore

    There are a bunch of talented cornerbacks potentially hitting the open market, and you could see guys like Leon Hall (Cincinnati Bengals), William Gay (Pittsburgh Steelers) or Sterling Moore (Tampa Bay Buccaneers) being very good fits in Carolina. While Josh Norman isn’t going anywhere, the unit could use more depth. Considering the Panthers likely won’t go too hard after a guy like Doug Martin, Alfred Morris makes a lot of sense as a complementary back, and Eric Weddle would be an unbelievable upgrade if Carolina signed him up to play safety.

    New Orleans Saints


    Team Needs: D-line, O-line, Cornerback, Tight end, wide receiver

    The New Orleans Saints aren’t a bad football team, but let’s just say there’s a lot of places they could get better. The Saints need some depth on the interior offensive line and all over the defense. Somehow a team that went just 7-9 last season is supposed to get a lot better with very little cap room. That should be interesting.

    Top target that would make sense: Sean Smith, cornerback, Kansas City

    Like a lot of teams, the New Orleans Saints would really love to find a pass rusher, but of the few that are actually going to shake free, there aren’t many that really jump off the page at you. Jason Pierre-Paul will likely be the most talented pass rusher on the market, but it’s going to be very difficult to be the team that strokes the big check to a guy with as many question marks as he’s going to have. The Saints won’t be able to stroke many big checks, and if they do at all, it needs to be for more of a sure thing, and that’s exactly what Smith is. He’s a big, physical cornerback that would make an immediate impact in New Orleans.

    Other potential targets: William Gay, CB, Pittsburgh; George Selvie, DE, NY Giants; Brandon Mebane, Seattle.

    William Gay is the kind of veteran leader that the Saints defense could really use, but much like the case will probably be with Smith, I suspect that teams with more cap room may outspend them. As is the case with the cornerbacks, teams with cap space are looking for the top tier defensive linemen on the market. If the Saints are lucky, perhaps they sneak away with a couple of guys like George Selvie and or Brandon Mebane who could be solid rotational upgrades.

    Tampa Bay Buccaneers


    Team needs: Defensive end, Cornerback, Safety, O-line

    The needle is pointing upward for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as the team has a franchise quarterback for the first time in eternity, and they’ve got a strong nucleus of young players to build around and a ton of cap money to build around them with. General Manager Jason Licht has already warned Bucs fans the team may not be spending big money on top-tier free agents, but don’t be surprised if the team adds as many as three defensive backs in the free agent market.

    Top target that would make sense: Eric Weddle, Safety, San Diego

    As much as the Buccaneers need help at defensive end and cornerback, Eric Weddle might be the best player at a glaring position of need for Tampa Bay. The team has the cap room to drastically change the defense before 2016, and signing Weddle, a pair of solid corners (and there are quite a few out there), and a mid-level defensive end, they could enter the draft with enough depth to select the best player available to them with the 9th-overall pick come April 28th.

    Other potential targets: Sean Smith, CB, Kansas City; George Iloka, S, Cincinnati; Robert Ayers, DE, NY Giants; Leon Hall, CB, Cincinnati

    The Buccaneers pass defense was atrocious last season, and while their offseason plan may not be as aggressive as the one I’ve laid out for them, don’t be surprised if they’re sniffing around a lot of defensive backs and defensive ends. Veteran corners like Sean Smith, Leon Hall, and a cast of others make a ton of sense for Tampa Bay, and you can expect them to be reaching out to all of the best pass rushers available. Robert Ayers is a guy whose effort shined through last season, and makes a ton of sense for a Mike Smith led defense. The Bucs have so many positive things going under Dirk Koetter offensively, if they can spend that cap space this offseason turning around the defense, Tampa Bay will surprise some people in 2016.

    The NFC South is an interesting division, but the reality is the have nots will likely be battling for 2nd-place in 2016, because the Panthers are the most talented team in the division, and that likely won’t change in a year.
  • NFC North Free Agency Preview

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    To the surprise of many, the Minnesota Vikings won the NFC North, snapping the four year streak of dominance of the Green Bay Packers. However, Aaron Rodgers and company still managed to make the playoffs for the seventh-consecutive season.

    Nonetheless, both of these teams have major holes to fill this off-season alongside the Chicago Bears and Detroit Lions.

    Without further ado, let's see what direction each team could go this spring.

    Chicago Bears 

    Team needs: Offensive line, Linebacker, Wide receiver, Cornerback, Defensive tackle

    Despite telling long-time Bear Matt Forte that he has no intentions of re-signing him, general manager Ryan Pace doesn't believe in cashing in on one guy. 

    "I don't like to put all our eggs in one basket in free agency," Pace stressed. "I don't think you're going to see us make one splash free-agent signing. I think it's going to be kind of spread-out-your-resources a little bit."

    With that being said, Chicago has dire needs at key positions.

    Stats wise, you'd think the Bears secondary was one of the best in the league, but this is a case where stats do indeed lie.

    Chicago's secondary was prone to giving up the big play. Their lack of a pass rush played in a role in that as well, as they ranked 22nd in sacks.

    Also, it's still unclear whether or not Chicago will use the franchise tag on Alshon Jeffery, who just turned 26.

    Top target that would make sense: Sean Smith, CB, Kansas City

    As mentioned before, Chicago's secondary could use a significant boost. which is why they should target Sean Smith.

    Kansas City has a plethora of decisions to make in free agency. With that in mind, it wouldn't be surprising at all to see Smith go elsewhere.

    The 6-foot-3 cornerback would provide John Fox's team with instant toughness and awareness on the back end.

    A few other targets: Damon Harrison, DT, Jets; Eric Weddle, S, Chargers; Janoris Jenkins, CB, Rams; Rishard Matthews, WR, Dolphins

    Acquiring Damon Harrison would be huge both literally and figuratively. He would play a major role in stopping the run.

    Eric Weddle may be expensive, but it's probably worth it for a team in dire need as Chicago, while Janoris Jenkins would be another solid pickup in the secondary.

    With so much uncertainty surrounding Jefferey, Chicago will be in the market for a receiver, which is where Rishard Matthews comes into play.

    Detroit Lions

    Team needs: Left Tackle, Defensive line, Wide receiver, Running back, Cornerback

    From now to March 1st, teams can use their franchise tags on players. One team that probably won't be needing there's is Detroit.

    Detroit's top free agents are 32-year-old Haloti Ngata, defensive tackle Tyrunn Walker (returning from a major leg injury) and safety Isa Abdul-Quddus.

    As you truly dissect Detroit's roster, they could use help all across the board. Some positions are just more of a priority than others.

    Top target that would make sense: Russell Okung, OT, Seattle

    Out of all the needs in the 'Motor City', offensive line is probably the most important one.

    Quarterback Matthew Stafford was sacked 44 times this past season, sixth-most of any signal caller.

    To add salt to the wound, Detroit finished with a league-worst 83.4 rushing yards per game.

    Considering the Seahawks haven't used the franchise tag in six years, there's growing belief that former Pro Bowl tackle Russell Okung may become available.

    This potential addition would go a long way in protecting Stafford going forward.

    A few other targets: Cordy Glenn, LT, Bills; Marvin Jones, WR, Bengals; Tamba Hali, OLB, Chiefs; Lamar Miller, RB, Dolphins.

    If Detroit strikes out on Okung, Cordy Glenn wouldn't be a bad consolation prize and with Calvin Johnson retiring, expect for Detroit to look at wide receiver. Cincinnati's Marvin Jones is one of the best available pass catchers this off-season.

    Tamba Hali wouldn't break the bank to gain some pass rushing help opposite Ziggy Ansah, while Lamar Miller would provide much needed help to their run game, but he won't be cheap.

    Minnesota Vikings

    Team needs: Offensive line, Strong safety, Cornerback, Wide receiver, Backup quarterback

    Led behind Adrian Peterson and their defense, Minnesota found themselves winning the NFC North for the first time since 2009 and it was their first playoff berth in four years.

    Now, as the Vikings look to take the next step, their primary concerns come on the offensive side of the ball. To be more specific, offensive line and wide receiver.

    Quarterback Teddy Bridewater didn't have much time to pass in the pocket, as he was sacked 44 times, tying him for sixth most alongside Matthew Stafford.

    Whenever Bridgewater did have time, he received little to no help from his receivers.

    Minnesota's leading receiver was Stefon Diggs and he only caught 52 passes.

    However, this is not to say the Vikings don't need some help defensively, especially in the secondary.

    Harrison Smith has the free safety position on lock, but they need an upgrade over strong safety Andrew Sendejo, who struggled in 2015.

    Top target that would make sense: George Iloka, S, Bengals

    This move makes sense for numerous reasons.

    First of all, Iloka is only 25-years-old, so there's plenty of room for growth.

    Secondly and more importantly, he's already familiar with Mike Zimmer's scheme from their time together in Cincinnati.

    The Bengals have multiple free agents to re-sign, so there's a real possibility Iloka ends up shaking town.

    A few other targets: Anquan Boldin, WR, 49ers; Evan Mathis, OG, Broncos; Adam Jones, CB, Bengals; Colt McCoy, QB, Redskins.

    Everyone knows Boldin isn't the player he used to be. However, he would be a great veteran piece for Bridgewater to have around.

    As mentioned before, Minnesota's offensive line has to get addressed and picking up Evan Mathis wouldn't be a bad investment.

    Adam Jones?

    He's also familiar with Zimmer's system, so I wouldn't completely rule out the possibility.

    Also, Shaun Hill is one of the worst backup quarterbacks in the NFL, which is why it wouldn't surprise anyone to see Minnesota go after Colt McCoy.

    Green Bay Packers

    Team needs: Inside linebacker, Running back, Tight end, Defensive tackle

    This was an unusual year for Packers fans.

    Yes, they made the playoffs, but it just didn't feel the same. Maybe it was because Jordy Nelson was out for the season or maybe the offensive line or how about the regression of Eddie Lacy?

    Odds are it was a mixture of all of three.

    Where do they go from here?

    Well, the inside linebacker position has been a hole in Green Bay forever now it seems. Also, they could use more of a pass rush from their front line.

    Packers general manager Ted Thompson rarely dips his feet into the free agency pool, but pressure from head coach Mike McCarthy might change that a bit this spring.

    Top target that would make sense: Danny Trevathan, ILB, Panthers

    Before the Super Bowl, the casual fan probably didn't know Danny Trevathan even existed. Now, he's one of the most coveted players at this position.

    This past season, Trevathan finished with 109 tackles and two interceptions.

    Trevathan would fit well alongside Clay Matthews in the middle of the Green Bay defense.

    A few other targets: Derrick Johnson, ILB, Chiefs; Matt Forte, RB, Bears; Dwayne Allen, TE, Colts; Haloti Ngata, DT, Lions.

    If Green Bay can't get Trevathan, Derrick Johnson isn't a bad secondary option. He'll bring great instincts and a nose for the football.

    Will Matt Forte pull a Julius Peppers?

    It's possible and he'll be perfect fit for Green Bay's spread attack.

    Another good fit would be tight end Dwyane Allen. Sure, he had a rough 2015 campaign, but it's hard when you don't have Andrew Luck for majority of the season.

    Another guy who may join rival Green Bay is Haloti Ngata and while he isn't the same player he once was, he's still a big presence to put in the middle of the defensive line, especially with B.J. Raji getting ready to test free agency.