The NFL Offseason Chronicles: 10 Potential Free Agents, and Their Likely Destination [Pt. I]

One of the most exciting times in football is almost upon us, especially for Redskins and Raiders fans… Free Agency! 

As a Giants fan, I have learned to curse out, and then fully accept General Manager Jerry Reese for what he is. A genius.

After letting Kevin Boss and Steve Smith leave for Oakland and the City of Brotherly Love respectively, I thought for certain this season would be a wash. Thankfully, the out of the spotlight signings of punter Steve Weatherford, and center David Baas, helped propel the G-Men to another Lombardi trophy.

On March 13th, owners, coaches, and GM’s around the league will fire up their engines, and get ready to make some offers to their own free agents, and also try and court other superstars into signing with their franchise. Below, you will find the ten potential free agents whom I think will be under the spotlight the most this season, and also my best guess as to where they may end up come week one.

10. Drew Brees, QB, New Orleans Saints

The Saints will surely lock Brees up, and hope there are many more father-son celebrations involving confetti and Super bowls

It is being reported that Brees, the face of the Saints organization, wants to work out a deal before free agency even begins. This tells us one thing: Brees has no plans of leaving New Orleans.

February 20th will be a big day for Brees, and other potential free agents, because it is the first day that teams will be able to place the dreaded franchise tag on their star players. The tag guarantees a player a one year contract, worth the average of the five highest paid players at their position. For Brees and other QB’s, this is roughly 14 million dollars. You may wonder how such a lucrative deal would be paired with the word “dreaded”.

It’s because as players, the one thing they care about more than anything else is job security. They want to know that they will be with an organization for the long run, and can begin to settle down with a family, and send the kids to school.

Likely Destination: The Saints. There’s no way the Saints would ever let Brees leave. Plain and simple.

9. Marques Colston, WR, New Orleans Saints

What better place to go next, than to Colston, one of Brees’ favorite targets. This is a big year for wide receiver free agents, so the money might not be as good as it would be during any other offseason, which no doubt will play into his decision in the next few months.

A lot of what will happen with Colston depends on the Saints getting a deal done with Brees. If they are able to work put a long term extension before free agency begins, and avoid placing the tag on him, then it will become available for Colston. With the tag, Colston would make 9.4 million.

Likely Destination: The Saints. They are simply to close to putting it all together for another Super bowl run, and would be foolish to let Colston walk. The injury bug seems to have receeded a bit, and their former 7th round pick deserves a pay day. With Steve Spagnuolo, the St. Louis Rams castaway, the defense will see much improvement. Colston however, is vital to the offensive success of Brees and the Saints.

8. Ray Rice, RB, Baltimore Ravens

Ray Rice, a Rutgers alum, is by far the most diverse running back in the entire league

Rice, without a doubt the biggest unrestricted free agent the Ravens have. In years past, I would’ve bet that Rice would be able to cash in for an enormous pay day, but I feel like with the league evolving into such a pass heavy offense, the numbers may be diminished. 

Rice remains the most dangerous weapon the Ravens have, and if they lost him, it could spell disaster for the Ravens, who aren’t exactly known for their dangerous aerial assault.

Likely Destination: The Ravens. There would be mutiny if Rice wasn’t wearing purple and black next year. The relationship that he has established with quarterback Joe Flacco is what gets this team moving down the field, and unlike teams with a deep threat to stretch the field, Rice often shrinks it, pulling linebackers close to the line so they don’t become just another player on Rice’s highlight tape.

7. Mario Manningham, WR, New York Giants

Manningham will be the next guy in a long line of players to earn a big pay day for playing in the big game. Of course, playing is an understatement, since the entire world saw Manningham reel in a perfectly places Eli Manning spiral during the Giants final drive of Super bowl XLVI.

However, Manningham doesn’t see enough targets for his liking in New York, and seeing him go elsewhere won’t be the least bit surprising. There are talks of the Giants drafting a tight end in the first round, to add another playmaker to an already superstar offense, and those rumors certainly have found the ears of Manningham. Playing behind Nicks and Cruz, Manningham has performed well, but there are only so many balls to go around.

Likely Destination: The St. Louis Rams. Jerry Reese is notorious for letting guys walk, and replacing them in a much cheaper fashion [Steve Smith —-> Victor Cruz, Kevin Boss —-> Jake Ballard]. Manningham would certainly become one of Sam Bradford’s go-to guys if he played for the Rams next season. They have no elite playmakers, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see them offer a bit more money than other teams would, in hopes of landing a diamond in the rough.

6. Vincent Jackson, WR, San Diego Chargers

"Shhhh, don't tell Zygi Wilf about my DUI!!!"

To wrap up part one, I thought I would go with Jackson, since, in my opinion if he’s given the right situation, could be the biggest acquisition of the season. V-Jax remains one of the most inconsistent players in the league, and anybody who has ever owned him in fantasy gave a collective groan. Jackson has the type of game log that sandwiches a complete gem of a contest [7 catches, 141 yards, 3 TD’s], in between two stinkers [4 catches, 71 yards… combined].

Even with his inconsistencies, Jackson is one of biggest deep threats in the league, and has enough athletic ability to go around. His character however remains a concern after he staged a hold out through the first 11 games of the 2010 season.

Likely Destination: The Minnesota Vikings. The Vikings currently have the 3rd pick in the draft, and many experts have them taking tackle Matt Khalil from USC, or cornerback Morris Claiborne from LSU. Justin Blackmon, the star WR from Oklahoma State will also be taken in the top 10, if not the top 5. The Vikings could say screw it, and make the decision a little easier. Sign Vincent Jackson, and take Khalil or Claiborne, and fill two glaring needs. 

The only thing I can see standing in the way, is that it appears the Vikings have finally cleaned house of all the players who have character concerns, or could be locker room problems.

In Conclusion…

Always remember, that the best thing that you can do as a fan, is to always research what players your team might be close to signing. Acquisitions may seem small at the time, but sometimes they can count when it matters most. Steve Weatherford pinned the Patriots inside their own ten yard line three times in Super bowl XLVI, one of them leading to a safety on an intentional grounding call in the end zone. Giants fans will hear me when I say, if Matt Dodge is our punter, that never happens.

Teams make many moves in the course of a calendar year, so always try your best to keep up with what’s going on around the league. A page I often frequent, in part due to it’s updates it posts every day, is this one, from SB Nation. There, you will find the team, their free agents [both restricted and non-restricted], and a short paragraph on what direction they might be leaning.

I hope you guys enjoyed part one, and be on the lookout for part two, coming out tomorrow. Oh, and Go G-Men!

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