Every year around this time NFL franchise salivate over the possibility of hitting the free agency jackpot. While championships aren’t built through the free agent wire key components that can added and get teams to the next level. This year is no different and the following top players will make the team they sign or re-sign with that much better.
Ryan Fitzpatrick – The Harvard grad proved last season that there is no timetable on the development of a QB as he put up career numbers. The cerebral signal caller had his best statistical year of his career throwing for almost 4,000 yards and 31 TDs narrowly missing out on the playoffs. All of his years of experience will pay off wherever he ends up. His knack for knowing when to take a calculated risk downfield matches perfectly with his management style of the entire offense. The Jets will be looking to keep him, but he may be in store for a long overdue career contract.
Matt Forte- Even though he is coming off of his least productive rushing and receiving totals in his career, partially due to injury, Forte will be the most sought after back in all of free agency. Even though the dual threat back was the workhorse for the Bears for some reason he wasn’t in their future plans. Forte has made it known that he wants to win a championship, so he most likely already has his short list as well as some playoff teams current players putting out feelers on him and his willingness to join them. Forte is one of a handful of complete backs and will immediately boost the running and passing game of the franchise he joins; don’t be surprised if Brady pushes hard for his services.
Mike Tolbert- The stout yet nimble Tolbert has been a mainstay embedded in the minds and helmets of middle linebackers for years. He has boosted the running game of every team he has played on by opening up gaping holes and contributing to the running and receiving game. His durability will bode well for team he signs with; odds are Carolina won’t let him leave the Queen City.
Alshon Jeffery- In an injury shortened season Jeffery almost accumulated 900 yards. He proved this season that he could be a legitimate #1 wide receiver without Brandon Marshall as his tag team partner. His stock is rising as he is only going into his 5th year and coming into his own and will command top dollar, if the Bears don’t franchise him. His break away speed and ball catching ability would make any QB elated especially a former NFC North rival that rocks Honolulu blue.
Coby Fleener- The reliable and consistent pass catcher had a career high in receptions yet his second lowest yardage receiving. That may have had something to do with the QB shuffle that happened in Indy this past season. His familiarity with Andrew Luck and the offense is the easy argument as to why he should stay a Colt, but don’t be surprised if he leaves and heads to an in division rival.
Russell Okung- The once dominant tackle has had some troubles lately, but given his track record he will give your running game a boost. He may be better suited for the right side, but he still has the durability to protect the quarterbacks blind side. A change in scenery probably would serve him and his new team well; don’t be surprised if he ends up in his home state of Dallas.
Jeff Allen- The versatile lineman has the size to play tackle and the agility to play guard. He was an integral piece of the 6th ranked offensive rushing attack in the league; even more impressive considering Jamal Charles went out early in the season with an injury. Over half of the teams are looking to improve their rushing output and he can be a focal figure in establishing a sustainable run game. If he ends up leaving KC keep an eye out for him to possibly be in a Chargers jersey next season.
Stefen Wisniewski- Definitely an iron man thus far in his career logging 77 games in his five year career and starting all of them. His experience and leadership skills in the trenches will help solidify any front line. Only being a year removed from the Raiders, don’t be surprised if he makes the move back to the silver and black.
Da’Quan Bowers- The highly touted edge rusher out of Clemson has failed to live up to the hype. Injuries and a lack of dominance will have him searching for a new area code. With that should lead to a new motivation and a level of desperation that will prove his worthiness of where he was drafted. Taking a pay cut is unavoidable, but taking one to reunite with former college teammate Jadeveon Clowney in Houston may be beneficial to both he and the Texans.
Nick Fairley- Fairley had his worst performing year stat wise in a season he played the entire year. The athletic stop gap was a key role player on the Rams highly touted defensive line. His goal was to prove that he wasn’t just Suh’s Robin which he couldn’t, but there is nothing wrong with that. Given the depth in the draft at DL Fairley would be a clear addition to help complete a defensive front rather than him be the major focal point. The Rams will give him a hard look, but depending on his asking price he may end up being Robin in South Beach while getting paid like a Batman and increased production.
Bruce Irvin- The agressive hybrid linebacker may be another causality of the Seahawks ability to draft and develop great talent until they outgrow their rookie contracts. He is a solid backer who can defined both the run and the pass and thrives being the blitzing backer. The question is how will he perform without having an agressive defensive backfield behind him. His style of play will have plenty of suitors, but he could be one of the good decisions Chip Kelly makes as the 49ers coach.
James Laurinatis- The Iron Man for the Rams has never missed a game and also have never have less than 109 total tackles. His durability and knowledge is highly sought after by every team. His ability to lead the defense is an added bonus and could be that missing piece; he will however garner a large contract. The team that seems like a perfect fit that has both big salary cap space could be the Raiders; is there any other natural fit for a son of Road Warrior Animal?
Prince Amukamara- The Prince will be looking for a new kingdom to protect as it seems he has worn out his welcome in NY. The cornerback has the ability to defend the pass (10+ pass deflections in last 3 years) and an excellent tackler. He is far from a shutdown corner, but rarely he gets picked on. Health is a semi concern with him only playing all 16 games only once in his career. He’s not a lock down CB, but definitely more than a serviceable #2 to complain an up and rising defensive backfield. It’ll be tough for the Giants to let him go being the worst defensive team against the pass, but he could be a key part of the resurgence of the Eagles pass defense.
Eric Berry- The feel good story of the 2015 season after recovering from treatment for cancer. He picked up right where he left of on the field being elected to another Pro Bowl. While many may think it’s impossible for he and the Chiefs to part ways, stranger things have happened. He would be a starter on any NFL team; he could consider heading back home to Atlanta to play in front of family and friends.
This years free agency could be one of the most intriguing in recent years. Teams will be jockeying to make that next step and players looking for that big payback. Who are you looking for your favorite team to sign?