A little less than a year ago, the Buccaneers made the biggest single-day free agency splash in franchise history, immediately snapping the most coveted wide receiver (Vincent Jackson) AND the most coveted offensive lineman (Carl Nicks) off the market, as well as starting-caliber cornerback Eric Wright. Either Jackson or Nicks might also have been at the top of the overall list of available free agents, though Mario Williams would have been a prime candidate for that spot, too. Depending upon depth chart needs and specific preferences, some teams might have started their rankings with Brandon Carr, Cortland Finnegan or Matt Flynn.
The Bucs got their men on March 14, while the Bills swiped Williams away from the Texans on the 15th. Carr went from the Chiefs to the Cowboys on the 14th, the same day Finnegan left the Titans and rejoined Jeff Fisher in St. Louis. Flynn actually waited until the 18th to pick the Seahawks after leaving Green Bay. Every year, the players in the most demand seem to make their decisions in the opening hours of free agency, and this time around their agents will have a three-day lead-in period to start negotiations with possible suitors.
Will Tampa once again be the destination for one or more of the top free agents in 2013? That remains to be seen, though the Bucs definitely have salary cap space to work with if they choose to do so. That, however, is not the question I present to you, Andrew.
In fact, don’t worry at all about which teams may be wooing the top free agents this year. Instead of the ‘where,’ let’s debate the ‘who.’ Specifically, who is this year’s Mario Williams or Carl Nicks? Who is going to have the most passionate suitors, and who is going to ink the biggest deal?
While we’re not worrying about what teams may come calling, let’s do keep the players’ current teams in mind. Every year, the list of potential free agents looks a lot more appealing in January than it does in March. Obviously, many teams do their best to re-sign their core players before free agency begins, especially the young ones who are just coming off their initial four or five-year NFL contracts. That’s an important consideration. For instance, you could choose Joe Flacco if you like, but I would counter that I strongly believe, one way or another, the Ravens will find a way to keep him around.
In the same vein, you can choose a pending restricted free agent if you like, but I wouldn’t recommend it. The best players on that list almost never change teams. So, keeping the likelihood of actually availability on March 12 in mind, answer me this:
Who will be the most coveted player on the NFL’s free agent market this year? Continue reading