The NFL Free Agency is a fascinating time. Every year, several impact players find themselves looking for a new home, a big contract, and a new chance to prove themselves in the league. In particular, this year’s NFL Free Agency can only be described as ‘star-studded’. As the first day of free agency closed last night, most stars had already found a new home.
But here are ten hypothetical free agency moves that we would really love to see.
By Jacopo Zenti
1) Hakeem Nicks (WR) to Carolina Panthers. (Nicks currently still a FA)
Widely regarded as a top wide receiver before last season, Nicks struggled (much like his New York Giants) last season. The Giants do not seem to want him back. Enter the Carolina Panthers. After being carried to a fantastic 2013-14 season by their phenomenal defense, the team must look to improve the offense, and give star quarterback Cam Newton more weapons to work with. Nicks will probably be relatively cheap after his unimpressive season, has great upside, stated he wishes to play with Newton, and perhaps most importantly is from Charlotte, NC. A one-year, ‘prove it’ deal seems like the best option for all parties. Head home, Hakeem!
2) Jairus Byrd (S) to Green Bay Packers (Byrd signed with the Saints)
This one is bound to raise some eyebrows. The Packers are not usually free agency big spenders, and Byrd, as the best safety in this free agency, is bound to demand top dollar. However, the Packers have more than 35 millions in cap space, and Ted Thompson must finally address a defense that has looked mediocre at best in the past couple of seasons. If the Pack wishes to continue to lead the NFC North and make the playoffs, especially against teams sporting wide receivers like Megatron, Marshall and Jeffery, they should shore up their sub-par secondary. Byrd would immediately have made the unit a competitive one.
3) Lamarr Houston (DE) to Oakland Raiders (Houston signed with the Bears)
There has been discussion about whether the Raiders should try to keep their young DE. They definitely should have, and here is why. The Raiders are one of the least talented teams in the league right now, as they thoroughly reconstruct their roster. Houston would have provided versatility, solid constant production, and huge upside at the young age of 26. Considering the Raiders are sitting on around 65 millions in cap space, not re-signing a potential franchise defensive player feels like potentially a huge mistake.
4) Alterraun Verner (CB) to Minnesota Vikings (Verner signed with the Buccaneers)
Verner is arguably the single best cornerback in this year’s free agency. At 25, he is young, has already proven himself as one of the league’s premier defenders, and yet promises to become even more dominant in future years. The Vikings, once famous for their solid defense, have struggled in the past season, and the team hopes to rebuild under the influence of new, defensive-minded head coach Mike Zimmer. The team has plenty of cap space at around 40 millions, and as they move on from once key players like Jared Allen, why not sign one of this league’s very best defensive players to a long contract to allow Zimmer to create a top defensive unit? They now remain in the hunt for a top cornerback.
5) Jared Veldheer (OT) to Arizona Cardinals (Veldheer signed with the Cardinals!)
The Raiders have to re-sign this guy. He is a huge, athletic, young, dominant offensive tackle that will most likely save his quarterback’s life for the next decade. With their immense cap space, Oakland has to keep him. However, Jared might be tempted to leave OAK for a more playoff-ready team, as rumors have already suggested. Here is why the Arizona Cardinals should pursue him. Finishing last season at 10-6, there is no question Coach Arians has already made AZ a playoff contender. Yes, the NFC West is a tough division, but AZ has shown it can upset the best teams in this league. Plus, sitting on around 22 millions in cap space, AZ can easily re-sign its key players and offer Veldheer a top OT contract.
6) Michael Bennett (DE) to Chicago Bears (Bennett re-signed with the Seahawks)
This would be a match made in heaven. Bennett last year accepted a one-year ‘prove it’ deal for the Seahawks. He undeniably has done enough ‘proving’, and now deserves to get paid. The perfect match for the Super Bowl winning pass rusher would have been Chicago. They have the cap space, just under ten millions of it, and more importantly they have his brother, tight end Martellus Bennett. The two have always said that they one day hope to play together. Michael Bennett would have offered much needed help to the Bears’ defense, and could have helped bring them back to their usual standards of defensive excellence.
7) Eric Decker (WR) to Cleveland Browns (Decker currently still a FA)
Decker might not return to Denver after this season. Many have suggested the Lions might be a perfect fit from him, and indeed Decker lining across from Megatron is enough to make all defensive coordinators shiver in fear. However, Cleveland might also be an option. The Browns have huge cap space, currently more than 55 millions. They also have future wide receiver super star Josh Gordon, who put up Megatron-like stats last year. However, their WR corps is seriously depleted outside of Gordon, especially since cutting Davone Bess who is dealing with personal issues. The WR duo of Gordon-Decker would make life much easier for quarterback Brian Hoyer, or whichever rookie QB is drafted to start for the Browns.
8) Branden Albert (OT) to Miami Dolphins (Albert signed with the Dolphins!)
Albert is a top OT. He has struggled with injuries in the past, but promises to continue to be one of the league’s elite pass protectors. The Chiefs have chosen to allow him to test free agency. Here is why the Dolphins should go after him. Miami has had great trouble with its offensive line. The famous Martin-Incognito scandal left the offensive line depleted, and while those replacing the two did a fine job, young franchise quarterback Ryan Tannehill continues to sit behind one of the league’s worst offensive lines. If Miami were to sign Albert, this would no longer be the case, and Tannehill could finally enjoy some time and peace to consistently reach highly paid wide receiver Mike Wallace.
9) Brandon Spikes (LB) to Atlanta Falcons (Spikes currently still a FA)
Spikes is a pure run-stopper, and an excellent one at that. He is fierce, brings great swagger to his defenfes, and rarely fails to have an impact in the run defense. However, he somewhat struggles in coverage, which makes him more of a ‘two-downs’ player than anything. The Falcons last year fielded a horrendous rushing defense that ranked 31st in the league and allowed more than 130 yards per game on average to opposing running backs. Signing Spikes would immediately change this, and Atlanta can easily afford to do so with their vast cap space, currently at over 25 millions.
10) Arthur Jones (DE) to New England Patriots (Jones signed with the Colts)
Arthur Jones is a great player. He stops the run, puts great pressure on quarterbacks, and can line up anywhere on the defensive line. Bill Belichick probably would have loved to bring to New England a guy that promises to produce in any role or position on the line. Unfortunately, the Patriots do not have much cap space, especially if they hope to re-sign their own free agents, especially Edelman and Talib. However, restructuring the contracts of a few players, including Vince Wilfork, could have created enough space to sign Jones. As an added bonus, this move would have reunited the Jones’ brothers, and created one of the league’s potentially most productive defensive lines.