With free agency’s official start about 3 weeks away, it’s a time period of table negotiations. Dez Bryant, DeMarco Murray, Demaryius Thomas, and Ndamukong Suh are among the marquee stars that’ll continue to generate speculation until they actually put pen to paper; whether it be franchise-tagged or agreeing to a long term deal. However, there’s a second tier of players that could create interesting bidding wars on the open market.
Justin Forsett: I wonder how much the birth of a new son will effect Forsett’s decision in these early weeks of free agency. Forsett has bounced around the league as most “undersized” back-ups are. It may sound terrible to say, but Ray Rice’s drama was the best thing that could’ve happened for Justin Forsett’s career. With Gary Kubiak in Baltimore this past season, the Ravens executed a great share of ground plays. Forsett played 721 snaps; only 79 less than DeMarco Murray. At 29, Forsett had his 1st 1000+ yard season and had 1 of the highest yards per carry for running backs. Fortunately for Baltimore, the market is unkind to aging backs. He’s shown Baltimore and the league what he’s capable of when given the snaps. Forsett has stated at this point in his career, he wants a commitment from a team. There’s not many running backs to choose from so the Ravens may as well go with who they know can produce. [Projection: 3 years/$6 million]
Antrel Rolle: I miss the days of glory days of Aaron Ross, Corey Webster, Antrel Rolle, Terrell Thomas, and Kenny Phillips. The Giants secondary has struggled since then because of age and injuries. Rolle is coming off a statistically ugly season where he racked up penalties and missed tackles. This’ll be one of those decisions that comes down to loyalty and Rolle’s desire to retire a Giant. He’s expressed that he’s not satisfied with just 1 ring and feels like things are left undone for him on this team. Now on his 2nd UFA period, the Giants need to get Rolle down to a short term contract. That’ll give the secondary some continuity and a much-needed veteran presence for a drafted safety or corner. At 32, Rolle’s contract range should come out as a 2 year/$7 million deal.
Mark Ingram: Like DeMarco Murray, Ingram picked a contract year to put up big numbers. Unfortunately for New Orleans Saints, their defense is awful. Ingram’s 200+ carries wasn’t enough to offset it. The Saints have a knack for drafting effective running backs. Khiry Robinson, Travaris Cadet, and Pierre Thomas are all talented in their own right at different things. So the Saints could let the 2009 Heisman Trophy winner get away and not take a hit for it. Sometimes with teams, it’s good to look at what a team’s trend in paying players is. The Times-Picayune did an excellent breakdown of how the Saints have been burned by going a tad deep in the pockets for running backs. Even though niceties both sides have been communicated through the media, I see Ingram moving on for a better financial offer.[Projection: 4 years/$15 million]
Byron Maxwell: Look, the Seahawks aren’t going to be able to keep everybody on their defense forever. Byron Maxwell is an integral part of the Legion of Boom but even he’s well aware the cap space for Seattle is going to be strategically spread thin. My personal opinion is that the Seahawks need to go after a better wide receiver. Badly. Seattle ranked dead in the middle for team receiving yards and had 2 more receiving TDs than the Chiefs. The Chiefs! Additionally, Seattle has been able to build their elite defense through the draft in the last 5 years. Maxwell already has a ring so now is the time to go after the most money he can get. The Jets drafted a huge bust in Dee Milliner 2 years ago. So if they whiff on Darrelle Revis, then I see them buying high on Maxwell. [Projection: 5 years/$35 million]
Shane Vereen: It’s hard to ignore that the Pats’ backfield is crowded. Vereen has never been the goal-line hawk that Blount or Stevan Ridley is. Additionally, the Pats have several young backs who will be competing for snaps. This is the same Patriots team that let Danny Woodhead walk after the SB loss to the Giants. He went on to have a career year in his 1st season with the San Diego Chargers. The Pats front office need to be financially creative in order to keep Vereen as a steal. However, with starting jobs open in other places, Vereen may seek to take advantage of his upside as a tailback. He’s earned a respectable payday. [Projection: 4 years/$11.5 million]
I’ve been wrong lately on my predictions. So we’ll see who’s suited up where when the spring rolls around.