Last NFL offseason we had to wait until August for free agency to begin because of the lockout. Thankfully, that’s not a problem this year. The free agency period for the NFL begins on March 13. While some big-name players have already agreed to long-term contracts or have been slapped with the franchise tag, there are still some marquee names available this offseason.
The biggest name in free agency for quarterbacks is Matt Flynn. Aaron Rodgers’ backup showcased his skills a few times for the Green Bay Packers and has shown promise. In the last game of the 2011 regular season, Flynn threw for 480 yards and six touchdowns. In a 2010 game against the New England Patriots, Flynn completed 65 percent of his passes for 251 yards and three touchdowns.
Some other free agent quarterbacks include Kyle Orton, Chad Henne, Alex Smith and Jason Campbell. The 49ers will likely retain Smith, and the other quarterbacks will likely land a backup role somewhere. The Miami Dolphins have already announced that they will not bring back Henne.
Most of the big-name running backs have already signed a contract or have been franchise tagged. Ray Rice, Matt Forte, Arian Foster and Marshawn Lynch will stay with their respective teams.
There are still some running backs, however, that will be available such as Michael Bush, Peyton Hillis, Cedric Benson and Mike Tolbert. Bush is an underrated back who nearly rushed for 1,000 yards this past season, filling in for an injured Darren McFadden. Hillis peaked in the 2010 season and failed to have the same success in 2011. There were rumors that Hillis considered retirement, but he denied those rumors. Benson averaged 3.76 yards per carry during his four seasons with the Bengals, so his market won’t be very big. Tolbert will “likely” leave the Chargers in free agency. He’s mainly a short-yardage and third-down back.
There were a lot of big names heading into free agency in the wide-receiver market, but most have been franchise tagged. Receivers such as Dwayne Bowe, Wes Welker, DeSean Jackson and Stevie Johnson have been franchise tagged or signed to a long-term contract with their original teams.
Surprisingly, the Chargers did not use their franchise tag on Vincent Jackson. Jackson is the best receiver available in free agency and will get interest from many teams.
The Steelers Mike Wallace is a restricted free agent. He will receive first-round tender and another team can sign him to offer sheet, which means if Wallace goes to another team the Steelers will receive a first-round draft pick as compensation.
Some other receivers available include Brandon Lloyd, Marques Colston, Reggie Wayne, Mario Manningham and Randy Moss to name a few. Lloyd, Wayne, and Manningham are not expected to sign with their original teams. There are many other smaller name receivers available in free agency that, if they land with the right team, could make a big impact.
THE BEST OF THE REST
Since the Saints used their franchise tag on quarterback Drew Brees, it means offensive lineman Carl Nicks will test the open market. Nicks was a first-team All-Pro in 2011. The Cowboys have been reported to go heavy after Nicks during free agency.
The Houston Texans were lucky enough to sign Foster to a contract, but they may not be so lucky with defensive end Mario Williams. Williams is an elite pass-rusher, but he is coming off of an injury. Regardless, he will be one of the most sought after players in free agency.
The Titans did not use a franchise tag on cornerback Cortland Finnegan, which makes Finnegan the best cornerback available in free agency this off-season. Teams reported to have interest in Finnegan are the Cowboys, Bucs and Bears.