The offseason in the NFL is always time for change. Teams will make changes to improve their Super Bowl chances, or perhaps to cut salaries so they can be at the salary cap. Players will make changes too. Some are looking for a fresh start to revive their careers. Others are looking for change so they can improve their Super Bowl hopes. Here are ten players to keep an eye on when free agency begins on March 12.
The future hall of fame safety is expected to stay in Baltimore, but if he decides to test the market, he will garner plenty of interest. If Reed stays with the Super Bowl Champions, he will become the leader of the defense with Ray Lewis retiring. Reed isn’t as vocal as Lewis, but does command a strong presence in the room. Look for New England and New Orleans to make a serious charge at Reed. A darkhorse might be Seattle, who could see Reed as the final piece for their Super Bowl puzzle.
The 10 year running back out of Northern Illinois is reportedly being released by Atlanta before March 12. Turner saw his production drop last season, rushing for 800 yards in 2012, after gaining 1,340 yards in 2011. Critics have said that he is wearing down after years of running a punishing style. But there could be teams that may go after him. Detroit and Green Bay are said to be interested. Both have holes at running back. While Turner may not be an every down back anymore, he would bring a nice change-pace option, to a passing offense.
The fifth year defensive end out of Purdue, could get the franchise tag by the Lions, but Avril is determined to get as much money as possible. Avril is seen as a cornerstone in the Lions front four, so expect the Lions to work very hard in retaining his services. Avril did have a solid season, recording 9.5 sacks in 2012. If the Lions don’t franchise him, expect Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Miami to take a run at Avril.
The sixth year safety out of the University of Washington, Goldson is the leader of the 49ers secondary. Goldson is a hard-hitting, aggressive safety, but is prone to be out of position. Nevertheless, Goldson would be a valuable addition to a team that needs secondary help. The 49ers are trying to re-sign Goldson, but if they fail, Baltimore could swoop in, especially if Ed Reed does leave. Expect Detroit, New England and the New York Giants to also express interest in Goldson.
The ninth year defensive end out of the University of Manitoba, Idonije brings length to the defensive line. Standing at 6’6, Idonije’s long arms are very useful in batting down pass attempts. A lack of playing time has upset Idonije so he could be looking for a new home. Chicago does want to keep him, but will need to give him a raise, and the Bears are notorious for low-balling players. Washington, Atlanta and Carolina are possible destinations for Idonije.
This one is very interesting. Urlacher has been the heart and soul of the Chicago Bears franchise since 2000, but the relationship seems to be on a downturn. After the Bears stumbled in the second half of the season, Urlacher called out the fans in the Windy City, saying they’re not as supportive as they should be and putting too much pressure on the team. This rankled the Bear faithful, who have always defended Urlacher from critics and non-believers. Urlacher is on the downside of his career, and he’s not the same player as he was in 2005 when he was named NFL defensive player of the year. Look for Atlanta, New Orleans and Baltimore to inquire about Urlacher.
The seventh year receiver out of Western Michigan, appeared in only 8 games in 2012, as a nagging groin injury slowed Jennings down. This isn’t the first time injuries have affected Jennings. A sprained MCL caused him to miss the final three games of the 2011 season. There is no denying Jennings ability, but his durability is a question mark. The Packers will have a difficult decision on whether to keep Jennings or go with younger talent. If Jennings is free, expect Miami, St. Louis and Buffalo to pursue the wideout.
The sixth year receiver from LSU has been one of the most underrated receivers in the NFL for quite some time. While Bowe didn’t have his best season in 2012, he still put up decent numbers, catching 59 passes for 801 yards and 3 touchdowns. This despite playing on a woeful Kansas City team last year. The Chiefs are welcoming a new regime, led by Andy Reid and some have speculated that Bowe is on his way out-of-town. Look for Chicago, Miami and Detroit to inquire about Bowe.
The sixth year left tackle out of Michigan, Long is considered the best offensive lineman available in free agency. Long does an excellent job at protecting the quarterback’s blindside, so he will be highly sought after by many NFL teams. Miami is desperate to re-sign him, and could franchise him. But that might not be enough. Detroit, Oakland, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Chicago are just some of the teams that will be aggressive, in their pursuit of Long.
The 10th year receiver out of Texas Tech, Welker has enjoyed tremendous success with New England over the last six seasons. During his tenure in Foxboro, Welker has averaged 112 receptions for 1,243 yards and 6 touchdowns. The question is, was that Welker being that good, or was he a product of the New England system that has Tom Brady throwing to him? Welker also has had his share of controversy. His dropped pass in Super Bowl XLVI led to Brady’s wife, supermodel Gisele Bundchen to blame Welker for losing to the New York Giants. This year, following the Patriots AFC Championship loss to Baltimore, Welker’s wife, model Anna Burns was highly critical of Ray Lewis, alluding to Lewis fathering 6 children with 4 different women, and Lewis’s acquittal for murder back in 2000. (Burns did apologize) Knowing the Patriots, especially coach Bill Belichick, distractions and controversy are not tolerated. So it is possible Welker may have played his last game with New England. Look for Oakland, St. Louis and the New York Jets to give Welker a second look.
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