With the 2014 league officially over, teams have been moving on to 2015 and roster moves have already been made. Free agency is 24 days away and many players will still be released before that day, but for the most part, the top free agents are already known and greener pastures may be in their future. In a free agency class that may be the best ever, here is a look at the top 40 free agents and an idea of where they will land.
1. Justin Houston (OLB/Kansas City Chiefs) – Kansas City Chiefs
Kansas City isn’t letting Justin Houston walk. If they can’t lock him up long-term, he is destined to receive the franchise tag. Either way, I just can’t see Houston actually being available on March 10.
2. Ndamukong Suh (DT/Detroit Lions) – Detroit Lions
Both of the Lions starting defensive tackles are headed for free agency, and the Lions ultimately only have enough cap room to retain one of them. Suh will be targeted by them and will likely make him the richest defensive tackle in league history. One issue standing in the way, however, is unlike Houston, placing the franchise tag on Suh will cost way too much for Detroit.
3. Dez Bryant (WR/Dallas Cowboys) – Dallas Cowboys
Like Detroit, Dallas has two marquee free agents in Bryant and running back DeMarco Murray, but will only be able to retain one of them. Bryant will likely be tagged if he can’t come to a long-term deal with the Cowboys.
4. Demaryius Thomas (WR/Denver Broncos) – Denver Broncos
Another player likely receiving the franchsie tag, Thomas has been a key cog in the Broncos offense – and someone they’re not going to let go easily.
5. Darrelle Revis (CB/New England Patriots) – Pittsburgh Steelers
Revis finally won his Super Bowl with the Patriots and there is always a chance for him to return on a more team-friendly deal, but Pittsburgh is another intriguing option. Revis grew up in Pennsylvania and went to college in Pittsburgh, so there is a chance he could return to his hometown team.
6. Devin McCourty (S/New England Patriots) – New England Patriots
McCourty will likely receive the franchise tag in New England, but if he does not, Tennessee could be an option where his twin brother, Jason, plays. The two are very close – to the point where they share a Twitter account.
7. Greg Hardy (DE/Carolina Panthers) – Cincinnati Bengals
As I mention in a previous article, Hardy makes sense for the Bengals and shouldn’t come as much of a surprise.
8. Jason Pierre-Paul (DE/New York Giants) – New York Giants
Unlike Osi Umenyiora and Justin Tuck, who the Giants let walk in previous offseasons, Pierre-Paul just turned 26 and his best years may be ahead of him. The franchise tag is a possibility, but in the end I can see Pierre-Paul signing a long-term deal to stay in blue.
9. Julius Thomas (TE/Denver Broncos) – Green Bay Packers
Thomas will likely walk as a byproduct of the Broncos retaining Demaryius Thomas. While I think Julius Thomas’ production was a result of playing in a Peyton Manning offense, he may see similar production on a Green Bay squad helmed by another elite quarterback.
10. DeMarco Murray (RB/Dallas Cowboys) – Indianapolis Colts
Dallas will unlikely be able to bring back Murray if they want to keep Dez Bryant. Indianapolis is ready to move on from the Trent Richardson fiasco and need a game-changer at running back to take some pressure off of Andrew Luck.
11. Randall Cobb (WR/Green Bay Packers) – Tennessee Titans
Cobb will likely look for a team where he will be the top wide receiver after playing second fiddle to Jordy Nelson in Green Bay. Cobb is a Tennessee native and would immediately be their top option.
12. Jeremy Maclin (WR/Philadelphia Eagles) – Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs are reportedly set on obtaining Maclin and it makes sense for a number of reasons. Kansas City is desperate for an upgrade at wide receiver and Maclin is from Missouri (though his hometown is closer to St. Louis). Additionally, Maclin played for Andy Reid in Philadelphia and could be interested in a reunion.
13. Pernell McPhee (OLB/Baltimore Ravens) – Atlanta Falcons
Atlanta is going to look for the best available pass rusher in free agency. McPhee is at a similar crossroad that Paul Kruger was in Baltimore two years ago. The team views him as a good player, but not a great one and someone who is expendable.
14. Jason Worilds (OLB/Pittsburgh Steelers) – Miami Dolphins
Miami needs an upgrade at strongside linebacker. Worilds was given a franchise tag last year, but it is doubtful the Steelers do it again.
15. Nick Fairley (DT/Detroit Lions) – Seattle Seahawks
While Detroit may let Fairley walk in favor of Suh, he may wind up landing a better situation in Seattle, where they have played in the Super Bowl in the past two seasons.
16. Mike Iupati (G/San Francisco 49ers) – St. Louis Rams
St. Louis has a messy situation along their offensive line, which at one point had Left tackle Greg Robinson playing inside. Iupati can add some stability along the offensive line.
17. Jerry Hughes (DE/Buffalo Bills) – Cleveland Browns
Hughes resuscitated his career after being traded to Buffalo and is one of the more sought after free agents this offseason. Cleveland is having issues along their pass rush and will look for an upgrade.
18. Bryan Bulaga (OT/Green Bay Packers) – Green Bay Packers
Green Bay won’t let Bulaga run away easily. Aaron Rodgers has been very vocal about retaining him and he performed well in 2014 when finally healthy.
19. Byron Maxwell (CB/Seattle Seahawks) – Dallas Cowboys
A shakeup in the Cowboys secondary is imminent and in a cornerback-shallow draft, they will need to lock up a corner in free agency.
20. Rodney Hudson (C/Kansas City Chiefs) – Jacksonville Jaguars
Jacksonville attempted to land Alex Mack last year, but the Browns matched his offer sheet. Perhaps they will have more luck this time with Hudson.
21. Brandon Flowers (CB/San Diego Chargers) – New England Patriots
If New England loses out on Darrelle Revis, they will need to find some type of replacement. Flowers had a rough season in San Diego, but he was hampered with injuries throughout the season.
22. Jabaal Sheard (OLB/Cleveland Browns) – Oakland Raiders
Sheard’s play suffered when he converted to outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme. Many defensive coordinators likely see his value with his hand in the dirt in a 4-3, which is likely how he will land his next deal.
23. Terrance Knighton (DT/Denver Broncos) – Oakland Raiders
Oakland is expected to pursue Knighton, who played under head coach Jack Del Rio last year when he was Denver’s defensive coordinator.
24. Brian Orakpo (OLB/Washington Redskins) – New Orleans Saints
The Saints need someone who can disrupt the passer. Orakpo has the talent to do so, but his issue lies on the fact that he is rarely healthy.
25. Jordan Cameron (TE/Cleveland Browns) – New York Giants
Neither the Browns nor Cameron are interested in remaining together, so he will test the free agent market. Larry Donnell showed flashes in New York, but overall, the Giants could upgrade at tight end.
26. Jermey Parnell (OT/Dallas Cowboys) – Jacksonville Jaguars
Jacksonville desperately needs an upgrade at right tackle. Quarterback Blake Bortles looks like he could be the next David Carr if he isn’t protected. Parnell and let tackle Luke Joeckel would solidify the bookends in Jacksonville.
27. Brandon Graham (OLB/Philadelphia Eagles) – San Francisco 49ers
With Ahmad Brooks a possible cap casualty, the 49ers will need to search for a replacement. Graham quietly had a solid season, grading out at Pro Football Focus’ no. 5 3-4 outside linebacker.
28. Dan Williams (DT/Arizona Cardinals) – Pittsburgh Steelers
Pittsburgh needs an upgrade at nose tackle, where they have not seen consistency since Casey Hampton.
29. Jared Odrick (DT/Miami Dolphins) – Denver Broncos
Miami will try to retain Odrick, but after lashing out on his coaches last December, he may look for greener pastures. Denver will look for a cheap replacement for Knighton.
30. Doug Free (OT/Dallas Cowboys) – Dallas Cowboys
The Cowboys line finally gelled last season, so they will likely do what they can to retain continuity.
31. Orlando Franklin (G/Denver Broncos) – Tennessee Titans
Andy Levitre will likely be a cap casualty and the Titans may look past Iupati due to his injury history. Franklin, on the other hand, has been a rock his entire career.
32. Kareem Jackson (CB/Houston Texans) – Chicago Bears
Houston is not tagging Jackson or breaking the bank on him, so he will likely walk as a free agent. Chicago was decimated at cornerback all season and will need to address this in the offseason.
33. Charles Clay (TE/Miami Dolphins) – Cleveland Browns
Denver needs a new tight end if Julius Thomas leaves. Clay has the potential to break out, and Peyton Manning could possibly help him reach his full potential.
34. Torrey Smith (WR/Baltimore Ravens) – Baltimore Ravens
Torrey Smith went to college in Maryland and grew up nearby in Virginia. Many teams will likely pursue Smith, but when it is all said and done, he will likely return to the only team he has known in his professional career.
35. Derrick Morgan (OLB/Tennessee Titans) – Tennessee Titans
Morgan may have never become the edge rusher Tennessee envisioned when they drafted him, but he performed very well as a strongside linebacker when the team switched to a 3-4 last season. Re-signing with Tennessee is an option, but with Dic LeBeau present, Jason Worilds could also be targeted.
36. CJ Spiller (RB/Buffalo Bills) – New York Jets
Spiller has been linked to the Jets since Chan Gailey was hired at the team’s offensive coordinator. Even Spiller has mentioned his desire to play with Gailey, with whom Spiller achieved his best season in the NFL.
37. Derek Newton (OT/Houston Texans) – Houston Texans
Houston found a gem in the seventh round of the 2011 draft in Newton, who has been a serviceable right tackle in the NFL. The Texans will look to use the money saved from Kareem Jackson to give Newton a raise.
38. Mark Ingram (RB/New Orleans Saints) – Dallas Cowboys
Dallas may let DeMarco Murray walk. If they decide to find a replacement in free agency instead of the draft, Ingram could be a viable replacement.
39. David Harris (ILB/New York Jets) – Buffalo Bills
Harris excelled with Rex Ryan at the helm, so it wouldn’t come as a surprise to seem him follow his old head coach to Buffalo.
40. Stephen Paea (DT/Chicago Bears) – Chicago Bears
One of the few bright spots on the Bears defense, Chicago will likely be aggressive in retaining him.