When the clock hits midnight tonight, the free agency period in the National Football League will officially open. With the 2010 season featuring no salary cap teams will be able to spend freely, although some teams have already stated they’ll self-implement a cap. But as is the case every year at this time, certain players are in line for big pay days. Here’s a look at some of the interesting targets on the market this year, along with where I think they end up.
JULIUS PEPPERS, Defensive End
Anyone who follows the NFL knows that Peppers is the biggest name on the market this year. As a sack-producing end, he’s going to draw a lot of interest. So far, teams being mentioned are Washington, Chicago, New England and Philadelphia among others. He makes sense in all four markets, as dominant pass rushers are hard to find. Giving a 30 year old a long term deal for huge money with a lockout looming next year is risky, but someone will do it.
Destination: Washington. Until this last week I would have said Chicago, but Redskins owner Dan Snyder will give him a deal similar to that of Albert Haynesworth last year. Peppers and Brian Orakpo rushing the quarterback – look out.
KARLOS DANSBY, Linebacker
Arizona made the decision not to franchise him again, and I think they’ll regret it. He makes plays all over the field, and can play multiple positions. He’s going to make a team very, very happy.
Destination: New York Giants. With the release of Antonio Pierce, the G-Men need a new middle linebacker. Dansby’s expressed a wish to play in the Big Apple, and it’s a dream come true this offseason.
ANTREL ROLLE*, Safety
He’s got an asterisk because he’s not officially a free agent yet, but there’s no way Arizona pays him $12 million next season. He’s likely to be overpaid due to a demand at safety for certain teams. It’s been reported the Giants, Chicago, Minnesota and Philadelphia could be interested, and he’s said going to Miami is a dream of his.
Destination: Arizona. If they lose Dansby, the Cardinals will put extra money into keeping Rolle on a restructured deal.
THOMAS JONES, Running Back
He’s gained over 1,100 yards in each of the past five years, and I don’t care if he’s over 30. He’s still a productive back who’s going to have many suitors lined up on Friday, including New England, Houston, San Diego and Cleveland.
Destination: San Diego. They need two new running backs for next year, so why not grab a guy who can carry the load, or at the very least be part of an above-average platoon with a rookie?
DUNTA ROBINSON, Cornerback
He’s going to be the main beneficiary of a weak corner market. He’s only 27, and he’s in line for big money. I just hope the team signing him takes a look at his medical history.
Destination: Tennessee. I just get the feeling Houston’s division rival is tired of having a gap across from Cortland Finnegan.
DARREN SHARPER, Safety
Coming off a Super Bowl title, there will be options for the 34 year old. A team that doesn’t sign Rolle may look to Sharper.
Destination: New Orleans. He won’t be going anywhere.
LADAINIAN TOMLINSON, Running Back
He’s really slowed down the past two seasons, but I still think he’s got something left in the tank. He says he wants to win, so that should eliminate teams like Detroit from consideration.
Destination: Minnesota. A great chance to win, backing up Adrian Peterson and playing with Brett Favre.
CHESTER TAYLOR, Running Back
He wants to be a feature back, but at age 31 his chances of doing so along with winning a quite slim. But, there are jobs out there.
Destination: Detroit. With Kevin Smith rehabbing a knee injury, Taylor gets to be the go-to guy in his hometown.
DARREN SPROLES, Running Back
I was shocked when San Diego said they’d be letting him go. He can be a difference maker in a limited role, and is especially useful when catching the ball out of the backfield.
Destination: Philadelphia. Gives Andy Reid & Co. a new situational back with LeSean McCoy grabbing the feature role.
TERRELL OWENS, Wide Receiver
Not surprisingly, Buffalo doesn’t want him back. Both sides knew he wouldn’t be a good fit in Orchard Park. He’s already drawing some interest on the market from two AFC North teams, Cincinnati and Baltimore. He’s still got some productive football left in him.
Destination: Baltimore. They need targets, and he needs to compete for a championship. Perfect match.
AARON KAMPMAN, Defensive End
He’s not being talked about a lot due to a knee injury last season. He didn’t transition well into a 3-4 outside linebacker, so look for him to go back to a 4-3 team.
Destination: Chicago. They’ll strike out on Peppers, and go for the next best end on the market.
Other names to keep an eye on: Ryan Clark, Brian Westbrook, Leigh Bodden, Gary Brackett, Antonio Bryant, Derrick Mason, and Kyle Vanden Bosch.
TWO POINT CONVERSION
– after watching a lot of Scouting Combine coverage (including all of Monday and Tuesday), I’ve concluded one thing – the NFL Draft can’t get here fast enough. Only 49 more days
– restricted free agents tenders poured in yesterday, and there’s two that caught my eye. Jared Gaither, left tackle for the Ravens, and Brandon Marshall, wide receiver for the Broncos, only received first round tenders. If I were Arizona or Dallas, with the 26 or 27 pick respectively, I’d sign Gaither to a huge deal and hope Baltimore doesn’t match. As for the Ravens, they should sacrifice the 25 pick for Marshall in a second
This is new one, and only because I had one extra detail to get to. Happy trails to Chris Samuels, who will announce his retirement from the Washington Redskins on Thursday. The third overall pick from the 2000 NFL Draft has been one of the very best left tackles in the NFL since he came into the league. It’s a shame he has to walk away from the game now with a neck injury, but he’s doing the right thing. If you’re talking about dominant tackles from this generation, you’re talking about Orlando Pace, Walter Jones, and Chris Samuels