(The Verge) – It’s now been over a week since the NFL season came to an exciting, and controversial, closure down in New Orleans, and with Super Bowl recaps and debates now winding down it’s time to start looking ahead. With training camp now 6 long months away fans and media alike will turn to free agency and the NFL Draft to get their football fix. While this years draft class seems to lack the star power featured in last years, with players such as RGIII and Andrew Luck, the free agent market certainly doesn’t. At seemingly every position on the field at least one big name is available, and it will be interesting to see where these players end up, and how the dynamic of the league is changed by it. So let’s take a look at some of this years top free agents.
Joe Flacco QB (Ravens)- It’s not every year that the reigning Superbowl MVP is an unrestricted free agent, but that’s the case this year with Flacco. Although it is technically possible that Flacco could sign elsewhere it seems nearly certain that Flacco and the Ravens will reach a long-term deal to keep him in Baltimore. By the start of next season, we may be referring to Flacco as the highest paid quarterback in the NFL.
Wes Welker WR (Patriots)- Welker is only one of a few star receivers that profile this years free agent class. For the past two seasons Welker and the Patriots have been in contract
discussions, but the only thing that ever came of the talks was a franchise tag for the 2012 season. It seems very unlikely that the Patriots would franchise him two straight seasons, and while there is the chance of the Patriots signing him to a new deal it is very possible that the man who has caught at least 100 passes in 5 of his 6 seasons in New England will hit the open market. Even though Welker is now 31 and will be entering his tenth season in the NFL he can still be a very valuable weapon for a team in need of a playmaker.
Reggie Bush RB (Dolphins)- Reggie Bush highlights the running back position. Not only does Bush bring quickness and playmaking ability to the table, but he’s actually quite durable, only missing one game in the last two seasons, and his work ethic and leadership have never been questioned. Bush will be 28 entering next season, an age we typically see running backs begin to decline, but with his 2,660 yards from scrimmage over the last two years he has shown no signs of slowing down.
Ed Reed S (Ravens)- Reed is another Ravens leader who became available at the end of the season. However, unlike Flacco, Reed’s return to Baltimore is up in the air. Reed is a surefire Hall of Famer and still has the playmaking ability we’ve seen from him his whole career. Yet, as good as Reed was and still is he will be 35 next September and teams in need of safety help may look for younger options. In spite of this, the superstar safety can definitely help out a team in the short term. It will be interesting to see if he and the Ravens can work out a deal to have Reed finish his career in Baltimore, or if a team who may be one player away on defense, like New England, will jump in and make him an offer he cannot refuse.
LaRon Landry S (Jets)- Sticking with the safety position let’s take a look at safety LaRon Landry. Landry did a lot to raise his stock in his first, and possibly only season, with the Jets. Questioned throughout his career about his durabilit, Landry was able to stay injury free all season and start every game in the Jets secondary. On top of staying healthy Landry was named to the Pro-bowl team and recorded career highs in tackles and forced fumbles while also having 2 interceptions, one of which he returned for a touchdown. The hard hitting safety brings toughness, attitude, and playmaking ability to any defense he plays for, and may eventually be one of the best safeties in the league.
Greg Jennings WR (Packers)- Although he struggled with injuries throughout the 2012 season Jennings was able to make a comeback at the end of the year and put up some big numbers. Always known as a great leader and locker room presence, as well as an elite receiver, Jennings will definitely be a hot commodity this offseason. Although there may be some questions about his age and durability, Jennings is a player nearly every team will take a look at, and he’ll look to have a bounce back season in 2013.
Paul Kruger DE (Ravens)- A third notable free agent from Baltimore is Paul Kruger. Kruger is a young and extremely talented 4-3 defensive end or 3-4 outside linebacker who played an integral part in the Ravens run to a Superbowl title. He had his breakout year in 2012 and recorded a career high 9 sacks. Kruger made an even bigger name for himself with his play in the postseason. Twice in the Super Bowl he sacked 49ers quarterback, Kaepernick in key moments. With pass rush in such a high need around the NFL Kruger is certain to garner a lot of attention in the next few months.
These few players only begin to skim the surface of this loaded 2013 free agent class. Some other big time names include Mike Wallace, Danny Amendola, Cliff Avril, Anthony Spencer, Dwight Freeney, and Aqib Talib, just to name a few. With so much depth and talent available on the free agent market it will be extremely interesting to see how things turn out, and with exactly one month until free agency commences the debates will continue to rage on about who ends up where.