In a Free Agent market that is fairly weak, there are a few game changers and play-makers that will be signing big contracts after the 4 p.m. Eastern start of free agency on Tuesday March 11th, 2014.  With each team getting a raise in allowance from the league of $10 Million to spend on free agents, this year’s class will be paid better than ever and a lot of the players will be getting more money than they truly deserve based on past performance.  There are no offensive players in the top five rated below due to Jimmy Graham getting franchised tagged.  Sad to say, he is the only offensive player that would have made the list.  As stated earlier, this year’s class is fairly weak.

More teams will be able to make moves this spring with the bump in salary cap, but the teams with the biggest wallets are Oakland, Jacksonville, Cleveland, Indianapolis, Miami, Green Bay, Minnesota, Washington, Cincinnati and Philadelphia.  Surprisingly, a few of the teams will be letting go key free agents to sign others, such as the Cleveland Browns who will likely be letting go of TJ Ward and signing another free agent safety.  Here are the top five free agents and where they are liking to end up.

5.  TJ Ward – S:  Ward was a first time Pro-Bowler last year and will be looking for a large contract after four highly productive season in Cleveland.  Rumors have interested teams as the Detroit Lions, Arizona Cardinals, Philadelphia Eagles and Denver Broncos.  The Broncos are rumored to have the most interest along with a huge need.  The Eagles would also make a lot of sense since Ward played for Chip Kelly in Oregon.

Prediction:  Denver Broncos.

4.  Jared Veldheer – OT:  Offensive tackle is quickly becoming a cherished position that teams have to spend money on.  2014 offers quite a few quality players at this position.  Veldheer is at the tops of the list and was one of the few good players the Raiders have had over the past few years.  Last year was shortened by injury, but Veldheer is drawing a lot of interest from teams.  The strongest is from the Arizona Cardinals who are showing all the signs of taking Veldheer off the market soon after 4 p.m. on March 11th.

Prediction: Arizona Cardinals.

3.  Eugene Monroe – OT:  Monroe is arguably the best free option at this coveted position.  He was a target for the Baltimore Ravens during last season and will remain that way this off-season.  Many teams including San Diego and Carolina would like to obtain the services of Monroe, but the Ravens are the front-runner and should be keeping their 2013 mid-season acquisition stay in Baltimore.  One year after locking up their franchise quarterback, the Ravens will lock up his protection.

Prediction:  Baltimore Ravens.

2.  Michael Johnson – DE:  Besides quarterback, an elite pass-rusher that can also be effective against the run might be the most sought after commodity in the NFL.  So when you have one of the best on the free agent market, there will be more than a handful of teams fighting for his signature.  As is the case with Johnson who has been linked to the Minnesota Vikings, Chicago Bears, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and Atlanta Falcons.  With new defensive minded head coach Lovie Smith, the Buccs are the most logical choice for Johnson.  They do not have a lot of cap space, so the asking price may become out of reach.  If the price is not right for Tampa Bay, the Vikings have the money and the need since Jared Allen will depart Minnesota.

Prediction: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

1.  Jairus Byrd – S:  Byrd, a three time pro-bowler, has had five insanely productive seasons in Buffalo.  He is asking to be paid for his production and looking for $9 Million per year, which would make him the second highest paid safety in the league.  Buffalo offered Byrd that asking price and he is still testing free agency.  The list of suitors is long for Byrd and teams include the Philadelphia Eagles, St. Louis Rams, Miami Dolphins, Cleveland Browns, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Chicago Bears, Green Bay Packers, and Tennessee Titans.  He has ties to Philadelphia playing for Chip Kelly in College, Cleveland as their new head coach Mike Pettine was Byrd’s defensive coordinator in Buffalo, and Tampa Bay where his father is the defensive backs coach.  The Miami Dolphins have plenty of cap space and showed last season they are not afraid to spend.

Prediction: Cleveland Browns.

Written By: Nic Amanno

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