For many reasons, NFL players step up their game as they enter a contract year. With the chance to become an NFL free agent after the coming regular (and hopefully playoff) schedule, players try and put up as good of a personal performance as possible in the hopes of landing a starting job with their current or next team, a big contract, salary or signing bonus, or all of the above. With the NFL constantly in flux as far as personnel, the opportunity of landing a big contract that can set a player for life may only happen once.
For some of these reasons, fantasy football fans would love to know what players are potentially poised for a big year in the hopes of a "Show Me the Money" offseason. With that in mind, here is a list of the skill position players that will be free agents come next March.
NFL quarterbacks can last forever – just ask Brett Favre. Take note of two big names on the QB potential free agent list – Joe Flacco and Matt Schaub. Both are starters this year and considered Top 20 quarterbacks (or better). Big seasons will likely earn both of them the Franchise Tag from Baltimore and Houston, respectively, so that their clubs hold on to a franchise quarterback for at least one more year.
QB Vince Young, Buf QB Tarvaris Jackson, Sea QB Rex Grossman, Was QB Matt Schaub, Hou QB Matt Moore, Mia QB Matt Leinart, Oak QB Joe Flacco, Bal QB Jason Campbell, Chi QB Drew Stanton, Ind QB Derek Anderson, Car QB David Garrard, Mia QB Chris Redman, Atl QB Chase Daniel, NO QB Brian Hoyer, NE QB Brady Quinn, KC
Running backs often get one shot at a big contract, as the position is extremely physical and many NFL rushers do not last beyond their initial rookie contracts. To get to free agency can be quite a financial boon – just ask Michael Turner.
Here is a list of the bigger names at tailback that are potential free agents for the next offseason. Keep in mind that some of them may get the Franchise Tag and be retained by their team – but they will still get top dollar at their position.
Some names of note to see on this list are Reggie Bush (starter in Miami), Peyton Hillis (splitting time now in Kansas City), Rashard Mendenhall (coming back from a major injury) and Shonn Greene (starter for the Jets). Greene, Hillis and Mendenhall all have plenty of reasons to play well and prove to everyone that they are worth a big contract, especially Hillis. A big year with the Chiefs will likely make him the top free agent running back next March.
Felix Jones and Bernard Scott could have opportunities to shine either as backs in roles or committees, or even as a starter if the other top RB on their teams gets injured. Keep them in mind as well if you are looking for upside.
RB Tim Hightower, Was RB Shonn Greene, NYJ RB Reggie Bush, Mia RB Rashard Mendenhall, Pit RB Peyton Hillis, KC RB Mike Goodson, Oak RB LaRod Stephens-Howling, Ari RB Kevin Smith, Det RB Kahlil Bell, Chi RB Jonathan Stewart, Car RB Javon Ringer, Ten RB James Casey, Hou RB Isaac Redman, Pit RB Felix Jones, Dal RB Danny Woodhead, NE RB Danny Ware, NYG RB Brandon Jacobs, SF RB Bernard Scott, Cin
The NFL is a pass-happy league now, and wide receivers are reaping much of the benefit. Many wideouts are now topping 80 catches and 1,000 years, so big seasons are out there to be had for top talent.
Some names of note to see on this list are Wes Welker, Greg Jennings, Randy Moss and Mike Wallace. Welker and Wallace were both given the Franchise Tag in 2012, so if they can get out from under that and put up big numbers this year a big payday for each should be on the horizon. A return to previous form by Randy Moss could land him another big contract before the likely Hall of Famer hangs them up for good. Greg Jennings could be the biggest winner of the offseason next March with another big year for Green Bay.
WR Wes Welker, NE WR Victor Cruz, NYG WR Ted Ginn, SF WR Steve Smith, StL WR Randy Moss, SF WR Ramses Barden, NYG WR Mohamed Massaquoi, Cle WR Mike Wallace, Pit WR Malcom Floyd, SD WR Louis Murphy, Car WR Legedu Naanee, Mia WR Lee Evans, Jac WR Kevin Ogletree, Dal WR Julian Edelman, NE WR Johnny Knox, Chi WR Jerome Simpson, Min WR Greg Jennings, GB WR Dwayne Bowe, KC WR Donnie Avery, Ind WR Donald Driver, GB WR Devin Aromashodu, Min WR Devery Henderson, NO WR Deon Butler, Sea WR Deion Branch, NE WR Danny Amendola, StL WR Chaz Schilens, NYJ WR Brian Hartline, Mia WR Austin Collie, Ind
Tight ends are getting more and more valuable as teams incorporate at least one, if not two, in their modern passing games. Fred Davis is an interesting name, as he has had issues with the NFL drug policy, but a big year with rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III could make Davis a very hot commodity in March. Dustin Keller is another name to watch on this list as a big season in New York – or even a reasonable one – will have other teams interested in him for next year and beyond.
TE Zach Miller, Jac TE Travis Beckum, NYG TE Tony Gonzalez, Atl TE Todd Heap, Ari TE Martellus Bennett, NYG TE Jared Cook, Ten TE Gary Barnidge, Car TE Fred Davis, Was TE Dustin Keller, NYJ TE Delanie Walker, SF TE Dante Rosario, SD TE Dallas Clark, TB TE Ben Watson, Cle TE Anthony Fasano, Mia
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