NFL Top 50 Free Agents and Destinations: #16-20

CBSSports has published their list of top Free Agents and The Waiver Wire staff is going to tackle the top 50 from the list to predict where they will end up.  Alex Herd, Greg Kaplan, Pete Rynkowski, and Vinny Ginardi will look at who is available and what teams will be seeking their talents for 2014.

20. DT Arthur Jones

GK: Arthur Jones has steadily seen his playing time increase each of his four seasons in the league, culminating with a breakout campaign in 2013. He recorded a career-high 53 total tackles to go along with his four sacks, and has notched 8.5 sacks over the last two seasons. He’s primarily a run-stopper and hole-clogger in the middle, but his ability to put pressure on the quarterback as well makes him more versatile for teams looking to improve along the interior line.

One team we’ve mentioned that’s looking to do just that is Green Bay. They’re prepared to let B.J. Raji walk, and desperately want to get younger and more explosive in the middle. Bringing in a potential budding star in the 27-year old Jones would be a huge step in the right direction.

Prediction: Green Bay Packers

PR: Jones is a good young defensive tackle and possible 3-4 defensive end.  He has some versatility there which would be very valuable to a team.  Unfortunately for me, I know the masters of versatility are the New England Patriots and his younger brother Chandler Jones is there as well.  I think they will try to reunite the brothers along with adding some depth and versatility along that defensive line.  This would be a good move for the Pats.  The only thing holding it back would be money.  We know that the Pats don’t like to break the bank, but a good young player like this who is flying under the radar a bit is something the Pats always seem to find.

Prediction: New England Patriots

AH: As we keep mentioning, there are a lot of DT’s available and a lot of teams looking to buy one.  He’s going to go to a team that needs help bringing pressure on the QB and I think that could be the Raiders.  Pat Sims is great at stopping the run but the Raiders could really use someone to get at the QB.

Prediction: Oakland Raiders

19. CB Aqib Talib

Aqib TalibGK: One could make a strong argument that the most important player, offensive or defensive, for the New England Patriots last year was Aqib Talib. He’s a big-bodied corner that can go up against any team’s #1 receiver and challenge them on every pass without requiring safety help over the top. He re-established his value in New England after his fallout in Tampa Bay, and now is poised for a big payday on the open market.

However, New England understands perfectly well how important he was to the team last year, and is making every possible effort to bring him back in the fold. The team is hopeful an extension could be worked out before the market opens on March 11, and I’d be stunned if Talib didn’t stay put.

Prediction: New England Patriots

PR: Do you think Bill Belicheat would have commented on the Welker hit on Talib in the playoffs if he had no intention of bringing Talib back?  Well… maybe… he is a dick and he hates Welker.  But Talib was extremely important to the Pats defense this past season.  He had his legal issues before coming to NE and of course that was no problem under the Patriots coaching staff.  But they need to keep Talib, they have a horrendous secondary without him.

Prediction: New England Patriots

AH: If the market for CB this year wasn’t so friendly for buyers, I think Talib would find himself on another team.  However, the Patriots are already discussing bring Talib back and despite a number of teams having interest in Talib, he probably won’t get much more money elsewhere.  I expect him to stay.

Prediction: New England Patriots

18. DT Jason Hatcher

GK: Jason Hatcher was a beast up the middle last year. Hatcher entered last year with 16.0 career sacks, and nearly matched that mark with his 11.0 in 2013 alone. The Cowboys defense was all sorts of terrible under Monte Kiffin’s watch last year, but none of that reflects how Hatcher played along the line.

Dallas is in all sorts of salary cap hell. There’s no way for them to make the money work with the players they currently have and a handful of players that are free agents they’d like to keep. Hatcher will not be a Cowboy next year, that’s for certain. So, where will he land? Oakland is on the opposite end of the spectrum from Dallas in terms of the salary cap, and they’re always looking to improve in just about any area you could think of.

Prediction: Oakland Raiders

PR: Dallas does have so many problems with the cap this year.  But they want to bring Hatcher back, there is even actual discussions about cutting DeMarcus Ware to save cap space.  This seems crazy but it is not out of the realm of possibility.  I think Dallas finds a way to keep Hatcher.  Don’t ask me how it will happen but I really think they will work something out.  He was one of the only few bright spots on the Dallas team last year, and maybe the only bright spot on defense.

Prediction: Dallas Cowboys

AH: I’m inclined to agree with Pete on this one.  The Cowboys have a lot of cap issues but Hatcher may be inclined to sign a good deal with them.  He did have a monster year in 2013 but a breakout season at 32 years old doesn’t draw the big interest from a lot of other teams and it wouldn’t be surprising to see him stick around.

Prediction: Dallas Cowboys

17. WR Eric Decker

Eric DeckerGK: Eric Decker has been a star since the arrival of Peyton Manning in Denver. He’s posted back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons, and has caught 24 touchdowns over the two years. He’s easily the top receiver on the market, and is poised for a huge payday to any team with receiver issues.

The Broncos have a lot of questions coming up in the receiving corps, and need to decide where to spend the money. Demaryius Thomas, Julian Thomas and Wes Welker are all free agent eligible after the 2014 season, and there won’t be enough money to keep that trio plus Decker long-term. It may be a hard pill to swallow, but I think Decker is going to walk away from Denver this off-season.

So, where does he land? I’d have to think a team that spends on Decker will be on that feels they are close to being able to compete for a Super Bowl, or a team dumb enough to think that bringing in a receiver like Decker will put them over the top. Where you want to put the New York Jets in that frame of mind, that’s up to you. But, something in my gut is telling me the Jets may just be foolish enough to spend big on Eric Decker this off-season.

Prediction: New York Jets

PR: Right city Greg, wrong team.  We know Decker isn’t going to be on Denver anymore.  There has been some interest from the Colts but I think he will ultimately end up in New York.  The Giants need a reliable receiver to line up across from Victor Cruz and he will still be catching passes from one of the Mannings.  This seems like it would be a very good fit from both sides.  Decker wants to get paid and the Giants need a receiver and have some money to spend.

Prediction: New York Giants

AH: Eric Decker hasn’t ruled out a return to the Broncos but it’s just a team on his list to consider.  The Broncos have Welker and the two Thomas’ plus have some money to spend on defense so I think Decker will get dropped.  Although it’s easy to predict one of the two NY teams for almost any WR at this point, I think Decker will land in Indy.  Reports have come out that both sides seem to like that deal and playing for Andrew Luck as the team’s #2 WR (and eventually #1 when Wayne steps out), should entice anyone.

Prediction: Indianapolis Colts

16. DE Michael Bennett

GK: There’s no denying the impact Michael Bennett had on the Seahawks defensive front last year. How Seattle got him on a one-year deal is still beyond me, but it’s not going to happen again. Over the last two years between Tampa Bay and the Seahawks, Bennett has posted 17.5 sacks to go along with his 72 total tackles. He’s without question one of the biggest game-changing end rushers available this off-season.

Bennett has said on multiple occasions that he’s not going to give the Seahawks any sort of hometown discount this off-season, and I think that’s going to rule him out of their long-term plans. They have a bunch of free agents, both on offense and defense, that they need to sign, and aren’t in the position to spend a large percentage of their cap on just one player (especially when Russell Wilson will need a new contract/raise in the near future). Cincinnati is a possibility, but they can’t afford Michael Johnson and have a lot of money tied up to Carlos Dunlap already. Oakland seems sure in their ability to bring back Lamarr Houston, so that rules them out as well.

Detroit drafted Zeke Ansah in the top 10 of the draft last year, but desperately need to shore up their pass rush. With Suh/Fairley in the middle and Ansah on one end, bringing in Bennett would make their defensive line one of the more feared units in the league.

Prediction: Detroit Lions

PR: Bennett wants to get paid this offseason.  He had a great year with Seattle, and as Greg said, he has stated that Seattle will not be getting any kind of hometown discount (why would they, he’s been there one year).  But looking at what kind of player he is and the type of money he will want, I see only one logical landing spot for Bennett.  That would be the Oakland Raiders.  They will give him the big contract he is looking for, and they need help on that defensive front.

Prediction: Oakland Raiders

AH: Bennett is going to go to a team with a big need and the money to pay for it.  There a few teams that fit this mold (I think we could predict the Raiders for almost any big name at this point) but I’m going to say that Atlanta splurges here and picks up Bennett.

Prediction: Atlanta Falcons