NFL free agency doesn’t officially begin until March 10, but the number of available players continues to dwindle. Most of the top free agents have reportedly agreed to new contracts in principle, while other stars have already been hit with the franchise tag.
While several All-Pros are no longer on the market, a few potentially impactful players are still looking for new deals. A top defensive end, tight end and running back lead the list of free agents that can still be had by teams with sufficient salary cap space.
The defensive end is one of the best free agents available, but his legal issues could force him to remain on the market for a while. Hardy missed all but one game last season while appealing a judge’s ruling that found him guilty of assaulting and threatening to kill his ex-girlfriend. Nearly seven months after requesting a jury trial, the charges were dropped. But the 26-year-old remains on the Exempt list, and could be suspended to start the 2015 season.
Jason Cole of Bleacher Report says the Indianapolis Colts have emerged as the top suitor to sign Hardy, and the team’s interest might have been raised this weekend with the news that Ndamukong Suh is headed to the Miami Dolphins. The Cincinnati Bengals have also been linked to Hardy, who recorded 26 total sacks in 2012 and 2013.
With wide receivers like Dez Bryant, Demaryius Thomas and Randall Cobb remaining with their current teams, the tight end is the best pass-catcher available. He's missed five games in the past two seasons, but Thomas has still managed to total 24 touchdowns since 2013. After achieving so much success with Peyton Manning, Thomas might have to prove that he can be a premier tight end without a hall of fame quarterback in 2015.
The Jacksonville Jaguars have emerged as the favorites to sign Thomas. They enter the start of free agency with more salary cap space than any other NFL team. ESPN’s Adam Schefter has told Mad Dog Sports Radio that he expects the Oakland Raiders to make a play for Thomas, as well, with their more than $60 million available in cap space. The Denver Broncos could re-sign Thomas, but they might be outbid.
The running back won’t return to the Buffalo Bills, who’ve acquired LeSean McCoy in a trade. He reportedly turned down a contract offer for $4.5 million, prior to the deal, and now he’s headed for free agency. After releasing Reggie Bush, the Detroit Lions are reportedly interested in signing Spiller. According to Rand Getlin of Yahoo Sports, the New York Jets, New England Patriots, Washington Redskins and Miami Dolphins are among a few other teams that will also look into signing the running back.
Spiller had a breakout season in 2012, rushing for 1,244 yards on six yards per carry. He never got more than 207 carries in a year with the Bills, and has usually been productive when given the opportunity. Last season, though, Spiller didn’t have much of an impact, rushing for 300 yards on 78 attempts in nine games.