2014's free agent class doesn't have a lot of big names, but there is plenty of top-tier talent available as teams and players start to make plans for the offseason. There are also a handful of players still under their rookie deals who are looking to negotiate long-term deals. Here are the main storylines and names worth following during the spring.
Does Greg Hardy stay in Carolina?
Hardy is the top pass rusher on the market after piling up 26 sacks over the past two seasons. Still only 25, his price is not going to come cheap, and the Panthers are only about $13 million below the cap.
The franchise tag remains the most possible option. The two sides have not negotiated yet, but Hardy said he's both willing to take the tag and a hometown discount if the sides can come up to a long-term agreement. The DE franchise tag will cost about $12 million, which would force the Panthers to make other moves to accommodate Hardy.
Can the Bills make amends with Jairus Byrd?
So far, all signs are pointing to no. Byrd was unhappy with getting the franchise tag last offseason, and held out for most of training camp and preseason before missing five games with a foot injury. He's one of the top safeties in the league and wants to be paid like one at age 27.
It would cost the Bills $8.299 million to tag Byrd again, which would almost certainly lead to another long holdout. With only about $8 million of cap space to work with, the Bills may have no choice but to move on.
Where does Eric Decker end up?
The Broncos intend to let Decker test the market. They're hoping to re-sign him, but he wants to be paid like a No. 1 receiver and the Broncos reportedly view him as a No. 2. In addition, they need to free up cap money to lock down Demaryius Thomas and Julius Thomas, who are both free agents in 2015.
Decker enjoyed another solid season, grabbing 87 catches for 1,288 yards and 11 touchdowns. The big challenge for him will be to prove to potential suitors that he can produce outside of a Peyton Manning-led offense.
How do the Seahawks handle their cap situation?
The Super Bowl champions have a tall order up ahead. They're already bumped up against the cap and have several crucial players to re-sign. Michael Bennett is the top free agent, but the top priority should be to extend Earl Thomas and Richard Sherman, who are both entering contract years.
Sidney Rice is expected to be cut, which will save about $7.3 million. In addition, Chris Clemons, Zach Miller and Red Bryant are all candidates for either restructured contracts or releases. With all of these moves coming up, Golden Tate could end up being the odd man out, even though he's willing to take a hometown discount.
Which team will Michael Vick play for?
Vick originally showed an interest in backing up Nick Foles again in 2014, but it's become apparent he wants another shot to start. At age 33, this offseason might be his last chance at a multi-year contract. The Jets and Buccaneers are reportedly interested in Vick's services if he chooses to leave Philadelphia.
Of the two interested teams, the Jets seem to make the most sense given Vick's ties to Marty Mornhinweg and the struggles of Geno Smith. As always, the big concern is his reckless playing style leading to constant injuries.
Cornerbacks cashing in on breakout years
This year's cornerback class is rather top-heavy, with a handful of players that had big seasons in 2013 looking to parlay that into bigger paychecks.
Brent Grimes - Grimes bounced back from a torn Achilles in 2012 to re-establish himself as a top cover corner, playing all 16 games and pulling down four interceptions. The Dolphins have plenty of cap space to work with, but they've hinted at tagging Grimes.
Aqib Talib - The Patriots are a bit close to the cap for comfort, but they are still hoping to bring back Talib, who would be the top corner on the market if he walks. Still only 27, Talib would command a large paycheck, one the Patriots might not be willing to cover.
Alterraun Verner - Verner emerged as an elite corner in 2013, grabbing five picks and defending 23 passes. He's also only 25 years old and may be too expensive for the Titans, who are about $1 million over the cap. Cutting Chris Johnson should help, but the Titans might have to resort to the franchise tag if they want to keep Verner.
Kickers are people too
Yes, there are several high-end kickers up for new deals this offseason. These players are usually candidates for the franchise tag due to their relatively low cap number, but there are a few worth noting.
--Steven Hauschka has quietly been one of the top kickers in the league and could be angling for a multi-year deal at age 28.
--Nick Folk struggled for several years with the Jets, but he had his best season in 2013, making 33-of-36 field goals. He could try to parlay that into a multi-year contract.