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NFL free agency 2014 preview: A look at the biggest names on offense

Before training camp begins, let's look at the top offensive players entering contract years.


It's never too early to start looking ahead to the 2014 NFL free agent class. This year's upcoming class is deep at the wide receiver position, top-heavy at running back and there are a few quarterbacks that could be intriguing, depending on how the season plays out.

Here's a quick rundown on the biggest names on offense entering the final year of their contracts. We'll take a look at the defensive players in a separate post.


Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons--Barring something unforeseen, Ryan won't be on this list next March, as the Falcons are working hard on an extension right now. Negotiations are going slowly but surely, and the team is confident they can get a deal done before training camp.

Jay Cutler, Chicago Bears--There hasn't been much talk of a new contract, but the Bears have surrounded Cutler with better offensive talent and plan to showcase him in Marc Trestman's pass-happy attack. Again, don't expect him to hit the market next year.

Michael Vick, Philadelphia Eagles--Vick was brought back on a one-year "prove it" deal. If he cuts down on turnovers, he has a chance to succeed in Chip Kelly's offense. But he turns 33 in late June and has Nick Foles and Matt Barkley looking over his shoulder.

Josh Freeman, Tampa Bay Buccaneers--Freeman is still only 25 and has the tools to become a top-tier quarterback, but the consistency hasn't been there yet. It doesn't help that the coaching staff has been openly talking up rookie Mike Glennon and stressing that the position is up for competition this season. Freeman is entering a make-or-break year.

Running Backs

Maurice Jones-Drew, Jacksonville Jaguars--Jones-Drew's future with the Jaguars was already shaky after holding out and missing most of the 2012 season with a foot injury. If he can come back healthy and re-establish himself as a top-five back, he may be too expensive for the team to keep.

Darren McFadden, Oakland Raiders--As usual, injuries are a big concern for the otherwise talented running back. Last year he was stuck in a misguided zone-blocking scheme. Moving back to the power-blocking attack should help him.

Wide Receivers

Devin Hester, Chicago Bears--The Bears are wisely keeping Hester exclusively on special teams, but he failed to score any return touchdowns last year and he is turning 31 in November. If he can't play receiver and his returning skills are indeed in decline, how much value does he really have left?

Eric Decker, Denver Broncos--Decker enjoyed a breakout year and may be looking for a bigger paycheck. It remains to be seen how the arrival of Wes Welker will affect his targets.

James Jones, Green Bay Packers--Jones' big year made the Packers feel better about letting Greg Jennings go. He will start on the outside and if he continues his ascent, it will be interesting to see if the frugal Packers decide to pay him.

Hakeem Nicks, New York Giants--Nicks is skipping OTAs and, while the exact reason is not known, some believe he's looking for a new contract. The Giants may not be eager to pay him right now, given his injury problems last year and the ongoing struggle with his teammate ...

Victor Cruz, New York Giants--The restricted free agent signed his tender, but he's holding out and contract talks have recently hit a stalemate. The two sides are reportedly $2 million apart in negoations.

Jeremy Maclin, Philadelphia Eagles--The former first-round pick has been a bit of a disappointment, never reaching 1,000 yards in a season. His next contract mostly depends on how he adapts to Kelly's offense.

Emmanuel Sanders, Pittsburgh Steelers--Sanders is replacing Mike Wallace as the No. 2 starter opposite Antonio Bryant. He's on a one-year restricted free agent deal, and could be in line for a nice pay raise if he produces in his new role.

Danario Alexander, San Diego Chargers--Alexander was a minor revelation last year after being signed off the streets in October. The Chargers brought him back for one year to see if he can produce over a full season. It is worth keeping an eye on his health -- knee injuries have hampered him in the past.

Kenny Britt, Tennessee Titans--Britt's season was derailed by knee injuries and legal issues. He's now fully healthy and is staying out of trouble, so there's reason to believe he can live up to his potential. Can Jake Locker get the ball to him, though?

Tight Ends

Tony Gonzalez, Atlanta Falcons--Gonzalez was on the road to retirement, but his teammates and coaches convinced him to come back for one more year. Will this year be the real farewell tour?

Jimmy Graham, New Orleans Saints--Graham was hampered by a wrist injury, but he still racked up 982 yards and nine touchdowns. If healthy, his next contract could dwarf the five-year, $35.11 million deal Jared Cook just got this offseason.

Jermichael Finley, Green Bay Packers--The talented but enigmatic tight end is entering a make-or-break year. He will have every chance to succeed with Greg Jennings gone and Aaron Rodgers still throwing to him.

Offensive Linemen

Michael Oher, Baltimore Ravens--Oher has bounced between right and left tackle for most of his career, with fine but unspectacular production on both sides. He's currently expected to stay on the blind side in 2013.

Alex Mack, Cleveland Browns--One of the best centers in the league, Mack will be a hot commodity if he somehow hits the market next year. The Browns would be wise to extend him as soon as possible to avoid any distractions.

Ryan Clady, Denver Broncos--As the protector of Peyton Manning's blind side, the Broncos are rightfully scrambling to get a long-term deal done after putting the franchise tag on him. Clady is holding out of offseason workouts and has yet to sign his tender. Expect a deal to get done before the season starts.

Eugene Monroe, Jacksonville Jaguars--The Jaguars have already confirmed that they won't talk to Monroe about an extension until after the season, so for now No. 2 pick Luke Joeckel is manning the right side.

Branden Albert, Kansas City Chiefs--Ditto Albert and the Chiefs. Kansas City tried to trade Albert after putting the franchise tag on him, but negotiations fell apart before the draft. No. 1 pick Eric Fisher will work at right tackle and Albert will try again for a new deal after the season.

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