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2014 NFL free agents: Connecting the dots with coaching changes

When we finally do see coordinators change teams for head coaching positions, will we also see free agents follow?

Hannah Foslien

Leslie Frazier will be the defensive coordinator for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers under new head coach Lovie Smith. Frazier was ousted from his job with the Minnesota Vikings once the offseason hit. He was with the team for seven years before he found himself without a job.

That's a healthy length of time. As Ira Kaufman of the Tampa Tribune notes, Frazier's time in Minnesota could help his new team lure a particular free agent to Tampa Bay ... defensive end Jared Allen. Frazier was the defensive coordinator for the Vikings from 2007 through 2010 before he took over as head coach, and Allen flourished under his schemes.

It's unclear if the Vikings will let Allen out of their grasp. If they do, smart money is that Frazier had some sway over the four-time first-team All-Pro.

Smith by the Buccaneers and Bill O'Brien by the Houston Texans are the only two new coaches have who been hired in the NFL this year. Few free agents can be tied to them--guys like Lance Briggs and Devin Hester come to mind due to Smith's longtime tenure with the Chicago Bears prior to this past season--but there are plenty of coaching candidates who have interviewed around the league who could hold sway over some big-name players. We're going to take a look at those coaches below.

Jim Caldwell, Baltimore Ravens

Teams Interested: Lions, Redskins, Titans

Former Indianapolis Colts head coach and current Ravens offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell has received interest from at least three teams according to various reports since the conclusion of the regular season. The Ravens struggled on offense this season, but Caldwell wasn't necessarily at fault. The team suffered through several injuries and a down year for Ray Rice.

On the Ravens' offense, there are three names of note set to hit the open market: tight end Dennis Pitta, offensive tackle Michael Oher and kick returner/wide receiver Jacoby Jones.

Pitta is a big name based solely on his potential. When Caldwell took over as offensive coordinator in 2012, Pitta had a breakout season with 61 receptions for 669 yards and seven touchdowns. He was particularly effective in the red zone, where Caldwell let him flourish. Jones has also been solid under Caldwell, with 37 receptions for 455 yards and two touchdowns this season. Given the right situation--such as the one currently brewing in Washington, a team with a great quarterback and few receiving options--Jones could come into his own.

Then there's Oher, who should command a solid contract this offseason. All three of the teams that have been linked to Caldwell could use a player like Oher.

Ken Whisenhunt, San Diego Chargers

Teams Interested: Lions, Redskins, Vikings, Titans

Chargers offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt has been a hot commodity this offseason. The reason: Whisenhunt has done very well helping quarterback Philip Rivers get back on track, and the Chargers' offense has been among the best in the league this season. Whisenhunt hasn't agreed to go elsewhere just yet because the Chargers are still in the playoffs.

San Diego doesn't have very many big-name free agents this offseason, but there is one interesting candidate: wide receiver Danario Alexander. The Chargers were expected to use Alexander as one of their top receivers in 2013, and many were excited about what he could bring as a deep threat. Unfortunately, he tore his ACL in August and had to have surgery, and missed the entirety of the season.

Alexander was building up a lot of hype in Whisenhunt's offense before his injury, however, and the wide receiver may rely on Whisenhunt to help him become what he was supposed to be this season. The Lions could use another option outside of Calvin Johnson, the Vikings are always looking for receiving help, and neither the Redskins nor the Titans have much to work with.

Sean McDermott, Carolina Panthers

Interested Teams: Redskins

Sean McDermott has been in charge of a strong Panthers defense for three seasons. This year, the defense has carried the team straight into the playoffs, and now McDermott is considered a candidate to take over the Redskins' head coaching position. Of course, it seems there are few people who are NOT being considered for that job from what we can see, but McDermott is nonetheless worth noting.

There is one big-name player on the Carolina defense set to hit the open market: defensive end Greg Hardy. The team failed to get him signed to an extension after the 2012 season when he had 11 sacks, and his value is even higher now that he has been named to his first Pro Bowl. Hardy is an excellent player who should receive a franchise tag if the Panthers can't get him signed to a long-term deal.

If the deal doesn't happen and the tag doesn't come, Hardy could follow McDermott to Washington, where Dan Snyder is not afraid to spend big for big-name free agents.

Darrell Bevell and Dan Quinn, Seattle Seahawks

Teams Interested: Redskins, Vikings, Browns

The Redskins and Vikings are interested in bringing in Seahawks offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell for an interview, and the Cleveland Browns have already spoken to defensive coordinator Dan Quinn. There are some strong names on list of Seahawks free agents, including wide receiver Golden Tate, defensive end Michael Bennett and cornerback Brandon Browner.

Browner is one of the top cornerbacks in the game, though he is dealing with an indefinite suspension. When he will return is difficult to guess. When he is ready to sign with another team, Quinn could easily bring him along. Pairing Browner with Joe Haden in Cleveland would be huge. Cleveland is always looking for more defensive linemen as well, and Bennett will want a bigger opportunity than the one he received in Seattle.

We've already talked about how the Redskins and Vikings need a receiver. This season, Tate has caught 64 passes for 898 yards and five touchdowns. He is certainly worth a look as a No. 2 in either city.

Vic Fangio and Greg Roman, San Francisco 49ers

Teams Interested: Redskins, Vikings

The Redskins are interested (seems like we've said this a lot) in 49ers defensive coordinator Vic Fangio and offensive coordinator Greg Roman. The Vikings have their eyes on Roman as well. There are multiple big-name players in San Francisco who could hit the open market.

For Fangio, safety Donte Whitner and cornerbacks Tramaine Brock and Tarell Brown are set to become free agents. Whitner has revitalized his career under Fangio, and may want to stick with him wherever he goes to maintain their relationship. Brock is also playing very well under Fangio, and Brown has been consistent in recent seasons. All three players will command solid contracts, and all three could help the Redskins.

For Roman, there's wide receivers Anquan Boldin and Mario Manningham. Boldin has only been with the team for one season, but he has been very good under Roman and could follow him elsewhere for what might be the last season of his career. Manningham has been solid when he isn't hurt, and could try his luck elsewhere, possibly with Roman on a team with less receiving depth.

Josh McDaniels, New England Patriots

Teams Interested: Browns

McDaniels is not very well-regarded by fans these days, but he is an excellent offensive coordinator and has had a tendency to prefer players he has worked with in the past. There are two names that immediately jump out when glancing over New England's list of pending free agents: wide receiver Julian Edelman and running back LeGarrette Blount.

Edelman is going to be a priority for the Patriots this offseason, but if the Patriots can't get him signed, the Browns are always looking for more offensive firepower. Edelman has flourished under McDaniels and should be rewarded with a big contract. Blount has been solid this season, with 772 yards rushing and seven touchdowns splitting time with Stevan Ridley.

Cleveland is in desperate need of help at running back, and Blount has to like the idea of working with McDaniels as the featured back. The Browns are possibly the best fit imaginable for Blount.

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