The NFL free agency period starts March 10. With the deadline for teams to use the franchise tag having passed, we now have a clearer idea of who will be available and who has been designated with the franchise tag.
One of those players who wasn’t tagged is Detroit’s Ndamukong Suh. Suh, arguably the best defensive tackle in the league, will have many suitors, though only those with the most cap space can afford him.
According to ESPN’s Field Yates (requires Insider subscription), Jacksonville ($67 million), Indianapolis ($41 million), Oakland ($53 million), NYJets ($54 million), and Cleveland ($53 million) have the most cap space available this offseason.
Oakland Targeting Suh?
Sports World Reports’ M. Jussim reports that the Oakland Raiders, who have more than $50 million in salary cap space, will be active in free agency. The 28-year-old Suh, who is a four-time Pro Bowler and one of the more intimidating figures in the game, is one of those free agents they’ll target.
According to Rotoworld, Suh is looking to be the NFL’s highest paid defensive player, which would require his contract to top that of Houston defensive end J.J. Watt’s six-year $100 million deal, that includes $51.8 million in guaranteed money.
Other targets for the woeful Raiders, who haven’t been to the postseason since 2002, may include Julius Thomas, Randall Cobb, Michael Crabtree, and Jeremy Maclin.
Justin Houston Might Not Sign Franchise Tender
The Chiefs have decided to franchise linebacker Justin Houston, who led the NFL with 22 sacks this season. But because they used the non-exclusive version of the tag, Houston could conceivably sign with another team, so long as that team is willing to surrender a pair of first-round picks to Kansas City. The Chiefs would have the option of matching the offer.
According to Mike Florio of NBC Sports, Houston is planning to aggressively search for a team willing to give up those first-rounders to sign him and is even intent on not signing his tender until the Week 10 deadline.
Further, Florio also reports that Houston will at the very least explore the possibility of filing a grievance seeking the defensive end franchise tag, which is worth $14.78 million (roughly $1.5 million more than the linebacker tag) according to NFL Network’s Albert Greer:
And again, here are franchise tag projections that clubs are using based on a $143 million cap … pic.twitter.com/7dxeIM3jaD
— Albert Breer (@AlbertBreer) March 2, 2015
Redskins, Bucs Interested in Iupati
San Francisco 49ers offensive lineman Mike Iupati, a three-time Pro Bowler, is garnering interest from Washington and Tampa Bay, according to a report by Dianna Marie Russini of NBC Washington.
Of course, what team wouldn’t want a good offensive lineman in the prime of his career? The five-year veteran Iupati, 27, is a 6-foot-5, 330-pound guard who was a first-team All-Pro in 2012. The Redskins, who allowed 58 sacks last season and finished 19th in rushing yards, could use an upgrade.
Julius Thomas to Get Paid?
Broncos tight end Julius Thomas, who has been a Pro Bowl selection each of the past two seasons, has already rejected a five-year $40 million offer from Denver as he’s hoping to receive a deal with near-record guaranteed money for a player at his position, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com. Rapoport expects Oakland, Jacksonville, and Atlanta to bid for Thomas’s services.
Should Thomas bolt Denver, Peyton Manning would lose one of his favorite targets, although new head coach Gary Kubiak’s scheme requires more blocking from the tight end position.
The Broncos are expected to let him test out free agency while applying the franchise tag to teammate Demaryius Thomas.