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Randall Cobb to Browns? Identifying matches for free agents

Leonard Nimoy has passed away, so for a huge fan of the original "Star Trek," consider this a diversion into something speculative, but light.

Mr. Spock was always lovable but logical, and we have endeavored to be the same while pairing some big free-agent names with prospective teams. This is an update of a piece I did a week ago, with some changes to the landing spots I once pondered on -- again, we endeavor to be logical.

Here are some quick thoughts off the top:

a)Ndamukong Suh will stay in Detroit (not wavering on this as much as I once was).
b)Dez Bryant seems to be in some trouble in Big D, at least when it comes to him getting the contract he wants.
c)Demaryius Thomas will be catching footballs from a lesser-paid Peyton Manning.
d)Justin Houston and his 22 sacks will be going nowhere, secured by the franchise tag if not a long-term deal.
e)Harry Douglas would be a nice signing for about 10 teams in the league.

Jeremy Maclin is a receiver who could help more than 10 teams, but I believe he will remain an Eagle. And the Patriots would be awfully smart to re-sign or franchise Devin McCourty -- I feel strongly this will happen.

But below is where it gets fun, as the speculation runs rampant on some high-profile guys who have a 50-50 shot (or better) of leaving their current team. Please do remember that the free agency period won't commence until March 10, and that salary-cap situations are quite fluid. Feel free to let your thoughts on the below flow: @HarrisonNFL is the place.

Let us begin!

The asking price on Randall Cobb might simply get out of hand, which could squash my prior notion that Seattle could make a carefully-crafted run at the talented 24-year-old. Cobb still figures to be the biggest-name free agent to actually hit the open market. I would like the Chiefs, who didn't get a single touchdown from a wide receiver in 2014, to add Cobb -- if their salary-cap situation didn't seem to preclude that. Can't imagine Cobb is champing at the bit to leave Aaron Rodgers in Green Bay, but getting the opportunity to be a No. 1 -- along with the opportunity to make more money -- might lead him elsewhere. Which leads me to the team that needs a WR in the worst way AND has more than the financial wherewithal required to land one: Cleveland. That said, joining the Browns -- or former teammate James Jones in Oakland -- would be tough for Cobb after enjoying significant team success with the Packers. I think players are learning about the perils of leaving winning pastures for greener pastures. Still, you never know what Jacksonville might throw out there.

Hardy's situation is certainly up in the air -- it's the toughest deal to decipher among these names. The Panthers, even if they did want to retain him, should have a lot less cap money than other teams, making it easier for another organization to make a more lucrative offer to the impending free agent. Atlanta could certainly use Hardy, but the Falcons also have to extend receiver Julio Jones, who is entering the last year of his contract, and could be looking elsewhere first. With no sexy quarterbacks on the market, look for Cincinnati to potentially spend its money on a pass rusher or on the secondary. But would the club sign a guy who has had some off-the-field question marks -- and who might yet face discipline from the NFL despite the domestic violence charges against him being dismissed? The Raiders could be the strongest player here, and certainly have an excess of need and funds. Plus, there's the fact that the collective bargaining agreement mandates that teams spend 89 percent of their cap space from 2013 to 2016 -- the Raiders are way behind that pace.

With word getting around about the tentative footing Dez Bryant's off-field reputation stands on, the possibility of retaining Bryant and Murray is much stronger. (See: Bryant on the tag, Murray on a multi-year deal.) Let's face it: Teams are no longer investing in the running back position -- whether via high draft picks or free-agency dollars. Ben Tate stood out as a notable free-agent running back last year, and he went on to bomb in Cleveland, failing to even finish the 2014 season with the Browns. I'm not saying Tate and Murray are the same player, of course, just that the RB open market is bound to cool. If the Bills let Jerry Hughes (who we'll get to in a moment) walk, I could see new coach Rex Ryan wanting Murray, but it won't happen; Buffalo has other concerns, and other fiscal concerns slash targets. The Jaguars, on the other hand, have the need and can afford Murray. And then there's a certain playoff team that could take the next step with a big-time RB, provided the Colts are ready to take another chance on acquiring one ... ah, the ghosts of Trent-gate.

I don't have the Jaguars here because I think that front office is going to make a bigger splash than Jerry Hughes. The Giants are probably going to franchise (or get a long-term deal done with) Jason Pierre-Paul. The Browns, given their pass-rushing needs, and funds available, certainly could take a long look at Hughes. You know Dan Quinn in Atlanta needs edge rushers. Ditto the Bengals. Hughes could sign a long-term deal with the Bills, but I seriously doubt they'll apply the franchise tag on him, given the cost, what they're already paying end Mario Williams and the fact that Marcell Dareus is entering the final year of his deal. General manager Doug Whaley has expressed a desire to retain Hughes, but if the money isn't right, Hughes might explore trying to show he can succeed without guys like Williams and Dareus around him. Hughes has racked up 20 sacks as a 4-3 defensive end the last two years -- not easy to find that kind of pedigree on the market, but buyer beware.

Thomas returning to the Broncos seems more plausible now, given that more funds could become available if Peyton Manning signs a team-friendly deal. It would still be an upset, though, given the money teams are likely to toss at a versatile playmaker in his prime. The Falcons make sense for Thomas, but I like Atlanta to focus on defense. Cleveland and Jacksonville both have the need and the funds in this area (imagine going from Manning to Johnny Manziel). The Jags are going to be players this offseason, and what better way to establish this than by adding a talented player on defense (like Hardy or Suh) and another young guy who changes the way teams defend you?

Who knows where Forsett will land? The Ravens have made it clear they want him back. Forsett wants a place he can stay awhile, but he should find that teams won't be falling over themselves to sign a 29-year-old running back to a long-term, lucrative deal. What amazing times, when the future of a Pro Bowl back who just rushed for 1,266 yards is as clouded as that of the 47th man on the roster. Denver would be nice, but the Broncos already have a good player in C.J. Anderson, plus Montee Ball to develop. The Tennessee Titans certainly make sense, as do the Minnesota Vikings, if they wind up having to replace Adrian Peterson. After getting rid of Chris Johnson, the Jets could be in the Forsett business. My guess? Forsett signs a modest deal to stay in Baltimore.

The 49ers could certainly apply the franchise tag to Iupati, yet they have several other concerns on the roster to sort out that will impact whether they even have the financial wherewithal to do so. Tampa Bay reportedly is going to be a player in free agency again, and certainly could use a player of Iupati's ilk. (Logan Mankins isn't getting any younger.) Still, the idea of the Bucs being aggressive after they struck out with Michael Johnson and Josh McCown ... tough call there. The Colts could use Iupati to provide Andrew Luck with a little help, and to spruce up that run game. But would GM Ryan Grigson, a former offensive lineman himself, spend the resources to get Iupati? My guess is that Indy will use the draft to address this area. Ditto for Jacksonville. Both the Raiders and Dolphins should be looking to upgrade the guard position, but Miami simply can't afford Iupati. The Jets have the needs and the means.

This is really about whether or not the Saints -- who might have had the worst cap situation of all teams coming into this offseason -- can afford to bring back Ingram. One of 2014's most improved players, Ingram's attitude and desire are not under question. I could absolutely see Rex Ryan wanting Mark Ingram in Buffalo, with C.J. Spiller on his way out and Fred Jackson a role player at this point. Ingram is only 25 years old and should have much left in the tank. The issue here is how deep running back is in this year's draft, and, in regard to the Bills, whether or not they spend to keep Hughes on the defense. Meanwhile, Tennessee could be another option. Consider this a Shonn Greene upgrade. The Titans could pair Ingram with Bishop Sankey and, with a healthier offensive line, excel on the ground.

Follow Elliot Harrison on Twitter @HarrisonNFL.

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