Every year at this time, Around The NFL releases a preliminary ranking of the top free agents as well as a detailed overview of franchise-tag candidates. The problem with those lists, however, is that a disproportionate number of the premier free agents stay with their teams via the tag or a long-term contract.
With that in mind, let's take a look at some of the most interesting players headed for the open market and new opportunities in a different NFL city. Below are 10 impending free agents likely to switch teams in March:
1. Eric Weddle, San Diego Chargers safety: The writing has been on the wall since last offseason when Weddle said he felt "highly disrespected" by the organization's refusal to negotiate a contract extension. By January, the three-time Pro Bowler told reporters that he would probably never speak to the Chargers again. NFL teams don't throw big money at aging defensive stars, but Weddle is still playing at a high level in his early thirties. Potential fits include the Raiders, Giants and Redskins.
2. Matt Forte, Chicago Bears running back: The Bears announced that Forte will not be re-signed, which means the player with the most yards from scrimmage since 2008 will reach the open market. Don't expect Forte to default to the highest bidder, though, as he recently made it clear to NFL Network that competing for a chance to play in the Super Bowl is a higher priority than a mega contract.
It will be interesting to see if teams are scared off by the recent history of big-name free-agent running backs such as Steven Jackson, Frank Gore and DeMarco Murray. Still, Forte would be a monstrous upgrade on Jackson in New England if he doesn't opt to reunite with Marc Trestman in Baltimore.
3. Bruce Irvin, Seattle Seahawks pass rusher: Irvin has hinted at accepting slightly less money to stay with Pete Carroll, but he still might price himself out of the picture with a pair of former Seattle defensive coordinators running the show in Atlanta and Jacksonville. After the Seahawks declined his 2016 option last offseason, the former first-round pick was quoted as saying he was interested in returning home to play for the Falcons, a team sorely in need of young edge rushers.
4. Damon Harrison, New York Jets defensive tackle: With Muhammad Wilkersonexpected to draw the franchise tag, the future of "Snacks" is up in the air on a crowded Jets defensive line. Harrison firmly believes he's the league's premier run-stuffing nose tackle and will want to be compensated accordingly.
5. Greg Hardy, Dallas Cowboys defensive end: Hardy was one of the Cowboys' most effective defensive stars last season, but he has tested the patience of otherwise lenient owner Jerry Jones with his tone-deaf public comments, sideline antics and off-the-field behavior. Coach Jason Garrett refused to discuss Hardy's future in end-of-season sessions with reporters. The remorseless one's talent will likely ensure another opportunity even if his character issues cost him money on the open market.
6. Lamar Miller, Miami Dolphins running back: The Dolphins reportedly want to re-sign Miller after watching three different play-callers underutilize him in the past three years. It's a tricky situation, though, with salary-cap issues, a possible franchise tag for pass rusher Olivier Vernon and the organization's belief that 2015 fifth-round pick Jay Ajayi is a starting-caliber running back. If Doug Martin returns to Tampa Bay, Miller could leapfrog Forte as the most coveted back available.
7. Derrick Shelby, Miami Dolphins defensive end: Shelby might not be a household name, but he had one of the NFL's most overlooked contract-year pushes as Cameron Wake's replacement down the stretch last season. A stout run defender with exceptionally strong hands, Shelby also made a habit of bulldozing linemen into the quarterback's lap as a disruptive interior force on third downs. Although he lacks the speed to emerge as a premier edge rusher, Shelby is a versatile defensive lineman just entering the prime of his career. If the Dolphins find a way to keep Vernon, Shelby will be in line for an expanded role in another city.
8. Dwayne Allen, Indianapolis Colts tight end: Allen has publicly stated a desire to return to Indianapolis, but multiple beat writers have sensed frustration with his diminished role in the Colts' aerial attack. A well-rounded tight end, Allen is a physical blocker with suddenness after the catch and the ability to wall off defenders in the red zone. He has Pro Bowl potential if he stays healthy and lands with a savvy coordinator who will play to his strengths in an every-down role. He would be an interesting fit with the Falcons, who have struggled to find a successor to Tony Gonzalez.
9. Andre Smith, Cincinnati Bengals right tackle: A slimmed-down Smith entered training camp with a vow to develop beyond "mediocre" only to suffer through the most disappointing season of his seven-year career. The Bengals signaled their intention to move on by selecting tackles Cedric Ogbuehi and Jake Fisher in the first two rounds of last year's draft.
10. Alfred Morris, Washington Redskins running back: Morris lost his stranglehold on the starter's job last season, splitting time with rookie Matt Jones in a Redskins ground attack that never could get on track. Team president Bruce Allen tipped his hand earlier this month, telling reporters, "If he gets a great contract (elsewhere), we're going to applaud him." A power back lacking receiving chops, Morris would fill a need as a timeshare back alongside Theo Riddick and Ameer Abdullah in Detroit.
Other possibilities:Sam Bradford, Jason Pierre-Paul, Marvin Jones, Chris Johnson, Reggie Bush, Vernon Davis, Rishard Matthews, Casey Hayward