Five things to watch in free agency


The free-agent scramble is set to begin Tuesday at 4 p.m. ET.

Unlike in recent years, teams are loaded with money to spend thanks to the $10 million salary-cap increase to $133 million. Despite the big increase, teams still will be a bit defensive and conservative with their spending. Not many impact players are hitting the market, and teams know it can be wiser to invest in their own free agents.

Two of the best pass-rushers were kept off the market when the Carolina Panthers used the franchise tag on defensive end Greg Hardy and the Washington Redskins did the same with linebacker Brian Orakpo. With those players out of the mix, it's possible that no free agent will get a contract worth more than $10 million a year -- but it takes only one team to pay big.

Defensive players should get bigger deals than their offensive counterparts. Defensive linemen, cornerbacks and safeties will get bigger deals than most of the receivers, running backs, tight ends and quarterbacks in this market.

The deals should come quickly because of the amount of money available and the fact that there's been a three-day negotiation period to let agents and teams figure out the values of the players.

Here are five things to look for in free agency:

1. Don't get blindsided at tackle: The tackle market will be fun to watch because of how quickly the left tackles will sign and what the impact will be.  Branden Albert of the Kansas City Chiefs is at the top of the left tackle list and will go to the highest bidder. Expect that to be the Miami Dolphins. The Dolphins explored trading for him last year, but nothing got done. The Arizona Cardinals and Miami are the two most desperate teams in the tackle market. Unless the Cardinals can wrestle Albert away from Miami, expect them to move on Jared Veldheer of the Oakland Raiders or Eugene Monroe of the Baltimore Ravens. The Ravens are trying to protect Joe Flacco's blind side by keeping Monroe.

The surprise could be Veldheer getting out of Oakland. If Veldheer leaves, the Raiders could move on Rodger Saffold of the St. Louis Rams. Saffold could be an option at right tackle for the Dolphins, too, but the money is at left tackle. Saffold has played both tackle positions but started his career on the left side. The game of musical chairs doesn't stop there. Cincinnati Bengals tackle Anthony Collins drew a lot of interest over the weekend and could knock Donald Penn out of a job in Tampa Bay.

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