Scramble for free agents kicks off Tuesday

Mon Mar 10, 2014 2:37pm EDT
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(Reuters) - Strategic maneuvering for next season's Super Bowl campaign gets underway in earnest on Tuesday when the National Football League's free agent signing period kicks into action.

Over 100 players populate a free agent class that includes proven veterans and Pro Bowl players in their prime, who may have cheaper, younger players ready to step in for them on their former teams.

The deepest pools of talent match the current emphasis on the aerial game in the league, with a host of talented wide receivers and defensive backs available to the highest bidder.

Free agent wide receivers include two players showcased in last month's Super Bowl in Golden Tate of the champion Seattle Seahawks and Eric Decker of the runner-up Denver Broncos.

Also on the list are Emmanuel Sanders of the Pittsburgh Steelers, Julian Edelman of the New England Patriots and Hakeem Nicks of the New York Giants.

The NFL salary cap will increase by about $10 million to $133 million and teams have been paring high-priced players from their rosters with an eye toward opening their pocketbooks to address specific areas of need.

Teams needing to fortify their defensive secondaries have good candidates to ponder.

Three-time Pro Bowl safety Jairus Byrd, 27, of the Buffalo Bills, who has intercepted nine passes in the last two seasons, is available along with Cleveland Browns safety T.J. Ward, who made his first Pro Bowl last season.

Cornerbacks on the free-agent market include 25-year-old Alterraun Verner of the Tennessee Titans, who had five picks last year, Vontae Davis of the Indianapolis Colts, Aqib Talib of the Patriots and Sam Shields of the Green Bay Packers.   Continued...

Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Golden Tate (C) walks to their NFL Super Bowl XLVIII walk-through in East Rutherford, New Jersey February 1, 2014. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton