Free agency’s impact portion’s conclusion opens the door to early examinations of a star-studded — as of now, before new contracts are signed and franchise tags are applied — 2016 class. USA Today looks at a contingent that includes Eli Manning, Dez Bryant, Von Miller, A.J. Green and Marcell Dareus, among many other top-caliber performers.
The crop is high on pass-catchers and pass-rushers. Demaryius Thomas, particularly if the Broncos cannot get a deal done for Miller this offseason, becomes an interesting name, with Julio Jones and T.Y. Hilton joining Bryant and Green as No. 1 receiving options. Of the aforementioned wideouts, Thomas, who could be franchised for a second straight season, probably has the best chance of reaching the market, with Peyton Manning‘s waning career tied inextricably to his.
Aldon Smith, Justin Houston and Jason Pierre-Paul headline the edge-pursing group, with the disgruntled Houston likely facing a lengthy staredown with the Chiefs and Smith’s off-field issues potentially holding up his future with the 49ers.
On to some additional news from Saturday night …
- Former Packers longtime second-level cog Desmond Bishop will visit the 49ers on Monday, reports Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com on Twitter. Reeling from retirements and injuries, the 49ers, who signed the 30-year-old San Francisco native in December after now-retired Chris Borland suffered a season-ending malady, have a need at the position. Bishop’s played both middle and outside linebacker in his eight-year career. The 49ers are also bringing in Lance Briggs for a visit Monday, as we noted earlier.
- The Browns are facing a future that may not include Alex Mack after the 2015 season, with the transition-tagged center having an opt-out clause in the contract he signed with the Jaguars before the Browns matched it last spring. Cleveland is likely to select a center or an interior lineman with versatility high in the draft, writes ESPNCleveland’s Tony Grossi. The All-Pro center cannot be traded in an NBA-style expiring-contract scenario since a no-trade clause resides in Mack’s contract to prevent such a move.
- Johnny Manziel and Connor Shaw are going to be the Browns‘ quarterback options this season, Grossi said, with the focus of adding a franchise-caliber signal-caller on the agenda for next offseason. Although the Browns may add a lower-tier prospect in the draft, Grossi noted the team won’t target Sam Bradford in a last-minute trade centered on the No. 19 pick they attempted to send to the Rams for him, instead preferring to use the two first-round picks as supplementary pieces.
- Miami (Ohio) University cornerback Quinten Rollins will visit the Browns, Cowboys, Lions and Panthers, Yahoo Sports’ Rand Getlin notes on Twitter. The 2014 MAC defensive player of the year (after a seven-interception season) despite playing just one year of college football has visits with 10 teams scheduled.
- Ryan O’Halloran of the Florida Times-Union took a detailed look at Greg Jennings‘ 2014 film and points out the potential fit for the Jaguars. Jettisoned after two unremarkable Vikings years, the 31-year-old Jennings would be an upgrade in Jacksonville, which houses Allen Hurns and Marqise Lee — two of Pro Football Focus’ least-favorite receivers; subscription required — and a talented but coming-off-injury Allen Robinson as its top-3 targets.
- In a chat with readers, Dallas Morning News reporter Rainer Sabin does not expect the Cowboys to draft a quarterback this year and believes the team will replenish its lacking defense with the No. 27 overall pick, unless they feel the need to use the valuable slot to replace DeMarco Murray.