We have arrived at the second wave of free agency.
A manic, unpredictable, big-spending frenzy highlighted the opening of the 2017 league year, but in a lot of ways, the best is yet to come. One marquee quarterback could be on the move, while another former marquee passer starts to scope out his market. There are All-Pros, upstarts and first-round picks galore waiting to find out where they'll play next.
In that spirit, here are eight things to look out for as we head into the next phase of the free agency period:
1) What will become of Tony Romo?
Let's get the obvious out of the way first: Dallas is looking to recoup value, potential suitors are deciding what they might want to offer and, as NFL Network's Jane Slater noted, Romo is deciding exactly what he wants to do. Is retirement still on the table? Will Jerry Jones just release Romo after all? This item leads the list because of the profound impact a singular move could have on whichever franchise lands Romo. While the swirling drama is artificially inflating Romo's mystique to something on the Montana scale, he would be a considerable upgrade for a team like Houston, which already possesses a championship-caliber defense. Over the coming days, the wall-to-wall coverage has the potential to tire observers out, but it exists for good reason: If he is healthy, there is no one left on this list who can alter the NFL season as significantly as Tony Romo.
2) How will the veteran running back market shape up?
When it comes to star power, there are few positional groups that will drive as much attention as running back. Adrian Peterson, Jamaal Charles and Latavius Murray are all making the rounds at the moment -- all of them making visits to Seattle, where Eddie Lacyagreed to terms on a one-year deal Tuesday -- and there's a solid chance all of them end up with new teams. While NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport had noted that Peterson's best spot may end up being a return to Minnesota, his desire to contend for a Super Bowl could lead him to a team imaginative enough to incorporate his throwback rushing style into its repertoire. All of these players, when healthy, can add a punishing dynamic to their respective clubs, yet complementary running backs like Danny Woodhead, Mike Tolbert and Kyle Juszczyk were the first to ink deals. The picture might change now that Lacy has signed a one-year "prove it" deal, opening the door for the rest of this year's backs to start filtering in.
3) What to make of the interior defensive line market?
Brandon Williams flew off the shelf and didn't do much to lower the market value of interior run-stoppers, staying with the Ravens on a five-year, $54 million deal, including $27.5 million guaranteed. As NFL Network's Mike Garafolo noted, Williams wanted a contract at or above what the Giants paid interior ace Damon "Snacks" Harrison last year, and he got it. So where does that leave former first-round pick Dontari Poe and former second-round pick Johnathan Hankins, among others? These are immediate-impact starters who have had excellent success against the run. And Poe can line up across the defensive line. Poe has already made visits to the Colts and Jaguars, with the Falconscoming up next, if Jacksonville lets him leave. Bennie Logansigned with the Chiefs on Monday, perhaps as an indication that Poe and Hankins need to lower their prices a bit before we see activity.
4) Clarity on Jay Cutler coming?
Depending on how you feel about the future prospects of Colin Kaepernick -- remember, he did go off against a good Dolphins defense last year, putting up 296 yards through the air and 113 on the ground in Week 12, and he still might have that ability -- Jay Cutler is the best free-agent quarterback currently on the market. The general public has grown weary of the maybe this offensive coordinator can make it work scenario, but the truth is, he's above replacement-level and has had some good seasons in recent years. As Rapoport noted, Cutler and the Jets are keeping an eye on one another for now, but as the offseason goes on, we might see some movement. Should Cutler come in and be expected to start, he's going to need some time with a playbook and his new weapons. Voluntary workouts are coming sooner than we think.
5) Can Dont'a Hightower just return to New England already?
The financial Stockholm syndrome Bill Belichick is able to create among players who remain in New England is something, and it seems like all signs are pointing toward the Patriots star linebacker coming home to win more championships. A market certainly exists, with the Jets among the stable of interested buyers, but the prospect of winning another Super Bowl title might be too great -- and worth a hometown discount. Belichick has shown this offseason that he's certainly not cheap -- Stephon Gilmoreis reportedly coming in at around $13 million per year -- but he's also not emotionally attached. Just ask Malcolm Butler.
6) Speaking of Malcolm Butler ...
Rapoport believes the Patriots would welcome another team coming in and signing Butler to an offer sheet. New England would surely like to recoup a first-round pick after trading one away to the Saints for Brandin Cooks. Unhappiness is relative at this time of year. Players like Butler who start the month of March in that state usually end the month with a long-term deal, or at least some clarity on their future. Butler could easily be considered the best defensive back "on the market," even if the hurdle is quite high to get him.
7) Do the Jaguars continue shopping at the top of the market?
Jacksonville has, once again, used its treasure trove of cap space to buy at the top of the free agent market this year. Deals with A.J. Bouye and Calais Campbell could just be a prelude to a busier spring. The Jaguarshave also been tied to Latavius Murray and Dontari Poe. The mandate from ownership seems to be clear: This version of the Jaguars must be significantly better than anything Shad Khan has seen before.
8) When does the veteran market pick up?
There are some very good players in their 30s who can definitely help a team on the cusp of making the playoffs. Anquan Boldin, Chris Long, Jairus Byrd, DeAngelo Williams, Nick Mangold, Dwight Freeney and Mario Williams are all available and could probably all be had on affordable one-year contracts. While veterans sometimes wait the process out and skip OTAs, there are plenty who seem eager to jump right back into football.