The list of big name free agents this year is huge! Carl Edwards, Clint Bowyer, Juan Pablo Montoya, Greg Biffle, Jeff Burton, Ryan Newman, Brian Vickers and Mark Martin. All great racers with tons of talent. When I first glanced at this list I thought there probably wouldn't be much movement among these drivers as they are all in pretty good positions. Each driver has a competitive team and a good relationship with their sponser. Moving would not likely give any one of these drivers a better shot at being competitive. That being said, when I considered the situation a little closer, there are a couple potential occurances that would open the door to a flurry of activity among the free agent players.
The most obvious is Red Bull. They have an open ride at the end of the year with Kasey Kahne moving to Hendrick, and though Brian Vickers has been cleared to race, there are still questions as to his health. Red Bull has tons of money to throw around, and if Kasey and Brian prove to be competitive, they could have some drawing power to pull in a driver such as Carl Edwards or Clint Bowyer. Make no mistake, if Roush Fenway Racing (RFR) or Richard Childress Racing (RCR) loses one of their big name drivers, they will be out to replace that driver with someone who can land a sponser. That means someone established and marketable.
Another possibility is at Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR). With military spending slowing, it is possible that the US Army will be pulling the reins back on their sponsership money. If it is looking like Ryan Newman may not make the chase again this year, SHR may be on the lookout for a driver that can make the chase on a more consistent basis and thus has more sponsership draw.
The third possibility that I see has some potential involves UPS. UPS is a big money sponser, and their contract with RFR is up at the end of the year. Depending on RFR's other commitments and David Ragan's performance, there will either have to be a sponser shuffle among the RFR group or David will be released from his ride (David has a contract with RFR through 2014) and RFR will pursue a driver that UPS feels will better represent them.
The only other move that I really see out there is probably the least likely to occur. At 43, Jeff Burton's best driving days are likely behind him. If RCR sees an opportunity to land a big fish and put him in the 31 car will he? My guess is probably not, given that the late Dale Earnhardt suggested to Richard that Jeff was the guy to bring into the organization to succeed him. Also, Jeff has shown he can still be competitve and CAT seems very happy to sponser Jeff.
All in all, there are a lot of free agents out there for 2012. If I were RFR or RCR, and I'm looking to keep the key guys I have, I want to get them locked up sooner rather than later. If one of the other teams is looking to upgrade and nabs one of the available guys, look for the dominoes to start falling randomly and in short order. Could make for an exciting silly season!