Ahhhh, the magical world of free agency in the NFL. On March 14, 2018, all 32 NFL teams will have the option to “shop ’til you drop” of their choice of this year’s upcoming free agents. Here my list of the 20 most important guys of this year’s class.
1.) Le’Veon Bell, RB. Pittsburgh Steelers (2017 stats: 15 games played. 321 car., 1,291 yds., 4.0 ypc., 9 TD’s / 85 rec., 655 yds., 7.7 ypc., 2 TD’s)
Le’Veon Bell has made it known that he wants a long term deal and does not want to be franchised. Worse comes to worse if he indeed DOES sign a franchise tag, it’ll be worth around $15 million. Your move, Pitt.
2.) Drew Brees, QB. New Orleans Saints (2017 stats: 16 games played. 386/536 passes, 72.2% completion, 4,334 yds., 8.1 ypa., 271 ypg., 23 TD’s, 8 INT’s)
The 39-year old ageless offensive guru will be heading into his 17th season as an NFL quarterback. It’s hard to believe that Breesus will leave NOLA at this stage in his career, even after another playoff loss in the most epic of fashions. However, crazier things have happened. Keep an eye on this one.
3.) Jimmy Garopollo, QB. San Francisco 49ers (2017 stats: 6 games played. 120/178 passes, 67.4% completion, 1,560 yds., 8.8 ypa., 260.5 ypg., 7 TD’s, 5 INT’s)
Jimmy Garopollo set the NFL on fire once he took over starting quarterback duties for the 49ers, winning all 5 of his starts. No way in God’s green earth the 49ers goof this up and let him walk…..or do they?
4.) Demarcus Lawrence, DE. Dallas Cowboys (2017 stats: 16 games played. 58 tackles, 14.5 sacks, 4 forced fumbles, 1 pass breakup)
Demarcus Lawrence could not have broken out at a better time. He posted career highs across the board in what would be a contract season for the 26 year old pass rusher. Dallas would be foolish not to retain him, but other teams that need pass rushing help won’t be afraid to throw the farm at him.
5.) Kirk Cousins, QB. Washington Redskins (2017 stats: 16 games played. 347/540 passes, 64.3% completion, 4,093 yds., 7.6 ypa., 255.8 ypg., 27 TD’s, 13 INT’s)
Kirk Cousins has thrown for over 4,000 yards and completed over 64% of his passes in all three years he’s been the full time starter in Washington. This guy is very accurate, very poised in the pocket, and has shown no signs of slowing down. His market may be the widest out of all free agent quarterbacks. Which also means he will more than likely be the most expensive as well.
6.) Kyle Fuller, CB. Chicago Bears (2017 stats: 16 games played. 68 tackles, 22 pass breakups, 2 INT’s)
After missing the entire 2016 season with an ACL tear, Fuller made big noise in his return this season. He was excellent in man to man coverage and has improved as an open field tackler. The Bears seem poised on bringing him back to the Windy City, but they will DEFINITELY have to battle other teams who may want his services.
7.) Ezekiel Ansah, DE. Detroit Lions (2017 stats: 14 games played. 44 tackles, 12 sacks, 1 forced fumble)
After being oft injured and very inconsistent in 2016, Ezekiel Ansah found the ladder again and had his 1st double digit sack season in 3 years. With Matt Patricia slated to be the next head coach in Detroit, Ansah is without question their biggest priority moving forward.
8.) Jarvis Landry, WR. Miami Dolphins (2017 stats: 16 games played. 112 rec., 987 yds., 8.8 ypc., 9 TD’s)
The lone bright spots in an otherwise very wacky season for the Miami Dolphins was Jarvis Landry. Despite some behavior issues on and off the field and confrontations between him and head coach Adam Gase, Landry still managed to lead the league in receptions as well as setting a career high for himself. With that being said, the Dolphins may want to move on from Landry and go with some of the younger options they have. Building through the draft is also an option.
9.) Trumaine Johnson, CB. Los Angeles Rams (2017 stats: 16 games played. 65 tackles, 13 pass breakups, 2 INT’s *1 returned for a TD*, 1 forced fumble, 1 fumble recovery)
Trumaine Johnson continues to impress and continues to match up very well against No. 1 WR’s. Another star player that will more than likely face the franchise tag, it wouldn’t surprise me any if he has a new address Week 1 of the 2018 season.
10.) Bashaud Breeland, CB. Washington Redskins (2017 stats: 15 games played. 47 tackles, 19 pass breakups, 1 INT *96 yard pick six*)
You can never have enough good corners on your football team and Bashaud Breeland is the perfect No. 2 corner. He has guarded No. 1’s before, but not with much consistency. However, he can play anywhere within a defense. He is versatile enough to guard the slot, play outside, and will match up with a tight end or running back if need be.
11.) Allen Robinson, WR. Jacksonville Jaguars (2017 stats: 1 game played. 1 rec., 17 yds.)
An ACL tear suffered early on during the Jaguars Week 1 beatdown of the Texans forced my No. 11 free agent to the sideline. Albeit two years removed from an 80 catch, 1,400 yard, 14 TD outburst, he could very well be on his way out of Jacksonville due to the emergence of Marquise Lee, Keelan Cole, and Allen Hurns returning from injury. This one could be very interesting to watch unfold.
12.) Malcolm Butler, CB. New England Patriots (2017 stats: 16 games played. 60 tackles, 12 pass breakups, 2 INT’s, 3 forced fumbles, 1 sack)
Malcolm Butler has built off of his breakthrough performance in Super Bowl XLVI and been an above average corner for the New England Patriots. As the issue is with the Patriots almost every year, he’s the big money guy that their gonna have to make a decision on. With guys like Stephen Gilmore already with a big contract, the Patriots may not be able to retain him. A franchise tag may be in order to do so. IF….they have the funds.
13.) Case Keenum, QB. Minnesota Vikings (2017 stats: 15 games played. 325/481 passes, 67.6% completion, 3,547 yds, 7.4 ypa., 236.5 ypg., 22 TD’s, 7 INT’s)
Talk about coming out of left field. No one, including his head coach saw this type of solid, steady, and dare I say clutch play from the 7th year man out of Houston. Free agents don’t normally come in as 3rd string players and guide their teams to a Conference championship game. Not the case here. However, the biggest wild card in all of free agency is Case Keenum. Likened to many as a one trick pony, Keenum is making himself a lot of money this postseason. We won’t know exactly how much until the season concludes.
14.) Teddy Bridgewater, QB. Minnesota Vikings (2017 stats: 1 game played. 0/2 passes, 1 INT)
The long, hard road to get back from a non contact ACL tear suffered in 2016 during an OTA session has finally been conpleted by 25 year old Teddy Bridgewater. Activated on November 5th, the former Louisville product did not play his 1st NFL game since the heartbreaking 2015 NFC Wild Card game until Week 15 against the Bengals. Questions still loom of whether his future will continue in Minnesota.
15.) Lamarcus Joyner, FS. Los Angeles Rams (2017 stats: 12 games played. 49 tackles, 9 pass breakups, 3 INT’s, 1 forced fumble)
The hybrid corner/safety had one of his best years as a pro before being injured in Week 13. Wade Phillips, the L. A. Rams prized defensive coordinator brought out the absolute best in him.
16.) Nate Solder, LT. New England Patriots
Tom Brady’s blindside protecter will be 31 this year and shows no signs of decreased productivity, allowing only 3 sacks this year. With many teams needing offensive line help, Solder will be a marquee guy on this year’s market.
17.) Sheldon Richardson, DT. Seattle Seahawks (2017 stats: 15 games played. 44 tackles, 1 sack, 1 forced fumble, 2 fumble recoveries, 1 INT)
By far the best interior defensive lineman in free agency, Sheldon Richardson was a born again star in the midst of Seattle’s defense. His play against the run helped them achieved the 3rd best rushing defense in the NFL and his athleticism and versatility makes him a fit in any system.
18.) Andrew Norwell, LG. Carolina Panthers
One of the best and most improved lineman this season, Andrew Norwell has established himself as an All-Pro caliber player with unlimited upside and unlimited usage. He can also play tackle.
19.) Kenny Vaccaro, SS. New Orleans Saints (2017 stats: 12 games played. 59 tackles, 7 pass breakups, 3 INT’s, 1 sack, 1 fumble recovery)
Kenny Vaccaro is clearly the team’s best safety. Possibly their best defender, also. The Saints defense played very conservative and tense shortly after his injury. Despite his latest injury, he is only 26 years of age and has plenty more left in the tank.
20.) Carlos Hyde, RB. San Francisco 49ers (2017 stats: 16 games played. 240 car., 938 yds., 3.9 ypc., 8 TD’s / 59 rec., 350 yds., 5.9 ypc.)
An injury risk waiting to happen, Carlos Hyde finally put together a 16 game season. While his numbers aren’t overwhelming, he’s still a very solid back who could start for half of NFL teams.
Justin Pugh, LG. New York Giants
A very good starting right guard for the New York Giants, Pugh has the top notch versatily to be a swing offensive lineman, filling in at either tackle spot.
Dion Lewis, RB. New England Patriots (2017 stats: 16 games played. 180 car., 896 yds., 5.0 ypc., 6 TD’s / 32 rec., 214 yds., 6.7 ypc., 3 TD’s)
Quick, shifty, strong, and very elusive. Dion Lewis is today’s NFL’s perfect scatback. He is still a huge injury risk, however.
Sam Bradford, QB. Minnesota Vikings (2017 stats: 2 games played. 32/43 passes, 74.4% completion, 382 yds., 8.9 ypa., 191 ypg., 3 TD’s, 0 INT’s)
An elite thrower of the football, Sam Bradford’s lengthy injury history (and the fact that he’s made more than $150 million over his NFL career with no playoff appearances) make it scary for most teams to go after him. However if healthy, the soon to be 31-year old can be a legitimate beast.
Brent Grimes, CB. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2017 stats: 13 games played. 49 tackles, 11 pass breakups, 3 INT’s, 1 fumble recovery)
Out of all the free agents, he may be the oldest at 34. He also may be the most productive and it’s not close, either. Contending teams should definitely want a piece of him.
Eric Reid, FS. San Francisco 49ers (2017 stats: 13 games played. 66 tackles, 4 pass breakups, 2 INT’s, 1 fumble recovery)
In a world where political divide is more important than freedom of speech and content of character, Eric Reid’s solid on field performance could take a back seat to his political views.