2015’s NFL free agents can’t officially sign with any team except their own until Tuesday at 3:00pm central time, but plenty of deals could be agreed upon in principle this weekend, now that the league’s so-called legal tampering window is open. Before all of this year’s best available players start flying off the board, we’ll take a look at the top players of the 2015 free agent class.
Our list of 2015’s top 50 free agents doesn’t include restricted free agents, or players who were designated as franchise or transition players, since they’re essentially restricted free agents now as well.
Justin Houston, Jason Pierre-Paul, Demaryius Thomas, and Dez Bryant – having received the non-exclusive franchise tag from their respective teams – could still technically land with a new team, but it would require that team to sign an offer sheet and part with two first-round picks, which likely won’t happen. Charles Clay, who received the transition tag from the Dolphins, is in a similar boat — the Fins won’t get any compensation if they decline to match an offer sheet for Clay, but the tight end still isn’t free to sign with whichever team he wants. Miami would have the right to match any offer.
So with those caveats out of the way, let’s dive right in! Here are Pro Football Rumors’ top 50 NFL free agents for 2014, along with a few predictions on how much they might earn and what teams could be in the mix to sign them:
1. Ndamukong Suh, DT (Lions): You could make a case that Justin Houston or Dez Bryant would have been the No. 1 unrestricted free agent had they not been franchised, but we had both players behind Suh in our last edition of our 2015 free agent power rankings. It’s very rare that a player of this caliber reaches the open market without restrictions, and his new contract should reflect that. At this point, it seems very likely that the star defender will exceed $100MM on a six-year contract, making him the league’s highest-paid defender. The Dolphins and Lions look like the favorites for now, but don’t rule out a dark horse candidate — most teams could clear the space necessary to accommodate Suh, and there isn’t a team he wouldn’t make better.
Signed with Miami Dolphins for six years, $114MM. $59.955MM fully guaranteed.
2. Devin McCourty, S (Patriots): Typically, the top free agents are wide receivers, tackles, cornerbacks, or pass rushers; not interior defensive lineman and safeties. But both Suh and McCourty have one thing in common: There aren’t many players at their respective positions who are more consistent and more productive year in and year out. If Jairus Byrd could land $9MM a year when he hit the open market last March, it seems reasonable that McCourty should make something similar. Keep an eye on the Giants, Eagles, and perhaps the Colts.
Re-signed with New England Patriots for five years, $47.5MM. $22MM fully guaranteed.
3. Randall Cobb, WR (Packers): A February report suggesting Cobb was seeking $9MM per year was a little surprising since it seemed so… reasonable. With Demaryius Thomas and Dez Bryant no longer fully unrestricted free agents, Cobb’s stock gets a boost, making it no surprise that his price tag has apparently increased. The Packers wideout is an extremely talented player, and one of the youngest players near the top of this list (he’ll turn 25 in August). However, bidders like the Raiders or Jaguars should beware of making him their No. 1 wideout and relying on a much lesser quarterback than Aaron Rodgers to get him the ball, because he’ll be hard-pressed to match his 2014 numbers.
Re-signed with Green Bay Packers for four years, $40MM. $13MM fully guaranteed.
4. Julius Thomas, TE (Broncos): It surprised me a little to find I’d ranked Thomas so high, considering how underwhelming his final half-season in Denver was. But I expect any suitors eyeing Thomas will blame that stretch on his balky ankle, and count on getting a fully healthy dynamic red-zone target if they decide to invest in Thomas. The Seahawks have been mentioned as a sleeper for Thomas, and the idea of the big tight end catching balls from Russell Wilson is certainly intriguing, but it’s hard to imagine Seattle being the highest bidder. The Browns, Jets, and Falcons all make some sense.
Signed with Jacksonville Jaguars for five years, $46MM. $21MM fully guaranteed.
5. Jerry Hughes, DE (Bills): By all accounts, the Bills would like to retain Hughes, who has posted double-digit sacks in each of the last two seasons. But a defensive line that also features Mario Williams, Marcell Dareus, and Kyle Williams is starting to get expensive, and Rex Ryan and the club may decide that the money is better spent on bolstering another area of the roster. Hughes should command a salary in the range of $8-10MM annually, and the teams that currently employ former Buffalo coaches or assistants like Doug Marrone (Jaguars), Mike Pettine (Browns), and George Edwards (Vikings) are somewhat intriguing fits.
Re-signed with Buffalo Bills for five years, $45MM. $11.775MM fully guaranteed.
6. Jeremy Maclin, WR (Eagles): Having turned down a five-year contract from the Eagles to sign a one-year, prove-it deal last winter, Maclin certainly did prove it. His 85 receptions, 1,318 receiving yards, and 10 touchdowns were all career highs, and he should be able to parlay that success into a more lucrative long-term deal than Philadelphia was offering a year ago. Of course, the fact that 2014 was his only 1,000-yard season is a red flag, and his injury history is another. Throw in question marks about whether his success was a byproduct of Chip Kelly‘s offense, and I wouldn’t be surprised if rival suitors were wary about making a significant investment in Maclin, ultimately pushing him back to the Eagles for 2015 and beyond.
Signed with Kansas City Chiefs for for five years, $55MM. $22.5MM fully guaranteed.
7. DeMarco Murray, RB (Cowboys): Over and over, we’ve been told that the running back position has been devalued in recent years, which will limit Murray’s market. However, LeSean McCoy and Marshawn Lynch are both getting more short-term money from their respective teams in Buffalo and Seattle, and the Vikings seem to be willing to bring back Adrian Peterson at a $15MM+ cap hit. In other words, Murray’s value might not have fallen as far as we think. I expect a team in need of an impact running back to make an offer the Cowboys are unable – or unwilling – to match, perhaps in the neighborhood of $8-9MM per season.
Signed with Philadelphia Eagles for five years, $40MM. $18MM fully guaranteed.
8. Pernell McPhee, DE/OLB (Ravens): An underrated pass rusher, McPhee won’t be a well-kept secret for much longer. He’s a good candidate to be this year’s Everson Griffen, who inked an unexpectedly huge five-year contract with the Vikings last year based more on his potential than his past performance. Of course, in McPhee’s case, it almost certainly won’t be his old team that’s signing him to that lucrative new deal. The Colts, who need a pash rusher and are coached by former Ravens defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano, are my pick.
Signed with Chicago Bears for five years, $38.75MM. $8.675MM fully guaranteed
9. Byron Maxwell, CB (Seahawks): Maxwell is one of this year’s more intriguing free agents, in my opinion. A somewhat uninspiring cornerback market should ensure that he lands a big contract, perhaps in the $9-10MM per year range. Armed with that big new contract, Maxwell will have to prove that his success in Seattle wasn’t just a byproduct of playing in the same secondary as Richard Sherman, Earl Thomas, and Kam Chancellor. The Eagles, Jets, and perhaps the Jaguars look like the best bets to take the plunge for Maxwell.
Signed with Philadelphia Eagles for six years, $63MM. $22MM fully guaranteed.
10. Bryan Bulaga, T (Packers): A year ago, the market had a handful of high-end offensive linemen capable of playing on the left side, including Jared Veldheer and Eugene Monroe. This time around, Bulaga looks like the best tackle by far, meaning he’ll likely be overpaid. The final numbers on Bulaga’s new contract will depend on whether his new team views him as a potential left tackle — if that’s the case, the former first-round pick could end up approaching an eight-digit annual salary.
Re-signed with Green Bay Packers for five years, $33.75MM. $8MM fully guaranteed.
11. Greg Hardy, DE (Panthers): No player’s value is more difficult to pin down than Hardy’s. Faced with this same group of players a year ago, I might have placed the standout pass rusher second on the list behind Suh. But a year off the field, along with the lingering possibility of discipline from the NFL for the domestic violence charges that were eventually dropped, means that clubs will be wary of guaranteeing Hardy too much money. I wonder if, like Maclin a year ago, Hardy will be inclined to take a one-year, make-good contract in the hopes of a big payday a year from now. Either way, the Falcons, Raiders, and Titans are among the teams I think could make some sense.
Signed with Dallas Cowboys for one year, $11.312MM. Non-guaranteed.
12. Mike Iupati, G (49ers): The top interior lineman on the board this month, Iupati should ultimately land a contract that makes him one of the league’s highest-paid guards, and I don’t think that contract will come from the Niners. The Bills look like they could be a strong contender for Iupati’s services, considering they’re employing Greg Roman, the guard’s old offensive coordinator. I think the Rams would be a nice fit too.
Signed with Arizona Cardinals for five years, $40MM. $11.5MM fully guaranteed.
13. Brandon Graham, DE/OLB (Eagles): It seemed as if the Eagles never figured out the ideal way to utilize Graham, who appears to be a better fit as a 4-3 end than a 3-4 outside linebacker. Still, Graham graded as Pro Football Focus’ third-best player at the position in 2014, despite playing just 524 defensive snaps (subscription required). In the right system and with the right coaches, Graham – whose career high in sacks is just 5.5 – could get that number up to double digits. His asking price is said to be in the four-year, $30MM range, which doesn’t seem outrageous. I sort of like the idea of Graham in San Diego as a Dwight Freeney replacement.
Re-signed with Philadelphia Eagles for four years, $26MM. $13MM fully guaranteed.
14. Jason Worilds, OLB (Steelers): After receiving the transition tag from the Steelers a year ago, Worilds put up nearly the same season in 2014 that he did in 2013, and while his numbers weren’t eye-popping, he’s an above-average player at an important position. A deal with a per-year salary in the $7-8MM range appears within reach, and given all the cap-clearing they’ve done recently, the Eagles look like a strong candidate to pursue Worilds to replace Trent Cole and Graham.
Announced his retirement.
15. Torrey Smith, WR (Ravens): Unlike Cobb and Maclin, Smith didn’t put up massive numbers in his walk year. In fact, it was quite the opposite — the wideout’s 49 catches matched a career low, and his 767 receiving yards were also a career-worst mark. Smith’s 11 touchdowns were nice, as is his ability to draw long pass interference penalties down the field, but I don’t anticipate him seeing quite as big an offer as Cobb or Maclin. Something in the $7MM-per-year range would make him a solid, well-paid No. 2 for any team interested in investing. The Raiders, Dolphins, Chiefs, Texans, Browns, Niners, and Panthers are among the clubs expected to be in the market for receiving help, and I could imagine a few of those teams as fits.
Signed with San Francisco 49ers for five years, $40MM. $8.75MM fully guaranteed.
16. Terrance Knighton, DT (Broncos): A cheaper alternative to Suh, Knighton also won’t have the same game-changing impact that Suh will. Still, teams not looking to break the bank on an interior lineman should give a long look to “Pot Roast,” who is an imposing – and consistently effective – presence in the middle, particularly against the run. Knighton is a candidate to follow former Broncos defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio to the Raiders.
Signed with Washington for one year, $4.45MM. $2.95MM fully guaranteed.
17. Rodney Hudson, C (Chiefs): Centers don’t make the same kind of money that left tackles do, but they’re being regarded in recent years as one of the most important players on an offensive line, and I imagine Hudson’s new deal will reflect that — anything less than $6MM per year would be a surprise. The Raiders and Rams are a couple teams with a hole at center and the flexibility to add a solid veteran like Hudson.
Signed with Oakland Raiders for five years, $44.5MM. $12.6MM fully guaranteed.
18. Nick Fairley, DT (Lions): The overlooked man in Detroit, Fairley has taken a back seat to Suh, which isn’t unfair. In retrospect, Detroit’s decision to turn down the defensive lineman’s fifth-year option for 2015 – a decision which was curious at the time – looks even more questionable now, since the team could have had him under control for about $5.5MM. If the Lions lose Suh, I imagine Fairley will become a priority, but the same could be said of other teams who miss out on this year’s free agent prize — the Dolphins, Raiders, Jaguars, Titans, Colts, and others could be in play for Fairley.
Signed with St. Louis Rams for one year, $5MM. $1.5MM fully guaranteed.
19. Brian Orakpo, OLB (Washington): A lost 2014 season, cut short by a pectoral injury, will diminish Orakpo’s value a little, but I expect he’ll still do fine for himself on the open market. A return to Washington remains possible, but the Falcons are said to be interested, and the Jaguars – likely eyeing Orakpo as a potential “Leo” – have also been cited as a suitor. For his part, Orakpo has said he wouldn’t mind playing for a team in his home state of Texas, so there are plenty of potential landing spots.
Signed with Tennessee Titans for four years, $32MM. $8MM fully guaranteed.
20. Derrick Morgan, DE/OLB (Titans): Like Graham, Morgan has excelled as a part-time pass rusher in Tennessee, despite a fairly modest sack total and a perception that he hasn’t lived up to his first-round billing. He’s the sort of player who could see a real uptick in production if he lands in the right situation; it will just be a matter of identifying that right situation. The Falcons and Bengals are a couple teams I think could make some sense for Morgan.
Re-signed with Tennessee Titans for four years, $27MM. $8.5MM fully guaranteed.
21. Kareem Jackson, CB (Texans): As of Friday night, Jackson and the Texans were still engaged in contract discussions in the hopes of getting something done, but if the cornerback makes it to the open market, I wouldn’t be surprised if new Jets GM – and former Texans executive – Mike Maccagnan gets in touch with Jackson’s reps. New York is in need of cornerback help, and Jackson would come cheaper than someone like Maxwell or Darrelle Revis (if he becomes available).
Re-signed with Houston Texans for four years, $34MM. $20MM fully guaranteed.
22. Brandon Flowers, CB (Chargers): After his bounce-back season in San Diego in 2014, re-signing with the Chargers seems like the most logical move for Flowers, but we’ll have to wait and see if he opts for a higher bidder. The veteran corner was another player who inked a one-year, prove-it contract last offseason, and at age 29, this may be his last chance to land a big, long-term deal, so it would be hard to blame him for accepting his biggest offer. With so many clubs expected to be in the market for a cornerback this month, it’s not clear yet where that biggest offer would come from.
Re-signed with San Diego Chargers for four years, $36.4MM. $18MM fully guaranteed.
23. Jared Odrick, DT (Dolphins): Odrick appears to be stuck in the middle of the Dolphins’ pursuit of Suh, with talks between him and the club in a holding pattern until Miami figures out whether or not they can actually land this year’s top free agent. If the Fins miss out on Suh, I’d expect them to turn back to Odrick, an underrated lineman who can occasionally get after the quarterback, despite what his single sack in 2014 may suggest. Odrick’s asking price figures to be in the $6MM per year range.
Signed with Jacksonville Jaguars for five years, $42.5MM. $17MM fully guaranteed.
24. Chris Culliver, CB (49ers): One of two Niners starting cornerbacks eligible for free agency, Culliver is more appealing than Perrish Cox. Culliver is just 26 years old and is coming off a season in which he limited opposing quarterbacks to a completion percentage of 50.7% and a 66.5 passer rating when they threw into his coverage. Like Flowers, Culliver should draw a good deal of interest from teams in need of cornerbacks, a list that includes the Seahawks, Eagles, Jets, Vikings, Saints, Bengals, and Lions. The Bears shouldn’t be overlooked either, considering former 49ers defensive coordinator Vic Fangio is now running the D in Chicago.
Signed with Washington for four years, $32MM. $16MM fully guaranteed.
25. Orlando Franklin, G (Broncos): Franklin may not inspire the type of bidding war that Iupati could, but teams in need of interior line help could certainly do a lot worse. In 2014, Pro Football Focus ranked Franklin as the league’s fourth-best left guard, grading him positively as both a pass and run blocker. Throw in the fact that he’s only 27 years old, and Franklin looks poised to at least match the five-year, $30MM deal signed by his former teammate Zane Beadles last winter.
Signed with San Diego Chargers for five years, $36.5MM. $15.5MM fully guaranteed.
26. C.J. Spiller, RB (Bills): Spiller reportedly turned down an offer from the Bills worth $4.5MM annually, and it’s fair to think he could find something in that neighborhood on the open market. Of course, it won’t be in Buffalo, where LeSean McCoy is set to join the Bills, but could it be in Philadelphia? Spiller certainly seems interested in replacing McCoy and signing with the Eagles. The Jets, Patriots, Lions, Dolphins, Cardinals, and 49ers are a few more potential fits.
Signed with New Orleans Saints for four years, $16MM. $5.75MM fully guaranteed.
27. Jordan Cameron, TE (Browns): With Charles Clay having received the transition tags, teams who miss out on Julius Thomas may be more inclined to negotiate with Cameron, rather than waiting for the Dolphins to potentially match an offer sheet for Clay. That’s good news for the Browns tight end, who is only a year removed from an 80-catch season. Cameron enjoyed that success under offensive coordinator Norv Turner, and while joining the Vikings probably isn’t a realistic option, given the presence of Kyle Rudolph, perhaps Cameron would be interested in following 2014’s offensive coordinator, Kyle Shanahan, to Atlanta, where the Falcons are in need of a tight end.
Signed with Miami Dolphins for two years, $15MM. $5MM fully guaranteed.
28. Rahim Moore, S (Broncos): As perhaps the second-best option behind McCourty in what is shaping up to be a somewhat weak safety market, Moore should do well for himself on the open market next week. Having just turned 25, Moore is coming off the first season in which he started all 16 games, and he handled the role well, with 51 tackles and four interceptions. Washington, the Giants, and the Colts are among the teams that need to add a safety, and I have to imagine that Moore’s old defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio will give him a long look on behalf of the Raiders.
Signed with Houston Texans for three years, $12MM. $4MM fully guaranteed.
29. Michael Crabtree, WR (49ers): Crabtree is now two years removed from the best year of his career, when he posted 85 catches, 1,105 yards, and nine touchdowns in the regular season before adding another 20 receptions, 285 yards, and 3 TDs in the playoffs. Teams in need of a wideout will weigh Crabtree’s 2012 success against his up-and-down performance in 2014 when deciding what sort of player they’d be getting. A team like the Chiefs or Raiders certainly shouldn’t sign Crabtree counting on him to be their No. 1 receiver, but he’d be a great fit in a place like New England or even Indianapolis, where he’d be the second option for a Pro Bowl quarterback.
Signed with Oakland Raiders for one year, $3.2MM. $1.3MM fully guaranteed.
30. Mark Ingram, RB (Saints): Inconsistency and health problems plagued Ingram’s first three years with the Saints, and 2014 wasn’t a totally healthy season either, but it was certainly an impressive one. In 13 games, the 25-year-old racked up 964 rushing yards and nine touchdowns, taking advantage of finally getting the opportunity to be New Orleans’ feature back. On the strength of that performance, his age, and his light career workload (582 carries in four NFL seasons), Ingram may challenge Spiller as the second-most coveted back in this year’s class. I could imagine the Lions being a nice fit for Ingram, where he could get 60% of the team’s carries with Joique Bell acting as the change-of-pace back.
Re-signed with New Orleans Saints for four years, $16MM. $6.1MM fully guaranteed.
31. Antonio Cromartie, CB (Cardinals): Cromartie has made no secret of the fact that he’d like to sign with the Jets this winter — his Cardinals teammate Patrick Peterson even complained that all Cromartie talked about was “freaking New York.” While Cromartie returning to the Big Apple isn’t a fait accompli quite yet, I expect there to be plenty of mutual interest if the Jets don’t get a chance to land Darrelle Revis.
Signed with New York Jets for four years, $32MM. $7MM fully guaranteed.
32. Jabaal Sheard, DE/OLB (Browns): Sheard has seen his sack count decrease in each of his NFL seasons, from 8.5 in 2011 to just 2.0 in 2014. The Browns also took him out of the starting lineup this past season, reducing his snap count to 690. However, Sheard played very well in the new role — out of all the league’s 3-4 outside linebackers, only Terrell Suggs had a better grade against the run, per PFF. Sheard would be a nice fit for a team that employs a part-time player that could spell him in passing situations — pairing him with a veteran free agent like Dwight Freeney could make some sense.
Signed with New England Patriots for two years, $11MM. $5MM fully guaranteed.
33. Dan Williams, DT (Cardinals): Another potential target for teams that miss out on Suh, Williams could likely fit into a 4-3 scheme or act as the nose tackle for a 3-4 team, as he did in Arizona. A former first-rounder, Williams is still just 27 years old and ranked among PFF’s top 10 defensive tackles against the run in 2014. A deal in the neighborhood of $5-6MM per year for him seems about right to me.
Signed with Oakland Raiders for four years, $25MM. $15.2MM guaranteed.
34. Davon House, CB (Packers): House was behind Sam Shields, Tramon Williams, and even Casey Hayward on the Packers’ cornerback depth chart in 2014, so his placement on this list is more a reflection of his potential rather than his upside than anything else. Quarterbacks only completed 46.8% of their passes into House’s coverage last season, per PFF, which placed him fourth among qualified cornerbacks, and he’s still only 25 years old. A team that misses out on one of the top-tier cornerbacks in this market may find a bargain with House, who should have the opportunity to move into a starting role if he joins a new team.
Signed with Jacksonville Jaguars for four years, $24.5MM. $10MM fully guaranteed.
35. Rolando McClain, ILB (Cowboys): With David Harris off the market, no free agent inside linebacker is coming off a stronger 2014 campaign than McClain, who revitalized his career in Dallas. McClain held his own against the run and in pass coverage, and even pressured the quarterback 15 times, while racking up 87 tackles and a pair of interceptions in his 13 regular season contests. Re-signing with the Cowboys may make the most sense for McClain, given how great a fit it was, and considering that other suitors may be wary of his off-field question marks. But I expect Dallas won’t be the only team in the running for his services. Miami, Chicago, Minnesota, and New Orleans are a few possible landing spots that might make sense.
Re-signed with Dallas Cowboys for one year, $3MM. $500K fully guaranteed.
36. Joe Barksdale, T (Rams): Barksdale isn’t a star, but in a market that lacks many steady, reliable tackles, he should sign a deal similar to the $6MM-per-year pacts signed by Austin Howard and Anthony Collins a year ago. Possible suitors for the right tackle include the Jaguars, Giants, Vikings, Titans, and Buccaneers.
Agreed to terms with San Diego Chargers for one year, $1.095MM. $350K fully guaranteed.
37. Frank Gore, RB (49ers): A running back entering his age-32 season probably shouldn’t be this high up on the list, but Gore has shown no signs of slowing down after entering his thirties. The longtime Niner has surpassed 1,100 rushing yards for four consecutive seasons, and still averaged a solid 4.3 yards per carry in 2014. He’d be a nice stop-gap option for a team that hasn’t had consistent running back play in recent years, such as the Colts.
Signed with Indianapolis Colts for three years, $12MM. $6.5MM fully guaranteed.
38. Tramon Williams, CB (Packers): Last seen giving up the overtime touchdown to Jermaine Kearse that sent the Seahawks to the Super Bowl, Williams shouldn’t be remember for that play, but teams also shouldn’t go overboard bidding for a cornerback who – like Gore – will turn 32 before Week 1. A recent report indicated that the Packers were willing to bring Williams back for a two-year deal worth $8MM, while the veteran will be seeking a three- or four-year contract worth $5MM+ annually. I could definitely see Williams signing for at least three years and $15MM, and the Seahawks, mentioned in that report as a suitor, would be a logical fit, though hardly the only, fit.
Signed with Cleveland Browns for three years, $21MM. $10MM fully guaranteed.
39. Stefen Wisniewski, C (Raiders): A solid but unspectacular interior lineman, Wisniewski should do well in this market for his ability to provide stability in the middle for a team that has lacked it in the last year or two. A multiyear deal averaging $5MM+ per year appears likely, and it wouldn’t surprise me if Wisniewski received that sort of offer from the Cardinals. Arizona has been mentioned as a potential player for the Raiders center, and they poached a lineman from Oakland a year ago, in Jared Veldheer.
Signed with Jacksonville Jaguars for one year, $2.5MM. $500K fully guaranteed.
40. Trent Cole, DE/OLB: Cole’s best years are probably behind him. After he posted six consecutive seasons with eight or more sacks from 2006 to 2011, Cole’s production has fallen off in recent years — he has just 17.5 sacks since 2012. Still, the 32-year-old was a top-20 3-4 outside linebacker in 2014, per PFF’s data, and despite a modest sack total, he accumulated 47 total quarterback pressures. He won’t land the kind of big-money, long-term contract that a younger player like Hughes or McPhee will, but a team in need of a veteran pass rusher could do much worse. While Cole is considered a better fit as a 4-3 defensive end, making him a target for a club like the Buccaneers or Seahawks, 3-4 teams like the 49ers, Colts, and Browns have also been linked to him, so his market is wide open.
Signed with Indianapolis Colts for two years, $14MM. $7.75MM fully guaranteed.
41. Buster Skrine, CB (Browns): When the Browns drafted Justin Gilbert with the eighth overall pick, the rookie was expected to join Joe Haden in the starting lineup, relegating Skrine to the bench. The veteran held onto his starting job though, and only one other cornerback in the NFL played more snaps than Skrine’s 1,152 (Cary Williams, with 1,198). With teams avoiding Haden, Skrine also saw the second-most targets in the NFL (123), and held QBs to a 56.9% completion percentage. Cleveland is still hopeful that Gilbert is the long-term answer opposite from Haden, so I expect we’ll see Skrine sign elsewhere, and he could be a nice under-the-radar pickup for a team in need of a cover man.
Signed with New York Jets for four years, $25MM. $13MM fully guaranteed.
42. Ryan Mathews, RB (Chargers): Considered an injury-prone player for the first three seasons of his career, Mathews finally stayed healthy and put it all together in 2013, rushing for a career-high 1,255 yards. He was unable to keep that run of good health going in 2014 though, playing just eight games and heading into free agency with plenty of question marks. When he’s healthy, the former 12th overall pick can be one of the better backs in the league, but uncertainty about whether he’s capable of playing 16 games again will likely limit his market. It wouldn’t be a big surprise to see Mathews return to San Diego.
Signed with Philadelphia Eagles for three years, $11MM. $5MM fully guaranteed.
43. Sean Weatherspoon, LB (Falcons): Speaking of injuries, no free agent on this top 50 has played fewer games over the last two seasons than Weatherspoon, who appeared in seven contests in 2013 while battling foot and knee issues, and none in 2014, due to a ruptured Achilles. While he may not be the most reliable player here when it comes to health, Weatherspoon is still just 27 years old, and averaged 110 tackles per season in 2011 and 2012. Atlanta will likely make an effort to bring him back, and the Cardinals may pounce if he reaches the open market.
Signed with Arizona Cardinals for one year, $3.85MM. $1.25MM fully guaranteed.
44. Stephen Paea, DT (Bears): An underrated presence in the middle of the Bears’ defensive line, Paea is a nice target for teams hoping to generate some pressure on the quarterback from the defensive tackle spot. Only Suh and Kyle Williams had more quarterback pressures from the DT position in 2014 than Paea’s 47, according to PFF. The 26-year-old may have to be paired with a solid run defender, but a multiyear contract averaging at least $5-6MM annually looks like a good bet for Paea.
Signed with Washington for four years, $21MM. $7.85MM fully guaranteed.
45. Clint Boling, G (Bengals): Another solid interior lineman who won’t inspire much excitement among the fans of the team who lands him, Boling should nonetheless be a solid addition for his new club — or his old club, if the Bengals manage to keep him in the fold. Ranked as the NFL’s eighth-best left guard in 2014 by PFF, Boling might look good wearing purple and gold in Minnesota for old Bengals DC Mike Zimmer.
Re-signed with Cincinnati Bengals for five years, $26MM. $5MM fully guaranteed.
46. Antrel Rolle, S (Giants): With the Giants potentially aiming big at safety, as they look to land an impact player like McCourty, Rolle may find himself looking for work elsewhere, and there should be no shortage of suitors for the former first-round pick, even at age 32. Rolle saw his Pro Football Focus grade fall off a cliff in 2014 due to a poor performance against the run, but is only a year removed from being a top-10 player at the position. The Colts had success bringing in a veteran safety last year, when they signed Mike Adams, and could be a good fit for Rolle.
Signed with Chicago Bears for three years, $11.25MM. $4.9MM guaranteed.
47. Mason Foster, ILB (Buccaneers): Foster’s stock received a bit of a bump when David Harris and Rey Maualuga both re-signed with their current teams within the last few days, reducing the amount of viable inside linebacker starters on the market. The Dolphins have been cited multiple times recently as a potential suitor for Foster, and I’d expect the team to target him as a middle linebacker with Harris no longer on the table.
Signed with Chicago Bears for one year, minimum salary. $80K guaranteed.
48. Da’Norris Searcy, S (Bills): Typically, I’d expect the Bills to make an effort to sign a young safety like Searcy, who has developed into a solid starter and wouldn’t necessarily break the bank like Jairus Byrd did a year ago. But Buffalo, having locked up Aaron Williams last year, seems unwilling to spend on multiple safeties, and Rex Ryan usually targets inexpensive, under-the-radar players at the position. That opens the door for Searcy to land with a new club, and I think he could end up being one of the better signings of the offseason, assuming his annual price tag doesn’t exceed $5MM or so. The former fourth-round pick has displayed some big-play ability on defense, grabbing three interceptions in 2014 and scoring two return touchdowns in 2013.
Signed with Tennessee Titans for four years, $23.75MM. $7MM fully guaranteed.
49. Henry Melton, DT (Cowboys): The Cowboys weren’t willing to commit to Melton for three years and $24MM, and turned down their option on the defensive tackle, which is reasonable. As good as Melton is when he’s on the field, he has had health issues, and was only a part-time player in 2014. Still, another year removed from the ACL injury that wiped out his 2013 campaign, Melton could return to being an impact player in 2015, and shouldn’t be overlooked by teams that miss out on Suh or Knighton.
Signed with Tampa Bay Buccaneers for one year, $3.75MM. $3.25MM fully guaranteed.
50. Shane Vereen, RB (Patriots): After suggesting that Vereen would be aiming for a $5MM annual salary, Jeff Howe of the Boston Herald said this week that the running back’s asking price was down to about $3.5MM per year, which seems about right to me. He’s not a workhorse-type back, but Vereen is a weapon that can be used in a lot of different ways. Pairing him with a back who is capable of toting most of those first- and second-down carries could result in a nice combination for whichever team signs him.
Signed with New York Giants for three years, $12.35MM. $4.75MM fully guaranteed.
- Brian Hoyer, QB (Browns)
- Jake Locker, QB (Titans)
- Ryan Mallett, QB (Texans)
- Matt Moore, QB (Dolphins)
- Mark Sanchez, QB (Eagles)
- Justin Forsett, RB (Ravens)
- Stevan Ridley, RB (Patriots)
- Kenny Britt, WR (Rams)
- Brian Hartline, WR
- Cecil Shorts, WR (Jaguars)
- Nate Washington, WR (Titans)
- Derek Newton, T (Texans)
- Justin Blalock, G
- Todd Herremans, G
- Ray McDonald, DT
- B.J. Raji, DT (Packers)
- Brandon Spikes, ILB (Bills)
- Brooks Reed, OLB (Texans)
- Rashean Mathis, CB (Lions)
- Tyvon Branch, S (Raiders)
- Ron Parker, S (Chiefs)