The Patriots‘ revolving receiver cast may be set for more adjustments. Mohamed Sanu may well be battling a high ankle sprain, according to Tom Curran of NBC Sports Boston. While that is not confirmed, the recent trade acquisition did not practice Wednesday and is listed on New England’s injury report. A high ankle sprain would stand to sideline Sanu for multiple games. The Pats have cycled through numerous receiver combinations this season, with Julian Edelman being the only constant. Phillip Dorsett is in the Pats’ concussion protocol, meaning Edelman’s supporting cast against the Cowboys may be fronted by rookies N’Keal Harry and Jakobi Meyers.
Here is the latest from around the NFL, moving first to a player not currently in the league.
Mitchell Trubisky was a full participant at Bears practice Wednesday, despite being removed from Sunday night’s game with a hip injury. Matt Nagy said he does not intend to bench his starter and plans to play him this week against the Giants. “We want him to be out there this week as the starter,” Nagy said, via J.J. Stankevitz of NBC Sports Chicago. “I’m hoping that’s the case. … These types of injuries, you get to a point where they are literally day to day and it becomes about where you’re at with the pain and how we manage that.”
Brandon Allenhas helped spark the Broncos‘ offense, but the team would stand to benefit fromDrew Lock debuting soon. Vic Fangio added an interesting stance Wednesday, indicating he does not think it’s “vitally important” the rookie passer plays this season, via Mike Klis of 9News. However, the Broncos do plan to activate Lock from IR either next week or in Week 14, per Klis. Denver selected Lock in Round 2 but saw its Joe Flacco investment fail, leading to more uncertainty at a long-troublesome position for the franchise. The Broncos could again be linked to top quarterbacks in the 2020 draft, just as they were in 2018 and ’19.
One of the Falcons‘ IR-return slots will go toward a punter. Longtime punter Matt Bosher returned to practice, Vaughn McClure of ESPN.com notes (on Twitter). Atlanta’s ninth-year punter cannot return to action until Week 13.
Oakland deployed incumbent fullback Keith Smith on 162 offensive snaps in 2018, good for sixth-most among fullbacks league-wide. However, Smith is currently on the active/non-football injury list after suffering a meniscus injury while working out on his own. As such, the only fullback on the Raiders’ roster is undrafted rookie Alec Ingold.
Coleman, 28, spent the 2012-15 campaigns with the Seahawks, but an alleged hit-and-run incident in 2015 kept him out of the NFL in 2016. He played 224 offensive snaps for the fullback-heavy Falcons in 2017 before spending last year with the Cardinals, with whom he mostly saw special teams duty.
Bohanon, a seventh-round pick in 2013, has appeared in 68 career games (30 starts) for the Jets and Jaguars over the past five seasons. While he isn’t as well-regarded a run-blocker as Coleman, Bohanon has offered far more versatility in the passing game. Bohanon has received 46 targets during his career, whereas Coleman has only seen 21.
Derrick Coleman agreed to a one-year deal with the Cardinals, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com (on Twitter). The deal puts the veteran in line to be Arizona’s new starting fullback.
Coleman, 28 in October, appeared in all 16 of the Falcons’ regular season games in 2017. He is regarded as one of the best at his position, but his market was slow to develop this offseason as most teams do not utilize a fullback in their offense. Known mostly for his blocking ability, Coleman has just three catches in his last two NFL seasons and 13 grabs across four active years in the league.
Coleman made headlines for the wrong reasons during his Seahawks tenure. An alleged hit-and-run incident in 2015 kept him out of football in 2016, but he avoided jail by agreeing community service plus 12 months of community supervision.
Coleman joins a roster that already has several fringe running backs competing for work. Beyond starter David Johnson, Elijhaa Penny, and fourth-round rookie Chase Edmunds, D.J. Foster, T.J. Logan, and Bronson Hill are fighting to make the final cut.
Coleman, 28 in October, appeared in all 16 of the Falcons’ regular season games in 2017. He is regarded as one of the best at his position, but hasn’t found much of a market this offseason as most teams do not utilize a fullback in their offense. Known mostly for his blocking ability, Coleman has just three catches in his last two NFL seasons and 13 grabs across four active years in the league.
Coleman made headlines for the wrong reasons during his Seahawks tenure. An alleged hit-and-run incident in 2015 kept him out of football in 2016, but he avoided jail by agreeing community service plus 12 months of community supervision. The Jets already have multiple players who are dealing with legal trouble, so they’ll do some serious homework on Coleman before extending him an offer.
NFL free agency will get underway on Wednesday, March 14th, and while the list of free agents will change between now and then, we do have some idea of who will be available when free agency kicks off. The frenzy is right around the corner and it’s time for us to break down the outlook for each position. We’ll start today on offense, before getting to defense and special teams later this week.
Listed below are our rankings for the top 15 free agents at each offensive position. The rankings aren’t necessarily determined by the value of the contracts that each player is expected to land in free agency, they are simply the players we like the most at each position, with both short- and long-term value taken into account. Restricted and exclusive-rights free agents are not listed here since they are unlikely to actually reach the open market. The same goes for players who have been franchise tagged or transition tagged.
We’ll almost certainly be higher or lower on some guys than you are, so we encourage you to make your voice heard in our comments section to let us know which free agents we’ve got wrong.
Here’s our breakdown of the current top 15 free agents by offensive position for 2018:
Drew Brees is included here, but by his own admission, he’ll be re-signing with the Saints rather than testing the open waters of free agency. Unless the Saints lowball their franchise QB, it’s hard to see him leaving New Orleans.
Case Keenum put together a tremendous season for the Vikings, but he doesn’t have a history of success beyond 2017. There will be plenty of interest in Keenum, but only after QB-needy teams strike out on Cousins. The incumbent Vikings could re-sign Keenum, but right now, it seems like they are intent on exploring the Cousins waters first.
There isn’t a ton of footage on A.J. McCarron, which made his placement on this list awfully tricky. We know this much: McCarron did well in place of Dalton in the home stretch of the 2015 season and his former offensive coordinator Hue Jackson was salivating at the chance of landing him before the Browns bungled the trade with the Bengals. McCarron’s relative youth is a plus (he won’t turn 28 until September) and his lack of experience can be looked at as a positive. Unlike some of the other names on this list, he hasn’t run up his NFL odometer.
What will NFL teams make of Teddy Bridgewater and Sam Bradford this offseason? Not long ago, both seemed like quality starting options. However, there are serious injury questions about both players and any team signing them will either look to backstop them with another decent option or ask them to come onboard as a QB2. With that in mind, one has to wonder if Bradford would consider retirement if asked to hold the clipboard for another signal caller. Bradford has earned upwards of $110MM over the years in the NFL, so it’s safe to say that he has enough money in the bank to call it quits if he wants. For now, he’s intent on playing.
Colin Kaepernick‘s placement on this list is sure to draw some strong reactions from his fans and detractors alike. Looking purely at his football ability, there’s no question that he belongs on someone’s roster. At minimum, Kaepernick profiles as a high-end backup, even after a year out of the game.
Quarterbacks coaches have long believed that Mike Glennon is capable of great things, due in part to his height. At 6’7″, he can see over any defensive line, but he hasn’t done much on the field to prove that he is a quality Week 1 starting option. Josh McCown, who is a decade his senior, edges him here for his surprisingly strong performance in 2017 at the helm of a weak Jets offense.
Carlos Hyde didn’t have the kind of platform year he was hoping for, but he’s still just 26 and could headline a running back by committee group.
Jerick McKinnon‘s placement on this list figures to be controversial, but his athleticism and pass-catching ability can blow a game wide open. No one will bank on McKinnon to carry the ball 20 times per game, but he can be a real difference maker for a team out there.
Can Frank Gore outrun father time? History indicates that he can’t and so does his 3.7 yards per carry average in 2017. You have to give credit where credit is due, however. Gore has been ruled out by many for years, but he has not missed a regular season game since the 2010 season. He’s also just one year removed from cracking 1,000 yards and he almost did the same last year.
For most teams, Allen Robinson would be a franchise tag candidate. However, that may be too much of a luxury for the cash-strapped Jaguars. He presents a fascinating free agent case. Robinson missed all but three snaps of the 2017 season after suffering a torn ACL, but he’s the most talented wide receiver on the board in the eyes of many. His 2015 season – 80 catches, 1,400 yards, and a league-leading 14 touchdowns – makes GMs drool. His quieter year in 2016 (73 catches, 883 yards, and six touchdowns) is less worthy of salivation. His 2017 season, of course, was a lost cause. For all the question marks, you can expect Robinson to see more dollars than any other free agent WR this year, particularly since Jarvis Landry has been held back by the tag.
Some in the football world may prefer Sammy Watkins for his big-play ability, but his down contract year amidst a capable offense is cause for concern. His injury history doesn’t do him any favors either. No matter your feelings on Watkins, there’s no debating that this year’s WR market has a top tier comprised of just two players – Watkins and Robinson. With few quality receivers out there, they’ll both get paid.
Marqise Lee represents a much less sexy option (speaking in football terms, of course), but he had the most receptions of any Jaguars receiver in 2017 (56) and finished second in receiving yards (702). Teams looking for a quality WR2 in free agency could do a lot worse than Lee and he’ll be far cheaper than the two-man top tier.
Danny Amendola hauled in 61 receptions for 659 yards and two touchdowns in the regular season and continued his strong play in the playoffs. However, teams will wonder if he can thrive in his age-33 season while playing outside of the Patriots’ offense. It’s also quite possible that he never tests the market as his stated preference is to remain in New England.
After that, you’ll notice a pretty significant drop off. That’s because this year’s WR class isn’t all that deep. Terrelle Pryor had to settle for a one-year prove-it contract last year and, to put it mildly, he did not prove it. Paul Richardson caught 44 passes for 703 yards and six touchdowns in 2017, but that marked his first NFL season of real note.
Trey Burton spent most of the year behind Zach Ertz on the Eagles’ depth chart, but he emerged late in the season and set himself up nicely for free agency. Given his age and potential, there’s no question that he is the belle of the ball at tight end.
The rest of the tight end crop is not nearly as inspiring. Jimmy Graham has enjoyed back-to-back Pro Bowl seasons with the Seahawks, but he’ll turn 32 in November and he’s no longer the monster playmaker that he was in New Orleans. He had ten touchdowns in 2017, but his 9.1 yards per reception average is a career low.
Odds are, you have Tyler Eifert ranked over Austin Seferian-Jenkins given the fact that Eifert has played just ten games over the last two years. ASJ, meanwhile, rebounded from personal issues to post a 50-catch season for the Jets. Personally, I’m picking Eifert based on upside. Hopefully, we can still be friends.
Offensive line play is down across the board and evaluators around the league have been openly complaining about an increasing dearth of tackles coming out of college. That makes for a generally uninspiring lot in free agency.
Nate Solder battled through injuries in 2017 and did not miss a game. He’s no longer a top-flight option, but he graded out as Pro Football Focus’ No. 32 tackle last year, meaning that he’s starter quality at left tackle. You’ll notice that three of the top five tackles on this list are Patriots. There’s little chance that the Pats let all three get away.
Justin Pugh offers the ability to play both guard and right tackle, though he might not do either one particularly well.
Andrew Norwell is the undisputed king of this category after netting an All-Pro selection in 2017. Norwell also earned a career-high 88.8 overall score from Pro Football Focus, which positioned him third in the entire NFL amongst guards. A team with greater means than the Panthers might have used the franchise tag on him. Fortunately for rival teams in need of interior help (such as the Giants), they won’t cuff him with the one-year placeholder.
The Falcons announced the signing of three players on Tuesday afternoon. They have added fullbacks Derrick Coleman and Soma Vainuku plus guard Hugh Thornton.
Prior to today, the Falcons didn’t have any fullbacks on the roster, so Coleman and Vainuku now make up their entire FB depth chart. Of course, when all is said and done, they could carry just one fullback, or possibly none if they do not care about prioritizing lead blocking. The Falcons lost one of the league’s best fullbacks this offseason when Patrick DiMarco signed with the Bills in free agency.
You might remember Coleman from his time with the Seahawks. An alleged hit-and-run incident in 2015 kept him out of football in 2016, but he avoided jail by agreeing to 240 hours of community service plus 12 months of community supervision. Although he is out of the woods in terms of legal trouble, he still has to serve a four-game NFL suspension. We had him ranked as one of the best remaining fullbacks on the board heading into Tuesday.
Thornton, 26 in June, started 32 games for the Colts from 2013-2015. The former third-round pick has been held back by injuries and has not seen regular season action since December 2015.
The initial wave of NFL free agency is now complete, and while many of the league’s top available players are now off the board, there are still plenty of quality options still on the open market.
Listed below are our rankings for the top 15 free agents at each offensive position. These rankings aren’t necessarily determined by the value of the contracts – or the amount of guaranteed money – that each player is expected to land in free agency. These are simply the players we like the most at each position, with both short- and long-term value taken into account.
Restricted and exclusive-rights free agents, as well as players who received the franchise tag, aren’t listed here, since the roadblocks in place to hinder another team from actually acquiring most of those players prevent them from being true free agents.
We’ll almost certainly be higher or lower on some free agents than you are, so feel free to weigh in below in our comments section to let us know which players we’ve got wrong.
Here’s our breakdown of the current top 15 free agents by offensive position for 2017:
Tony Romo is not a free agent…at least not yet. If the Cowboys do not find a suitable trade and release him, you’ll find him at the top of this list.
Laugh if you must, but Cutler is far and away the best quarterback available on the open market. While most of this year’s QB-needy teams are done with their free agent shopping, the Jets are still searching for their 2017 starter and no one would make more sense for them than Cutler. He’s not all that far removed from playing solid football and he’s a logical transitional option for the Jets until they can isolate a better, younger option for 2018.
Kaepernick’s reps wisely told the press that he will be standing for the National Anthem this year. Still, Kaepernick is an outspoken guy who wants to use his platform to discuss hot button issues, so there’s no guarantee that the media circus around him will cease. Jets owner Woody Johnson loves seeing his team on the back pages of the New York tabloids, but even he has to have more sense than to entertain Kaepernick. McCown, who has been contact with the team, would be an okay choice if they can’t get something done with Cutler. Chase Daniel could be an option too, but there isn’t much game film on him.
Needless to say, the No. 3 ranked player on this list isn’t an option in New York.
The Vikings have moved on and Peterson will not be back in Minnesota. Where he goes from here is anyone’s guess. When Peterson’s option was declined by the Vikings earlier this month, there were tons of stories (likely sourced by Peterson’s camp) about interest from a litany of contenders. Since then, each team – through anonymous sources – has denied being in the mix for the veteran. It would be easy to doubt Peterson at this juncture, but he has come back from serious injuries multiple times in his career and he is only one year removed from his stellar 2015 campaign. He gets the top spot over the bruising Blount as well as Charles, who hasn’t been healthy in a long while.
Jennings was brought to New York with the idea that he would be the team’s workhorse. Unfortunately, two of his three seasons with the G-Men were marred by injury. Jennings is currently putting his agility to good use on Dancing With The Stars and it remains to be seen how committed he is to football. After that, we have a trio of vets (Hightower, Williams, CJ2K) who could still advance the ball in limited spurts.
In case you’re wondering – Mike Gillislee is not listed here because he is a restricted free agent.
The market has been slow to develop for Aiken but it sounds like things could pick up soon as he’s set to meet with the Colts and Seahawks. Aiken, 28 in May, had only 29 receptions last year, but he had 75 grabs for 944 yards in 2015.
Cruz was on the field for 15 regular season games last year and he could recapture some of his old form if a team uses him in the slot. Quick quietly had 44 catches for 564 yards and three touchdowns with the Rams last year, and he was playing in a less-than-stellar offense. Boldin, meanwhile, had 67 catches in 2016, but he averaged just 8.7 yards per reception.
It’s a thin group at tight end and everything drops off dramatically after Tamme and Rivera at the top. Donnell made some noise during his time with the Giants but it’s been a while since he’s done anything of note. Tamme and Rivera could be the only two players from this group to land a deal with any real guaranteed cash.
Things have thinned out at tackle but there are still some impact guys here including Clady, Dunlap, and the versatile Pasztor. Sebastian Vollmer, if healthy, would be an interesting pickup for a team in need of offensive line depth.
Evans can still go and he finished out as Pro Football Focus’ No. 36 guard in the NFL last season. We have a few notable centers here as well in Mangold, Sullivan, and Barnes. Some teams are asking Mangold to switch to guard, but he is hoping to continue in the middle.
NFL free agency is right around the corner! The legal tampering period starts on Tuesday and free agency officially starts on Thursday. The list of available free agents will change between now and then as players re-sign with teams or get cut loose, but we have a pretty good idea of who will be available right now. After looking at the top defensive players, we now shift our attention to the other side of the ball.
Here are our rankings for the top 15 free agents at each position. The rankings aren’t determined by earning power, they are simply the players we like the most at each position, with a combination of short- and long-term value taken into account. You won’t find restricted free agents or franchise tagged guys here since they are unlikely to go leave their current clubs.
Player evaluation is always subjective, so we encourage you to make your voices heard in the comments section in cases where you disagree with us.
Here’s our breakdown of the current top 15 free agents by offensive position for 2017:
Ryan Nassib is just outside of the top 15 here with EJ Manuel getting the final spot. Despite positive word about his play in practice, Nassib is unproven and the Giants’ apparent lack of interest in re-signing him says a lot. It’s also possible that he might not be 100% after ending the 2016 season on IR with an elbow injury. Manuel, for all his warts, has shown potential in small bursts.
As expected, the Vikings have cut Adrian Peterson loose and he is expected to garner interest from contending clubs this week. Some might peg Peterson as the most talented running back in this year’s free agent class, but it all comes down to how you weigh his age and injury history. Peterson has shocked the football world in the past with an incredible comeback, but I’m a little skeptical of his ability to do it again in his age-32 season. Eddie Lacy, who has injury question marks of his own, takes the top spot at the position.
Jamaal Charles has the most impressive resume of anyone on this list, with the exception of Peterson. However, no one knows exactly what he can do after playing eight games in the last two years. He’ll turn 31 in December and that’s usually not an indicator of success for running backs.
Kyle Juszczyk graded out as the best fullback in the NFL last year, according to Pro Football Focus. The Ravens would be wise to keep him, but if they don’t, he’ll draw interest from teams all over the league. Juszczyk earned his first career Pro Bowl nod as he caught 37 passes for 266 yards. His exceptional 92.1 pass blocking score from PFF led all other fullbacks by a wide margin.
Mike Tolbert is ranked lower than you might expect due to his age and diminished blocking skills. He’ll turn 32 in November and it’s not guaranteed that he’ll find another job after getting released by the Panthers, though the Jets are said to have interest in him. Gang Green could also look into signing Patrick DiMarco and Marcel Reece. If you ask me, they should target DiMarco if they want to truly emphasize the running game. DiMarco finished the year with the best run blocking score in the NFL, according to Pro Football Focus.
Brandon Marshall, welcome to the free agent pool. Marshall is just two years removed from a year in which he had 109 catches, 1,502 yards, and 14 touchdowns. However, his numbers dipped significantly last season as the entire Jets offense slumped. The veteran will get tons of interest this week and his suitors may include the Giants, Patriots, and Ravens.
Kenny Britt managed to put up big numbers in the midst of the Rams’ offensive quagmire last season. He now hits free agency at a great time and the WR-needy Eagles are the latest team to be connected to him. The South Jersey contingent of the Eagles fanbase will appreciate the homecoming of the Rutgers product. At the same time, they should hope he exhibits a better attitude than he did on the banks of the old Raritan.
The talent is definitely there with Markus Wheaton and the team that takes a chance on him could wind up very, very happy. Robert Woods, historically, thrived in games where Sammy Watkins was unavailable or limited. Woods doesn’t turn 25 in until April and there’s a case to be made that he should be higher on this list. Cordarrelle Patterson has turned out to be a very capable returner, but there are definitely ambitious coaches out there who think they can still mold him into a great receiver. Michael Floyd is now years removed from his best work in Arizona, so one has to wonder what he can contribute even if he has turned over a new leaf.
Victor Cruz is an exceptionally hard-worker and a team-first kind of guy. He’ll be a great addition to any locker room, but it’s anyone’s guess as to what he’ll do in 2017. We’ll say this: a return to the slot would greatly benefit him.
Anquan Boldinjust missed the top 15 and I don’t necessarily feel great about it. Brian Quickalso missed the cut and it was a toss-up between him and Cruz for that last spot.
Anthony Fasano finds himself ranked higher than some bigger names due to his blocking ability. PFF gave Fasano an 88.1 score for run blocking, which was the best of any tight end last year. His 72.9 pass blocking score was fourth-best among TEs. The Titans will make a real effort to keep him.
Andrew Whitworth spent some time at guard last season but his best (and most profitable) position is on the outside. He’s 35, so he won’t lead all FA tackles in total money this year despite being our top-ranked free at the position.
Russell Okung was thrust into the free agent market in February when the Broncos declined his option. This time around, it will be interesting to see whether he hires an agent. His previous deal was effectively a one-year pact with a club option for a four-year, $48MM deal with $20.5MM in guaranteed cash. After a so-so year, the Broncos wisely turned it down.
Austin Pasztor is listed as a tackle here, though it’s quite possible he reverts to the interior line in 2017. Mike Adams, a former second-round pick, makes the cut for his natural talent, even though he hasn’t shown much at the professional level. Will Beatty also found his way to the Top 15, but his market will be capped after two injury-ridden years.
Honorable mention: D.J. Fluker, A.Q. Shipley (C), Brian Schwenke (C)
Kevin Zeitler was the only offensive lineman to crack our Top 50 Free Agents list last week. Zeitler, 27 in March, was PFF’s No. 7 ranked guard in the NFL this year. After three consecutive strong seasons, he is going to get big bucks.
J.C. Tretter graded out as a top 10 center last year, according to PFF, and he just turned 26. Stefen Wisniewski offers experience at both guard and center and there should be at least a few teams looking at him as a potential starter.