These discussions centered on moving Robert Hunt to guard, where the Dolphins believe the 2020 second-round pick can be a Pro Bowler, Fowler adds. However, the draft may have changed the organization’s plans here. Miami draftedLiam Eichenberg out of Notre Dame in Round 2. Eichenberg played left tackle primarily for the Fighting Irish, starting three seasons there, but is viewed as a better fight on the right side. With Tua Tagovailoa being a lefty, Eichenberg would retain a blindside role as a pro.
Hunt started 11 games as a rookie, primarily playing right tackle. He started at guard as an underclassman at Louisiana but played right tackle as a junior and senior. Pro Football Focus viewed Hunt as a below-average tackle last season, grading him just outside the top 50 at the position. Miami rosters multiple veterans with versatile NFL pasts as well, in Jesse Davis and D.J. Fluker.
Villanueva opted to sign with the Ravens shortly after the draft; the six-year Pittsburgh left tackle starter is set to take over Baltimore’s right tackle job. Kelly participated in the Broncos’ brigade of right tackle workouts this week, but Denver chose Bobby Massie and Cameron Fleming from those. The Titans released Kelly during the legal tampering period; he spent the past five seasons in Tennessee.
Wagner, the Packers’ starting right tackle last season, is expected to retire, Fowler adds. While the former Ravens and Lions right tackle has not announced any retirement plans, this was believed to be a consideration when the Packers cut him three months ago. Wagner, 31, has made 96 pro starts.
The Bears became the latest team to work out Jamon Brown, with SI.com’s Albert Breer tweeting the guard was in Chicago for an audition. The free agent guard, a Falcons cut last month, has already worked out for the 49ers. Brown was a full-time Rams starter in 2017, but a 2018 suspension derailed his momentum. The Rams waived him shortly after he returned from that ban, but he ended the ’18 season as a Giants first-stringer. The Bears are returning four starters from last season and have been trying ex-Seahawks right tackle Germain Ifedi at guard.
Here is the latest from the North divisions:
The Steelers will let Mike Tomlin enter a contract year. Signed through 2021, Tomlin will not be extended this year, Art Rooney II said (via The Athletic’s Ed Bouchette, subscription required). The Steelers gave Tomlin his most recent extension last July, and he managed an eight-win season despite the largely Ben Roethlisberger-less Steelers ranking 32nd in offensive DVOA. Rooney said he plans to address the contracts of Tomlin and GM Kevin Colbert, who just signed a one-year extension, in 2021.
One of the league’s healthiest teams last season, the Packers may be down a starter in Week 1. Billy Turner suffered a knee injury during a scrimmage and is uncertain for Green Bay’s opener, Rob Demovsky of ESPN.com notes. Turner played guard for the Packers last season but is competing with free agency addition Ricky Wagner at right tackle this year. Lane Taylor, who missed all of last season, is expected to play right guard opposite emerging talent Elgton Jenkins on the left side.
For the second time in three weeks, the Browns brought in Cody Parkeyfor a visit. The veteran was part of a kicker group to work out for the Browns in August, though it was reported at the time the team was organizing a COVID-related emergency kicker list. Parkey briefly kicked for the Titans last season.
Bears training camp coaching intern Henry Burris will stay on the team’s staff all season, Matt Nagy announced. Known mostly for his 17-season CFL run, Burris also was a Bears quarterback for a short time in the early 2000s. This will be his first NFL coaching gig.
Aaron Rodgers‘ longtime blindside protector, David Bakhtiari, is entering the final year of the four-year extension he signed with the Packers just before the 2016 campaign. He has more than lived up to that contract, earning two Pro Bowl nods and one First Team All-Pro bid over the past four seasons.
He is unquestionably one of the best left tackles in the league, and as Mike Garafolo of the NFL Network observes, Green Bay would love to get an extension finalized before Week 1 (Twitter link). After all, the LT market is rapidly heating up, and Bakhtiari’s deal now places him outside of the top-10 in terms of average annual value.
When asked back in June if there were any ongoing negotiations with the Packers, the soon-to-be 29-year-old was tight-lipped. Though he did commit 12 penalties in 2019, including a career-high five false starts, he chalked that up to learning a new offensive system. Indeed, he did not commit any penalties in the final four games of the campaign, and if he turns in a typical performance in 2020, he will have every right to demand a contract similar to the monstrous three-year, $66MM pact ($50MM guaranteed) that Laremy Tunsil recently signed with the Texans.
The Packers certainly would like to get Bakhtiari tethered to something a little more team-friendly, so it stands to reason that they would try to lock him up sooner rather than later. That is especially true in light of the expected salary cap decrease in 2021.
Ricky Wagner will jump from one NFC North offensive line to another. The Packers are signing the recently released Lions lineman, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (on Twitter).
A former Ravens starter, Wagner served as the Lions’ right tackle for three seasons. He will be in line to succeed Bryan Bulaga in Green Bay. Bulaga is a free agent expected to have a strong market.
The Lions cut Wagner over the weekend, and the Packers emerged as a suitor Monday morning. Minutes after Green Bay was linked to the seven-year veteran, the sides had a deal. This marks the Packers’ second notable street free agent agreement of the morning, with the team adding linebacker Christian Kirksey as well. It looks like Brian Gutekunst plugged two holes in the team’s starting lineup before the tampering period begins.
Wagner graded as a substandard blocker, per Pro Football Focus, in 2019 but was solid in his initial two Lions seasons. The Lions cut bait on a five-year deal. Wagner came into the league three years after Bulaga did, but the former is only seven months younger than the longtime Green Bay right tackle. Both are 30. Since becoming a Ravens starter in 2014, Wagner has started 87 games.
The Lions will make a major change along their offensive line. They are releasing veteran right tackle Ricky Wagner.
Wagner spent three seasons in this role with Detroit, but his release will provide the Lions with $6.1MM in cap space. Going into his eighth season, Wagner was set to make $9MM. Two years remained on Wagner’s Detroit deal.
Detroit signed Wagner to a five-year, $47.5MM deal in 2017. He started all 40 games in which he appeared and, over the first two years of the contract, produced a positive Pro Football Focus review. This past season, however, the 30-year-old blocker graded as PFF’s No. 61 overall tackle. This will mean the Lions are set to lose two starters from their past three O-lines, with guard Graham Glasgow on track to be a coveted free agent.
With this move, the Lions will move back north of $50MM in cap space. They stand to possess at least $53MM, though other cuts could surely follow the Wagner decision. Wagner now heads to a marketplace that will feature a few newly available tackles, including Jason Peters, Trent Williams and Cordy Glenn.
Let’s take a look at the details of some recently signed free agent contracts:
Kenny Britt‘s four-year Browns deal will provide the ninth-year wide receiver with $10.5MM fully guaranteed at signing, per Adam Caplan of ESPN.com (on Twitter). Britt will collect $17MM over the first two seasons of this deal, Caplan reports.
The Lions‘ lavish accord for Ricky Wagner raises the right tackle ceiling, although the base salaries in this contract don’t reflect that early. Wagner will see $3MM in base salary in 2017 and ’18 before those figures spike to $9MM per year from 2019-21, Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press reports. Wagner’s deal provides $17.5MM in true guarantees, with his 2018 salary being fully guaranteed on the fifth day of the ’18 league year, per Birkett. Wagner’s 2019 base salary is guaranteed against injury. He received a $14.5MM signing bonus, while the former Raven’s cap hits will be $5.9MM in each of the next two seasons.
D.J. Fluker‘s one-year Giants pact is expected to be worth $3MM, Ralph Vacchiano of SNY.tv reports. That’s quite a bit lower than what the Chargers would have paid him ($8.82MM) if they kept him after picking up his fifth-year option.
Menelik Watson‘s three-year, $18.75MM Broncos accord will give the British blocker $5.375MM in fully guaranteed money at signing, Mike Klis of 9News reports. Watson received a $4MM signing bonus. The former Raider will have a $5.5MM guaranteed-against-injury salary in 2018 and is due a nonguaranteed $5.5MM amount in 2019.
Ronald Leary‘s four-year contract with the Broncos also comes with a fully guaranteed 2018 salary, which will pay former Cowboy $7.65MM for his age-29 season, per Klis. Leary is slated to make $8.15MM in 2019 and ’20, respectively. His 2019 base salary is guaranteed against injury only, with the ’20 slate being nonguaranteed.
Sealver Siliga‘s one-year Buccaneers deal can max out at $1.5MM, Greg Auman of the Tampa Bay Times tweets. The contract contains a $200K signing bonus and a $100K roster bonus for the nomadic defensive lineman.
The Lions and tackle Ricky Wagner have agreed to terms on a deal, NFL reporter Rand Getlin tweets. The deal will pay him more than $9MM per year, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets. It’s a five-year contract for Wagner, reports Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press (via Twitter).
Throughout the offseason, we’ve heard rumblings of Wagner fetching around $10MM/year, a staggering number for a right tackle. However, salaries are on the rise across the board thanks to the cap increase and Wagner was in great position to get paid given the lack of quality tackles in this year’s free agent crop. It also helps that the draft is soft on tackles.
The Lions are a natural fit for the 27-year-old, as offensive lineman Riley Reiff is also a free agent. The team has tackles Taylor Decker,Corey Robinson, and PierceBurton on the books for next season.
Until now, Wagner spent his entire four-year career with the Ravens after being selected in the fifth round of the 2013 draft. The offensive tackle played in 62 total games for Baltimore, including 47 starts.
It’s free agency week! This year, thanks to the salary cap increase, the dollars will be flying and players will make more than you ever could have expected. Our lists for offense and defense rank free agents based on overall ability, but our Top 50 ranks players based on earning power. Here, you’ll get a good sense of what the market will be like this week and who the big fish are.
The league’s “legal tampering” window will open on Tuesday at 11:00am CT. Technically, teams and players aren’t permitted to finalize agreements on contracts during that legal tampering window, but that’s often treated as a guideline rather than a hard and fast rule. We will almost certainly see handshake agreements go down on Tuesday and Wednesday before they become official on Thursday, the technical beginning of free agency.
Our list of 2017’s top 50 free agents doesn’t include restricted free agents, or franchise tagged players, since they’re effectively restricted free agents as well.
With those caveats out of the way, let’s dive right in! Here are Pro Football Rumors’ top 50 NFL free agents for 2017, along with a few predictions on how much they might earn and what teams could be in the mix to sign them:
1. A.J. Bouye, CB (Texans): Bouye is an overnight sensation, going from unknown to elite talent in the blink of an eye. No one knows exactly what to make of Bouye, but his upside is too much for teams to pass up. The Texans declined to use the franchise tag on the 25-year-old (26 in August), but they’re still hoping to get a deal done this week. The Jets are said to have interest, but it’s not clear if they’ll have the room to get something done. Cornerback-needy teams like the Panthers, Saints, Jaguars, Titans, Bears, and Eagles can be expected to at least kick the tires on this year’s top player in the secondary. Could something like Janoris Jenkins‘ five year, $62.5MM contract ($28.8MM fully guaranteed) from last year be within reach? Jenkins had a longer history of success than Bouye, but consider these facts: Bouye nearly two years younger than Jenkins was at time of signing and the salary cap has risen by about $12MM. Signed with Jaguars for five years, $67.5MM.
2. Alshon Jeffery, WR (Bears): He was hurt for most of 2015 and he slumped along with the entire Bears offense in 2016, but his natural ability is still evident and he is a legitimate No. 1 wide receiver. At one point, it seemed like Jeffery could wind up as the league’s highest-paid wide receiver. That won’t be the case, but he will likely get more cash than any other wide receiver in this year’s class. The Eagles and Titans have been hot on his tail for some time now. The 49ers could also get involved and a return to the Bears cannot be ruled out either. Ultimately, Jeffery should wind up fetching at least $10MM per year and perhaps as much as $12MM per year on his next deal. Signed with Eagles for one year, $9.5MM.
3. Kenny Stills, WR (Dolphins): Jeffery isn’t the only wide receiver who could fetch $12MM per year. Stills isn’t necessarily the best wide receiver on his own team, but he is just on the cusp of his 25th birthday and his ability to stretch the field is tantalizing. It doesn’t sound like the Dolphins are ready to be the highest bidder for his services and it’s not hard to imagine a team like the Eagles landing him. Naturally, there’s quite a bit of overlap between the potential suitors for Jeffery and Stills: the Eagles, Titans, Bears, and 49ers will probably come calling. The Rams may not have enough room to squeeze in Stills, but they could certainly use a playmaker like him if they do not re-sign Kenny Britt. Stills reportedly likes the West Coast (who doesn’t?) so the Niners and Rams could have a leg up on the others if the bidding is close. Re-signed with Dolphins for four years, $32MM.
4. Dont’a Hightower, LB (Patriots): The market is capped for non-rush linebackers, but Hightower is pretty much the best at what he does and is also lauded for his intangibles. The Patriots have always embraced the “next man up” philosophy, so it is possible they will allow him to go elsewhere. The Dolphins have been frequently connected to Hightower, but that might be too ambitious for a team that has multiple major needs to address. The Colts might also make sense, but the price might be too rich for their blood. A Patriots return appears to be the most likely outcome, but anything is possible. Re-signed with Patriots for four years, $35.5MM.
5. Kevin Zeitler, G (Bengals): Zeitler has age on his side and he’s one of the safest free agents in the top ten after three consecutive years of dominance. Interior offensive linemen don’t get as much love as their counterparts on the outside, but they are still incredibly vital and Zeitler’s next contract will reflect that. If he doesn’t circle back to the Bengals, the Jaguars, Cardinals, Packers, and Seahawks all make varying degrees of sense for Zeitler. From a football standpoint, you can add the Jets to that group too, but I’m not sure they can meet a ~$12MM/year asking price. Signed with Browns for five years, $60MM.
6. Logan Ryan, CB (Patriots): There are bigger names available at the cornerback position, but Ryan slots ahead of many of them after a career year. It also doesn’t hurt that this fresh-faced Super Bowl champ only just turned 26 in February. If the Patriots don’t tie him down, Ryan’s earning power could conceivably vault him past Trumaine Johnson in terms of guaranteed cash. The Jaguars and Titans would be wise to zero in on Ryan if they can’t land Bouye and it’s possible that some of their evaluators might even prefer Ryan over the Houston standout. Ryan’s next deal will probably pay him eight figures per year and it should be a lengthy pact. Signed with Titans for three years, $30MM.
7. Terrelle Pryor, WR (Browns): There is strong mutual interest in a new deal between Pryor and the Browns. Still, the Browns passed on the opportunity to franchise tag the Ohio State product and he now appears poised to test the open market. With pretty much just one year to show, how will Pryor fare in free agency? His next deal should pay him at least $10MM/year and he could get up to $12MM/year. In addition to the Browns, the usual suspects for this year’s high-end WRs will explore signing Pryor (say it with me): Eagles, Titans, and 49ers. There’s conflicting word about whether the Steelers will get involved. The Giants are known to have interest, but I don’t think they’ll be splurging on free agents like they did one year ago. Signed with Redskins for one year, $6MM.
8 .Ricky Wagner, OT (Ravens): There’s already talk of Wagner fetching around $10MM/year and it’s not like this year’s free agent market is flush with young, quality tackles. When you also consider the lack of quality tackles in the draft, it’s apparent that Wagner is about to get PAID, in all caps.Believe it or not, $10MM/year might be his floor. When all is said and done, he’ll be the league’s biggest earner at right tackle. The Bears are particularly interested in Wagner, so he could go from the AFC North to the NFC North this week. Signed with Lions for five years, $47.5MM.
9. Calais Campbell, DL (Cardinals): Campbell was supposed to be an afterthought in Arizona after the addition of Chandler Jones. Perhaps motivated by a perceived slight, Campbell turned in a stellar year. Now, the Cardinals would very much like to keep him, but they can only go so far as they back up the Brinks truck for Jones and look into retaining other key free agents. If Jones does not agree to a cap-smoothing long-term deal between now and March 9th, the odds of Campbell leaving increase. The Jaguars are said to be a leading contender for Campbell while the Titans, Broncos, Colts, and Bears could also use a force like him. His age (31 in September) gives him a bit of a ceiling in terms of overall compensation, but he should still do nicely this month. Signed with Jaguars for four years, $60MM.
10. Stephon Gilmore, CB (Bills): In terms of pure talent, Gilmore might be the best cornerback available. Trouble is, no one knows what to make of him after a down 2016. Some have openly theorized that Gilmore was playing it safe to avoid injury in his pivotal contract year. It’s also possible that Buffalo’s injuries in the front seven put undue stress on the secondary. The Bears are reportedly high on Gilmore and he may represent a cheaper option than Bouye or Ryan. A Bills return would also make sense here. Signed with Patriots for five years, $65MM.
11. Tony Jefferson, S (Cardinals): The numbers at Pro Football Focus placed Jefferson slightly ahead of Eric Berry in 2016. He’s also a full three years younger than the KC star. The Cardinals want to keep Jefferson, but they expect to lose him. The Buccaneers, Redskins, Titans, and Panthers could all be in the mix for Jefferson. Now that Berry is off the market, I expect Jefferson to command $10MM per season on a multi-year deal – maybe more. Signed with Ravens for four years, $36MM.
12. Duron Harmon, S (Patriots): Surprised to see Harmon so close to fellow safety Tony Jefferson on this list? Don’t be. Free safety is where the money is at and Harmon figures to get make more than any of us anticipated six months ago. Like Ryan, Harmon is also just 26. The Patriots would presumably like to keep Harmon. If they don’t, teams like the Lions, Steelers, and Chargers could be in the mix. Re-signed with Patriots for four years, $17MM.
13. Mike Glennon, QB (Buccaneers): I’d like to take this opportunity to remind everyone that players are ranked here based on projected earnings, not ability. As of this writing, Glennon is the best QB in this year’s free agent class and he could get a deal that pays roughly $15MM/year (the guarantee amount, however, will be the thing to watch). The Bears are apparently very, very high on the 6’7″ QB. The 49ers, who were previously linked to him, will not be in pursuit. Signed with Bears for three years, $45MM.
14. T.J. Lang, G (Packers): In 2016, Lang earned a strong 87.0 overall grade from Pro Football Focus (8th amongst guards), including a 92.9 score for pass blocking (2nd). Lang, who turns 30 in September, also spent some time at tackle early in his career and could be moved around the line in a pinch. Signed with the Lions for three years, $29MM.
15. Brandon Williams, DT (Ravens): The Ravens are prioritizing a new deal for Williams this offseason, but if they don’t re-sign him, the Dolphins could be among the teams in pursuit. Williams doesn’t fill up a stat sheet, but he is an effective run-stuffer with age on his side. At 28, teams won’t be hesitant about making a multi-year commitment. Re-signed with Ravens for five years, $52.5MM.
16. Kenny Britt, WR (Rams): Britt managed to turn in his first career 1,000+ yard season despite playing in the NFL’s worst offense. He could match or even best Pierre Garcon and DeSean Jackson when it comes to average annual value and his age could lead to a longer deal. The Giants could bring the Rutgers product back to New Jersey to fill Victor Cruz‘s spot and take attention away from Odell Beckham Jr., but we’re expecting them to put their resources in other areas. The 49ers and Cowboys are both said to have their eyes on Britt. San Francisco is flush with cap space, but Dallas will have to do some maneuvering to make that deal work. Signed with Browns for four years, $32.5MM.
17. Dontari Poe, DT (Chiefs): Poe is a bit inconsistent, but when he’s on it’s a clear reminder of why the Chiefs made him the No. 11 overall pick in the 2012 draft. The Memphis product boasts two Pro Bowl selections and his athleticism may allow him to occasionally play a bit on the outside. If he leaves KC, the Raiders, Texans, Colts, and Packers (if they’re finally serious about spending in free agency) would all make sense for him. Signed with Falcons for one year, $8MM.
18. Nick Perry, DE (Packers): After this year’s premier edge defenders were franchised, Perry stands as the best defensive end available. In just 14 games (12 starts), the former first-round pick amassed 11 sacks. Teams employing a 3-4 scheme will be especially interested in his services. Re-signed with Packers for five years, $60MM.
19. Johnathan Hankins, DT (Giants): Hankins has youth on his side as he won’t turn 25 until late March. He also played a hand in the Giants’ strong run defense last year – as a team, they allowed just 88.6 yards on the ground per game. On the flipside, the advanced metrics indicate that Hankins wasn’t all that great last year. Signed with Colts for three years, $27MM.
20. Martellus Bennett, TE (Patriots): Rob Gronkowski‘s injury woes were unfortunate, but the Patriots barely missed a beat thanks to Bennett. Recently, Bennett gloated about Super Bowl winners getting overpaid and he’s not wrong – the shine of a championship ring tends to illuminate free agents. Still, Bennett shouldn’t sell himself short: he’s a big, bruising tight end who can be a major factor in the red zone, as evidenced by his seven touchdowns last season. Signed with the Packers for three years, $21MM.
21. Larry Warford, G (Lions): The knock on Warford when he was coming out of Kentucky was that he might not be able to make it at the next level due to his lack of agility and athleticism. Today, he’s not the quickest guard in the NFL, but he’s unquestionably starting caliber. Warford has never missed more than three games in one NFL season and he’s just entering his age-26 season. Signed with Saints for four years, $37MM.
22. Kevin Minter, LB (Cardinals): The Cardinals have lots of free agents to address this offseason and that could lead to the 26-year-old Minter going elsewhere. Last year, he racked up 81 total tackles and 3.5 sacks in 16 games. Signed with Bengals for one year, $4.25MM.
23. Andrew Whitworth, OT (Bengals): Whitworth is a stud, but his earning power is capped by his age (he’ll celebrate his 36th birthday in December). Last year, PFF rated him as the second-best tackle in the entire NFL and he’s been a Top 5/Top 10 guy for the last five years in a row. It should also be noted that he has been remarkably durable throughout his career, missing only two games since 2009. Signed with Rams for three years, $36MM.
24. Pierre Garcon, WR (Redskins): Garcon is a solid possession receiver, a label that he personally rejects. We understand where he’s coming from. This year, the Redskins had the veteran running deeper routes than he has in the past and he showed that he could stretch the field a bit, even though he wasn’t the fastest guy on the WR depth chart. He didn’t approach his gaudy 2013 numbers, but he still turned in a respectable stat line of 79 catches for 1,041 yards. His 69.1% catch rate was a career-high. Signed with 49ers for two years, $23MM.
25. Zach Brown, LB (Bills): Finally, Brown lived up to his second-round draft status in 2016. After settling for a cheap one-year deal last year, Brown should do a lot better this time around. Signed with Redskins for one year, $2.25MM.
26. DeSean Jackson, WR (Redskins): Jackson is on the wrong side of 30 and, typically, blazing speed does not age well. Still, he’s one of the game’s best deep threats and we can’t help but think that the Eagles could overspend to bring this fan favorite home. If that doesn’t come to fruition, don’t be surprised if he winds up with the Bucs. Signed with Buccaneers for three years, $33.5MM.
27. Chris Baker, DT (Redskins): Baker is well-rounded and can be used on both the interior and outside of the defensive line. The Redskins have been leaning on him more each year and he has thrived with the increased responsibilities. Signed with Buccaneers for three years, $15.75MM.
28. Prince Amukamara, CB (Jaguars): After being slowed by injuries in New York, Amukamara managed to stay on the field for most of the season in Jacksonville. He probably won’t blossom into a shutdown corner this late in the game, but the former first-round pick would make a fine CB2 somewhere. Signed with Bears for one year, $7MM.
29. Jabaal Sheard, DL (Patriots): Sheard saw his playing time reduced in the middle of the season and was even a healthy scratch for one game in November. Despite that bump in the road, the 27-year-old (28 in May) still managed to finish out the year with five sacks and 33 total tackles. Teams may have some questions about Sheard’s effort and/or conditioning after he wound up in Belichick’s doghouse. His stock could be affected if the Patriots don’t make a genuine effort to re-sign him. The Falcons could use him to fortify their front seven and he’ll be cheaper than a lot of the other defensive linemen out there. The rival Saints may also come calling. Signed with Colts for three years, $25.5MM.
30. Jonathan Cyprien, S (Jaguars): Jacksonville fans are often frustrated with Cyprien, but he’s coming off of a career year and he appears to have put many of his bad habits behind him. He finished out 2016 with 126 total tackles, one sack, and four pass deflections. PFF’s 87.8 overall grade was the best of his career and placed him No. 7 among safeties, just ahead of Berry. Signed with Titans for four years, $25MM.
31. Dre Kirkpatrick, CB (Bengals): We’re still waiting for Kirkpatrick to live up to his first-round billing. Personally, I wouldn’t commit serious money to Kirkpatrick on a long-term deal, but another club desperate for cornerback help might. The Steelers have some level of interest in Kirkpatrick after watching him up close for multiple years. As disappointing as he has been, something in the $8MM/year range cannot be ruled out. Re-signed with Bengals for five years, $52.5MM.
32. Ronald Leary, G (Cowboys): Leary has no interest in a reserve role and he’ll get the full-time starting job he craves this spring. Teams in need of a strong run-blocking guard will be all over him. Signed with Broncos for four years, $35MM.
33. J.C. Tretter, C (Packers): In an admittedly small sample last year, PFF rated Tretter as the ninth-best center in the NFL last season. Despite playing in only six games before his season-ending injury, Tretter should outearn every other center thanks in large part to his youth. The former fourth-round pick just recently turned 26. Signed with Browns for three years, $16.75MM.
34. Barry Church, S (Cowboys): Church isn’t a megastar, but he is a well-rounded strong safety who should draw plenty of interest. Berry re-signing with the Chiefs should cause a domino effect that enhances his market. Signed with Jaguars for four years, $21.6MM.
35. Adrian Peterson, RB (Vikings): As expected, the Vikings will decline Peterson’s hefty option for the 2017 season. A return to Minnesota is still possible and contenders like the Giants and Raiders will also be making a strong push to add AD to their backfield. Still, given his injury history, it’s hard to see Peterson getting a lucrative multi-year deal on the cusp of his 32nd birthday, hence his ranking this far down on the list. We have him as our top running back in the Top 50 because he should still score a fat one-year contract. The Giants and Raiders have both been linked to Peterson. The Packers could come into play if they lose their No. 1 RB this week. Signed with Saints for two years, $7MM.
36. Riley Reiff, OT (Lions): Personally, I prefer Russell Okung and Kelvin Beachum to Reiff, but I anticipate Reiff getting more money than both. He’s younger than Okung and coming off of a much better year than Beachum. Signed with Vikings for five years, $58.75MM.
37. Brandon Marshall, WR (Jets): The Jets dropped Marshall earlier this month, at his request. He didn’t do much last season, but neither did anyone else on the Jets. He could really wind up torturing Jets fans if he winds up with the Giants or Patriots as rumored. The Ravens love big-name aging receivers, so they would also be a natural fit for him. Signed with Giants for two years, $12MM.
38. Eddie Lacy, RB (Packers): Lacy’s weight issues are well documented but when he’s on, he’s on. Before his unfortunate injury this past fall, Lacy was averaging 5.07 yards per carry. Signed with Seahawks for one year, $4.25MM.
39. T.J. McDonald, S (Rams): I’m not as high on him as others, but he’s young and can knock receivers into next week. Signed with Dolphins for one year, $775K.
40. Morris Claiborne, CB (Cowboys): After multiple disappointing seasons, Claiborne broke out in his contract year. Then, his campaign ended after seven games. Will teams take the glass-half-full view of the former No. 6 overall pick? We believe they will, but there’s also a good crop of defensive backs in this year’s draft. Signed with Jets for one year, $5MM.
41. John Simon, LB/DE (Texans): J.J. Watt, Jadeveon Clowney, and Whitney Mercilus get the attention in Houston, but Simon is a quality edge rusher in his own right. This spring, the 26-year-old could go from supersub to starter with a significant pay bump. Signed with Colts for three years, $13.5MM.
42. Micah Hyde, S (Packers): Hyde, who just turned 26 in December, offers versatility and can be slotted anywhere in the secondary. In that respect, you might be thinking that he’s Darius Butler-lite. Many will prefer Butler as a player for the here and now, but Hyde could get more years and dollars thanks to the age gap. Signed with Bills for five years, $30MM.
43. Russell Okung, OT (Broncos): Last year, Okung went into free agency without an agent. That decision bit him in the behind after he turned in a so-so year and the Broncos turned down his pricey multi-year option. This time around, I hope he doesn’t cheap out and hires proper representation. Regardless, his market will be a lot softer than it was in 2016. Signed with Chargers for four years, $53MM.
44. Latavius Murray, RB (Raiders): He’s not the most explosive runner out there, but he’s a quality option for teams in need. Here’s an interesting scenario based on what we’ve been hearing: Murray could land with the Vikings while Peterson joins up with Oakland. Signed with Vikings for three years, $15MM.
45. Kayvon Webster, CB (Broncos): Webster wants more playing time and he’s not going to get that opportunity in Denver. He will almost certainly go elsewhere and I see him getting a solid payday based on his age (just turned 26), athleticism, and special teams ability. Signed with Rams for two years, $8MM.
46. Perry Riley, LB (Raiders): After he was a cap casualty of the Redskins last year, Riley quietly had a bounce-back year in Oakland.
47. Jack Doyle, TE (Colts): Every time we hear an update on Doyle, his projected salary keeps on rising. If the Patriots let Bennett leave, as expected, it’s possible they could look at Doyle as a new safety net for Gronk. Re-signed with Colts for three years, $19MM.
48. Darius Butler, DB (Colts): His ability to play multiple positions will work in his favor. Here’s a thought: if the Packers lose Hyde, they could make a play for Butler. He’ll be cheaper than Hyde due to the age gap and he’s arguably the better player for 2017. Re-signed with Colts for one year, $3MM.
49. Ryan Clady, OT (Jets): Lots of injury concerns, but also lots of potential.
After learning that the Vikings and Bears would have some interest in free agent offensive lineman Ricky Wagner, it looks like we can add another pair of teams to the list of potential suitors. NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo reports (via Kevin Patra of NFL.com) that both the Lions and Texans will “be in play” for the veteran.
Wagner has spent his entire four-year career with the Ravens after being selected in the fifth round of the 2013 draft. The offensive tackle ultimately played in 62 games for Baltimore, including 47 starts. A recent report indicated that the ship “appears to have sailed” regarding Wagner’s return to the Ravens.
The Lions are a natural fit for the 27-year-old, as offensive lineman Riley Reiff is also currently a free agent. Meanwhile, our own Connor Byrne noted that the Texans should seek some offensive line help this offseason. However, he could be out of their price range, per Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle (Twitter link).
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.