NFL Free Agency starts in about a week. March 14 is the official start of the 2018-2019 NFL Season. That’s when free agent players hit the market. Based on what I see, these Top 10 players could demand the most money.
Many of the names on this list are familiar. Some aren’t. That’s the thing about the NFL. Being a name player doesn’t mean that you’re going to cash. When teams sign free agents, there’s a whole lot that goes into it.
NFL 2018 Free Agency
I’ve left off a couple of free agent quarterbacks in Drew Brees and Jimmy Garoppolo. Garoppolo is a real franchise quarterback. There’s no way the San Francisco 49’ers allow Garoppolo to go to another team. They see the next Steve Young in Jimmy Garoppolo.
Drew Brees, the greatest player to ever put on a New Orleans Saints uniform, won’t leave the Big Easy. The Saints were a fluke play away from a spot in the NFC Championship. Who knows what might have happened if they had made it to the NFC Championship?
New Orleans won’t part ways with Brees while it’s unlikely Drew wants to go to a different team without a real shot at the Super Bowl. With that in mind, check out my Top 10!
1. Kirk Cousins QB
On March 6, Washington declined to place the franchise tag on Kirk Cousins. Washington figures why waste time? They’ve got their try to win now QB in Alex Smith. They’ll have a shot to draft a QB in April. Give Kirk his choice of places to go.
The reason Cousins is number one is because it’s rare that a QB who knows how to play the position at a high-level hits the free agent market. Cousins has said he wants to go to either the New York Jets or the Minnesota Vikings.
Either choice makes sense. The Jets aren’t as bad as all of us believed they were before last season. Minnesota was a game away from Super Bowl 52. Whomever Cousins decides to go with, it should be the right choice.
But…I think he bolts to Minnesota
Prediction: Cousins signs with the Minnesota Vikings
Why? Cousins might like the idea of changing conferences and playing with the Jets, a team with a young defense, but NYJ has nobody that can catch the football. Minnesota was a game away from the Super Bowl. Also, the Vikings have a solid rushing attack.
2. Jimmy Graham TE
I don’t believe anybody else has Jimmy Graham ranked as high as I do. Then again, not everybody has been a New Orleans Saints fan the way I have through the lean times. Graham is still one of the Top 5 pass-catching tight-ends in the NFL. He and Russell Wilson never got on the same page because Seattle’s offensive line is horrendous.
Graham could end up at a number of places. The Houston Texans, New Orleans Saints, and Detroit Lions are all teams that appear to have interest in signing Jimmy. Of the three, the team that makes the least sense, are the New Orleans Saints. Graham isn’t a great blocking tight-end. The Saints are more of a rushing team than anything else these days.
Prediction: Graham signs with the New Orleans Saints
Why? Just because it doesn’t make sense, it doesn’t mean that it won’t happen. The Saints never really wanted to part with Jimmy Graham. More importantly, Sean Payton gave Graham a chance when nobody else did. I suspect that Graham misses the stability he had with Payton and Brees.
3. Sheldon Richardson DT
The Seattle Seahawks could decide to place the franchise tag on Sheldon Richardson. After all, the Hawks have already stated that they’re shopping around Michael Bennett. Do they really want to take another hit on their defensive line?
The problem with Richardson is that he’s only got 2.5 sacks in his last 30 games played. That’s not going to get any team’s blood pumping. Then again, Richardson’s main job in Seattle was to shut down the middle so that Cliff Avril and Bennett could get to the QB.
Space-eaters like Richardson always have a job in the NFL. They also get paid the big bucks. Who will pay Sheldon Richardson? The rumor is that both the Tennessee Titans and New York Jets are looking Richardson’s way.
Prediction: Richardson signs with the New York Jets
Why? Todd Bowles knows that if he re-plugs Richardson into the middle of the Jets’ defense (the Jets traded Richardson last season), NYJ could end up with one of the better units in the AFC.
4. Allen Robinson WR
Most NFL fans believe the Jaguars were going to assign the franchise tag to wide receiver Allen Robinson. I wasn’t one of those fans. Robinson might be the Jaguars’ best wide receiver, but Jacksonville is deep at the position. Marqise Lee is a decent WR. Keelan Cole showed flashes of being a WR2 while Dede Westbrook showed flashes of being a WR1. The Jags figure to let Robinson test the free agent market unless they resign him before March 14.
If they do, which teams will be interested in the huge WR’s talents? The Indianapolis Colts and Tennessee Titans are two teams that could truly benefit with Robinson on their teams. Both have enough cap space to sign him.
Prediction: Robinson signs with the Indianapolis Colts
Why? Although I’d suggest against it, the Colts are bent on keeping Andrew Luck as their QB. If they decide to keep Luck, instead of trading him for 4 Round 1 picks, the Colts must put more talent around him. T.Y. Hilton’s good. He’d be great with Robinson on the other side.
5. Andrew Norwell G
Norwell is one of the best guards in the NFL. He should demand a king’s ransom. However, it’s already a done deal that he signs with the New York Giants. Nobody has come up with an alternative.
Prediction: Norwell signs with the New York Giants
Why? The Giants will give Norwell as much money as he wants to head to the Big Apple. The reason is because NYG must protect QB Eli Manning. If the Giants do sign Norwell, they’ll look to draft Saquon Barkley in April.
6. Case Keenum QB
If Cousins does decide to sign with the Minnesota Vikings, Case Keenum could be a hot commodity. Keenum threw 7 interceptions from 481 pass attempts. Protecting the football is the main reason to sign a free agent quarterback. That’s the way I see it.
Keenum isn’t the reason the Vikings lost to the Eagles in the NFC Championship. Whomever ends up signing Case will have gotten a bargain. A few teams could go after Case. Those teams are: the Arizona Cardinals, the New York Jets, and the Denver Broncos.
Prediction: Keenum signs with the Arizona Cardinals
Why? The Cardinals should challenge the Rams for supremacy in the NFC West this season. Arizona’s got a dynamite defense, a decent rushing attack if David Johnson come back 100%, and one of the best wide receivers to ever play in the league in Larry Fitzgerald. A QB like Keenum could really make Zona tough to beat.
7. Malcolm Butler CB
The New England Patriots won’t retain Butler’s services. Yes, he’s a former Super Bowl hero. But, New England didn’t even play Butler in Super Bowl 52. That means they’re going to let him walk.
Where will Butler end up? Tampa Bay, Seattle, San Francisco and Oakland are the teams that everyone’s talking about.
Prediction: Butler signs with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Why? Everyone feels Jon Gruden wants to sign Malcolm Butler. I don’t think so. Cornerback play isn’t the reason the Raiders couldn’t stop teams from passing all over them. Gruden must institute an effective defensive scheme. That’s all.
Tampa Bay, on the other hand, could be in some trouble if they don’t sign Butler. The Buccaneers must get their act together in the secondary. The Bucs battle Drew Brees, Matt Ryan, and Cam Newton twice each this season.
8. Trumaine Johnson CB
If Tampa doesn’t sign Malcolm Butler, there’s a good chance they sign Trumaine Johnson. Johnson’s a very good cornerback. Depending on what his market value is, he’s the cornerback on which Gruden might pull the trigger. There’s also the possibility that Johnson signs with the San Francisco 49’ers.
Prediction: Johnson signs with the San Francisco 49’ers
Why? San Francisco could use a good cornerback. With Johnson at corner, and a good draft where they grab a pass-catcher and load up on defense, the 49’ers might be in the thick of the NFC West Division.
9. A.J. McCarron QB
In February, an arbitrator ruled against the Cincinnati Bengals. That means McCarron becomes a free agent on March 14. Based on some reports, the Browns will sign McCarron and then pass on drafting a QB with the first pick.
Prediction: McCarron will sign with the Cleveland Browns
Why? The Browns could decide that the player they can’t pass up on drafting is Penn State RB Saquon Barkley. Barkley ran the shuttle in a ridiculous 4.24. He can already cut as well as most starting running backs in the NFL. Not only that, but Barkley’s a hard worker. Signing McCarron allows Cleveland to draft Barkley.
10. Nate Solder T
The Patriots’ starting left-tackle is a must resign if they hope to make it back to the Super Bowl. New England might not have the guns to sign Solder, though. If Solder does hit the open market, most every team in the NFL who needs left-tackle help will knock on his door.
I believe Denver, Houston, and the New York Giants are the 3 teams that could land Solder.
Prediction: Denver Broncos
Why? Denver drafted Garrett Boles last season. Boles is still learning the left tackle position. If Denver manages to sign Solder, move Boles to right tackle, and then pick up a QB in the draft, who’s to say they don’t challenge in the AFC? This is particularly true if Denver ends up drafting a QB like Josh Rosen.