A quick breather from 30 Clubs in 30 Days, I think we’ve all earned that. Let’s talk football. It’s going to be an interesting offseason as this is one of the more stacked free agent classes in recent memory. As I mentioned in the intro of this morning’s Milwaukee Brewers preview, the deadline for the Franchise Tag has passed and the potential free agents who will not be hitting the open market are Dolphins receiver Jarvis Landry (who may get traded), Lions pass rusher Ziggy Ansah, Cowboys pass rusher DeMarcus Lawrence, Rams safety LaMarcus Joyner, and Steelers runningback Le’Veon Bell (Bell has stated his displeasure with getting tagged). So now that the guys getting tagged are off the market, let’s take a look at who the 10 best players available are. I’m not going to include Drew Brees on this list because let’s face it, he’s not going anywhere.
10. QB Teddy Bridgewater
Just a tough go for Teddy Bridgewater. After being the 32nd overall pick in 2014, Bridgewater was looking pretty good and appeared to be the Vikings’ quarterback of the future. However, shortly before the 2016 season, he suffered a gruesome non-contact injury that resulted in a torn ACL, a dislocated knee, and other structural damage that was so bad people feared he may lose the leg. He seems to have made a full recovery, thankfully, though he hasn’t appeared in an NFL game since 2015 NFC Wild Card Round (that game where Blair Walsh missed the chip shot field goal that would’ve sent the Vikings to the Divisional Round and eliminated the Seahawks). He says he wants to start and he’s more than capable of it, but the severity of his injury may scare some teams.
Projected Landing Spot: Miami Dolphins
9. DT Muhammad Wilkerson
Muhammad Wilkerson’s departure from the Jets has seemingly been a foregone conclusion for years now, as the team has been on the fence between trading him, slapping the franchise tag on him, or giving him an extension. They ultimately released him this offseason and he’ll be hitting the open market. Wilkerson still has plenty left in the tank at 28 years of age though I doubt he’ll be getting much more than a 3-year deal.
Projected Landing Spot: Buffalo Bills
8. QB Sam Bradford
Sam Bradford’s had kind of a weird career. He was a Heisman Trophy winner at Oklahoma, was the first overall pick by the Rams in 2010, won NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year that same season, then injuries happened. It got so bad that Bradford’s fragility is a running joke amongst NFL fans. Though once he joined the Vikings after a year with the Eagles, he seemed to flip a switch. Bradford was excellent in 2016 as he completed 71.6% of his passes, threw for 3877 yards, and tossed 20 TDs vs only 5 picks. He got off to a good start in 2017 as well as he torched the Saints defense in Week 1 before hurting himself once again in practice. Only this time his replacement, Case Keenum, was terrific and Bradford never really got the job back. There’s certainly going to be a market for Bradford because he’s better than a lot of the guys other teams have been trotting out there as starters.
Projected Landing Spot: New York Jets
7. CB Trumaine Johnson
Trumaine Johnson is one of the more underappreciated corners in the league. He doesn’t make the flashy plays but he always ends up covering the opposing team’s #1 receiver and he does a pretty good job at it, too. However the Rams are a bit strapped for cash and they knew they wouldn’t be able to bring Johnson back so they traded for Marcus Peters and slapped the franchise tag on LaMarcus Joyner. Whomever ends up signing Johnson will be getting a steal.
Projected Landing Spot: New England Patriots
6. QB Case Keenum
The third former Vikings quarterback on this list, I was very surprised that the Vikings didn’t slap the franchise tag on Keenum after his performance in 2017, leading the Vikings to the NFC Championship game for the first time since the 2009 season, but there’s a reason for that which I’ll get into later because it involves another guy on this list. Keenum had a rough night against the Eagles in that conference title game but he was otherwise excellent for the Vikings and performed well beyond anybody’s expectations for him. There will be concern that it was a fluke and that the Eagles exposed his flaws, however I’m sure somebody will be willing to take a risk on him.
Projected Landing Spot: Arizona Cardinals
5. CB Malcolm Butler
As a Patriots fan, it’s going to suck to see Malcolm Butler go. It was kind of a messy ending, given the inexplicable benching in Super Bowl LII, but it was such a wonderful beginning, as pictured above, that no matter what happens I’m going to remember him fondly. After recording arguably the greatest interception of all time, Butler became a really good corner, finishing in the top 10 of Pro Football Focus’ cornerback ratings for 2015 and 2016. 2017 wasn’t as great for Butler and he got picked apart in the playoffs. There’s no chance he returns to the Patriots after the way he was handled, though and that’s going to leave a big hole at corner opposite Stephon Gilmore in New England (which I hope gets filled by Trumaine Johnson, but that’s wishful thinking).
Projected Landing Spot: New Orleans Saints
4. WR Allen Robinson
There’s never a good time to get injured but Allen Robinson may have picked the worst time to tear his ACL. He was an absolute stud in 2015, catching 80 passes for 1400 yards and a whopping 14 TD’s. He was a disappointment in 2016, though, as his yardage total was nearly cut in half and he struggled with drops. Entering a contract year in 2017, Robinson was out to prove that 2015 wasn’t a fluke. Then he tore his ACL in Week 1 against the Texans. So now not only has he not had a great season in 2 years, but he also hasn’t really played since 2016 thanks to his injury. I’m a little surprised the Jaguars didn’t elect to tag him and give him one more shot at a contract year, however they made the AFC Championship game without him and they probably feel comfortable with the guys they have. If Robinson can put forth a healthy 2018, though, he’s one of the most dangerous receivers in the league.
Projected Landing Spot: Chicago Bears
3. WR Sammy Watkins
Sammy Watkins is one of the most talented receivers in the game but injuries and having to learn a new system on the fly have kept him from reaching his full potential. The fourth overall pick by the Bills in 2014 and the first receiver taken in that already legendary class, Watkins was traded during the 2017 preseason to the Rams and was forced to learn Sean McVay’s playbook at an accelerated pace and as a result, his play faltered. Despite playing 15 out of 16 games, Watkins only had 39 catches for 593 yards (though he did have 8 TD’s to go with that) in offensive guru McVay’s system. However if he can stay healthy and be given a full offseason to learn a new system, Watkins could become the dangerous threat the Bills thought he’d be when they took him in 2014.
Projected Landing Spot: Dallas Cowboys
2. DT Sheldon Richardson
Sheldon Richardson is one of the best defensive tackles in the game however the only thing keeping him from being a Defensive Player of the Year-caliber player is himself. He’s had his issues off the field, the most appalling for me being that time he got in a high-speed chase with police with his 10-year old nephew in the passenger’s seat. Not good. However when he’s on the field he’s terrific and he was a big boost to the Seahawks’ defense as they were able to get creative with him and move him all over the line. If he gets into the right culture, he could be a huge impact on a team.
Projected Landing Spot: Returns to Seahawks
1. QB Kirk Cousins
You had to know Kirk Cousins was going to be #1. I’m not going to get too deep into this one because I already did that when the Redskins traded for Alex Smith. However there are reports that the Vikings are ready to offer him a king’s ransom, somewhere along the lines of 3 years and $91M GUARANTEED. It was a weird saga for Cousins with the Redskins and I’m happy for him that he’s been able to leave that toxic situation and, from the looks of things, get seriously paid.
Projected Landing Spot: Minnesota Vikings
That’s going to do it for the top 10 free agents in the NFL. Let me know what you think of this free agent class in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.