A few weeks ago, the NFL season concluded with none other than the New England Patriots raising the Lombardi trophy for the fifth time since 2002. With still a few months to go until the draft, the next step in the NFL offseason is free agency. Some top tier players will be expected to hit free agency, but where will they end up? In honor of Super Bowl champion MVP, number 12, Tom Brady, here are 12 of the top free agents in 2017.
1. Le’Veon Bell, RB, Pittsburgh Steelers
Bell is a very unique running back with a big, strong physique yet is fast and shifty, and has become an elite running back in the NFL. Bell is expected to be franchise tagged by the Steelers according to multiple sources. He has had a problem with getting in trouble with the league’s drug policy as well as being burdened with injuries. The Steelers most likely want to see Bell complete a full season with no drug problems and minimal injuries before committing a long term, high pay deal to the very talented running back.
2. Alshon Jeffrey, WR, Chicago Bears
Alshon Jeffrey is a tall, strong, fast wide receiver. Every single one of those traits are highly coveted in today’s NFL. Jeffrey, who was franchise tagged last offseason by the Bears, is likely to leave Chicago this offseason. The Philadelphia Eagles, a team with a rising star in Carson Wentz, and arguably the worst wide receiving core in the NFL this past season, have been linked with Jeffrey many times this offseason. They are expected to make a hard push for Jeffrey to give Wentz that elite go-to wide receiver he so badly missed last season.
3. Eric Berry, S, Kansas City Chiefs
Berry was one of the best players at his position the past two seasons. The Chiefs franchise tagged him going into this past season, but now, a year later are faced with the same decision. It is most likely that Berry will end up signing a very large, well-deserved deal and remain in Kansas City.
4. Kirk Cousins, QB, Washington Redskins
Kirk Cousins has come off two great seasons. The first, he was rumored to get a very large deal, but Redskins smartly opted to franchise tag him to make sure he was worth the money given their lack of a quality, long term play at the quarterback position for such a long time. However, Cousins is not a top ten quarterback. He had two great years, but, with the weapons he had around him, he would of had greater stats if he really was that highly coveted elite quarterback. Cousins though, is the best quarterback on the market this offseason. He will be overpaid, but that is just what happens at the quarterback position. If he is not overpaid in Washington, someone else, like the “always in need of a quarterback” Cleveland Browns. Cousins will either be tagged a second year in a row by Washington, or he will finally get his payday. Either way, don’t expect him to leave the red and yellow this offseason.
5/6. Desean Jackson and Pierre Garçon, WR, Washington Redskins
Both of these wide receivers come from Washington and are here at five together because it is believed Washington will keep one, and let the other go. Philadelphia Eagles have been linked to both Garçon and Jackson, but if they sign Jeffrey, it is doubtful they will have the money to put toward another wide receiver. It would make the most sense for the Redskins to keep Jackson. He, at 30 years old, is still able to take the top off a defense and open up shorter routes, if the deep ball isn’t there. Garçon doesn’t bring that threat and could end up hurting likely 2017 starter Cousins at QB. If the Redskins sign Jackson, Garçon has been linked to both Eagles and Cowboys. He would give Dallas a nice counterpart to Dez Bryant, and another weapon in an already elite offense.
7. Kawann Short, DT, Carolina Panthers
Short is one of the elite defensive tackles in the NFL. He is part of a very dangerous front seven that if the Panthers want to get back to their Super Bowl level, will need to keep in tact. Panthers let star corner Josh Norman go after he helped them reach the Super Bowl in the 2015-16 season. It is speculated he was let go because they knew they could not afford both he and Short. Now, they have to use that money to pay Short. He should remain a Panther for a long time with a very lucrative deal.
8. Melvin Ingram, OLB, LA Chargers
Ingram proved to be a force in the 2016-17 season. He was a machine getting to the quarterback and causing pressure, sacking the quarterback eight times and finishing with 60 tackles on the season. He is due for a big pay day. He has most often been linked to the Saints, who are expected to make a strong push, this offseason. It wouldn’t be a surprise if teams like the Colts, Ravens, and 49ers, who all are in need of a strong pass rusher on defense, make a push for Ingram.
9. A.J Bouye, CB, Houston Texans
Bouye, was an undrafted free agent back in 2013, and now, he is one of the top cornerback on the market in the 2017 free agency. Bouye has only started in 19 career games, making him risky to sign, but there are a lot of teams out there weak at the cornerback position, willing to pay someone hoping they will turn out worth the money. Bouye has been linked with Eagles, Bears, and with resigning with the Texans. The Eagles, year after year, are always in the market for a cornerback. They have not had strength at the position since Lito Sheppard and Sheldon Brown covered the outside. But, with extremely underwhelming performances out of former Eagles Nmandi Asomugha and Byron Maxwell, it is difficult to see the Eagles throwing more money at a relatively unproven corner. The Bears are a team expected to be starting over. Their defense has not been a strong point in recent years, but it is getting better. If they sign Bouye, he could help them become a strong defensive team for years to come, as they currently look to rebuild their offense around rookie running back Jordan Howard, and former first round pick wide receiver Kevin White.
10. Brandon Williams, DT, Baltimore Ravens
Williams is the definition of a run defenseman. He is elite when it comes to run defense, but is also no joke when it comes to pass rushing. In fact, the Cowboys top tier offensive line reportedly double-teamed him then they faced off against the Ravens this past season. Williams wants to stay in Baltimore, but is unclear if that will happen. Another potential landing spot could be the Titans. They are a young, up and coming team that could use a rock like Williams to hold down their defense. With Williams and the addition of a strong corner, Titans could be a scary team.
11. Chandler Jones, DE, Arizona Cardinals
Jones is a top tier defensive end in the NFL. The only reason he is this low on this list is because it is pretty certain he will be staying put in Washington as head coach Bruce Arians has reportedly stated that Jones is “not going anywhere,” as reported by Kyle Odegard. Jones will continue to wreak havoc against the Cardinals opponents for the foreseeable future, whether it is with a franchise tag this offseason, or a monster deal.
12. Terrelle Pryor, WR, Cleveland Browns
A year ago at this time, Pryor was doing anything he could to remain in the NFL switching from quarterback to wide out, where he was one of the few bright spots of the one win 2016-17 Browns. Pryor is not expected to be franchise tagged, but is also not expected to leave Cleveland. He and now sophomore wide out Coleman make a dynamic duo that a potential rookie quarterback could thrive with. Don’t expect Pryor to leave Cleveland anytime soon.