With free agency set to kick off in about three weeks, it’s as good a time as ever to preview the top ten free agents this year. This list focuses on players that actually have a reasonable chance of switching teams, and so the list features one important omission: Drew Brees. Brees has been quoted as not wanting to test the market and at 39, it seems that he would rather retire now than start with a new offense again. However, if he were to test the waters, which is highly unlikely, he would land at number two on this list. There are some other big names missing, but those are players expected to re-sign with their current teams. Without further ado, here are the top 10 free agents in 2018.
Top 10 Free Agents in 2018
1. Kirk Cousins — Washington Redskins
Cousins has been wanting to become a free agent for a few years now, mostly because of the frustration he feels in that he has not been fairly compensated for his production. The Redskins have franchise tagged him for the last couple of seasons but now that they have a decent replacement in Alex Smith, Cousins will finally be able to get the payday that he has always wanted.
The team that gets him should get their money’s worth, no matter the price. Cousins has boasted a solid 2:1 touchdown to interception ratio over the past three seasons and over 4,000 yards passing in each of those seasons. His QBR is very solid over the last three years as well, presenting an enviable average of 97.57. Finally, he is only 29 and so he can lead a team for potentially 10 more years.
2. Le’Veon Bell — Pittsburgh Steelers
Bell has had contract issues with the Steelers for the last several years, ultimately missing training camp in 2017 before returning on September 1st. He has thrown down an ultimatum as well, quoted as saying that he would rather retire than play under a franchise tag again. However, Bell would still revolutionize the offense in 25, if not all of the 32 NFL teams if he were to find a new home. The running back has exploded over the last several seasons, piling up nearly 2,000 yards in three of the last four seasons. Bell is only 26 as well, so the team that gets him would be set at the position for at least five years.
3. Sammy Watkins — Los Angeles Rams
Watkins has had some instability in his life, moving from the Buffalo Bills to the Los Angeles Rams after three years. Now after only one year as a Ram, he could be looking for a new home again. He had a solid year, posting eight touchdowns and almost 600 yards. He would have gotten more if the Rams were not stacked at the wide receiver position. This is definitely a number one wide receiver if he were to go to almost any other team in the NFL and would easily reach 1,000 yards if he were to get more receptions. Not to mention, he is only 24. If a team locks him up long-term, they could be set at the position for quite some time.
4. LeGarrette Blount — Philadelphia Eagles
Blount enters free agency as one of two players to win the Super Bowl in back-to-back years and currently owns three rings. He boasts an average of 4.4 yards per carry for his career, which is solid. However, it is worth noting that he only scored two touchdowns last year. This can be explained as a byproduct of having to share snaps in a loaded backfield. He is a short-term solution for teams as he is 31 years old, but he can stabilize a running game for a team in need. Also, he will be a bit expensive for his age but that is because of his status as a three-time champion. If a team really needs a better running game and has the cap space for him, he could change an offense for the better.
5. Malcolm Butler — New England Patriots
Yes, the same Malcolm Butler who is credited with single-handedly giving the Patriots a Super Bowl victory in Super Bowl 49 is going to become a free agent. After being kept from playing a single defensive snap in Super Bowl 52 by Head Coach Bill Belichick, Butler publicly expressed his disappointment and frustration after the loss.
Additionally, there are arguments that Butler’s absence was the reason that the Patriots ultimately lost the Super Bowl and these arguments can only increase his price. He’s 27, so a team could use him in a veteran role as well as get a good amount of mileage out of him. In a passing-driven league, a top-tier cornerback becomes even more useful. However, after living under Belichick’s “team-first” culture when it comes to compensation, Butler could be looking to cash in. At the end of the day, he is a top-tier cornerback that a team can build a secondary around.
6. Case Keenum — Minnesota Vikings
The Vikings have one of the rarest problems in the NFL: too many quarterbacks. Sam Bradford, Teddy Bridgewater, and Case Keenum have all had some degree of success while playing in a Vikings uniform, so the Vikings will not exactly panic if they lose Case Keenum to free agency. If a team were to snatch him, they would be taking a chance.
Sure, he had a great year, getting over 3,500 yards and posting over a 3:1 touchdown to interception ratio, but when looking at his older stats, every other year in the NFL was very rough. If one looks at his career stats after subtracting his 2017 season, he only has 24 touchdowns to 20 interceptions across four seasons.
That being said, needy teams should still want him but they should know that they are taking a risk. He would be best suited for a team that needs a quarterback but has a late draft pick. He’s risky, but if he really has turned it around at age 30, the team that gets him will be set for around a decade.
7. Jimmy Graham — Seattle Seahawks
The Seahawks should do whatever they can to hold on to Jimmy Graham if they know what’s good for them. That being said, Seattle is undergoing an offensive overhaul this year, and there is a chance they let Graham walk. He has always been one of the best tight ends in the NFL and would help any team he goes to.
Graham has scored at least nine touchdowns in five of his eight seasons which is amazing for a tight end. He would be the biggest help to teams that lack quality wide receivers and struggle to move the ball through the air. His biggest downsides are his age at 31 and as he is a top-tier talent, he will be expensive for his age. That being said, he can still be a force in the red zone, turning would-be field goals into touchdowns. He won’t be around forever, but he could really help a team in the short haul.
8. Sam Bradford — Minnesota Vikings
On an already crowded roster, Bradford could find himself being pushed out to make room for Case Keenum. Bradford has been hampered by injuries for his entire career but he has been solid when he has remained healthy which should be enough to convince at least one team to make a bid for him. He has almost a 2:1 touchdown to interception ratio in his career and threw 20 touchdowns to only 5 interceptions in his last full season which took place in 2016. At 30 years old, Bradford could be a solution but only if he can stay on the field.
9. Darren Sproles — Philadelphia Eagles
Between Jay Ajayi, LeGarrette Blount, Darren Sproles, and Corey Clement, the Eagles have more running backs than they know what to do with. Out of the four, Sproles is the oldest at 34 and he missed most of the season after tearing his ACL and breaking his arm on the same play. The Eagles need to make some room and will likely cut ties with the old, injured veteran.
The team that gets Sproles gets a risk in that they’re not sure how he will bounce back at 34 but if he can stay healthy, he could stabilize a team’s running game for a season or two. His stats from his last full season in 2016 show that he has the potential to play at a good level, posting a 4.7 yard-per-carry average.
10. Teddy Bridgewater — Minnesota Vikings
Teddy “two-gloves” is the impending free agent with perhaps the highest ceiling, but also the lowest floor. Coming off of a gruesome ACL injury that almost ended his NFL career for good, Bridgewater missed the entire 2016 season, and played the backup role in the 2017 season. Before the injury, he was one of the young hopeful QBs in the league after completing 65% of his throws in 2015 and throwing for 3,231. Considering Sam Bradford and Case Keenum are also pending free agents, the Vikings would be wise to resign Bridgewater as he will most likely come with a lower price tag.
If they do let him walk, however, look for the Arizona Cardinals to be a fitting landing spot. New head coach Steve Wilks has stated his desire to be aggressive in solving the QB position, and Bridgewater could be a fairly cheap option that would pay dividends if he is able to reach his full potential.