- Kirk Cousins (Age 28, 2016 – $19,953,00, Washington Redskins)
- Brian Hoyer (Age 31, 2016 – $2,000,000, Chicago Bears)
- Mike Glennon (Age 27, 2016 – $1,830,375, Tampa Bay Buccaneers)
- Geno Smith (Age 26, 2016 – $1,597,146, New York Jets)
- Ryan Fitzpatrick (Age 34, 2016 – $12,000,000, New York Jets)
Let’s be honest, we all know that Cousins is not going to hit free agency this off season, and will either get a long term deal or be franchise tagged again which he came out on January 26th and said he would be okay with. The next two are very intriguing Hoyer having more starter experience and not looking too bad in the right offense, and Glennon being younger and easier for a coach to mold but also having been a starter before. Hoyer could also end up signing as a backup to push a starter and then win the starting job. On Glennon, he has not really played much the last 2 season with Winston in Tampa so interesting to see if that helps him or hurts him. Smith is coming from a team that didn’t believe in him and did not truly give him a real shot, so if he were to go to a team that is patient with him and gives him every chance to win a job it could be beneficial for him. Fitzpatrick is basically on this list because he has been a very successful starter in the not too distant past, but it will come down to whether he has anything left in the tank and at 34 years of age whether he wants to continue to play.
2017 Projected Franchise Tag – $23,825,000 – POSSIBLY COUSINS
- Le’Veon Bell (Age 24, 2016 – $1,197,347, Pittsburgh Steelers)
- Latavius Murray (Age 27, 2016 – $701,550, Oakland Raiders)
- Eddie Lacy (Age 26, 2016 – $1,079,404, Green Bay Packers)
- LeGarrette Blount (Age 30, 2016 – $1,025,000, New England Patriots)
- Darren McFadden (Age 29, 2016 – $2,150,000, Dallas Cowboys)
There is absolutely zero chance the Steelers let Le’Veon Bell walk into free agency. At 24 years old and one of the best all-purpose running backs in the game they will resign him but it will probably end up costing them $8-10 mil a year, and he may be the highest paid running back when it is all done. Murray is very intriguing in the fact that he rushed for 12 touchdowns last season, but also while rushing behind arguably the 2nd best O-line in the league he was only able to rush for a 4.0 yard per carry average. That could be due to Oakland becoming more of a passing team but I think in the right offense and if he can stay health he could be a free agent steal. Lacy is coming off an injury filled season and a down season the year before and could be looking for a new team. The Packers came out and said on January 25th that they would keep Ty Montgomery at running back so does that mean the end in GB for Lacy? Not necessarily but it could mean that if he is resigned in GB his bell cow back days are over. Before his injury this season he was averaging 5.1 yards per carry which was his best as a pro but it was only in a 5 gm sample, so who knows if he would have kept it up. Blount just won a Super Bowl but being 30 the Patriots could be ready to move on to someone younger. Blount is coming off of his best year as a pro gaining over 1100 yards and an insane 18 rushing touchdowns, so if the Patriots decide to move on from him there will definitely be a market for him. McFadden who is also approaching 30 years old and coming off an injury filled season most likely will not be resigned by the Cowboys with the drafting of Zeke. There will be a small market for him with his injury history but with the right team he could still play a role, but he may have to sit and wait for an injury to occur for him to be called upon again or take 1-2 year prove it deal.
2017 Projected Franchise Tag – $9,725,000 – BELL
1. Alshon Jeffrey (Age 26, 2016 – $11,163,940, Chicago Bears)
2. Kenny Stills (Age 24, 2016 – $1,671,000, Miami Dolphins)
3. Terrelle Pryor (Age 27, 2016 – $1,671,000, Cleveland Browns)
4. Kenny Britt (Age 28, 2016 – $4,850,000, Los Angeles Rams)
5A. Pierre Garcon (Age 30, 2016 – $10,200,000, Washington Redskins)
5B. Desean Jackson (Age 30, 2016 – $9,250,000, Washington Redskins)
With the QB/RB lists, there was no chance that the number one player was going to hit free agency, but with the receivers that might not be the case. Jeffrey, after being suspended for four games last season the Bears might not be interested in signing him to a long-term deal which would be a great thing for any team looking for a number one receiver. He will not come cheap though already making over $11 million last season he is going to want top receiver money which will be somewhere between $14-$16 million a season, but due to his suspension a team could possibly get him for a little less. Stills at only 24 years old and having 4.39 speed is very intriguing. In 2016, he started every game and caught 9 touchdowns with the Dolphins, and would be a great slot or number two receiver option for any team looking for a speed receiver. Pryor, made the switch to receiver last off season after coming into the league at QB, and had his best year as a pro with 77 catches, 1007 yards, and 4 touchdowns and being 6’4” and having 4.39 speed makes him a great receiver 1 or 2 option and he will have plenty of suitors looking for WRs including his current team. Britt who had his best season yards wise as a pro finally getting over the 1000 yard mark for the first time, and catching 5 touchdowns which is the second most of his career. His biggest issues have been being able to stay healthy for an entire season and playing in a bad offense, but at only 28 years old he is likely to get a shot from a team looking to add receivers. Garcon and Jackson I have decided to combine into one because they are both 30, have had great years in the past, and will still be sought after receivers. Garcon being the healthier of the two the last three season has not missed a game. While averaging 83 catches, 979 yards, and 4 touchdowns over the last four season might be the more intriguing receiver option. As Jackson has missed 7 games over the last 3 years but averaged 47 catches, 900 yards, and 4 touchdowns and could be that explosive receiver 2 or slot that teams may be looking for if they are willing to put up with him missing 2-3 games a season.
2017 Projected Franchise Tag – $14,590,000 – NONE
- Martellus Bennett (Age 29, 2016 – $5,185,000, NE Patriots)
- Jermaine Gresham (Age 28, 2016 – $3,468,750, Cincinnati Bengals)
- Jack Doyle (Age 26, 2016 – $1,671,000, Indianapolis Colts)
- Dion Sims (Age 25, 2016 – $1,787,888, Miami Dolphins)
- Mychal Rivera (Age 26, 2016 – $1,697,213, Oakland Raiders)
Let’s be honest here, none of these guys are going to be signed to be a teams number one TE except maybe Bennett, but most likely will be a teams number 2 TE. Bennett could be a good number 2 TE but after making $5 million this year and winning a Super Bowl his asking price may be too high for most teams to spend on a number two TE. He may end up waiting to get a 1-3 year deal from a team to give him a shot after putting up 7 touchdowns with Brady and the Patriots. Gresham could also be a good number 2 TE but he needs to be on a team that utilizes the TE more, but making $3.5 million last season he would probably want to get paid $4-6 million this season. Which may be too high for a team looking for a number 2 TE. Doyle, Sims, Rivera are basically TE 2s or just depth guys on teams looking for more offensive weapons and all being 26 years old or younger they are more likely to get a shot to try to prove themselves. Doyle being the most intriguing out of the three having 59 catches, 584 yards, 5 touchdowns with Andrew Luck as his QB, but whose knows if he goes to a team with a worse QB if he could duplicate those numbers. All of these guys will probably get signed by teams but they might not have a large impact on the team that they sign with, and again none of them will be number 1 TEs on that team but probably more likely 2 TEs or depth.
2017 Projected Franchise Tag – $8,100,000 – NONE
- Ricky Wagner, RT (Age 27, 2016 – $1,707,140, Baltimore Ravens)
- Riley Reiff, LT/RT (Age 28, 2016 – $8,070,000, Detroit Lions)
- Andrew Whitworth, LT (Age 35, 2016 – $8,000,000, Cincinnati Bengals)
- Matt Kalil, LT (Age 27, 2016 – $11,096,000, Minnesota Vikings)
- Jordan Mills, RT (Age 26, 2016 – $1,671,000, Buffalo Bills)
As everyone knows the tackles are the most important position on the offensive line not just the left tackles, who get paid more money usually, but also the right tackles. Wagner who has been a three year starter with the Ravens while only missing three games during that time had a bounce back year in 2016 after an awful 2015, and should be the top RT target in free agency. He is still young at 27 years old and being a RT will probably only command $6-8 million a year deal. Reiff being a little bit older and a much better run blocker then pass blocker, and after the Lions drafted Decker in the first round last season was switched to RT and only missed three games since his rookie season. With the experience of playing LT and RT he could still hit a large pay-day if a team wants to give him another shot at LT, but more than likely he will be given RT money and play as a swing man. Whitworth has been a top 10 LT for a decade but his age of 35 has dropped him down to third in my rankings and if Kalil wasn’t coming off an injury he would probably be 4th. With Cincy hoping Fischer or Ogbuehi will take over at LT Whitworth’s age and cost may be too great for them. After only missing 2 games in the last 8 years will still give him a shot to be signed by a team looking for tackle help, but he can only expect to sign a 2 or 3 year deal at his age. Kalil is very interesting for a team looking for a LT because he is still very young (at 27) and was a high draft pick, but at times struggled mightily in his pro career and is coming off a hip injury in week 2 that put him on IR. Prior to 2016 season he had not missed a game during his career, and came into the league having not given up a sack his entire college career, and if he checks out healthy he will probably be signed to a 4-5 year deal making $6-$8 million per season. Mills came to the Bills after being signed off of the Lions practice squad in 2015 and started the last 5 games and all 16 in 2016 at RT. He was a better pass blocker then run blocker but his young age and the fact that his price tag will probably not be too expensive he will definitely get a look from a team looking to improve their RT position.
2017 Projected Franchise Tag LT / RT – $10,221,233 / $6,315,015 – NONE
- Kevin Zeitler (Age 26, 2016 – $8,070,000, Cincinnati Bengals)
- TJ Lang (Age 29, 2016 – $6,181,250, Green Bay Packers)
- Larry Warford (Age 25, 2016 – $1,845,250, Detroit Lions)
- Chance Warmack (Age 25, 2016 – $3,871,206, Tennesse Titans)
- Luke Joeckel (Age 25, 2016 – $6,745,963, Jacksonville Jaguars)
Zeitler is the top guard in free agency this season after being drafted in the 1st round in 2012 he immediately won the RG job and has only missed 8 games since. He is considered a great blocker in a power running offense, and after making $8 million in 2016 will command top guard money and might become the highest paid guard. Lang is the oldest player in my guard ranking but has been one of the top interior linemen since he was given the starting LG job in 2011, and keeping one of the best QBs in the game, Aaron Rodgers, upright and healthy. He has had a few injuries which have caused him to miss four games the last two seasons, but prior to that he only missed one game in 4 seasons. He should still get a lot of interest in free agency since he has proven himself as one of the top LG. Warford is a young RG who won the job as a rookie and only missed 7 games since then, and did not give up a sack in his rookie season and was named ProfootballFocus (PFF) ROY. If the Lions let him walk there will be huge interest in him helping to shore up a teams right side of the line. The last two players in my ranking have a lot of great potential but are both coming off-season ending injuries. Warmack was drafted with the 10th pick in the 2013 Draft and missed all but two games last season due to a hand injury. Prior to that he had only missed two games since being drafted and was quickly becoming one of the best young interior linemen in the league. If the Titans, who had one of the top offensive line in the league last year without him, let him walk he will get plenty of interest due to his young age. Joeckel is another interesting free agent after being the 2nd overall pick in the 2014 draft as a RT, but only playing 5 games before being put on IR with an ankle injury. Once recovered Joeckel struggled mightily his next two season at RT, and was moved to RG in August 2016 but his season would last only four games before he was put on IR due to a knee injury. If he can prove that he is fully recovered and stays an interior lineman there will still be a market for him, but it may start out as a 2-3 year prove it deal before he gets the big contract.
2017 Projected Franchise Tag – $9,116,810 – POSSIBLY ZEITLER
- Jason Pierre-Paul (Age 28, 2016 – $10,200,000, New York Giants)
- Calais Campbell (Age 30, 2016 – $15,250,000, Arizona Cardinals)
- Chris Baker (Age 29, 2016 – $4,275,000, Washington Redskins)
- William Gholston (Age 25, 2016 – $1,771,136, Tampa Bay Buccaneers)
- Jabaal Sheard (Age 27, 2016 – $6,812,500, New England Patriots)
After an unfortunate firework accident in July of 2015 which mangled two fingers on his right hand JPP was given a very good one year prove it deal with the Giants for 2016, instead of taking a richer deal with the Cardinals, and he proved that he could still play effectively last season racking up 53 tackles, 7 sacks, and 8 pass defensed. The one drawback is that he has missed a total of 12 games the last two seasons due to injury including four in 2016. If he is not resigned he will be looking for $10-15 million per year deal. Campbell has been a rock at DE for the Cards 3-4 defense for the last nine season while missing only 6 games, and averaging 55 tackles, 6 sacks, 5 passes defensed per season, and also getting 2 safeties and 3 interceptions during his career. Next season he will turn 31 and will probably get a 2-4 year deal for $8-12 million per season from a team looking for a veteran DE. Baker is very intriguing to a team looking at a DE or maybe a DT after joining the Redskins in 2011 as a DT, he switched to a DE in 2013, back to DT in 2014, and back to a DE in 2015. He did not become a full-time starter with the Redskins until 2014 missing 9 games during the next 2 season, but starting every game in 2016 with 47 tackles, 3.5 sacks, and 2 forced fumbles. Being on the low-end of the DE salaries and 29 years old (30 in Oct) for a team looking for a DE/DT combo he may come cheap. Gholston is only 25 years old and can shift inside to play some DT. He is not much of a pass rusher but he is good in stopping the run and is one of the best young strong side (LE) DEs. In four seasons he has missed seven games and has average 47 tackles a season but has never had more than 3 sacks a season. If not resigned he will come cheaper because he is not a good pass rusher probably $4-6 million per season for 4-5 years. Sheard coming off a Super Bowl championship will most likely not be resigned. After leaving Cleveland as a regular starter averaging 48 tackles and 6 sacks per season and signing a 2 year deal with the Patriots he has played in 28 games the last 2 season as a rotational DE and averaged 35 tackles and 6.5 sacks a season. At 27 years old he is still young enough to be signed as a full time DE or even a 3-4 OLB and will have plenty of interest.
2017 Projected Franchise Tag – $12,861,474 – JPP
Interior Defensive Linemen
- Kawann Short (Age 28, 2016 – $1,473,192, Carolina Panthers)
- Dontari Poe (Age 26, 2016 – $6,146,000, Kansas City Chiefs)
- Sylvester Williams (Age 28, 2016 – $2,412,375, Denver Broncos)
- Brandon Williams (Age 27, 2016 – $1,799,750, Baltimore Ravens)
- Nick Fairley (Age 29, 2016 – $3,000,000, New Orleans Saints)
Short is by far the best 2 gap DT available in free agency and in his 4 seasons he has played in every single game and started every game the last 2 seasons. Averaging 55 tackles, 8.5 sacks, and 2 forced fumbles the last two season including 11 sacks in 2015. On Feb. 2nd the Panthers GM spoke of franchise tagging him if a long-term deal cannot be worked out. Poe is the best 3-4 NT available in free agency only missing 2 games since being drafted in the 1st round in 2012 and averaging 40 tackles 2.5 sacks and 2 passes defensed per season and 1 touchdown rushing and passing. Being only 26 and a large body in the middle of the line he will request top nose tackle money of $7-10 million per season. S.Williams is another nose tackle in a 3-4 defense who was drafted in the 1st round of 2013 and has missed only 4 games in his four seasons while starting the last 44 games, and averaging 23.5 tackles and 2 sacks a season. He will turn 29 during the 2017 and won a Super Bowl in 2015 on one of the best defenses in the league and will probably command a 4-5 deal at $4-6 million per season. B.Williams is also one of the top young nose tackles in the league after being drafted in the 3rd round in 2013 and becoming a full-time starter in 2014 and not missing a game since. He has averaged 50 tackles and 1 sack a season since becoming a starter in 2014. He is a large nose tackle at 340 pounds who clogs up the middle of the line very well and causes havoc for opposing running backs. Fairley is an interesting defensive tackle after being drafted in the 1st round in 2010 (after winning a BCS Championship with Auburn) and being injured most of his 4 season with the Lions he was not resigned, and in 2015 signed a one year deal with the Rams playing 15 games in their D-line rotation. Then in 2016 signed a one year deal with the Saints and had the best year of his career with 43 tackles and 6.5 sacks, but the Saints drafted Rankins in the 1st round of 2016 and placed him on injured reserve during training camp so he most likely will not be resigned by the Saints. Coming off the best season of his career where he was finally able to stay healthy and play a full season will help him in free agency though.
2017 Projected Franchise Tag – $11,658,235 – SHORT
- Melvin Ingram (Age 27, 2016 – $7,751,000, Los Angeles Chargers)
- Donta Hightower (Age 27, 2016 – $7,751,000, New England Patriots)
- Nick Perry (Age 26, 2016 – $4,875,000, Green Bay Packers)
- Zach Brown (Age 27, 2016 – $1,250,000, Buffalo Bills)
- Malcolm Smith (Age 27, 2016 – $3,000,000, Oakland Raiders)
I have combined all linebackers into one ranking so you will see 3-4 edge rushing OLBs and 4-3 ILBs. Ingram being drafted in the 1st round of the 2012 draft and was off to a good start of his rookie season playing in all 16 games, but during 2013 OTAs tore his ACL and was lost for most of two season. Finally healthy he played in all 16 games the last two seasons averaging 62.5 tackles, 9 sacks, 5 passes defensed, and 3 forced fumbles. He will request top ten 3-4 OLB money in the range of $8-$12 million per season. Hightower was drafted in the 1st round of the 2012 draft (after winning 2 BCS titles with Alabama) and has only played one full season missing an average on 3-4 games a season but also has already won 2 Super Bowl. He averaged 74 tackles, 3.5 sacks, and 2.5 passes defensed per season as a run stuffing ILB and core on the defense. After being paid as a top 5 ILB in 2016 he will probably want $8-10 million per season. Perry was drafted in the 1st round of the 2012 draft but had his 5th year option declined by the Packers and was resigned to a one year deal. Has played in 60 games in his career but did not become a full-time starter until last season and had 52 tackles, 11 sacks, 4 passes defensed, and 1 interception, given the opportunity to start he proved that he can be a very good 3-4 edge rusher and at only 26 years will look for a $5-8 million per season. Brown was drafted in the 2nd round of the 2012 Draft by the Titans playing in every games his first 2 season averaging 92 tackles, 5 sacks, 5 passes defensed, and 2 interceptions, but missed all but 1 game of his third season and was not resigned by the Titans. He was given a one year deal with the Bills and led the league with 149 tackles, had 4 sacks, 4 passes defensed, 1 interception, and 2 forced fumbles proving that he is an up and coming ILB and will probably be looking for $4-6 million per season. Smith played 4 seasons with the Seahawks won a Super Bowl then left in free agency, and started last two seasons missing only one game. He averaged 113 tackles, 4 sacks, 4 passes defensed, 1 interception, and 2 forced fumbles per season as a starting ILB and at 27 will want $4-6 million per season.
2017 Projected Franchise Tag OLB / ILB – $12,270,000 / $9,932,750 – INGRAM
- Logan Ryan (Age 26, 2016 – $1,811,813, New England Patriots)
- Stephon Gilmore (Age 26, 2016 – $11,082,000, Buffalo Bills)
- Trumaine Johnson (Age 27, 2016 – $13,952,000, Los Angeles Rams)
- Dre Kirkpatrick (Age 27, 2016 – $7,507,000, Cincinnati Bengals)
- Morris Claiborne (Age 26, 2016 – $2,687,500, Dallas Cowboys)
Ryan was drafted in the 3rd round of the 2013 draft and played in every single game of his career, but not becoming a starter until 2015 season where he has averaged 83 tackles getting 92 tackles in 2016 which was most by a CB. Also having 2.5 sacks, 13 interceptions, 3 forced fumbles, and 1 touchdown during his career. In 2016 he was the 67th highest paid CB and with his age, tackling skills, 2 Super Bowl titles will look to be paid in the top 20 range $8 million or more per season. Gilmore was drafted as a top 10 pick in the 2012 draft has become one of the better cover CBs in the NFL but has missed 14 games in his five year career but averages 45 tackles, 12 passes defensed, and 3 interceptions per season (5 in 2016). Only 26 years old and already the 6th highest paid CB last season will be looking to move into the top 5 around $15 million which means he could be franchised if no deal is reached. Johnson was drafted in the 3rd round of the 2013 draft was franchise tagged last season as the team chose to invest in him and letting Janoris Jenkins go. Johnson has missed 11 games in his five-year career but has played as one of the top CBs in league, averaging 52 tackles, 11 passes defensed and 3 interceptions including 1 forced fumble and 2 touchdowns in his career. After being franchised he was the 3rd highest paid CB in 2016 and may want to be franchised again. Kirkpatrick was drafted in the 1st round of the 2012 draft played in only 5 games as a rookie due to injuries, and worked way back over next 2 seasons. He became a start in 2015 averaging 58 tackles, 13 passes defensed last 2 seasons, 9 interceptions, 2 touchdowns in his career. He was the 23 highest paid CB last season and may look to get into top 10-20 range $8-10 million per season. Claiborne was drafted a top 10 pick in the 2012 draft but Cowboys passed on 5th year option instead signing him to 1 year deal. He has yet to complete full season missing 33 games in career, averaging 30 tackles, 5 passes defensed, and only 4 interceptions in his career but still one of the better cover CBs in the league. Last season he was 50th highest paid CB but since he is still young, one of the better cover CBs in the league, and CBs are a hot commodity may get a $5-8 million 2-4 year deal.
2017 Projected Franchise Tag – $15,688,059 – Johnson.
- Eric Berry (Age 28, 2016 – $10,806,000, Kansas City Chiefs)
- Tony Jefferson (Age 25, 2016 – $1,671,000, Arizona Cardinals)
- Johnathan Cyprien (Age 26, 2016 – $1,740,170, Jacksonville Jags)
- TJ McDonald (Age 26, 2016 – $1,833,000, Los Angeles Rams)
- Bradley McDougald (Age 26, 2016 – $2,553,000, Tampa Bay Buccaneers)
There is a very slim chance Berry hits free agency but during Super Bowl week he did say that he would not play under the franchise tag next season, probably because that is less than he made last season when he was the 2nd highest paid FS in league. On February 28th, the Chiefs threw the Bank at him resigning him to a 6 yr $72 million deal with $40 million guaranteed. Jefferson came into the league as a UDFA in 2013 and was originally signed to a 3 year deal and was resigned last season to a 1 year deal after being a RFA. He has played in every single game of his career as a rotational safety and started 15 games last season as SS, and has averaged 70 tackles a season (96 last season), mainly as a run stopper but has also gotten 5 sacks, 11 passes defensed, 2 interceptions, and 6 forced fumbles in his career. He was the 25th highest paid SS last season and after just turning 25 years old will most likely want to get in the 10-15 range of $4-6 million per season. Cyprien was drafted in the 2nd round of the 2013 season as a SS and has missed 4 games in his career, and averaged 113 tackles, 4 passes defensed per season, and also getting 2 sacks, 2 interceptions, and 4 forced fumbles in his career. At 6’0” 217 pounds, and only 26 years old he is a tackling machine, and was the 22nd highest paid SS last season he will most likely get $4-6 million per season. McDonald was drafted in the 3rd round of the 2013 draft and has missed parts of 2 season with injuries (2013 missed 6 games with broken leg, 2015 missed 5 games with shoulder injury) but has played full seasons in ‘14 and ‘16. He has averaged 71 tackles (105 in 2014) 1 sack, 4 passes defensed, and 1 interception per season and missing parts of 2 season will not hurt his FA opportunity. He was the 19th highest paid SS last season and will look to get $4-6 million per season. Mcdougald was signed by the Chiefs as a UDFA in 2013 then was released and claimed off waivers and was mainly a backup until 2015 when he became starter, and averaged 89 tackles, 7 passes defensed, and 2 interceptions the last 2 seasons. He was the 22nd highest paid FS and will look to get $3-5 million per season.
2017 Projected Franchise Tag FS / SS – $9,854,083 / $7,362,586 – None.
Cap numbers and current salary information from Spotrac.com