NFL Free Agency Names to Watch: Offense

The NFL season may be over, but the action really never stops. Combines, the Free Agency period, the trading period, and more take place from now until the NFL Draft at the end of April; there’s basically fresh news on a weekly/monthly basis that keeps fans engaged yearly unlike any other professional sport, even if a lot of it is just speculation. Regardless, I want to offer some big-name free agents on the offensive side of the ball whose destination in 2017 is interesting and unclear.

Important Dates to Know:
March 1: Deadline to “tag” players. Players can still sign extended, long-term contracts before July 15, or else the applied tag is official for the upcoming season.
March 9: Before 4 p.m., teams must submit qualifying offers to players who are restricted free agents. All teams must be under the 2017 salary cap before 4 p.m. After 4 p.m., the trading period and free-agency period begins.
April 27-29: NFL Draft in Philadelphia.
July 15: Deadline for teams to sign players under the franchise tag to extended contracts; if not, the player is designated to play under the tag until the end of the season.

Notable Free Agents

Quarterbacks

Kirk Cousins (Washington Redskins)

  • Cousins, 28, is coming off his first season under the “franchise tag,” and there’s a solid chance he’ll have to play another season with no long-term contract signed. Cousins made a strong case to be the long-term option for Washington, but it’s not a sure-thing that he’ll be signed. Washington had a chance to solidify a playoff spot with a week-17 win at home over the Giants, who had nothing to play for, but couldn’t get it done when it mattered most, throwing the game-sealing interception. Washington won’t make their decision just based off that, but I bet if he got it done and sent the Redskins into the playoffs, the decision would be a lot easier for them.
  • Whether Kirk is signed or tagged, he’s going to get paid; Pro Football Talk breaks the numbers down here. If Washington chooses not to tag or sign him, there will be high interest from numerous teams in the 28-year-old quarterback. I don’t think the Skins will let him away that easy, and he’ll likely get a contact before the July 15 deadline to keep him under center in Washington.

Mike Glennon (Tampa Bay Bucs)

  • Glennon hasn’t started a game since 2014, and he won’t start for the Bucs again unless an injury to starter Jameis Winston occurred. I think we’ll see the 27-year-old in a different uniform next season, starting fresh for one of the many teams in dire need of a franchise QB.
  • Glennon showed promise when given the opportunity, and he hasn’t even had a chance to grow and develop in an NFL system. I think he’ll be given that opportunity this offseason.
  • A team like the New York Jets can afford to take a shot with Glennon; they have no stability at quarterback, and Glennon at least provides some experience and a fresh start at the position they’ve needed stability at for years and years.

Ryan Fitzpatrick/Geno Smith (New York Jets)

  • Speaking of the lack of stability at the QB position for the Jets… The Fitzpatrick Era has to come to an end after last year’s disaster, and Geno Smith very clearly needs a fresh start elsewhere.
  • Fitzpatrick’s disastrous season won’t stop teams from calling, though. He’s a viable backup quarterback with a ton of experience, and he won’t sit on the couch all that long before playing for another team.
  • I have no idea where Smith will land, but he at least has some unknown to him. He’s still young and can definitely sling it. He’ll have a chance to compete for a job in camp if he’s healthy enough to do so.

Interesting Cases: Cutler, Romo, Taylor, Kaepernick, Jimmy G, Denver, HOU

Running Backs

Le’Veon Bell (Pittsburgh Steelers)

  • Bell won’t get to play the field; the Steelers would be foolish not to lock him up. Despite multiple suspensions and serious injuries, Bell is just too special a player to let walk. I think he’ll get a multi-year deal in Pitt.

Latavius Murray (Oakland Raiders)

  • There’s been reports that the Raiders will let Murray walk this offseason, and it makes sense. He’s getting older (especially for RB), and the Raiders have some viable backups and a strong draft class to fall back on. If those reports are true, there will definitely be a market for the 27-year-old back.

Eddie Lacy (Green Bay Packers)

  • Lacy, 26, is coming off a shortened season due to injury. When on the field, Lacy looked solid this season; teams will definitely be interested in taking a shot with him, I just don’t think it’ll be the Packers. We’ll see Eddie in a different uniform next season.

LeGarrette Blount (New England Patriots)

  • Blount is coming off his best season as a pro at the age of 30. The Patriots more often than not let these type of players go, but I wouldn’t be shocked to see Blount take a fair deal to stay with the best team in sports. But, again, this draft class has a ton of potential at the running back position, and either way I see the Patriots with another new face in the backfield next season.

Chris Johnson (Arizona Cardinals)

  • Johnson is 31 and coming off a season-ending groin injury last season. Running backs don’t last long in this league, and he’s already exceeding playing-time expectations considering he still had success in his 30s despite hinging on his elite speed at the position. He’ll likely be cut, but someone will see what he’s got left in August.

Wide Receivers

Alshon Jeffery (Chicago Bears)

  • Jeffery had a disappointing contract year to say the least, one that included a four-game suspension toward the end of the year. But he still has elite measurables and talent at the position, and he’s only 27. There will most definitely be a strong market for him, and I’m excited to see if he can turn his career around for the better. Injuries have hurt him (no pun intended), but I think he’s young and good enough to see some strong offers this offseason if the Bears let him go.

DeSean Jackson (Washington Redskins)

  • The Redskins have some decisions to make this offseason, and Jackson is near the top of the list. I think they’ll cut him to free up some cap space; he’s 30 and the Skins have solid receiving options without him and in the draft. He proved this year he still has some juice left in the tank, and whoever ends up with him will get a speedy deep-threat that has terrorized secondaries for years.

Victor Cruz (Free Agent)

  • Cruz was let go by the Giants after the season, and a lot of people are writing him off after a disappointing comeback season. He hasn’t been the same since his injury, but I’m not so sure he’s done being productive in this league. Consider this: Cruz returning this year was always an uphill battle; getting through a full season was a big step for him in my opinion. Now, with a full offseason to prepare and not have to worry about injuries, I think he can grow on last season and provide a reliable veteran presence to someone’s receiving core.

Tight Ends

Martellus Bennett (New England Patriots)

  • I think Bennett finally found a home in NE, and with injuries plaguing Gronk’s career, the Patriots may want to hold onto him. The question is how willing Bennett is to stay with them on a team-friendly deal. Players take those type of deals in NE because they know they have the best shot at winning. I think Bennett cares about that more than a few extra bucks, and I bet he’ll stay.

Jared Cook (Green Bay Packers)

  • The 29-year-old tight end/receiver finally found a home in Green Bay this past season, and QB Aaron Rodgers made it clear he wants him back. He’ll be back.

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