Free Agency

Ten Big Names Heading Into Unrestricted Free Agency

Free agency in March is more often than not an exciting time as the scramble begins to pick up talented players in the market. As free agency draws nearer the list swells with veterans released for performance or salary reasons and this years free agency looks like it could have some big big names floating around to be picked up.

Here is my top 10 players entering as unrestricted free agents in 2017.

10) Terelle Pryor, Cleveland Browns receiver: There are still questions surrounding his maturity but in this past season his potential was there to be seen. His seven catches for 94 yards in week 17 against the Steelers pushed him to over 1,000 yards on the season. He is just the seventh receiver in Browns franchise history to tally at least 1,000 yards in a campaign. The Browns have the cap space to give him a lucrative deal but he has only had one big season so he is still a risk but maybe a risk that could pay off for whoever takes the gamble.

9) DeSean Jackson, Washington Redskins receiver: Another receiver on the list is DeSean Jackson and it appears to be that the Redskins are almost trying to push him out the door. Washington has yet to hold talks and Jackson has been left out of their latest Instagram post which has created some friction. Even at 30 years old, Jackson was productive in 2016 with four touchdowns and 19 of his 56 catches going for over 20 yards. If there is no deal in place by the Combine, reports from inside the Redskins indicate that no deal will end up being done at all.

8) Martellus Bennett, New England Patriots tight end: Marty has found a home in New England and chances are Bill Belichick will do what he can to retain the best Gronk insurance policy possible. Bennett will be 30 next month and if an NFL team comes along and offers a hefty paycheck he could find himself elsewhere in 2017. It is hard to tell what may happen with Marty. Following the Patriots Super Bowl LI win he said “you don’t come to New England for the cheques” but in the same interview said “I’m going into free agency as a Super Bowl champion. You know they overpay Super Bowl champions!”

7) Jason Pierre-Paul, New York Giants defensive end: JPP had sports hernia surgery recently and his incredible stamina and snap-to-snap effort has been a calling card. Despite having his index finger amputated he has shown he can still play but says he will not be accepting a 1 year contract in the offseason. JPP says he has proved himself and the Giants are interested in keeping him with the team. Will he get an offer from the Giants that he can’t refuse before free agency opens in March?

6) A.J. Bouye, Houston Texans cornerback: Bouye has played like a Pro Bowler in his first full season as a starter and now seems to be destined for a huge pay day. He is a former undrafted free agent from Central Florida who is now playing like a first rounder. If the Texans want to retain Bouye it will end up costing them, they could make him their franchise player at a cost of $14 million but A.J. is taking it all in his stride and says his agent (Fred Lyles) will take care of everything for him.

5) Dont’a Hightower, New England Patriots linebacker: After trading Chandler Jones and Jamie Collins, the feeling around New England is that Hightower should be re-signed. Fans are calling out for it to happen and Hightower has been the unsung hero of the Pats last two Super Bowls. In Super Bowl XLIX on the play before that amazing interception on the goal line, Hightower stopped Lynch getting in by tackling him with one shoulder while being blocked by Okung. In Super Bowl LI he forced the fumble recovery which really shifted momentum back for the Patriots. Everything says he never gets as far as free agency but Belichick rarely does what fans and the media expect so anything could happen.

4) Chandler Jones, Arizona Cardinals outside linebacker: After being traded by the Pats, Jones proved his worth in a different defensive scheme and he recorded 11 sacks for the Cardinals in 2016. He is strong on the pass rush and was the NFL’s tenth best edge rusher in 2016. However, Jones demands big money which is why the Pats traded him away in the first place. If Jones can’t come to a long term agreement with the Cardinals the team have stated that they will use the franchise tag on him for the short term.

3) Kirk Cousins, Washington Redskins quarterback: It was Kirk Cousins “prove it” season and he proved he is a mid-level starting quarterback at best. Cousins passed for 4,917 yards shattering the record set the previous year by the team but at the same time he threw four fewer touchdowns from the previous year. However the Redskins dropped two of their three final games to miss the playoffs and while that doesn’t completely fall on Cousins shoulders, at the same time he didn’t step up to the plate and deliver. He could get there but he is not there yet so the big debate in Washington is tag him or allow him to go to free agency. They could also tag and trade him, the 49ers have been mentioned with new head coach Kyle Shanahan said to be keen on Cousins.

2) Eric Berry, Kansas City Chiefs safety: Berry checks every box you would want from a safety. He is a superstar, a leader and in his prime at the age of 28. He was retained with a franchise tag ahead of the 2016 season so now it is time for the Chiefs to either pay up or Berry is heading elsewhere. Tyrann Mathieu’s five year deal with the Cardinals averaging $12.5 million per year is seen by Berry’s camp as the new benchmark for safeties. Berry is also the only safety to earn first team All-Pro honours in each of the past two seasons which will help his cause.

1) Le’Veon Bell, Pittsburgh Steelers running back: Bell cemented his position as the best dual-threat running back in the NFL last season. He averaged at least 100 rushing yards per game and 50 receiving yards per game. In the first two playoff games of the season he rushed for 337 yards before being limited to 11 plays in the AFC Championship game due to a groin injury. Reports are indicating that the Steelers will use the franchise tag on Bell which should cost them $12.377 million which will tie him up short term.

There are of course plenty other big names entering free agency. It is always a busy time for teams and players, you can follow along with the latest updates both here and over on our Twitter – @InTheRedZoneNFL


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