10 NFL Free Agency Predictions
Every year NFL teams break open their piggy banks in hopes of solidifying a major team need by signing the hottest player available. But more often than not, the monster contracts become dead weight that results in salary cap limitations and frustration for years to come. NFL Free Agency is arguably riskier than the NFL Draft when you factor in the long-term effect of big contracts. There is no better example of this than Brock Osweiler of Houston Texans from last year. Osweiler was signed to a four-year contract valued at $72 million, with $37 million fully guaranteed. This included a $12 million signing bonus. If you read a complete breakdown of the contract, you’ll see there is another $16 million guaranteed still owed to Osweiler that the Texans are stuck paying whether he plays or not. The worst part is the Texans still consider the QB position a weak spot on the roster and will look to seek help through the NFL draft to add depth in April.
On the brighter side, not all free agent acquisitions are duds that cost a fortune. In fact, some of the best pickups from 2016, especially in Fantasy Football, were the cheaper experienced veterans. Take a guy like Matt Forte from the Jets. The former Chicago Bear running back signed a 3-year, $12 Million dollar deal and still managed to rack up over 1,076 total yards (813 rushing, 263 passing) with eight total TDs. Matt Forte was the 21st ranked PPR running back in fantasy football in 2016, and he was added to the team at a bargain rate. The following are 10
The following are 10 NFL Free Agent predictions made by Gridiron Experts writers Mike Rigz and Anthony Cervino
Alshon Jeffery is the cream of the crop of the impending free agent wide receiver class this year. However, due to injuries and a four-game suspension, the 27-year old wideout has put together back-to-back seasons of mediocre numbers for a player who considers himself a top receiving threat in the league. He accumulated a 54-807-4 stat line while playing in nine games in 2015 and a 52-821-2 line while playing 12 games in 2016. Jeffery, who has been a frequent visitor on the injury report since 2015, has dealt with nagging leg and calf issues in that span. He is labeled a high-risk player with an 83 percent chance of injury by SportsInjuryPredictor.com. His durability is in question moving forward, which could deter teams, including the Bears, from paying him and committing to him long-term.
Jeffery played the 2016 season under the franchise tag as a long-term deal could not be reached with Chicago last offseason. He is facing a similar scenario this time around as well. Last summer, ESPN’s Jeff Dickerson reported that the Bears likely view Jeffery as a “1A or elite No. 2 wideout” more so than a true No. 1, which could be why the two sides couldn’t put together a new deal. With another disappointing statistical season under his belt capped off with a four-game suspension for violating the league’s PED policy forcing him to miss Weeks 11-to-14, Jeffery didn’t do very much to help his case.
Chicago is cleaning house. They let Matt Forte go last offseason and are expected to do the same with Jay Cutler this year. Is Jeffery, their most talented offensive weapon, next? Perhaps.
One organization that is desperate for a wide receiver is the Eagles. Aside from Jordan Matthews, who finished second on the team in receiving to Zach Ertz with 73 receptions for 804 yards and three touchdowns, no other Philadelphia wideout accounted for more than a 36-392-2 stat line (Dorial Green-Beckham). If the Eagles can free up more cap space, they are a prime candidate to sign Jeffery to a long-term deal in a move that would provide Carson Wentz with some much-needed help on the outside. Currently, the Eagles only have $9,842,349 in cap space, and “will likely enter free agency with a best case scenario of roughly $30 million,” according to NJ.com. If they intend to pursue and land Jeffery, Howie Roseman has some work to do in the front office. Written By – Anthony Cervino
- Smart Landing Spot: Titans, 49ers, Rams
- My Prediction: Eagles
- Don’t Rule Out: Bears
30-year-old wide receivers are not often looked upon as top free agent targets this time of year, but that doesn’t seem to be the case for Redskins DeSean Jackson who is in popular demand.
On Adam Schefter’s podcast last week, Jackson talked about how his speed is still in the 4.3 range even after nine seasons, the upcoming NFL free agency period, and of course a possible return to the Philadelphia Eagles. However, if you really listen to the words DeSean says on the show, he mentions one of his top priorities as playing with a great quarterback, something I truly believe he means. DJack has played with some good quarterbacks over the years, but I think he’s itching for a chance to play with an elite QB on a team on the verge of winning a Super Bowl.
There is, however, the West Coast connection to also consider. Some believe DJack wants to return to where he grew up and played college ball (CAL) and could sign a fat contract and play for a team out West. Written By – Mike Rigz
- In Search of a Ring: Patriots, Panthers, Seahawks
- My Prediction: LA – Chargers or Rams
- Don’t Rule Out: Redskins resigning him
Kenny Britt earned starter value as a flex player on many Fantasy teams in 2016. He was very streaky week to week, but if you guessed correctly, Britt was productive in PPR leagues. While some may argue he wasn’t productive enough, let me remind you that he had Case Keenum and Jared Goff throwing him the football all season. Britt caught 62.4 percent of the passes and racked up his first 1,000-yard season playing in that dreadful Rams offense, which is impressive if you think about it.
According to ESPN Rams reporter Alden Gonzalez, “chances are” the team will “move on” from free agent Britt as the Rams hope to obtain other needs and possibly go after DeSean Jackson. After three seasons playing for the Rams, it’s possible Britt wants to play for a playoff caliber team. The 28-year old wide receiver has only ever been a part of one winning season and never played in the playoffs. At this point in his career, I guess a team like the Raiders, Panthers, Seahawks, or Patriots would be appealing. However, Britt may want to get back to where he grew up. He went to Rutgers University and was born in Bayonne, New Jersey. Playing for a team like Giants could be a possibly. A sleeper pick and just a stone’s throw away from New Jersey is a team in desperate need for a big wide receiver on the outside in Philadelphia. Written by – Mike Rigz
- Smart Landing Spot: Panthers, Seahawks, Patriots
- My Prediction: Giants
- Don’t Rule Out: Philadelphia
Free AgentOn paper, Robert Woods had a very ordinary season for the Buffalo Bills in 2016. He only found the end zone one time, missed three games due to injury and wasn’t Fantasy relevant unless you had him in your daily lineup week 16 against the Seahawks (10 Rec, 162 yards). Yet, Woods is still very young. He is just about to celebrate his 25th birthday next month and has been very consistent in his four seasons in the NFL. Woods, a 2013 second round pick for the Bills out of USC, is arguably one of the leagues more reliable wide receiver two’s in the NFL considering his age.
WKBW Buffalo’s Joe Buscaglia believes free agent Robert Woods will likely to price himself out of the Bills’ range in hopes of finding a new opportunity. However, the Bills may overpay to keep him around. Wood’s 51 receptions in 2016 we’re just behind Charles Clay’s 57 as the team’s leading receiver in receptions.
Personally, I think Woods will sign the biggest contract that he’s offered, meaning he could land on the Browns, Rams or even re-sign with the Bills; however, there is the possibility Woods heads to Jacksonville to reconnect with head coach Doug Marrone and offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett. Both Coaches were in Buffalo the year Woods had his biggest season. Written by – Mike Rigz
- Takes the Money: Rams, Browns, Bills, 49ers
- My Prediction: Bills
- Don’t Rule Out: Jaguars
Free AgentIn 2015, his first year with Dallas, Darren McFadden rushed for 1,089 yards and three touchdowns while playing in all 16 games. It was his first season of at least 1,000 yards rushing since 2010, the only other time he accomplished that feat. 2015 was also only the second time in his career that he appeared in a full 16-game slate.
Then, his once-promising tenure in Dallas fell apart last offseason when he slipped in a friend’s backyard and sustained an elbow injury. Not only did he miss the remainder of the team’s offseason program from that point on, but he also began the regular season on the Non-Football Injury List (NFI). With two new additions to the backfield in the likes of Ezekiel Elliott and Alfred Morris, it seemed like McFadden was the odd man out. He only played in three games last season and accumulated a mere 27 touches for 104 total yards. With an expiring contract, McFadden is expected to reach the open free agent market. However, ESPN’s Todd Archer suggests otherwise. The beat reporter believes McFadden should be a priority for the team to re-sign.
If McFadden leaves Dallas, he could fill a void at running back for a number of teams in need of a veteran backup. The Lions, Giants, and Chargers all have young backfields. However, if he signs with the Green Bay, he could compete for the starting job. Currently, the Packers only have Ty Montgomery, a converted wide receiver, under contract at the running back position. Eddie Lacy and Christine Michael are both impending free agents, John Crockett and Don Jackson are both Exclusive Rights Free Agents and the team released James Starks a few weeks back. You can drive a truck through the hole in Green Bay’s running back depth chart. Although in the past, the Packers are not known for signing high-priced free agents, they are expected to be “more active” in 2017.
Cue in McFadden. Because of the injury issues that plagued him throughout his nine-year career, plus, the fact that he only appeared in three games last season, McFadden believes he is “fresh” entering 2017.
If the Packers sign McFadden, they would not only be gaining a proven rusher, but he would come at a discounted rate. The last contract he signed was a two-year deal worth $3 million back in 2015 with the Cowboys. McFadden, who can run, pass protect and catch out of the backfield, could earn significant playing time, and make an immediate impact upon his arrival Green Bay. Written By – Anthony Cervino
- Smart Landing Spot: Cowboys, Giants, Lions
- My Prediction: Packers
- Don’t Rule Out: Steelers
Entering 2016, Pierre Garcon had a questionable role on a Redskins offense that appeared loaded at wide receiver, especially since the team selected Josh Doctson 22nd overall in last year’s draft. However, a lingering Achilles injury that the rookie sustained in minicamp limited his availability during the campaign and opened the door for Garcon. The veteran wideout didn’t disappoint. While appearing in all 16 games, Garcon produced a 79-1,041-3 stat line. It was his first season of accumulating at least 1,000 yards receiving since 2014. He delivered in his contract year.
With the free agency signing period set to begin on March 9, Garcon appears to have shed some light on his future this past week via his personal social media account. Courtesy of Instagram, the 30-year-old wideout posted a photo of himself with the hashtag, “y’all hiring,” beside it, likely indicating that he will not be returning to the Redskins in 2017. Garcon, who is expected to receive a contract in the range of at least $9 million per year, should have no problem finding a suitor on the open market.The Titans, Rams, Eagles and 49ers, among others, are all teams who have a need at wide receiver this offseason. However, he has ties to a pair of clubs on which he could make an immediate impact. Both of his most recent offensive coordinators, Kyle Shanahan, and Sean McVay, landed the head coaching jobs on the 49ers and Rams respectively. With the Rams set to move on from impending free agent Kenny Britt — their top receiver — this offseason, plus, a second-year signal caller in Jared Goff to groom, it makes most sense that Garcon signs with Los Angeles. His acquisition would add a veteran leader to a young Rams offense that Goff can lean on due to his excellent hands and route running — wide receiver drops hindered Goff’s statistical production in 2016. Written By – Anthony Cervino
- Smart Landing Spot: Rams, 49ers, Titans
- My Prediction: Rams
- Don’t rule out: Buccaneers
Jack Doyle came out of nowhere in 2016. Buried behind Dwayne Allen and Coby Fleener on Indianapolis’ tight end depth chart for most of his four-year career, Doyle finally received his opportunity to stand out on a loaded Colts offense. Last offseason, Fleener departed via free agency, leaving the door open for Doyle to carve out a role for himself in the passing game. Never accumulating more than 18 receptions for 118 yards and two touchdowns in a single season, Doyle shattered his previous career bests with a 59-584-5 stat line. Despite splitting time with the oft-injured Allen, Doyle still managed to finish 2016 ranked 13th in fantasy scoring among tight ends with 86.4 fantasy points in standard formats.
Although Doyle showed interest in re-signing with the Colts, there are many teams that could swoop in and lure him away around the league. The Cardinals, Broncos, and Jaguars all have a void at tight end, but the Patriots are a dark house suitor for Doyle’s services. Why New England? Well, Rob Gronkowski is coming off of the third back surgery of his career, and Martellus Bennet could depart via free agency. NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport believes Bennett is poised to test the open free agent market this offseason. “Based on his asking price and likely offers, it’s a real possibility he exits,” Rapoport said via Twitter.
If Bennett does, in fact, sign elsewhere, the Patriots would certainly need to add an insurance policy for Gronkowski in the event he is limited or sidelined again in 2017. Doyle would not only come at a bargain rate, but he could end up paying dividends in a big way with New England. Look what Bennett did in his only season with the club — 55 receptions for 701 yards and a career-high seven touchdowns. Doyle to the Patriots would be a tremendous fit for all parties involved. Written By – Anthony Cervino
- Smart Landing Spot: Colts, Broncos, Texans
- My Prediction: Patriots
- Don’t Rule Out: Redskins
Kenny Stills has had an interesting four-year career in the NFL. He spent two seasons with the New Orleans Saints followed by two seasons in Miami playing with the Dolphins after being traded for veteran linebacker Dannell Ellerbe and a 2015 third-round draft pick. The Miami Herald reports re-signing free agent Kenny Stills remains the Dolphins’ top priority, but considering he’s so streaky, the team may be better off letting him walk.
Stills was a major part of Adam Gase’s offense last year but is going to be hard to keep from reaching the market. Beat reporter Adam Beasley projects him to command a four-year, $40 million contract with around $15 million guaranteed.
Being drafted in the 5th round by the Saints back in 2013, meant Stills signed only 4-year, $2,354,452 deal. The deal included a $194,452 signing bonus, $194,452 guaranteed, and an average annual salary of $588,613. In other words, he’s looking to get paid. Written by Mike Rigz
- Go Where the Money is: Browns, 49ers, Bucs, Titans
- My Prediction: Panthers
- Sleeper: Ravens
Terrance Williams is one of the most intriguing free agent wide receivers primed to hit the open market. After beginning his career with two promising seasons — he produced a 44-736-5 stat line in 2013 and a 37-621-8 line in 2014 — he came back down to earth in 2015 in which he caught 52 targets for 840 yards and three touchdowns. Yes, he tallied career highs in receptions and yards that year, but he was thrust into the role of Dallas’ No. 1 wideout for most of the campaign.2015 was the season Dez Bryant only appeared in and was extremely limited for nine games due to ankle, foot and knee injuries. That was also the year Tony Romo missed all but four games due to a pair of collarbone fractures. In the wake of Romo and Bryant’s absence, Williams still produced WR2 numbers despite the expanded role, which tells me that he is most productive playing on the other side of a reliable No. 1 receiver and with a sound signal caller.
Fast forward to 2016. Although Williams’ numbers regressed in the receptions (44) and yardage (594) categories, his touchdowns increased by one (4) from the year before. He makes more significant plays at the No. 2.
What does this mean for his free agent status? For starters, he is unlikely to return to Dallas. ESPN’s Todd Archer believes Williams will receive a deal on the open market that the Cowboys “can’t match.” He’ll likely be overpaid and depart. His best fit would be with Tampa Bay. The Buccaneers have the pieces in place for Williams to succeed. A notable quarterback in Jameis Winston, and an outstanding No. 1 receiver to play opposite of in the form of Mike Evans. Plus, they also have the cap space available to overpay a proven No. 2 wideout that the team so desperately needs to take some pressure off of Evans. The Buccaneers have $61,926,718 in cap space according to OvertheCap.com. Written By – Anthony Cervino
- Smart Landing Spot: Titans, Panthers, Redskins
- My Prediction: Buccaneers
- Don’t Rule Out: Bengals
What are the Redskins doing? Are they really about to let Kirk Cousins go? Is it time to rebuild already?
NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah “would not be shocked at all” if the Redskins and 49ers agree to a trade involving Kirk Cousins at the Combine.
After everything the Redskins went through in getting RG3, they lucked out by finding a quarterback in the same year as an insurance policy by drafting Cousins with one of their later picks. Kirk Cousins was the perfect escape plan from investing all those picks in getting RG3 and now their just going to give up on him? It makes no sense.
Daniel Jeremiah believes there is a “better than 50 percent” chance Cousins isn’t a 2017 Redskin, and a deal sending Cousins to San Francisco, possibly along with the Redskins’ No. 17 overall pick, in exchange for the 49ers’ No. 2 overall pick is in the cards. It sounds like the Redskins plan to either sign Cousins of trade him, and the 49ers sound like the only team interested.
Difficult to make a prediction on this one, but felt it had to be mentioned.
- Prediction: Cousins Re-signs with Redskins
- 50/50: Cousins is a 49er
What are your NFL Free Agency Predictions? Leave a comment below.
Anthony Cervino is a lifelong NFL enthusiast, especially of the Dallas Cowboys. He has been infatuated with the game since childhood and was introduced to fantasy football as a young teen. Back then, the league commissioner typed out the weekly newsletter and used the Daily News to tally scores. In a statistic-driven game of fantasy football, Anthony believes that sometimes you have to rely on that good ole gut instinct. Anthony resides in New Jersey where he lives with his wife, son and a pomeranian that is named Roman (after Tony Romo). When Anthony is not immersed in the NFL or fantasy football related activities, he enjoys bodybuilding and spending time with his family. Anthony is committed to giving you his best analysis and most accurate statistics to help you win championships. Don’t hesitate to tweet Anthony @therealnflguru about anything NFL or fantasy-related topics. He will always respond in a timely fashion.