The NFL Playoffs are in full swing right now, and for the teams that couldn't make the cut, improvement for the 2017 season is the main focus of the day. In a few short months, the free agency period will hit the league, and many players will be getting some new scenery, while others will stay with their incumbent teams. A lot factors into a player's decision to switch or stay, and it will be the same case this year. This year's NFL free agent-list features plenty of big-name players, and there is little in the way of clear-cut answers as to what they'll do in the offseason.
Of course, we can always make estimations, and that's probably the most reasonable thing to do at this point. Using a player's transaction history, combined with their current situation, we can render a good guess as to whether they want to change teams, or not. Some of these answers may seem obvious, but NFL free agency is an unpredictable time of the offseason, and negotiations can swing in a moment's notice. For right now however, here are some educated guesses as to what some of the league's biggest names will do in free agency.
Ranked below are 8 NFL free agents who will stay put, and 7 who will change teams.
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19 STAYING PUT: Dontari Poe
Even though he had what some may consider a down year, it's no secret that Poe is one of the best defensive lineman in the league, and one of the Chiefs' best players overall. He will likely be back in Kansas City next year, as the team has no viable replacement, and Poe can do it all up front. Whether he's stuffing the run, or rushing the passer, he's proven to be invaluable to their defense, and he's the kind of player worth giving a hefty contract to. Since he has most of his prime years left, Poe should be one of the top priorities for the Chiefs this season, and get the contract extension that he deserves. As most coaches believe, the game of football starts in the trenches, and Poe fills that need to a tee.
18 CHAGING TEAMS: Jay Cutler
The jig is up with Cutler in Chicago, with most years resulting in disappointment and frustration, as long as he's been quarterback. There's really very little chance he stays, and with Jon Fox's job probably on the line this year, he won't want to risk it with a player as inconsistent as Cutler is, at the most important position on the field. He'll land a job somewhere, because admittedly he does have the skill set that lends itself to success in the NFL. Unfortunately, wherever that may be isn't likely to be a winning team, and Cutler's fortunes won't be making much of a turnaround. His enigmatic personality, and general apathy on the sidelines won't help his case. In all, Cutler's days as an NFL quarterback in general seem to be winding down, unless he somehow makes a miraculous resurgence.
17 STAYING PUT: Eddie Lacy
Although Lacy has fallen out of favor in Green Bay somewhat due to a string of injuries, and lower quality of play than he has exhibited in the past, it's still likely that he returns to the Packers. For one thing, due to all of the aforementioned struggles, his value has dropped considerably. There won't be many teams clamoring for Lacy's skills at running back to begin with. Adding on to that, the Packers have a complete lack of options at running back, unless they invest a high-round pick into one during the draft. Their featured back in the latter half of the season has been Ty Montgomery, who is essentially a converted wide receiver. With a lack of quality personnel, they'll be willing to ink Lacy to a new deal, probably on the cheap.
15 CHANGING TEAMS: Stephon Gilmore
One of the hottest names on the free agent market for cornerback this year, Gilmore is likely to end up leaving Buffalo. The Bills are in the midst of a power-shift to a new head coach, and it's probably that Gilmore wants to test the waters in a new city. There will be plenty of bidders for the ball-hawking corner. He'll command a huge contract, and will receive from a team that believes he best fits in their defensive system. Although the new coaching staff may want to keep him, and tell the general manager as such, The Bills are also a candidate for a complete team rebuild, and dumping Gilmore's salary would be a good first step in clearing up the necessary cap space. An interesting situation to keep an eye on as the offseason progresses, but Gilmore should be in a new uniform for the 2017 campaign.
14 STAYING PUT: Calais Campbell
While the 2016 season was a disaster for the Cardinals, they still have some bright spots on their roster, and Campbell is one of them. The reliable pass rusher had yet another very good season, on a defense that as a whole was just never able to put it all together. Arizona would be wise to resign him because of this, as they need to hang on to every reliable asset that is currently on their roster, and add to that. Campbell may be 30-years-old, but he's still really good, and he plays a position at defensive end, that lends itself to an older playing age. For all the failures the Cardinals saw this past season, Campbell provided assurance at a valuable position, and will likely be back in Arizona next year.
12 CHANGING TEAMS: DeSean Jackson
Although he's hit the age of 30, Jackson still burns cornerbacks on a regular basis. The Redskins aren't going to be able to sign all of their upcoming free agents, and Jackson seems to be one of the names on the chopping block. While he struggled with some minor injuries in Washington that caused him to miss some time in the past several seasons, he's still going to be sought by another team in free agency, due to his consistent play when on the field, and veteran presence in general. A return to the Eagles is not out of the question, but there will be plenty of bidders for Jackson, and he'll take the best option available to him at the time. Consider him already a lock to be wearing a new uniform next season.
11 STAYING PUT: Pierre Garcon
Jackson's teammate however, Garcon, will most likely be staying with the Redskins. They're more likely to ink him to a new deal rather than Jackson, because of Garcon's longevity with the team, and the fact that he's more of a possession receiver that doesn't solely rely on speed to make his impact. Also a veteran presence, Garcon won't cost too much money, but he'll still be the only one the Redskins will be looking to bring back to their receiving corps that is a free agent this year. All in all, Garcon is reliable, and is a steady route runner, giving Kirk Cousins some continuity in his receiving corps that he'll need if he is ever to take the next step as an NFL quarterback. Expect him back in D.C. for the 2017 season, as the free agent receiver the Skins are going to keep.
10 CHANGING TEAMS: Kenny Britt
Over the course of his entire career, Britt has been trapped in some bad situations, including far too many years with Jeff Fisher as his head coach, with both the Rams and Titans. Now, he is a free agent, and will likely end up somewhere other than L.A. for next season. He's coming off one of, if not the best season of his career, and that was with an unsteady situation at quarterback, which included playing time for Case Keenum, and under-developed first overall pick Jared Goff. Britt needs a reliable quarterback under center in order to establish a truly stellar season. While he's not the biggest name on the free agent wide receiver list, he'll still have his fair share of bidders. Britt is an underrated name on the market this year, and someone will get him for a reasonable price.
9 STAYING PUT: Kirk Cousins
While it seems like the Redskins are in a no-win situation at the quarterback position right now, Cousins is definitely still their best option. As a result, expect to see him signed to a new contract in full this offseason. There's no reason to use a second franchise tag on him, since the team won't be able to find anyone better in the span of a year. It's a bit difficult to get a hold of how good Cousins really is, but for better or worse, you can expect to see him under center in D.C. for the forseeable future. Jay Gruden needs to have a winning season in 2017 in order to not be on the hot seat (or lose his job all together), and with Cousins' longevity with the team, it gives him the best chance at doing just that. It's not a surefire choice for a franchise quarterbacks, but it's the best one available right now to the Redskins.
7 CHANGING TEAMS: Dre Kirkpatrick
Another one of the hottest names on the cornerback market, Kirkpatrick has a pretty sizeable chance of leaving the Bengals, but at the same time, he might be resigned. This one could go either way, and as one of the only reliable options on the market this year, Kirkpatrick is going to get a handsome contract no matter where he ends up. In truth, the Bengals are a mess right now, and it remains to be seen what their plan is going forward. The best estimate right now is that Kirkpatrick ends up hitting the market, and leaves Cincinnati. There aren't many reliable options at cornerback this year in free agency, and he'll command a high price tag. Should be one of the bigger signings for the position this offseason.
6 STAYING PUT: Melvin Ingram
Despite a disappointing season in the wins column, and one that saw head coach Mike McCoy fired in the process, the Chargers surprisingly have some quality players on the defensive side of the ball. One of them is Ingram, who provides stability at linebacker, and has been one of the most reliable players on the team. He's worth giving a new contract to, and is one of the marquee players on the roster as the team heads to their new home in Los Angeles for the 2017 season. Ingram can do it all at the position, and with Joey Bosa getting pressure up front, there will be plenty of opportunity for Ingram to have a stellar year next season, and completely live up to the contract extension he'll receive from the Chargers.
5 CHANGING TEAMS: Darren McFadden
What with rookie phenomenon Ezekiel Elliott taking the NFL by storm, there lies little reason for the Cowboys to resign McFadden this offseason. However, in the 2015 season, McFadden did prove that he has some gas left in the tank, as he rushed for 1,000 yards as a starting running back, albeit behind the best run blocking offensive line in the league. Still, given the naturally slim roster of free agent running backs this offseason, someone is likely to take a shot on him as a change up option at the position. He may even garner a nice payday for himself, which is pretty impressive for a player that everyone had seemingly given up on just several years ago. He definitely won't be back in Dallas, but he's probably done enough to stick around the league for a few more years.
4 STAYING PUT: Trumaine Johnson
The Rams have jettisoned way too many players in their secondary over the last few years to justify not resigning Johnson. He's easily their best cornerback right now, and since they've seen the likes of Rodney McLeod and Janoris Jenkins leave the secondary unit, signing Johnson becomes a priority. He'll be worth it though, as he had a great 2016 season, and looks to improve even further next year. With a quality defensive coordinator in Wade Phillips coming into town, the Rams will want to have plenty of quality players to provide him with. Johnson is one of those, and he'll get a hefty, yet well-deserved contract this offseason in free agency. Next to the elite Aaron Donald, Johnson is probably the best players on the L.A. defense at the moment.
2 CHANGING TEAMS: Alshon Jeffery
Jeffery is by far the best name available on the wide receiver free agent market, and it's pretty much all been established he's not going to be back in Chicago. What that means is a hefty price tag, and that one of the best receivers in the game is up for grabs this offseason. Who will sign him is anyone's guess really; it's going to come down to who offers the most money, and it's going to take a lot to get it done. Jeffery is in the prime of his career, and in the right offensive system, could produce some staggering numbers. It's going to be one of the most high-profile wide receiver signings in recent memory, and there's a good chance that it will be worth every penny. It's just a matter of who wants to pony up the money, which is a bidding war that will be one to watch during the offseason. Get your popcorn ready.
1 STAYING PUT: Le'Veon Bell
The most overall dynamic running back in the sport is going to be a free agent and...he isn't going anywhere. Seriously, the Steelers would never in a million years consider not resigning a player of Bell's caliber, when they see what he does week in and week out. Whether it's simply running the ball, or catching passes out of the backfield, Bell is a monster with not only his versatility, but his ability out in space. He's a top-three overall running back in the league, and he's going to stay that way for most of, if not the rest of his entire career. He'll be given a handsome new contract, and be in Pittsburgh for a long time. Every other team would love to get a shot at acquiring him, but it's not going to be in the cards this year, or probably ever.
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