Free agency is exciting for the fans, and many times for players. There are many players who are finding how much their new paychecks will be, which can be exciting especially when you’re constantly working hard for that. There are still players who play for the love of the game, but these guys want to get paid too. Look at Le’Veon Bell; he held out all of the 2018 season to ensure he wouldn’t get hurt to possibly mess up his chances of a big payday.
Just talking about running backs alone, there will be at least 10 that get signed this offseason. We’re going to take a look at 10 of the bigger names that will get signed elsewhere this offseason, and where they will go. It also comes down to which teams can afford which players. If your favorite team doesn’t have much cap space, they’re going to struggle to sign one of these big-name players. It also comes down to which teams value free agency over the draft. Lately, teams have valued the draft more because it’s cheaper and there’s so much potential to grow.
While this is an exciting part of the offseason, keep in mind that there will be players who may never play the game again. There will also be talented players who don’t sign with a team throughout the offseason. We saw Dez Bryant and C.J. Anderson remain unsigned in free agency all the way until the middle of the season. For players like that, this time could be difficult.
20 Signed: Cole Beasley - Indianapolis Colts
Cole Beasley’s tenure in Dallas is over. The issue is as simple as the franchise doesn’t value him as they should. Realistically though, they have many other priorities this offseason. Just in this offseason alone, they will look to extend Dak Prescott, Amari Cooper, Ezekiel Elliott, DeMarcus Lawrence, and Byron Jones. They may still have money left over, but a lot of analysts believe the team will make a strong push at Earl Thomas, or another upgrade in the secondary.
Beasley can no longer keep taking a hometown discount. Beasley has been frustrated with the way he’s been used in this offense, and he likely won’t take any less than $8 million a year. Colts have a lot of cap space and would love to add the veteran wide receiver to make this offense even more difficult to stop.
19 Left Behind: Jihad Ward
Surprisingly, three of Jihad Ward’s four total tackles on the season were sacks. He got six quarterback hits, so he did a decent job in rushing the passer when on the field. It just looks like he won’t get a shot, at least until the season begins next year. Ward’s career may be hanging on the hopes of another defensive tackle getting hurt during the season.
Ward has been considered a draft "bust". He was drafted in the second round of the 2016 draft and has really struggled to find success in the NFL. He was fortunate to find a second chance this season, but no team will sign him during the offseason.
18 Signed: Randall Cobb - Tennessee Titans
Randall Cobb will be a hot commodity this offseason, but the question is where he would want to play. Cobb wants to get paid, but he also wants to win. Those teams who have a lot of cap space probably aren’t in winning situations, except for a few of them.
The Titans could become a surprising team that ends up landing him. They’re confident in Corey Davis as the No. 1 receiver, but may find Cobb has a valuable addition on the opposite end. They have a very young receiving corps and could use a veteran on the opposite side of Davis. They would probably be willing to make him the highest-paid receiver this offseason to ensure they have a solid group of pass-catchers for Marcus Mariota next season.
17 Left Behind: Charcandrick West
With Kareem Hunt being released, it gave Charcandrick West an opportunity to play a little bit at the end of this season. West found success in the passing game but hasn’t had much success as on the ground. In 2015, West had 160 rushing attempts. In 2019, he will likely be without a job.
Running backs are going to have it hard this offseason, considering the load of talent available. From free agency to the draft, every team in the NFL can find themselves a running back pretty easily. A player like West who hasn’t improved since he entered the league isn’t going to find much interest if any.
16 Signed: Dante Fowler Jr. - New York Jets
Who’s going to pay Dante Fowler Jr.? When Fowler Jr. was traded to the Rams mid-season, there was no guarantee that he would be signed by the team this offseason. This Rams team made a lot of acquisitions to put all their eggs into one basket to try and win a Super Bowl this season.
A lot of fans jumped on his bandwagon when he finished with eight sacks, two forced fumbles, and three fumble returns in 2017. He just hasn’t been that same player. The Jets were really interested in trading for him, and with the cap space they have, they can overpay him to add a young pass rusher to their defense.
15 Left Behind: Deonte Thompson
Deonte Thompson’s real opportunity came in Dallas, and he was released right after the Amari Cooper acquisition. Thompson’s dropped passes and inability to create separation led him to struggle this season, when the Bills decided to re-sign him. Even the Bills couldn’t find a role for him on their team, which should show what the future will look like.
Teams really won’t be interested in him, considering he didn't really capitalize on his opportunity in Dallas. He’s bounced around teams a lot throughout his young career, but he won’t have to worry about that this offseason. At best, he could be signed due to an injury in the middle of next season.
14 Signed: Jared Cook - Seattle Seahawks
This season, the Seahawks' leading receiver among their tight ends was Nick Vannett, with 29 receptions for 269 yards and three touchdowns. Chances are, unless you're a Seahawks fan, you probably have no idea who Vannett is. What you do know is that the Seahawks made it into the playoffs but struggled through the air.
If you add a guy like Jared Cook alongside that receiving corps, Russell Wilson will be fantastic. Cook has played incredible in Oakland, so just imagine the things he could do with a top-10 quarterback. Plus, what else do the Seahawks plan to do in free agency? Cook is affordable, with a high ceiling.
13 Left Behind: Kony Ealy
Originally, Kony Ealy was supposed to be part of the 'Hot Boyz' in Dallas. Instead, he was cut and later signed by the Oakland Raiders. Ealy was no star, but he was solid in Carolina. He then struggled with the Jets, so the Cowboys thought they would get a steal out of him.
Teams are going to look right past him this offseason. On a Raiders team that lacks a pass rusher, Ealy couldn’t even touch the quarterback in the three games he played. Clearly, teams weren’t confident that he was worth a roster spot anymore, which is why he only played three games.
12 Signed: Devin Funchess - Buffalo Bills
Devin Funchess is going to be either the first or second-highest paid wide receiver this offseason. We saw the Chiefs and Bears overpay Sammy Watkins and Allen Robinson last offseason, and with the free agency crop of receivers this year, it will be Funchess.
Funchess is going to want a chance to be a No. 1 receiver, and get paid like one. The only team who will treat him like that are the Bills. They're a team in need of weapons that will struggle to sign players in free agency because of the lack of interest in playing there. Funchess could see dollar signs and a chance to shine with a young quarterback like Josh Allen.
11 Left Behind: Kelvin Benjamin
Speaking of Bills wide receivers, this ex-Bills receiver isn’t going to find a home. From 2014-2016, many thought Kelvin Benjamin would be one of the next star wide receivers in the NFL. Now, we’re discussing if he will even be on a team next season.
Benjamin is going be expecting a contract offer but will be without a team for quite a few months. Benjamin is a bad teammate, and struggles to create separation. Seeing that he can’t help the Chiefs passing game shows it all. Teams won’t want to deal with that nonsense, and he will remain a free agent in 2019.
10 Signed: Mark Ingram - Houston Texans
Mark Ingram might be the most interesting running back in this crop of would-be free agents. People know Le’Veon Bell is going to go to a team with a lot of cap space and Tevin Coleman is going to sign with a team who needs a starting running back. Ingram, on the other hand, has no limits for where he can go.
What makes him so special is that he can be successful while splitting carries with another running back. The Texans could be a legitimate playoff threat with a consistent running game, so they could part ways with Lamar Miller, opening up the opportunity for Ingram to sign there.
9 Left Behind: Mark Sanchez
Known for the butt fumble, Mark Sanchez may have seen his final game as an NFL quarterback. Sanchez’s last stint came in Washington, where he failed to even make the Redskins offense halfway decent. Instead, he performed poorly and was eventually benched for a late-season add-on, Josh Johnson. It was a desperate attempt to save their season and clearly it didn't work out.
Sanchez was never that great an NFL quarterback anyway, and at 32, the skill set isn’t there anymore. Considering how much Sanchez loves the game, he will wait it out to find a position that opens up. Eventually, he will see nothing open up, and will likely end up retiring.
8 Signed: Ndamukong Suh - Cleveland Browns
On to the next stop for Ndamukong Suh, and there’s the perfect spot for him. The Cleveland Browns can very much be a playoff team next season, as long as they add a few more pieces throughout the offseason. Signing a big name defensive tackle would be huge, and could help end their playoff drought.
It’s a good fit for Suh, because he has a chance to play for a winning team while also receiving a big contract. He may have to settle for a two-year deal, which is pretty good for his age. The Browns are looking scary for next season.
7 Left Behind: Corey Coleman
At this point, Corey Coleman may know every offense’s playbook in the league. Coleman bounced around a few teams this season before he finally found a steady home for now in New York. What is super-disappointing is that Coleman was a first-round pick in 2016. Three years later, he could be without a job.
Coleman will probably find a job somewhere, in the middle of next season. Due to his struggles and having already been on multiple teams, many likely already view him as damaged goods. It’s weird that a former Baylor star can’t stay on a team. Other NFL teams don’t want to take the risk.
6 Signed: Earl Thomas - Kansas City Chiefs
If you ask Andy Reid what his priority would be for the Chiefs in 2019, it would be to improve on defense. A half-decent defense makes this Chiefs team a Super Bowl contender for the next few years. Obviously everyone has fallen in love with Patrick Mahomes and that offense but the defense has been their Achilles heel in every loss during the season. Signing a player like Earl Thomas would change the game.
Thomas has been one of the best safeties in the league and can play all around the field. The Chiefs have enough money to sign him to a multi-year deal, locking in someone who could become the leader of their defense. Looking at that secondary, this move should be a top priority.
5 Left Behind: Brock Osweiler
Honestly, Brock Osweiler wasn’t all that bad when he took over for Ryan Tannehill. He went 2-3 and threw for 1,247 yards with six touchdowns and four interceptions. He led an impressive overtime win over the Chicago Bears. For all the criticism he’s dealt with, he wasn’t that bad in Miami for a backup quarterback.
The problem is, he's no longer that young at 28, and there are so many veteran quarterbacks available this offseason.Nick Foles, Joe Flacco, Teddy Bridgewater and Tyrod Taylor will all be on the market for teams looking for either a temporary starter, or a solid backup. That could leave Osweiler looking for a job.
4 Signed: Ezekiel Ansah - Indianapolis Colts
When you look at the free agents for this offseason, Ezekiel Ansah stands out. He’s up there with DeMarcus Lawrence as the second-best defensive end available, but the problem with Ansah is that he struggles to stay healthy. In 2018 alone, he missed nine games.
Injuries plus age will lower your value, so the best bet for him would be signing with a playoff contender on a one-year, 'prove it' deal. Expect the Colts to do something similar to what the Rams did last offseason, and sign a bunch of big-name players for a season or two to lead a Super Bowl push. If Ansah can stay healthy, this is a huge move.
3 Left Behind: Rishard Matthews
Throughout the past two seasons, Rishard Matthews looked like he could be a good No. 2 receiver. Now, he could be struggling to find a job. Matthews requested a release from the Titans and then went down with an injury while playing for the Jets, which cut his season short.
Injuries, drama, and question marks around his play will leave teams not to sign him. Matthews could be one of those names mid-season in 2019 that teams look at, but won’t be a name that appeals to anyone in free agency. It looks like Matthews's request to be released is going to backfire on him.
2 Sign: Le'Veon Bell - Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Le’Veon Bell will be the hottest name on the market this offseason, but where will he go? He’s hinted on social media that he'd like the idea of joining Andrew Luck and the Colts. When Kareem Hunt was released, some fans thought the Chiefs may go big and sign the superstar to replace Hunt. Many thought the Jets, a big market team with so much cap space, would just overpay and that Bell would join the highest bidder. None of those will happen.
The Colts have Marlon Mack, the Chiefs have Damien Williams, and the Jets may go after Tevin Coleman. The Buccaneers will be the team to pay Bell a similar contract that Pittsburgh offered him, with more guaranteed money. Bruce Arians arriving in Tampa signals the Bucs aren't looking for a rebuild and will want to give it their best shot possible with Jameis Winston. Bell would certainly make this a complete offense, assuming the Bucs address their o-line in the draft.
1 Left Behind: Peyton Barber
From the starting running back of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, to jobless. With so many talented running backs available this offseason (and if they target Bell, it further drives home this point), why would the Buccaneers want to re-sign Barber?
Just because Barber was listed as a starting running back doesn’t make him good. Throughout his career, Barber is averaging under four yards per carry. Those are mediocre numbers, and no team is going to see a bright side to that. He got his chance to be a starter in Tampa, but the decision for them to move on could leave him waiting for a team for quite a while.