It’s just over two months since NFL free agency began, and there are some of the biggest stars that are still on the market. It’s unusual to see such big stars available this late in the offseason, which makes this offseason fairly unique. With the draft having so much talent, it was easy for many teams to replace players or fills needs through the draft, rather than through free agency. Some teams like the New York Giants and Dallas Cowboys, had some of the best offseasons not in part to free agency, but because of the draft. Sometimes, teams find more value for cheaper in the draft rather than breaking their bank account in free agency.
It’s going to be tough for some of these players to find a team, but eventually it will happen, hopefully. Meanwhile other players, don’t really have much of a shot. Sometimes there’s too much talent for a player to have a position, unfortunately. And it makes it difficult because there are some teams that have certain needs, but are flat out telling the media they don’t have interest in certain players. There likely won’t be much action until preseason, but many players may find a home once coaches see their teams with pads on.
15 Will Find Home: Dominique Rodgers Cromartie (CB)
New Team - Kansas City Chiefs
In a sense, you could say the Kansas City Chiefs lost Marcus Peters, but gained Kendall Fuller. But Fuller is still young, only 23 years old. He had an incredible season last year with the Redskins where he had four interceptions, and 10 pass deflections. But the Chiefs could still use another cornerback, as they are not bringing back Darrelle Revis it seems. Peters was one of the best young cornerbacks in the league, having 19 interceptions through his first three seasons. So, it’s easy to say, the Chiefs should be looking into another cornerback in free agency.
If the Chiefs wait long enough, they could see themselves signing Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie for a fairly cheap price.
Rodgers-Cromartie struggled in 2017, but had one of the best seasons of his career in 2016 with six interceptions and 21 pass deflections. The Chiefs could use his struggles in 2017 as a way to make the price cheaper. With such a young defense, it could be nerve wrecking to not have any veterans. If they can get Rodgers-Cromartie at the right price, it would be a great pick up. A guy who can start immediately and add experience to a young defense, with the except of Eric Berry.
14 Will Find Home: Robert Ayers (DE)
New Team - Buffalo Bills
Offensively, the Bills still have some work to do. But defensively, the Bills are right there with some of the best defenses. The secondary was much improved in 2017, but the Bills could use some help on the defensive line. A strong defensive line may be what’s separating the Bills from having one of the best defenses in the NFL. The team’s sack leaders were Shaq Lawson and Jerry Hughes, who both have four sacks each. The Bills had 27 total sacks on the season, while their opponents had 47. While the addition of Tremaine Edmunds helps this defense get to the quarterback, the Bills could use another dedicated defensive end.
Robert Ayers, former defensive end of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, has had some success throughout his career. While he struggled in 2017, he finished with 6.5 sacks in 2016. If Ayers can get going once again, he could be a great addition to this team.
Teams like the Philadelphia Eagles showed that not only do you need elite pass rushers, but you need a lot of depth on your defensive line. The more bodies you have on your defensive line, chances are, the better your defensive line will be.
13 Should Retire: Eric Reid (S)
Teams don’t care that you have Freedom of Speech, if you do something that could negatively affect their look, they won’t sign you. And that pretty much sums up why Eric Reid has not been signed, and also the fact that safeties have struggled to find new teams this offseason. Although Reid is one of the younger, more talented safeties, his choice to kneel during the National Anthem is costing him a job right now.
Reid openly told teams that if he were to sign with them, that he would continue to kneel during the National Anthem. While it's his right, because of his stance, he will likely never find a job in the NFL again.
Colin Kaepernick is a perfect example, a quarterback with a lot of talent, but goes against what the NFL stands for. Kenny Vaccaro and Tre Boston are both safeties who are free agents, who would likely be signed before Reid. After every team decided to kneel one weekend during the National Anthem, it has practically all ended. So to save himself from a headache, Reid may as well hang around Kaepernick to try and help better the community, than to attempt to find a job in the NFL.
12 Will Find Home: Jeremy Lane (CB)
New Team - New England Patriots
So much attention surrounds the New England Patriots, but there wasn’t enough attention around one of the worst defenses in the NFL. The Patriots gave up 4,020 passing yards, on average 251.3 passing yards a game. They ranked 30th in the league in the air on defense. And on top of how poorly they played, they lost one of their top cornerbacks in Malcolm Butler. The Patriots did use their second-round draft pick on cornerback Duke Dawson, but could still need another cornerback to not just replace Butler, but helped improve one of the worst secondaries in the league.
A great addition would be former Seahawks cornerback, Jeremy Lane. Lane has been a part of one of the best secondaries in the league, and could help against slot receivers. Signing Lane could be pretty cheap, and would allow Dawson to have time to develop, and not necessarily have to start him from day one. While opposing teams in the AFC East haven’t upgraded at the wide receiver, position, the Bills and Jets both upgraded their quarterback position. With the Patriots losing some key players, they may want to invest a small amount of money to help upgrade this secondary, while adding depth.
11 Will Find Home: Kenny Vaccaro (S)
New Team - Miami Dolphins
The Dolphins upgraded their secondary by adding defensive back, Minkah Fitzpatrick, out of Alabama, but the team could still use a safety to cover down the middle of the field. After making it to the playoffs in 2016, they failed to make it after Ryan Tannehill missed the whole season. But going into the 2018 season, the Dolphins could use some help all throughout the defense. The Dolphins did a lot in the draft to help both sides of the ball, but the safety position could use some help. The safety most likely to be signed first out of those who are free agents, would be former Saints safety, Kenny Vaccaro.
Vaccaro’s been a solid starter at the top of the field, and comes off a good season where he had three interceptions and seven pass deflections, along with 48 tackles.
Vaccaro can play all over the field, which gives the Dolphins some flexibility. The team also has spoken about trying to find leaders, and Vaccaro could be a leader from day one. After losing players like Ndamukong Suh and Jarvis Landry, it can be quite disappointing for both the players and fans heading into this season if the Fins head into camp with their current roster. Vaccaro would give Miami something to be excited about.
10 Should Retire: Marcedes Lewis (TE)
With there being so much talent at the tight end position in the draft, it basically killed the opportunity for veteran tight ends to find a team this offseason. Marcedes Lewis, former Jaguars tight end, was released this offseason along with Allen Hurns, which led them to saving $3.5 million in salary-cap space. While Hurns found it easy to find a new team, Lewis still remains as a free agent. At 33-years old, it’s going to be difficult for him to find a new home, especially considering there are more talented free agent tight ends above of him. Lewis spent 12 seasons in Jacksonville, which is so long that he even played in the playoffs when the Jaguars made it in 2007.
Lewis became a strong target for Blake Bortles in 2017, as he finished with five touchdown catches and 318 receiving yards, but his production wasn’t enough to keep him for the future. And considering he hasn’t scratched the surface of a 500-yard receiving season since 2012, he won’t have much interest unless he takes a dramatic pay cut.
Lewis played 12 seasons in Jacksonville, which is incredible for a tight end. He may want to follow Jason Witten’s footsteps, and decide to move on from football.
9 Will Find Home: Johnathan Hankins (DT)
New Home - Arizona Cardinals
One of the biggest defensive questions currently ongoing, is how Johnathan Hankins is still a free agent. Hankins was looked at as one of the best free agent defensive tackles heading into free agency, and still remains available. In 2017, Hankins had two sacks and 24 tackles. And the best part is, he’s only 26-years old. It’s rare to find a solid defensive tackle who has proven himself to be one of the better players at his position, who’s really young, and still available. Hankins could improve a defensive line immediately just by signing with a team.
When you think of Hankins, the first team you may think about is the Dallas Cowboys. And the Cowboys would be a perfect fit, but they have openly said they aren’t interested in pursuing Hankins. So, another team who may decide to go after him, will be the Arizona Cardinals. Defensive end is more of a concern for the Cardinals than defensive tackle, but this may help some defensive ends stay dedicated to the outside, while adding depth to the inside. The Cardinals did not add a defensive tackle in the draft, as the focus was mainly on offense. This would be a great late offseason addition.
8 Will Find Home: Jeremy Maclin (WR)
New Team - Seattle Seahawks
Nobody completely understands what the Seattle Seahawks are doing with this team, except, maybe Seahawks’ owner Paul Allen. But they have holes all throughout their offense, one primarily being at the wide receiver position. The Seahawks never had the best receiving group, but now after losing Paul Richardson, this team needs to help Russell Wilson. What if the Seahawks paired up Jeremy Maclin with one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL?
You can say that Maclin’s production decreased from playing with Alex Smith and Joe Flacco. But he may improve playing with one of the better quarterbacks in the league. Through the first six seasons of his career, Maclin caught for at least 700 yards each season, and in two of those seasons, caught for 10 touchdown passes.
Even if he only catches for 500 yards in a season, that gives Wilson another weapon in the air, which will ultimately help this whole offense.
There hasn’t been any real interest in Maclin, so he won’t be very expensive to sign. After seeing Dez Bryant offered a three-year deal worth $21 million, that shows that Maclin won’t be worth very much. He may have to wait some more time, but the Seahawks could pull the trigger in the middle of the preseason if he’s still available.
7 Should Retire: Adrian Peterson (RB)
Out of those who should retire on this list, Adrian Peterson may be the only player who has recently had interest from teams. The New Orleans Saints stated that they would be willing to re-sign Peterson, even after things didn’t go that well through four games with them where he only rushed for 81 yards. Even if the Saints were willing to sign him, where does he fit? Once Mark Ingram returns from his four-game suspension, unless Peterson is putting up crazy numbers, they’re going to move on from him. And besides that, there hasn’t been any interest in him.
2017 may have not been the ending he wanted, but it may only get worse from here. Running backs tend to struggle in their final seasons. While it won’t hurt his legacy, it may be a disappointment from what he expects out of himself. And after he suffered a season ending neck injury, he may not have the durability left in him to go a full season.
If the right situation doesn’t come to him, which it doesn’t seem like it will, it’s better off to call it quits. A team like the Saints likely will make him a backup, and may eventually cut him again when Ingram comes back. Is that really what AP wants at this stage of his career?
6 Will Find Home: Brandon Marshall (WR)
New Team - Green Bay Packers
When the New York Giants signed Brandon Marshall, it looked like they would have the best receiving corps in 2017. A year later, Marshall missed most of the 2017 season, and now awaits another position. Marshall likely will find a landing spot, but don’t be surprised if he randomly decides to retire. But if that doesn’t happen, a great spot for him would be with the Green Bay Packers. It would either be between the Packers or Seahawks, but the price may be what drives the Seahawks away.
The Packers cut their star receiver, Jordy Nelson, and are in need of a replacement. While Marshall won’t fix the hole, he adds a tall receiver with the ability to do many different things on the field. Before Marshall got hurt, in 2016, he caught for 788 yards and scored three touchdowns. And a season before that, he finished with 1,502 receiving yards and 14 touchdowns, which was the best season of his career.
The Packers could look back to some of his success before his injury, and see how dominant he was with a mediocre quarterback. If Marshall is paired up with the best quarterback in the league, he could see another great season in his career.
5 Will Find Home: NaVorro Bowman (LB)
New Team - Washington Redskins
The NFC East may have some of the best offensive talent this season, and most certainly, three of the best running attacks, if Saquon Barkley comes as advertised. The Redskins have done their best to improve their defensive line through the past two drafts, but could use a run stopper at the linebacker position to help stop running backs like Ezekiel Elliott and Jay Ajayi. The Redskins didn’t decide until the sixth round to add a linebacker, who likely won’t have much of an impact this season. But, the Redskins need a linebacker to come in and help this season. The perfect fit: NaVorro Bowman.
It came as a surprise when the 49ers released the leader of their defense last season, then seeing the Raiders choose not to re-sign him.
Bowman has been one of the better linebackers in the league, and finished with 80 tackles, one interception and 1.5 sacks in 2017. If he has time to develop into a new defense, rather than getting thrown into the fire randomly, he may improve greatly. With losing Kirk Cousins and DeAngelo Hall, this team needs some leaders, and Bowman would be a good addition. Not to mention, this would bring back the former leaders of the 49ers, Alex Smith and Bowman back together.
4 Should Retire: Eric Decker (WR)
It’s a shame that there’s no interest in Eric Decker, who was once considered one of the best wide receivers in the NFL. From 2012 to 2015, Decker had three 1,000 yard receiving seasons, and caught 41 touchdown passes. Since then, his production has dropped dramatically, and over the past two seasons, hasn’t caught for over 1,000 yards combined, and also only has three touchdown receptions within the past two seasons. It could be age getting to him, or it could be him not fitting into the system. But there have been no talks of any team showing interest in him, so he may want to move on from football on his own.
If Decker sees a contract coming his way, it may be a cheap contract with minimal guaranteed money, making it easy for a team to cut him in training camp. While he may still have the talent to play, teams aren’t interested. There are a couple receivers on this list who are still free agents and have had more recent success than him, and are still jobless. Unfortunately, this offseason has been difficult for many receivers, who may be forced to retire. Decker is one of the few who has a very small chance of finding a spot on a team in 2018.
3 Will Find Home: DeMarco Murray (RB)
New Team - Baltimore Ravens
Many teams have a running back, or have drafted one that they hope will start for them. The only team that seems to be without a running back that could look for one, is the Baltimore Ravens. Since Ray Rice was released, the team hasn’t found a true three down running back to take over. While it may not be the best fit for DeMarco Murray, it may be the only fit where he gets a decent salary, and has the ability to start. A lot of teams upgraded their running back position through the draft or free agency, which eliminates many options for Murray.
With the Ravens having interest in Dez Bryant, it shows that they are actively looking at veterans in free agency. If they can work out a contract that makes both parties happy, this could work out. If Lamar Jackson does end up taking over fairly soon, it would be important for him to have a talented running back to prevent him from having to run the football so much. The less he runs, the better chance he has of lasting in the NFL. Playing alongside Murray could help Jackson’s transition into being an NFL quarterback go a lot smoother.
2 Will Find Home: Dez Bryant (WR)
New Team - San Francisco 49ers
Talks of the Cowboys releasing Dez Bryant never seemed to be taken seriously, until it happened. If Bryant was released earlier in the offseason, he likely would have been looked at as the best wide receiver this free agency, which would’ve gave him a long-term deal worth a lot of money. But because he was released so late in the game, there aren’t very many options for Bryant. He was offered a three-year deal worth $21 million with the Ravens, but denied it because he wants a one-year deal worth maximum value. But, is he going to get that? Probably not.
Bryant is going to have to settle for the best possible situation, and a great situation would be playing for the San Francisco 49ers.
Jimmy Garoppolo is a young star with so much potential, in a division that is very competitive. While Bryant wanted to stay in the NFC East, the interest just isn’t there. Don’t be surprised if he decides to go play with the young sensation, to eventually land himself an expensive long-term deal. And with the 49ers' cap space, in the future, they will likely be able to afford to pay Bryant what he wants, as long as he delivers.
1 Should Retire: Antonio Gates (TE)
The time has come where the Los Angeles Chargers would move on from long time tight end, Antonio Gates. Gates just finished his 15th season with the Chargers organization, but it seems they have enough confidence in Hunter Henry to move on from the veteran. 2017 was Gates first season where he caught for less than 500 yards since his rookie season. Gates, along with Jason Witten, has been one of the best tight ends in the league every season. And Gates was reliable, as he never missed more than six games in a season throughout his career. But every story has an end, and it may be best for his to end here.
Gates will be 38 years old before the 2018 season would begin, and would have to move to a new city and start over with a new team. Clearly there’s no real interest from any team, so he wouldn’t see as much playing time as he did in Los Angeles. Gates should go out and retire as a Charger, even if they didn’t want to bring him back. He had a successful career, but it wouldn’t be worth the hassle of starting over with a new team.
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