Moving forward to the offseason, we will look at 10 of the best offensive and defensive players to hit free agency. With the playoffs among us and most teams eliminated from playoff contention, a lot of teams now put their focus towards free agency and the NFL Draft. There are some teams in the past that would avoid free agency and look strictly at the draft, but look at all the playoff teams. Almost all of these teams have made big moves in free agency, or through trades.
The Cowboys traded for Amari Cooper, who has helped spread open their offense. The Bears traded for Khalil Mack who completely changed the dynamic of their defense. The Rams added key players, including Brandin Cooks, Ndamukong Suh, and Aqib Talib this offseason which led them to being considered Super Bowl contenders. A lot of trades have helped, but free agency can help as well. It’s the quickest way to improve a team, as proven stars can be signed without teams having to sacrifice any talent already on a team. The main issue that most teams face every year, is how to budget their money.
If they can budget their cap space right and try to clear off contracts they don’t need, teams can find the money needed to land the biggest names in free agency. Teams that struggle to do so have very little money to spend and almost have to focus on improving their team in the draft. These teams will have a chance to sign some of the best players in the NFL.
20 Offense: T.J. Yeldon - Buffalo Bills
If there weren’t so many running backs available this offseason, T.J. Yeldon would have more leverage negotiating between teams. With the amount of talent out there, Yeldon will either have to settle for a backup position or sign with a team that may not be so appealing. Assuming the Bills trade LeSean McCoy, which seems very likely, they would be arguably the most unappealing team for a running back to play for.
Since the Bills have money to spend, Yeldon would likely get the largest contract possible from them. Yeldon comes off another good season, especially in the passing game, as he had to take over for Leonard Fournette when he was out.
19 Defense: Jason Verrett - Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Even though Jason Verrett has not been healthy for a full season since 2015, he should see a lot of interest this offseason. His health concerns should drive his value down, which may keep a lot of teams interested. Verrett’s 2015 season finished with three interceptions and 12 pass deflections. The Buccaneers are a team that stands out that needs some help to their secondary. They have had one of the worst passing defenses in the league, and have the money to spend on Verrett. He won’t cost too much, so it’s not a big risk. If he stays healthy, this is a huge signing for a struggling defense.
18 Offense: Tyrod Taylor - Jacksonville Jaguars
It doesn't seem like it, but Tyrod Taylor is one of the biggest names to hit free agency this offseason. Taylor’s struggles in Cleveland may be scapegoated on the former coaching staff, and he’s likely the most talented and experienced quarterback to hit free agency. With very few quarterbacks to be available this offseason, Taylor will be the No. 1 guy.
Of course, the Jaguars will draft a quarterback, but they won’t throw him to the wolves. It seems enticing to believe that Eli Manning would play in Jacksonville for a year, but it seems more likely that he stays in New York. We expect Taylor to sign a one-year deal with the Jaguars to mentor their rookie quarterback and offer an upgrade over Blake Bortles and Cody Kessler.
17 Defense: Aaron Lynch - Oakland Raiders
Injuries to Aaron Lynch have definitely slowed down his progression in the NFL. In his first two seasons in the NFL, he had 12.5 sacks between the two seasons. Since then, he really hasn’t had much of an impact on the defense. Much of that is due to the injuries he’s sustained. The Bears aren’t going to have any interest in bringing him back, so he hits free agency, where he could return to the Bay Area. This time, we have him signing with the Oakland Raiders.
Lynch has a chance to revitalize his career, while being almost guaranteed to have a starting role. It’s not the best situation, but it’s a chance.
16 Offense: Donte Moncrief - Miami Dolphins
As good as Donte Moncrief has been for the Jaguars, he’s replaceable. They have quite a few receivers who are talented including Marqise Lee who missed the whole 2018 season due to a knee injury. In our scenario, Moncrief enters free agency and ends up staying in Florida as he signs with the Miami Dolphins.
The Dolphins are another team with talented wide receivers but expect at least DeVante Parker to be out of there this offseason. Moncrief would get a lot of playing time and a quarterback who can throw the ball slightly better than Blake Bortles. Plus, it’s hard to turn down living in Miami.
15 Defense: K.J. Wright - Houston Texans
After missing a lot of time in the 2018 season, K.J. Wright may be the next Seattle Seahawk to hit free agency. Wright will be 30 years old at beginning of the 2019 season, which doesn’t fit the type of team Seattle is looking to have. As far as the rest of the league goes, Wright’s value will still be up there, as he’s been one of the best linebackers in the NFL.
Who’s to say the Texans can’t get even better? Add Wright alongside two great defensive ends, and you have one of the best defenses in the NFL. Maybe Wright would take a pay cut with a chance to win a Super Bowl.
14 Offense: Jared Cook - Detroit Lions
Matt Patricia and the Lions have to admit they were wrong for parting ways with Eric Ebron. Rather than owning up to that, they'll sign Jared Cook from the Raiders. Cook has been one of the best tight ends in the NFL and should help give Matthew Stafford another safety target.
While it seems like the Lions are in a rebuilding process, they may not be. Stafford will be 31 years old next season, and it doesn’t look like they are looking to replace him. While the team surrounding him may be young, they are putting together a young, cheap team that has a chance to win with him and after him.
13 Defense: Brandon Graham - San Francisco 49ers
It doesn’t look like Brandon Graham will be re-signed this offseason by the Eagles. While he was a big part in their Super Bowl run, the Eagles need to do whatever they can to make room on their team. Graham will be too costly to re-sign, so they let him play out free agency.
Graham could join another veteran defender, Richard Sherman, as they look to build a Super Bowl contender in San Francisco. The city is beautiful, and it becomes an appealing location as they make some interesting moves this offseason. Graham is a solid, yet not too pricey move to improve the pass rush.
12 Offense: Cole Beasley - Indianapolis Colts
Once Amari Cooper was traded to the Cowboys, the realization came that Cole Beasley would likely be playing his final season in Dallas. With Cooper getting all the targets, Beasley doesn’t have much of a purpose on this offense. Due to the lack of production, the Jones family wouldn’t want to pay Beasley the $8 to $10 million a year he may ask for.
The Colts will. They have a ton of money to spend and could use another reliable wide receiver. Beasley does a great job getting home and would help the Colts convert on key downs as teams look to double team T.Y. Hilton.
11 Defense: David Irving - Atlanta Falcons
David Irving could possibly be one of the best defensive tackles in the league if he stayed healthy. That is what makes him one of the most talented defensive players in free agency. There’s a lot of risk with signing him, but if he stays healthy and out of trouble, it pays off.
The Falcons needed to upgrade the defensive tackle position this offseason, but Irving may be the permanent move. He has so much potential that it’s sad that he can’t stay on the field. Maybe a change of teams will help better his situation. Atlanta could be a new start.
10 Offense: Kareem Hunt - Washington Redskins
Kareem Hunt's NFL future is up in the air after ending the 2018 season on the NFL commissioner's exempt list, following the Chiefs waving him. No team claimed him on waivers, but once Hunt's discipline by the NFL is decided, there will be a team likely to give him a one-year deal. As we've seen in the NFL time and time again, talent seems to outweigh character regarding a team's decision and Hunt will inevitably see some interest. Hunt is a former NFL rushing champion and obviously has great years ahead of him on a football field.
Considering their history of overlooking character concerns, it wouldn't be a surprise to see Washington sign Hunt, as Adrian Peterson likely won't be brought back, and Derrius Guice will be coming off an ACL tear.
9 Defense: Dante Fowler Jr. - New York Jets
Rather than a player getting his wish, a team gets their wish. The Jets were interested in trading for Dante Fowler Jr. at the trade deadline but took a step back as the Rams jumped in. With Fowler Jr. set to be a free agent in 2019, the Jets can offer him a massive contract that may be too difficult to turn down.
The Jets will have a ton of money to spend this offseason, as they've spent the last couple of offseasons shedding salary. This is the time for them to load up in free agency and Fowler would be a solid piece to start with.
8 Offense: Mark Ingram - Oakland Raiders
Mark Ingram may be the impending free agent running back that won't draw much attention, but could provide the best 'bang for your buck' of any RB hitting the market. Ingram is a power back one the most explosive offense in football, and benefits from having Alvin Kamara has his partner in crime. 2016 and 2017 were the two best seasons of Ingram’s career, and he’s going to try and cash in on those seasons this offseason.
Two years ago, a power running back was successful in Oakland. Well, now a better running back will sign there and be even better. While Ingram won’t be the richest running back this offseason, he will likely find himself getting around $6 million a year. Not bad for a running back who splits carries.
7 Defense: Clay Matthews - Los Angeles Rams
Instead of re-signing Dante Fowler Jr., the Rams can sign Clay Matthews. The Packers will have to make the difficult decision to part ways with Matthews, who will be 33 years old next season. Matthews has been out of his prime for a few years now but still plays solid football. That is what the Rams need to continue to be contenders.
Matthews adds leadership to the defense, as well as someone who can do many things including rush the passer, for a cheaper price. Matthews would highly consider it because he gets to compete for a Super Bowl in L.A.
6 Offense: Devin Funchess - New York Jets
What has happened to Devin Funchess? He went from the No. 1 wide receiver on the Panthers to a non-factor. Maybe the Panthers are trying to bring down his value to re-sign him, who knows. Funchess’ value will still be up there considering he’s young and has a lot of power. Considering Sammy Watkins broke the bank last offseason, Funchess should do well.
A team in desperate need of a wide receiver is the Jets, who don’t truly have a no. 1 receiver. While Funchess may not definitely be the guy, there will be competition in training camp for him to be. His power could give this offense something they’re missing.
5 Defense: Morris Claiborne - Kansas City Chiefs
This Chiefs defense could use another cornerback. If they can improve their defense, this is a Super Bowl team for years to come, with Patrick Mahomes and Tyreek Hill leading the offense. Claiborne may be a cheaper cornerback than some other options but should be able to provide an immediate impact on this defense.
This allows the team to focus on improving the pass rush in the draft and taking care of the secondary in free agency. Claiborne is one of the more underrated cornerbacks in the league too. Go after him and offer a three-year deal that gives you a discount, and you help out the defense early in the offseason.
4 Offense: Golden Tate - Carolina Panthers
The Carolina Panthers saw their season evaporate in the latter stages, as Cam Newton's shoulder just couldn't make the throws necessary to lead an offense. As Newton looks to begin his offseason recovery, the Panthers could give him another weapon to work with on offense.
With Devin Funchess likely moving on, Cam Newton still needs himself another wide receiver. D.J. Moore still hasn’t completely proved that he can take on a large workload. Tate is one of the best route runners in the league, and is a good complement to Moore. At 30 years old, Cobb should be fairly affordable to sign.
3 Defense: Ndamukong Suh - Cleveland Browns
When the Rams first signed Ndamukong Suh, it was a pretty clear rental. It was before they extended Aaron Donald, and at a time where they were spending money like crazy in free agency. Suh has been solid, but not as good as expected. The Rams will let him walk, as he plays free agency once again.
Suh wants to make a lot of money but also wants a winning culture after playing for one of the most successful teams in the NFC. He'll ultimately take a chance and signs a multi-year deal with the Cleveland Browns. The Browns have a ton of potential, and enough money to lock him in for the next couple of years.
2 Offense: Le'Veon Bell - Kansas City Chiefs (RB)
A lot of fantasy football fans will be really mad if Le’Veon Bell doesn’t sign with the Chiefs. They've got Patrick Mahomes, Tyreek Hill, and Travis Kelce, and they could have Bell replace Kareem Hunt at running back. How much more explosive of an offense can you ask for? It’s the perfect situation for Bell, on a team that could probably afford to sign a long-term deal with him. Considering they would’ve had to extend Hunt at some point, it makes too much sense.
Bell is a great option because he can also be an impact in the passing game. When you have one of the best passers in the game, it makes for a great match.
1 Defense: Earl Thomas - Dallas Cowboys
They’re back. The reports are back. After Earl Thomas gestured toward the Seahawks bench after going down with a season-ending injury, the Thomas-to-the-Cowboys reports came up once again. When Stephen Jones states that the team would like to upgrade the safety position, it begins to make more sense.
It all comes down to whom the Cowboys will pay this offseason, and how much everyone is worth. If the money is there, they will try to sign him. Maybe they push off some contracts to enable them to sign Thomas now. Just imagine the All-Pro safety with that young defense.