A good chunk of the great players are already gone. That doesn’t mean there’s no talent left. In fact, there are a lot of guys who remain that will prove to be major difference makers next season. And these are and will be the top 15 free agent signings among the players who are left on the market. Even after teams have inked some pretty large deals, there are still some more that are going to be coming. With this list, the top players who remain will be identified and we’ll look at where they’ll be going. Although a good portion of the 2017 free agents have signed with a team, there’s still a lot of movement going on in the NFL and that trend will continue all the way through the offseason. We’re still in the midst of one of the craziest times in professional sports and it’s not going to calm down anytime soon.
To point out the obvious, this list doesn’t address (except for here) some of the high profile signings like Alshon Jeffery, DeSean Jackson and Terrelle Pryor. Those guys, along with many others, have been signed in the first wave of offseason signings. Here, we address the biggest names that are left on the market, like Adrian Peterson and even Jamaal Charles and many others. The guys on this list will be huge difference makers for the teams that manage to sign them. And with these rankings, we’ll let you know where the athlete should sign and why it’s the best fit for them. From worst to best, here are the top 15 remaining free agents left out there on the market.
15 JOSH GORDON: CLEVELAND BROWNS
We begin this list with one of the NFL’s most unknown talented athlete. Josh Gordon has the skill to be the best player in the league, but due to league drug policies, Gordon has been suspended more often than not. Gordon was suspended the entire season last year for smoking weed. Although the drug is legal in a bunch of areas, the NFL treats marijuana the same as steroids and Gordon has missed ample amounts of time because of this.
It’s tough to imagine that teams would pass on this type of talent, but on the other end of things, it’s tough to imagine there’s a team that wants to risk signing him. There’s no telling when he’s going to fail the next drug test. The Browns just can’t risk Gordon going to another team. Sure, they may have to deal with more suspensions down the road, but Gordon is just too good to pass up.
14 COLIN KAEPERNICK: PHILADELPHIA EAGLES
The Philadelphia Eagles cannot place all of their hopes in quarterbacks already on the roster. Currently the Eagles are working with Carson Wentz with Nick Foles as the backup option. With what we saw from Wentz last season, Philadelphia surely doesn’t have its quarterback situation completely figured out. Of course, Wentz could always turn things around, but the Eagles should plan as if he’s going to fail.
That’s where Colin Kaepernick comes in. Maybe Kaepernick doesn’t win the starting job before Week 1, but that will give him time to learn the offense and prepare for his eventual start. The Eagles need more options at quarterback, and as time goes by they should be able to sign Kaepernick for a relatively cheap and short contract. There’s not much risk in bringing Kaepernick on, and the reward could be huge if he brings any of the success he saw early in his career.
13 JAY CUTLER: HOUSTON TEXANS
Jay Cutler has received some of the most negative reviews and so much criticism since he’s been in the NFL. Some of it is deserved, but not nearly to the extent that Cutler has seen. Cutler has been one of the most over-criticized players since his start in the league, which is probably why teams are hesitant to bring him on. But you’ve got to sift through all of the criticism that has been dealt because of his 68-71 record as a starter.
Cutler has thrown for more than 30,000 yards and has 208 passing touchdowns with just 146 interceptions. Of course, stats aren’t the only thing that defines a quarterback. But those stats are really good and should gain Cutler some appreciation throughout the league. But because of his negative reviews, Cutler needs to be on a team where he competes for the starting job. There’s no better place than the Texans. The Texans have been criticized for giving too good of a contract to that Brock guy, so why not sign Jay for one year and let them duel it out for the starting spot.
12 MICHAEL FLOYD: NEW YORK GIANTS
Although Michael Floyd doesn’t have a lot of the accolades that some of the league’s best wide receivers have, the 27-year-old is poised for a great run in the coming years. He’s shown his talent and is likely still on the market because he knows his worth, but teams are trying to get the best deal out of the young rising star.
Floyd has been in the league since he was drafted with the 13th overall pick in 2012. He played with the Cardinals for most of his time (2012-2016) and had a brief stint with the Patriots. He’s got a Super Bowl ring and is turning into a solid No. 2 wide receiver. He’s got the talent to lead a low-end receiving corps, but his talents would be best suited beside a truly talented receiver like Odell Beckham Jr. With someone like Beckham gaining the attention, Floyd will flourish and become one of the league’s more-known receivers.
11 BRANDON FLOWERS: PITTSBURGH STEELERS
After Brandon Flowers originally played up to huge expectations with the Chargers and has even been a Pro Bowl selection due to his work on the field. But injuries have really affected the cornerback who has missed 17 games in the past three seasons (the last season he played all 16 games was in 2011). Those injury issues are surely the reason he’s still sitting on the free agent market.
Flowers is talented enough to sign with a team and maintain a starting spot if he can remain healthy. That’s the biggest question going forward given his track record. Although he seems like a fit for the Chargers, who he recently played for, a better fit is looking to be the Steelers. Sure, Pittsburgh is showing up as a best-case scenario for a few different guys. But if the team is trying to make a championship run in one of the last years they’ll have with Roethlisberger, these types of offseason moves will be needed.
10 JOHNATHAN HANKINS: MIAMI DOLPHINS
It’s looking like Johnathan Hankins is still on the free agent market because it’s reported that he’s looking for a multi-year deal with at least $10 million a year. Although he is worth a good chunk of money, the market is proving that Hankins isn’t worth that much for that long. He may end up needing to sign a one-year deal if he’s trying to get that much money per year. And that will be tough given the fact that he’s coming off a couple of down years because of injuries.
But Hankins is a young stud coming off his four-year deal that he signed with the New York Giants as a rookie, and he would be a great addition to the Dolphins where he’d be able to contribute and learn a lot from their other stars. He was originally drafted in the middle of the second round but he’s been producing at the level of a much higher draft pick.
9 DWIGHT FREENEY: ATLANTA FALCONS
Teams should hope that Dwight Freeney would want to sign with them. Sure, he could call it quits and be Hall of Fame bound without question. But Freeney has the type of experience that is worth millions and should still be implemented on the field in certain cases. He’ll be paid for mostly for his mentoring capabilities, but still has the skill and ability to play on the field. He’d be worth whatever contract he signs as a coach, though, there is no reason teams shouldn’t use him as a player still.
Hopefully Freeney still wants to play because this league still needs someone like him. And the Falcons obviously need him more than anyone else. The Falcons need someone who can help improve their defense, even if it’s mostly from the bench, and Freeney can further their potential even more than he did last season.
8 DARRELLE REVIS: CAROLINA PANTHERS
This used-to-be superstar could be washed up, but we’re betting he still has another year or two left of locking down the opposing receivers. Darrelle Revis had some criminal charges, which are gone now but the league could still decide to impose some sort of punishment. That alone shouldn’t keep teams away from Revis. But it seems that when you factor in his age along with his below-average time with the Jets last season, Revis becomes a tough sell.
But he does have potential upside and his name alone will bring some attention to any teams defense. Although teams aren’t looking to sell more tickets or jerseys in a signing like this, it’s not a bad additional upside. Plus, Revis can still add a lot of experience and upside to a defense. The Carolina Panthers would be a perfect fit as they have a need for a defender like Revis and they’ve already shown they don’t mind implementing veterans on their defense.
7 LEGARRETTE BLOUNT: NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS
For one reason or another most guys who are still on the free agent list are not the most sought after athlete. That’s why they’re still out on the market. But that doesn’t mean that they won’t have a huge impact on a new team. But not all guys should move to another squad. LeGarrette Blount is someone that fits that mold.
Blount has been a great asset to New England’s offense. Sure, he’s not consistently used. But that’s what makes New England such a great fit. Blount is one of those 30-plus year old running backs and there’s no telling how much longer his body will last. At times he’s shown star running back potential in New England, which is a place where there’s not a huge need for another pass-catching running back. Why move away from a fit that works? Blount should remain in New England and the Patriots should realize that they need to re-sign the veteran back.
6 ZACH BROWN: OAKLAND RAIDERS
Here we look at a young linebacker who is just now entering the prime of his career. It has been reported that both the Oakland Raiders and the Indianapolis Colts have shown interest in Zach Brown, so it seems as if he will have a big decision to make. This will be a tough one because both of these teams will likely be in the playoffs and Brown will be a big factor on either teams defense.
The linebacker is just 27 and will seemingly want a large contract for more than just a couple of seasons. Brown is coming off of his best season and it looks like the best is yet to come. Browns was selected to the Pro Bowl last season as he played for the Bills, and he’s starting to look like a much better player than a guy who was drafted in the second round (he was the 52nd pick and played with the Titans from 2012 to 2015). He signed a one-year $1.25 million contract that included a $450,000 signing bonus with Buffalo. There’s no doubt that this next one will be much larger.
5 ANQUAN BOLDIN: PITTSBURGH STEELERS
This may be the last season that Anquan Boldin plays in the NFL, and he has the chance to put together one more great season before hanging up his jersey. A great fit for the wide receiver would be the Pittsburgh Steelers, but that might not necessarily be where Boldin wants to play his final season. Boldin will likely be a candidate for the Hall of Fame.
Boldin has said in the past that he wants to retire as a Baltimore Raven, so, playing for the team’s direct rival may not be something he will want to do. But he should. Pittsburgh could use another star lining up against Antonio Brown. Sure, Boldin no longer matches any type of talent level that Brown has, but he’d be opened up for some great performances as a lot of defensive focus will be placed on Brown. If Boldin is trying to close off his career on a high note, Pittsburgh is the perfect place.
4 RYAN CLADY: DENVER BRONCOS
If you thought you were getting through this list without an offensive lineman showing up, then sorry to disappoint you. But Ryan Clady is one of the most proven players still available in free agency. Clady has been to the Pro Bowl four times, but the tough part is that he’s struggled with injuries throughout his career. Since he’s eclipsed the 30-year-old mark, those injuries become more frightening for possible teams.
He’s great at protecting the run and the pass, and that’s something that the Denver Broncos could desperately use. But this will be a relatively risky pick up as Clady has just started 26 of the 64 games in the past four seasons. It’s only been a year since he left the Broncos squad, but he could easily slide back in as the team’s starting left tackle.
3 JAMAAL CHARLES: PITTSBURGH STEELERS
Here we have another player who doesn’t get the credit he deserves. Jamaal Charles has proven to be a great running back, but recent injuries paired with his age make him a less-than optimal pickup for most of the league. But Charles has the talent that should drive teams to take a chance and ink him to a one-year deal. Although the contract may not be as big as Charles would like, it will give him a chance to prove he has the ability to post similar performances to what he has done earlier in his career.
Charles, who is now 30, has been selected to the Pro Bowl four times and was the rushing touchdowns leader in 2013. But the past two seasons have been awful for Charles as he’s been active for just three games and last year he had only 12 rushing attempts. That scares teams, especially when you consider his age. But a team like the Steelers would have no trouble risking a bench spot on the used-to-be star as Pittsburgh may need someone to fill in for the often-suspended Le’Veon Bell.
2 DEMARCUS WARE: DALLAS COWBOYS
DeMarcus Ware said he is going to retire, but that is not going to happen. Ware will be back by Week 1. He's going to come back even though no one would question his greatness if he would go through with retirement. Ware is a Super Bowl champ who has been selected nine times to the Pro Bowl, has been the Defensive Player of the Year and has led the league in sacks twice. Ware has also been named to the 2000s All-Decade Team and it wouldn’t be surprising if he was named to the next decade’s team when that time comes.
Ware will be a first ballot Hall of Famer no matter what. But his career will be so much sweeter competing for one last Super Bowl with the Dallas Cowboys.
1 ADRIAN PETERSON: GREEN BAY PACKERS
Although last season was a slow year for Adrian Peterson, he is the best athlete that remains on the market. Peterson can bring the biggest type of change to a team, but that is only if he can remain healthy. Peterson may not have much time left in the league, and that’s why he’s going to be looking to play for a playoff contender. There’s no better fit than Green Bay. The Packers no longer have Eddie Lacy, who recently signed with the Seahawks. And the Packers will be a playoff contender with or without Peterson in the backfield.
That’s what makes this such a perfect choice. Even if Peterson gets injured and is out for a good chunk of the season, he still knows that if he can return, he’ll be competing in the playoffs. Realistically, this move would be solely for that reason – a postseason run. And this combination could provide Aaron Rodgers and the Packers with another Super Bowl ring.