With each passing week, we're getting closer to the start of the NFL offseason, and the wheels for every team's front office are beginning to turn. With so many productive players slated to hit the open market, there are a bevy of possibilities in terms of who will get the rights to their services. With so many rosters looking for an upgrade, many of these players are going to be the subject of a bidding war. Such is the nature of free agency.
Specifically on the offensive side of the ball, we can look forward to seeing some intriguing talents be rewarded with a new contract of some kind. While no player is a guarantee to be a success just because they were signed, most who go to the right system with the right talent around them stand a good chance of being productive in some way. Let's take a look at some of the biggest names on the market for the upcoming offseason, and predict where they may end up when it's all said and done.
Ranked below are 5 NFL free agent running backs, wide receivers and quarterbacks each, and where they may sign in 2018.
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15 Kirk Cousins (QB)
At this point, it would be unlikely if Cousins were to return to Washington, after two franchise tags and a lack of commitment from the front office to make him their franchise quarterback. If he hits the market, he'll be the most intriguing quarterback free agent out there, and the bidding war will no doubt commence immediately. Cousins has already proven that he's a good NFL quarterback.
There aren't many teams will an exorbitant amount of cap space, that need a quarterback, and have a stable head coach, but the Jets certainly fit the bill. They've drafted numerous quarterbacks over the past fe years, and none of them have turned into anything resembling a starting player. Cousins is consistent, and they'll be able to shell out the cash for him. Todd Bowles is going into his fourth year as head coach, and he'll want instant productivity from under center.
2018 Team: New York Jets
14 Le'Veon Bell (RB)
The Steelers are caught between a rock and a hard place when it comes to Bell's future with the team. Upon applying the franchise tag last offseason, he promptly held out of training camp, and only returned just in time for the start of the season. It wasn't a good look for Bell to be sure, but Pittsburgh also isn't in a good position to resign him for the long-term, and it's looking like he has a good chance to hit the open market.
It's no secret that Bell is going to cost a lot, and the Steelers rank near the bottom of the league in available cap space. Without massive restructuring, there's probably no way they can afford to keep him. Bell will have the pick of the litter come free agency, and no doubt would fit on an up-and-coming offense like the 49ers who need a consistent playmaker out of the backfield. They also have the means to sign him, with one of the best cap situations in the league.
2018 Team: San Francisco 49ers
13 Terrelle Pryor (WR)
What a letdown year it was for Pryor, after establishing himself as a wide receiver with the Browns in 2016. It seemed as if it was going to be one of the great underdog success stories in recent memory, but instead, Pryor's usage decreased in Washington as the year went on, until he became a non-factor in the offense. That's a clear sign that the Redskins aren't going to re-sign him for 2018.
But somebody will. Pryor is one year removed from a very good season, and somebody is going to take a chance on him. A team that already has a formidable receiving corps would be the best option, so he isn't forced to carry the load by himself. Combined with the elite DeAndre Hopkins and speedy Will Fuller, with a young star like Deshaun Watson throwing to him, there's room for Pryor to contribute as a third or fourth receiving option.
2018 Team: Houston Texans
12 Drew Brees (QB)
Despite being 38-years-old, Brees has been good enough to get the Saints back in the postseason. Though they've changed their offensive scheme to a run-first philosophy, Brees has been very efficient this year as quarterback, even if he isn't posting the juggernaut stats that he has for almost his entire career beforehand.
With no replacement in-house for him, there's little question that New Orleans will be looking to extend his contract for another couple of seasons. The've proven they can win with a Brees who plays in a different style, and with their rapidly improving defense, his age won't be enough to slow down the progress of the team, if it even would have been a factor at all. Expect Brees to stay in NOLA until he retires.
2018 Team: New Orleans Saints
11 Isaiah Crowell (RB)
Playing on the Browns will cause your good play to go unnoticed most of the time, and that is exactly what has happened with Crowell over the past few seasons. He hasn't been a juggernaut out of the backfield, but he's been a consistent running back that is on an upward trajectory. In a running back market that is questionable to say the least, he'll be one of the most intriguing options this offseason.
If the Browns end up taking Saquon Barkley in the upcoming draft, which is very possible considering they have two top-4 picks at their disposal, Crowell becomes expendable. The Bills have once again returned to playoff relevance, and with LeSean McCoy facing injury concerns and increasing age, Crowell would serve as not only a nice insurance policy for 2018, but also a consideration to be the future lead runner in Buffalo.
2018 Team: Buffalo Bills
10 Sammy Watkins (WR)
Watkins is one of the most unpredictable signings that will be on the market. After being traded from the Bills just before the season started, his first season with the Rams was spotty overall. It took him a while to get the hang of the offense, but he eventually turned into a pretty good red zone threat. On the other hand, his general inconsistency may give the team pause when it comes to extending his contract.
So this is one that really could go either way. The Rams have said that they may franchise tag Watkins, which means if they don't, he'll likely be hitting the market. All things considered, he probably ends up back in L.A. He was a top-10 draft pick, and at his peak he's been one of the best receivers in the league. The Rams would be wise to give him at least one more year to post elite numbers.
2018 Team: Los Angeles Rams
9 Sam Bradford (QB)
It's still up in the air as to how healthy Bradford is going to be in the upcoming season, but in a league where everybody needs a quarterback, he'll be signed by somebody if he can play. Sure, he's been woefully disappointing when depended upon to be the surefire starter in his time with the Rams and Eagles, and couldn't maintain his health with the Vikings. But a team with multiple options at quarterback is going to give him a shot to come into training camp, at the very least.
The Browns, in their ongoing search for find a semblance of a long-term quarterback, are likely going to draft one in the top-4, and they'll also have incumbent starter DeShone Kizer coming back. It wouldn't be the worst idea to sign Bradford as a camp quarterback, who can use his experience to at least mentor the younger players. It won't be for big money at all, but Bradford is just looking to stay in the league at this point.
2018 Team: Cleveland Browns
8 Eddie Lacy (RB)
Predictably, Lacy's experiment with the Seahawks was a complete disaster this year. But going to a team with such extensive offensive line problems wasn't ideal for a player who was looking to regain his footing in the league. He has next to chance to be resigned by Seattle, but isn't going to be out of the league all together.
There's one stop for Lacy that makes sense above all the rest; the New England Patriots. Over the years, Bill Belichick has made a habit out of taking players who have been written off, and usually turning them into productive players once again. The Patriots always have a stable of running backs, and Lacy would figure to be their goal-line/power runner. He may never return to his 2014 output with the Packers, but he can still be useful in the right situation.
2018 Team: New England Patriots
7 Taylor Gabriel (WR)
Gabriel is a certified deep-threat receiver, and one of the fastest players in the league. While the likes of Julio Jones and Mohamed Sanu generally take the bulk of the receiving duties in Atlanta, there's no denying that Gabriel is a big-play threat on every pass. The Falcons don't really need to resign him, but if he hits the open market, you can bet that there's going to be significant interest.
The Titans have needed a legitimate burner for Marcus Mariota to throw to for the past several seasons now. With Corey Davis ascending as the do-it-all receiver, Gabriel's speed would play a great compliment in the passing game. They have the cap space, and Tennessee would be wise to continue to invest in their offense.
2018 Team: Tennessee Titans
6 Jay Cutler (QB)
Inking a one-year deal in Miami for this year, Cutler wasn't able to save the Dolphins season, and they sputtered out to a six-win campaign, with a ton of questions surrounding the franchise. It isn't a circumstance that would indicate a return of Cutler for another year, and Ryan Tannehill should be recovered for the start of the 2018 season anyway.
So, would there be any interest in Cutler from anyone? More importantly, would Cutler be interested in returning for another year at all? It doesn't seem very likely. He was slated to be a broadcaster for this season, and he only returned when an injury occurred to a starting quarterback, on a team coached by his former offensive coordinator. As per usual with Cutler, the interest doesn't seem to be there, and he'll probably hang it up for good very soon.
2018 Team: Nobody
5 Jamaal Charles (RB)
It's been a difficult 2017 season for Charles, who despite staying healthy, has seen a drastic reduction of carries from the Broncos as the season has progressed. Simply, he's said he wants out of Denver, but it doesn't look like he's ready to retire quite yet. There will be a market for Charles in 2018, and he'll go to a contending team where he has a chance at a title.
Consider the possibility of him going to the Rams, who have proven to be an offensive juggernaut under Sean McVay. Charles could combined with Todd Gurley in the backfield, and be part of a team that should be favored in the NFC for a long time coming. He wouldn't start, but as a compliment to Gurley he could still get consistent carries each game.
2018 Team: Los Angeles Rams
4 Allen Robinson (WR)
It was a bad break for Robinson this season when he tore his ACL, missing the entire campaign. The good news is that he's done enough in his career to warrant interest from somebody this offseason, and he can still be a productive player barring a re-injury. It remains to be seen if the Jaguars are willing to pay up for him, as a team desperate for receiving help may be the higher bidder.
Consider the fact that the Bears are in a good cap situation, and have a young quarterback in Mitch Trubisky that they're trying to groom into the long-term starter. He needs receiving weapons on top of Kendall Wright. Robinson does carry some kind of a risk, but he's young enough that the upside is still there. He'd be a good fit in Chicago, under a new head coach.
2018 Team: Chicago Bears
3 Jimmy Garoppolo (QB)
The jury is in on Garoppolo and the Kyle Shanahan-led 49ers; he's really good, and it's probably going to work out. The team took a risk on giving up a 2nd-round pick for him at the trade deadline, and all he's done is lead the 49ers back into good standing, reeling off a winning streak to conclude the 2017 season. Even though San Francisco missed the playoffs, the future is undeniably bright.
So it only makes sense that a team with so much cap space is prepared to offer Garoppolo a long-term deal, probably making him one of the highest-paid players in the league. He's proven his worth to them, and this re-sign is as good as done.
2018 Team: San Francisco 49ers
2 Frank Gore (RB)
The Packers don't typically like to sign free agents, but they backfield is a mess right now, and they desperately need a veteran presence who can take some carries every game to take the pressure off of the younger Jamaal Williams and Aaron Jones. Gore is one of the most durable players in the league, and has shown he's still effective in his mid-30s, playing on a bad Colts team for the past few seasons.
With Aaron Rodgers set to return in full next year, it gives Gore once again the opportunity to play for a winner. Green Bay has the cap space, and Gore is a consummate professional who won't give them any reason for pause. A veteran runner would go nicely with the Packers as they plan to return to prominence next season, with the best quarterback in the league healthy.
2018 Team: Green Bay Packers
1 Jarvis Landry (WR)
Landry's ties with the Dolphins have mostly served over the past year. There's been issues with contract disputes, as well as Adam Gase calling him out for behavior on the field. This whole thing seems to be coming to a head, and it looks like Landry is getting to the point where there's no chance he returns to Miami for the 2018 season.
If he hits the market, there may not be a better overall receiver out there. Landry isn't a burner, but he's simply one of the best pass-catchers in the game, with a ridiculous set of hands. And he hasn't even played with an upper-tier quarterback yet. If the bidding war commences, expect him to take the highest offer.
Suffice to say, the Browns have more cap space than just about anyone in the league. With Josh Gordon back in the fold, they need to bolster the receiving corps even further, for whichever quarterback they end up drafting, likely in the top-4 with one of they two picks this year. Landry is a premier talent, and the Browns need to make him an offer he can't refuse.
2018 Team: Cleveland Browns
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