The way to build a dynasty in the NFL is through the Draft. The NFL should really be named Not For Long as very few players live up to their contracts after the rookie deals. Nevertheless, there is always elite talent on the open market worth paying for. I like collecting those compensation picks for losing free agents but free agency can be a nice ploy to use to quickly overhaul a roster. As we head into the 2017 NFL regular season, who are the top 2018 NFL Free Agents to keep an eye on?
- Le’Veon Bell (Steelers)
Paying a running back past his rookie contract has proven to be a mistake often times but Bell is one of the most unique players in NFL history. Bell runs with incredible timing and patience and rarely ever takes the big hit. That should make Bell worth the investment. Bell is a weapon in both the run and pass game. Bell rushed for 1,268 yards in 2016 along with 616 receiving yards.
Off the field issues and injury history worries me some but there’s no denying his talent. Bell is one of the best backs in the NFL and at just 25, he should have a ton of tread left on those wheels. Expect the Steelers to either work on a long term deal or to just franchise him again.
2. Jimmy Garopolo (Patriots)
I compared Garoppolo to Tony Romo during the pre-draft process. That comp looks pretty accurate despite a really small sample size. Of course, there is some buy or beware with Jimmy G as Patriots quarterbacks don’t seem to thrive once they leave. Matt Cassel is an example of that.
The Pats backup has thrown four touchdowns and zero interceptions in his career so far. He also hasn’t lost a game as a starter. It’s hard to also ignore his 68.3 completion percentage. New England has a big choice to make next season.
3. Kirk Cousins (Redskins)
Can Kirk Cousins win a Super Bowl? That’s the big question the Redskins have to answer. If he can’t, then it’s time to move on. It’s unlikely the team franchises him for the third time as that cap number would be astronomical. It’s also fair to ask if he’s the same guy without Jay Gruden? Andy Dalton’s numbers have plummeted without Gruden.
Cousins, 29, is going to get paid one way or another this offseason. He could be in line to become the highest paid quarterback ever if he lands on the open market. Just ask Matthew Stafford how much quarterbacks are worth. Cousins threw 25 TD’s for Washington in 2016.
4. Drew Brees (Saints)
Brees is getting up there as he heads into his age 39 campaign. Brees still put up big time numbers though. He threw for over 5,000 yards and 35 touchdowns again in 2016. He is single handily carrying the Saints and their anemic defense.
Sean Payton is a great head coach but he could look to go with a younger option. It’s also possible Brees goes ring chasing in hopes of landing with a more talented roster. They haven’t done him any favors in recent years dealing away Jimmy Graham and Brandin Cooks.
5. Vontaze Burfict (Bengals)
Burfict is one of the more talented linebackers in the league but has gotten into trouble more often than not. Burfict has been suspended on more than one occasion. He even cost the Bengals a playoff game. Speaking of the playoffs, Cincy hasn’t won a playoff game since 1990. It’s probably time Burfict and the organization move in a different direction.
Now Burfict is suspended three games to start the 2017 season. Ask yourself this? Would Burfict be acting up with the Patriots? The obvious answer is no. The only reason he wasn’t drafted is because he ran a 5.0 40 time at the combine. For a guy that racked up over 100 tackles in 11 games last season, Burfict should get a nice paycheck this offseason.