Top 10 NFL Free Agents of 2017: Offense

Hey Bill, you may be five weeks behind in preparation for the 2017 season, but MTS certainly isn’t. We have you and all the other fans who have been occupied with that whole Super Bowl thing covered. That is, of course, if you’re looking for the odds of where the top-ten offensive free agents will be playing in 2017.

There are a number of players whose current contracts will expire at the end of the league-year, and will have the ability to decide which city they would like to work in – so long as they don’t get tagged. If you’re a long-time NFL fan, you’re probably aware that most of the top free agents will remain with the team they previously played for. But there’s always a few big-splashes made, and you should expect the same this March 9th.

I will be focusing on offense today (with defense coming soon), and will give you the odds of where each of the top-ten unrestricted free agents will play in next season. You’re welcome, Bill.


1. Le’Veon Bell, RB, Steelers

This is the easiest one to predict: Bell will stay a Steeler. After averaging 157 yards from scrimmage per game in 2016, the four-year pro is about to get paid. Due to a history of injuries and suspensions, Pittsburgh will likely place the franchise tag on Bell, and ask him to prove he’s worthy of a long-term deal.

Odds on 2017 team:

Pittsburgh Steelers: 1/99
FIELD: 99/1

2. Kirk Cousins, QB, Washington

Following the 2015 season, Washington was unwilling to give their breakout signal-caller, whose rookie contract was expiring, a long-term deal. Cousins played 2016 under the franchise tag, but didn’t provide the team with a clear answer on what caliber of quarterback he is. The fourth-round draft pick recorded a passer rating north of 104 in eight games last season, but also posted a rating less than 78 in four starts.

The roller coaster season has resulted in general manager Scot McCloughan maintaining his reluctance towards giving his pivot the long-term deal he seeks. If tagged for a second-straight year, Cousins would earn just under $24 million in 2017. It is extremely unlikely Washington allows Cousins to walk, but they may also try to tag and trade the Michigan State product.

I expect Cousins to play at least one more season in Washington, but the following teams would be interested in trading for him should McCloughan opt for that route.

Odds on 2017 team:

Washington: 3/7
San Francisco 49ers: 4/1
Buffalo Bills: 33/1
Cleveland Browns: 33/1
FIELD: 24/1

3. Kevin Zeitler, G, Bengals

It may not be a sexy signing, but Zeitler will be coveted by the majority of the league if Cincinnati doesn’t make a strong-push to retain the dominant guard. His efforts in 2016 were recognized by Pro Football Focus, who placed him on their second all-NFL team. Zeitler is a force in the running game and doesn’t give up much in pass-pro.

The powerful guard makes a lot of sense for any team not located in Dallas or Tennessee, since they already have enough up front. Look for the Seahawks and Vikings, who were held back by their poor offensive lines, to show a lot of interest. Miami and Indianapolis are two other potential landing spots, but they may both choose to address their defense with the cap space they have.

Odds on 2017 team:

Cincinnati Bengals: 4/1
Minnesota Vikings: 7/1
Seattle Seahawks: 7/1
Indianapolis Colts: 8/1
Miami Dolphins: 9/1
FIELD: 2/1

4. T.J. Lang, G, Packers

Everything I just said about Zeitler is true for T.J. Lang as well. The eight-year pro has spent his entire career in Green Bay, and made it clear it’s where he wants to stay. Ted Thompson has a couple players he needs to make a decision on, but none are as crucial to their team success as Lang.

If the Packers don’t believe that to be the case, there will be a lot of teams willing to pay Lang what he’s worth. Instead of discussing the same teams as above, I’ll dive into some of the teams residing in the FIELD. Arizona and Denver have championship-caliber rosters, but need to shore-up their offensive lines. Lang would be the perfect addition for each. Both the Giants and Jags would also likely express their interest. Finally, with Anthony Lynn and his power running game coming to San Diego Los Angeles, a reliable guard to run behind will be coveted.

Odds on 2017 team:

Green Bay Packers: 1/2
Minnesota Vikings: 11/1
Seattle Seahawks: 11/1
Indianapolis Colts: 12/1
Arizona Cardinals: 14/1
FIELD: 33/1

5. Andrew Whitworth, LT, Bengals

By Jeffrey Beall (Wikimedia Commons)

If Whitworth was not 35-years-old, he would be a little higher on this list. He is still one of the premier left tackles in the game, though. According to Pro Football Focus, Whitworth only allowed 15 total quarterback pressures in 637 snaps of pass protection, and was named to his second-straight Pro Bowl.

Although Cedric Ogbuehi is a natural left tackle, I don’t foresee the Bengals wanting him protecting Andy Dalton’s backside after he was benched as a right tackle last season. Cincinnati shouldn’t let Whitworth go, but he’s not going to take a hometown discount. If his price tag gets too high for the Brown family, look for the Broncos, Giants, and Seahawks to be there waiting. Unless Russell Okung is willing to renegotiate his contract with Denver, he will not be back in 2017. Meanwhile, Seahawks’ George Fant and Giants’ Ereck Flowers are two of the worst left tackles in the game. With no outstanding talent at left tackle in the draft, these teams would love to address other needs in late April. All three teams could be Super Bowl contenders with the upgrade at left tackle, which could be a major selling point for Whitworth.

Odds on 2017 team:

Cincinnati Bengals: 7/2
Denver Broncos: 5/1
New York Giants: 5/1
Seattle Seahawks: 5/1
Minnesota Vikings: 7/1
Carolina Panthers: 9/1
FIELD: 19/1

6. Alshon Jeffery, WR, Bears

In two seasons as the go-to receiver in Chicago, Jeffery has proven worthy of the WR1 designation. But he’s not on the elite level with Julio Jones, Antonio Brown, and Odell Beckham. This won’t, however, prevent Jeffery from demanding that kind of dollar. With the Bears in a bit of a rebuild, they may refuse to award their star receiver with the money he seeks. This is another situation where the franchise tag is very possible.

Likely to draft a quarterback in April, Chicago would be wise to keep their best pass-catcher in town to help their young signal-caller along. If Jeffery does walk, there will be a few teams ready to open their chequebooks for the 26-year-old. Philadelphia needs weapons for Carson Wentz and may miss out on the first-round talent in the draft. The only issue is the limited cap space the Eagles possess. Tennessee is another team that immediately comes to mind with Jeffery. The Titans own a powerful running attack, but need a receiver who can make defenses pay for loading the box. With no shortage of cap space heading into 2017, signing Jeffery would fill that void and allow Tennessee to address their secondary needs with the fifth-overall pick.

As mentioned, he’s no Jones, but Jeffery would be a major upgrade in San Francisco for new head coach Kyle Shanahan, as well.

Odds on 2017 team:

Chicago Bears: 2/3
Tennessee Titans: 11/2
San Francisco 49ers: 8/1
Philadelphia Eagles: 11/1
FIELD: 19/1

7. Terrelle Pryor, WR, Browns

In his second season at wide receiver, Pryor caught the attention of the league. The former quarterback hauled in 77 balls for 1,007 yards and scored five total touchdowns. What’s more impressive is he did it all with the combination of RGIII, Josh McCown, Cody Kessler, Kevin Hogan, and even Charlie Whitehurst throwing him the ball.

Once again, that blasted franchise tag is likely to come in play. Cleveland wants to retain their top receiver, whose potential has become sky-high, and the feeling is mutual. The market for Pryor would include all the teams listed above for Jeffery.

Odds on 2017 team:

Cleveland Browns: 1/8
FIELD: 8/1

8. Eddie Lacy, RB, Packers

By Mike Morbeck (flickr)

After a dreadful 2015 where Lacy’s figure resembled that of an offensive linemen, the four-year pro got himself back into shape and averaged 5.1 yards per carry in 2016. However, Lacy was able to play in just five games due to an ankle injury and only recently shed his walking boot. Mike McCarthy has said he would like to keep the former second-round pick, but it’s difficult to judge what the market will be for Lacy. Will teams trust him to carry the load, or is he viewed as a member of a committee? Either way, Green Bay will make a push to keep Lacy, hoping to pair him with Ty Montgomery in the backfield.

Latavius Murray is another running back set to become a free agent, and Oakland may see Lacy as an upgrade. Running behind one of the best offensive lines in football, Murray only averaged 4.0 yards per carry. Looking elsewhere, John Harbaugh has made it clear the Ravens need to add a running back, as the team doesn’t trust any of their current options. Lacy would bring some power back to the Baltimore running game. Teams like the Giants, Panthers, and Buccaneers also have major backfield needs that could be remedied with a healthy Lacy.

Odds on 2017 team:

Green Bay Packers: 5/4
Baltimore Ravens: 7/1
Oakland Raiders: 7/1
New York Giants: 9/1
FIELD: 4/1

9. Martellus Bennett, TE, Patriots

In his first season with the Patriots, Bennett got the chance to show his full arsenal. The Super Bowl champion tight end may have disappointed some of his fantasy owners, as he didn’t put up Gronk-like numbers in the star tight end’s place, but he wasn’t really given that opportunity. New England asked Bennett to primarily be a blocking tight end, and he did just that. Don’t forget he caught a career-high seven touchdowns this year.

The monster tight end may have lost a step as a route-runner, but he is still a massive body who can navigate the middle of the field. Bennett’s comments following the Super Bowl suggest it’s unlikely he’ll be a Patriot in 2017. The former second-round pick of the Cowboys will receive more money if he signs elsewhere, but expect New England to at least make an offer. Rob Gronkowski has had his share of injuries and Bennett proved he can step in. The outspoken veteran will have a choice between more money in Miami or more winning in New England.

Or maybe there’s somewhere in the middle. Both the Giants and Steelers could use a big body who can make teams pay for doubling their star receivers. Denver and Dallas would also love to add a tight end who can not only catch balls but assist in the running game.

Odds on 2017 team:

New York Giants: 5/1
Pittsburgh Steelers: 5/1
New England Patriots: 7/1
Denver Broncos: 9/1
Dallas Cowboys: 9/1
Miami Dolphins: 11/1
FIELD: 3/1

10. Josh Gordon, WR, Browns

By Erik Daniel Drost (flickr)

I know, I said unrestricted free agents in the intro. But this case is just too much fun to leave out. Plus, it is highly unlikely the Browns will put any tender on the troubled wide receiver. So deal with it. Besides, your other options here were DeSean Jackson or Pierre Garcon … I will proceed.

There is no disputing the fact that Josh Gordon could be an elite receiver in the NFL. Gordon has all the physical capabilities, his athleticism is off the charts, and he’s a play-maker with the ball in his hands. But he can’t lay off the weed. If a team is willing to deal with the risk, they could net a huge payout with the former second-round pick. Let’s also remember, he’s only 25-years-old.

Why the hell not? That’s exactly what the 49ers should be saying right now. Gordon would be able to do a lot of the things Julio Jones did for Kyle Shanahan in Atlanta, and he’s the kind of high-risk high-reward move that could garner new general manager John Lynch a lot of respect in the Bay Area. And really, what’s the worst that could happen? Gordon gets suspended again and the 49ers cut him? Doesn’t sound any worse than the situation they currently face.

Signing Gordon would be the sexy move that could win over some fans down in LA, which is why both the Rams and Chargers should take a shot on him to fill their wide receiver needs. Also, anytime you start talking about a troubled player that the rest of the league is giving up on, it immediately means he’ll be a star with the Patriots. New England could covet Gordon, not because they need him, but because they want to yet again turn another man’s trash into their treasure. The former Brown is just too talented to go unsigned, and it’s not like he has committed domestic abuse.

Odds on 2017 team:

San Francisco 49ers: 5/1
Los Angeles Rams: 7/1
Los Angeles Chargers: 15/2
Philadelphia Eagles: 8/1
New England Patriots: 9/1
Buffalo Bills: 12/1
Cleveland Browns: 50/1
Unsigned: 33/1
FIELD: 3/1


(Photo Credit: Keith Allison (flickr) [https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/])

Perry

Perry is a regular contributor to MTS and a die-hard Broncos fan. Yes, he does remember the five Super Bowl losses, but likely remembers all your teams shortcomings, too. Consider yourself warned. Though his love for the Broncos may seem unconditional, Mr. Port never mixes his emotions with gambling.