Ranking the top 50 potential NFL free agents in 2018


The NFL's 2018 offseason could feature the rarest of moments: an upper-level quarterback available on the free-agent market in the prime of his career. That's the expectation for Kirk Cousins, who has spent the past two years playing as the Washington Redskins' franchise player.

Anticipation over Cousins' likely availability, and presumably precedent-setting price tag, clouds what could be an unusually deep free-agent class. The following is a ranking of the NFL's 50 most notable players with expiring contracts.

Keep in mind several won't be on this list in March. Some could face the franchise tag when the franchise/transition period begins Feb. 20, while others could re-sign with their current teams before the market opens on March 12.

1.? Kirk Cousins, QB

Team: Washington Redskins | Age entering 2018 season: 30

After two years under the franchise tag, with combined earnings of nearly $44 million, Cousins has a chance to experience a rarity for upper-level quarterbacks: a true bidding war for his services. Unless the Redskins franchise him for a third time to the tune of $34 million, Cousins could set a new bar for NFL contracts.

2.? Jimmy Garoppolo, QB

Team: San Francisco 49ers | Age entering 2018 season: 26

The 49ers acquired Garoppolo from the Patriots in October on an expiring contract -- without negotiating an extension. His brilliant debut as their starter ensured a maximum payday, either through the franchise tag or a long-term deal. It's hard to imagine the 49ers allowing him to leave, unless they are not prepared to pay him $20 million-plus annually after an end-of-season tryout in which he completed 118 of 176 passes for?1,542 yards and six touchdowns en route to a 5-0 finish.

3.? Le'Veon Bell, RB

Team: Pittsburgh Steelers | Age entering 2018 season: 26

After playing 2017 on the franchise tag, Bell told ESPN?that he was prepared to sit out the coming season if he is tagged again. Time has a way of modifying such threats. If Bell signs a 2018 franchise tag, he would have earned more than $25 million over two years. But if he's serious about his threat, it might be a rare opportunity to acquire a potential Hall of Fame player at the age of 26.

4.? Drew Brees, QB

Team:? New Orleans Saints?| Age entering 2018 season: 39

It's difficult to imagine Brees and the Saints parting ways, especially with the team again competitive while lacking an heir on the roster. Brees himself said this week that he doesn't anticipate testing the open market. But it'll be a little tricky. Brees' contract does not allow the Saints to use the franchise tag, so they'll have to meet his price for a standard contract without the leverage of the tag. The situation provides an opening for Brees to test the market if he changes his mind.

5.? DeMarcus Lawrence, DE

Team: Dallas Cowboys | Age entering 2018 season: 26

Lawrence picked a good year to break out. His 14.5 sacks were tied for second in the league over the regular season. It's difficult to imagine the Cowboys letting him leave, but a pass-rusher with those numbers (he also had eight sacks in 2015) would spark a frenzy on the market.

6.? Case Keenum, QB

Team:? Minnesota Vikings?| Age entering 2018 season: 30

The Vikings would be hard-pressed to let Keenum leave after he finished the season with the NFL's second-highest Total QBR (69.5) and led them to the NFC Championship Game. Even if they're not ready to commit long term based on 15 high-level starts, the franchise tag could be a reasonable option. Otherwise, Keenum would find multiple suitors on the open market.

7.? Andrew Norwell, G

Team:? Carolina Panthers?| Age entering 2018 season: 26

Norwell picked a pretty good year to earn his first All-Pro honors. When you look at the five-year, $60 million deal the Browns gave to? Kevin Zeitler?-- who has never made All-Pro or even the Pro Bowl -- last season, you understand the value Norwell would find on the open market.

8.? Ezekiel Ansah, DE

Team: Detroit Lions | Age entering 2018 season: 29

Twelve sacks in 2017 served as a reminder that Ansah can be one of the NFL's more effective pass-rushers. His ( somewhat disputed) age could cause some pause for teams, but generally speaking, pass-rushers are heavily pursued and well-paid if they make it to the open market. The Lions could end up using their franchise tag on him.?

9.? Jimmy Graham, TE

Team: Seattle Seahawks | Age entering 2018 season: 31

Although he never matched his early-career production after the 2015 trade to the Seahawks -- in part because of a serious patellar tendon injury that season -- Graham remains a major weapon in the red zone. His 10 touchdown receptions (on only 95 targets) in 2017 are tied for second in the league. Someone will see major value there.

10.? Sheldon Richardson, DL

Team:? Seattle Seahawks?| Age entering 2018 season: 27

A preseason trade from the Jets to Seattle, if nothing else, gave Richardson tape in both the 4-3 and 3-4 defenses. The Seahawks, who gave up a second-round pick and receiver Jermaine Kearse to get Richardson, might want him as a younger replacement for

Michael Bennett. Richardson made a few splash plays in Seattle, but he probably wasn't dominant enough to spark a frenzied bidding war.

11.? Jarvis Landry, WR

Team: Miami Dolphins | Age entering 2018 season: 25

You won't find many receivers more durable or productive than Landry, who didn't miss a game and caught 400 passes in his first four seasons with the Dolphins -- the most catches for any receiver over his first four years in the league. To maximize his career, Landry will need to find a team that can manage a highly competitive nature that occasionally pushes him over the edge. Perhaps that's the Dolphins.

12.? Nate Solder, LT

Team:? New England Patriots?| Age entering 2018 season: 30

Solder finished the regular season on a strong note but is undeniably an inconsistent player who would have never been a candidate to hit the open market if his play had smoothed out. With that said, it's rare for even a capable left tackle to hit free agency. Solder would be a popular target.

13.? Trumaine Johnson, CB

Team:? Los Angeles Rams?| Age entering 2018 season: 28

Johnson earned $30.7 million while playing under the Rams' franchise tag over the past two seasons. He was a reliable starter, but he didn't approach his seven-interception performance of 2015 (he had just one in 2016 and two in 2017) and has yet to make a Pro Bowl.

14.? Star Lotulelei, DT

Team: Carolina Panthers | Age entering 2018 season: 28

After five years of anchoring the middle of the Carolina defense, Lotulelei could be ready to test the market. The Panthers would have to decide whether to add another significant contract to a defensive line that already includes Kawann Short's monster deal?($16.1 million annual average).

15.? Allen Robinson, WR

Team: Jacksonville Jaguars | Age entering 2018 season: 25

A torn ACL limited Robinson to one catch in 2017, but it occurred early enough for him to be fully recovered in time for training camp this summer. Giving significant money to a player returning from a torn ACL is tricky, but Robinson will generate a ton of interest. Catching 201 passes from Blake Bortles in three seasons (2014-16) is impressive.

16.? Sammy Watkins, WR

Team: Los Angeles Rams | Age entering 2018 season: 25

After a 1,047-yard season for the Bills in 2015, Watkins combined for 1,023 over the next two for the Bills and Rams. In other words, his career arc moved in the wrong direction as free agency approached. But his size (6-foot-1, 211 pounds) and efficiency (eight touchdowns on 39 receptions last season) will intrigue some shoppers.

17.? Lamarcus Joyner, S

Team: Los Angeles Rams | Age entering 2018 season: 27

Joyner blossomed under defensive coordinator Wade Phillips, notching the first three interceptions of his career and proving to be one of the Rams' best defensive players. His timing, in a contract year, couldn't have been better.

18.? Dontari Poe, DT

Team: Atlanta Falcons | Age entering 2018 season: 28

Poe proved reliable, if nothing else, after signing a one-year deal with the Falcons. He was on the field for 745 snaps, the second most on the Falcons' defensive line, and started all 16 games.

19.? Sam Bradford, QB

Team: Minnesota Vikings | Age entering 2018 season: 30

Bradford demonstrated in Week 1 what he can do when healthy, carving up the Saints for 346 yards and three touchdowns. But after a long history of knee injuries caught up to him, forcing surgery and limiting him to two starts this season, it's fair to wonder how a team could commit to him for anything more than an incentive-laden flier.

20.? Bashaud Breeland, CB

Team:? Washington Redskins?| Age entering 2018 season: 26

The Redskins might not be able, or willing, to squeeze in the market-level contract Breeland has earned as a four-year starter. They're already paying fellow cornerback Josh Norman an average of $15 million per year, and they have several young players who could step in. That could make Breeland one of the more desirable defensive players available.

21.? Aaron Colvin, CB

Team:? Jacksonville Jaguars?| Age entering 2018 season: 26

Colvin has been an excellent nickelback for the Jaguars but won't be a starter as long as Jalen Ramsey and A.J. Bouye are on the roster. So does that mean Colvin could be looking to play elsewhere, for more money and playing time? It's something to consider.?

22.? Trey Burton, TE

Team:? Philadelphia Eagles?| Age entering 2018 season: 26

The understudy to starter Zach Ertz has enough versatility as a blocker and as a receiver -- he has caught 60 passes in the past two seasons -- to merit a starting job elsewhere. During the 2017 regular season, one out of every five of his receptions went for a touchdown.

23.? Eric Reid, S

Team:? San Francisco 49ers?| Age entering 2018 season: 26

Reid will provide another test case for the ongoing impact of NFL player protests during the national anthem. Reid is one of the organizing partners of the initial movement. We all know what happened to his friend, colleague and former teammate Colin Kaepernick. Reid would be a prized target, but even he understands the potential limits on his market.

24.? Teddy Bridgewater, QB

Team:? Minnesota Vikings?| Age entering 2018 season: 25

Healthy but without a meaningful snap in two full seasons, Bridgewater poses a conundrum on the market. The Vikings' plans are unknown, but their decision to deactivate him for the divisional playoff round was notable. At best, Bridgewater's next team will get a 10-year starter with no compensation required. At worst, they sign a rusty and less mobile version of the player we last saw in 2015.

25.? Dion Lewis, RB

Team:? New England Patriots?| Age entering 2018 season: 27

Teams don't often make significant investments in veteran running backs, but Lewis' versatility will make him an attractive target for someone. He ran for a career-high 896 yards and six touchdowns this season while also catching 32 passes for another three scores.

26.? Malcolm Butler, CB

Team: New England Patriots | Age entering 2018 season: 28

Butler's life-changing interception in Super Bowl XLIX catapulted him into a three-year starter. But the Patriots' decision to sign free agent Stephon Gilmore last offseason called into question their long-term plan for Butler. Do they want two relatively highly paid cornerbacks on their roster? Butler isn't a top-five player at his position, but he is better than most who get to the open market.

27.? Ryan Jensen, C

Team:? Baltimore Ravens?| Age entering 2018 season: 27

Jensen emerged as a full-time starter just in time for his contract year, proving to be a nasty blocker and an effective leader. Other than left tackle, upgrading the center position is probably the most effective way to improve an offensive line.

28.? Marqise Lee, WR

Team:? Jacksonville Jaguars?| Age entering 2018 season: 26

Any receiver who has put up decent numbers in the Jaguars' offense in recent years merits a close look, and Lee has caught 119 passes in the past two seasons. With Robinson also a pending free agent, it's possible the Jaguars will allow Lee to seek offers elsewhere.

29.? Paul Richardson, WR

Team:? Seattle Seahawks?| Age entering 2018 season: 26

Richardson stepped into the starter's role following the trade of Kearse and proved to be a big-play option. His 16.0 yards per catch ranked eighth in the NFL among all pass-catchers with at least 40 receptions. Whether the Seahawks will compete for him, with Doug Baldwin due $8.75 million and Tyler Lockett still on his rookie contract, remains to be seen.

30.? Terrelle Pryor Sr., WR

Team:? Washington Redskins?| Age entering 2018 season: 29

An ankle injury that ultimately required surgery cut Pryor's 2017 season short and scuttled the bet he took on a one-year deal to increase his value for 2018. Negotiating off a 20-catch season is tough. But the opportunity exists for significant value if he has recovered and can approach his 77-catch season for the Browns?in 2016.

31.? Carlos Hyde, RB

Team:? San Francisco 49ers?| Age entering 2018 season: 27

Hyde has rushed for 1,926 yards and 14 touchdowns since the start of the 2016 season. He also caught 59 passes in coach Kyle Shanahan's offense in 2017, demonstrating a new versatility. Veteran running backs rarely get much interest on the open market, but Hyde would be one of the better values available.

32.? Justin Pugh, G

Team: New York Giants | Age entering 2018 season: 28

A poorly timed back injury could mute free-agent interest in a player who could be considered the Giants' best offensive lineman in recent years. He has avoided surgery, but after sitting out eight games in a contract year, teams could try leveraging his value.

33.? Nigel Bradham, LB

Team: Philadelphia Eagles | Age entering 2018 season: 29

Bradham's age will lead some teams to make him a secondary target. But he has been productive in Jim Schwartz's defense in Philadelphia, totaling nearly 200 tackles in 31 starts.

34.? Anthony Hitchens, LB

Team:? Dallas Cowboys?| Age entering 2018 season: 26

Hitchens' name won't register with too many fans outside the Cowboys' biosphere, especially with external focus on teammate Sean Lee. But Hitchens has demonstrated he can play both the middle and the weakside spot and proved durable after missing four games with a knee injury last season.

35.? Austin Seferian-Jenkins, TE

Team: New York Jets | Age entering 2018 season: 25

Any team considering an investment in Seferian-Jenkins will have to investigate his considerable off-field history when he was with the Buccaneers and while at the University of Washington. But he seemed to put things together in 2017 for the Jets, catching 50 passes in 13 games -- more than twice his previous career high for a season.

36.? Morgan Burnett, S

Team: Green Bay Packers | Age entering 2018 season: 29

Smart and big (6-foot-1), Burnett is in some ways an ideal player to stabilize an inexperienced back end. The biggest drawback has been a history of minor injuries that take him off the field for short stretches. He's missed at least one game in each of his past five seasons.

37.? Kyle Fuller, CB

Team: Chicago Bears | Age entering 2018 season: 26

The Bears declined Fuller's fifth-year option for 2018 based on his 2016 knee injury, so the former first-round pick is set to be an unrestricted free agent. He returned in 2017 to start all 16 games, and starting-caliber cornerbacks at his age usually get paid.

38.? Rashaan Melvin, CB

Team:? Indianapolis Colts?| Age entering 2018 season: 28

Melvin broke through in 2017 with three interceptions and 13 passes defensed in 10 starts. Teams crave frames like his (6-foot-2) at the position, and some team -- possibly the Colts -- will step out for him.

39.? Kenny Vaccaro, S

Team:? New Orleans Saints?| Age entering 2018 season: 27

Creative coaches can put Vaccaro into all kinds of productive positions as his career transitions into a hybrid safety/linebacker role. The Saints' salary-cap situation, as well as Brees' pending contract expiration, makes it reasonably possible that Vaccaro will be available on the open market.

40.? Adrian Clayborn, DE

Team: Atlanta Falcons | Age entering 2018 season: 30

Clayborn's age and his somewhat misleading sack numbers will force more analysis than typically required for veteran pass-rushers. Six of his career-high 9.5 sacks this season came in one game, against the schematically stubborn Dallas Cowboys. But even a part-time (526 snaps) veteran pass-rusher can be a valuable commodity.

41.? Weston Richburg, C

Team:? New York Giants?| Age entering 2018 season: 27

A concussion limited Richburg to four games and landed him on injured reserve, a scary long-term injury in the current climate. But he told reporters that he was cleared to play weeks before the season ended. If teams are satisfied with his condition, he would be one of the better offensive linemen available.

42.? Jerick McKinnon, RB

Team:? Minnesota Vikings?| Age entering 2018 season: 26

Running backs aren't usually hot commodities in free agency, but the few that do receive interest usually attract it via versatility. McKinnon, once a quarterback at Georgia Southern, caught 51 passes for 421 yards and two touchdowns this season and has a total of 142 receptions in 58 career games.

43.? Morris Claiborne, CB

Team: New York Jets | Age entering 2018 season: 28

Claiborne resurrected his career in 2017 simply by remaining on the field. He started 15 games, his highest total since 2012. He has said he wants to return to the Jets, and that might make the most sense for him, but big(ger) corners usually have a market.

44.? Avery Williamson, LB

Team: Tennessee Titans | Age entering 2018 season: 26

Williamson has been a steady and reliable defensive anchor for the past four seasons. He has missed only one game while averaging 94 tackles per year.

45.? Josh Kline, G

Team:? Tennessee Titans?| Age entering 2018 season: 28

The former Patriots starter found a home in the Titans' run-oriented scheme over the past two years. Since the start of the 2016 season, during which Kline made 30 starts, the Titans rushed for 4,020 yards -- the third most in the NFL over that span.

46.? E.J. Gaines, CB

Team: Buffalo Bills | Age entering 2018 season: 26

Gaines proved a strong competitor and playmaker after being acquired from the Rams in the Watkins deal. Gaines will attract significant interest if the Bills don't retain him.

47.? Jordan Matthews, WR

Team:? Buffalo Bills?| Age entering 2018 season: 26

A training-camp trade from the Eagles and a late-season knee injury conspired for an unproductive contract year in Buffalo. But don't forget that with his health and a more productive passing offense, Matthews caught 225 passes in three seasons for the Eagles.

48.? Patrick Robinson, CB

Team:? Philadelphia Eagles?| Age entering 2018 season: 31

Although he is older than most desirable free agents, Robinson put together a strong season as the Eagles' slot cornerback and should have several more productive years remaining. In 16 games, including eight starts and 673 total plays, he intercepted four passes and defended a total of 18.

49.? Jack Mewhort, G

Team: Indianapolis Colts | Age entering 2018 season: 27

A season-ending knee injury in a contract year is far from ideal. Mewhort played only five games in 2017, but assuming good health, he can step in as a more than capable starter.

50.? Mike Wallace, WR

Team: Baltimore Ravens | Age entering 2018 season: 32

Wallace is on the wrong side of 30, and his second season with the Ravens was less productive than the first, with just 52 catches for 748 yards and four touchdowns. But as Ted Ginn Jr. has proved, there will always be a market for speed. Wallace can still get down the field.

Honorable mentions

Prince Amukamara, CB, Chicago Bears
Vontae Davis, CB, free agent
Tyler Eifert, TE, Cincinnati Bengals
Justin Bethel, CB, Arizona Cardinals
Josh McCown, QB New York Jets
Tahir Whitehead, LB, Detroit Lions
Adam Vinatieri, PK, Indianapolis Colts
Andre Smith, OL,? Cincinnati Bengals