Jake Ellenbogen's 2018 Top Offensive Players Free Agency Prediction

by Jake Ellenbogen
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It’s almost that time of year again! Free Agency period is less than a month away and here are my free agency predictions for this year’s class. I will be predicting the top five-seven players per position, their future team, contract and listing their Pro Football Focus position grade to give you an index of the players’ value. To read the 2017 prediction article I wrote last season click here  



Kirk Cousins, 29 years old, Washington Redskins

PFF Grade: 19th

FA Destination: New York Jets 

Contract: 5 years, $140 million

Explanation: The Redskins have completely failed at locking up Kirk Cousins long-term and so a young up-and-coming team like the Jets, who are building a legitimate defense will step up to the plate and offer Cousins a deal that works for both sides. In doing this, the Jets acquire their franchise QB and can use their sixth-overall pick on the best overall player or even trade down to acquire more talent to build around Cousins. With almost $80 million in cap space and the Jets reportedly willing to offer “whatever it takes” for Cousins. This seems like the fit.


Drew Brees, 39 years old, New Orleans Saints 

PFF Grade: 2nd 

FA Destination: New Orleans Saints 

Contract: 2 years, $50 million 

Explanation: Drew Brees’ home is in New Orleans, he won a Super Bowl there and he came close to another one this past season after the defense blew a last-second chance at the NFC Championship game. Brees, has unfinished business, the Saints have finally started to build up the defense and have given Brees arguably the most dangerous weapon of his career in OROY RB Alvin Kamara. Teams will try to pay Brees tons of money but in the end, he’s staying with the Saints and vying to win one more with Head coach Sean Payton. 


Case Keenum, 30 years old, Minnesota Vikings 

PFF Grade: 9th 

FA Destination: Denver Broncos 

Contract: 4 years, $80 million

Explanation: There is a good chance Keenum won’t play out his whole contract in Denver. However, I think John Elway is going to want to bring in a guy like Keenum to give the Broncos stability while they develop a young QB from the draft which I think will end up being Baker Mayfield. Similar play styles involved, Keenum would be a good mentor for Mayfield. The Broncos do not have a ton of cap but they can free quite the amount by releasing Aqib Talib and or trading Emmanuel Sanders. 


Sam Bradford, 30 years old, Minnesota Vikings 

PFF Grade: N/A

FA Destination: Arizona Cardinals 

Contract: 2 years, $36 million 

Explanation: The Cardinals are reportedly looking for a bridge QB and will not pay deep Kirk Cousin money. That’s when Bradford comes in, the Cardinals will likely draft a QB like Lamar Jackson and sit him behind a player like Bradford. The 30-year old QB, looked very impressive week one of the season but lost his job to Case Keenum due to injuries. Arizona is a team that could make a postseason push as long as they solidify or stabilize the QB position. 


Teddy Bridgewater, 25 years old, Minnesota Vikings

PFF Grade: N/A

FA Destination: Minnesota Vikings

Contract: 1 year, $11 million 

Explanation: The Vikings have got to be the first team I’ve ever seen with three free agent QB’s. Bridgewater is the youngest by five years and is the most likely to return. He hasn’t started in a game in two years and that’s worrisome but I think the Vikings will be fine with Bridgewater moving forward and the talented UDFA they kept on the active roster almost the whole year in Kyle Sloter. 


A.J. McCarron, 27 years old, Cincinnati Bengals

PFF Grade: N/A 

FA Destination: Buffalo Bills

Contract: 2 years, $16 million 

Explanation: Buffalo for whatever reason does not want and does not appreciate Tyrod Taylor. I firmly expect the Bills to draft a QB and draft one early on by using their two first-round picks to trade up and get their guy. However, a two year deal of McCarron might be the safety net they employ in case their draft day plans do not work. McCarron recently won a grievance case against the Cincinnati Bengals and was awarded free agency. He’s not going to receive a huge deal because he has limited playing experience but he is 27 and teams around the league have been interested in his services. He may not be what Bills fans want but he’s a placeholder for the bigger picture which starts with the draft.


Running backs

Le’Veon Bell, 26 years old, Pittsburgh Steelers 

PFF Grade: 7th 

FA Destination: Pittsburgh Steelers 

Contract: Franchise Tag – 1 year, $14.5 million 

Explanation: The Steelers are in a pickle. They will likely cut safeties, Mike Mitchell & J.J. Wilcox but they still won’t be that high above the cap. Bell has been all about the money and will not take a hometown discount under any circumstances. The Steelers are probably going to have to tag Bell because it’s obvious that if they don’t he will leave and go to the highest bidder. The tag is going to “piss him off” but it’s a business and the Steelers will have to slow-play this because as of right now they wouldn’t even be able to afford a long-term deal for Bell. 


Carlos Hyde, 26 years old, San Francisco 49ers 

PFF Grade: 52nd 

FA Destination: Seattle Seahawks

Contract: 3 years, $18.5 million 

Explanation: The Seahawks are going to need to help Russell Wilson and find him a running back. Luckily Carlos Hyde can be that guy. Seattle has Chris Carson, C.J. Prosise, Mike Davis and JD McKissic but they don’t have a go-to-guy. Hyde can be that guy and you don’t have to spend premium dollar for him. The years Seattle had a back like Marshawn Lynch, were the days where Wilson didn’t have to do everything himself. If the Seahawks want to avoid a total drop-off they will need to help Wilson out and the first step is running back.


Dion Lewis, 27 years old, New England Patriots 

PFF Grade: 5th 

FA Destination: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Contract: 3 years, $18 million 

Explanation: Dion Lewis was great for the New England Patriots this past season and showed not only the ability to change the pace as a back but also the sneaky ability to start in the NFL. The Buccaneers have a lot of cap space and with Charles Sims set to hit free agency and the team expected to move on from Doug Martin, the Buccaneers will likely sign Lewis and draft a running back in the middle rounds of the draft. Lewis excels in pass protection and would be a great fit in Tampa Bay. 


Jerick McKinnon, 25 years old, Minnesota Vikings 

PFF Grade: 8th 

FA Destination: New York Giants 

Contract: 4 years, $17 million

Explanation: The Giants have been looking far and wide for their go-to RB. General manager Dave Gettleman has made it known he wants Eli Manning to run the franchise at QB for the next few years and if that’s going to happen he’s going to need a do-it-all back like McKinnon. One of the top young receiving backs, homerun threats and of course pass protectors. McKinnon has the familiarity with Pat Shurmur who worked with him and took him to new heights last season in relief of injured rookie RB Dalvin Cook. It’s become obvious McKinnon will not take a backseat and wants to be the guy. In New York, he can be just that. This also would allow the Giants to allocate their rare number two overall pick on a future franchise QB to sit behind Manning. 


Isaiah Crowell, 25 years old, Cleveland Browns 

PFF Grade: 47th

FA Destination: San Francisco 49ers

Contract: 3 years, $12 million 

Explanation: The 25-year old RB has had success in measly Cleveland. He ran into a scuffle with his coach Hue Jackson and there is no way he returns. The 49ers are expected to lose Carlos Hyde and at 25, for someone that has shown the ability to go over the 1,000-yard mark, Crowell offers intriguing upside. It’s not the best fit in the world but the 49ers should be in the market for a back and I think Crowell might be a little under the radar and could make for a steal of a pickup. It’s also worth noting that Head coach Kyle Shanahan worked with Crowell in Cleveland during his rookie season.


LeGarrette Blount, 31 years old, Philadelphia Eagles

PFF Grade: 41st 

FA Destination: Buffalo Bills 

Contract: 1 year, $3.7 million

Explanation: At this point in LeGarrette Blount’s career he is going to only want to go to a playoff contender. The Bills made the playoffs last year. I think with LeSean McCoy was great as he is, the Bills would be smart to find him a back that can take over and give him a breather here and there. I don’t think the dual fullback thing works and that’s why Blount is a good fit. He proved he had no issue being in a committee backfield this year in order to win a Super Bowl. 


Jeremy Hill, 25 years old, Cincinnati Bengals

PFF Grade: N/A

FA Destination: New England Patriots 

Contract: 1 year, $3 million

Explanation: At 25 years of age, Jeremy Hill has already had a career in which he went from the top guy who tallied almost 30 touchdowns in his first three seasons to not even rushing for 200 yards this past season. He’s talented and maybe has just fallen out of favor of the coaches, that doesn’t mean the Patriots who are expected to lose Rex Burkhead and Dion Lewis to free agency wouldn’t want him. Hill is a young talent with a successful past. He could be another revitalizing project for New England. 


Wide receivers 

Jarvis Landry, 25 years old, Miami Dolphins

PFF Grade: 19th

FA Destination: Chicago Bears

Contract: 5 years, $73 million 

Explanation: Jarvis Landry is 25 years of age and would probably like to go to a team and be the guy at receiver for a young QB like Mitch Trubisky. The Bears have a new Head coach, cap space and plenty of targets to go around. Landry may shoot for a team like the Titans or Ravens but I think the Bears are the best fit and have a chance to really turn it around under Head coach Matt Nagy. 


Allen Robinson, 24 years old, Jacksonville Jaguars

PFF Grade: N/A

FA Destination: Jacksonville Jaguars

Contract: Franchise Tag – $15.6 million

Explanation: The Jaguars almost went to the Super Bowl with no receiver talent quite like Allen Robinson on the field. Robinson tore his ACL after making his first catch of the season during opening day. At 24-years old and the amount of talent Robinson possesses, he could easily be in line for a huge payday. The Jaguars have already been reported that they will tag Robinson if no long-term deal is agreed upon. 


Sammy Watkins, 24 years old, Los Angeles Rams

PFF Grade: 41st 

FA Destination: Los Angeles Rams

Contract: 5 years, $65 million 

Explanation: I am really not a fan of giving Watkins a long-term deal like this but I think this the direction the Rams are going if the recent report of Trumaine Johnson’s departure is true. If the Rams indeed let Trumaine Johnson walk in free agency that should be an indicator they prioritized Sammy Watkins and LaMarcus Joyner. Watkins is a very talented receiver and is 24 years old but he will have a lot to live up to if and when this contract is signed. 


Marqise Lee, 26 years old, Jacksonville Jaguars 

PFF Grade: 37th 

FA Destination: Baltimore Ravens

Contract: 4 years, $28 million

Explanation: The Ravens are in dire need of receiver help. Mike Wallace is about to leave for free agency, Jeremy Maclin is a shell of his former self and Breshad Perriman has been a complete bust. The Ravens will likely want to delve into the top dollar WR market but they really can’t afford it if they want to bring back Ryan Jensen. I think Lee becomes a great for the Ravens who has started to find his stride in his career and could surprise people and become a cheap number one option. Baltimore will likely double dip with a free agent and a draft pick at the receiver position.


Paul Richardson, 25 years old, Seattle Seahawks

PFF Grade: 59th 

FA Destination: Carolina Panthers 

Contract: 3 years, $21 million

Explanation: The Panthers traded away Kelvin Benjamin during this past season and really don’t have much left at the receiver position besides Devin Funchess. Paul Richardson is a solid player that offers upside, consistency and big-play ability. Those are three things Cam Newton would love in a new receiver. Richardson will likely not return to Seattle after the Seahawks set their max for Richardson. 


Jordan Matthews, 25 years old, Buffalo Bills

PFF Grade: 113th 

FA Destination: Dallas Cowboys

Contract: 2 years, $10 million

Explanation: This is another team that needs some receiver help. Dez Bryant is a shell of his former self and continues to struggle as a receiver, Terrance Williams is still an inconsistent receiver and Brice Butler is set to leave in free agency. I don’t know what the plan is with Jordan Matthews for Buffalo but I doubt he is staying after a nightmare season. Matthews has shown in the past he has legitimate high-end number two receiver and even low-end number one receiver potential. He dealt with multiple injuries and was unable to truly build up his stock. Still, at 25, Matthews is well known as someone who can make a defense pay, Dallas saw that up close and personal. The Cowboys grab a legit receiver and acquire him for a bargain deal after his stock plummets. 


Terrelle Pryor, 28 years old, Washington Redskins 

PFF Grade: 109th

FA Destination: Cleveland Browns

Contract: 1 year, $4.8 million 

Explanation: 2017 showed us something we all saw coming, Terrelle Pryor should have stayed in Cleveland. Another nightmare scenario for another receiver took him out of the spotlight and into the unknown and obscurity. Pryor was a fun story and was turning into a star receiver after making the switch from QB but after the 2016 season he put a high price on himself and was forced to take a prove-it deal with the Redskins. The prove-it deal backfired and now his stock is as low as it’s been. The only way to save his career is to go back to where it all ascended, with the Browns and Hue Jackson. 


Tight ends

Tyler Eifert, 27 years old, Cincinnati Bengals 

PFF Grade: N/A

FA Destination: Detroit Lions

Contract: 3 years, $23 million

Explanation: Eifert has some injury concerns for sure, but his age and upside will likely get him a legitimate high-end TE type of deal. The Lions have been riding Eric Ebron since they drafted him early in the first round back in the 2014 draft. Unfortunately, Ebron has been a bust and the Lions can save around eight million in cap space if they cut him. Eifert is a top-five TE when healthy and would only add more to the potentially lethal Detroit offense. 


Trey Burton, 26 years old, Philadelphia Eagles 

PFF Grade: 13th

FA Destination: Seattle Seahawks

Contract: 3 years, $21 million

Explanation: Trey Burton has played second-fiddle to Zach Ertz in Philadelphia and that is not expected to continue. Burton is hitting free agency in what is a stronger class than last year but not as youthful. Burton could be looking at a starting job and with the Seahawks likely to part with Jimmy Graham, Burton would be able to come in and right away become a starter. 


Jimmy Graham, 31 years old, Seattle Seahawks 

PFF Grade: 33rd 

FA Destination: Houston Texans

Contract: 2 years, $12 million

Explanation: The Texans have the cap to grab Graham for two years and run a two tight end set with him and Fiedorowicz. He still has big-play ability and the Texans like to air it down the field with Deshaun Watson. It can’t hurt to add another weapon to Watson’s arsenal for when he comes back from his ACL tear. 


Austin Seferian-Jenkins, 25 years old, New York Jets 

PFF Grade: 44th 

FA Destination: New York Jets

Contract: 3 years, $13 million

Explanation: Seferian-Jenkins just turned down a 2 year and $8 million deal but the two sides are expected to come to terms on a deal. The Jets found a steal in Seferian-Jenkins who went through some issues off the field but has started to turn it all around and at 25, he has a chance to develop into a really good tight end. The Jets will give him a little bit more money and another year to make sure they lock him up. 


Benjamin Watson, 37 years old, Baltimore Ravens 

PFF Grade: 56th

FA Destination: New England Patriots

Contract: 1 year, $3.7 million

Explanation: Ben Watson started with the Patriots and unfortunately he was overshadowed for the majority of his career. He was always considered to be a blocking tight end but that was partly due to the fact he was never really given a chance to be the go-to-guy. Watson is still very talented and received for more yards than any tight end in this free agent class this past season. I know people throw out the idea that Rob Gronkowski is retiring but I don’t buy it. I think the Patriots will bring back Watson who spent six years in New England and pair him with Gronk for one year. 


Offensive linemen

LT Nate Solder, 29 years old, New England Patriots 

PFF Grade: 32nd

FA Destination: New England Patriots

Contract: 2 years, $26 million 

Explanation: For a while now it’s been a battle for Nate Solder. His son is battling cancer and Solder has considered retirement. I do not see him leaving New England and I don’t see him staying much longer either. Nonetheless, the Patriots get a short-term deal done with their blindside protector. 


LG Andrew Norwell, 26 years old, Carolina Panthers 

PFF Grade: 3rd 

FA Destination: New York Giants

Contract: 5 years, $60 million

Explanation: The Giants are likely going all in to secure Andrew Norwell. GM Dave Gettleman knows him from Carolina and it’s looking likely that guard Justin Pugh will join his former college HC Doug Marrone and former NFL HC Tom Coughlin in Jacksonville. Norwell is by far the best offensive lineman in this free agency class and the Giants are the favorite to land him. 


LG Justin Pugh, 27 years old, New York Giants

PFF Grade: 52nd 

FA Destination: Jacksonville Jaguars

Contract: 4 years, $28 million

Explanation: See above. In all seriousness though, Pugh is still a great player and he is not returning to the Giants. The reuniting of Pugh, Marrone and Coughlin is going to be the easiest prediction of the 2018 free agency. Jaguars can only get better on the offensive line. 


C Ryan Jensen, 26 years old, Baltimore Ravens

PFF Grade: 9th 

FA Destination: New York Jets 

Contract: 5 years, $47 million

Explanation: The Jets earlier in this article were projected by me to get Kirk Cousins. They are going to need to give him some protection. The Jets offensive line can be upgraded but especially the center position. Well, here’s a nasty mean streak of a center Ryan Jensen to beef the Jets up front. 


C Weston Richburg, 26 years old, New York Giants 

PFF Grade: N/A

FA Destination: Baltimore Ravens

Contract: 2 years, $10 million 

Explanation: The Ravens lose Jensen but they are able to stay in their price range and acquire a young talent that is likely much better than his price tag shows. Richburg has battled injury and has been on a bad offensive line in what has been his whole career. Whoever gets Richburg is getting a potential steal, but that all depends on how healthy he stays. 


C John Sullivan, 32 years old, Los Angeles Rams 

PFF Grade: 10th 

FA Destination: Los Angeles Rams 

Contract: 1 year, $3 million

Explanation: The Rams could really consider drafting or targeting someone like Weston Richburg. However, I expect this coaching staff to ride the lightning with Sullivan, Austin Blythe and Jake Eldrenkamp. The Rams offensive line ascended last season with the addition of OL coach Aaron Kromer but let’s not kid ourselves, John Sullivan and Andrew Whitworth had a lot to do with that. I think the Rams like Blythe and Sullivan for another season. Sullivan had a good year last year and there is no reason to move on from him until he really shows his age and proves he isn’t the answer anymore. 


RG Josh Kline, 28 years old, Tennessee Titans

PFF Grade: 22nd 

FA Destination: Indianapolis Colts

Contract: 3 years, $30 million 

Explanation: The Colts actually have a decent group of talent on the offensive line but the right side is a mess. If Andrew Luck is coming back he needs to be protected. Josh Kline had a really good year in Tennessee and is going to make some money this off-season. Luckily for the Colts, they have plenty of cap room to bring in Kline and steal him away from their division rivals. 


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