Weddle was savvy enough to earn Pro Bowl accolades in each of his three seasons with the Ravens after turning 30. Can he compensate for the loss of speed and playmaking ability at age 34 after seeing his interceptions and passes defensed plummet last year?UPDATE: Weddle and the Rams have agreed to a two-year contract worth up to $12.5 million.
March 10, 2019
This ranking isn’t a prediction of how much guaranteed money Bell will earn. It’s a reflection of his status as one of the transcendent players of this century at his position — and the fact that he just turned 27 years old.
The center fielder has maintained his high level of play as a potential future Hall of Famer and isn’t yet 30 years old. With two of Thomas’ last three seasons being marred by injury, though, some possible suitors could waver if the price gets too high.
While Flowers is more of an interior player or a 3-4 defensive end rather than a protypical pass rusher, he can make noise from a variety of positions. He’s the perfect Swiss Army Knife for a modern defense that changes fronts on a down-to-down basis, and he’s already been the most disruptive presence on a Super Bowl championship team.
Foles needs to find the right system to play in, but isn’t that true of any quarterback? His play late in the 2018 season showed that his Super Bowl run was no fluke. This ranking reflects the premium placed on any starting quarterback who becomes available during his prime, because it happens so rarely.
It’s possible that Collins is ranked higher by us than NFL teams, who may think his name is bigger than his all-around game. He’s at his best near the line of scrimmage, but to be a truly great safety, Collins must also excel in coverage.
A four-time Pro Bowl selection in five NFL seasons, Barr is an excellent blitzer and one of the most well-rounded off-ball linebackers. His appeal will likely be limited to teams with a base 4-3 scheme.
Perennially overlooked on a star-studded Seattle defense, Wright is now heading into his age-30 season after battling a lingering knee injury throughout 2018. Interested teams will have to wonder if he’s past his prime.
Rent-a-hulk. In large part due to character concerns, Richardson has been unable to land a long-term deal the past two offseasons. His value should be on the rise after a bounce-back year in Minnesota.
Mathieu remains a deceptively hard hitter and a versatile ballhawk, even if he’s no longer the game-changing playmaker that he was early in his Arizona tenure. Still just 26 years old, he shouldn’t have to settle for another one-year contract.
Still a three-down starter at age 32, but the three-time All-Pro seemed to coast through the 2018 regular season before flipping the switch in a dominant playoff run.
Not as dynamic as the purest edge rushers, but Smith offers the size to stuff the run in addition to pressuring the passer. He was one of the most underrated outside linebackers in the league last season.
Joyner offers versatility as a former cornerback who can cover deep center field and creep into the box on run downs. One of the highest-paid safeties in the league last year, the 28-year-old didn’t draw a second straight franchise tag after seeing a slight drop-off in effectiveness.
If he stays healthy, the Ghanaian’s good for double-digit sacks. That’s a Brobdingnagian “if” after injuries limited him to a combined six sacks in 2016 and ’18. Ansah is already looking down the barrel of 30 after getting a late start to his football career.
PFF credited Smith with 10 sacks, 17 QB hits and 33 hurries in the regular season, which is monster production for someone with 690 snaps. He plays with laudable fury.
Even if he stays under 200 touches per season like he did in Atlanta, Coleman can add reliable juice to any zone-based running team looking for a boost in explosive plays.
A torn ACL will hurt Darby’s value, but the physical cornerback is still the class of a soft cornerback crop of free agents.
Good tackles are so hard to find in free agency that Williams, a second-team All-Pro in 2017, should still inspire plenty of interest despite missing nearly all of the 2018 campaign with a knee injury.
Roby did not handle an increase in snaps well, following Aqib Talib‘s departure, but his sluggish contract-year showing shouldn’t negate all of his excellent playmaking that preceded it.
The tight end market is absolutely barren behind Cook, who could add 800 yards of seam-stretching offense to just about any attack. The Packers should have kept him a few years back, because they could use a player like him now.
Hicks is a three-down, rock-solid linebacker who can steady the middle of a defense. He’s the type of very good Pro Bowl sub who gets paid handsomely in free agency.
Alexander’s torn ACL came at the worst time. The former fourth-rounder makes a few too many mistakes because of his aggressiveness, but that aggression also pays off with a tempo-setting attitude and game-changing plays.
Teddy’s underwhelming Week 17 start was more about a rag-tag backup Saints offensive line that didn’t protect Bridgewater than it was about anything else. He showed enough last preseason to compete for a starting job somewhere in 2019.
Tate gets a pass for his disappearing act in a new offense following his midseason trade to Philadelphia. A slot receiver with a running back’s physicality, he’s averaged roughly 90 catches and 1,000 yards over the past five years.
Morse has missed 14 games due to injuries over the past two years. When healthy, he’s been the steady shot-caller for a consistently overlooked offensive line.
Football analytics have noted that slot-corner efficiency is aberrantly unpredictable from season to season. That said, Callahan was one of the position’s premier playmakers prior to his season-ending foot injury in December.
Denver’s best offensive lineman of the post-Peyton era, which isn’t quite as damning asCase Keenum‘s status as the best quarterback of said three-year drought. A quality starter, Paradis is recovering from the foot surgery that ended his season in November.
Although he tallied a mere four sacks between Jacksonville and Los Angeles in the regular season, Fowler was a terror behind the line of scrimmage in December and January.
The Dolphins considered moving on from James last offseason but never could find an upgrade at right tackle. He’s a prime candidate to get overpaid by a desperate organization.
He’s probably better used as a rotational player rather than an every-down starter, but Jackson was still causing plenty of disruption late last season in Jacksonville.
Mr. Inside to Alvin Kamara‘s Mr. Outside, Ingram is a hard-nosed runner who has worked hard to round out his game as a pass-catching threat. Who’s willing to shell out big bucks for a 29-year-old running back?
Without question the hardest-hitting cornerback in the league — and an egregious Pro Bowl snub — last year. More of a safety-corner hybrid, Jackson’s coverage skills aren’t quite as consistent as his tackling prowess.
A Pro Football Focus darling ranked second among all safeties in 2017 and seventh in 2018, Amos completes his assignments with aplomb. His old coordinator, Vic Fangio, could try to bring him to Denver.
Deep speed is hard to find in free agency and Williams has it. He would make for an excellent addition as a role player in a spread-the-wealth offense.
Sure, Suggs is not a long-term solution. But anyone who watched Suggs consistently set the edge and create 59 total pressures in 2018 knows he’s on the James Harrison career-arc plan — still effective deep into his 30s.
Ha Ha Clinton-Dix
If Clinton-Dix hit free agency a year or two ago, he might have ranked in the top 15 of this list. But his occasional coverage lapses caused the Packers to give up on him in Year 5. Even an average starting safety, however, has plenty of value.
There are games when Funchess can body opponents like a young Brandon Marshall. He hasn’t been able to maintain that level on a consistent basis, but he’s far from the draft mistake that he looked like after his first two seasons.
Desir emerged as a solid starter in 2018, earning well-deserved praise for stiflingDeAndre Hopkins in the Wild Card Round.
Good football player alert: Humphries is a tough slot receiver with good hands, easy separation between the numbers and a punt returner’s ability to make something out of nothing after the catch. Julian Edelman — after taxes.
Acquired in a draft-day trade with the Colts last offseason, Anderson proved to be a savvy pickup by Mike Maccagnan, tying for the team lead with seven sacks.
Not quite as stingy in coverage as he was in his breakout 2017 season, Claiborne still shattered a career high with 14 passes defensed as the Jets‘ top corner last year.
Verrett was a deserving Pro Bowl selection in his last healthy season — when Peyton Manning was still reigning over the AFC West. He’s played just five games in the last three years, undergoing two knee surgeries and an Achilles repair.
A former special teamer, Phillips earned his first Pro Bowl nod as a linebacker/safety hybrid in 2018. It’s fair to wonder if he’s best suited to Gus Bradley’s defense, which makes heavy use of dime packages.
Although no longer a double-digit sack artist at 37, Wake still has enough life in his legs to help a Super Bowl contender as a rotational edge rusher.
The final pick in the first round of the 2015 draft has started 62 games (including the playoffs) for a team that has appeared in three consecutive Super Bowls.
The undersized Bucannon struggled to make an impact under a new coach last year and might need a reunion with Bruce Arians (Buccaneers) or James Bettcher (Giants) to put his career back on track.
Matthews can’t be blamed for thinking he’s owed a couple of would-be sacks that made him the poster boy for mind-boggling penalties in September. He can, however, be blamed for being outplayed by backup Kyler Fackrell the rest of the way.
The skills are there. So are the injuries, however, and the whispers that Ajayi has never quite maximized all of his talent.
Slot cornerbacks are starting cornerbacks. Slot cornerbacks are starting cornerbacks. Slot cornerbacks are starting cornerbacks. Justin Coleman is a good slot cornerback.
It was a lost year for Breeland after he hurt his foot just before free agency last offseason, but it’s not like he’s a totally different player than he was at that time, when he cracked our top 25 players available.
Largely ignored in free agency one year ago, Vaccaro joined the Titans in August and immediately solidified their secondary. He’s averaged more than 800 snaps in his six seasons.
There are games in which Geathers is all over the field, limiting yards after the catch everywhere he roams. He appeared to put his neck issues behind him during a solid 2018 campaign.
Teams never appear particularly excited about acquiring McCourty, who then consistently puts up quality cornerback snaps at a bargain price. He’s perfect for a team like the Patriots that only uses him in the right matchups.
One of the NFL’s best overall special teams players, Patterson has added value on end-arounds and limited routes as a wide receiver.
How much has Cobb been slowed by injuries over the years and how much of his stagnation was Mike McCarthy’s system? That’s the question teams will have to decide when considering Cobb.
A shaky starter on an irrelevant team; a high-end backup on a contender.
What to make of a rotund running back who was cut twice before breaking the century mark in each of his first three games as an emergency starter for the Rams? Anderson proved he has something to offer as a straight-ahead bulldozer.
A 103-game starter over eight seasons with the Chargers, Liuget’s free agency timing couldn’t be worse. He’s coming off late November surgery for a torn quadriceps muscle.
A first-round flameout in San Diego and New York, Fluker resurfaced as a mauler in Seattle, setting a physical tone for one of the league’s fiercest ground attacks.
Entering the market at age 25, Philon might just hit the jackpot after emerging as a solid starter on last year’s Chargers playoff squad.
A perfectly capable starter, Gipson may got lost in a crowded safety market.
Declining speed is an issue at age 31, but Crabtree should still find regular snaps at a time when many top offenses are using four-receiver rotations.
Much like the Titans‘ rushing attack, Spain combined occasional outbursts of dominance with lengthy dry spells as a 42-game starter over the past three years.
Have heft, will travel. The veteran run-plugger went unsigned through Week 1 of last season, but still came away as one of the few bright spots on Oakland’s otherwise porous defense.
Golden broke out with 12.5 sacks in 2016 only to miss the majority of 2017 with a torn ACL and manage just 2.5 takedowns last year while switching from outside linebacker to defensive end.
Gostkowski hasn’t been quite as reliable on field goals in recent years, but the six-timeSuper Bowl participant has remained steady overall in big moments. He’s an asset on kickoffs.
Ward can’t avoid the injury bug, but his ability to play safety as well as cornerback should attract plenty of interest in the heyday of nickel and dime defenses.
Still running hard, after all these years. While his lack of passing-down skills is a major minus, Peterson’s 2018 season proved he can still create extra yards if used in the right role.
The red flags are numerous, but we aren’t ready to completely discount any receiver who gained nearly 2,000 yards combined in his first two seasons.
Nelson, 26, started all 16 games for the Chiefs last season, but he was often the guy who opposing quarterbacks targeted.
Perhaps it was the play-calling, but Beasley struggled to make plays over the last two seasons after his breakout 2016 campaign. It’s fair to ask if Cowboys coordinator Scott Linehan served him well.
Ranked 40th on this list a year ago, Eifert has a proven Pro Bowl skill set and massive durability issues. He’s been able to play in just 14 games combined during the last three years.
Yeldon quietly has gained nearly 3,200 yards from scrimmage in his four seasons, barely less than fellow free agent Tevin Coleman. He’s a solid third-down back in a league that values that skill set more than ever.
Davis’ release from the Panthers was surprising because he was still playing at a relatively high level. The former Walter Payton Man of the Year would immediately bring credibility to any locker room.
Okafor has been solid across the board as a 26-game starter the past two years in New Orleans. Unfortunately, he’s an edge rusher who rarely lays his hands on the quarterback.
Although physically gifted, Moncrief simply hasn’t caught the ball with any degree of consistency while seeing too many snaps on cratering offenses in Indianapolis and Jacksonville.
Wilkerson has managed just eight sacks in three years since breaking his fibula at the end of a 12-sack campaign in 2015. He’s more name than game at this point.
A versatile defensive back, Poole has played more than 70 percent of Atlanta’s snaps since signing as an undrafted free agent in 2016.
Barron has played a lot more snaps (2,700 over the last three years) than you’d expect for a guy who has barely been healthy enough to practice. His toughness is not a question, but his speed has diminished with age.
Quin played at a Pro Bowl level in 2017 but seemed to fall out of favor upon Matt Patricia’s arrival in Detroit. If he commits to another season at age 33, the 10-year veteran should have no problem finding a taker for his services.
Alternately injured and unproductive as Shaq Barrett’s running buddy with the second-team defense for four years, Ray was a healthy scratch down the stretch last season.
Carpenter has never lived up to his first-round pedigree, but that hasn’t stopped teams from signing him as a starter.
Morgan vanished last season while playing through knee and shoulder injuries. On a positive note, he tallied a healthy 16.5 sacks in 2016 and ’17.
Myers earned a trip to the Pro Bowl as one of the league’s most reliable legs. Not bad for a streaky kicker who was jettisoned by Jacksonville and Seattle in the previous 12 months.
Mayowa showed flashes last season, even outplaying former All-Pro Chandler Jones in September.
Like a lot of defensive linemen from the Ravens, Urban is well coached and tough. He can help a team out in a rotation.
Incredibly fast and a terrific blocker, Conley always seemed more talented than his production showed with the Chiefs. But if Andy Reid can’t get numbers out of him, can anyone?
It remains uncertain whether Lynch wants to play again, but he gained a lot of yards that weren’t blocked in his previous two seasons in Oakland.
Grimes has been defying the odds for years, still a capable, feisty corner despite his age and turning 36 years old this summer.
Even previously disappointing free-agent signings like Sweezy figure to get paid again in a market that is short on interior linemen.
Sure, no one is entirely sure whether Bradford can stay healthy for a season again. But some team will look back at his excellent 2016 season and give him a chance to keep his career going as a backup.