News & Analysis

The NFL's top 50 unrestricted free agents heading into 2018 free agency

By PFF Analysis Team
Mar 13, 2018

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Jan 14, 2018; Minneapolis, MN, USA; New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees (9) talks with head coach Sean Payton in the fourth quarter against the Minnesota Vikings at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The league’s legal tampering period has made shock waves and teams are fighting to clear cap space as the new league year approaches. While our team of analysts will be hard at work giving you instant updates on our live blog, here is our list of the top 50 free agents after all the transactions that have taken place up to the legal tampering period’s beginning.

For more in depth insight on each of these free agents and many more, check out the 2018 PFF Free Agent Guide, a part of your PFF Edge or Elite subscription.

 

[Editor’s note: This list was originally crafted March 12, before any re-signings or expected signings were announced and subsequently we will have an up-to-the-minute list of top remaining free agents once the new league year opens on March 14 at 4 pm.]

 

1. Drew Brees, QB, New Orleans Saints

Status: Re-signed; New Orleans

The 39-year-old Brees is the crown jewel of free agency if he makes it out of New Orleans. Brees led the NFL with an adjusted completion percentage of 80.7 last season.

2. Kirk Cousins, QB, Washington Redskins

Status: Signed; Minnesota

Cousins’ new team will be getting a quarterback who ranked 10th in adjusted completion percentage in 2017 (74.4) and ninth in 2016 (76.3).

3. Ndamukong Suh, DI, Miami Dolphins

Status: Still on the market

Suh is dominant on the field and a strong personality in the locker room. Not every team is going to want to spend the money for him but his production on the interior could help any defense.

4. Malcolm Butler, CB, New England Patriots

Status: Signed; Tennessee

Butler offers value as he is still in his 20’s and gets his hands on the ball a lot in coverage, he ranked fourth in pass breakups in both 2015 and 2016 while ranking 13th in 2017.

5. Andrew Norwell, G, Carolina Panthers

Status: Signed; Jacksonville

Expect Norwell to cash in big as he is only 26 years old and PFF’s All-Pro left guard. He was the only guard with at least 200-plus pass-block snaps that didn’t allow a sack or QB hit in 2017.

6. Allen Robinson, WR, Jacksonville Jaguars

Status: Signed; Chicago

Allen Robinson is coming off a missed season with an ACL injury which could turn some teams off. However, Robinson is only 24 years old and was highly productive back in 2015 when his 2.17 yards per route run ranked No. 10 among all wide receivers with at least 100 targets.

7. Sheldon Richardson, DI, Seattle Seahawks

Status: Signed; Minnesota

Richardson’s pass-rushing production has steadily declined since his dominant 2015 season. However, Richardson still earned an 83.8 overall grade this past season and can generate an interior pass-rush.

8. Justin Pugh, G, New York Giants

Status: Signed; Arizona

Pugh’s play in 2017 was hampered by injuries which saw him post a career-low 52.4 overall grade. Pugh is only 27 years old with solid production both at guard and tackle, his play should bounce back to the form that made him a top-20 run-blocking guard in both 2015 and 2016.

9. Nate Solder, T, New England Patriots

Status: Signed; New York Giants

The gigantic left tackle has seen his pass-blocking production dip considerable in recent seasons. In 2017, Solder allowed 51 total pressures – 41 hurries, six QB hits, four sacks — which was tied for the fifth-most among all offensive tackles.

10. Jimmy Graham, TE, Seattle Seahawks

Status: Signed; Green Bay

Graham has, at times, been one of the elite mismatch players in the passing game. He is 31 years old now but even if he isn’t as fast as he once was, he still has the large catch radius to be a phenomenal red zone threat. Graham had 10 touchdowns in 2017 but only nine of his 57 catches were thrown further than 10 yards down the field.

11. Sam Bradford, QB, Minnesota Vikings

Status: Signed; Arizona

One of the finest seasons we’ve seen at the league’s most vital positions in recent years belongs to the 2016 version of Bradford, who was tremendous to all levels of the field and against all forms of pressure. Where he shined brightest though, was when he was kept clean from pressure in 2016, completing 75.4 percent of his passes for 15 touchdowns, compared to just three interceptions.

12. Trumaine Johnson, CB, Los Angeles Rams

Status: Signed; New York Jets

The second season under the team’s franchise tag, Johnson has now recorded at least five pass breakups in all but one of his six seasons in the league. His 59.8 catch percentage allowed was the second-lowest of his career in 2017.

13. Sammy Watkins, WR, Los Angeles Rams

Status: Signed; Kansas City Chiefs

In his first year in LA, Watkins hauled in a total of 40 receptions on 70 targets including 195 yards after the catch and eight touchdowns. His 57.1 catch percentage was the second-highest of his career.

14. Weston Richburg, C, New York Giants

Status: Signed; San Francisco 49ers

On limited snaps in 2017, Richburg allowed just three total QB pressures on 173 snaps in pass protection. Through his career, Richburg has allowed only four sacks on a whipping 2,112 pass-blocking snaps.

15. Tyler Eifert, TE, Cincinnati Bengals

Status: Re-signed; Cincinnati

Despite playing just two games in 2017, Eifert has hauled in 73.7 percent of his targeted passes throughout his career and been a threat with the ball in his hands, accumulating 18 missed tackles and 686 yards after the catch over his career.

16. Case Keenum, QB, Minnesota Vikings

Status: Signed; Denver

Keenum was cool under pressure in 2017, especially when blitzed as he fielded a 99.7 passer rating when the opposing defense sent an extra rusher. He threw 12 touchdown passes against his opponent’s blitz in 2017, compared to just three interceptions.

17. Dion Lewis, RB, New England Patriots

Status: Signed; Tennessee

A threat with the ball in his hands, Lewis forced 45 missed tackles on the ground and another nine missed tackles after the catch. In all, he gained 351 yards after the catch and 635 yards after contact in a breakout year in 2017.

18. Morgan Burnett, S, Green Bay Packers

Status: Signed; Pittsburgh

Throughout his eight-year career in Green Bay, Burnett has recorded 34 pass breakups, 11 interceptions and a whopping 214 defensive stops from the backend of that Packers defense.

19. Tyvon Branch, S, Arizona Cardinals

Status: Still on the market

Before injury shut him down for the season, Branch had himself a quietly strong season, recording 24 defensive stops on just 578 total snaps and finished fourth on the team in total tackles, despite missing seven and half games.

20. Dontari Poe, DI, Atlanta Falcons

Status: Signed; Carolina

Poe recorded 37 QB pressures on his 473 pass-rushes while also 23 defensive stops and another three passes batted down.

21. William Hayes, edge, Miami Dolphins

StatusRe-signed; Miami

Playing just 271 snaps in 2017, Hayes recorded 18 total QB pressures and 17 defensive stops. For his career now, Hayes has brought in a total of 294 total QB pressures across his 10 seasons in the league.

22. Prince Amukamara, CB, Chicago Bears

Status: Re-signed; Chicago

In coverage a season ago, Amukamara allowed just 31 receptions for just 365 yards while doing a great job of keeping the receivers in front of him, allowing just 90 yards after the catch.

23. Patrick Robinson, CB, Philadelphia Eagles

Status: Signed; New Orleans

Robinson allowed a passer rating of just 61.8 when covering receivers in the slot, the fourth-lowest mark among the league’s cornerbacks. He hauled in a league-leading four interceptions from the slot in 2017.

24. Demario Davis, LB, New York Jets

Status: Signed; New Orleans

Davis recorded a total of 19 QB pressures on just 145 pass-rushing snaps and finished the season with 19 more defensive stops than any other Jets’ defender (65).

25. NaVorro Bowman, LB, Oakland Raiders

Status: Still on the market

Bowman racked up an impressive eight QB pressures on just 40 pass-rushing snaps a season ago and didn’t allow a single reception of longer than 26 yards on his 357 snaps in coverage.

26. Jack Mewhort, G, Indianapolis Colts

Status: Re-signed; Indianapolis

On the heels of his breakout season in 2016, Mewhort was limited to just five games in 2017. He allowed just 18 total pressures in 2016 across 10 games.

27. Adrian Clayborn, edge, Atlanta Falcons

Status: Signed; New England

Clayborn finished the 2017 season with a team-leading 55 QB pressures, including 10 sacks. He registered the league’s highest graded game from an edge defender for his massive performance against Dallas.

28. Avery Williamson, LB, Tennessee Titans

Status: Signed; New York Jets

Williamson racked up 28 stops in run defense, tying for 19th-most among the league’s inside linebackers. He finished with 32 total defensive stops, third on the team.

29. Nigel Bradham, LB, Philadelphia Eagles

Status: Re-signed; Philadelphia

Among 4-3 outside linebackers, Bradham led the league with his 0.62 yards allowed per snap in coverage. He was a menace in coverage all season long, spending 660 snaps in coverage and allowing a reception every 14.3 snaps he spent, a figure that also led the league.

30. Rashaan Melvin, CB, Indianapolis Colts

Status: Signed; Oakland

A breakout star in 2017, Melvin allowed just 29 receptions on 55 targets and just 94 yards after the catch. All told, his 60.3 passer rating on throws into his coverage was the 10th-lowest among all the league’s cornerbacks.

31. Jerick McKinnon, RB, Minnesota Vikings

Status: Signed; San Francisco

A threat with the ball in his hands, McKinnon forced 33 missed tackles on runs and another 10 missed tackles after the reception. He averaged a whopping 9.1 yards after the catch on 65 receptions in 2017.

32. Tramon Williams, CB, Arizona Cardinals

Status: Still on the market

The longtime pro proved he still had some left in the tank with a strong season in 2017. Williams racked up 10 total plays on the ball, allowed just one catch and the second-lowest amount of targeted passes to be caught at just 49.2. All told, at 34 years old, Williams allowed a passer rating of just 58.4 on throws into his coverage.

33. Anthony Hitchens, LB, Dallas Cowboys

Status: Signed; Kansas City

Hitchens finished with 38 total defensive stops, good enough for second on the team, despite missing the team’s first four games. He didn’t allow a touchdown on 37 targeted passes in 2017 as well, rounding out his performance.

34. Junior Galette, edge, Washington Redskins

Status: Still on the market

On 258 pass-rushing snaps, Galette recorded a total of 37 QB pressures, the third-most on the team. Ryan Kerrigan and Preston Smith rushed the passer on 180 and 110 more snaps than Galette did, showcasing just how well Galette rushed the passer on a per-snap basis.

35. Bashaud Breeland, CB, Washington Redskins

Status: Signed; Carolina

On 69 throws into his primary coverage, Breeland allowed just 49.3 percent of those passes to be caught and a passer rating of just 75.6 on those throws.

36. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, CB, New York Giants

Status: Still on the market

A down year in 2017 shouldn’t negate the fact that DRC has recording an amazing 131 career plays on the ball since 2008. His 33 interceptions and 98 pass breakups have all totaled up to a career passer rating when targeted of just 79.9.

37. Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Minnesota Vikings

Status: Signed; New York Jets

In his last full season of action (2015), Bridgewater was seemingly on his way to breaking out as an NFL star. He completed 75.4 percent of his passes when he was kept clean from pressure and saw a 101.1 passer rating on such throws.

38. E.J. Gaines, CB, Buffalo Bills

Status: Still on the market

Gaines tied for 25th in terms of lowest passer rating when targeted, fielding a 75.2 passer rating on the 61 targets into his coverage. Of the 65 cornerbacks with at least 60 targets, Gaines allowed the fewest yards after the catch in 2017 (91).

39. Tom Johnson, DI, Minnesota Vikings

Status: Still on the market

Johnson was a key cog in the Vikings defense shutting down opposing offenses in 2017, registering a total of 31 QB pressures and 22 total defensive stops.

40. Terrelle Pryor, WR, Washington Redskins

Status: Still on the market

After a breakout year in 2016, Pryor hauled in 57.1 percent of the passes thrown his way in 2017 before being shut down after Week 9. He hauled in 20 receptions on 35 targets for 240 yards and a touchdown.

41. Nickell Robey-Coleman, CB, Los Angeles Rams

Status: Re-signed; Los Angeles

Despite allowing a career high 69.2 percent of passes thrown into his coverage to be caught, Robey-Coleman only allowed a single touchdown while tying his career high with seven plays on the ball in 2017 (two interceptions, five pass breakups).

42. Eric Reid, S, San Francisco 49ers

Status: Still on the market

Reid finished last season third on the 49ers with 26 defensive stops and also recorded five QB pressures on just 23 pass-rushing snaps.

43. Alex Okafor, edge, New Orleans Saints

Status: Re-signed; New Orleans

Okafor broke out in 2017, finishing with a career-high PFF grade of 84.7. He only played 10 games but still registered a total of 30 QB pressures and 32 defensive stops.

44. Tre Boston, S, Los Angeles Chargers

Status: Still on the market

Boston was more than just a safety valve on the back end of the Chargers defense, allowing just three receptions on 12 targeted passes. He brought in an interception of a pass breakup on more than half of his targeted passes in 2017.

45. Carlos Hyde, RB, San Francisco 49ers

Status: Signed; Cleveland

Inside the tackles in 2017, Hyde ripped off 307 yards after contact and forced a total of 23 missed tackles. He forced a total of 45 missed tackles and 607 yards after contact on all runs last season.

46. Morris Claiborne, CB, New York Jets

Status: Re-signed; New York Jets

Claiborne was targeted a total of 46 times over the team’s first 10 games, and fielded a passer rating of just 62.1 during those games. He finished the season allowing three touchdowns over the final five games and a season-long passer rating of 91.3, showing just a minor slump to end the season.

47. Paul Richardson, WR, Seattle Seahawks

Status: Signed; Washington

During his career year in 2017, Richardson hauled in 55.0 percent of his targeted passes, including six touchdowns and forcing four missed tackles after the reception. He hauled in career-highs in targets, receptions, yards, touchdowns and yards after the catch.

48. Aaron Lynch, edge, San Francisco 49ers

Status: Signed; Chicago

Back in his last fully healthy season (2015), Lynch was a force rushing the passer, bringing in a total of 62 QB pressures including seven sacks and 13 QB hits.

49. Kony Ealy, edge, New York Jets

Status: Still on the market

Ealy finished second on the Jets with his 25 QB pressures in 2017.

50. Muhammad Wilkerson, DI, New York Jets

Status: Signed; Green Bay

Wilkerson did a valiant job of plugging the run and rushing the passer, recording a total of 24 defensive stops, plays that constitute a loss for the offense.

[Editor’s note: This list was populated originally at 2:00 pm on March 12. Any subsequent roster moves will be updated when we re-release these rankings on March 14.]

2018 Free Agency


Free Agent Tracker | Top Offensive UFAs | Top Defensive UFAs

2017 free agent hits | February 22 update | Immediate Impact FAs

Free agents who could use a change of scenery | One-year deals

2018 Free Agency Rankings


Top Offensive Line Options | Top 50 heading into free agency

2018 Free Agent Previews


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