The top 10 offensive free agents set to hit the market
Rumors of a week free agency crop are greatly exaggerated – one just needs to know where to look. The group of guards set to hit free agency are the deepest of any position offensively or defensively. Four make our list of top 10 offensive free agents as any offensive line-needy team should be ecstatic. To see Pro Football Focus’ full NFL free-agent rankings featuring the top 50 players set to hit the market in 2017, click here.
Here’s the list of the 10 top offensive free agents to be:
1. Le’Veon Bell, RB, Pittsburgh Steelers (88.3 overall grade in 2016)
The highest-graded running back in 2016, Pittsburgh’s Bell stands almost zero chance of hitting the free agency market. Bell is the rare exception where the franchise tag in perpetuity might be a legitimate option. If he did ever hit the free market he’d likely become the league’s highest-paid running back.
2. Kirk Cousins, QB, Washington Redskins (85.9)
Cousins is another player unlikely to ever see the open market. Whether the Redskins can get a deal done with Cousins before being forced to franchise him yet again is the real question. He proved that his 2015 campaign wasn’t a fluke, finishing as PFF’s eighth-highest-graded quarterback in 2016. Now it’s time for Washington to open up the checkbook.
3. Kevin Zeitler, G, Cincinnati Bengals (87.1)
The highest-rated guard and first of two Bengals on our list, Zeitler checks the two most important boxes in free agency: he’s young and he’s been consistently productive for multiple seasons already. He’s finished as a top-10-graded guard each of the past three seasons and turns 27 in March. He doesn’t quite have the crushing run-blocking prowess of Kelechi Osemele, who netted himself a five year, $58.5 million deal last offseason, but inflation could push Zeitler’s market into a similar range.
4. T.J. Lang, G, Green Bay Packers (87.0)
Lang is basically Zeitler except one contract later in his career. That being said, he won’t turn 30 years old until September and could legitimately play out a four-year contract at his current level of performance. Lang was a top-five-graded guard in 2014 and 2015 before taking a slight step back to No. 8 this year. He’s stated that he wants to stay in Green Bay, but we already saw the Packers part ways with aging guard Josh Sitton at the beginning of last season.
5. Alshon Jeffery, WR, Chicago Bears (77.6)
The PED suspension and injuries the past couple years are concerning, but Jeffery is the only proven No. 1 receiver on the market this year. Below are his yards-per-route averages throughout his career with the Bears.
An average finish of 12th over the past four seasons is fairly impressive, especially with a quarterback situation that’s been anything but. He’s coming off a season in which he played under the franchise tag in Chicago ($14.6 million) and it’s difficult to think he’ll be asking for much less this time around.
6. Andrew Whitworth, T, Cincinnati Bengals (91.3)
Whitworth will turn 36 in December of next season, but with his skillset it’s not unreasonable to think he could pass protect in the NFL until he’s 40. He’s owned a top-10 pass-blocking grade among offensive tackles six of the past seven years. Even still the market for him will likely be limited to teams in “win-now” mode and his price tag will be a steal if he continues his high level of play as he did in Cincinnati.
7. Terrelle Pryor, WR, Cleveland Browns (78.6)
It’s amazing to think that anyone who wanted Pryor could have had him for fairly cheap as recently as last offseason. Now he has a 1,000-yard season on his resume and the sky is the limit. While it’s concerning how inconsistent his play was in 2016, that can be attributed to the shaky Cleveland quarterback play as much as Pryor’s performance. Even with one quality season under his belt, don’t expect someone with Pryor’s upside to come cheap.
8. Larry Warford, G, Detroit Lions (81.5)
Warford has never been quite able to match the performance of his dominant rookie year with Detrot, but that shouldn’t be too much of a knock against him. In that rookie season of 2013, Warford was the fifth-highest-graded guard in all of football and didn’t allow a sack all season long. He’s still been a well-above-average guard since then, but teams may see that rookie season tape and think they can get him back to that level.
9. Ronald Leary, G, Dallas Cowboys (80.4)
Playing next to two All-Pros on the Dallas line can hide a lot of weaknesses. Passing off stunts and getting movement on double teams can look a lot smoother when the guy next to you is one of the most dominant players in the league. That would be a concern with Leary if he didn’t have so many impressive one-on-one blocks himself. Leary has had top-15 run-blocking grades his past two full seasons as a starter and could upgrade almost any offensive line in the NFL.
10. DeSean Jackson, WR, Washington Redskins (77.0)
He may be 30 years old, but Jackson still has enough juice to be a consistent deep threat. His 579 yards on passes targeted 20-plus yards downfield for Washington were the most in the league this past season and he’s finished in the top three in that stat four separate years in his career. He may only have so many years left with his game-breaking speed, but for what he is there are few better in the game today.