Arizona Cardinals – Drew Stanton – Quarterback – 2017 Stats: 894 yards, 6 TD’s/5 INT’s
The Arizona Cardinals now must find a solution at the quarterback position for the 2018 season after Carson Palmer decided to retire from the NFL. Arizona was a respectable team last season mainly because Drew Stanton came in and played well enough to help them win. Stanton clearly isn’t the answer at quarterback for the Cardinals, but he is a quality backup that the Cardinals must retain this offseason. Arizona will likely draft a quarterback or find one in free agency, yet they still must re-sign Stanton in order to have some stability at the position next season.
Atlanta Falcons – Adrian Clayborn – Defensive End – 2017 Stats: 21 tackles and 9.5 sacks
Adrian Clayborn has revived his career as a defensive end for the Falcons this season as he had the most sacks that he’s ever had in a season with 9.5. Clayborn still needs to prove consistency as 6 of his 9.5 sacks this season came in one game against the Cowboys. Clayborn probably shouldn’t be a starting defensive end, but the Falcons should keep him around specifically in pass rush situations.
Baltimore Ravens – Ryan Jensen – Center – 2017 Stats: 16 games started
Ryan Jensen was a backup center not too long ago, but he proved this season that he is an above average starting center in the NFL. Jensen is a good pass blocker and he is an even better run blocker for the Ravens. It is difficult to find quality centers in the NFL these days and Jensen has proven that he can be a quality starter as he started all 16 games for Baltimore this past season. Jensen will undoubtedly receive competitive offers from other teams if he tests free agency, but it would be a mistake for the Ravens to let him go.
Buffalo Bills – Kyle Williams – Defensive Tackle – 2017 Stats: 41 tackles and 3 sacks
Kyle Williams is 34 years old and he isn’t the dominant defensive tackle that he once was, but he is still the veteran of the Bills defense and he is a productive starter. The Bills could choose to go younger at the position this offseason. However, Williams means a lot to the Bills franchise as he has been there his entire career and it would be a shame to see the Bills let him play anywhere else.
Carolina Panthers – Julius Peppers – Defensive End – 2017 Stats: 33 tackles and 11 sacks
Julius Peppers last year proved that age is just a number as he returned the Panthers and had an impressive 11 sacks. Peppers is about to be 38 years old which means he could choose to retire since he has already accomplished plenty in his career. However, the Panthers need to make sure that he doesn’t sign elsewhere and hopefully they can convince him to come back on a 1-year deal since their pass rush wouldn’t be the same without him.
Chicago Bears – Kyle Fuller – Cornerback – 2017 Stats: 69 tackles and 2 INT’s
Kyle Fuller had a career season in 2017 for the Bears defense as he had a career-high 69 tackles to go along with 22 pass breakups which was the 2nd most in the NFL. Fuller is going to generate plenty of interest in free agency so it is possible he joins a team that is more of a contender. However, the Bears need to make an effort to bring Fuller back because without him the Bears secondary could be a big mess next season.
Cincinnati Bengals – Tyler Eifert – Tight End – 2017 Stats: 4 catches and 46 yards
Back surgery ended Tyler Eifert’s 2017 season after only 2 games played and it likely was a major reason why the Bengals passing offense was only ranked 27th in yards per game. The only target that the Bengals had was A.J. Green so the Bengals were lacking another real weapon that they could throw to. Tyler Eifert has certainly proven that he can be one of the best tight ends in the NFL if he is healthy. However, Eifert has struggled with injuries throughout his career and that has really held him back. Eifert is a major redzone threat and he creates matchup problems for opposing defenses, so the Bengals definitely need him back.
Cleveland Browns – Isaiah Crowell – Running Back – 2017 Stats: 853 yards and 2 TD’s
Isaiah Crowell wasn’t able to crack the 1,000 yard mark once again, but he was clearly the most productive player that the Browns had on offense. Crowell was the early-down back for Cleveland while Duke Johnson would come in mainly on passing downs and provide some more speed. Cleveland could try and find an upgrade at running back over Crowell, but the team has other needs to address and they would be smart to bring him back since he carried a very weak Browns offense last season.
Dallas Cowboys – DeMarcus Lawrence – Defensive End – 2017 Stats: 58 tackles and 14.5 sacks
DeMarcus Lawrence finally had his breakout season in the NFL as he had a career-high 58 tackles and 14.5 sacks for the Cowboys last season. Lawrence proved that he can be an elite pass rusher which is what Dallas desperately had been searching for since DeMarcus Ware left town. It won’t be cheap for Dallas to re-sign Lawrence, yet he is one of the few impact players on the Cowboys defense and they absolutely must re-sign him.
Denver Broncos – Todd Davis – Inside Linebacker – 2017 Stats: 82 tackles and 1 sack
Todd Davis has quite the story about his rise to become a starting linebacker as it was just a few years ago that he was an undrafted free agent out of Sacramento State. However, Davis has become an important player on a dominant Broncos defense as he was 2nd on the team with 82 tackles last season. Davis plays with high energy and he is constantly making plays so it is important that Denver brings him back.
Detroit Lions – Ezekiel Ansah – Defensive End – 2017 Stats: 44 tackles and 12 sacks
Ezekiel Ansah has become one of the best pass rushers in the NFL and now he is in line for a big payday this offseason. The Lions could franchise tag Ansah and make sure that he stays for at least one more year, but that would cost a lot of money in order to do so. Either way, Detroit has many free agents to try and retain this offseason, yet Ansah is a player that they must keep if they want their defense to be good again.
Green Bay Players – Jahri Evans – Guard – 2017 Stats: 14 games started
Jahri Evans did a good job as the starting right guard for the Green Bay Packers last season and the team would have a void to fill at the position if they let him go. Green Bay probably needs to find a long-term solution at right guard this offseason. However, bringing back the 34-year old Evans on a 1 or 2 year deal would help the Packers in the short-term.
Houston Texans – Shane Lechler – Punter – 2017 Stats: 92 punts and 49.0 AVG
Shane Lechler has been one of the best punters in the NFL for a very long time and he continues to be very productive as he was 2nd in the NFL last season with an average punt of 49 yards. Lechler is 41 years old which means he clearly won’t be getting a long-term deal, yet the Texans should bring him back on a 1-year deal unless he decides to retire.
Indianapolis Colts – Adam Vinatieri – Kicker – 2017 Stats: 29/34 field goals
Adam Vinatieri is arguably the best kicker in NFL history and even though he is 45 years old he is still just as good as he’s ever been. Vinatieri could decide to retire this offseason because he is the oldest player in the NFL right now, but that is unlikely since he is chasing hall-of-fame kicker Morten Andersen for the most points in NFL history. Vinatieri prefers to return to the Colts in 2018 and Indianapolis would be foolish to try and find a younger kicker for next season as Vinatieri has been the model of kicking accuracy for many years.
Jacksonville Jaguars – Allen Robinson – Wide Receiver – 2017 Stats: 1 rec. and 17 yards
Allen Robinson’s 2017 season didn’t last long as he tore his ACL during the first game and what is even more unfortunate is that he was in his contract year. Robinson was in line for a huge payday with the Jaguars or another team, although his injury will likely hurt his chances of getting a huge contract this offseason. Robinson is the clear number 1 receiver for the Jaguars offense which is now lacking any good receivers without him. The Jaguars will likely address the wide receiver position anyway this offseason, but it is difficult to find elite wide receivers like Robinson. Robinson might only want to sign a 1-year contract in order to prove himself, yet the Jaguars just need to find a way to retain him.
Kansas City Chiefs – Albert Wilson – Wide Receiver – 2017 Stats: 554 yards and 3 TD’s
Albert Wilson doesn’t get mentioned much in the Chiefs offense because of the trio of weapons that Kansas City has at the skill positions. However, Wilson was a good number 2 wide receiver behind dynamic receiver Tyreek Hill. Wilson is a good receiver on 3rd downs because he has good hands and he is very reliable. The Chiefs will have to fight off some teams in order to retain Wilson, but it would be worthwhile to retain him since he is a very reliable receiver when called upon.
Los Angeles Chargers – Antonio Gates – Tight End – 2017 Stats: 316 yards and 3 TD’s
Age has clearly not been kind to Antonio Gates as he had the worst season of his career in 2017 as he only had 316 yards and 3 touchdowns. Gates isn’t nearly the elite player that he once was as he will turn 38 years old prior to next season. Hunter Henry has now clearly surpassed Gates as the Chargers starting tight end. However, Gates can still provide something as a backup and he brings quality veteran leadership as well. Also, Gates is a favorite target of quarterback Philip Rivers and Chargers games just wouldn’t be the same without Gates catching passes from Rivers. Gates could just choose to retire this offseason since he clearly doesn’t have too much left in the tank. Either way, the Chargers need to make sure that he retires with the team because it would awful if he signs elsewhere in free agency.
Los Angeles Rams – Trumaine Johnson – Cornerback – 2017 Stats: 65 tackles and 2 INT’s
The Los Angeles Rams don’t have a very good secondary as it is, but if Trumaine Johnson leaves in free agency then it would probably be a disaster. Johnson will be one of the top free agents available in the NFL, but it is highly unlikely that the Rams will let him go. Johnson signed a franchise tag last offseason in order to remain with the team and Los Angeles will likely give him the tag again unless the two sides can agree on a long-term deal. Johnson is clearly the number 1 cornerback for the Rams and the Rams defense would be much weaker without him.
Miami Dolphins – Jarvis Landry – Wide Receiver – 2017 Stats: 987 yards and 9 TD’s
Jarvis Landry was the only real threat that the Miami Dolphins had on offense this past season and he quietly was one of the top receivers in the NFL. In fact, Landry led the NFL with 112 receptions last season and he was clearly the number 1 target for the Dolphins. The rest of the offense for the Dolphins wasn’t very good, but Landry was the one player that the team could consistently rely upon. It will take a lot for Miami to re-sign Landry this offseason since he will be one of the top NFL free agents available. However, the Dolphins need to do whatever it takes to bring him back since the offense is not good without him.
Minnesota Vikings – Teddy Bridgewater – Quarterback – 2017 Stats: 1 INT
The Minnesota Vikings have a very strange 2018 offseason ahead of them at the quarterback position. Minnesota is in a unique position since they have 3 quarterbacks who could all legitimately make the case that they should be the team’s starting QB in 2018. Also, all 3 of the Vikings quarterbacks will be free agents this offseason including former 1st round pick Teddy Bridgewater. He finally became healthy enough to play halfway through this past season as he missed significant time with a gruesome knee injury. However, Case Keenum played so well at quarterback in 2017 that he retained the job even with Bridgewater healthy enough to play. It will be interesting to see whether the Vikings bring back Keenum or Bridgewater back next season as the starter. However, Minnesota should definitely bring back Bridgewater in free agency. The main reason is because Bridgewater is only 25 years old and he has much more potential than Keenum. However, Bridgewater has yet to be an above average QB during his 2 seasons as a starter with the Vikings. Minnesota has a really tough decision to make at the quarterback position this offseason and it will be interesting to see which QB they decide will be their starter for the future.
New England Patriots – Nate Solder – Left Tackle – 2017 Stats: 16 games started
The New England Patriots have a few big name free agents that they will probably need to re-sign this offseason. However, the most important for the Patriots to re-sign is definitely starting left tackle Nate Solder. He is the anchor of New England’s offensive line and he also has the high pressure task of protecting Tom Brady who is arguably the best QB in NFL history. Solder is still young and he is a tremendous leader as well, so the Patriots would obviously like to sign him to a long-term deal. It is extremely difficult finding quality left tackles in the NFL these days and Solder is definitely one of the best around. The Patriots need to do whatever it takes to re-sign Solder since it would be absolutely devastating if the team would let him leave in free agency.
New Orleans Saints – Drew Brees – Quarterback – 2017 Stats: 4,334 yards and 23 TD’s/8 INT’s
Drew Brees just continues to define age despite being almost 39 years old and he keeps proving why he is one of the best quarterbacks of all-time. Brees is obviously the biggest name on the free agent market, but it would be shocking if the Saints even allow him to test free agency. The Saints need to find his replacement at quarterback very soon, but this team would be absolutely lost without Brees as their quarterback. New Orleans will find a way to bring him back even if they have to franchise tag him, but it is extremely important that they reach a deal.
New York Giants – Justin Pugh – Left Guard – 2017 Stats: 8 games started
The New York Giants have some very tough decisions to make this offseason, but the free agent that they must re-sign is starting left guard Justin Pugh. New York already has enough offensive line trouble at offensive tackle, so if they lose Pugh then it could create an even bigger mess in 2018. Pugh is an elite left guard and he will probably want to be paid like in free agency. The Giants are heading for a lengthy rebuild and Pugh might rather want to join a contender in free agency, but the Giants need to make a big effort in order to bring him back.
New York Jets – Demario Davis – Inside Linebacker – 2017 Stats: 135 tackles and 5 sacks
The New York Jets had many players that overachieved this past season and that is the reason that the team was better than expected. Perhaps no player surprised more than starting inside linebacker Demario Davis who led the Jets with 135 tackles and 5 sacks. Davis is still young and the Jets would be wise to offer him a long-term deal since he had a career season in 2017. Davis is in line for a big payday and we’ll see if the two sides can reach an agreement, but it would be helpful to have him back since he was the best player on their defense last season.
Oakland Raiders – NaVorro Bowman – Inside Linebacker – 2017 Stats: 127 tackles and 1 INT
The inside linebacker position was disastrous for the Raiders with rookie Marquel Lee as the starter for the first 6 games of the season. However, the Raiders came across a very unique opportunity as they were able to sign 4-time first-team all-pro NaVorro Bowman mid-season. Bowman was a major upgrade at the inside linebacker position and hopefully the Raiders don’t create another void at the position by letting him go. Bowman is about to turn 30 years old, so he still has several years left in his career and it would be smart for the Raiders to make him a long-term commitment.
Philadelphia Eagles – Nigel Bradham – Outside Linebacker – 2017 Stats: 88 tackles and 1 sack
The Philadelphia Eagles have some free agents that they’ll need to make some decisions on, but the most important player to retain is Nigel Bradham. He is a disruptive force as he is consistently making plays all over the field. Philadelphia has a really good defense and Bradham has been a key part of their resurgence defensively in 2017. He is still young and he should be somewhat cheap to re-sign, but the Eagles need to find a way to bring him back.
Pittsburgh Steelers – Le’Veon Bell – Running Back – 2017 Stats: 1,291 yards and 9 TD’s
Pittsburgh’s offense was very good this past season and the main reason for that was the dynamic rushing attack led by star running back Le’Veon Bell. He was 3rd in the NFL with 1,291 rushing yards and he was also 3rd in rushing touchdowns with 9. Bell has proven that he can consistently be a top 5 running back in the NFL and now there is a very good chance that he will get paid like one. The Steelers would like to reach a long-term deal with Bell, but they might have to franchise tag him once again if they can’t agree to terms on a new contract. Either way, it isn’t likely that Bell will even be able to test free agency since Bell just means way too much to the team.
San Francisco 49ers – Jimmy Garoppolo – Quarterback – 2017 Stats: 1,560 yards and 7 TD’s/5 INT’s
Jimmy Garoppolo was acquired from the Patriots for a 2nd round pick at the trade deadline and he played very well in his 5 starts as he led the 49ers to a 5-0 record. Garoppolo completely revived a 49ers team that was only 1-10 until he came along and lifted the 49ers to 5 straight wins despite having an underwhelming supporting cast around him. We’ll see if he can continue that type of success next season, but there is no question that he made a huge difference in the 49ers 2017 season. The 49ers have already said that they won’t be letting him go in free agency, so don’t expect him to be playing elsewhere next season. Garoppolo can hopefully reach a long-term deal with the team, although the 49ers will definitely franchise tag him if they can’t agree to terms since he is just too important for them to let go.
Seattle Seahawks – Jimmy Graham – Tight End – 2017 Stats: 520 yards and 10 TD’s
The Seattle Seahawks have many key decisions to make on their own free agents this offseason, but there is clearly none bigger than tight end Jimmy Graham. He has consistently been one of the elite tight ends in the NFL since 2011 when he was with New Orleans. Graham is the biggest weapon that the Seahawks have on offense since he creates mismatches against linebackers and safeties. It is very difficult to find tight ends that are as talented as Graham is, so this would be a huge loss if the Seahawks can’t find a way to re-sign him.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Brent Grimes – Cornerback – 2017 Stats: 49 tackles and 3 INT’s
Tampa Bay’s secondary was an absolute mess last season mostly because they didn’t have much depth at the cornerback position, but they also endured many injuries at that position. However, the one consistent player at cornerback was veteran Brent Grimes who will turn 35 prior to next season. Grimes could choose to retire this offseason, but if he doesn’t then the Buccaneers would be very wise to bring him back. He is still playing at a very high level despite his age and he is the only consistent cornerback that Tampa Bay has. The Buccaneers need a lot of help at cornerback even if Grimes returns next season, although the secondary would once again be a big disaster if he doesn’t come back.
Tennessee Titans – Ryan Succop – Kicker – 2017 Stats: 35/42 field goals
Ryan Succop was certainly a very busy kicker this season as he attempted 42 field goals for the Titans. However, Succop fared well with those kicks as he made 35 of them which means overall he did a good job. It is kind of difficult to find accurate kickers these days, so Tennessee should realize the importance of having a good kicker like Succop. The Titans have a reliable kicker right now and they shouldn’t try and take the risk of trying to find a new one as that decision could backfire.
Washington Redskins – Kirk Cousins – Quarterback – 2017 Stats: 4,093 yards and 27 TD’s/13 INT’s
There is no doubt that Kirk Cousins is the most important free agent for the Redskins since the team will likely fall apart if they can’t find a way to re-sign him. Cousins doesn’t seem likely to sign a long-term deal with Washington this offseason and it is a very real possibility that he could leave in free agency. That would be a nightmare scenario for the Redskins as they probably wouldn’t be able to find a good option in free agency. Also, the Redskins don’t have a high draft pick, so they might not be able to find a good quarterback. The Redskins could franchise tag him once again, but the question is whether the team wants to keep doing that. Either way, the Redskins need to find a way to re-sign Cousins this offseason or else they’re heading for a major rebuild.