- Kirk Cousins – Quarterback – Washington Redskins
Kirk Cousins has quietly become a really good quarterback, so I’m sure that the Redskins will do anything to keep him around. However, if Cousins does hit free agency then he will surely have tons of interest in him as there are no other good starting quarterback options in free agency. It is really hard to find good quarterbacks these days and if the Redskins let Cousins go then the quarterbacks that Washington could get is very limited. I don’t believe that Cousins and Washington will reach a long-term extension, but I would be shocked if they don’t at least apply the franchise tag to him.
Projected landing spot: Washington Redskins
2. Chandler Jones – Outside Linebacker – Arizona Cardinals
The Cardinals gave up a 2nd round pick to get Chandler Jones from the Patriots prior to this season and he has 9.5 sacks to show for it so far. Jones is by far the Cardinals best pass rusher and he has the ability to change a game on his own. There is a chance that Jones and the Cardinals could get a contract extension before March. However, I believe he will stay with Arizona on the franchise tag if they can’t get a long-term deal done.
Projected landing spot: Arizona Cardinals
3. Le’Veon Bell – Running Back – Pittsburgh Steelers
Pittsburgh’s quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is getting old, so the Steelers offense going forward will be basically run by Le’Veon Bell. He has quickly become one of the top running backs in the game and he had a remarkable 1,268 rushing yards this season despite missing 3 games. The Steelers have a great passing game, but it is obvious that the offense revolves around the success of Bell. He seems to want to stay with the Steelers and certainly Pittsburgh wants to keep him around. I think they will probably end up reuniting with a long-term deal this offseason.
Projected landing spot: Pittsburgh Steelers
4. Eric Berry – Safety – Kansas City Chiefs
Eric Berry is a defensive player of the year candidate in 2016 as he has made big plays all season for the Chiefs. There are many teams that would be interested in Berry if he were to test free agency, but ultimately the Chiefs want to keep him. The two sides will likely sign a contract extension soon, although if they don’t then he’ll at least receive the franchise tag to stay with the Chiefs for 2017.
Projected landing spot: Kansas City Chiefs
5. Jamie Collins – Outside Linebacker – Cleveland Browns
Cleveland wanted a playmaker that they can build around on defense which is why they acquired Jamie Collins from the Patriots at the trade deadline. Collins is a great player as he can succeed in coverage and plan the run equally successfully. Collins has said publicly that he wants to get paid a lot of money to remain with the Browns. However, it seems highly likely that the team will give him the franchise tag at least.
Projected landing spot: Cleveland Browns
6. Alshon Jeffery – Wide Receiver – Chicago Bears
It was a down season for Bears wide receiver Alshon Jeffery as he didn’t even reach 1,000 yards receiving in 2016. Also, Jeffery really hurt his market value as he was suspended 4 games late in the season for using PED’s. I don’t think he has much interest in returning to the Bears next season, but the question is how much money he’ll get from another team. The one team to watch for to sign Jeffery in free agency though is the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. They are in desperate need for a number 2 wide receiver to go along with Mike Evans in the passing game. Jeffery certainly would be a good number 2 receiver for the Buccaneers and they have the cap flexibility in order to pay him a big contract.
Projected landing spot: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
7. Dont’a Hightower – Outside Linebacker – New England Patriots
The last time that Dont’a Hightower left the Patriots in free agency it didn’t work out well as he signed with Buffalo and didn’t do much there. I don’t believe that he’ll make the same mistake this time and he’ll just remain with the Patriots. Hightower is a really good run stopper and he is a key part of the Patriots defense. New England probably won’t franchise tag him, although they should be able to reach a long-term deal before March.
Projected landing spot: New England Patriots
8. Melvin Ingram – Outside Linebacker – San Diego Chargers
Melvin Ingram kind of looked like a bust not too long ago as he dealt with tons of injuries, but now he has become an effective pass rusher for the Chargers. Ingram had 8 sacks in 2016 and if San Diego keeps him then they could have a really good pass rush duo along with 2016 1st round pick Joey Bosa. San Diego has the cap space to get a deal done and I’m sure they will since he is one of their only playmakers on defense.
Projected landing spot: San Diego Chargers
9. Kawann Short – Defensive Tackle – Carolina Panthers
Carolina’s defense is built to be successful based on their front 7 and Kawann Short is the key to that success as he is their best defensive lineman. Kawann Short stops the run well and he gets after the quarterback with interior pass rush as he had 6 sacks last season. Carolina will make it a priority to keep Short because their defense will be a lot worse without him. I don’t see him leaving the Panthers as they’ll either franchise tag him or reach a long-term deal.
Projected landing spot: Carolina Panthers
10. Kevin Zeitler – Guard – Cincinnati Bengals
Zeitler has quietly become one of the best players at the guard position in the NFL and it is hard to find quality interior offensive linemen like him these days. Cincinnati has a history of trying to retain their key free agents and draft well in order to be successful. Therefore, I’d be shocked if Cincinnati doesn’t try to bring him back by reaching a long-term contract extension with him.
Projected landing spot: Cincinnati Bengals