Player movement in the NFL is about to reach a frenzy with free agency kicking off this week.
The legal tampering period begins Monday, March 11, when teams are allowed to contact and open contract negotiations with players whose contracts are coming to an end.
Teams can’t officially sign players, however, until Wednesday, March 14, when the new league year gets under way at 16:00 ET (01:00 +1 UAE).
For players who will be restricted free agents, the deadline to sign offer sheets is April 20.
Though this year’s free agency class isn’t stacked with top-level talent, there are a number of high-impact players available, including two of the better quarterbacks in the league and plenty of cornerbacks.
Here’s our list of the top 10 free agents who will hit the market.
1. Drew Brees
Chances the Saints star quarterback leaves New Orleans are slim, but teams around the league can dream. If he were to show a willingness to move, Brees could turn a number of fringe teams into Super Bowl contenders. Even at the age of 39, he’s shown little signs of slowing down and is coming off a season in which he posted a passer rating of 103.9 and led the Saints to an 11-5 record.
2. Kirk Cousins
Whereas Brees would be more of a mercenary if he switched cities, Cousins has the chance to be a franchise cornerstone for years to come. It’s not often a 29-year-old quarterback in his prime becomes available on the open market, but that’s the case with Cousins, who is in line for a hefty payday.
3. Andrew Norwell
With Carolina unlikely to re-sign him, the offensive guard is set to break the bank in free agency. The 26-year-old has been a vital cog in the Panthers’ running game over the years and last season didn’t surrender a single sack or quarterback hit, according to Pro Football Focus, earning him first-team All-Pro honours.
The athletic wide receiver will be an interesting case in free agency after playing only game last year before tearing his ACL. But he’s only 24 and just two seasons ago lit the world on fire with 1,400 receiving yards and 14 touchdowns. Even if it’s not a gamble Jacksonville want to take, some team will be more than happy to dive in.
With the Rams adding Marcus Peters and Aqib Talib in the offseason, Johnson’s days in Los Angeles are all but numbered. After playing on a franchise tag the past two years, the cornerback will finally have the chance to lock down a long-term deal, though his annual salary won’t be nearly the same.
6. Nate Solder
Solder’s not the same player he was earlier in his career, but he’s easily the top left tackle available and someone who will get paid. Last season, the 30-year-old veteran struggled initially, but found his footing as the year went on and was eventually rock solid in keeping Tom Brady clean en route to reaching the Super Bowl.
7. Kyle Fuller
Fuller could technically sign with any team, but Chicago will have the option to match whatever offer he inks because they’ve placed the transition tag on the young cornerback. That could potentially scare suitors away, but as a player who continues to get better, he would be a major steal.
8. Case Keenum
Keenum made himself a lot of money this past season by taking the leap from journeyman quarterback to someone who can lead a team to the NFC Championship Game. Minnesota may prefer to keep him and try to rekindle the magic, but he’s going to draw interest from other teams in need of a quarterback.
9. Dion Lewis
Even though he’s not the typical feature back, Lewis’ value lies in his versatility and ability to play all three downs. It may feel like he’s been around for a while, but he’s only 27 and doesn’t have the same wear and tear on his tyres that many others at his position do. Run, catch, block – Lewis can do it all.
10. Sheldon Richardson
The Seahawks’ defence is breaking up and Richardson appears to also be departing after he wasn’t slapped with a franchise tag. When he’s at his best, the 27-year-old defensive tackle can both clog up the running game and provide interior pressure. But it’s been some time now since he’s been at the top of his game.
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