NFL Free Agency 2018: Predicting Landing Spots For The Top Players – Forbes


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With NFL free agency mere days away, we’re already starting to hear rumors about where players might land. Heading the class is quarterback Kirk Cousins, seen as a franchise-type signal caller. He’s joined by fellow stars Andrew Norwell and Allen Robinson in forming a pretty solid group.

(Photos by Bill Kostroun/Associated Press, Mike McCarn/Associated Press and David Goldman/Associated Press; Illustration by Brett Knight/Forbes)

Here’s a look at the top free agents heading into the start of the new league year Wednesday, with a prediction&nbsp;for&nbsp;where each player will land.

Kirk Cousins, Quarterback, Washington Redskins&nbsp;

The writing has been on the wall for some time here. Two teams expected to chase after Cousins, the New York Jets and the&nbsp;Denver Broncos, fully expect him to sign with Minnesota. It’s what we’ve been hearing all along. Where there’s smoke, there’s almost always fire. Cousins will be a member of the Minnesota Vikings once this week draws to a conclusion.

Andrew Norwell, Guard, Carolina Panthers&nbsp;

If the Giants are indeed willing to offer Norwell starting tackle money, it seems to be a foregone conclusion that’s where he’s going to land. And while&nbsp;I expect San Francisco to make a play for him,&nbsp;are GM John Lynch and Co. willing to get into a bidding war for Norwell?&nbsp;I’m not entirely sure. Instead, the New York Giants upgrade their offensive line in a huge way here.

Allen Robinson, Wide Receiver, Jacksonville Jaguars&nbsp;

The top free-agent receiver to hit the market in some time, Robinson will be a highly sought-after figure when the new league year starts.&nbsp;I still can’t move beyond the idea of teaming him up with Jimmy Garoppolo. It seems to be a match made in heaven for both sides, and the team is surely interested in a union. With a ton of cap room, the San Francisco 49ers add this big-time threat.

Trumaine Johnson, Cornerback, Los Angeles Rams

The addition of Richard Sherman to free agency changed a lot as it relates to this quality starting cornerback. San Francisco had previously been seen as the favorite to land him. Now&nbsp;that Sherman has landed there, I’m not too sure. I could easily see Johnson, a Northern California native, returning to his roots with the Oakland Raiders. After all, they boasted one of the worst secondaries in football last season.

Look for Case Keenum to land with the Broncos. (Photo by Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Case Keenum, Quarterback, Minnesota Vikings&nbsp;

If the Broncos do miss out on Cousins, Keenum appears to be the team’s No. 2 option. The idea will be to hand over the starting job to him while selecting a potential heir-apparent in the first round of April’s draft. Look for Keenum to land with the Denver Broncos.

Dontari Poe, Defensive Tackle, Atlanta Falcons

Poe’s one-year stint in Atlanta appears to be coming to an end,&nbsp;but he did himself&nbsp;a major favor by putting up one of the best performances of his career. A true grinder along the interior of the defensive line, Poe will be a highly sought-after free agent. With one of their weakest links on defense coming against the run,&nbsp;I expect the New Orleans Saints to steal Poe from their division rivals.

Nate Solder, Offenive Tackle, New England Patriots

Unless Solder takes considerably less, he’s not going to re-sign with the Patriots. The veteran is slated to find a huge market in free agency and will likely demand north of $12 million annually. Following the trade of Duane Brown to Seattle,&nbsp;I’m looking at the Houston Texans as a likely landing spot. It would give young quarterback Deshaun Watson that franchise blindside protector he most definitely needs.

Sheldon Richardson, Defensive Line, Seattle Seahawks

Once Seattle decided against franchising Richardson, it became apparent that he was going to move on in free agency. And there’s going to be a vast market for this former Pro Bowler. Looking to completely remake their roster following a winless 2017 camaign, the Cleveland Browns have already been active this offseason. Expect that to continue with the team handing Richardson a massive contract.

Malcolm Butler, Cornerback, New England Patriots

Butler enters free agency at potentially the worst possible time. He’s coming off a disastrous 2017 campaign that saw him yield a passer rating north of 100. With Trumaine Johnson looking more appealing,&nbsp;I expect Butler to take a one-year, prove-it deal. This is the Green Bay Packers‘ specialty — something that will continue with the signing of Butler this offseason.

Muhammad Wilkerson, Defenisve Line, New York Jets

It’s definitely a bull market for Wilkerson’s services: He has already taken visits with Green Bay, New Orleans and Kansas City after being released by New York. He can line up in pretty much every defensive scheme, which makes the interest in him understandable. New Green Bay Packers general manager&nbsp;Brian Gutekunst has said the team will be more active in free agency under his watch. That will continue with the addition of Wilkerson.

Sammy Watkins, Wide Receiver, Los Angeles Rams&nbsp;

As mentioned in&nbsp;my blurb about Watkins, he didn’t live up to expectations with Jared Goff and Co. last season. But he’s still young and boasts a tremendous amount of upside. Receiver-needy teams will take that into account. Look for the Tennessee Titans to make a major play for him to team up with youngster Corey Davis. It seems to be the logical fit.

Dion Lewis&nbsp;could find a home with the San Francisco 49ers. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

Dion Lewis, Running Back, New England Patriots&nbsp;

Based on the success we saw Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman have with Kyle Shanahan in Atlanta, Lewis seems to be a natural&nbsp;target for the young 49ers head coach. Add in his familiarity with Garoppolo, and the match makes even more sense. The San Francisco 49ers will land another skill-position player in Lewis in free agency.

Josh&nbsp;Sitton, Guard, Chicago Bears

As good of a guard&nbsp;as there’s been in the NFL for nearly the past decade, Sitton remains vastly underrated. He excelled in two different blocking schemes with the Packers and the Bears. That will make the veteran a coveted option in free agency. I’m looking for the Seattle Seahawks, always in need of an upgrade along their offensive line, to make a huge splash by signing Sitton.

Jimmy Graham, Tight End, Seattle Seahawks

It’s looking more and more like Graham’s career in the Pacific Northwest will come to a conclusion. It makes sense. Despite earning two Pro Bowl appearances during his time in Seattle, Graham really never seemed like a fit. I’m going to go with the obvious choice and&nbsp;say that Graham reunites with Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints. Obviously, his best season as a pro came in the Bayou, so this makes perfect sense.

Aaron Colvin, Cornerback, Jacksonville Jaguars

Lost in the shuffle with Pro Bowlers A.J. Bouye and Jalen Ramsey ahead of him on the Jaguars’ depth chart, Colvin quietly turned in a good 2017 campaign. And it’s going to lead to a surprisingly hefty payday. Even after they acquired Damarious Randall from the Green Bay Packers for DeShone Kizer,&nbsp;I’m going to say the Cleveland Browns double down on this position by adding a high-upside 26-year-old corner in Colvin.

Sam Bradford, Quarterback, Minnesota Vikings

Bradford takes a back seat to Kirk Cousins and Case Keenum in free agency primarily because of a degenerative knee issue that cost him all but two games last season. With that said, Bradford has more than proven himself to be a starter-caliber quarterback when healthy. Look for the Arizona Cardinals, linked to Cousins,&nbsp;to turn to Bradford as a secondary option on a short-term deal while the team selects a quarterback in April.

Kenny Vaccaro, Safety, New Orleans Saints

Coming off a torn groin muscle, Vaccaro’s five seasons with the Saints were nothing to write home about. He’s not a true cover safety and is coming off a serious injury. Despite this, Vaccaro is still seen as a high-upside player. That will lead to some serious interest in free agency.&nbsp;I’m going to predict that he lands with&nbsp;the&nbsp;Dallas Cowboys.

A.J. McCarron, Quarterback, Cincinnati Bengals

With all of three career starts under his belt, McCarron is likely to receive a long-term deal nearing $20 million per season. Such is the nature of the beast in an NFL where quarterbacks are valued at a much higher clip than other positions. With multiple teams looking for starters, he’s going to draw a ton of interest. I’m expecting the&nbsp;New York Jets&nbsp;to sign&nbsp;McCarron instead of using their top-10 pick on a quarterback.

NaVorro Bowman, Linebacker, Oakland Raiders

Bowman performed pretty well with the Raiders after being released by his original 49ers team last season, recording 89 tackles in 10 games. He’s only known the Bay Area in his Hall of Fame-worthy career. And while Bowman is nowhere near the same player he used to be, look for the&nbsp;Oakland Raiders to retain the key cog.

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With NFL free agency mere days away, we’re already starting to hear rumors about where players might land. Heading the class is quarterback Kirk Cousins, seen as a franchise-type signal caller. He’s joined by fellow stars Andrew Norwell and Allen Robinson in forming a pretty solid group.

(Photos by Bill Kostroun/Associated Press, Mike McCarn/Associated Press and David Goldman/Associated Press; Illustration by Brett Knight/Forbes)

Here’s a look at the top free agents heading into the start of the new league year Wednesday, with a prediction for where each player will land.

Kirk Cousins, Quarterback, Washington Redskins 

The writing has been on the wall for some time here. Two teams expected to chase after Cousins, the New York Jets and the Denver Broncos, fully expect him to sign with Minnesota. It’s what we’ve been hearing all along. Where there’s smoke, there’s almost always fire. Cousins will be a member of the Minnesota Vikings once this week draws to a conclusion.

Andrew Norwell, Guard, Carolina Panthers 

If the Giants are indeed willing to offer Norwell starting tackle money, it seems to be a foregone conclusion that’s where he’s going to land. And while I expect San Francisco to make a play for him, are GM John Lynch and Co. willing to get into a bidding war for Norwell? I’m not entirely sure. Instead, the New York Giants upgrade their offensive line in a huge way here.

Allen Robinson, Wide Receiver, Jacksonville Jaguars 

The top free-agent receiver to hit the market in some time, Robinson will be a highly sought-after figure when the new league year starts. I still can’t move beyond the idea of teaming him up with Jimmy Garoppolo. It seems to be a match made in heaven for both sides, and the team is surely interested in a union. With a ton of cap room, the San Francisco 49ers add this big-time threat.

Trumaine Johnson, Cornerback, Los Angeles Rams

The addition of Richard Sherman to free agency changed a lot as it relates to this quality starting cornerback. San Francisco had previously been seen as the favorite to land him. Now that Sherman has landed there, I’m not too sure. I could easily see Johnson, a Northern California native, returning to his roots with the Oakland Raiders. After all, they boasted one of the worst secondaries in football last season.

Look for Case Keenum to land with the Broncos. (Photo by Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Case Keenum, Quarterback, Minnesota Vikings 

If the Broncos do miss out on Cousins, Keenum appears to be the team’s No. 2 option. The idea will be to hand over the starting job to him while selecting a potential heir-apparent in the first round of April’s draft. Look for Keenum to land with the Denver Broncos.

Dontari Poe, Defensive Tackle, Atlanta Falcons

Poe’s one-year stint in Atlanta appears to be coming to an end, but he did himself a major favor by putting up one of the best performances of his career. A true grinder along the interior of the defensive line, Poe will be a highly sought-after free agent. With one of their weakest links on defense coming against the run, I expect the New Orleans Saints to steal Poe from their division rivals.

Nate Solder, Offenive Tackle, New England Patriots

Unless Solder takes considerably less, he’s not going to re-sign with the Patriots. The veteran is slated to find a huge market in free agency and will likely demand north of $12 million annually. Following the trade of Duane Brown to Seattle, I’m looking at the Houston Texans as a likely landing spot. It would give young quarterback Deshaun Watson that franchise blindside protector he most definitely needs.

Sheldon Richardson, Defensive Line, Seattle Seahawks

Once Seattle decided against franchising Richardson, it became apparent that he was going to move on in free agency. And there’s going to be a vast market for this former Pro Bowler. Looking to completely remake their roster following a winless 2017 camaign, the Cleveland Browns have already been active this offseason. Expect that to continue with the team handing Richardson a massive contract.

Malcolm Butler, Cornerback, New England Patriots

Butler enters free agency at potentially the worst possible time. He’s coming off a disastrous 2017 campaign that saw him yield a passer rating north of 100. With Trumaine Johnson looking more appealing, I expect Butler to take a one-year, prove-it deal. This is the Green Bay Packers‘ specialty — something that will continue with the signing of Butler this offseason.

Muhammad Wilkerson, Defenisve Line, New York Jets

It’s definitely a bull market for Wilkerson’s services: He has already taken visits with Green Bay, New Orleans and Kansas City after being released by New York. He can line up in pretty much every defensive scheme, which makes the interest in him understandable. New Green Bay Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst has said the team will be more active in free agency under his watch. That will continue with the addition of Wilkerson.

Sammy Watkins, Wide Receiver, Los Angeles Rams 

As mentioned in my blurb about Watkins, he didn’t live up to expectations with Jared Goff and Co. last season. But he’s still young and boasts a tremendous amount of upside. Receiver-needy teams will take that into account. Look for the Tennessee Titans to make a major play for him to team up with youngster Corey Davis. It seems to be the logical fit.

Dion Lewis could find a home with the San Francisco 49ers. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

Dion Lewis, Running Back, New England Patriots 

Based on the success we saw Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman have with Kyle Shanahan in Atlanta, Lewis seems to be a natural target for the young 49ers head coach. Add in his familiarity with Garoppolo, and the match makes even more sense. The San Francisco 49ers will land another skill-position player in Lewis in free agency.

Josh Sitton, Guard, Chicago Bears

As good of a guard as there’s been in the NFL for nearly the past decade, Sitton remains vastly underrated. He excelled in two different blocking schemes with the Packers and the Bears. That will make the veteran a coveted option in free agency. I’m looking for the Seattle Seahawks, always in need of an upgrade along their offensive line, to make a huge splash by signing Sitton.

Jimmy Graham, Tight End, Seattle Seahawks

It’s looking more and more like Graham’s career in the Pacific Northwest will come to a conclusion. It makes sense. Despite earning two Pro Bowl appearances during his time in Seattle, Graham really never seemed like a fit. I’m going to go with the obvious choice and say that Graham reunites with Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints. Obviously, his best season as a pro came in the Bayou, so this makes perfect sense.

Aaron Colvin, Cornerback, Jacksonville Jaguars

Lost in the shuffle with Pro Bowlers A.J. Bouye and Jalen Ramsey ahead of him on the Jaguars’ depth chart, Colvin quietly turned in a good 2017 campaign. And it’s going to lead to a surprisingly hefty payday. Even after they acquired Damarious Randall from the Green Bay Packers for DeShone Kizer, I’m going to say the Cleveland Browns double down on this position by adding a high-upside 26-year-old corner in Colvin.

Sam Bradford, Quarterback, Minnesota Vikings

Bradford takes a back seat to Kirk Cousins and Case Keenum in free agency primarily because of a degenerative knee issue that cost him all but two games last season. With that said, Bradford has more than proven himself to be a starter-caliber quarterback when healthy. Look for the Arizona Cardinals, linked to Cousins, to turn to Bradford as a secondary option on a short-term deal while the team selects a quarterback in April.

Kenny Vaccaro, Safety, New Orleans Saints

Coming off a torn groin muscle, Vaccaro’s five seasons with the Saints were nothing to write home about. He’s not a true cover safety and is coming off a serious injury. Despite this, Vaccaro is still seen as a high-upside player. That will lead to some serious interest in free agency. I’m going to predict that he lands with the Dallas Cowboys.

A.J. McCarron, Quarterback, Cincinnati Bengals

With all of three career starts under his belt, McCarron is likely to receive a long-term deal nearing $20 million per season. Such is the nature of the beast in an NFL where quarterbacks are valued at a much higher clip than other positions. With multiple teams looking for starters, he’s going to draw a ton of interest. I’m expecting the New York Jets to sign McCarron instead of using their top-10 pick on a quarterback.

NaVorro Bowman, Linebacker, Oakland Raiders

Bowman performed pretty well with the Raiders after being released by his original 49ers team last season, recording 89 tackles in 10 games. He’s only known the Bay Area in his Hall of Fame-worthy career. And while Bowman is nowhere near the same player he used to be, look for the Oakland Raiders to retain the key cog.

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