NFL stars expected to make a splash in the free agency market

Kirk Cousins ​​​​will be a free agent for the first time since the Vikings gave him the first fully guaranteed quarterback contract in the NFL. Baker Mayfield is expected to stay in Tampa Bay. Russell Wilson must take another step. Joe Flacco might also find a new home.

The quarterback carousel will begin spinning when the NFL free agency period opens Monday with the legal tampering period. Players cannot officially sign new contracts until the new league year opens on Wednesday.

Although quarterbacks get a lot of attention, many of the best players available play other positions.


All-Pro defensive tackle Chris Jones tops a list that includes fellow defensive tackle Christian Wilkins, Edge Rushers Danielle Hunter, Chase Young and Jonathan Greenard, safeties Justin Simmons and Xavier McKinney, cornerbacks Xavien Howard and Tre 'Davious White, linebackers Patrick Queen and Lavonte. David and many others.

Saquon Barkley free agent

New York Giants running back Saquon Barkley plays against the Philadelphia Eagles in an NFL football game on Christmas Day in 2023. The star running back is getting closer to free agency when the New York Giants chose not to franchise the offensive weapon. (AP Photo/Rich Schultz)

There are also a lot of talented guys on the offensive end, including running backs Saquon Barkley, Derrick Henry, Josh Jacobs and D'Andre Swift, offensive tackles Tyron Smith, Jonah Williams and Trent Brown, receivers Calvin Ridley, Marquise Brown and Odell Beckham Jr., and more.

Eight players received the non-exclusive franchise tag, including wide receivers Tee Higgins and Michael Pittman, edge rusher Josh Allen and All-Pro safety Antoine Winfield. They can still test the open market, but teams would have to give up two first-round picks to sign them.

Jones will have an opportunity to earn some money after helping Kansas City win its third Super Bowl in five years. The Chiefs tagged cornerback L'Jarius Sneed instead of putting him on Jones for the second straight season.

Jones' price tag will likely surpass the three-year, $95 million contract that eight-time All-Pro DT Aaron Donald got from the Los Angeles Rams in 2022.

The Chiefs have already made it clear that signing Jones is a top priority. They can get Sneed back for at least a year for $19.8 million, offer him a long-term deal, or trade him.


Half of NFL teams have a salary cap over $30 million, making it a friendly market to some extent.

There is a lot of interest in how the running backs will fare.

Barkley, Jacobs and Tony Pollard received franchise tags last season, but no team was willing to commit $11.9 million to their running back. Austin Ekeler completes the top six.

The Giants appear ready to move on from Barkley, who is expected to draw interest from numerous teams, including two NFC East rivals in New York. The Eagles will of course be looking for a well-priced running back if they don't retain Swift, who is coming off his first 1,000-yard season. Barkley would be an upgrade for the Cowboys over Pollard.

Henry is 30 years old, but he has rushed for 1,167 yards and scored 12 touchdowns in 2023 and has had five 1,000-yard seasons in the last six years. He would be a better fit for a Super Bowl contender than Tennessee.

NFL teams have undervalued the running back position to the point where they have the lowest franchise number among talented players. Wide receivers now cost almost $10 million more, at $21.8 million.

“I think at the end of the day, talented players end up getting paid,” Eagles general manager Howie Roseman said. “So I think everyone will have value on players, just like any other position. Obviously, those guys handle the ball a lot and they're important players.”

Nobody gets paid like the quarterbacks, whose franchise tag is $38.3 million.

Cousins, a four-time Pro Bowl selection, is coming off a torn Achilles tendon that ended his season in October.

Minnesota wants him back and he'd rather stay there, but it's possible another team in need of a QB like Atlanta steals him.

Mayfield restarted his career with the Buccaneers, had his best all-around season and led the team to the second round of the playoffs. Now he's ready to cash in. Tampa Bay has already re-signed wide receiver Mike Evans and scored Winfield. They plan to keep Mayfield, who loves playing in town.


“Well, it didn't take me long to realize what a great guy he was and what a great teammate he was,” Buccaneers general manager Jason Licht said of Mayfield. “As the season progressed, how important it was for him to set an example of what we're trying to be as a team, and that's a tough team, one that endures adversity, but also sets the physical tone. Typically, it's not a good recipe to let your quarterback try to run over the linebackers and set the tone, but he's willing to do whatever it takes to win. So it's an altruistic nature on his part.

Wilson has already been informed that the Broncos will release him after two seasons in Denver. The Falcons, Steelers and Raiders are his most likely landing spots. If the Vikings lose Cousins, they will have to think about Wilson. The Patriots could view him as a stopgap if they don't take a QB with the No. 3 overall pick in the draft or prefer to let a rookie QB start the season on the sideline.

Justin Fields is another big-name quarterback expected to change teams, although Chicago is expected to trade him. The Bears have the No. 1 pick and it would be a shock if they don't take Caleb Williams.

More quality players could become available over the weekend as teams continue to manage their salary cap.

The frenzy begins Monday. Just a month after the Chiefs beat the 49ers in the Super Bowl, the NFL is poised to make headlines again.


Leave a Comment