Ranking the top 50 NFL players slated to become free agents

Don’t get too excited when you look at this list. Between the ability of teams to re-sign their key players before March 9th and/or designate them with a franchise tag, many of these players will never hit the open market. That, and you’ll see a number of good veteran players released and available between now and then. That said, as of today, here are the 50 best available players scheduled to become available on the open market.

1. Von Miller, LB, Denver Broncos

A game changing player like very few in the league. Along with maybe J. J. Watt and Luke Kuechly, Miller is a top 3 defensive player in the league. The Broncos have no choice but to pay whatever it takes to retain the reigning Super Bowl MVP. Very little scenarios exist where he hits the open market.

2. Josh Norman, CB, Carolina Panthers

The Panthers’ corner exploded onto the scene with a career year at the perfect time. While Kuechly deservedly gets a ton of recognition, you could argue that Norman was more talked about this year based on his ability to shut down top notch receivers. The Panthers will need to pay up to keep him.

3. Malik Jackson, DT, Denver Broncos

Scoring a touchdown in the Super Bowl certainly doesn’t hurt his stock. Jackson is a complete player that pushes the pocket extremely well, provides a lot of pressure, and is stout against the run.

4. Alshon Jeffery, WR, Chicago Bears

One of the more explosive players on the open market. The Bears explored trading him at midseason which suggests potentially that Jeffery wouldn’t be too keen on returning to Chicago.

5. Muhammad Wilkerson, DE, New York Jets

Like Jeffery, Wilkerson was dabbled in the trade market last year in the offseason. He apparently looking for an enormous pay day and why wouldn’t he after the career year he just had? 12 sacks will help him land a major deal but one has to think the Jets will re-consider keeping him based on how productive he was.

6. Eric Berry, S, Kansas City Chiefs

Not only was he an incredible comeback story, but he truly returned to the form he had prior to his cancer diagnosis. It’s hard to envision him playing for anyone but the Chiefs after everything he’s been through, but we’ll see.

7. Cordy Glenn, T, Buffalo Bills

Teams are always desperate for offensive line help and Glenn is entering his prime. As the best available on the market, he will get paid very handsomely.

8. Eric Weddle, S, San Diego Chargers

At 30 he’s maybe not the player he once was, but Weddle is a tackle machine, a team captain and a 3 time Pro Bowler. With a soured relationship in San Diego, there is little to no chance of a return.

9. Janoris Jenkins, CB, Los Angeles Rams

One of the better cover guys in free agency.

10. Danny Trevathan, LB, Denver Broncos

He’ll probably get a nicer offer due to his success unless he wants to return to Denver.

11. Olivier Vernon, DE, Miami Dolphins

A productive end with 29 sacks produced over his first 4 years in the league.

12. Bruce Irvin, LB, Seattle Seahawks

A productive playmaker that’s a skilled coverage linebacker and solid blitzing.

13. Ian Williams, DT, San Francisco 49ers

A run stuffing machine. One of the few positives from a dismal year in San Fran.

14. Jason Pierre-Paul, DE, New York Giants

Probably worth the investment since he’ll potentially come cheaper. The question is, has his hand trauma turned him into an average football player? He’s also had a very hot and cold career.

15. Greg Hardy, DE, Dallas Cowboys

He’s a loose cannon and a huge locker room risk. But he proved in Dallas it’s undeniable he can still rush the passer.

16. Kelechi Osemele, G, Baltimore Ravens

Mauling run blocker – one of the most underrated guys available in free agency.

17. Doug Martin, RB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Stayed healthy and quietly ran for over 1,400 yards. He bounced back to his 2012 form. Clearly a guy that can still carry the load and even premiere backs come pretty cheap these days.

18. Ladarius Green, TE, San Diego Chargers

Enormous potential with the right team. He’ll be looking to get out of Antonio Gates’s shadow.

19. Kirk Cousins, QB, Washington Redskins

Probably the best quarterback on the market and he’s very likely to get franchised by the Redskins if the two sides can’t arrive at a deal before then.

20. Travis Benjamin, WR, Cleveland Browns

Very explosive playmaker and deep threat that turned in a fantastic season despite having no consistency at quarterback to rely on. Paired with the right passer he could explode.

21. Matt Forte, RB, Chicago Bears

He might be 30 but he’s a workhorse that remains as steady as ever. Likely wants out of Chicago.

22. Chris Ivory, RB, New York Jets

Bruising physical runner that just went over 1,000 yards rushing in a season for the first time in his career.

23. Damon Harrison, DT, New York Jets

Perhaps a little one dimensional, but as good of a run stuffer as you’ll find.

24. Russell Okung, T, Seattle Seahawks

It seems like he’s been around forever but he’s still only 28. Someone will pay him a lot.

25. Tashaun Gipson, S, Cleveland Browns

After a monster 2014, he came back down to earth a little bit in 2015. A change of scenery could do him a lot of good.

26. Prince Amukamara, CB, New York Giants

Solid veteran cover guy that has nice size for a corner. Only drawback is his injury history.

27. Haloti Ngata, DT, Detroit Lions

Remains a very good player at 32. Had a solid season with the Lions.

28. Evans Mathis, G, Denver Broncos

At 34 he’s probably best as a short term investment, but he had a fantastic season for the Super Bowl champs.

29. Sam Bradford, QB, Philadelphia Eagles

With Chip Kelly gone, do the Eagles go in a different direction? There’s a decent shot he’ll be starting somewhere else in 2016.

30. Andre Smith, T, Cincinnati Bengals

He may not receive as much initial interest being a right tackle, but he’s a solid veteran player that at 29 should have some juice left.

31. Antonio Gates, TE, San Diego Chargers

Despite a shortened season he was still very productive. At 35, does he come back and if so, will it be in San Diego? Gates could be tempted by a Super Bowl ambitious plan.

32. Brandon Brooks, G, Houston Texans

Like Osemele he’s huge in size. He also moves well for his size, though, and is appealing as a pass blocker.

33. Aldon Smith, LB, Oakland Raiders

He’s still only 26 and shouldn’t cost too much based on his issues. He can apply for re-instatement in mid-September, though he apparently has a strong desire to return to the Raiders.

34. Anquan Boldin, WR, San Francisco 49ers

He’s still physical and producing, even at 35. On the right team he could make an impact.

35. Mitchell Schwartz, T, Cleveland Browns

Excellent blocker that learned from the best in Joe Thomas.

36. Lamar Miller, RB Miami Dolphins

He’s averaged just north of 890 yards rushing per season over the last three years. He’s a steady player and solid as the leader in a platoon system. He can catch, too, and teams will like his career 4.6 yard per carry average.

37. Terrance Knighton, DT, Washington Redskins

After a great season with the Broncos in 2014, Knighton signed a one year deal with the Redskins and once again showed he’s a very good run defender. He’ll be looking for a more long term commitment this time around.

38. Brock Osweiler, QB, Denver Broncos

It will be interesting to see what his value is on the open market. Will the Broncos pay him to be the starter given Peyton Manning impending retirement? It’s hard to imagine the Broncos letting him slip away, but they likely won’t franchise tag him, either.

39. Coby Fleener, TE, Indianapolis Colts

Andrew Luck will likely want him back and that might be all it takes.

40. Nick Fairley, DT, Los Angeles Rams

He’s still a good player but he’s not living up to the hype of his draft status. A fairly quiet year in St. Louis means he’ll likely command less on the open market.

41. Sean Smith, CB, Kansas City Chiefs

Very good cover guy with massive size at 6’3″. The Chiefs will want to keep him. His skills will be coveted.

42. Jaye Howard, DT, Kansas City Chiefs

Solid interior run stuffer.

43. Mohamed Sanu, WR, Cincinnati Bengals

Productive role playing receiver that will look for more opportunity than he saw in Cincinnati behind A. J. Green on a run first team.

44. Casey Hayward, CB, Green Bay Packers

Teams don’t throw his way nearly as much anymore after his monster rookie season a few years ago. A proven solid cover guy.

45. Akiem Hicks, DE, New England Patriots

After looking like a rising star with the Saints, he completely fizzled out last year and was traded to the Patriots. Seemingly re-energized overnight by the move, he was back to dominating. He’s a streaky player that’s scary when he’s on.

46. Jahri Evans, G, New Orleans Saints

The 6 time Pro Bowler and 4 time All Pro was just released. He’ll be 33 in August and he’s been through the ringer playing through injuries the last few seasons. He’s not the player he once was, but if he can get healthy he’s still starter quality.

47. Tamba Hali, OLB, Kansas City Chiefs

Also not the player he once was at 32, but he’s coming off a productive season none the less.

48. George Iloka, S, Cincinnati Bengals

Solid player that’s good in coverage.

49. Junior Galette, DE/OLB, Washington Redskins

Coming off an Achilles injury and a troubled off the field recent history that got him shipped out of New Orleans despite a contract prohibitive situation. When he’s on the field, though, he’s a proven double digit sack guy.

50. Derrick Johnson, LB, Kansas City Chiefs

Player very well this year but he’s 33 and has had injuries. No question when healthy he’s been a star.



About Andrew Juge

I write about football.