Top 10 NFL free agents in 2018: Which players will spark spending sprees?
With the deadline for NFL teams to apply the franchise tag passing on Tuesday, free agency is coming into focus.
Ahead of the window for players to sign with new teams opening on March 14, here is a rundown of the top 10 players currently set to be available on the market:
1. Kirk Cousins, QB, Redskins
The clear crown jewel of the class, Cousins would instantly boost any of his potential suitors – likely landing spots include the Broncos, Vikings, Jets and Cardinals. But landing the 30-year-old will be costly. His annual average salary is a virtual lock to break 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo’s record of $27.5 million.
2. Drew Brees, QB, Saints
Brees' presence on this list might be merely procedural, as he was restricted from being given the franchise tag and has given no indication he would look outside of New Orleans, especially after an NFC South title. Even at 39, he would be among the most in-demand players if he took a genuine look at the open market.
3. Allen Robinson, WR, Jaguars
He’s coming off of an anterior cruciate ligament tear, but Robinson is just 24 years old, and has both the frame (6-3, 211 pounds) and skill set to reclaim his spot as one of the top young wideouts in the league.
4. Andrew Norwell, G, Panthers
It takes a rare player to command big money as a guard, but Norwell helped stabilize the offensive line for the Panthers and helped power Carolina's bruising run game over the past several seasons. Using the contract Browns guard Kevin Zeitler signed last season (five years, $60 million) as a guide, Norwell could fetch a massive payday on the open market.
5. Trumaine Johnson, CB, Rams
Posting a solid but unspectacular season under the franchise tag last season with the Rams, Johnson still could be set to cash in on a massive deal. Supply in the cornerback market doesn't meet the outsized demand, so one team in need – think 49ers, Jets, Browns, Buccaneers or Even the Rams – likely will feel compelled to open up its wallet to lock Johnson in.
6. Sheldon Richardson, DT, Seahawks
He still hasn’t replicated the pass-rushing production of his most effective seasons with the Jets in 2014 and 2015 and has had off-field issues that may scare away some teams. But if Richardson can focus on his game, his versatility could tempt defensive coordinators looking for a player who stops the run and can pressure the quarterback well.
7. Sammy Watkins, WR, Rams
Watkins – like Robinson – is only 24 years old and has shown big-play potential, scoring eight touchdowns on 39 catches in one season in Los Angeles. The dynamic receiver is still learning the NFL game, but he may land on his third team in five seasons. The No. 4 overall pick in the 2014 draft is still looking for a sense of consistency after showing some promising flashes throughout his career.
8. Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Vikings
The big question with Minnesota's former starter centers on his health. But prior to his suffering a devastating knee injury in August of 2016, he looked every bit the franchise quarterback the Vikings had needed. He’ll likely need some more time to get back to game shape, but Bridgewater may be available at a significant discount relative to most starting-caliber options.
9. Jimmy Graham, TE, Seahawks
This might be too high for a 31-year-old tight end. But even though he posted his least productive season for receiving yards (520) since his rookie season, Graham is still a force in the red zone with 10 touchdowns on just 95 targets last year. Graham may need fewer snaps, but can still be a difference maker on the right team.
10. Case Keenum, QB, Vikings
Keenum excelled in 2017, helping lead the Vikings to an NFC Championship Game appearance in a breakout season. If Minnesota doesn't land Cousins, Keenum could return there, though he likely will spark considerable interest from other teams looking for a veteran to slide in as a starter.
Follow Lorenzo Reyes on Twitter @LorenzoGReyes.