For the last few weeks, I’ve been doing write-ups on the free agents for every NFL team. I finally concluded that series on Tuesday, just as the tampering period opened up with teams officially being able to sign players on Thursday. There will be a lot of rumors in that time, so to freshen up on these players and teams, I wanted to put all of my previews into one place.
Some things about free agency that I think:
- You don’t build a championship team through free agency. The New York Giants almost proved me wrong a year ago but by not winning in 2016, how big is their window now that they’ve locked in some players to huge contracts? One or two more years? They have $14 million in cap space and are paying Jason Pierre-Paul almost $17 million on the franchise tag. You add one or two key players through free agency but you build a championship team through the draft. The 2013 Seattle Seahawks built a championship team through the draft, but “middle tier” free agents Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril put them over the top. They made the splash move with Percy Harvin that year and it didn’t even pan out. The Seahawks don’t rely on their scouting in the first round to get better, they rely on what they do on day three and in undrafted free agency. The same goes for free agency — they’re not worried about Kevin Zeitler, like you are, they’re more concerned with the players who aren’t being valued highly enough. They’re looking for the best value possible. That’s why they’re being linked to Brian Schwenke, not Zeitler or Ronald Leary. Those guys will be overpaid. Worst case scenario for Schwenke is that he’s overpaid by like $1 million for one year.
- This free agent class is pretty good but in general, like most free agent classes, it lacks the marquee names you wish you’d be seeing available. Teams don’t like to let great players become free agents and thanks to the franchise tag, rising salary cap, and ability to extend contracts before they ever hit free agency, they don’t have to. That’s why Alshon Jeffery, a very good receiver, is considered the best player available. He’s a very good receiver. He’s not Julio Jones. And he’s the best player available.
My top 10(ish?):
Alshon Jeffery, WR, Bears
A.J. Bouye, CB, Texans
Andrew Whitworth, LT, Bengals
Calais Campbell, DL, Cardinals
Brandon Williams, DT, Ravens
Dont’a Hightower, LB, Patriots
Terrelle Pryor, WR, Browns
Kevin Zeitler, G, Bengals
Zach Brown, LB Bills
Nick Fairley, DT, Saints
I don’t think that Fairley is actually the 10th-best free agent available, but I really like him, and who cares if a ranking is slightly not to your liking? They’re all subjective and Fairley was excellent last season. Also, like I said, the players you may put ahead of him — Stephon Gilmore, Dontari Poe, Adrian Peterson, Tony Jefferson, Nick Perry — or whatever, aren’t that great.
- The biggest name that I could Seattle being linked to is Pryor. More likely than not, they don’t sign any big names whatsoever. They’ve been linked to Terrell McClain and Kamar Aiken, in addition to Schwenke. They’ll get better on the offensive line through free agency because the draft class for OL is terrible. They’ll get better on defensive line and cornerback through the draft because those classes are amazing. Same for running backs and tight ends.
And here are all 32 write-ups. Let me know if I have any updates to make, though I updated all of these within the last half-day before posting this.