Oh boys… It’s nearly opon us: The 2016 NFL free agency is only a couple of days away. And that means a lot of players are going to look for a new team. Some of these free agents will be more sought after than others, some might not even find a new team or won’t make the money they hoped for.
On the other hand, some will make more money than they are worth, while some people will outperform their contracts. You just never know.
This is why I’ll made this list with the best options free agents should take (Note: I probably won’t be able to list EVERY free agent, Ain’t nobody got time fo dat!, but I won’t just focus on the big names):
4-3 DE/3-4OLB Mario Williams, 31
Let’s start off with this big, red-eyed sack artist. Mario Williams comes off his worst season as a pro with only 5sacks and 19 tackles in’16. The previous season he accumulated 14.5 sacks and 42 tackles and has reached double-digit sacks 5 times in his career. He plays at his best when he is unleashed at the QB, but he can also drop into coverage if needed. But with his size (6’6, 292lb) it makes the most sense to play him as a 4-3DE and not as the 3-4OLB, which Rex Ryan did. He’s incredly disruptive as a pass-rusher and can definitely boost a pass -rush in need.
But he also comes with major question marks: His age (31) might scare off a few teams and might prevent him from making serious cash, but the bigger problem with Super Mario seems to be his attitude: While obviously being a bad fit in Rex Ryan’s scheme (he was dropped into coverage most of the time), Williams responded by openly critizing his coach for not letting him rush the passer and it is believed that he took his foot off the gas for the rest of the season.
Deserting when things go south is definitely not a quality you want in your star player. So this will definitely be an interesting thing to keep your eyes once free agency gets going.
So, where should he sign? Since he’s best used in a 4-3 front, he could either sign with the Atlanta Falcons, who could use someone other than Vic Beasley to generate pressure, also the Oakland Raiders could be intriguing: A combo of Mario Williams and Khalil Mack (plus Aldon Smith if he ever returns from his suspension) would bring fear into the eyes of pretty much every offensive lineman in the AFC.
The Jacksonville Jaguars might also in the hunt for the premium pass-rusher. They have around $80 million in cap space and just released DE Chris Clemmons, which leaves them with a hole at DE. He could also form a nice pass-rush duo with the returning Dante Fowler jr. and help a Jaguars team on the rise.
Other teams that he could end with are the Philadelphia Eagles, who are now switching to a 4-3 under new DC Jim Schwartz, who was Williams’ DC in Buffalo in ’14 and the LA Rams.
Though those options are very unlikely, mainly because the Eagles are currently busy resigning their own talent (Fletcher Cox is gonna get paid and they gave Sam frickin’ Bradford $36 million), so the necessary cap space for Super Mario might not be there.
And the Rams, well, I only bring them up because no one has told Jeff Fischer yet that football teams are more than a good running back and a ferocious line, so the Rams might look to add Williams to their line to replace the released Chris Long.
QB Brock Osweiler, 25
The question with Brock Osweiler isn’t necessarily where he should sign (IMO Denver is not only his best option, but probably the only one which wouldn’t hurt his career), but for how much:
Osweiler, entering his 5th season (4 1/2 of them on the bench), learned from arguably the smartest QB of all time and has 7 games under his belt.
He threw for 1,967 yards, averaging 7.2 yards per attempt, 10TDs, 6 INTs, but was also sacked 23 times. Statistically, not bad for his first games as a starter. It becomes even more impressive if you consider that he won against the Patriots in Overtime and went 5-2 as a starter.
But how much of this success was because of him and how much did the Broncos monster defense help?
Fact is that while Osweiler played well early on in those games, but once teams seemed to adjust to his game, his production dropped. He showed some rookie mistakes, held on to the ball for too long (which resulted in many unneccessary sacks) and seemed to have trouble going through his reads.
That’s all nothing surprising, given that it was his first season as a starter and he should definitely improve moving forward.
In a perfect world, Osweiler would sign a deal worth $8-10million anually, since he hasn’t accomplished much to command big money, but this is a QB starved league and even a semi-decent QB will demand huge money because teams will give them all they want.
Osweiler reportedly seeks $16-18 million per year, which is absolutely ridicolous, but that’s how the game works for QBs. And he will definitely get those, if not from the Broncos, the Texans or any other QB-less team will definitely pay him. Probably by ridicously overpaying him.
Leaving Denver would probably be the most lucrative deal for Osweiler, but for the sake of his career, he should try to stay in Denver at all costs.
In Denver, he has the best defense league to take pressure off his back, Demaryius Thomas, Emmanuel Sanders, Cody Latimer and Owen Daniels (we’re only counting Playoff Owen Daniels here, regular season Owen Daniels would be on the street by now…) to throw to and a running game that showed glimpses of decency last season. oh, and HC Gary Kubiak’s bootleg centered scheme is a good fit for his skill set.
If he leaves to, say, the Texans, he’ll still have a good Defense, but questions at the RB position (Foster was released this week) and only one great receiver in DeAndre Hopkins (Though Jaelen Strong might grow into a good No2 receiver).
The Rams, on the other hand might be intriguing, because of their defense, Todd Gurley, but they would have to acquire some serious talent at WR in order for Brock to succeed. And I’m not sold that any Rams OC can design good passing plays, since most of their playbook consists of Gurley runs and Tavon Austin end-arounds….
Just stay in Denver, Brock…
3-4DE Malik Jackson, 26
We’re staying with the reigning Super Bowl champion for a while, mainly because they have so many free agents that are worth monitoring.
Malik Jackson is a surprisingly good pass-rusher for a 3-4 end. He finished 2015 with 5 sacks and 45 tackles. The previous seasons he compiled 3 and 6 sacks, respectably. He was definitely a big reason why the Broncos Defense was as dominant as it was. Jackson also started all 16 games and hasn’t missed ore than 2 games in his career. He’s 6″5, 293 lb and just entering his prime. So he will definitely get some serious cash, he alledgedly is looking for $10 million a year, which is solid for his position.
He’s no J J Watt, or Fletcher Cox, but he is an important cog of the Broncos D, which is why I believe (and hope) the Broncos will resign him. I’m not entirely sold on how much of his production really came because he had DeMarcus Ware and Von Miller on the edge. This doesn’t mean that he will fail elsewhere, I’m just curious how he performs without these 2.
Potential suitors outside the Broncos might be the Buffalo Bills, who own alot of players better suited in a 4-3, but Rex Ryan playing a 3-4. Jackson would be a great asset opposite Marcell Dareus. Also the 49ers could use a little help up front, since their defense is really talent starved outside of OLB Aaron Lynch and ILB Navarro Bowman
ILB Danny Trevathan, 25
When the Broncos resign Malik Jackson, Danny Travathan would likely be on his way out. He finished 2015 with 109 tackles and 2 INTs. He’s more of a coverage Linebacker and not much a pass-rusher (never finished a season with more than 3 sacks), but he also was injured a lot (he missed 14 games since 2014), so if I were Broncos I’d make Jackson a priority over Trevathan, simply because he hasn’t been as injury prone.
Trevathan is still an excellent Inside Linebacker, so he will get paid.
Maybe by the Green Bay Packers? The Packers definitely need someone at Inside Linebacker, which would allow them to move Clay Matthews III back to his more natural position at OLB. It would also help their mostly atrocious run-defense a lot.
Also the Cleveland Browns should take a look at him. Good run defense and Cleveland haven’t been used in the same sentence for a while and Trevathan could definitely help out there.
Or the San Diego Chargers decide to ugrade their ILB corps. While Manti Teo and Denzel Perriman are both young and decent, both haven’t really lived up to their expectations. Adding Trevathan would not only be an upgrade it could also be used as motivation to push both Teo and Perriman.
QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, 33
A 33-year old NFL journeyman QB from Harvard is looking for a new home. Coming off the best season of his career, Fitzmagic has two options: Go to another QB needy team (ideally one where he hasn’t been before, which does limit the potential teams) or do the only logical thing: RESIGN WITH THE JETS!
It is obvious that the Jets and Fitzpatrick work well together. The Jets have a great Defense, two incredible Wideouts with Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker and a superb running game, if Chris Ivory is retained.
All Fitzpatrick has to do here is not turn the ball over, which he can do in Chan Gailey’s system. So why leave? He won’t be a star on another team, he’d have to learn another system and probably would have to continue his journey as a journeyman. Staying in New York would be the perfect oppurtunity for him to settle down for a while, play until Bryce Petty, or whoever the Jets feel is their longterm answer at QB is, is ready to be an NFL starter and then either go back to the bench or hang up the cleats. That’s about as good as it gets for Fitzmagic.
CB Brandon Browner, 31
Being part of the ’15 New Orleans Defense is a shame. But being the worst part of the ’15 Saints D (despite Rob Ryan) is atrocious. That’s what Brandon Browner managed to accomplish in his first (and final year) in the Big Easy. The high-prized FA acquisition from the Patriots and former member of the legion of Boom graded out as the 118th best CB in the league… out of 118.
That’s quite the accomplishment. Especially the way he did it was impressive: Most of the time he seemed to have forgotten what “Coverage” means, as he either: got burned OR got flagged.
He finished as the most penalized player and it is definitely where his future might lie: No team in the right mind should sign him, unless it’s on the veteran minimum, but he might have a successful career in another sport:
He could be an enforcer in hockey: He knows how to hit and that’s basically all an enforcer is paid to do. Or he becomes a boxer. Both would make sense and are definitely better options than trying to play DB in the NFL. You can thank me later, Brandon 🙂
This was part1 of the free agent series on this blog. Part2 will come out soon, so stay tuned to find out where Arian Foster, Daryl Smith, Richie Incognito, Markus Kuhn, Charles Johnson and Mike Tolbert should end up. See ya!