James Safford’s Complete Football Free Agency Watch List

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With free agency two week away NFL teams will have the next seven days to franchise tag these guys or show them the money. I looked at the top free agents from a fantasy football junkie’s perspective. QB- RB – WR.

Free Agents and possible cap casualties staying put

Drew Brees
Leveon Bell
Bilial Powell
Danny Amendola
Dez Bryant
Randall Cobb
Jordy Nelson
Michael Crabtree
Emmanuelle Sanders
Frank Gore
Blake Bortles

If they are on this list they would likely retire before playing elsewhere. Don’t expect the above players to be on the market for long if at all before being resigned. Some may possibly see the trade block if they have no anti trade clause in their contracts but for the most part don’t look to these guys to be solutions for problems on other teams

QB situation is just as miserable in the Free Agency and possible Cap Casualty market as it is in the NFL

1 – Kirk Cousins – Sad to say but this is the cream of the crap. Alex Smith took his job and Cousins will be shopping his noodle arm like a hog in a prom dress. Wherever he lands they will have paid the price tag on the Cadillac and drove off in their new Ford Fiesta. Expect him to suck as he does his best Jay Cutler shoulda-woulda-coulda impression. 

2- Andy Dalton / AJ McCarron – They both won’t stay. This is a minor league Brady/Garropolo situation. McCarron could be an NFL starter. Dalton could be a salary cap issue. Whoever doesn’t get the job will be a top option for other teams. 

3- Tryhard Taylor – His wheels are breaking down and he doesn’t have much of an arm to mention. Few years in the open market and retired before he is 32. His market value is overpriced but some sucker will pay it. You’ll be lucky to go 7-9 with Tryhard under center and no feature back or defense to carry him. He could end up in Jacksonville. 

4- Terry Bridgewater – Another noodler aka Tryhard junior. Injury machine with cheaper wheels on him. His age is the only thing catapulting him to #5 in this toilet QB market. Some young GM will place their bet on this broken truck and then two careers will fall apart at the same time.

5- Case Keenum – Too little too late. At 30 Case decided to show up but watching him throw gives me agita. I’ve heard of gunslingers airing it out there but this kid is chuckin and duckin. He goes down to one knee everytime he releases the ball to pray to the sweet baby Jesus that it doesn’t get picked. Case will be the wrong answer to the wrong team but has the best possibility of sticking around in Minnesota.

6 through 18 are as follows

Some of these bums will retire. Some will mentor and backup. None of the QBs on this list will get you to the playoffs. Anyone picking up these guys either has an ace or is rebuilding. 

Sam Bradford
Tom Savage
Jay Cutler
Brock Osweiler
Geno Smith
Josh McCown 
Ryan Fitzpatrick
Matt Moore
Blaine Gabbert
Matt Barkley 
Matt Cassel 
Mike Glennon
Matt Schaub 

The only other shoppable QBs are the kings ransom in Philly…aka Nick Foles and the Denver shuffle that will certainly open the door to the exit of talent under center. Paxton Lynch could find a home on a team like New England. If Brock takes a hit and resigns to splitting with Trevor Simien that would leave Paxton the odd failure out. I happen to like Paxton Lynch. The rest of his draft class has stepped up. When will it be Paxton?

Notable mention. Eli Manning may put himself on the block voluntarily. If this happens he could end up in DEN or Indy. He is no Peyton but in the right setting he could make a comeback. Wherever he lands it could push someone else out into the market. A Paxton for Eli trade would actually make sense.

The RB situation is much better than the available QBs unfortunately it’s all niche backs

1- Isaiah Crowell – The complete package. He can run and catch and he proved that behind one of the worst offensive lines in the NFL. Cleveland is better off using Duke and letting Isaiah hit the open market. He will make an immediate impact on whatever team snatches him up…as long as they don’t plague him with a running-back-by-commitee assignment. He has already shown he needs to be the feature to excel.

2- Carlos Hyde- At 27 he really needs to make a move and let Matt Brieda take over. That could change if ownership sees Jimmy G as a Brady clone but SF was shopping Carlos around week 6 so who knows at this point. If he hits the market he will be a shot in the arm to any teams backfield. He is one of the last few true workhorse backs left in the league and could have a couple of amazing years left behind the right offensive line.

3- Doug Martin – If Jacquizz is the answer and Chris Sims resigns as the change of pace back, Doug Martin brings major talent to any team that can land him. TB can’t keep all three of these guys and Martin’s suspension and injury proneness should keep his feet out of the door. Solid back looking for a solid home. Another workhorse if healthy…if.

4- Dion Lewis – I can’t stand the way Bellicheck uses his players. Dion Lewis is a Swiss Army knife…so why does NE need a running-back-by-commitee approach ? They don’t. White and Lewis are redundant. Detroit will throw the kitchen sink at Lewis. Their pass back is aging and ailing and Lewis is certainly the answer to their woes. 

5- CJ Anderson- Booker is the future. Jammal Charles is the veteran with something to prove and has already shown what he can do on peanut pay. Anderson is their best salary cap casualty. It would allow them to keep their most prolific WR Demaryius Thomas. If this happens CJ can provide grade A workhorse talent for any team that already has a change of pace back. If Minnesota parts with Latavius and keeps McKinnon CJ could slide right in. Seattle is another team that would work for him as Pete Carroll needs help there and would let anyone run the ball…..accept beastmode from the 1 yard line….he would probably pass again. 

6- Latavius Murray / Jerrick Mckinnon – One of these athletes could end up on the block. Murray is the complete package and would be their best option but McKinnon is a great change of pace back. If MIN can’t nail them both down one of them will have a great year in a new home. Both solid timeshare backs.

7- Marshawn Lynch- Beastmode started the preseason off by sitting down for the National Anthem. Oakland’s response was to ignore it but others definitely saw his disciplinary problems present themselves all year. Multiple suspensions/stupid penalties and an overall angry attitude towards the officials and other team’s players Beastmode bled for his team this year…but he didn’t do much running. His performance was subpar and the two young Swiss Army knives behind him could easily replace him. I saw it, you saw it, Oakland saw it…go back to retirement bud or hit the gym and get over Pete Carroll choosing to pass from the 1. 

8- Mike Gillislee / Rex Burkead- NE has to choose between Lewis and White as a pass back and they really need to do the same thing here. One of these guys stays in NE. Both have potential but how much does either have left in the tank? Going to have to wait and see who gives these possibilities the chance to prove themselves.

9- Lagarrette Blount – Ajayi stole his puppy and his job. There is no reason for Philly to bring him back. Everytime I think I know what Bellecheck is doing he goes and blows my mind. I wouldn’t be surprised if he lets Gillislee and Burkhead walk just to bring Blount back into a system he already knows. I mean why not? Your QB is 40…why not a 31 year old RB? If not NE…he could retire but I don’t think he will…he showed too much talent after Ajayi threatened his job. 

10 – Damian Williams- One of the reasons Ajayi saw the door Williams showed his potential to pull his own weight in any system. He has raw talent and skill but it’s raw. If the right coach works him into the right system he could be a 1,000 yard rush 800 yard receiving back….big If.

11- Jeremy Hill- The cliche rookie phenom that wore on his coaches patience. Hill is a coulda-been that showed flashes of past skills last year. Not strong enough to win the job back but strong enough to find a new home possibly? He may be destined to a running-back-by-commitee career but at least we know he can carry his own. Or he could just be another CJ2k.

12- Adrian Peterson – Gimme the ball works for wide receivers and jump balls…not for running backs shooting up stacked boxes. AP showed what a baby he was last year. Thankfully his bratty attitude gave Alvin Kamara the chance to shine last year and he ended up getting the ROY….does that make AP his wingman? When Arizona picked him up I figured we could stick a fork in him and then all of a sudden we saw a young AP trashing defenses…then he got old again. He had a really hard time finding a team to pay him $1 million last year. With the number of solid RBs on the market this year retirement may be his best option. 

13 through 19 are all possible change of pace options for teams looking to give their studs a rest or need to fill a niche. Decent talent even at this level with a flash of awfulness from time to time. 

13- Shane Vereen 
14- Johnathan Stewart
15- Charles Sims
16- Orleans Darkwa
17- Terrence West
18- TJ Yeldon 

The hot seats in NE and DEN will be something to watch but the situation in Seattle is simply out of control. You have better odds of picking the 2025 Kentucky Derby right now without knowing the names of the horses than you do of picking the starting RB in Seattle for 2018. It’s a giant mess and Pete Carroll is the only coach in the NFL that is more unpredictable than Bill Bellecheck. And one last time for good measure….Pete could choose to throw from the one with Marshawn Lynch rostered in his prime…in the Superbowl…to end the game. Pete will always be a mystery but he never ceases to fail me. 

The WR pool is not as strong as the RBs but it is certainly better than the QBs we will see moving around this off season. 

1- Sammy Watkins- I have a soft spot for this two-left-foot failure. He was outplayed by the backup he team hopped to stalk again last year…but Sammy is young. Goff didn’t like him and everyone could see it. He will be in competition for the same homes as Jarvis and he is just as young…but his feet. Can he stay healthy? 

2- Paul Richardson- Russel Wilson wins games. He isn’t the best QB in the league but his coach suffers from ‘college-coach-itis’ and the receiving core suffers. Baldwin puts up big numbers but Richardson is more talented. With sandbox players like McKissic being rostered, 9 running backs, a hall of fame destined TE, and Wilson being locked on to Baldwin, Richardson really needs to get out of dodge. His price tags will be moderate but he has age and talent…everything is on his side right now.

3- Allen Robinson/Marquise Lee/Allen Hurns- While Robinson is the true number three on this list Lee and Hurns need to be pooled into this discussion. Jacksonville has arguably the best defense in the NFL but their offense? Leonard Fournette is the only staple. Every other offensive weapon on their team can be found on this list. They need to figure out who they want to keep around for that. If they do work with Allen sending Hurns and Lee to the block they would both fit in a little lower on this list (8 to 10 ish). Robinson has age and talent on his side but he won’t thrive in a checkdown system. He needs a real QB. I only like Richardson a little more because he was able to mix it up in the state 5 clinger level relationship that Wilson and Baldwin have.

4- Donte Moncrief- Indy needs to go young. They need to resign this talented youngster but they may not commit to it. Andrew Luck may be done for the season and possibly his career. This will be a major blow for the Colts and the NFL if we see it happen. The league is QB thin as it is and will be seeing some hall of fame QBs retire in the next few years. Luck was supposed to carry that torch having already been to Peyton what Rodgers was to Favre. Donte may fizzle but there is no way to know until we see him play this year. But for who?

5- Brandon Marshall- When OBJ went down I saw Marshalls chance to have a resurgent season…for like 18 minutes. If he can bounce back from another injury he could have a breakthrough year somewhere. Could. Possible. If. Maybe. This superstar is a long shot. A long shot that may choose to retire but I really hope he doesn’t. My pick for a healthy Marshall is LAR. He needs to fill the roll Watkins couldn’t for Goff. He would be a great fit in that offense. If not LAR I’d love to see him line up opposite a healthy Pierre Garcon in SF. 

6- Jeremy Maclin- Two busts don’t make a right. Maclin is talented. He also hasn’t figured out how to show that talent. He hasn’t really been on a team with a non-checkdown QB . Maybe this year…maybe. He may end up in Buffalo. His price tags will fit what they are looking for.

7- Dontrelle Inman – Anyone can look good if Rivers is threading you the needle but Inman flashed a solid head on most of his routes last year. There is so much competition for the ball in LAC there is no way they bring him back. Denver, Houston, or KC could be good fits for this speedster. His price tag will be very marketable and he has already proven he can catch passes from gunslingers. 

8- Terrelle Pryor- A major disappointment for every fantasy owner and Redskins fan. He kept the ball out of Crowder and Doctson’s hands for a little while but eventually Washington threw in the towel. TP doesn’t want to be in WAS after they brought in Mr. Checkdown but who is going to give him a shot? His tank may just in fact be empty. Which is incredibly sad as he has amazing big play talent. 

9 through 19 are all of decent talent or at least were at one time. Their price tags will be cheap and a few of them could make solid WR2 or slot options for many NFL teams.

9- Taylor Gabriel
10- Mike Wallace
11- Jordan Matthews
12- John Brown
13- Jaron Brown
14- Ryan Grant
15- Torrey Smith
16- Markus Wheaton
17- Brandon LaFell
18- Kendall Wright
19- Eric Decker

Almost everyone on this list should move around or retire. Not too many of them will be brought back by their teams. There are a lot of teams that have a need for new Wide outs. Chicago definitely tops that list and they need to build a team around Howard/Cohen and Trubisky. I would be shocked if New England didn’t bring back Amendola but Bill Belichick’s mind is a place I would never want to be. He could end up trading his entire secondary for more offensive outlets for Tom and try to win another Superbowl with geriatrics and leftovers….I wouldn’t be surprised if he brought Revis back too. I personally think his best option is to bring in Marky Mark and let him run some routes opposite Gronk. I mean the guy practically plays for the Pats anyway…amiright?

James Safford
James Safford is a member of the Scituate Land Trust and Conservation Commission. He has authored multiple books and sees politics though a bipartisan viewpoint. Send him email at jamessafford@yahoo.com.
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