Are the Jets Prepared to Pay Kirk Cousins $60M in 2018?

Brian Costello wrote an article yesterday that indicated that the Jets were hot for Kirk Cousins and might be willing to do whatever it takes to get him. The number of $150 million over 5 years was mentioned and I think that is feasible for a team to consider. However the number that did really surprise me was when a source indicated that $60 million in the first year might be what it takes to get a deal done. So I wanted to explore that number and how it could possibly work for the Jets or any other team. Continue reading Are the Jets Prepared to Pay Kirk Cousins $60M in 2018? »

Top 100 Free Agent List

Since I have been receiving so many questions about free agents I thought it might be fun to put together a top 100 unrestricted free agents list. I ranked the players in order of where I think their APY might land. I didn’t put in estimated values but the cutoff for the bottom of the list is around $3.5 million. I am sure there are a few names I simply missed here and there so feel free to ask about any players and Ill try to answer in the comments. Remember these are just one persons opinion to give a general overview of free agency. Clicking on the table headers should allow you to sort by team, position, age, etc…

1Kirk CousinsQBRedskins301012Biggest name QB to hit free agency since Peyton Manning in 2012. Could challenge for $30 million a year if market breaks right.
2Drew BreesQBSaints391034Veteran QB still plays at a high level. Likely to stay in New Orleans with a deal signed right before start of free agency
3Demarcus LawrenceDECowboys2670414.5 sack season makes him a lock for the franchise tag. Would make a massive payday if he goes to market.
4Case KeenumQBVikings301016Right place, right time for Keenum last year. When a QB hits like that they generally get a good payday. Transition  tag could be in play, though likely too expensive.
5Ziggy AnsahDELions29516Ultra talented player but injuries are a concern. Hard to see a number 5 pick off a 12 sack year not getting close to $15M no matter what negatives exist.
6LeVeon BellRBSteelers26945Most used running back in the league will likely get tagged again and earn close to $15 million in the process.
7Jarvis LandryWRDolphins26932Market dynamics for receivers changed again this year and Landry should benefit. Only once in the last 5 years have the top receivers not gotten massive free agent paydays
8Nate SolderLTPatriots301116Left tackles are like QBs when it comes to the payscale. None are available so those who are get paid near the top.
9Andrew NorwellGPanthers271079Will see the new high water mark for guards. Hottest free agent position the last two years and Norwell upped his stock significantly this year.
10Trumaine JohnsonCBRams28938Versatile corner is probably the only player more teams than not think could be a top cover corner. Generally such players hit double digit APYs.
11Justin PughGGiants28435Positional need and versatility make Pugh a good bet to reach the $10 million mark despite nagging injuries.
12Allen RobinsonWRJaguars253Best receiver available but coming off injury has me concerned about the kind of offers that will come in. Could be tagged, but I could see logic in taking 1 year deal with a contending team with a good QB.
13Malcolm ButlerCBPatriots281040Stock took a big hit this year but he should still do well in free agency since most corners do pretty well.
14Sheldon RichardsonDTSeahawks28655Cant see teams risking a long term contract with Richardson, but he is too talented for a team to pass up on a one year contract. Last year this position saw multiple players take deals like this.
15Sammy WatkinsWRRams25778Wouldn’t surprise me for Watkins to earn $11 million a year from the Rams or be lucky to find $7 million elsewhere. Inconsistent but very young and has a high pedigree.
16LaMarcus JoyerSRams28688Stood out in his walk year and is pretty versatile in coverage. Those players in recent years have scored big contracts in free agency.
17Prince AmukamaraCBBears29848Solid corner that has taken one year contracts since leaving the Giants. Probably time to take a 3 or 4 year deal for over $8 million a season.
18Dontari PoeDTFalcons28742Good player but injury issues and inability to pressure the QB will likely keep him out from making the kind of money the better interior d-line players make.
19Sam BradfordQBVikings3191A pure gamble given that a strong gust of wind might break him. Not sure any free agent lost more money this year than Bradford.
20Jimmy GrahamTESeahawks32730Aging tight ends best days are behind him, but he is a solid red zone threat and has to be respected in passing game. Doubtful he matches his old contract but $8 million isnt a reach considering his name.
21Kyle FullerCBBears261015Too many questionable years for teams to gamble on a big contract.  Would expect a moderate one year contract knowing big money awaits next year.
22Eric ReidS49ers27740Versatile player that can do a lot on the field but has been a bit lost in the 49ers shuffle the last few years. Team could get a big bargain here if in the $8M range.
23Star LotuleleiDTPanthers29590Solid defensive tackle will get a lot of looks from teams looking for an affordable player that can play both run and pass.
24AJ McCarronQBBengals2826Somehow I have a feeling his stock increased by never playing and the Browns almost making a ridiculous trade for him. Still hard to see him breaking the bank in a crowded field of options this year.
25Kenny VaccaroSSaints27618Salary may be based more on where he was drafted and potential than anything done on the field. Still upside gets players paid in free agency.
26Morgan BurnettSPackers29728Should gain interest as a second safety similar to the crop of players who all got contracts in the $7 million range last season
27Tre BostonSChargers261041Plays pretty much every down and doesn’t make many blatant mistakes. Doesn’t have the kind of upside other might.
28Brent GrimesCBBuccaneers35781Part of me wants to say his age should put him down in the $3 million range, but hes been good enough to probably hold out and wait for something close to the $6.5M he earned last season.
29Jay CutlerQBDolphins35764If Cutler had a better attitude hed be locked in somewhere at close to $20 million a year. Since he doesn’t I guess the question is will he play for $7 million in 2018?
30Bennie LoganDTChiefs29574One year gamble didn’t hurt or help him. Probably lands on a 43 team looking for a situational player.
31Isaiah CrowellRBBrowns25536Consistent year to year and some teams may see more upside since he put up all his numbers on the worst team in the NFL. Can he break the $6m barrier?
32Teddy BridgewaterQBVikings269Another enigma because of injury, but a 1st round guy who certainly didn’t bust should be worth between $6 and $7 million for a year or two. Could be a steal if healthy.
33Josh McCownQBJets39819McCown had best year of his career before his annual injury cut it short. Still its hard to see his stock improving any from last year given age.
34Trey BurtonTEEagles27300High upside tight end should get more action than Graham though not as much money. Should top $6M and $7m is a possibility given the way teams pay for tight ends.
35Paul RichardsonWRSeahawks26816Should have established himself in the lower second tier of receivers. Intriguing because of down field ability and chance to thrive in a different style offense.
36TJ CarrieCBRaiders281024Should get the top slot money this year unless teams see him playing the outside. If he sticks with Raiders his money could go up based on how they paid others.
37Marqise LeeWRJaguars27738Decent second target on a team with a top level 1 to draw defenses. Likely doesn’t have the big play upside to see stock rise despite lack of top options this year.
38EJ GainesCBBills26654Had a good year in Buffalo and should have no problems earning similar to the $6-$6.5M contracts the decent slot guys have received in recent years.
39Bashaud BreelandCBRedskins26856Has the physical tools to score a big contract and it would not stun me is someone reached big for him, but more likely he’ll earn a mid/lower level 2nd corner contract.
40Aaron ColvinCBJaguars27705Everything about Gaines pretty much applies here.
41NaVorro BowmanLBRaiders30999Often injured and doesn’t play a position that typically gets paid big, but he plays big enough when healthy to top the $6 million a year mark.
42Nigel BradhamLBEagles29923Had a great year for the Eagles and was in almost every play, but position rarely gets paid big in free agency. Maybe he will be the exception.
43Adrian ClaybornDEFalcons30533Most of his top line production all came in one game so his overall numbers will be discounted because of that. Still a solid veteran that can rush the passer should get a decent raise over his current $4.25M per year deal.
44Morris ClaiborneCBJets28921Had a solid year with the Jets but had to be near top of the NFL in defensive holding calls.  Affordable second corner but teams wont look for upside.
45Carlos HydeRB49ers27786Shown that he can play in all phases of the game over last two seasons and three down players will break $5 million.
46Weston RichburgCGiants27239The best available center, though season ending on IR with a concussion could scare some teams off.
47Ryan JensenCRavens271086Had a good season in his walk year and overall effort week in and out will make him a solid 2nd tier center.
48Byron MaxwellCBSeahawks30584Play looked worse because of his contract but veteran players like Maxwell can usually find in the mid $5 million range.
49Denico AutryDTRaiders28592Productive pass rusher. If teams think he can start and be more consistent could be worth more.
50Austin Seferian JenkinsTEJets26655Expect ASJ to get paid based on narrow salary band at position and his draft status.
51Kyle WilliamsDTBills34758Veteran DT should be able to score a nice two year contract in Buffalo or elsewhere.
52Mike WallaceWRRavens32714Wallace is still productive as a secondary target and is a known quantity. He should be able to be in the $5 million range again on a short term deal.
53Josh KlineGTitans291023Not a difference maker, but a solid professional that can solidify the guard position.
54Kony EalyEdgeJets27452Enigma player. Has ability to be one of best bargains in the NFL if he develops or wasted cap space if he doesn’t.
55Paul PoslusznyLBJaguars34481Aging linebacker should earn close to what he did last season, likely with the Jaguars.
56Chris HubbardRTSteelers27781Made the most of opportunity last season and should have a chance to earn a low end starting contract for a right tackle.
57Dion LewisRBPatriots28404Solid run at the end of the season to improve his stock. If teams think he can catch he should find a nice market.
58Patrick RobinsonCBEagles31710Really good season for the Eagles, but at 31 and an up and down career the ceiling is pretty limited.
59Trent MurphyEdgeRedskins280Spent the year on IR and was also suspended. Lost a chance to cash in because of that but should get 3rd tier rusher money with incentives to increase.
60John BrownWRCardinals28898Ultimate boom or bust type. Numbers down the last two seasons but could find that 1,000 yard form with new setting. Could see him earning more if teams get hot for him.
61Ross CockrellCBGiants27681Should add solid depth to a secondary. Has started the last two years more often than not, but ultimate role will probably be as an extra DB.
62DaQuan JonesDETitans27437Fills the role of professional lineman on a team with talent.  Paired with right personnel could surprise.
63Jordan MatthewsWRBills265092017 was a lost year. If teams discount the season expect him to earn in the $6-7M range, but if they don’t hell stick here in the $4.5M range.
64Avery WilliamsonLBTitans26654Jack of all trades linebacker, but unless you standout its hard to breakout in free agency as a linebacker.
65Jack MewhortGColts27313Solid player that could hit the $6 million range, but injuries have derailed him and he didn’t stand out enough when not injured. Could be a 1 year deal.
66Tahir WhiteheadLBLions28950On the field nearly every down and a pretty sure tackler. Id imagine a new contract very similar to last extension at $4 million.
67Alex OkaforEdgeSaints27486Was on track to potentially have a career year but a late Achilles ended his chances. If teams think he is healthy he should double his salary from last year.
68Taylor GabrielWRFalcons27508Bit of a niche player that didn’t stand out enough this year to move into the 2nd WR tier, but should be in the 3rd tier of players.
69Marcus GilchristSTexans30817Did enough this past season to remove stigma of Jets years and move back into solid veteran money.
70Zach BrownLBRedskins29834Not a lot of interest last year at a big money number and cant see anything this year that will change that.
71Jerick McKinnonRBVikings26528Good receiever and receiving skills are always sought after and paid for in free agency.
72Anthony HitchensLBCowboys26547Flashes at times and that could push his price up a little but should settle in the $4 to $5 million range.
73Zach FultonG/CChiefs27794Utility interior lineman that should be an affordable part of a good line.
74Justin EllisDTRaiders28462This the price range for most interior players who can log 40% playtime.
75Demario DavisLBJets291118Good season in his return to the Jets, but its hard to picture any more interest than when he was a free agent a few years back.
76Antonio GatesTEChargers38500Nearing the end of his career but can still fill a role for a team if he doesn’t call it quits.
77Julius PeppersEdgePanthers38500Can still dominate in the pass rush and is worth more, but he signed in this range last year and given his age expect it to be the same.
78Todd DavisLBBroncos26522Good run defender in the Broncos defense. Probably doesn’t do enough other things to have big value elsewhere.
79Albert WilsonWRChiefs26538Had a big standout game at the end of the season, but overall has been too inconsistent to earn more than 3/4 money.
80Tyler EifertTEBengals28104$8 million talent in an $8 body. Hasn’t been able to hold up to NFL grind and its only his talent level that will have a team take a risk for more than the minimum.
81Rashaan MelvinCBColts29552Had best season of his career, but only 10 games and has already bounced around the NFL.
82Spencer LongCRedskins28394Injury kept him from enhancing status but he should be able to break out from the $3M and under players.
83Nickell Robey-ColemanCBRams26658Decent 3rd or 4th corner whose salary is probably a bit compromised based on prior contracts.
84Connor BarwinEdgeRams32659Since this is not a big year for free agent rushers expect Barwin to sign a similar one year contract for a team needing a steady presence.
85Kareem MartinEdgeCardinals26458Intriguing prospect is only 26 and could find a team to gamble in the $3M tier for a season.
86Beau AllenDTEagles27422Didn’t have the kind of year he needed to make a free agent splash, but he still plays a role that is valuable around the league.
87William HayesEdgeDolphins33274Struggled in Miami but probably has enough name value to get a one year deal in the $3 million tier but with a low guarantee.
88Barkevious MingoEdgeColts28501Mingo is pretty much settled into this group now as a part time jack of all trades but with a very limited upside.
89Dontrelle InmanWRBears29457I could see him moving up a tier but nothing stands out enough for me to really justify it.
90Terrelle PryorWRRedskins29378Awful season and his expectations are going to be terribly low this year as he takes another one year contract to try to salvage his career.
91Ryan FitzpatrickQBBuccaneers36299Probably the top rated backup available.
92Bradley McDougaldSSeahawks28681Think he is worth more than this but something turned teams off last season and has that really changed?
93Tramon WilliamsCBCardinals35670Veteran had a good season last year which should set him up for a 3rd corner kind of contract.
94Haloti NgataDTLions34145No idea if Ngata wants to keep playing for a low price but expect a $3 millionish base value with incentives based on playtim.
95Jaron BrownWRCardinals28415May draw more interest than this based on skillset but hard to picture a team really going in too deep.
96Kendall WrightWRBears29580Should find a home as a third target on a team with a bad or young group of receivers.
97Erik WaldenEdgeTitans33581Veteran that can still rush the passer a bit should find a home on a pass rush needed team.
98Terrence NewmanCBVikings40560Ageless player seemingly signs almost the same contract every season.
99Brandon FuscoG49ers301088End of stay with the Vikings probably damaged him too much but should be a cheaper option to plug in on a good line and he wont hurt you.
100Ryan GrantWRRedskins28616Does just enough to have a role for a team but not enough for a team to overreach on him.

2018 Free Agent Preview: Quarterback

Though quarterback is rarely a big position of interest in free agency this year might be a bit different based on some odd circumstances involving Kirk Cousins and to a lesser extent Drew Brees. I’ll look at my picks for the top 10 potentially available players in free agency and then put up some estimates for the group of FAs who are out there this season. Ill try to do a few of these positions as time allows through the start of free agency. Feel free to email me requests otherwise Ill just run through offensive skill positions through the line and then the defense.

1. Kirk Cousins, Redskins

Cousins currently played out his second franchise tag with Washington which leave the Redskins the option of franchising him for a whopping $34.5 million and blocking him from free agency, transition tagging him for $28.7 million to maintain a right of first refusal or just letting him walk. All three options are on the table but the franchise tag would be pretty devastating so most likely they would use a transition tag and he would have a market with that.

Cousins is a capable, above average QB but probably not the type of Tier 1 QB that ensures the playoffs and any team signing him should not look at him as a savior but as part of the solution. A team has to surround him with more talent than the Redskins did this past season if they want to break out from the 8-8 pack of teams on a yearly basis. That said we are talking QBs and being a true Tier 1 player has nothing to do with salary.

Cousins market was probably hurt by the 49ers making a trade for a QB at the deadline but there are teams that should make offers. The more teams the higher the bidding can go and I would be surprised if he was not the highest paid QB in the history of the NFL barring an unforeseen extension for an Aaron Rodgers between now and March. I’m not sure if he can reach the $30M a year mark, but it wouldn’t stun me either.

If a team needs a QB I don’t consider the salary cap a barrier for anyone since you simply find ways to make it work. Teams that I think will take a serious look are the Bills, Jets, Dolphins, Jaguars (unless Bortles goes on a big playoff run) and Cardinals. I think he will be too expensive for the Broncos who have been more conservative than others and while the fit may be there with the Browns I don’t see how you could advocate for signing a high priced veteran when you have the 1st and 4th overall pick in the draft. Of those teams I think only the Jets, Jaguars, and Browns could construct an offer that would prove difficult for Washington to match. The others may have issues due to their salary cap to build something out that the Redskins would not match unless they got very exotic with player controlled voids or contract escalators that maintained his position as the highest paid player.

I’d put his market between $27.5 and $29 million a year with over $65 million fully guaranteed at signing.

2. Jimmy Garoppolo, 49ers

The 49ers lost a lot of leverage when Garoppolo was forced to come into the lineup due to injury and lit the league up. In hindsight they should have furiously looked to work out a new contract just as soon as they traded for him. Not doing that likely cost them at least a few million.

I’d say it is unlikely that Garoppolo hits the market. Even if the 49ers use the transition tag, which I think is advisable over the franchise tag, they have so much cap space that there is nothing I could see a team offering that they could not match. Given that negotiating contracts takes time and sits on your cap in full while the other team can mull over the offer for a few days I don’t think teams will see it being worth their time. This should make the transition tag a block for free agency.

I’d say for most players who are traded for a 2nd round pick that they typically will sign a long term contract that is near the top of the market but generally behind a few key players. Id say that is in the $22-$22.5M range. However with the escalating salaries at QB and understanding that the 49ers would look bad if he ever walked they should be able to push that number past the $25M contract signed by Derek Carr who is going to be his closest comparable.

San Francisco is tough to deal with and Im not sure the sides can work out a long term contract but I also don’t see him leaving. If they do a long term deal Id say it will be in the $22M range with somewhat reasonable escalators that could push it beyond $25 million a season. If not I would anticipate using the tag.

3. Drew Brees, Saints

Brees took an under market contract for this season to potentially avoid the franchise process which gives him an interesting decision for 2018. The Saints are coming off their best season in ages and it’s primarily because they had an absolutely great draft class. That gives the Saints a young core that should continue to succeed and not force the team to continue to make mistakes in free agency or with contract extensions. I think that makes it less likely that Brees will leave New Orleans since they look like they have broken out of the 0.500 rut in a sustainable manner.

Brees will be 39 years old next season so this is likely his final contract. There are a lot of different ways to take his stats this year. In some ways it was his best year in some time with a terrific completion percentage despite using all of the field while continuing to play mistake free. To outside teams though I think there may be a thought he lost something and that the best is behind him. This latter opinion is probably why Brees got so few mentions this year and fell behind Alvin Kamara as the most talked about Saint.

If the Saints do not make him a solid offer I think he will test free agency. Given his age and fact that his entire career has either been in great weather or indoors I don’t think he would get as robust a market as Cousins. Miami would be a team I could see making a big offer as would the Jaguars if Bortles flames out. The Cardinals if they continue to chase the ring with their current team would be another logical suitor. Most likely he stays in New Orleans on a 3 year contract worth right around $25 million a season with $40 million guaranteed and vesting guarantees for the entire contract.

4. Case Keenum, Vikings

Keenum is one of the most shocking QB stories if 2017. Keenum had stints with the Texans and Rams before coming to the Vikings as a low cost backup. An injury to Sam Bradford saw him take over the Vikings offense and lead them to an 11-3 record in the 14 games he started. Keenum avoided big mistakes and made plays when necessary. Though there is a big dropoff between the first tier of free agents and Keenum, Keenum should find some interest as a decent game manager if they need a QB and are not in a position to draft one.

Though Keenum should be impacted negatively by the failures of Brock Osweiler and Mike Glennon, their success at getting a contract should give Keenum a similar path to earning a reasonable contract. Teams will be more risk averse with Keenum since there is nothing before this season to really indicate that he would be a quality starter so I would not expect a big guarantee, but do think he can get a three year contract from a team.

I think for a team to be interested in Keenum they will need to have some skill position players in place and a solid defense. He is not someone you build a team around so I wouldn’t expect the bad roster teams to chase him. This is the price range where the Broncos could begin to look. If the Cardinals are still bullish on their roster this would be a reasonable stopgap solution with a little upside. Im not sure if you discount the Redskins on him either. The Vikings should be the favorites to retain him.

I’d think a 3 year contract in the $15 million per year range with $17 million or so guaranteed is likely unless teams are still scared in which case I’d look at 2 years $12-13M per year. Any type of good playoff run should increase any price.

5. Sam Bradford, Vikings

No player lost more this year than Bradford who led the Vikings to a great opening week win and then fell to another knee injury that seemed to come out of nowhere. The Vikings tried to bring him back after a few weeks and it was a disaster as he clearly was not capable of playing on his leg. He could be back for the playoffs in relief if Keenum had a bad game, but that may not be advisable to either side.

Bradford’s entire career has been marred by injuries and I don’t think Keenum leading the Vikings to the playoffs a year after Bradford’s team went 8-8 is a big benefit either. Though Bradford still has that draft pedigree and has never had a season so bad that it makes people forget where he was drafted, he is so far removed from being considered a “prospect” that teams shouldn’t be blinded by that anymore.

Bradford is a risky play but because he is likely going to be cheap relative to his potential upside he is worth the risk. Suitors should include the Broncos, Cardinals, Vikings if they fail to retain Keenum, and Redskins if they decide Cousins is too expensive. I guess with all the cap room they have the Browns could go to him to start over a rookie for a portion of the season before replacing him if things go south.

I don’t see Bradford signing for anything more than a 2 year contract worth somewhere around $16 million in base salary with another $10-$12 million available based on tiers of incentives. Cal it $7 million guaranteed and close to $1 million in per game bonuses this year.

6. Teddy Bridgewater, Vikings

A promising career took a bad turn off a horrific injury basically cause Bridgewater to miss the last two seasons. The Vikings did clear him to play this year after missing the first few weeks on the PUP list but we did not see much of him because Keenum and the team was so hot.

If it was known that Bridgewater was fully healthy there is no doubt in my mind he would get a contract at the least equal to Mike Glennon’s $15 million a year contract, but with such a small sample size post injury I don’t believe a team can make that kind of commitment. Most likely he is going to be looked at similar to Robert Griffin III but with less upside. Bridgewater thus far in his career has been little more than a safe game manager, but has Alex Smith upside and in today’s dollars Smith is worth over $22 million a season.

He is best served to take a one year contract with a chance to start even if that means leaving a few dollars on the table. We will see how the Vikings year ends but that could be a place where he had a chance to play if they don’t make the Super Bowl with Keenum this year. The Jets with decent wide receivers would make some sense as would the Bills if they part ways with Tyrod Taylor. Arizona is a great environment and if Larry Fitzgerald returns and they keep one of the Browns it could be a good spot. Denver would be the best spot of all with a terrific defense and good receivers.

I have a hard time projecting a contract here but I think somewhere around $6 or $7 million is fair.  The deal would include significant performance incentives as well. Im not sure given the nature of his injury if some teams might look for an injury waiver to apply in the preseason but he should be able to find a home where they take that risk at this price.

7. Josh McCown, Jets

McCown had the best season of his career at the age of 38 before an injury ended his season after 13 games. McCown is the ultimate journeyman with the Jets being his 8th NFL team and the 6th team he has logged at least 5 starts for.

There is little upside with McCown who will never stay healthy for 16 games and has only posted a winning record once in his career (3-2 with the Bears). However everywhere he goes his teammates seem to love him and he brings a great deal of energy to a team. Many say he is destined to be a coach in the league if he wants that and he seems more than happy to embrace a role as a mentor to a young team.

I think there should be a great deal of interest in McCown as a low level starter or safe backup. Even if the Jets were to plan on drafting a QB I don’t think they would discount keeping McCown for the year. Both Arizona and Denver could look at him as a cheap option to start for a season and pray he stays healthy. Miami and Houston, given their injuries at QB, should look at someone like this as a competent backup in the event rehab is slow or there is some kind of setback.

McCown will probably earn in the $6-$7 million range with incentives that will increase that based on performance if he were to start.

8. Jay Cutler, Dolphins

Cutler had zero interest in free agency last year and was about to move on from the NFL when an injury gave him an opportunity with the Dolphins. He certainly didn’t distinguish himself and hit career lows in yards per game, yards per completion, and yards per attempt. My assumption is that he will still have no interest in the initial stage of free agency this year but could hook up with a desperate team on a one year contract.

I would not completely discount the Dolphins but given how the year went and the fact that they wanted to evaluate David Fales in the final game makes me think they were done with him. I’d think the two more likely spots that could see desperation would be the Cardinals or the Redskins where maybe they think they could catch lighting in a bottle even though hes never had that lightning in his career. Last year the Jets were reportedly interested if he was cheap enough and maybe that could happen this year.

Part of this may depend on if FOX is willing to give him a job again after he left them last year or not. If not he may sign for cheaper which is 1 year for say $7 million with a few incentives for the playoffs. If Fox is an option my guess is a team would need to go to $10 million to bring him out of retirement.

9. Ryan Fitzpatrick, Buccaneers

With a season away from the Jets disaster of 2016 the well traveled veteran should be the top backup available. Fitzpatrick has the qualities you need for a spot starter and when he plays under control he can be a decent game manager for a few weeks before teams catch up with him. He went 2-1 with the Bucs this year and kept them competitive in another game he saw extensive time in.

Since he has been in so many spots its hard to say what teams would consider him again but I think anywhere where injuries seem more likely to occur makes sense. The Bucs would certainly remain a strong option too and he indicated he wanted to stay there. To me Tennessee would be a nice spot as would Miami. I don’t think the Bills would be a team he would go back to but anything is possible I guess. Dallas would be a dark horse destination if they wanted to go with a more well known backup.

Someone like Fitzpatrick should sign for 1 or 2 years for $3.5 million a season with some incentivized upside.

10. Drew Stanton, Cardinals

Stanton has come in to relieve an injured Carson Palmer in two of the last four seasons going 8-4 in the process. Stanton isn’t going to put up any fancy numbers but he seems to bring some confidence to his teammates and he hasn’t lost games for the team either. Those are the kind of qualities that make a pretty strong backup QB.

Stanton has had long stints with the Cardinals and Lions so I think he is doing something right to be able to keep his spot as a backup with so few teams. I think that would make most of the NFL open to using him. Any of the teams with an older QB should consider a player like Stanton to backup even if the player hasn’t had any injury history.   For teams with the younger QBs, like a Mariota, I think it is more of a case by case basis.

I think the market for Stanton will probably peak around $3 million unless he comes back to Arizona to compete for a starting job in which case it could be a bit higher.

Here is the list of the players we have listed as unrestricted free agents in 2018 and a rough estimate for a contract annual value.

RankPlayerCurrent TeamAgeSnap % Projected APY
1Kirk CousinsRedskins3099.6%$28,500,000
2Jimmy Garoppolo49ers2732.0%$22,000,000
3Drew BreesSaints3999.5%$25,000,000
4Case KeenumVikings3090.9%$15,000,000
5Sam BradfordVikings318.1%$8,000,000
6Teddy BridgewaterVikings260.8%$7,000,000
7Josh McCownJets3978.8%$6,000,000
8Jay CutlerDolphins3572.3%$7,000,000
9Ryan FitzpatrickBuccaneers3628.9%$3,500,000
10Drew StantonCardinals3428.5%$3,000,000
11Geno SmithGiants286.1%$1,500,000
12Matt MooreDolphins3419.2%$3,000,000
13Chase DanielSaints320.5%$3,500,000
14Ryan MallettRavens305.4%$2,000,000
15Brock OsweilerBroncos2831.1%$2,000,000
16E.J. ManuelRaiders287.5%Minimum
17Blaine GabbertCardinals2930.7%Minimum
18Chad HenneJaguars332.0%$1,500,000
19Derek AndersonPanthers351.5%$2,500,000
20Mark SanchezBears320.0%$1,500,000
21Tom SavageTexans2838.2%Minimum
22Scott TolzienColts314.0%Minimum
23Brandon WeedenTitans350.0%Minimum
24Josh JohnsonTexans320.0%Minimum
25Kellen ClemensChargers353.4%Minimum
26Austin DavisSeahawks290.5%Minimum
27Tyler BrayChiefs270.4%Minimum
28T.J. YatesTexans3118.7%Minimum
29Matt BarkleyCardinals280.0%Minimum

Examining the Proven Performance Escalator

The eve of free agency carries with it the promise of new fortune. When the annual spending spree launches in earnest tomorrow, it will bring life-changing pay raises to dozens of younger players. A number of other fourth-year players, meanwhile, will enjoy more modest pay increases in the coming season due to an aspect of the collective bargaining agreement called the Proven Performance Escalator.

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