Top 101 NFL free agents of 2018: The original list

Print
  • By Gregg Rosenthal and Chris Wesseling
More Columns >

Here is the original Top 101 Free Agents list -- courtesy of Gregg Rosenthal and Chris Wesseling -- as it stood before players began to be signed, tagged and/or released:

1
Kirk Cousins
QB

Due in part to an obsessive work ethic, Cousins has improved every year in the league. His numbers over 48 games since taking over for Robert Griffin III three years ago rival those of Aaron Rodgers during that time span. Quarterbacks of his caliber, durability and commitment level simply don't reach the open market.

2
Drew Brees
QB

Brees benefits from a dynamic ground attack and can't drive the ball like he used to, but he remains one of the most valuable assets in the league at age 39. By all accounts, he's a lead-pipe lock to re-sign with the Saints.

3
Le'Veon Bell
RB

The NFL's premier all-around back of the past four years will likely draw the franchise tag for the second consecutive offseason if he doesn't reach a long-term deal with the Steelers.

4
Demarcus Lawrence
DE

Among the leaders in sacks and tackles for loss in a breakout season, Lawrence will enter the 2018 campaign as a 26-year-old building block. The Cowboys have made it clear that he will be tagged if no agreement is reached by the deadline.

5
Ezekiel Ansah
DE

Sandwiching an injury-ravaged 2016, Ansah has averaged more than 13 sacks in his last two healthy seasons. Freakishly athletic pass rushers of that magnitude tend to stay put.

6
Allen Robinson
WR

One of the league's most dangerous deep threats in 2015, Robinson followed a disappointing 2016 season with a torn ACL in 2017. Suddenly standing in a Super Bowl window, Jacksonville will consider applying the tag to retain Robinson if necessary.

7
Sheldon Richardson
DT

Richardson's Pro Bowl talent may be undeniable, but he's totaled just 2.5 sacks in his past 30 games and will be viewed by many teams as a character risk. He's expected to reach the open market.

8
Sammy Watkins
WR

On one hand, he's a 24-year-old with obvious talent and No. 1 receiver potential. On the other hand, even a brilliant offensive mind like Sean McVay couldn't bring out that potential last season.

9
Andrew Norwell
G

Undrafted out of Ohio State, Norwell has developed into a Pro Bowl-caliber performer in a league that finds it increasingly difficult to field a quality offensive line. With so much capital tied up in Matt Kalil and Trai Turner, the Panthers might have their hands tied with Norwell.

10
Kyle Fuller
CB

We might be higher on Fuller than most after watching him lead the league in passes defensed last year, per Pro Football Focus. Could he be the next Casey Hayward, making his former team look silly for allowing him to fly the nest after his rookie contract?

11
Case Keenum
QB

Last year, Keenum settled for a $2 million contract in free agency and didn't even crack our Top 101. This time, he has the opportunity to earn life-changing money few journeymen ever see. He's a solid bet to start somewhere in Week 1.

12
Malcolm Butler
CB

A relative down year and Shakespearean-tragedy ending to his Patriots career in the Super Bowl could keep Butler's price down. Smart teams will pounce, knowing he was a top-10 cornerback in 2015 and '16.

13
Trumaine Johnson
CB

Physical, above-average starting cornerbacks get paid like superstars in free agency. That's why the Rams gave Johnson $30.6 million over the last two years as their franchise player.

14
Lamarcus Joyner
DB

Every team could use a player like Joyner, a former cornerback who is comfortable covering the slot, playing the deep part of the field and tackling well at the line of scrimmage. He's like Honey Badger in Arizona, without the cool nickname.

15
Teddy Bridgewater
QB

He's either ranked way too high or way too low. With a great combination of smarts, positive game tape and leadership, Bridgewater could have a higher long-term ceiling than even Kirk Cousins. But there's no telling how Teddy will look two years removed from a devastating knee injury.

16
Sam Bradford
QB

Like Bridgewater, Bradford is a mystery because of his knee. He put up a quietly-impressive 2016 season and a breathtaking Week 1 performance before he was put on the shelf for nearly the rest of the season.

17
Bashaud Breeland
CB

Breeland is streaky, but few young cornerbacks with his talent get to free agency in their prime.

18
Nate Solder
T

Solder is virtually the only true starting left tackle available in free agency. He can strike it rich if he wants to leave the Patriots.

19
Dontari Poe
DT

Poe showed in Atlanta he could hold up as an every-down player after losing weight and making a consistent impact in the passing game. He's not a star, but he is a starter.

20
Justin Pugh
OL

Pugh timed free agency poorly, coming off a season marred by a back injury and playing out of position at tackle. But he's a proven quality guard and those are tough to find.

21
Zach Brown
LB

A talented tease early in his career, Brown has emerged in the last two seasons as one of the league's premier run-stuffing inside linebackers.

22
Carlos Hyde
RB

There are weeks in which he looks like a tackle-breaking terror with intriguing ability in the passing game. Unfortunately, there might be just as many weeks filled with negative runs, dropped passes and nagging injuries.

23
Jimmy Graham
TE

Graham is still earning Pro Bowl nods due to his red-zone prowess and name recognition, but it's been four years since he's played at that consistent level.

24
Kenny Vaccaro
S

Billed as a hybrid safety-corner-linebacker early in his career, Vaccaro has never lived up to his potential in New Orleans. Will he find a system that hides his coverage weaknesses and plays to his strengths?

25
Eric Reid
S

Can Reid continue to play with abandon as a back-end enforcer with concussion concerns, a torn biceps and a PCL sprain on his medical chart?

26
Nigel Bradham
LB

A run-and-chase linebacker limited to 4-3 systems, Bradham is coming off a career year for the Super Bowl champions.

27
Avery Williamson
LB

Although strong against the run, Williamson is a base 3-4 inside linebacker with less-than-ideal coverage skills. Can he be a three-down player?

28
Morgan Burnett
S

Burnett has been Green Bay's most consistent performer in the secondary the past two years, but injuries are starting to add up for a player nearing the age-30 barrier.

29
Dion Lewis
RB

Lewis is one of the most effective per-play backs in the league, but he's also an undersized injury risk best utilized in space. Will he be another role player exposed outside of New England?

30
Star Lotulelei
DT

Lotulelei is a dependable starter on the interior, but doesn't make enough impact plays to merit a high-dollar contract.

31
Vontae Davis
CB

Thirty years old in May, Davis is coming off two injury-plagued seasons. He was a difference maker the last time he was truly healthy.

32
Weston Richburg
C

A standout early in his career, the 26-year-old missed 12 games in 2017 because of a concussion. He's the best center available on the market.

33
Terrelle Pryor
WR

His disastrous season in Washington doesn't erase the ball skills and after-catch ability he displayed in his 1,000-yard campaign for the Browns. A return to Cleveland looms.

34
E.J. Gaines
CB

Traded to Buffalo in the Sammy Watkins deal, Gaines completed a rock-solid season as a starter in the Bills' cornerback-friendly defense. He's a capable option for zone defenses.

35
AJ McCarron
QB

McCarron was a mixed bag in his four starts in 2015, and there's no telling how he's developed since then. He's likely to be the latest backup quarterback to see his price go up by not playing.

36
Trey Burton
TE

Blocked by Zach Ertz for playing time, Burton excelled when Ertz was out with injury. Burton is the type of high-upside athletic "move" tight end that every team is looking for.

37
Jack Mewhort
OL

Limited to roughly 1,000 snaps combined over the last two years because of knee injuries, Mewhort was an excellent second-round find at right guard before that.

38
Tyler Eifert
TE

One of the biggest X-factors in this free agency class, Eifert is among best tight ends in football when healthy. But he's played a total of 24 games in the last four years, including 10 over the last two seasons because of persistent back issues.

39
Jordan Matthews
WR

He proved in Philadelphia he can produce out of the slot with 225 catches in his first three seasons. He proved in Buffalo he's not talented enough to transcend problematic surroundings.

40
DaQuan Jones
DL

A favorite sleeper on this list, Jones has position versatility and the ability to take on multiple blockers. He's remained under the radar because he does so much dirty work.

41
Julius Peppers
DE/OLB

Still good for double-digit sacks in his late 30s, Peppers has reached the stage of a Hall of Fame career where it will prove difficult to lure him away from his hometown Carolina team.

42
Tahir Whitehead
LB

Whitehead has been the best linebacker in Detroit the past two years, which speaks more to the Lions' lack of star power than his own prowess as an above-average starter.

43
Brent Grimes
CB

The end could come at any time for a cornerback entering his mid-30s, but Grimes is still playing at a high level as one of the most explosive NFL athletes of the past decade.

44
Paul Richardson
WR

The bizarro Marqise Lee, Richardson is a dangerous big-play threat best utilized on downfield routes.

45
Morris Claiborne
CB

Claiborne might never live up to his No. 6 overall pick pedigree, but he's been a rock-solid starter -- when healthy -- the past two years.

46
Marqise Lee
WR

Once christened the "albino tiger" for his rare appearances on the field, Lee has suited up for 30 of Jacksonville's past 32 regular-season games. A flanker with strong catch-and-run abilities, the former USC star isn't much of a deep threat or red-zone weapon.

47
Ryan Jensen
OL

A backup for three years, Jensen solidified Baltimore's pivot position as a 16-game starter in 2017.

48
Prince Amukamara
CB

Rent-a-corner keeps supplying league-average starter value on one-year contracts.

49
Josh McCown
QB

The ideal bridge quarterback, McCown is essentially a player-coach at this stage of his career. A red-flag injury risk entering his age-39 season, McCown is perhaps most valuable as a wet nurse for a talented but raw young stallion.

50
Preston Brown
LB

Tailor-made for Sean McDermott's defense, Brown tied for the league-lead in tackles last season. That speaks more to the specious value of tackles as a statistic than Brown's impact as a difference-maker.

51
Josh Sitton
G

For the second time in three seasons, Pro Football Focus' grading system appreciated Sitton more than his own team. That's a red flag, but he can still start at 31 years old.

52
John Brown
WR

Like so many intriguing free agents, Brown has a history of injuries that makes him a boom-or-bust option. He hasn't been quite right since his 1,000-yard season in 2015.

53
Anthony Hitchens
LB

Hitchens can play on the outside and filled in capably at middle linebacker when Sean Lee was hurt. Keep an eye on the Colts, where his old position coach is now the defensive coordinator.

54
Jerick McKinnon
RB

McKinnon is the type of "space" player who can excel as a receiver and runner, with his quickness translating to any system.

55
Justin Ellis
DT

Ellis was graded as the No. 14 run-stopper among defensive tackles by Pro Football Focus in 2017, and 332-pound nose tackles are hard to find.

56
Patrick Robinson
CB

Robinson is on this list for the second time in three years after a career-best season covering the slot for the Eagles.

57
Tre Boston
S

A breakout season on the field and in front of the camera in 2017 should help Boston avoid the type of the low-cost one-year deal he signed last April.

58
Austin Seferian-Jenkins
TE

After cleaning up his life as a recovering alcoholic, Seferian-Jenkins looked like a new player with the Jets. (Like the player many expected when the Bucs took him in the second round of the 2014 draft.)

59
Donte Moncrief
WR

With Andrew Luck, Moncrief looked headed for greatness. Without Luck, Moncrief was blamed for a bad attitude and worse production.

60
Adrian Clayborn
DE

His lightning strike of a six-sack game against Dallas shouldn't overshadow the rest of his disruptive 2017 as a pass rusher.

61
Rashaan Melvin
CB

The quintessential journeyman prior to last season, Melvin emerged as Indy's top cover corner in Vontae Davis' absence.

62
Aaron Colvin
CB

Colvin was one of the league's most reliable tacklers in the slot, but nobody pays big money for that species.

63
Demario Davis
LB

Davis rehabilitated his value with a strong season in his Big Apple return after a pair of disappointing campaigns in 2015 and '16.

64
William Hayes
DE

An infamous dinosaur denier, Hayes didn't play like a creature facing extinction at age 32.

65
Kyle Williams
DT

One of the most underrated stars of the past decade figures to return to Buffalo for a 13th season. He turns 35 in June.

66
Dominique Easley
DT

A true wild card, Easley is a first-round talent with major knee issues and a history of tantalizing play in limited snaps.

67
Mike Wallace
WR

Just good enough to be a productive starter for a low-wattage aerial attack.

68
NaVorro Bowman
LB

How much value does Bowman have as a soon-to-be 30-year-old, two-down thumper in a pass-heavy league?

69
Josh Kline
G

Kline saw a drop-off in effectiveness last season after playing a key role in DeMarco Murray's 2016 bounce-back campaign.

70
Taylor Gabriel
WR

He has a limited skill set, but that skill (speed and big plays) pays. Old buddy Kyle Shanahan could potentially bring Gabriel to San Francisco.

71
Isaiah Crowell
RB

Crowell can be the lead back in a committee attack, but he's nobody's idea of a dynamic playmaker.

72
Tyvon Branch
S

Defensive coordinator James Bettcher knew just how to use Branch's ability to cover tight ends. Don't be surprised if Branch follows Bettcher to Big Blue.

73
Haloti Ngata
DT

Twelve seasons into an incredible career, Ngata still held up well as a role player when healthy in Detroit.

74
Rex Burkhead
RB

Playing with Tom Brady, Burkhead basically proved what everyone believed about him. His versatility was underused with the Bengals, but he struggles to stay healthy.

75
John Sullivan
C

In this market, any sentient offensive lineman is going to find a job. Sullivan, 32, did a nice job as a starter with the Rams.

76
Trent Murphy
DE/OLB

Murphy followed up a breakout 2016 (nine sacks and 55 total pressures by PFF's count) with a PED suspension and a torn ACL. Not an ideal way to hit free agency.

77
Todd Davis
LB

Inside linebackers who specialize as run-stoppers don't get paid, but Davis is a capable piece to the puzzle.

78
Cameron Fleming
T

In this tackle-starved market, the Patriots' fourth-string OT in 2017 will probably get paid after holding up well throughout the playoffs.

79
T.J. Carrie
CB

"Slot cornerback" is essentially a starting position in today's NFL, evidenced by Carrie's 1,023 snaps in 2017. Carrie is a good one and adds return value, as well.

80
Bennie Logan
DT

The run-stopper and former Eagle didn't make a huge impact after settling for a one-year contract last offseason.

81
Danny Amendola
WR

Now properly regarded as a clutch playoff performer, Amendola's highest value is to the Patriots. Other teams don't carve out major roles for brittle 32-year-old wideouts who don't moonlight as special teams gunners.

82
Colin Kaepernick
QB

While Kaepernick straddles the line between talented backup quarterback and potential starter, it was crazy to see his talent fall out of the league last season. It will take an ownership group and coaching staff aligned in the decision to bring him in.

83
Tavon Wilson
S

Wilson held his own as a starter for a year and a half, but the Lions seemed overly eager to hand his job to converted cornerback Quandre Diggs late last season.

84
Jeremy Hill
RB

A liability in the passing game, Hill played himself out of a starting job with three years of sluggish football after a strong rookie season. Can he bounce back on a team with a stronger offensive line?

85
Eric Decker
WR

Underwhelming in his Nashville debut, Decker might have left his playmaking ability on the operating table last offseason.

86
Jerrell Freeman
LB

Freeman has been a solid starter when he suits up, but he's coming off a torn pectoral after serving PED suspensions in each of the past two seasons.

87
Doug Martin
RB

Good luck guessing which Martin will show up in 2018. Outplayed by afterthought Peyton Barber and journeyman Jacquizz Rodgers this past season, the 2015 All-Pro stumbled through 2.9 yards per carry for the second straight year.

88
Kony Ealy
DE

Plucked off the waiver wire from New England, Ealy held his own in 450 snaps as a rotational lineman with the Jets.

89
Alex Okafor
DE/OLB

Okafor was one of the pleasant surprises in his New Orleans debut, but he's coming off a November Achilles tear.

90
Johnathan Joseph
CB

Joseph finally showed signs of decline in his age-33 season after 11 years as a Pro Bowl-caliber corner in Cincinnati and Houston.

91
Brent Urban
DE

The Ravens harbored high hopes for Urban as a breakout candidate last season, but he just can't stay healthy.

92
Graham Gano
K

After hitting 96.7 percent of his kicks in 2017, Gano is a strong candidate for the franchise tag.

93
LeGarrette Blount
RB

Superfluous in Philadelphia after the addition of Jay Ajayi, Blount's a hammer with back-to-back Super Bowl titles to his name.

94
Derrick Johnson
LB

Johnson held up remarkably well for a 35-year-old coming off a torn Achilles in 2017; he was just overpaid in Kansas City.

95
Darren Sproles
RB

Coming off ACL surgery at 34 years old, Sproles wants to play one more season as a scat back and return man.

96
Matt Slauson
C/G

Slauson gets extra points as a free-agent pickup because of his position flexibility.

97
Junior Galette
DE/OLB

A nightmare off the field for much of his career and a major injury risk on it, Galette was effective as a situational pass rusher in 2017.

98
Senio Kelemete
G

Kelemete filled in capably as a starter when injuries hit the Saints and could get a chance to start full-time elsewhere.

99
Chris Hubbard
OL

A well-regarded backup in Pittsburgh with position flexibility, Hubbard performed well as a starting right tackle last season.

100
Frank Gore
RB

Gore can still handle every role a running back is asked to do, even if he's better off in a backup/mentor role. He ran far better than his numbers showed last season.

101
Jay Cutler
QB

He probably doesn't want to return as a backup and teams probably shouldn't pay him like a starter. To the booth he goes?

Print

Headlines

The previous element was an advertisement.

NFL Shop