2015 NFL Free Agency Predictions

Posted by Brad On March – 6 – 2015

"Ndamukong Suh"

The annual free agent prediction article draws more vitriol than any non-QB draft-related article on the site. With a loaded class of free agents this year’s predictions may be more polarizing than any other. Combine that with the fact that teams have more expendable cash than ever before and it’s a free agency perfect storm.

Rarely do splash free agent signings pan out over the long haul. However, with the likes of Ndamukong Suh, Randall Cobb and potentially Darrelle Revis hitting the open market that historical perspective may be changing course.

Come next Tuesday the doors open, so we will be finding out where some of the big fish land by this time next week. With this in mind, here’s my predictions on how free agency will pan out.

Ndamukong Suh – Record breaking deal with Miami

Suh’s franchise tag number kept Detroit at bay. Now, Suh will test the open market. Unfortunately for Detroit fans I don’t Suh making it past his first visit. All signs point to Miami as a player for Suh. While they don’t (currently) have enough cap space to get this monstrous deal done we are likely to see the exodus of Mike Wallace and others to make it work.

Darrelle Revis – Stay in New England

Revis shouldn’t technically be on this list but we’ll leave him there as he won’t be back on his current deal. Revis got a taste of winning in New England and will have to consider leaving a winning culture for less green pastures elsewhere. New England is likely to lose Devin McCourty so losing Revis would be detrimental to a much improved secondary last season. Revis will get paid on another short deal (2-3 years, probably frontloaded) to stay in Foxborough.

Randall Cobb – Monster deal in Oakland

The Packers drafted Davante Adams with the possibility of losing Randall Cobb in mind. Cobb will be paid like a true No. 1 receiver because of his versatility to impact the game in so many facets. Oakland is likely to out price the competition at a $10-11M/year deal – leaving all other bidders in the dust. While it’s a ton of money, Oakland needs to surround its young, promising QB with weapons at all costs.

Byron Maxwell – Philly’s No. 1 CB for the future

Byron Maxwell is almost assured of leaving Richard Sherman’s shadow in Seattle. He could be the free agent prize that many teams are banking on landing to secure a leaky secondary. At 27 years old, I expect teams to begin bidding on Maxwell in the $9-10M/year vicinity. Among those bidding are likely to be the Jets, Eagles and potentially a reunion with his former DC in Atlanta as the sleeper. Philly is clearing the decks to bring in Chip’s guys. I think they outbid the competition to land the type of player Chip covets in the defensive backfield.

Julius Thomas – Top tight end deal in Jacksonville

"Julius Thomas"

Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

Jacksonville has a boatload of cap space and they will use it to land weapons to surround Blake Bortles. The sweetspot may be a deal just below Jimmy Graham and Gronk in the $8M/year range. While it’s a lot of money the Jags have to explore every option to help progress Bortles career track. Thomas is a matchup nightmare, especially in the redzone – an area the Jags struggled mightily in last season.

Devin McCourty – Joins his brother in Tennessee

The former CB has found a home at safety in New England. One would have to think the release of Vince Wilfork was partially due to the fact the Pats want to re-sign McCourty and Revis. McCourty could go to Tennessee (to join his twin brother) but he sticks with familiarity and winning in New England.

DeMarco Murray – Dallas can’t match Indy’s offer

Dallas would like Murray back and I’m sure he would go back on a competitive offer. However Ryan Grigson has $40M+ to work with and looking to right the RB ship after striking out on Trent Richardson. Free agent RB’s with the workload of Murray usually don’t get paid but Indianapolis is positioned to offer Murray an elite RB deal to put them over the proverbial hump. I expect Murray to be in the Arian Foster ballpark at $8M/year.

Jeremy Maclin – Teddy’s top target in Minnesota

I can’t see Maclin fitting the mold of Chip Kelly’s ideal receiver, so they allow him to walk. Minnesota needs another receiver to team with Teddy Bridgewater. Maclin is fresh off a solid season in Philly, despite mediocre QB play. Maclin is a great fit in Norv Turner’s offense and gives Teddy a legitimate threat to stretch defenses vertically and work underneath.

Greg Hardy – From exempt list to Cincinnati

Maybe the biggest unknown in this free agent class is Greg Hardy. Hardy is currently on the commissioner’s exempt list but it appears he may be making his way off soon and eligible to return. At only 26-years old Hardy should be primed for a breakout deal. However, teams will have to weigh the off-field issue when booking him for a monster deal. Oakland makes a ton of sense but I see Cincinnati as a sleeper in this race.

Pernell McPhee – Heading to New York

The Jets have a boatload of cap space and should be looking for defensive backs and pass rushers to build their defense. McPhee has been a breakout pass rusher in Baltimore. With so many pass rushers he was a bit overshadowed but by season’s end he emerged as arguably one of their best. The Jets need to find players that can pressure the QB and McPhee may be the most underrated and undervalued of this free agent class.

Mike Iupati – Protection for RGIII

The Redskins offensive line was an abysmal mess last season. They need to find quality starters through the draft and free agency. With roughly $25M in cap space, expect Dan Snyder to open up the checkbook to ink a free agent OL. Iupati is arguably the best of the bunch and isn’t likely to return to San Francisco. Iupati is likely to land in the $7M/year range – a drop in Dan Snyder’s bucket.

Rodney Hudson – KC can’t keep him out of the division

Hudson wants to be paid top center dollar. While he won’t get Pouncey/Mack money he could come in slightly less. That will be too much for KC to keep Hudson. KC could lock horns with divisional foes in Denver and San Diego to retain his services. I see San Diego as the team to beat as Mike McCoy finds a guy that fits what he’s looking for on the interior.

"Jerry Hughes"

David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

Jerry Hughes – Reunite with Mike Pettine in Cleveland

Jerry Hughes broke out with Pettine in ’13 after being tagged as a draft bust. He continued that success into last season and has earned a big payday. Cleveland isn’t likely to bring back Jabaal Sheard and Hughes could boost the Browns pass rush opposite Paul Kruger. We’ll know what the Browns think of Barkevious Mingo if Hughes is inked to a big deal in CLE. I would expect Hughes to fetch a Paul Kruger-esque deal in the $8-9M/year range.

Bryan Bulaga – Stay put in Green Bay

The Packers lose Randall Cobb – I don’t think they can afford to lose Bulaga. When he’s healthy he’s been a solid protector for Aaron Rodgers. The question will be if Ted Thompson is willing to stick $7M/year into Bulaga, who comes with durability concerns. Top right tackle contracts are in that $6-7M range annually – Bulaga is arguably one of the top right tackles, when healthy. I think Thompson ponies up a top RT contract in the upper 6M to 7M vicinity to keep Bulaga.

Torrey Smith – Payday in Jacksonville

Smith isn’t likely to give the Ravens the hometown discount they need to re-sign him. In an effort to surround Blake Bortles with weapons, Shad Khan opens up his wallet to sign the vertical threat. Smith joins Julius Thomas as the Jags begin building a formidable weaponry around Bortles.

Jared Odrick – Detroit and Miami swap DT’s

Detroit is faced with the reality of losing both Suh and Nick Fairley. If both are gone, they better have a replacement plan. Odrick is widely undervalued as he’s turned into a solid interior rusher. Odrick is an upgrade over Fairley, in my opinion, and will go a long way in filling the massive hole left by Suh.

Jason Worilds – Philly gets an edge rusher

Philadelphia has cleared the decks to bring in Chip’s guys. Worilds isn’t an elite edge rusher but he can certainly help out the Philly defense. Worilds fills in for Brandon Graham, who is most likely done in Philly despite a solid 2014 season. Worilds should cash in on a solid payday without breaking the bank – I would expect a Connor Barwin-esque $6M/year.

Vince Wilfork – Green Bay scores on Wilfork’s final years

"Vince Wilfork"

Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

Wilfork’s comeback from the 2013 knee injury was nothing short of amazing. Wilfork may consider returning to New England – the only team he’s known in the NFL. However, Green Bay could sweeten the pot for Wilfork to finish his career out for a winner.

Brandon Flowers – The Jets get help in the defensive backfield

Brandon Flowers regained his former prowess last year in San Diego. However he’s 29 and struggled in KC in 2013 before joining San Diego on a one-year deal. Flowers isn’t likely to break the bank for the Jets and can serve as a mentor for younger DB’s while providing versatility to cover the slot or outside. I look for Flowers to ink a short-term (2-3 years) in the ballpark of $6M/per – a bargain if NY could lock that up.

Orlando Franklin – Jags keep the free agent train rolling

Jacksonville has the space to make some splash moves and the spending continues on the offensive side of the ball. Franklin’s versatility to play tackle or guard is intriguing for a team in desperate need of both, like the Jags.

Terrance Knighton – Stays put in Denver

The Broncos defense has been much improved and that is largely due to Knighton’s play in the middle. I see this one striking any day now as John Elway knows the value that Knighton provides.

Michael Crabtree – Can he regain traction in New York?

Michael Crabtree is somewhat of an enigma. He’s been inconsistent throughout his career, partly due to injuries. What we know is he’s not a true No. 1 guy but he won’t have to be in New York. With Eric Decker and Percy Harvin in the fold, Crabtree gives the Jets the flexibility and depth they need for whoever their young QB is going to be.

Jordan Cameron – Atlanta take a low risk, high reward flier on Cameron

Jordan Cameron would have been paid top TE money if it weren’t for serious concerns with concussions. Cameron lost five games last season to his third concussion in three years. Atlanta badly needs a TE and can afford to take a risk on Cameron’s health. When he’s healthy he’s a stud and he hasn’t had Matt Ryan throwing him the rock. I would look for a shorter-term deal in the $5-6M/year range.

Clint Boling – Cincinnati locks up Boling

Clint Boling has been an underrated, off the radar player throughout his career. The one team that definitely knows his value is his current one. Cincinnati can’t afford to lose Boling. With a boatload of cap space, it’s tough to justify Cincy cutting ties.

Brian Orakpo – Tennessee gambles on the oft-injured Orakpo

I can’t see a deal getting done in Washington, leaving Orakpo to choose between suitors. Orakpo suffered his third pec tear in six years after getting off to a slow start in 2014. This one could come down to Atlanta and Tennessee, who both need edge rushers. Tennessee edges out Atlanta for this one.

Dan Williams – Cleveland inks Williams to player-friendly deal

Let’s face it – the Browns are a mess and less of a free agent destination than before Text-Gate, Manziel, etc. Dan Williams is just what the doctor ordered in Cleveland – a wide body run stuffer to help their 32nd rank run defense.

Rahim Moore – Much needed backend help in Chicago

Rahim Moore has emerged from the Baltimore game as one of the better safeties in the league. Moore is likely to receive a nice payday in somewhere other than Denver. Chicago makes a ton of sense as the need is clear and Moore is a known commodity to the coaching staff.

How the QB market pans out

"Brian Hoyer"

Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

Brian Hoyer – Jets bring in veteran competition for Geno

Lost on the Hoyer front was the effect of a management team not in his corner. Combine that with the fact that he was throwing to hands down the least threatening receiving corps in the league and you have a perfect storm. Hoyer has proven when supported in the front office and with weapons around him he can be a serviceable starter. While New York doesn’t have the league’s deepest or most talented weapons, they are markedly better than Cleveland’s.

Mark Sanchez – Chicago Bears backup plan

Jay Cutler’s leash is getting shorter by the year. The Bears would be wise to seek a veteran to hold the clipboard until Cutler plays his way out of the starting gig. Sanchez is a perfect candidate to fill the backup void and if called upon he can start and win in the league.

Jake Locker – Philly replaces Sanchez with Locker

Between injuries and accuracy issues it’s fairly safe to assume Locker hasn’t measured up to his draft position. I don’t see any team willing to put the hopes of their starting QB position in the hands of the oft-injured Locker. With this in mind, Philly would be a great landing spot for the former 8th overall pick.

  • Reggie

    I agree that Suh will probably be gone…either to the Colts, Dolphins, or maybe back to the Lions. Jared Olderick would be a nice free agent and maybe resigning Fairley as well. I think then we could make a run at a OL or CB afterwards.

    • bradc11

      The Lions have a little money to play with and some positional needs. Odrick would be a perfect fit – at significantly less than Suh. As good as Suh is I’m not sure I’d be willing to make him the highest paid defender in the league. Let him walk for big money elsewhere and focus on cheaper DT options to go with a CB on defense. On offense, there are a couple of solid options at guard…tackle less options. If they prioritize defense in free agency, there’s some solid OL prospects that are likely to be had in their range.

      • Reggie

        Olderick and Nick Fairley would be nice and combined probably less than Suh. Round 1 would have to be between: Melvin Gordon, there are some nice OL talents: Le’El Collins and Ereck Flowers maybe, some nice DL talents Alvin Dupree or Malcolm Brown, or a CB with Trae Waynes or Marcus Peters…maybe Landon Collins

  • Duncan

    Interesting predictions.

    The Hughes one is something that I hadn’t thought before, but it does make sense. Overall, I think that he re-signs back in Buffalo as he has three all-star teammates playing next to him in M. Williams, K. Williams, and Dareus, and he could still produce while facing single team blocks. Where as if go somewhere that doesn’t have anybody on the other side of him he’ll be the focal point of the defense and a player that teams scheme to block.

    • bradc11

      A shot in the dark…
      Hughes was a tough call – partially due to your point of being surrounded by Williams x2 and Dareus. I went with familiarity, need, and payday over that justification. His familiarity (success) with Pettine, Browns need and cap space, and the fact that the Browns are likely to grossly overpay for him to come.