Column: NFL league madness has begun before the season
March Madness has begun. No, I’m not talking about the buzzer-beating shots, bracket-busting upsets, or thousands of hours of work that will be neglected as a result of tuning in to games. Not that I don’t love the dance – I’ll be filling out my own brackets and religiously cheering for teams that I couldn’t even tell you where they’re located – I’m also the returning bracket champion in the office, but I’m not bragging.
I’m talking about the madness that is the official start of the 2018 NFL league year, and all the free agency drama that comes along with it.
The 2018 NFL league year officially begins March 14, which also marks the start of the free agency period. There’s already been a fair number of division-shifting moves thus far (many of which do not become official until that day, but parties will have already reached verbal agreements). Here is a review of some of the bigger transactions, courtesy of NFL insider Adam Schefter:
– The Seahawks released Richard Sherman and he was signed by the 49ers to a three-year $39 million deal.
– In less than 24 hours, the Browns acquired Tyrod Taylor, Jarvis Landry, Damarcus Randall, a 2018 third and fourth round pick, and they traded away Deshone Kizer (Packers), Danny Shelton (Patriots) a 2018 third, fourth and fifth round pick and also a 2019 seventh round pick.
– The Chiefs traded Alex Smith to the Redskins for a third round pick and cornerback Kendall Fuller.
– The Chiefs traded Marcus Peters and the 196th pick in the 2018 draft to the Rams for the 124th pick in the draft and a second round pick in the 2019 draft.
– The Seahawks traded defensive end Michael Bennett and a 2018 seventh round pick to the Eagles for a 2018 fifth round pick and receiver Marcus Johnson.
– The Rams traded defensive end Robert Quinn and a 2018 sixth round pick to the Dolphins for Miami’s fourth and sixth round picks.
– The Broncos traded cornerback Aquib Talib to the Rams for a 2018 fifth round pick
And to think, all of this has happened before the official start of the 2018 season and before the draft, which means there’s still plenty of drama to play out. The league’s cap total is set at $177.2 million for the 2018 season – the cap total is the limit that each team may spend on player salaries per year.
According to Spotrac, as of March 10, the top five teams with the most cap space are the Jets – $98 million, Browns – $77 million, Colts – $73 million, Buccaneers – $73 million, and the 49ers – $69 million. Comparatively, the top five teams with the least amount of cap space are the Eagles – (under the limit) $10 million, Dolphins – (under the limit) $3 million, Steelers – $1 million, Cowboys – $4 million, and the Ravens – $9 million (inserting multiple crying emojis).
Given all this information, here’s my list of the top offensive free agents and where they might end up signing.
- Kirk Cousins, QB
The arrival of Alex Smith obviously means the Captain Kirk era has ended in Washington. Kirk is due for Matthew Stafford and Jimmy Garoppolo money (You like that!?). I think the choice for Kirk is simple: sign with the Vikings to be paired with the one of the best defenses in the NFL, and immediately have a chance at the Super Bowl.
- Allen Robinson, WR
Robinson is coming off an ACL tear, but in the two seasons prior to his injury Robinson tallied 2,283 yards and 20 receiving touchdowns. Lest we not forget that Robinson posted these stats when the Jaguars were still on the struggle bus. If Robinson still has that same deep play ability, he can easily be a top 10 receiver in the route system. There’s a chance he stays with the Jaguars, but the 49ers, Ravens (prayer hand emoji) and Jets all have a solid chance at him.
- Nate Solder, OT
This is plain ol’ supply and demand. Solder is essentially the only tackle in free agency that has starter caliber. If he can justify leaving the Patriots, he can cash out wherever he goes, but the Texans are a likely target considering they have the cap space and a big void at the tackle position.
- Dion Lewis, RB
It’s hard to tell of Lewis’ ceiling considering most of his career has been spent in a classic Patriots running back time share, but last season previewed his potential as a starting running back. In the five games that Lewis was given the lead-back duties last season, he recorded 493 rushing yards and five total touchdowns. The Colts, Jets and Seahawks could all give Lewis a solid home.
- Sammy Watkins WR
Ah, the curious case of Sammy Watkins. If you watch Watkins’ highlights or film you can see that he undeniably has top-five potential considering his catching ability, route running, speed and strength. But in his last two seasons, he’s only totaled 67 catches for 1,023 yards. He did sit out eight games in 2016, but last season he played in 15 games and was unable to reach his potential. He’s another candidate that has incentive to resign, but if not, the Panthers and 49ers could be a good fit.