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Monday, December 10, 2018

Ranking the top 15 NFL free agents

Kirk Cousins

NFL free agency is fast approaching, with action happening daily. The market is strong this season, and it includes a few top quarterbacks, which will be particularly intriguing on the market.

Who are the best players available? Here are the 15 best players currently poised to hit the open market when the free agency period starts.

1. Drew Brees, QB

No, Brees isn’t leaving New Orleans — his coach has already said so. Still, he’s a prospective free agent who’s going to have to land on this list. Some of the 39-year-old’s numbers dropped in 2017, most notably his 4,334 passing yards and 23 touchdowns down from where he’s been for much of the last decade. He still led the Saints back to the playoffs, completed 72 percent of his passes, and looked every bit as controlled as he always has. The Saints will be thrilled to keep him as long as he remains effective.

2. Kirk Cousins, QB

Cousins is the best of the actually available quarterbacks on the market, and he’ll draw enormous interest from a number of teams. Questions linger as to whether he’s actually the elite franchise quarterback his next team will hope he is, but he’s certainly put up the kind of gaudy numbers that make teams salivate. In his three full seasons as Washington’s starter, he’s averaged 4,392 yards, 27 touchdowns, and 12 interceptions per season. He already has one playoff team interested, with the high-ceiling Denver Broncos in tow, plus a big-money offer from the New York Jets likely incoming as well.

3. Andrew Norwell, G

Indisputably, Norwell is the best available offensive lineman in this year’s free agent class. He’s coming off an All-Pro season, having been a consistent, elite performer for the Carolina Panthers’ offensive line. The Panthers probably won’t be able to afford to keep him, opening the door to a free agent frenzy for the 26-year-old who didn’t allow a single sack all season. Pretty much any team with the cap space and the need for a guard will be looking his way, which should result in a robust market. The Giants could be a suitor for him.

4. Case Keenum, QB

Is Keenum a franchise quarterback or a guy who took advantage of a favorable system and a good defense that set him up for success? That’s the question that interested parties will have to answer, as it’s becoming abundantly clear that the Minnesota Vikings are going to look in another direction for their long-term quarterback solution. Keenum’s numbers certainly look legitimate — he won 11 of his 14 starts, threw for 22 touchdowns against just seven interceptions, and totaled up 3,547 yards. He could be a good backup plan for the teams that lose out on the Cousins sweepstakes.

5. Allen Robinson, WR

Robinson looked poised for stardom after a 2015 season that saw him catch 14 touchdowns and rack up 1,400 yards receiving. He failed to live up to those numbers in 2016 and followed it up by playing in just one game in 2017 before tearing his ACL. It was a devastating blow for Robinson, and it makes him something of a wild card heading to free agency. The Jaguars know what they have and would like to keep him, but if he does hit the market, the memory of 2015 will still linger in the minds of many teams. He is, after all, just 24, and nobody’s going to be giving up on him yet.

6. Dion Lewis, RB

Is Dion Lewis a quality running back or another player who has the best brought out of him by the Patriots’ system? That’s the multi-million dollar question some team is going to have to answer. Lewis’ potential is clear; he can hurt you in many different ways. Of his ten total touchdowns in 2017, six came on the ground, three in the passing game, and one on a punt return. That versatility will attract many teams and probably make him too costly for the Patriots, but he still faces questions about his size and has an injury history. He’s a gamble, but a talented one.

7. Trumaine Johnson, CB

The Rams’ decision to trade for Marcus Peters should more or less seal Johnson’s fate. He’s set to become a free agent after a strong season in which the 28-year-old had 57 tackles, 13 passes defended, and two interceptions. The Bears transition tagging Fuller makes Johnson the top free agent cornerback on the market. He’s young enough, he’s talented enough, and he’s a good enough athlete that teams will be queuing up for his services.

See Nos. 8-15 on Page 2

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