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The top-rated NFL free agents for 2018

By Mike Renner, Special To The Washington Post

The 2017 season is a lost cause for approximately a third of the league at this point. That means itís a good time to start looking forward to what can be done to fix that over the course of the offseason. The cap is once again expected to make a sizable leap in the upcoming league year, which means pay days abound.

Here are the guys who made themselves the most money by exceeding expectations this season.

Kirk Cousins, QB, Washington Redskins

Cousins took a sizable risk when betting on himself by playing on a one-year franchise deal once again. Losing your top two receivers (Pierre Garcon and DeSean Jackson) can spell doom for many quarterbacks, but itís been business as usual for Cousins even as his offensive line has been decimated by injuries.

The Washington signal-caller is grading as a top-10 quarterback (82.8), and soon heíll have the long-term contract of one. Only this time its value will be exponentially higher than any one he would have signed back when he first became a free agent in 2016.

Case Keenum, QB, Minnesota Vikings

Keenum signed a one-year, $2 million deal last offseason as purely a stopgap in case the worst happened to Sam Bradford before Teddy Bridgewater finally got healthy. Not much from Keenumís past suggested he was worth anything more than that. Before 2017, he had a sub-60-percent career completion percentage with 38 turnover-worthy throws (TWTs) compared to only 35 big-time throws (BTTs). The ratio of BTTs to TWTs is over 2.0 for most elite quarterbacks and anything under 1.0 is non-starter level. This season he has 14 BTTs compared to nine TWTs and a completion percentage of 67.5. Itís like heís a completely different player and one that looks like he deserves to be paid like a starter.

DeMarcus Lawrence, Edge, Dallas Cowboys

Lawrence is currently in the midst of the kind of career year NFL players dream about. Lawrence has flashed dominant edge talent at times in his career, but now itís game in and game out. Lawrenceís 14 sacks are second-most in the NFL, but whatís as impressive is the fact his pressure rate suggests itís not a fluke. His 14.0 pass-rushing productivity is second to only Von Miller for full-time edge rushers.

There is exactly zero chance that Lawrence doesnít at least get franchised tagged this offseason, especially considering the weak defensive line class hitting free agency. Dallas isnít in great cap position for 2018, but itís difficult to believe theyíd let the man who has 27 more pressures than anyone else on the team walk for a lone compensatory pick.

Davante Adams, WR, Green Bay Packers

Playing receiver for Aaron Rodgers ainít a bad gig. With his pinpoint accuracy, one doesnít need a ton of separation to put up some gaudy stats. Thatís why the fact Adamsí numbers havenít dropped since Rodgers went down, but rather improved, is a boon for his free-agent stock. With Rodgers at quarterback this season, Adams was averaging 1.24 yards per route (he averaged 1.58 last season). With Brett Hundley at quarterback that number has skyrocketed to 1.92. Maybe as importantly, the drop issues that plagued him early in his career have improved each of the last two seasons

Junior Galette, Edge, Washington Redskins

Galetteís 2015 and 2016 seasons were both lost due to Achilles tears. With more question marks than game film, Galette limped back on the ultimate "prove it" deal: one year, $800,000.

Through 12 games, heís done just that. Heís accumulated the 27th-highest pass-rushing grade of any edge defender this season, but in only 264 snaps. At 29 years of age, itís doubtful he ever gets back to the level of the contract that he once had on the table with New Orleans. With how heís played this season though, some pass-rush-needy team will pay handsomely for his services.

Patrick Robinson, CB, Philadelphia Eagles

A former first-round pick of the Saints back in 2010, Robinson never quite lived up to his draft billing. After a rocky 2012 season where he allowed over 1,000 yards in his coverage, Robinson got pigeonholed as a slot-only defensive back - the kiss of death for any corner looking for a long-term deal. He then bounced from the Chargers in 2015, to the Colts last year, and now the Eagles in 2017 where heís finally looked like the corner the Saints thought they were getting out of Florida State. Robinson is on pace to set career bests for catch rate allowed (54.0) and passer rating against (66.3). Heís still manning the slot almost exclusively, although with the increase in three receiver sets in recent years the stigma around the position is softening. At 30 years old, Robinson wonít break the bank, but heíll comfortably surpass his current $775,000 deal.

Renner is a writer for Pro Football Focus and a contributor to The Washington Postís NFL coverage.