Friday, August 17, 2018
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The top-rated NFL free agents for 2018

The 2017 season is a lost cause for approximately a third of the league at this point. That means it’s 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 it’s 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 he’ll 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 Keenum’s 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. It’s like he’s 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 it’s game in and game out. Lawrence’s 14 sacks are second-most in the NFL, but what’s as impressive is the fact his pressure rate suggests it’s 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 doesn’t at least get franchised tagged this offseason, especially considering the weak defensive line class hitting free agency. Dallas isn’t in great cap position for 2018, but it’s difficult to believe they’d 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 ain’t a bad gig. With his pinpoint accuracy, one doesn’t need a ton of separation to put up some gaudy stats. That’s why the fact Adams’ numbers haven’t 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

Galette’s 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, he’s done just that. He’s accumulated the 27th-highest pass-rushing grade of any edge defender this season, but in only 264 snaps. At 29 years of age, it’s doubtful he ever gets back to the level of the contract that he once had on the table with New Orleans. With how he’s 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 he’s 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). He’s 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 won’t break the bank, but he’ll comfortably surpass his current $775,000 deal.

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

Comments
Jameis Winston vs. Marcus Mariota: The stats that matter

Jameis Winston vs. Marcus Mariota: The stats that matter

Yeah, but …Every Jameis Winston-Marcus Mariota debate is full of them.Winston has completed more passes (939), gained more passing yards (11,636) and thrown more passing touchdowns (69) before his age 24 season than any quarterback in NFL histo...
Updated: 8 minutes ago
From Hawaii to the honky-tonk: Nashville’s in love with Marcus Mariota

From Hawaii to the honky-tonk: Nashville’s in love with Marcus Mariota

NASHVILLE — Ten thousand blue leis were distributed to Titans fans for the NFL draft on the day their team picked Marcus Mariota.The 2014 Heisman Trophy winner wasn't even at Nissan Stadium for the party, which drew a crowd of 20,000. But the w...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Sports Day Tampa Bay podcast: Talking with Titans GM Jon Robinson

Sports Day Tampa Bay podcast: Talking with Titans GM Jon Robinson

Rick Stroud sits down with Tennessee Titans general manager Jon Robinson, who served as the Bucs' Director of Player Development under Jason Licht and was in Tampa Bay when the team scouted Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota prior to the 2015 NFL Draf...
Published: 08/17/18
Titans GM Jon Robinson sees playmakers everywhere for the Bucs

Titans GM Jon Robinson sees playmakers everywhere for the Bucs

Jon Robinson was in Tampa Bay when he and Bucs and general manager Jason Licht began assembling the team that came to practice with the Titans this week.The Titans GM still thinks highly of the players he helped the Bucs acquire, such as Kwon Alexand...
Published: 08/17/18
Catching up with the guy who’s been on both sides of Winston-Mariota

Catching up with the guy who’s been on both sides of Winston-Mariota

NASHVILLE — Jon Robinson knew being the general manager of the Titans meant almost every decision would pass by his desk."I got into this for football,'' Robinson said. "And now I'm trying to buy vacuum cleaners.''The Titans' kicker is Ryan Suc...
Published: 08/16/18
Bucs sign former Panthers DT Drew Iddings, waived Stevie Tu’ikolovatu injured

Bucs sign former Panthers DT Drew Iddings, waived Stevie Tu’ikolovatu injured

One Bucs player will be departing Nashville before the team does.Defensive tackle Stevie Tu'ikolovatu, a seventh-round pick from Southern Cal in 2017, was waived injured Thursday. Tu'ikolovatu suffered what is believed to be a triceps injury.The Bucs...
Published: 08/16/18
Titans cornerback flips after two interceptions against Bucs

Titans cornerback flips after two interceptions against Bucs

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee cornerback Adoree Jackson was flipping for joy after a couple of interceptions defending Mike Evans, DeSean Jackson and the rest of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The 18th pick overall in 2017 by the Titans, Jackson celebrated...
Published: 08/16/18
The best answer to the Winston-Mariota debate

The best answer to the Winston-Mariota debate

Jameis Winston or Marcus Mariota? The great debate of Tampa Bay football.Who would you rather have? That is and always will be the burning question of Tampa Bay football fans.Winston and Mariota will be forever linked. For as long as they play, we wi...
Published: 08/16/18
How the Bucs did Luke Stocker a real favor

How the Bucs did Luke Stocker a real favor

NASHVILLE — Tight end Luke Stocker got to see how the other half lives.After being released by the Bucs last Nov. 28, Stocker signed a two-year contract with the Titans and enjoyed one of his best months in pro football.Stocker played in t...
Published: 08/16/18
Ali Marpet making move to left guard appear easy, and a big pay day awaits

Ali Marpet making move to left guard appear easy, and a big pay day awaits

NASHVILLE — Ali Marpet's move to left guard, his third position in as many years, has been pretty seamless. A big reason for that is his close relationship with left tackle Donovan Smith.Both came to the Bucs as second-round picks in 2015, Smit...
Published: 08/16/18