Monday, November 12, 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
Bucs release kicker Chandler Catanzaro, according to a report. Dirk Koetter says it hasn’t happened

Bucs release kicker Chandler Catanzaro, according to a report. Dirk Koetter says it hasn’t happened

After watching Catanzaro missed two field goals in a 16-3 loss to Washington, the Bucs dumped another place-kicker
Updated: 2 minutes ago
Despite turnovers, Bucs will stick with Ryan Fitzpatrick at QB Sunday at Giants

Despite turnovers, Bucs will stick with Ryan Fitzpatrick at QB Sunday at Giants

Fitzpatrick has five turnovers in the past two games, including four interceptions. He had two INTs and lost a fumble in a 16-3 loss to Washington Sunday
Updated: 29 minutes ago
Buccaneers AfterMath: In Tampa Bay, time is a flat circle

Buccaneers AfterMath: In Tampa Bay, time is a flat circle

Everything the Bucs have ever done or will ever do, they will do over and over and over again.
Updated: 2 hours ago
Sports Day Tampa Bay podcast: Red-zone breakdowns cost Bucs in loss to Washington

Sports Day Tampa Bay podcast: Red-zone breakdowns cost Bucs in loss to Washington

The Bucs defense plays well, but the offense continually breaks down in the red zone as the team racks up 500 yards of offense but manages just 3 points in a 16-3 loss to Washington.Bucs head coach Dirk Koetter takes over the play-calling for th...
Updated: 7 hours ago

Bucs receivers frustrated by red-zone ineffectiveness

TAMPA  — Moving the ball was easy for the Bucs’ passing offense Sunday, until it reached the red zone.That’s where the NFL’s best passing offense stalled. Four drives were halted by turnovers — two fumbles and ...
Updated: 29 minutes ago
When the Buccaneers lose, they do things no one has ever done before

When the Buccaneers lose, they do things no one has ever done before

A by-the-numbers look at Tampa Bay's 16-3 loss to Washington.
Updated: 3 hours ago
Bucs kicker Chandler Catanzaro continues to miss, but for how much longer?

Bucs kicker Chandler Catanzaro continues to miss, but for how much longer?

  TAMPA — Chandler Catanzaro’s job has been hanging by a thread for several weeks, placing more scrutiny on every kick he attempts. After Sunday’s loss to Washington, he might be the latest Bucs kicker to miss his way out ...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Bucs’ Jacquizz Rodgers has career receiving day, but costly fumble was his only takeaway

Bucs’ Jacquizz Rodgers has career receiving day, but costly fumble was his only takeaway

TAMPA  — Bucs running back Jacquizz Rodgers recorded his first professional 100-yard receiving game Sunday but had no reason to celebrate following Tampa Bay's 16-3 loss to Washington.Rodgers, who hadn't logged more than 56 receiving yards...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Dirk Koetter’s latest move to save the Bucs’ season didn’t work, either

Dirk Koetter’s latest move to save the Bucs’ season didn’t work, either

TAMPA — There was something noticeably different about Dirk Koetter on the sideline Sunday. He held the play sheet and spoke into the microphone on his headset between snaps, talking directly to quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick."I called the plays ...
Published: 11/11/18
Washington’s Twitter account trolls Bucs’ Dirk Koetter after team hands him an ‘L’

Washington’s Twitter account trolls Bucs’ Dirk Koetter after team hands him an ‘L’

TAMPA — Leave it to the Washington football team to use Dirk Koetter's sweet tooth against him.Not long after Washington handed the Bucs a 16-3 loss Sunday, the team's Twitter account chose to kick the Bucs coach while he was down.A little back...
Published: 11/11/18