Soon enough, the free agency frenzy will begin. Some impending NFL free agents will quickly sign new deals, either with their current team or a new franchise. And while players in their primes will be highly pursued, the opposite will happen for guys trending in the washed-up column.
Whether it is due to age, injuries or declining production, the less desirable free agents won’t find new homes so quickly. Unfortunately, it will come down to comparing apples to oranges when evaluating the market.
With that said, here are our stud and dud free agent selections.
Stud: Le’Veon Bell, running back
Bell is one of the more intriguing impending free agents but is likely a candidate for the franchise tag. A top offensive weapon for the Steelers, he led the league last season with 321 rushing attempts. In all, Bell averaged an incredible 27 touches and 129.7 total yards per game. He also had 11 touchdowns. For this, Bell deserves to be paid and secured under a long-term deal. But, franchise tender is not what Bell is interested in. He is currently out there creating a tizzy on social media after making some drastic changes to his bios. It could hint that something may be in the works and that Bell’s time as a Steeler may over. In January Bell said he would retire if tagged again. It will be interesting to monitor what is about to unfold here pretty quickly.
Dud: Adrian Peterson, running back
Soon to be released by the Arizona Cardinals, Peterson’s life away from his former Minneapolis Vikings team did not go to swell. As a New Orleans Saint, Peterson was a huge bust. He managed only 3.0 yards per carry and tallied 81 rushing yards in his limited snaps. Once traded to the Cardinals, Peterson still struggled to move the ball. He averaged 3.5 yards per carry and scored only twice in 129 attempts. He still says he wants to play for another four or five years if there are any teams willing to gamble on the cheap.
Stud: Trumaine Johnson, cornerback
Well. The blockbuster trade that will send cornerback Marcus Peters to the Los Angeles Rams has also pushed Johnson one step closer out the door. Soon to attain Peters and his very affordable rookie salary, the Rams will likely not pay for a new deal to keep Johnson. But as one of the top free agent corners out there, Johnson will attract plenty of attention. He finished 2017 with two interceptions, one touchdown, 13 defended passes and 65 combined tackles.
Dud: Chris Ivory, running back
It’s not too surprising to see Ivory mentioned here. Despite receiving limited snaps throughout 14 games and three starts, Ivory rushed for a career-low 3.4 yards per carry. He also scored only two touchdowns and was pretty much relegated to garbage time touches. Therefore, it was not shocking that the Jaguars released the running back who proved most to be the odd man out in 2017. Ivory turns 30 in March and will be an ultra-cheap guy to sign in free agency, should any team go there.
Stud: Kirk Cousins, quarterback
Cousins will soon be the cream-of-the-crop NFL free agent. He lhad three solid and healthy years of starts in Washington where he completed no less than 64.3 percent of his passes. Cousins also averaged 4,392 yards per season and threw for 81 touchdowns during this stretch. Cousins will be on the radar of several teams in search of an upgrade at quarterback. He might even wind up ousting San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo as the highest-paid NFL player.
Dud: Terrelle Pryor, wide receiver
In sticking with soon-to-be ex-Redskins, Pryor crashed and burned last season. It would take a team with a lot of faith in Pryor to chance signing him to a lucrative deal in 2018. Pryor was overpaid last year by Washington and he wound up playing in just nine games. There he made only 20 grabs for 240 yards and one touchdown. This was horrible production after Pryor recorded 1,007 yards and four touchdowns his prior year in Cleveland. A team in need will really need to think hard here.
Stud: Case Keenum, quarterback
We probably would not have used the words “stud” and “Keenum” in the same sentence last summer. But, a lot has changed and Keenum earned some mad respect after helping lead the Vikings all the way to the NFC Championship Game. Along the course of a standout season, Keenum completed 67.6 percent of his passes with 22 touchdowns and only seven interceptions. Not expected to continue his career in Minnesota, Keenum will surely have his fair share of potential suitors come mid-March.
Dud: Jordan Matthews, wide receiver
The Matthews trade to Buffalo last year proved to be a big flop. The 25-year-old receiver played in 10 games, recording just 25 catches for 282 yards and one touchdown. Prior to Buffalo, Matthews failed to tally 1000-plus yards in any of this three previous seasons with the Philadelphia Eagles. He has a total of 20 touchdowns through four seasons of play. Injury-prone as well, potential buyers should beware.
Stud: Drew Brees, quarterback
Brees will technically become a free agent, and the New Orleans Saints would be nuts to not to get a new deal done with him. Showing no signs of simmering down, the 39-year-old quarterback still rocks his game. He set a new league record when he completed 72 percent of his passes in 2017. With the Saints running backs providing just the right balance on offense, Brees is on course to have another stunning season. It would be absolutely shocking to see Brees in anything but a Saints uniform this season.
Dud: Jamaal Charles, running back
The Charles experiment did not play out too well last year. Used sparingly by the Denver Broncos, Charles played in 14 games and rushed for 296 yards and one touchdown. He also tallied 23 catches for 129 yards. A couple of costly fumbles stand out as well, including one against his former Kansas City Chiefs team. Health concerns and the fact Charles is 31, won’t do him kindly as he pursues free agency this spring.
Stud: Sammy Watkins, wide receiver
Things are a bit interesting when it comes to Watkins and his future with the Los Angeles Rams. At first, it was looking like the Rams might franchise tag Watkins. But the latest news suggests the Rams may let him test free agency. The issue comes down to money. The Rams would have to pay Watkins nearly $16 million in 2018 on the tag, which is a hefty chunk of change for a receiver who recorded only 593 yards on 39 catches. But, he also had nine touchdowns and has the ability to make some fantastic plays. Given his pedigree, he will garner a lot of attention very soon.
Dud: Jay Cutler, quarterback
At this time last year nobody would have guessed Cutler would make a return to the league and play with the Miami Dolphins. That is why we cannot be sure the same thing won’t happen again — perhaps with a different team, though. But this does not mean we are endorsing Cutler. The 34-year-old quarterback managed a 6-8 record while throwing 19 touchdowns compared to 14 interceptions in 14 games. Even though he outplayed and beat Tom Brady in Week 14 last year, Cutler is a sure bet to have one of his pedestrian performances the following week.
Stud: Nate Solder, left tackle
Solder is on course to break the bank as one of the top offensive linemen soon to hit free agency. If the New England Patriots do not re-sign him, a team whose quarterback gets beat up on a regular basis will pay him well. Solder is healthy, not quite 30 and a strong player who can defend well against guys trying rush the passer. Expect his phone to be busy here in just a couple of short weeks.
Dud: Doug Martin, running back
Since being drafted 31st overall by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2012, Martin has produced only two noteworthy seasons. In his rookie year and in his fourth, Martin topped 1,400 yards and scored at least seven touchdowns. In Martin’s other four seasons, he failed to top 500 rushing yards once. Behavioral and health issues, along with his meager 2.9 yards per carry in 2016-17, won’t help his case. Maybe a fresh team could make a difference.
Stud: DeMarcus Lawrence, defensive end
The Cowboys would be smart to secure this 25-year-young defensive gem either by way of an extension or franchise tag. Lawrence tied for second-most in sacks (14.5) last year and he recorded a career-best 58 combined tackles. He is a menace of a pass rusher that will be pursued heavily if for some reason the Cowboys do not lock him up. Oh, and he is also looking for a new contract that pays him at least $17 million per year.
Dud: Eric Decker, wide receiver
Decker used to be a scary guy in the red zone after recording 49 touchdowns between 2011-15. But his one-year gig with the Tennessee Titans in 2017 saw Decker score only once out of his 54 receptions. He also averaged a career-low 10.4 yards per catch. Decker turns 31 in March and between injuries and declining production, his best days as a stud pass-catcher are likely behind him.
Stud: Malcolm Butler, cornerback
After strangely being benched in his last game played with the England Patriots, Butler hits free agency as one of the top cornerback options. Quick in coverage and famous for his game-changing interception of Russell Wilson in Super Bowl 49, Butler is already drawing interest as an impending free agent. The 27-year-old corner nabbed two interceptions last year along with recording 12 defended passes, 60 combined tackles and three forced fumbles. Butler is starting material wherever he lands.
Dud: Eddie Lacy, running back
One of the worst free agency busts of 2017 was Lacy posing as a Seattle Seahawk and trying to play football. It was horrible. After meeting his weight-loss incentives and receiving praises last year in the preseason, Lacy’s production plummeted. He managed only 179 rushing yards at 2.6 yards per attempt throughout nine games. Clearly, Lacy’s best years — 2013-14 when with the Green Bay Packers — are long gone.
Stud: Allen Robinson, wide receiver
After playing in their first postseason since 2007, the Jaguars are trending up. This is why the team should consider securing its best receiver on the roster. But if Robinson walks, he will attract plenty of attention. Prior to tearing his ACL early last season, Robinson had two very solid years of production. This would include 2,283 yards and 20 touchdowns gained between 2015-16. At a mere 24-years-old, Robinson has plenty to offer.
Dud: Donte Moncrief, wide receiver
If the Colts decide to part ways with Moncrief, he hits free agency after recording a career-low 26 catches in 2017. This resulted in just 391 yards and two touchdowns (also a career low). That is not very impressive. Although, some Moncrief’s sagging production can be blamed on quarterback Andrew Luck missing time last season. Perhaps a fresh start with a new team and upgrade at quarterback might reignite Moncrief’s mojo.