Everything you need to know about NFL Free Agency

Posted Mar 12, 2018

One of the biggest weeks of the offseason is upon us!

The Philadelphia Eagles’ stunning defeat of the New England Patriots in Super Bowl 52 is still very fresh in the memory, but the 32 NFL teams have turned the page and are already onto building a potential champion for the 2018 season.

The new league year begins at 8pm UK time on Wednesday March 14 and signals the opening of a frenzied period of activity known as free agency – which is pretty much transfer deadline day in reverse!

Here is everything you need to know about what should be one of the busiest weeks of the NFL off-season.

What is NFL Free Agency?

The free agency signing period is one of the key ways for teams to upgrade their rosters during the off-season. When NFL players have played out their four (or sometimes five)-year contracts, they become free agents.

Free agent players hit the open market and have the opportunity to reap the rewards during the NFL’s spending free-for-all.

To put it in Premier League teams, if a club like Tottenham Hotspur failed to agree a long-term deal with Harry Kane, the England captain could play out his existing contract and then sign a new one with Manchester City, Arsenal or any other team of his choosing. And Spurs would receive no immediate and significant compensation.

Does Free Agency work?

While NFL teams believe the tried and trusted way to build a roster is through the Draft, Free Agency is another avenue to add players to your team. When Philadelphia beat New England in Super Bowl 52, 10 of their 22 starters on offense and defense were acquired through Free Agency, including the game’s Most Valuable Player in quarterback Nick Foles.

But for every Free Agency hit, there can be a lot of misses. During the 2017 off-season, a total of 492 players changed teams in Free Agency. Nine of those players made the Pro Bowl all-star game last term (1.9 per cent).

Are there any big names up for grabs this year?

This could be an unprecedented off-season for quarterback activity. Drew Brees (New Orleans) heads the list of passers but it would be a major shock if the sure-fire Hall of Famer is not re-signed by the Saints. But other quarterbacks could strike it rich, including Kirk Cousins (who is set to become the highest-paid player in NFL history), Case Keenum, Teddy Bridgewater, A.J. McCarron and Sam Bradford.

Other prominent players set to hit the open market include wide receivers Allen Robinson and Sammy Watkins, offensive linemen Allen Robinson and Sammy Watkins and effective New England running back Dion Lewis.

Here are my top 10 free agents heading into the opening of the new league year…

  1. Drew Brees                         QB                          New Orleans Saints
  2. Kirk Cousins                        QB                          Washington Redskins
  3. Allen Robinson                  WR                         Jacksonville Jaguars
  4. Sheldon Richardson        DT                           Seattle Seahawks
  5. Andrew Norwell               G                             Carolina Panthers
  6. Trumaine Johnson           CB                           Los Angeles Rams
  7. Case Keenum                    QB                          Minnesota Vikings
  8. Nate Solder                        T                              New England Patriots
  9. Jimmy Graham                  TE                           Seattle Seahawks
  10. Sammy Watkins                WR                         Los Angeles Rams

How much money is on the table?

The NFL continues to go from financial strength to strength and this off-season will see the clubs afforded a record salary cap figure of $177.2 million per team.

Here are the five teams with the most cash to splash this year…

  1. Cleveland Browns                            $113.8 million
  2. New York Jets                                    $89.9 million
  3. Indianapolis Colts                             $72.2 million
  4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers                  $71.1 million
  5. San Francisco 49ers                         $70.1 million

And those with the least amount of money to spend (as of March 9, 2018 and before off-season trades are ratified) are…

  1. Philadelphia Eagles                          $9.1 million over the proposed cap
  2. Miami Dolphins                                 $7.6 million over the proposed cap
  3. Kansas City Chiefs                            $3.4 million over the proposed cap
  4. Pittsburgh Steelers                          $1.0 million
  5. Dallas Cowboys                                $3.2 million

Is there any other business?

The opening of the new league year does not just signify the beginning of the race to sign free agents. There is a hive of activity at this time of the off-season as the 32 teams wheel and deal in order to get under the salary cap and to free up the necessary financial room to make key free agent signings. That has led to some high-profile trades and releases.

Already in this headline-filled off-season we have seen…

  • Pro Bowl quarterback Alex Smith traded from Kansas City to Washington
  • Cleveland acquire a trio of probable starters via trade in quarterback Tyrod Taylor, wide receiver Jarvis Landry and cornerback Damarious Randall
  • The Los Angeles Rams getting busy, off-loading defensive end Robert Quinn and linebacker Alec Ogletree, while cementing their secondary with trades for Pro Bowl corners Marcus Peters and Aqib Talib
  • A changing of the defensive guard in Seattle with star defensive lineman Michael Bennett being traded to Philadelphia and All-Pro cornerback Richard Sherman being released and picked up by San Francisco

While all of those aforementioned trades have been agreed in principle, they cannot be signed off until the new league year opens on Wednesday night.



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