Free agency for the 2015 NFL season doesn’t begin until March 7th but there’s plenty to talk about as this year’s free agent class could be one of the best we’ve seen in years. There are a lot of big names that could demand monster contracts this offseason that will make it difficult for their current teams to keep them on the roster, which means we could be in for a rather active offseason.
Several teams could opt to use the franchise tag on players looking to hit the open market but that option could end up being more expensive than working out a contract for a long-term deal. Free agency can be tricky and in the NFL’s salary cap era, parity is real as one key player’s departure can be the difference in being a contender.
The stakes are high for both player and team, so let’s take a closer look at a short list of the top 10 free agents for 2015.
1. Ndamukong Suh, DT, Detroit Lions: Suh easily makes the top of this list and will command a huge raise should the Lions decide to resign him. Balancing contracts of quarterback Matt Stafford and receiver Calvin Johnson, Jr. could be the key to getting a deal done. Ultimately, Suh could decide to move on from Detroit but his earning potential could be hampered by his inability to stay out of trouble on and off the field.
2. Justin Houston, OLB/DE, Kansas City Chiefs: Houston is a good candidate for being tagged by Kansas City should they fail to get a long-term contract done. The Chiefs don’t have a whole lot of space to work with, but it’s hard to imagine they’ll let Houston walk.
3. Demariyus Thomas, WR, Denver Broncos: The Broncos will make Thomas priority #1 in the offseason. Should Peyton Manning return, he’ll want to continue throwing to his favorite target and keep an offense that has been setting NFL records humming along.
4. Dez Bryant, WR, Dallas Cowboys: Dallas might be torn between giving Bryant or DeMarco the long-term contract, but they should be worried about Dez. His big play ability is undeniable and is harder to find in free agency or the draft. A long-term deal has been in talks but has yet to happen, which means Dallas will likely tag him and work out a multi-year deal next offseason.
5. Randall Cobb, WR, Green Bay Packers: Cobb is arguably the best slot receiver in the NFL and one of Aaron Rodgers favorite targets in crunch time. The Packers could have trouble keeping Cobb in Green Bay as his asking price was recently said be around $9 million a year. Should he turn down a deal with the Packers, he’ll surely get that elsewhere.
6. Darelle Revis, CB, New England Patriots: Before Revis joined the Patriots last offseason, New England’s secondary was less than stellar. Revis brings a shutdown corner to an otherwise lackluster pass defense. Early indications on staying with the Pats from Revis have been indifferent at best.
7. Jason Pierre-Paul, DE, New York Giants: Pierre-Paul showed flashes of being a dominant pass rusher early in his career but injuries have derailed his productivity in recent seasons. He came to life at the end of the 2014 season, which could help his case to gain a little extra money from another team. The Giants are teetering on the need to rebuild, so letting Pierre-Paul walk wouldn’t be a huge surprise.
8. DeMarco Murray, RB, Dallas Cowboys: The NFL’s leading pass rusher is set to make a lot of money this offseason, but it likely won’t be with Dallas. With Bryant also due to cash in and running backs turning into a bit of a commodity, Murray could end up with offensively anemic teams like the Jaguars or Raiders who have the space to take on a huge contract.
9. Bryan Bulaga, T, Green Bay Packers: Bulaga is just 25 years old and is one of the biggest reasons for the Packer’s improved offensive line play during the 2014 season. Letting someone other than Bulaga protect Aaron Rodger’s blind side is a gamble which is why when it comes down to Bulaga or Cobb, the Packer’s could choose Bulaga.
10. Devin McCourty, S, New England Patriots: A versatile safety like McCourty will have a lot of value on the market and there’s a team that’s likely to give him the money he wants. With Revis also a priority, McCourty is another good candidate for the franchise tag as the Patriots would love to keep their defensive core together.