As we enter the final stretch of the regular season, Super Bowl dreams are quickly dying for the fan bases of many clubs. For coaching staffs on these franchises (hopeful they will still be in place next year), thoughts begin to turn to evaluation of rosters and how their clubs can reignite the fan base with thoughts of Super Bowl triumph. One sure-fire way to re-invigorate your supporters and keep season ticket renewal numbers high is to make a splash in free agency. With that in mind, we at RealSport take a look at the top 5 most desirable prospective free agents in 2016. A few notes on the selection process,
- Putting our GM hat on we have looked at prospective Free Agents with upside that are entering their prime and could be long term performers for the team. Therefore, only candidates under 30 years old are considered
- We have also only considered those who will be Unrestricted Free Agents and thus will be potentially available to the highest bidder
- We have assumed that the franchise tag has not been applied (it will surely be leveraged on some of these names)
Von Miller, OLB, Denver Broncos, 26
Grading out as Pro Football Focus’s 4th best Edge Defender this season, Miller is on course to tally double digit sacks for the 4th time in his five-year career to date. Consistent production at this level make Miller the prize target of the 2016 Free Agent class should he get to market. Teams will want to ensure his run in with the league PED programme is fully behind him (he is now clear of the programme) but, if comfortable with him, Miller may exceed the contract given to Ndamukong Suh last year (6yr £115 million).
Muhammad Wilkerson, DE, New York Jets, 26
Wilkerson and the Jets have been talking for the last 2 years about a potential new contract but have been unable to reach agreement and that could spell trouble for New York with Wilkerson set to hit the Free Agent market this offseason. As one of very few elite 3-4 DE with pass rush ability, the 2013 All-Pro will command a hefty salary should he get to market. This season Wilkerson has again been a force, on track for a career high in sacks (he has 9 through 12 games, an astonishing number for a 5 tech DE) and if he keeps up his play the next contract he signs will be pushing the $100million barrier.
Josh Norman, CB, Carolina Panthers, 27
Josh Norman has chosen the best possible year for his breakout season in Carolina – a contract year. Cornerbacks with the ability Norman has, who can eliminate half a field, or blanket the opponent’s #1 receiver, don’t reach the open market that often. But when they do – think Darrelle Revis – teams queue up to bid for their services. With QB passer ratings when targeting his coverage worse than if the QB just threw the ball into the ground every play, Norman will be a big target for any teams with the cap room to afford him and could command in the region of $15 million a year.
Alshon Jeffrey, WR, Chicago Bears, 25
It is one thing to perform at an elite level at WR when you have a superstar like Brandon Marshall playing on the same team and drawing coverage – it is a different thing to be doing it when defences know you are the number 1 receiving threat on your team. Alshon Jeffrey has been drawing the attention of defensive game-plans this year and, when healthy, has averaged just under 7 catches for 100 yards per game. If teams believe his injury problems are behind him Jeffrey could command a deal in the region of Demaryius Thomas 5yr $70 million contract.
Kirk Cousins, QB, Washington Redskins, 27
There are better players due to hit free agency than Cousins this year, but they don’t play quarterback and there is always a dearth of quality in the market as good ones get locked up by their team before they ever hit free agency. Cousins is good, with the potential to be better, and if he can find some more consistency in his game, cut down on multi-interception games and lead the Redskins to the playoffs, he will have no shortage of suitors, particularly given the lack of ‘standout’ college prospects this year. If Cousins does as mentioned above, his signing a contract in the region of Alex Smith’s 4yr $68million deal would not be surprising.
Jason Pierre-Paul DE New York Giants 26 Eric Berry FS Kansas City Chiefs 26 Bruce Irvin DE Seattle Seahawks 25 Brock Osweiler QB Denver Broncos 25 Doug Martin RB Tampa Bay Bucs 26 Sam Bradford QB Philadelphia Eagles 28