After a few weeks of cuts and trade rumors, NFL teams will soon be able to sign free agents for the 2015 season. Teams can begin negotiating with players' agents on March 7, and deals can officially be announced on March 10.
The free agent list has seen some big changes since the Super Bowl. All-Pros Justin Houston, Demaryius Thomas and Dez Bryant will not be available, having been hit with the franchise tag. Jason Pierre-Paul of the New York Giants will also remain with his current team.
While a few top players won’t be going anywhere for at least another year, several former Pro Bowl players will be free agents, even though they still had years left on their contracts at the end of the season. Reggie Wayne had been with the Indianapolis Colts since 2001, and Vince Wilfork was a mainstay on the New England Patriots defensive line for 11 seasons, but both players are looking for new deals. Reggie Bush and Trent Cole were cut this offseason, while Devin McCourty and Jeremy Maclin will be hot commodities on the free-agent market.
A few free agents stand out among the rest and will command lucrative contracts. Below is a look at the top five players that will hit free agency on March 10.
Few free agents have been as consistently good as Suh over the last five years. Since entering the league in 2010, Suh has been among the best defensive linemen in all of football. He didn’t miss a game in his rookie year or from 2012-2014, and was named first-team All-Pro in all four seasons. Suh missed two games in 2011, and was named second-team All-Pro.
The Detroit Lions have decided against paying him $26.7 million with the franchise tag, but they will still look to re-sign the 28-year-old. NFL Media’s Michael Silver reports that Suh has a meeting scheduled with the Oakland Raiders, and the Chicago Bears, Jacksonville Jaguars and Miami Dolphins are also expected to pursue the free agent. Suh is expected to seek a contract that rivals J.J. Watt’s recent six-year, $100 million deal.
In his first three years with the Dallas Cowboys, Murray was a very productive running back that had trouble staying on the field. Last season saw him stay healthy and have the best year of his career. Murray was easily the NFL’s best running back, outgaining the No.2 rusher by 484 yards. His career 4.8 yards per carry average is third among active running backs, and he carried the ball 392 times in 2014, tying him for seventh all-time.
Dallas is hoping to bring back the only player to every rush for at least 100 yards in the first eight games of a season, but it’s no guarantee that he’ll return. The team already has close to $40 million dedicated to Bryant and Tony Romo next year, and they might be unwilling to match any big offers that come Murray’s way.
Revis made his first Pro Bowl in 2008, and he’s been in the conversation with the best cornerbacks in the league ever since. After tearing his ACL in 2012 and playing for a poor Tampa Bay Buccaneers team in 2013, Revis had another great year in 2014. In a league that is dominated by quarterbacks, having a top pass defender like Revis has never been so valuable.
The New England Patriots don’t have to let Revis hit free agency, but there’s little chance they’ll pick up his option and pay him $20 million in 2015. The most likely scenario has the cornerback returning to New England and trying to win another Super Bowl, but there’s a chance he could head back to the Big Apple and play for the New York Jets. New York is expected to make a big offer to Revis, and the Buffalo Bills could do the same, hoping for a reunion between the cornerback and head coach Rex Ryan.
After a few of the league’s top wide receivers were franchised, Cobb became the best player at his position that will become available on March 10. Playing alongside Jordy Nelson, who ranked fourth in receiving yards, Cobb still managed to rank 11th in yards (1,287) and ninth in catches (91). It was his first 1,000-yard season, having missed 10 games in 2013 and catching 80 passes for 954 yards in 2012.
The Green Bay Packers want to keep Aaron Rodgers’ No.2 option, but the two sides haven't been able to agree on a new contract. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports that Cobb has rejected a five-year offer worth between $8 million and $9 million per year. The Raiders and Jaguars are expected to try and use some of their salary cap space on Cobb. The Kansas City Chiefs could also make a run at Cobb, making room under the cap if they cut Dwayne Bowe.
The Carolina Panthers defensive end only played one game last season, being placed on the Exempt List because of a ruling in July that found him guilty of assaulting and threatening to kill his ex-girlfriend. Hardy remains on the list, even though the chargers were dismissed in February, following an appeal. He is set to meet with NFL officials to discuss reinstatement, though he could still face a suspension. Hardy is allowed to sign a new contract, despite being on the list.
Before his legal issues, Hardy was one of the best defensive ends in the NFL. He set a Panthers single-season record with 15 sacks in 2013, and was elected to his first Pro Bowl. Hardy also recorded 11 sacks in 2012, playing very well against the run. He’s been linked to the Cincinnati Bengals, via espn.com, and the Cowboys are expected to look into signing the 26-year-old. He isn’t expected to return to Carolina.