The NFL’s free agency period officially starts on March 9th. Teams will be wheeling and dealing starting tomorrow, though, when they’re allowed to start negotiating with agents.
As always, a lot of impending FAs were re-signed by their current teams long before they could hit the open market (see Antonio Brown, Kirk Cousins, Jason Pierre-Paul, etc.). The free agent class is never as rich as it looks like it might be when the regular season closes. That said, some big names are going to be available, and they’re going to be predictably overpaid by desperate teams.
There is a lot of evidence that trying to build a winner through free agency is a bad bet (see Miami circa 2015, and Washington circa always?). But then there are the 2016 Giants of the world, who spend big and see results. Those rare success stories keep talent-starved teams going back to the free-agent well, where they dump their life savings, in hopes of convincing the grumpy troll who lives at the bottom to give them some magic beans. (Sorry, I’m not great with fairytales.)
It’s a fact that guys like Eddie Lacy and Desean Jackson are going to be overpaid relative to their value. Who’s going to overpay them is very much still up in the air, and that’s the main question we’re looking at today.
Matt, Eric, and I take a stroll through the free-agent agora and set the odds on where the biggest names will land, who will start at QB for the effectively pivot-less teams, and a few other Vince Wilfork-sized questions that linger this offseason.
2017 NFL Free Agent Odds and Props
NB: All props are for the 2017 regular season unless otherwise stated.
Odds Tony Romo is on the _____ in Week 1
- Broncos: 3/2
- Texans: 5/2
- Bears: 9/1
- 49ers: 9/1
- Cowboys: 11/1
- Jets: 12/1
- None: 99/1
- Field: 24/1
Apparently Jerry Jones has not made a firm decision yet on what to do with his 36-year-old backup quarterback, who is set to count as $24.7 million against the cap in 2017.
If Romo remains a Cowboy, it could hinder the development of Offensive Rookie of the Year Dak Prescott. Any time the offense punts the ball, you’ll hear the cries for Romo. However, there is no guarantee Dak will build off his impressive rookie campaign, so having an extremely reliable backup on the roster may not be a bad thing, especially for a team that wants to win now.
Should Romo be released, it is likely he will want to play for a contender. The Broncos are finally admitting their interest in the veteran. Trevor Siemian may not be capable of taking Denver deep into the playoffs, and Paxton Lynch will need to come a long way from his rookie campaign to be capable of leading the Bronco offense. John Elway knows how to lure an aging quarterback to the Mile High city, and Romo’s presence puts the Broncos back in Super Bowl contention.
Houston also makes a lot of sense. The Texans were one of the most complete teams in football last season, but were held back by terrible quarterback play from Brock Osweiler. (Tom Savage wasn’t much better.) Of course, all the quarterback-hungry teams would love to have Romo start for them while they groom their future from the sideline. – MM
Odds Tony Romo wins Super Bowl LII as the starting QB: 14/1
Romo is still a very good quarterback. He gives any of Dallas, Denver, or Houston a promising shot at Super Bowl LII. – MM
Odds the Patriots trade Jimmy Garoppolo before Week 1: 1/2
There are only two scenarios where the Pats would not trade Garoppolo: one, New England believes he is that good; or two, they don’t believe Tom Brady will be around much longer. I’m not sold on either. – MM
Odds to start at QB for the Broncos in Week 1
- Tony Romo: 3/2
- Trevor Siemian: 7/3
- Paxton Lynch: 5/2
- Jimmy Garoppolo: 99/1
- Peyton Manning: 200/1
- John Elway: 500/1
- Field: 99/1
Siemian won over a lot of people in the Bronco locker room last season. Denver’s offensive line was horrendous and the first-year starter took a beating. Yet, he played through multiple injuries and courageously stood in the pocket. But there is still a big contingent that believes Siemian can’t lead this team back to the Super Bowl.
Of course, if Tony Romo is on the roster, which is somewhat likely, he will take the starting position.
Paxton Lynch is the future, but I don’t believe the future has arrived yet. – MM
Odds to start at QB for the Jets in Week 1
- Jay Cutler: 7/1
- Robert Griffin III: 8/1
- Bryce Petty: 9/1
- Mike Glennon: 9/1
- Tyrod Taylor: 9/1
- Christian Hackenberg: 12/1
- Deshaun Watson: 14/1
- Mitchell Trubisky: 14/1
- Brian Hoyer: 19/1
- Geno Smith: 40/1
- Jimmy Garoppolo: 40/1
- Kirk Cousins: 99/1
- Field: 5/1
The Jets quarterback situation is a complete mess. Hackenberg and Petty carry shorter odds only because they are the only two who are currently under contract in New York. Petty didn’t audition well in 2016, and Hackenberg needs a lot of work before he’ll even be serviceable.
It is very likely the Jets starting quarterback is not currently on the roster. But don’t get excited, Jet fans; New England isn’t trading Garoppolo within the division. Mike Glennon would be worth a shot, so long as the price is right. And if Tyrod Taylor does get released, the Jets will surely make a strong push to acquire the mobile signal-caller. If both of those names are wooed elsewhere, Jay Cutler and RGIII will enter the conversation. The Jets’ rough cap situation makes the latter two the more probable.
Unfortunately, neither Deshaun Watson nor Mitchell Trubisky shined at the NFL Combine. Their odds could get shorter with strong Pro Days, though.
The FIELD carries guys like Case Keenum, Josh McCown, Colin Kaepernick, and Nick Foles; all would be decent and affordable temporary options for New York. The word “decent” is very subjective in this case. – MM
Odds Jay Cutler is on the _____ in Week 1
- Texans: 3/1
- Bears: 5/1
- Jets: 7/1
- Dolphins: 10/1
- Browns: 16/1
- 49ers: 16/1
- no NFL roster: 15/4
- Field: 18/1
The worst part of Cutler’s absurd seven-year, $126 million contract is over, with all the guaranteed money in the rearview mirror and a reasonable cap hit for the upcoming season. Perhaps that’s why Chicago thinks they can still trade the 33-year-old, and may hang on to him if they can’t.
Cutler has said he’d like to play for the Texans, but there’s no way that could be accomplished on his current deal. Should he become a free agent, though, Cutler would be an upgrade over Brock Osweiler or Tom Savage. A quarterback that hits the occasional big play between turnovers is better than one who just throws checkdowns before he gives the ball up. – ET
Odds Jay Cutler announces his retirement before Week 1: 15/4
Why would Jay ever leave football? Isn’t it clear from his blank stare and total detachment from teammates that this game is his only love? – ET
Odds to start at QB for the Bears in Week 1
- Brian Hoyer: 4/1
- Mike Glennon: 9/2
- Jay Cutler: 5/1
- Deshaun Watson: 15/2
- Mitchell Trubisky: 8/1
- DeShone Kizer: 12/1
- Patrick Mahomes II: 16/1
- Tony Romo: 40/1
- Jimmy Garoppolo: 50/1
- Matt Barkley: 100/1
- Field: 15/1
The latest rumor (which sounds so much like the Bears that it must be true) is that the team is pursuing Mike Glennon (and not for cheap, I might add). Whether it’s Glennon or Hoyer, the Bears will want to have at least one veteran QB on their squad to compliment/mentor whomever they draft. (Yes Ryan Pace, you have to draft a quarterback this year. That’s non-negotiable.)
But when you factor in potential injuries, training camp battles and the overall incompetence in Chicago when it comes to the quarterback position, literally anyone could be starting under center next year. Even Jim Belushi. No one is off the table. – ET
Odds to start at QB for the Bills in Week 1
- Tyrod Taylor: 3/2
- Cardale Jones: 11/2
- Brian Hoyer: 11/2
- Jay Cutler: 19/1
- Jimmy Garoppolo: 19/1
- Tony Romo: 40/1
- Field: 9/2
Every couple days there’s a new story out of Buffalo. First, they’re set to let Taylor walk. Then they plan to keep him. Then they’re back to parting company. The latest rumor is that the coaching staff wants him to stay, but the front-office doesn’t think he’s worth the $30 million he’d be owed if the Bills pick up his option. So he’s still the best bet to start for Buffalo in Week 1, but it’s less than even money, because when it comes to a coach vs. GM battle, you don’t side with the 42-year-old rookie head coach.
Cardale Jones is the next man up on the depth chart right now (or will be when EJ Manuel’s contract expires in a couple days). Not many think he’s the QB of the future; if the Bills don’t keep Taylor, expect them to bring in an FA like Brian Hoyer. They’d love to land Tony Romo; they think they’re a win-now team if they can get upper-tier QB play. They’re wrong, which is part of the reason the 37-year-old won’t want to come to Orchard Park. – SP
Odds Colin Kaepernick is on the ______ in Week 1
- Bills: 9/1
- Browns: 9/1
- Bears: 12/1
- Jets: 12/1
- 49ers: 15/1
- Broncos: 20/1
- no NFL roster: 9/1
- Field: 4/3
Kaep saved the Niners the hassle of releasing him by opting out of his contract in order to test free agency. Did he show enough in 2016 to land on another NFL roster? If not for the national anthem controversy that surrounded him last year, the answer would be a definitive yes. As it is, there’s a serious question whether anyone wants the distraction, even if he does plan to stand for the anthem this season.
Incremental progress in his play (59.2 completion percentage, up from 59.0-percent in 2015; 6.8 yards per attempt, up from 6.6 in 2015; 1.2 interception percentage, down from 2.0-percent in 2015) won’t convince anyone he’s a franchise savior. But hey, some teams aren’t looking for the chosen one. Some teams just need a placeholder during their rebuild, and one that leads them to a high draft pick wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world. (Oh hi there, Chicago!)
Buffalo might be the best fit, stylistically. Kaep’s running abilities would be a nice fill in for what Tyrod Taylor did with his feet. His arm, however, would not. The Browns are another option, since they could be in the market for a poor-man’s Tyrod if they lose out on getting the real McCoy. – SP
Odds at least one executive cites Kaepernick’s social/political stance for not signing him: 5/3
National anthem change-of-heart aside, Kaepernick will retain his media following. Some teams will see it as unwanted attention, but it is easy enough for executives to cite his talent as reason for not signing the free-agent QB. – MM
Odds to start at QB for the Vikings in Week 1
- Sam Bradford: 1/4
- Jay Cutler: 19/1
- Tony Romo: 19/1
- Jimmy Garoppolo: 24/1
- Teddy Bridgewater: 99/1
- Field: 19/1
After suffering a gruesome knee injury last August, Bridgewater’s recovery is going slowly. Whether he’ll ever be 100-percent again is a real question. It’s highly unlikely he will even be back on the field come Week 1, let alone win the starting job back from Bradford.
Bradford did everything that was asked of him last year. He was not the problem in Minnesota; the offensive line was. The Vikings had no running game and couldn’t protect Bradford on anything more than a three-step drop. The former first-overall pick will be given another season in Minnesota. – MM
Odds Alshon Jeffery is on the _____ in Week 1
- Bears: 17/4
- Redskins: 19/4
- Eagles: 5/1
- Titans: 13/2
- 49ers: 8/1
- Ravens: 12/1
- Dolphins: 12/1
- Field: 10/1
Jeffery said he wants to play for a championship; and if his proclamation after last season was any indication, for some reason he thinks that can happen in the Windy City. However, in such a crowded market, whichever team offers him the most money will likely be his new home. If he’s looking for franchises that are trending upward, Philadelphia and Tennessee would be good fits. – ET
Odds DeSean Jackson is on the _____ in Week 1
- Buccaneers: 7/5
- Redskins: 7/3
- Eagles: 8/1
- Rams: 11/1
- Field: 9/1
D-Jax has led the league in yards per reception in two of the last three seasons, so even though he comes with some injury concerns, he’ll be getting a big pay-day this offseason. While both his former teams were expected to be a part of the bidding war, it sounds like the Buccaneers have emerged as the frontrunner for his services.
Odds Adrian Peterson is on the _____ in Week 1
- Minnesota Vikings: 4/1
- New York Giants: 13/3
- New England Patriots: 9/2
- Oakland Raiders: 6/1
- Dallas Cowboys: 9/1
- Green Bay Packers: 12/1
- None: 99/1
- Field: 9/1
The soon-to-be 32-year-old running back isn’t creating that much buzz on the open market yet. Peterson’s awful 1.9 yards per carry in 2016 and most recent knee injury are major red flags for teams. The Vikings have voiced their interest in bringing Peterson back, but need it to be at a more team-friendly price.
The Giants have caught AP’s eye this offseason, and Eli Manning will be the first to admit New York needs some semblance of a running game. If Peterson truly does value a championship more than anything else, he’ll sign with the Patriots. The former MVP will just have to sacrifice a few million per season to do so. – MM
Odds Eddie Lacy is on the _____ in Week 1
- Packers: 5/4
- Lions: 5/1
- Vikings: 6/1
- Patriots: 7/1
- Field: 7/1
Have the Packers ever lost a free agent they truly wanted to keep? It seems like a pretty easy sell. “Hey, you want to play with the best quarterback in the game and make the playoffs literally every year? Also, there’s like no traffic in Wisconsin … ever.” – ET
Odds Darrelle Revis is a Jet Week 1: 12/1
Yes, Revis was one of the great Jets, but he is so far from that right now. Even if he was willing to take a massive pay cut and move to safety, there’s no guarantee he will be effective there. New York will move on and bolster its roster with some youth. – MM
Odds Jason Pierre-Paul is a Giant Week 1: 1/9
The Giants placed the franchise tag on JPP, and the two sides are working towards a long-term contract. Barring something crazy, Pierre-Paul will be wreaking havoc on the edge for New York in 2017. – MM
Odds at least one player cites the Patriots’ ties to Donald Trump as reason for not signing: 4/1
If the Patriots want to bring you along on their next championship run, you generally don’t say no. But with the President trampling on some basic human rights and spreading his hate, it is possible at least one player resists the urge to win. – MM
Odds owners approve the Raiders’ move to Las Vegas in March: 1/2
The league’s 32 owners are set to meet in Phoenix from March 26-29, and a vote on this issue should take place now that the stadium concerns are being alleviated. (The move to Vegas was dealt a major blow when Sheldon Adelson, the chairman and CEO of Las Vegas Sands Corporation, pulled his name and funding from the project. Today, Bank of America announced it was stepping in to cover the money that was previously coming from Adelson.) It is clear the league and its owners want Las Vegas to happen, as they see nothing but dollar signs. – MM
Odds Raiders move to Las Vegas by the start of the 2019 season: 7/2
The original plan had the Raiders moving by 2020. The stadium issues are being resolved, but 2020 is still a more realistic date. – MM
Odds the Atlanta Falcons do not make the 2017 playoffs: 13/7
Last season marked the third time ever that both Super Bowl participants missed the playoffs the next year. Don’t count on that happening again. Atlanta is more likely to regress than New England, and losing offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan will certainly be costly. The Falcons ranked top-ten in total offense three of the four seasons prior to Shanahan’s arrival, though, and Dan Quinn has built a very young, fast, and promising defense. They should make it back to the postseason, especially with the state of their division. – MM
Odds Lady Gaga performs at the Falcons’ 2017 home opener at new Mercedes-Benz Stadium: 99/1
The Falcons’ playoff odds (above) get a little longer if she does, since her Big Mac of a halftime show was clearly the reason Atlanta collapsed in the second half of the Super Bowl. – SP
Odds to be re-signed by the Patriots
- Alan Branch: 3/7
- Dont’a Hightower: 3/2
- LeGarrette Blount: 2/1
- Jabaal Sheard: 7/1
- Martellus Bennett: 9/1
The Pats refuse to overspend … on anybody. Sheard and Bennett are going to command big money on the open market, and the Patriots see them both as replaceable.
Another player who is going to be highly coveted in free agency is inside linebacker Dont’a Hightower. The former first-round pick has emerged as one of the best blitzing ILBs in the league, and he attacks the run violently. Hightower would not be easily replaced. It was believed New England was committing to re-signing the leader of their defense when they traded Jamie Collins to the Browns last season. But the Patriots are playing their usual hardball, and Hightower may decide to cash in elsewhere.
Alan Branch played a vital role on the Pats defense last season, eating up blockers in the middle of the field. The team is aware this kind of selfless player is hard to find and is doing its best to lock him up before March 9th. – MM
Odds Roger Goodell attends the Patriots’ 2017 regular-season opener: 4/5
There’s going to be a lot of hate spewed his way if he does. But he’s going to have to bite the bullet sooner or later. Might as well get it out of the way. – SP
Odds of getting a contract extension before Week 1
- Derek Carr (Raiders): 1/12
- Matthew Stafford (Lions): 1/12
- Le’Veon Bell (Steelers): 1/4
- Tom Brady (Patriots): 1/1
- Matt Ryan (Falcons): 5/2
- David Johnson (Cardinals): 19/1
Both Carr and Stafford are entering the final years of their deals. Neither the Raiders nor Lions will allow their franchise quarterback to enter the season without an extension.
As it currently stands, Le’Veon Bell will play the 2017 under the franchise tag. But the two sides are working towards a long-term extension, which will likely be agreed upon before September.
Tom Brady is actually signed through 2019. But the final two years of his contract have him counting as $22 million against the cap, compared to just $14 million in 2017. The two sides will ensure there is room to spend so they can continue bringing in talent and hunting championships.
Matt Ryan and David Johnson are each signed through 2018, so there’s no rush there. Ryan is more likely to receive an extension before 2017, as his contract is already quite lucrative. Johnson, on the other hand, will make slightly less than $800,000 this season, and $900,000 in 2018. Considering Arizona’s cap situation, they can’t afford to pay their stud running back the money he deserves yet. – MM
Odds at least one player is arrested within 48 hours of signing with new team: 7/1
Signing a fat, new contract is cause for celebration. Celebrating is cause for partying to excess. You don’t need to read all the pages to know how this story ends …
I jest. Arrests are more common than they should be in the NFL. But most of these guys are grown-ass men with grown-ass heads on their grown-ass shoulders. – SP