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Starting today, NFL teams are allowed to use their franchise tag on players up until March 5th. In light of this and the news that Antonio Brown is officially demanding a trade after his meeting with Art Rooney, I decided to write about the players that I believe are the best free agent or major trade targets in each position group.
QB: Nick Foles
Many people close to the situation believe the Eagles will franchise tag Foles and then try and deal him in a trade soon after that. This makes a lot of sense because the Eagles would likely receive more in a trade for Foles than they would in a compensatory pick if they let Foles go. The crop of available QB’s this offseason is very slim especially after Joe Flacco found a home in Denver. Outside of Foles, the only other legitimate targets for teams are Tyrod Taylor and Teddy Bridgewater. Look for teams such as the Redskins and Jaguars to make a push for Foles.
RB: Le’Veon Bell
This one is obvious. Despite the fact that Bell will be asking for a massive amount of money, he is certainly the best running back target this off-season if not the best running back in the NFL. Bell just turned 27 this past week so he certainly has a lot of gas left in the tank. Bell averages almost 130 YPG in rushing and receiving combined and has scored 42 touchdowns in the five years he has been in the NFL. Many have speculated that the Jets and Colts will be two teams in the running for Bell this offseason.
WR: Antonio Brown
This time last year not many people would have guessed we would be sitting here talking about where Antonio Brown will go, but here we are. Brown may be turning 31 this offseason, but he has been consistently dominant for a long time now and will almost definitely put up good numbers anywhere he goes. Where Brown will end up is a mystery, but Vegas currently has the Cardinals as the odds-on favorite to land him.
TE: Jared Cook
Jared Cook just had the best season of his career at the age of 31 putting up almost 900 yards and six touchdowns. Cook definitely did enough to land him at least one more NFL contract, and although there is a good chance the Raiders re-sign him, he would be a very interesting target to follow if he made it to free agency.
OT: Trent Brown
There is a solid crop of offensive tackle free agents this season, and a case could certainly be made for players like Ja’Wuan James and Donovan Smith to get this honor. However, Brown is only 25 and just had an outstanding year with the Patriots. The Patriots will almost definitely try to re-sign Brown seeing as he has many years left in the tank.
OG/C: Roger Saffold
The former Indiana Hoosier has been a very good lineman for the Rams for the duration of his nine-year NFL career, but it looks like he may be finding a new home this offseason. However, the NFL rumor mill has speculated that Saffold may only have to find a new team to call home rather than an actual new home as he could very well end up staying in L.A. with the Chargers.
DE: Demarcus Lawrence
This year’s defensive end free agency crop is stacked. One could make the argument for players like Jadeveon Clowney, Trey Flowers, and Frank Clark as the best DE in this class, but I definitely believe Lawrence is above the rest. Demarcus Lawrence is just now entering his prime at only 26 years old yet he combined for 25 sacks in his last two season with the Cowboys. Although most experts believe he is a lock to be franchise tagged by the Cowboys, if he were to escape into free agency he would arguably be the best player in all of free agency.
DT: Grady Jarrett
Grady Jarrett is another name that has been mentioned as a possible franchise tag player. Jarrett is a monster up front who is a nightmare for his opponent’s run game. If he were to slip through the Falcons’ fingers he certainly will have a lot of teams giving him a call this offseason.
OLB: Dee Ford
Although the Chiefs are likely switching schemes under new defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo, Ford is the type of player that is good enough to play in any scheme. It would be a real shame for the Chiefs if they let Ford go. I expect to see the Chiefs place their franchise tag on Ford who is only 27-year-olds and who just recorded 13 sacks this past season.
ILB: C.J. Mosley
Mosley has been one of the leading tacklers in the NFL since he entered the league back in 2014. The former Alabama player was a staple in the Ravens dominant defense this past season. The Ravens will likely try to strike a long-term deal with Mosley, but if they don’t then they will surely use their franchise tag on him. He is too good of a player to let go.
CB: Ronald Darby
Ronald Darby tore his ACL this past season in week nine, but he has been a major piece of the Eagles’ great secondary the last two years. RotoWire recently reported that Darby is expected to test the open market, and he will likely have a lot of teams giving him some attention this summer.
S: Earl Thomas
Many would argue Landon Collins is the more attractive target this summer because of his youth, but there are very few players on the defensive side of the ball that can affect the game the way that Earl Thomas can. Earl Thomas’ vision and athleticism make him one of the best safeties the game has ever seen, and if I’m an NFL cornerback I am begging my GM to go after Thomas so he can have my back on the field. The Cowboys seem like the most likely landing spot for ET3, but many teams will try to go after 2-year-old.