Who Will Really Be An NFL Free Agent In March?

Who Will Really Be An NFL Free Agent In March?

Every year when fans start scouring the NFL free-agency list their mouths begin to water. But, by the time free-agency signing period actually gets underway (this year it is March 9) mouths begin to dry as many top free-agents are re-signed by their respective teams.

Pro Football Focus recently took a crack at listing the top ten free-agents likely to hit the open market. At the number two spot was Bears receiver, Alshon Jeffery. Sam Monson writes:

Jeffery has missed too much time for the team to be able to confidently rely on him as their No. 1 target long-term, and his elite play has been too fleeting over the past few seasons. In 2016, he recorded more than five catches just twice, and had only one 100-yard plus game (in the first week of the season). Jeffery has shown big-time ability, but the Bears will likely let somebody else roll the dice on the big contract it will take to see it in the future.

 If the Bears choose not to re-tag Jeffery or the two sides fail to agree on a new contract, it will likely have more to do with the team being unhappy with Jeffery’s actions off the field than his play on the field. Monson unfairly cites Jeffery’s stats.

In 2012 and ‘13, each a Pro Bowl season for Jeffery, he averaged 87 catches for 1,277 yards and 8.5 touchdowns. In 2014, Jeffery suffered a series of soft-tissue injures that negatively affected his stats, but his performance was still admirable.

Last season, Jeffery’s performance took a tumble particularly since he missed four games to suspension for PED use. But, Jeffery was hurt more by the injuries and poor performance at the quarterback position than his play.

[graphiq id=”4YUJuskdKNT” title=”Alshon Jeffery Career Receiving Stats” width=”600″ height=”532″ url=”https://w.graphiq.com/w/4YUJuskdKNT” ]

If the Bears elect not to further employ Jeffery it will have more to do with the receiver’s choice to not participate in the team’s offseason workouts at Halas Hall and his PED use.

There are three cornerbacks and one safety on Monson’s list who, if they do hit the market, will likely get the interest of Bears GM Ryan Pace.

NFL Free Agent A.J. Bouye

With each passing game in 2016 Houston Texans corner A.J. Bouye’s performance upped his price tag. Monson writes:

Including the postseason, Bouye allowed just 51.1 percent of passes thrown his way to be caught (seventh-best) for a passer rating of 59.5 (sixth-best), and was beat for only 10.0 yards per catch (16th-best) while intercepting or breaking up 16 of the 92 passes thrown his way.

 The knock on Bouye, who was signed as an undrafted free-agent by the Texans, is that he’s only had three lackluster seasons prior to his breakout year. But, that’s unlikely to stop him from earning a fat multi-year contract loaded. Bouye has expressed his desire to return to Houston and head coach Bill O’Brien wants him back.

NFL Free Agent Trumaine Johnson

The next cornerback on Monson’s list is Trumaine Johnson whose 6-foot-2, 200 pound frame is the kind defensive coordinator Vic Fangio covets. Writes Monson:

Johnson wasn’t bad this season, but he didn’t take a step further or suggest that he is really worth elite money for the position. He allowed 60.7 percent of passes thrown his way to be caught and surrendered four touchdowns, up from just two over the previous two seasons combined… his play is still more potential than actual proven production five years into his career.

 Rams general manager Les Snead recently said new defensive coordinator Wade Phillips will play a large part in deciding whether Johnson will return in 2017.

NFL Free Agent Morris Claiborne

Dallas Cowboys corner Morris Claiborne is next on the list. A year ago the former 2012 sixth overall draft pick was considered a bust. But, the soon to be 27 year old (February 7th) had a nice turnaround year in 2016 finishing as PFF’s 12th-ranked CB.

Claiborne only played half of the 2016 season before going down hurt, but in that half of a year, he looked like a different player than in previous seasons. When targeted, the completion percentage he allowed dropped 10 percent from the best previous year of his career to 51.9, and he gave up a passer rating of 63.0, more than 30 points better than any other year.

Claiborne’s past performance and recent injury might drop his price. At the end of the season, he described the groin injury he suffered on October 30 as a piece of bone being “torn off” his pelvis. He did return against the Green Bay Packers in the NFC divisional playoff game, but had to leave the game with another injury.

NFL Free Agent

The other player in Monson’s top ten that has many Bears fans intrigued is Tony Jefferson. The safety joined the Arizona Cardinals as an undrafted free agent in 2013 and has progressed year-by-year, but 2016 was clearly a breakout year. He finished the season as PFF’s number five overall safety.

Jefferson’s run grade was stellar this season (98.0), as he notched 35 defensive stops (tied for third among safeties), but his coverage was also solid as a strong safety for the Cardinals. Jefferson played in the box 59.1 percent of the time for Arizona this season and was used in underneath coverage often, where he averaged just 7.1 yards per reception allowed when acting as the primary coverage defender.

Jefferson has expressed his desire to return to Arizona, but recently told TMZ.com that he’s been envisioning what he looks like on other teams by going on to Madden ’17 video to see how he looks with different teams.

Hope he likes orange and navy blue.

You can see Monson’s full list of players he thinks will likely his free agency and his full argument on Jeffery by clicking here.

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Aldo Gandia

Aldo Gandia

Among my career highlights I have produced two films while in high school that received nationwide attention; leaned out of a helicopter over the Gulf of Suez at the age of 20 to shoot movies of oil rigs; won an Emmy award for a sports special and another for a kid's fitness show; and led a team of very talented creative professionals to produce break-through corporate communications.

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