Fifteen to know for free agency: Offense

1. RB LE'VEON BELL, PITTSBURGH

His production is undeniable. Even though he sat out the entire 2018 season, he still ranks second in yardage from scrimmage among running backs since 2013, trailing only Buffalo's LeSean McCoy. No running back has more receiving yardage than Bell's tally of 2,660 yards in that span.

The team that adds Bell hopes that he responds to the one-year respite as eventual Hall of Famer John Riggins did nearly four decades ago. Riggins held out from Washington in 1980. He returned one year later, declaring, "I'm broke, I'm bored and I'm back," and within 18 months had the best single postseason for a running back in NFL history, gaining 610 yards in four playoff games. (Terrell Davis is the only other player to rush for at least 500 yards in a single postseason.) Riggins' best work came after the year off, and it carried him to Canton. If Bell lands in the right spot, do not be surprised if he heads in the same direction.

Bell might not get the big guarantee he wants, and he might not match his Pittsburgh production, but for a team with salary-cap space and a young, cost-controlled quarterback who is still learning and could use support from a strong runner and out-of-the-backfield receiver, he should be an excellent fit.

2. QB NICK FOLES, PHILADELPHIA

In postseason and high-leverage regular-season games the last two seasons, Foles flourished. When the stakes were lower, he struggled, and was so inconsistent down the stretch of the 2017 regular season that the Eagles scaled back their offensive aggression in a January 2018 divisional-round win over Atlanta before throwing caution to the wind and turning him loose in the following week's NFC Championship Game against Minnesota. Foles responded with brilliance, then followed that by taking home Super Bowl MVP honors for his work against the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LII.

His performance in a series of late-season 2018 games that were effectively do-or-die contests helped the Eagles return to the postseason and burnished his reputation as a terrific clutch quarterback. But to get to those situations in the future, he must do better in the ordinary games.

Reports have connected Foles to the Jaguars, whose offensive coordinator, John DeFilippo, was his quarterbacks coach with the Eagles. This makes sense for Foles, whose career has experienced wild variance based on the coaches and scheme with which he has worked.

3. OT TRENT BROWN, NEW ENGLAND

A year ago, the Patriots allowed starting left tackle Nate Solder to depart for the New York Giants in the first wave of free agency. Now they appear set to let his replacement test the market.

Brown, acquired in an April 2018 trade, ensured New England would experience minimal drop-off from Solder, although the presence of the decisive, quick-reading Tom Brady certainly helped his cause. At 6-foot-8 and 359 pounds with 36-inch arms, Brown is a massive presence, but moves with more nimbleness than his frame would suggest. His ability to handle the shift from right tackle in San Francisco to left tackle with the Patriots enhances his value, and gives him an excellent chance to be the highest-paid offensive lineman on this year's market.

4. OT JA'WUAN JAMES, MIAMI

A first-round pick of the Dolphins in 2014, James has delivered solid play at right guard, and has improved over the years. According to the data compiled by Pro Football Focus, James allowed one pressure every 18.9 pass-rush snaps in 2018, which was his best performance in a year in which he played at least 500 total snaps.

The primary concern for James is injuries. He ended two of the last four seasons on injured reserve and has missed 15 of a possible 64 regular-season games in that span. But when James is healthy, he is reliable. He can provide an upgrade for many teams.

5. TE JARED COOK, OAKLAND

Easily the most productive tight end on the market, Cook comes into free agency off the two best seasons of his career. He caught 122 passes for 1,584 yards and six touchdowns with the Raiders the last two years, and despite turning 30 in April 2017, didn't miss a game in those seasons.

Cook's previous inconsistency might give teams pause, but now that the Raiders demonstrated how to properly integrate the 6-foot-5, 254-pounder into their attack, he should provide an immediate jolt to whatever team signs him.

6. OT DARYL WILLIAMS, CAROLINA

Prior to suffering a training-camp knee injury and another Week 1 injury that ended his season, Williams was on an upward trajectory because of his outstanding 2017 season as Carolina's starting right tackle. Williams was particularly effective in pass protection that year, and even with the rise of 2018 draft pick Taylor Moton, he would likely be remaining a Panther had he not suffered his 2018 knee issues.

Health obviously makes Williams a risk, but if he can pick up where he left off, he should represent excellent value, as his best football would likely still be in front of him.

7. WR ADAM HUMPHRIES, TAMPA BAY

There's a lot to like with the 5-foot-11, 195-pound Humphries. He's consistent; despite starting just 17 games over the last three seasons and usually being the Bucs' No. 3 receiver, he's posted at least 55 catches and 600 yards each year, with career highs of 76 grabs and 816 yards last season. He can return punts; he's done so 51 times over his career, although his fumble rate of one every 19.0 opportunities isn't great. He got better as the 2018 season progressed; his production over the last 12 games of the season would have had him on a 953-yard pace.

8. WR GOLDEN TATE, PHILADELPHIA

In 2018, Tate had his lowest yardage total (795) since 2012 and just his second season of fewer than 1,000 receiving yards since 2014, but some of that can be attributed to the midseason trade from the Lions to Philadelphia. He never approached his Lions pace during his eight regular-season games and two playoff games with the Eagles.

Of the NFL's 35 wide receivers with at least 60 receptions last year, just three -- Cincinnati's Tyler Boyd, Kansas City's Tyreek Hill and Pittsburgh's JuJu Smith-Schuster -- averaged more yardage after the catch than Tate, who gained 5.55 yards after receptions. Tate's first-down percentage dropped below 45 percent for the first time since his rookie season (33 first downs on 74 receptions, 44.6 percent) and he will turn 31 during training camp, but he is healthy and durable and should still have productive years in front of him.

9. C MITCH MORSE, KANSAS CITY

Morse is one of the best pass-protecting centers in the game, which makes him particularly important to the air-centric Chiefs. But he has been dogged with injuries in recent years, most notably a concussion in 2018 that cost him five games and a foot injury in 2017. The fourth-year veteran missed 14 games in 2017 and 2018 after playing in all but one game during his first two seasons in the NFL.

10. QB TYROD TAYLOR, CLEVELAND

Benched by the Browns last year, Taylor's future is likely as a bridge quarterback. His 89.4 passer rating over the last four years is 27th among 61 quarterbacks who have thrown at least 200 passes in that span, and his overall metrics reveal a quarterback who is slightly above the league average. As he showed in Buffalo in 2017, he's good enough to nudge a middling team to the postseason; as the subsequent wild-card loss to Jacksonville demonstrated, he's not able to will a team to victory when other aspects of its play break down.

Taylor will not be spectacular, but he can be a stable starter, and for a team that hasn't yet figured out its long-term quarterback solution, he is a suitable short-term option who can do enough to keep a team competitive. As quarterbacks like Ryan Fitzpatrick and Josh McCown have demonstrated, that description can keep you in the NFL for many years.

11. WR TYRELL WILLIAMS, L.A. CHARGERS

Williams moved the chains at a hefty pace last year, finishing 11th among 62 wide receivers in first-down rate during the 2018 season. Thirty of his 41 receptions (73.1 percent) of his 41 receptions went for first downs.

The Chargers can't offer an opportunity for him to be a No. 1 receiver right now, but when he was forced into that role in 2016, he delivered with 1,059 yards and seven touchdowns on 69 catches.

12. WR COLE BEASLEY, DALLAS

Reliable and steady, Beasley has caught at least 62 passes in each of the last four seasons, and has missed just one game in the last five. He turns 30 in April and appears to view this as his chance for a big payday, and his reliability should ensure that he gets the deal he wants.

13. WR JOHN BROWN, BALTIMORE

The fastest receiver on the market, Brown flourished with Joe Flacco last year in Baltimore and was on a 1,000-yard pace before the Ravens turned to Lamar Jackson in November. The bounce-back performance offered evidence that Brown can return to the form he displayed during his first two seasons with Arizona, when he posted a 1,000-yard campaign in 2015, scored 12 touchdowns in two years and averaged 15.0 yards per reception.

14. QB TEDDY BRIDGEWATER, NEW ORLEANS

Bridgewater has started just one game since he suffered a horrific leg injury during a preseason practice with the Vikings in 2016, and that performance in the Saints' regular-season finale last December was subpar, as he finished with a 73.7 passer rating on 14-of-22 passing for 118 yards, one touchdown and one interception in a 33-14 loss. The appearance came with the Saints' reserves, so it wasn't a fair test.

Last year, the Jets signed Bridgewater as part of a plan to have themselves covered at quarterback; they also signed McCown. When they drafted USC's Sam Darnold a month and a half later, they were covered; that made Bridgewater expendable. Bridgewater's play in his last full-time starting work during the 2015 season remains his primary attribute. But as the memories of that grow dim, his chance to become a starting quarterback continues fading.

15. TE JESSE JAMES, PITTSBURGH

The 6-foot-7, 261-pound James started 34 games in the last three seasons and didn't miss a game in that span. He averaged 37.3 receptions, 377.7 yards and 2.7 touchdowns per season in that span, and became best known for an apparent touchdown catch against New England in December 2017 that was wiped off the board by an instant-replay review and led to a rules change.

James is known more for his blocking, but he could improve his receiving production -- especially in the red zone -- with a team that is not as blessed with targets all around the field as the Steelers have been. For a team that plans on using multiple tight ends who can function in-line, he could be an ideal fit.

Related Content

Advertising