Steel City Falcon Posted March 24, 2015 Share Posted March 24, 2015 The free agent class of 2016 seems way better than this 2015. Perhaps this is why the Falcons didn't spend big money this year. Are own Julio Jones is on the list but the interesting names are on the defensive side. http://insider.espn.go.com/nfl/story/_/id/12545607/philip-rivers-tops-ranking-potential-2016-free-agents-nfl Top 15 NFL free agents for 2016 Rivers tops ranking of big-name players who could soon hit open market Originally Published: March 24, 2015 By Field Yates | ESPN Insider Free agency has proven to be one of the most exciting times of the football calendar. And with that in mind, it's never too early to look ahead to the class of free agents set to hit the market in 2016. For the purpose of this exercise, we're going to bypass four quarterbacks who could potentially become free agents next season -- Russell Wilson of the Seahawks, Andrew Luck of the Colts, Cam Newton of the Panthers and Eli Manning of the Giants -- as each of their teams has either stated its intentions to re-sign that player long term, or is almost assuredly going to finalize an extension (note: the Colts can also use their fifth-year team option on Luck for 2016). This list highlights the 15 players who have the best chance to have a big impact on the 2016 free-agent class. 1. Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers: He enters the final year of his contract in 2015, and unlike the quarterbacks above, the possibility of him playing elsewhere has at least been floated. He'd be 34 when the subsequent league year begins, but he's undeniably durable (nine straight years of playing 16 games) and quarterbacks of his caliber simply don't become available that frequently. The Chargers do have the franchise tag in their back pocket to use if needed. 2. Broncos outside linebacker Von Miller: Denver will undoubtedly look hard to extend Miller before the conclusion of the 2015 league year, as he's one of the game's best edge rushers. Miller has rare explosion and length off the edge paired with an arsenal of moves that makes him a consistent force. 3. Chiefs outside linebacker Justin Houston: Much of what I wrote about Von Miller applies to Houston, who has just one half-sack less than Miller since they both entered the league in 2011. Houston had the franchise tag earlier this offseason, but given his impact, the Chiefs would be wise to consider using it again next offseason absent a long-term deal. He's that good. 4. Broncos wide receiver Demaryius Thomas: He is another franchise tag player for 2015, and the Broncos should be motivated to sign him to a long-term deal not just because of his on-field ability, but also because if he plays out the franchise tender, the team opens up the possibility of either Thomas or Miller hitting the open market next offseason. 5. Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant: Yet another franchise tag player, Bryant's agents have already had negotiations with the Cowboys on a long-term deal. The organization has been outspoken about its desire to retain him for the distant future, but he'd be exceedingly coveted on the open market. There's no answer for Bryant when facing single coverage -- that's an advantage in his favor every time. 6. Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones: He is playing on the fifth-year team option in 2015, but GM Thomas Dimitroff recently said he wants Jones in Atlanta for the long haul. Beyond his freakish physical gifts (6-foot-3, 220 pounds and blazing speed), Jones is an incredibly hard worker whose only limitation has been a foot injury that cost him all but five games in 2013. 7. 49ers outside linebacker Aldon Smith: His talent has never been the question -- his reliability has. He missed five games in 2013 while in rehab and nine more in 2014 due to a suspension. But when he's on the field, he's an unblockable force with unique power and explosion off the edge. If he can have a balanced, complete season in 2015, he'll be rewarded with a big contract. 8. Seahawks linebacker Bobby Wagner: A pillar of Seattle's dominant defense, Wagner is a force versus the run while also being able to capably cover extensive ground to defend the pass. On top of his prowess on the field, one reason for Seattle to be highly motivated to lock up Wilson is the flexibility it would afford in keeping the franchise tag open to use on Wagner if needed. Seattle knows just how valuable Wagner is to the team's success. 9. Jets defensive lineman Muhammad Wilkerson: He is an every-down defensive lineman who has very good movement skills, can rush the passer, and does a terrific job of using his length to get his arms up in passing lanes at the line of scrimmage. The Jets have spent big this offseason on players from outside of the organization (re-signing Darrelle Revis, trading for Marshall, etc.). Taking care of one of their own makes a lot of sense. 10. Buccaneers linebacker Lavonte David: Perhaps a bit overlooked because of Tampa Bay's team struggles, David is among the preeminent young players in the NFL. His production is outstanding (his 2013 season with 145 tackles, 7.0 sacks, five interceptions and 10 passes defensed speaks to that) and he is a sideline-to-sideline maven who can anchor the middle of a defense. 11. Bills defensive tackle Marcell Dareus: With an uncommon ability to attack the interior of an offensive line and penetrate to create pressure, Dareus has proven to be among the disruptive forces in the NFL. He's had off-field concerns, but his talent is indisputable. He also just turned 25. 12. Ravens cornerback Jimmy Smith: Big and athletic, Smith is the best player in a Ravens secondary that dealt with numerous injury issues in 2014 (Smith included). He's 6-2 and close to 210 pounds with the ability to play man coverage. Corners with that sort of size and ability are hard to find -- just look at how much the Eagles paid to sign Byron Maxwell this offseason. 13. Colts wide receiver T.Y. Hilton: Including the postseason, Hilton had a reception of at least 30 yards in more than half of his games last season. His electric speed can flip the field on one play. He's established himself as the best player on Indy's offense outside of Luck. 14. Chargers safety Eric Weddle: How's this for return on investment? Since signing a five-year extension in July 2011, Weddle has played every game for San Diego, totaling 37 passes defensed, 13 interceptions and over 400 tackles. The 30-year old remains among the best safeties in the NFL. 15. Dolphins outside linebacker Olivier Vernon: This 24-year old is a potential breakout star in 2015, as he'll get lots of one-on-one matchups against offensive tackles with opponents having to account for Ndamukong Suh and Cameron Wake. That spells trouble for opposing defenses. Look for Vernon to exceed the 11.5-sack total he posted in 2013 (he had 6.5 in 2014). That type of production could command big money on the open market. Just missed: Bears wide receiver Alshon Jeffery, Rams cornerback Janoris Jenkins Quote Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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