Calculating the Market Value for Potential NFL Free Agents or Extension Candidates

With the new year upon us, the time to look ahead to the next football season is now. We’ll publish a running list of market values for players set to hit free agency, or slotted as prime extension candidates heading into the offseason. Keep in mind that these valuations are calculated using a formula that compares statistical production in the two seasons leading up to a new contract, against other players from that position who have recently signed a contract. Our calculated market values do not necessarily reflect our opinions on what that player’s next contract should be. We’ve noted our though ts under each player below.

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Quarterbacks

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Drew Brees, NO
Calculated: 3 years, $61M ($20.4M AAV)
Likely: 3 years, $66M ($22M AAV)
The projection above constitutes “new money”, as Brees is slated to earn $20M already in 2016, so we’re looking at a total of four years altogether (2016-2019). In a perfect world, Brees agrees to convert almost all of that $20M into a signing bonus that would pro-rate over the four total years of this contract, lowering his 2016 cap hit significantly and providing the Saints with  breathing room as the waiver period nears. View the calculated projection here.

Joe Flacco, BAL
Calculated: 3 years, $59.5M ($19.8M AAV)
Likely: 3 years, $69M ($23M AAV)
Flacco carries cap numbers of $28.5M and $31.1M respectively over the next two seasons, so the Ravens will certainly need to adjust in some capacity. Unfortunately, he currently carries $25.85M in dead cap (all bonus), that will carry through to any restructure/extension he agrees to. It’s a situation similar to what Matthew Stafford and the Lions went through recently, when over $19M in dead cap was carried into a 3 year $53M extension. The near $20M AAV Flacco’s calculating to is nearly identical to his current pay, so logic says he’ll likely press for more, possibly exceeding the $22M AAV that Aaron Rodgers currently carries. View the calculated projection here

Kirk Cousins, WAS
Calculated: 4 years, $82.5M ($20.6M AAV)
Likely: 1 year, $20M franchise tag
Cousins’ certainly did enough to give the Redskins every reason to want him back next year, but the idea of a long-term 9-figure contract just may not be the answer yet. His current market value (AAV) is right in line with the projected franchise tag value for QBs in 2016 (assuming a $154M salary cap). While the 1-year tender isn’t ideal for Cousins, a $20M “prove it” salary isn’t a bad pay day for a 27 year old. A 2016 campaign to the second half of 2015 will price him into the elite tier of QB contracts going forward. View the calculated projection here.

Tyrod Taylor, BUF 
Calculated: 4 years $77.6M ($19.4M AAV)
Likely: 2 years, $28M ($14M AAV)
The numbers were good in Taylor’s first full year as a starting QB, and for a 4 week stretch, they were GREAT. He’s best comparable to Alex Smith prior to his recent extension in Kansas City, while the calculated projection/AAV mimics the deal the Dolphins just handed Ryan Tannehill. The Bills don’t HAVE to make an offer this year, and they certainly don’t have the cap room to increase Taylor’s dreamy $3.1M cap hit for 2016, but if they’re comfortable with what they have going forward, a 4 year deal with 2 years fully guaranteed (i.e. Tannehill) is within reason here. View the calculated projection here.

Sam Bradford, PHI
Calculated: 3 years, $56M ($18.6M AAV)
Likely: 1 year franchise tag (est. $20M)
The Eagles’ inability to finish out the season on a high note has already seen the coach sent out of town, and could do the same for Bradford. Hitting the open market will likely benefit him financially, as there will be multiple teams looking for a QB of his caliber talent & potential. At 28, the window has shortened on a long-term franchise option, but a 3-4 year deal with only 2 years containing guaranteed cash is likely in store. View the calculated projection here.

Andrew Luck, IND
Calculated: 5 years, $96M ($19.2M)
Likely: 5 years, $116M ($23.2M AAV)
The recent numbers haven’t been fantastic, and the injury-riddled 2015 season sure didn’t help, but the writing’s on the wall for the long-term future of Luck in Indy. The reality is that the Colts are setup nicely to make this contract happen right now, with only WR TY Hilton ($13M) and LT Anthony Castonzo ($10.9M) signed to contracts north of $10M per year. We’re likely talking about a 4 year, $100M extension – $70M guaranteed. View the calculated projection here.

Peyton Manning (DEN)
Calculated: 1 years, $13.5M ($13.5M AAV)
Likely: 1 year, $10M ($10M AAV)
If he comes back (either with Denver or another team), and that’s a big if – it certainly won’t be about the money. Peyton was valuing north of $17M based on his 2014 statistics, but 2015 was a much different story. It’s feasible for a few teams in need to throw a number like $13.5M his way, but Manning will be looking for a good fit, on a legitimate contending team should he decide to give it a go in 2016. View the calculated projection here.

Ryan Fitzpatrick (NYJ)
Calculated: 3 years, $33M ($11M AAV)
Likely: 3 years, $24M ($8M AAV)
Fitzpatrick finished off a career year on a sour note in Week 17, losing against his old team in Buffalo to keep the Jets out of the postseason. His numbers are certainly worthy of a new deal, though it’s tough to imagine a 250% increase in pay for a 33 year old who’s been reluctant to show he can take a team all the way. A front loaded deal around $9M per year is more likely in the cards for the Amish Beard, and the Jets should have no qualms about signing him soon. View the calculated projection here.

Brock Osweiler (DEN)
Calculated: 4 years, $41M ($10.25M AAV)
Likely: 3 years, $39M ($13M AAV)
Osweiler’s shine might dull a bit if Peyton comes back to lead Denver into a deep playoff run, but he certainly showed signs of being a capable starting QB as he nears free agency. The stats don’t jump off the page (168 YD/G, 86 Rating, 10 TD, 6 INT), but an available QB with potential will always find offers. He compares nearly identically to Kevin Kolb prior to his 6 year, $62M contract in Arizona back in 2011. However, starting QBs in 2015 carried an average salary of $13.15M, so should the Broncos be bringing him back as their starter, they’ll likely need to shell out more. View the calculated projection here.

Robert Griffin III (WAS)
Calculated: 3 years, $20.7M ($6.9M AAV)
Likely: 2 years, $12M ($6M AAV)
There are a few places where Griffin will have the chance to compete for a starting job out of the gate, but the Texans appear be the best option. With Arian Foster likely out the door, a versatile QB with a bit of experience makes sense, not to mention Griffin’s ties to Texas. His injury-filled, inconsistent career in Washington makes him extremely difficult to evaluate financially. Our calculated valuation projects Griffin to be worth just under $7M per year still – though it’s safe to assume any deal he signs will be incentive laden. View the calculated projection here.

 

 

Running Backs

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Le’Veon Bell, PIT
Calculated: 5 years, $43.5M ($8.7M AAV)
Likely: 5 years, $43.5M ($8.7M AAV)
It seems remarkable, but Bell is just 23 years old as he sets to enter a contract year in Pittsburgh. His MCL/PCL injury kept his 2015 totals down, but his per game averages are still at the top of the league (132 yards from scrimmage). The Steelers certainly don’t HAVE to extend him this offseason, but they risk him walking for bigger bucks after 2016 by waiting. He’s likely looking at a minimum $24M guaranteed when it comes down to it.
View the calculated projection here.

Matt Forte, CHI
Calculated: 3 years, $22M ($7.3M AAV)
Likely: 2 years, $10M ($5M AAV)
First off let’s be clear here: It’s extremely unlikely that at 30 years old, Matt Forte pulls in a contract averaging $7M+ per year. In terms of valuing, Forte’s always been a difficult read. When evaluating him against just running backs, his receiving statistics dominate all calculations (hence our $7.4M AAV). As a rusher, he aligns well with Frank Gore ($4M AAV), as a pass catcher he aligns with Julian Edelman ($4.25M AAV). So logically speaking, it’s safe to assume Forte is worth somewhere around the $4M per year mark. View the calculated projection here.

Doug Martin, TB
Calculated: 4 years, $27M ($6.75M AAV)
Likely: 4 years, $28M ($7M AAV)
Martin picked a great year to find his groove in the Tampa Bay offense, finishing 2nd in the NFL with 1,402 rushing yards, including an average of almost 5 per carry. His 6 touchdowns and use in the passing game (33 rec, 270 yards) keep his calculated value below the top tier of recent signings, but it’s possible that a weak free agent market pushes his AAV closer to $7M. His production matches up extremely close to DeAngelo Williams’ numbers prior to his sophomore contract in Carolina (before running backs were de-valued). He should set the new third-tier for running back pay this offseason. View the calculated projection here.

Lamar Miller, MIA
Calculated: 4 years, $20M ($5M AAV)
Likely: 5 years $26.25M ($5.25M AAV)
After an 1100+ yard/8 TD campaign in 2014, Miller fell out of favor a bit in Miami by the end of the 2015 season. It’s likely he hits the open market, with potential to be a legitimate RB1. He’ll be 25 years old in a few months, and has shown he has a nose for the end zone AND can hold on to the football well. He matches up well with Mark Ingram (NO, $4M), and Ryan Mathews (PHI, $3.6M), so a rising cap mixed with a bit more consistency should warrant Miller a $4M+ AAV this offseason. View the calculated projection here.

Chris Ivory, NYJ
Calculated: 3 years, $12.3M ($4.1M AAV)
Likely: 3 years $12M ($4M AAV)
Ivory was an integral part of the Jets improved offense in 2015, posting the first 1,000 yard season of his career. He’s set to hit the free agent market at 27, and should find a few multi-year offers should the Jets decide to go in a different direction. He matches up well with Mark Ingram, who scored a 4 year $16M deal in New Orleans last year. View the calculated projection here.

 

Wide Receivers

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Alshon Jeffery,CHI
Calculated: 5 years, $64M ($12.8 AAV)
Likely: 4 years $44M ($11M AAV)
Jeffery showed flashes of elite WR1 over his past four years in Chicago. Unfortunately he also showed inconsistency and a bit of injury proneness. Factor that in to a Bears offense that fell off in the past two seasons, and he’s entering his first free agent market on a bit of a downturn. He’s still arguably the best available free agent WR, and it’s likely the Bears make a big push to keep him. A $12.8M AAV would rank 7th among WRs, right behind T.Y. Hilton’s recent contract. View the calculated projection here.

Keenan Allen, SD
Calculated: 6 years, $70M ($11.7 AAV)
Likely: 5 years $60M ($12M AAV)
Allen was on pace to break receiving records last season before injuries took away his 2015. He’s shown clear chemistry with QB Philip Rivers, and an ability to create separate even when heavily covered. The injury should be a small red flag, but the time is right for San Diego to lock Allen in for the long term. He aligns well with TY Hilton (IND), who reeled in $13M per year last offseason. View the calculated projection here.

Doug Baldwin, SEA
Calculated: 5 years, $43M ($8.6M AAV)
Likely: 5 years, $43M ($8.6M AAV)
Nobody benefited more from Marshawn Lynch’s injury-filled 2015 than Baldwin, who became the goto offensive target for Wilson and the Seahawks. He responded with big catches and most importantly – touchdowns. His calculated value drops in at $8.6M, exactly double what he’s currently earning. View the calculated projection here.

Michael Floyd, ARI
Calculated: 4 years, $33M ($8.25M AAV)
Likely: 4 years, $33M ($8.25M AAV)
Though he showed no signs of it in 2015, the upcoming season could be Larry Fitzgerald’s last in Arizona, so the Cardinals would do well to get ahead on Floyd to lock in the next man up going forward. He’s currently sitting with a $7.32M 5th year option in 2016, but is projecting at $8.25M per year according to our latest calculation. A deal similar to Michael Crabtreee’s 4 year, $34M extension seems about right. View the calculated projection here.

Travis Benjamin, CLE
Calculated: 4 years, $17.5M ($4.3M AAV)
Likely: 4 years, $25M ($6.25M AAV)
The uncertainty of Josh Gordon’s status mixed with a breakout year in 2015 makes bringing back Benjamin a priority for Cleveland. He’s working from a bit of a small sample size (saw only 46 targets in 2014), so the price shouldn’t get out of hand this offseason, but he and Marvin Jones (CIN) will likely become the top available WRs on the market assuming the Bears lockup Alshon Jeffery as expected. Golden Tate’s $6.2M per year deal should be a foundation here.View the calculated projection here.

Marvin Jones, CIN
Calculated: 4 years, $22M ($5.5M AAV)
Likely: 4 years, $25M ($5M AAV)
Jones has flown under the radar behind A.J. Green and to some degree Mohamed Sanu’s shadows over his past four years in Cincy. But when targeted he’s been extremely reliable, including reeling in 70% of his opportunities in 2015. He scored 10 TDs in 2013 before missing all of 2014 with injury. He potentially heads to free agency as the second best available WR. He calculates to a $5.5M AAV, so a 4 year deal as high as $25M shouldn’t be out of the question. View the calculated projection here.

Jermaine Kearse, SEA
Calculated: 4 years, $18.8M ($4.7M AAV)
Likely: 4 years, $16M ($4M AAV)
Kearse has been an increasingly productive target for Russell Wilson – especially with the recent emergence of Doug Baldwin in the offense. He saved his best statistical season for his contract year, posting 49 catches, 685 yards, and 5 scores. If he’s allowed to hit the open market, it’s possible his market value rises up near the $5M that Marvin Jones (CIN) is valuing at. But with Baldwin under contract at $4.3M, it’s hard to see him surpassing that if he remains a Seahawk. View the calculated projection here.

Mohamed Sanu, CIN
Calculated: 4 years, $17.2M ($4.3M AAV)
Likely: 4 years, $20M ($5M AAV)
The existence of A.J. Green and Marvin Jones alongside him have stunted Sanu’s statistical production, but he’s arguably been Dalton’s favorite target over the past few seasons. The lower numbers lead to a calculated projection of $4.3M per year, but a weak WR market should easily push his value to a floor of $5M. View the calculated projection here.

 

Tight Ends

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Jordan Reed, WAS
Calculated: 5 years, $49.6 ($9.9M AAV)
Likely: 5 years, $48M ($9.6M AAV)
Reed quickly became Kirk Cousins’ featured target in 2015, and has compiled back to back strong campaigns in Washington. He’s signed at an $833,166 cap figure in 2016, but is now eligible for an extension, a move that should coincide with the Redskin’s locking in Cousins for the next few years. Statistically he’s performed better across the board than Zach Ertz, who just received an $8.5M AAV deal from the Eagles. That contract now becomes the foundation for Reed’s next deal. View the calculated projection here.

Antonio Gates, SD
Calculated: 2 years, $12.2M ($6.1M AAV)
Likely: 2 years, $14M ($7M AAV)
It’s not for certain yet that Gates WANTS to return for another year, but his production in 2015 says he certainly can if he wants to. In 11 games, Gates reeled in 56 balls for 630 yards and 5 TDs. With Gates nearly 36 years old, it’s extremely rare for TEs to garner a contract this late in the gane, Statistically though, Gates is on the same career path as fellow TE Tony Gonzalez, who penned a 2 year $12.6M deal with the Falcons back in 2013. View the calculated projection here.

Coby Fleener, IND
Calculated: 4 years, $24M ($6M AAV)
Likely: 4 years, $24M ($6M AAV)
Fleener appeared to be heading toward a major payday after a breakout 2014 campaign in Indy (54 rec, 774 yards, 8 TD). But a step-back year in 2015, likely due to the absence of Andrew Luck, has throttled his value signficantly heading toward free agency. At just 27 years old, and with good blocking abilities, Fleener’s versatility should garner him plenty of offers should the Colts let him walk. A $6M AAV would rank him 12th among active TEs. View the calculated projection here.

Vernon Davis, DEN
Calculated: 3 years, $5.5M ($1.8M AAV)
Likely: 1 year, $3M (+ incentives)
The dropoff in production for Vernon Davis over the past two seasons has been jaw-dropping. After falling out of graces on a bad 49ers offense, he never really found a consistent home in the Broncos system. 18 months ago he was holding out in hopes of becoming the highest paid TE in football. He’ll be lucky to crack the $2M per year mark this offseason. Though at 31 years old, it’s possible a team views his past success as potential production still. View the calculated projection here.

 

Offensive Linemen

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Cordy Glenn, BUF
Calculated: 5 years, $54.9M ($10.9M AAV)
Likely: Franchise Tag, then 5 years, $55M ($11M AAV)
Glenn has shown increasing improvement through his 4 years in Buffalo. He was valuing at less than $10M entering the 2015 campaign, but a very strong season in front of QB Tyrod Taylor has bolstered his stock. An $11M AAV would place him 4th among signed left tackles, just ahead of the $10.9M deal Anthony Castonzo received from the Colts last year. It’s likely the Bills will slap the franchise tag on him soon to buy time to work this deal out. View the calculated projection here.

Russell Okung, SEA
Calculated: 4 years, $35.6M ($8.9M AAV)
Likely: 4 years, $40M ($10M AAV)
Okung has struggled to stay on the field in his first 6 NFL seasons, all with Seattle. Combine that with below average run block ratings from PFF, and the calculated market value for Okung is right around is current $8M AAV. He’s done well to limit sacks allowed against him through his rookie contract, which keeps his average market value from plummeting. It’s possible a team in need (or Seattle), hands him a little more on average, with fewer years – but for certain his guaranteed money will be lower than the normal left tackle would warrant on the market. View the calculated projection here.

Donald Penn, OAK
Calculated: 2 years, $14.3M ($7.1M AAV)
Likely: 3 years, $24M ($8M AAV)
This would be a huge raise for Penn, who signed a 2 year $9.6M "band-aid" contract with Oakland back in 2014. He’s outperformed that deal over the past two seasons though, and is arguably a Top 10 left tackle right now even at age 32. He won’t cash in a long-term deal, but in the interim, he’s likely to get paid well. A $7.1M AAV would rank 16th among active left tackles. View the calculated projection here.

Richie Incognito (G, BUF)
Calculated: 2 years, $9.9M ($4.9M AAV)
Likely: 2 years, $11M ($5.5M AAV)
We generated these figures using his limited stats from 2013 (MIA), and the full 2015 in Buffalo. It’s safe to say Incognito was one of the best overall offensive linemen in football this past year, and he’s likely in line for quite the raise from the $1M he reeled in this season. The 2 year $10M restructured extension Ben Grubbs locked in with the Chiefs appears to be about where Incogntio aligns. View the calculated projection here.

Brandon Brooks (G, HOU)
Calculated: 5 years, $40M ($8M AAV)
Likely: 5 years, $40M ($8M AAV)
Brooks was one of the best rated guards in football across 2013-14 before falling off slightly last year. He’s still inline with Mike Iupati, who scored an $8M per year deal from the Cardinals last offseason. It’s feasible that high demand could push his annual number north of that still. View the calculated projection here.

Alex Boone (G, SF)
Calculated: 3 years, $8M ($2.6M AAV)
Likely: 3 years, $9M ($3M AAV)
Inconsistent play and injuries have left Boone’s financial future in question. The undrafted free agent back in 2009 restructured his most recent deal down to a 2 year, $6M contract that expired this season. And it doesn’t appear like he’s in for much of a raise if any. At 28 years old, teams may be interested in giving him a look, but a long-term contract likely isn’t in his figure. View the calculated projection here.

 

Defensive Linemen

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Mo Wilkerson (DE, NYJ)
Calculated: 5 years, $67.4M ($13.4M AAV)
Likely: 5 years, $70M ($14M AAV)
Wilkerson put together a great pair of back to back seasons to end out his rookie campaign with the Jets, so he’s entering the need for a new contract at an extremely high point. New York will no doubt offer a franchise tag next month to buy themselves time to hammer out a long-term deal, but the Jets’ 2016 cap issues will make it difficult to hold leverage, as the franchise tag and his current market value sit around the $13.5M mark. Wilkerson’s numbers are close – but not quite at J.J. Watt’s prior to his recent signing. So a deal approaching $15M isn’t out of the question. A long term deal with a lower cap in 2016 would benefit the Jets. View the calculated projection here.

Fletcher Cox (DE, PHI)
Calculated: 6 years, $83M ($13.8M AAV)
Likely: 5 years, $70M ($14M AAV)
Cox has flown somewhat under the radar in Philly since entering the league in 2012. He’s had back to back excellent seasons with the Eagles, totaling 15 sacks, 100 tackles and consecutive Top 5 ratings from PFF. Having just turned 25 years old, he’s under contract by way of a $7.8M 5th year option in 2016 – but he’s trending heavily toward a long-term extension. His situation will be influenced by how the Jets handle Mo Wilkerson this offseason. He’s worth more to the Eagles in the 4-3 system they’re switching to next year. View the calculated projection here.

Jason Pierre-Paul (DE, NYG)
Calculated: 5 years $50M ($10M AAV)
Likely: 4 years, $50M ($12.5M AAV)
It’s no secret by now that the Giants were about to make JPP one of the highest paid defenisve players in the league prior to his hand accident. His return in 2015 was somewhat anti-climatic, but the potential for greatness still remains, especially having just turned 27 years old. Teams with ample cap space could ramp up major money to improve their pass rush, so a calculated market value of $10M per year should come in as the floor for JPP. View the calculated projection here.

Olivier Vernon (DE, MIA)
Calculated: 5 years $48.1M ($9.6M AAV)
Likely: 5 years, $60M ($12M AAV)
Vernon had a fantastic 2015, posting 10 sacks, 41 hurries, 50 stops, and 48 solo tackles – stats good enough to rank him 1st among 4-3 defensive ends on Pro Football Focus. The timely peak in production soared his calculated market value more than $2M, up to nearly $10M per year. His past two year stats align him somewhere in between Cameron Jordan ($11M AAV), and Everson Griffen ($8.5M AAV), so the $10M marks appears to be a floor for him heading into negotiations. It’s possible a $12M AAV deal is in his near future. View the calculated projection here.

Jaye Howard, (DT, KC)
Calculated: 5 years, $52.5M ($10.5MM AAV)
Likely: 4 years, $40M ($10M AAV)
The Chiefs have an awful lot of talent on the defensive side of the ball headed for free agency, so Howard might be able to test the market. A $13M+ franchise tag probably isn’t feasible with their current cap flow, but a $9.3M transition tag might be. In terms of a multi-year deal Howard may be trending more toward Tyrone Crawford’s $9M per year deal with the Cowboys, but a $10M AAV would rank him 7th among defensive tackles. View the calculated projection here.

Malik Jackson, (DE, DEN)
Calculated: 5 years, $53.5M ($10.7MM AAV)
Likely: 4 years, $44M ($11M AAV)
With battery-mate Derek Wolfe already signed to his extension ($9M AAV), it’s possible Jackson is allowed to hit the open market. His past two year statistics match up extremely close to Cameron Heyward’s prior to the signing of his 6 years $59.2M deal in Pittsburgh, so a contract north of $10M per year is likely. View the calculated projection here.

William Gholston (DE, TB)
Calculated: 5 years $44.2M ($8.8M AAV)
Likely: 5 years $44.2M ($8.8M AAV)
The Bucs have come on record to say they’re reluctant to spend big in free agency this year, so with ample cap space, it seems logical start taking care of their own. Getting a jump on extending Gholston will likely save them a few bucks down the road, while locking in a versatile defensive edge guy. He’s currentlycalculating at $8.8M per year, a figure that ranks 8th among 4-3 defensive ends. View the calculated projection here.

Greg Hardy (DE, DAL)
Calculated: 4 years $34.2M ($8.55M AAV)
Likely: 2 years, $10M ($5M AAV, + incentives)
Hardy had a solid finish to the season in Dallas after serving his suspension. He earned a little over $3M after incentives in 2015, posting 6 sacks and 23 tackles for the Cowboys. He’ll be 28 by the time training camp starts, and should draw interest from plenty of teams – which could drive his price up to/past his calculated market values ($8.5M), but it’s more likely that another low base, high incentive deal is locked in based on his past. View the calculated projection here.

Ian Williams (DT, SF)
Calculated: 4 years $31M ($7.75M AAV)
Likely: 4 years, $30M ($7.5M AAV, + incentives)
Hardy had a solid finish to the season in Dallas after serving his suspension. He earned a little over $3M after incentives in 2015, posting 6 sacks and 23 tackles for the Cowboys. He’ll be 28 by the time training camp starts, and should draw interest from plenty of teams – which could drive his price up to/past his calculated market values ($8.5M), but it’s more likely that another low base, high incentive deal is locked in based on his past. View the calculated projection here.

Robert Ayers, (DE, NYG)
Calculated: 3 years, $18.4M ($6.1M AAV)
Likely: 3 years, $17.25M ($5.75M AAV)
At 30 years old, Ayers is till posting productive, consistent NFL seasons. With the Giants looking to overhaul their defense this offseason, it’s possible Ayers hits the market, and would be a strong, affordable
piece for teams looking to improve their pass rush and run stop. He’s posted back to back Top 10 PFF rankings, and matches up well with Brian Robinson (MIN), who signed a 4 year, $22.4M contract prior to the 2014 season. View the calculated projection here

Datone Jones (DE, GB)
Calculated: 4 years, $19.4M ($4.9M AAV)
Likely: 4 years, $21M ($5.25M AAV)
The 2013 1st round pick is entering year four of his rookie contract. While the deal provides a 5th year option, Green Bay would be smart (and they usually are) to get ahead of the game and work out a multi-year extension now. Jones is a prime candidate for a breakout year in 2016 so his value could be a very different picture one year from now. He’s projecting at a comfortable $5M per year currently, aligning closely with the 4 year $21M deal the Redskins gave to Stephen Paea last year. View the calculated projection here

 

Linebackers

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Von Miller (OLB, DEN)
Calculated: 6 years, $90M ($15M AAV)
Likely: Franchise tag, then 6 years, $102M ($17M AAV)
Everytime Miller steps foot on the field, he impacts the game. That’s been magnified in this postseason, and his timing couldn’t be more perfect. If Denver can’t lock him up, he’ll hit the open market as arguably the top free agent available. He’s calculated right around the highest paid defensive player mark (Suh, $19M), but is likely to compete with Justin Houston’s $16.8M figure. View the calculated projection here.

Bruce Irvin (OLB, SEA)
Calculated: 5 years, $43.5M ($8.7M AAV)
Likely: 5 years, $55M ($11M AAV)
Outside of Miller (who’s not likely to hit the market at all), Irvin appears poised to be the best available OLB on the open market. At just 29 years old, Irvin’s been both consistent and productive through his four years in Seattle, setting him up to become the highest average paid 4-3 OLB in the game. His $9M calculated market value should easily be exceeded based on multiple offers and needs. View the calculated projection here.

Jamie Collins (OLB, NE)
Calculated: 5 years, $45M ($9M AAV)
Likely: 5 years, $45M ($9M AAV)
Collins has become one of the most consistent players on the defensive side of the ball in New England, and is set to earn just $917,864 this year. Our latest valuation placed him worth $9M per year, and waiting on this deal is likely not a smart move. View the calculated projection here.

Derrick Johnson, KC
Calculated: 3 years, $17.8M ($5.9M AAV)
Likely: 3 years, $18M ($6M AAV)
At 33 years old, it’s a bit of a risk to tender a multi-year contract to Johnson, but he continues to produce at a Top 10 level among fellow inside linebackers. He posted 4 sacks, 98 tackles, and 60 stops in 2015, and would leave big shoes to fill in the center of the Chiefs’ defense should they let him walk. View the calculated projection here.

Danny Trevathan, DEN
Calculated: 6 years $36M ($6M AAV)
Likely: 5 years $40M ($8M AAV)
After an injury-filled 2014 kept him out of the fold, Trevathan supplanted himself as a solid piece in the middle of a great Broncos’ defense this year. With plenty of notable pending free agents on the board, Denver has tough decisions, and letting Trevathan test the market may be one of them. A weak ILB market could bump his market value up near $8M based on his age (25) and production this season. View the calculated projection here.

 

Secondary

Tyrann Mathieu, (DB ARI)
Calculated: 5 years, $71.4M ($14.2M AAV)
Likely: 5 years, $71.4M ($14.2M AAV)
Mathieu’s not only overcome his pre-draft concerns, he’s become one of the most dynamic, athletic, and reliable defensive players in the game. Arizona’s used him as a cornerback and a safety over the past 4 seasons, and he’s flourished in all roles. He’s set to count a measly $912k against the Cardinals’ 2016 cap, but all signs point to an extension coming this offseason. He’s likely about to become the highest average paid defensive back, and currently calculates that way. View the calculated projection here.

Josh Norman (CB, CAR)
Calculated: 5 years, $69.3M ($13.8M AAV)
Likely: Franchise tag, then 5 years, $70M ($14M AAV)
Norman exploded onto the scene in 2015 and has lived up to nearly every challenge placed in front of him. He’s flashy, he’s athletic, and can both put up numbers AND fall back into shut-down mode. He’s also 28 years old, so there’s a bit of a red flag when discussing the monster contract he’s certainly lining up for. All said, he’s calculating just shy of $14M per year, a number Patrick Peterson, Richard Sherman, and Darrelle Revis are currently playing on. He’ll be right there when it’s all said and done. View the calculated projection here.

Janoris Jenkins (CB, STL)
Calculated: 5 years, $52.5M ($10.5M AAV)
Likely: 5 years, $50M ($10M AAV)
Jenkins has reportedly been offered a 5 year $45M contract from the Rams. He’s also turned it down and fired his agent since, so clearly he feels he belons in a higher pay grade. The numbers agree slightly, and Jenkins is arguably the best cornerback set to hit the market not named Norman. View the calculated projection here.

Harrison Smith (S, MIN)
Calculated: 5 years, $47M ($9.4M AAV)
Likely: Franchise tag, then 5 years, $45M ($9M AAV)
He’s been one of the league’s best safeties over the past two seasons, and enters 2016 on a $5.278M 5th year option – a figure that’s nearly half of his calculated market value. Our $9.4M per year projection would make Smith the 2nd highest average paid safety in football behind Earl Thomas.View the calculated projection here.

Eric Berry, (S, KC)
Calculated: 5 years, $41.2M ($8.2M)
Likely: 5 years, $45M ($9M)
Berry has been both an emotional leader, and an on-field general for a strong Chiefs’ defense. His impact when he’s in the lineup is unparalleled, and all signs point to Kansas City keeping him in the fold. His battle with lymphoma has kept his snaps/production low, so from a calculated standpoint he projects at just over $8M per year. But with the franchise tag estimated at $10M for safeties in 2016, logic points his likely AAV closer to the $9M mark. View the calculated projection here.

Sean Smith (CB, KC)
Calculated: 5 years, $40M ($8M AAV)
Likely: 5 years, $42M ($8.4M AAV)
Smith doesn’t necessarily have the statistics to flash heading into free agency, but he’s an experienced press cornerback with size and shutdown ability. At 28 years old he’s inline for a multi-year contract, and teams with cap space should show interest, likely raising his AAV to the $9M mark when it’s said and done. View the calculated projection here.

Eric Weddle, (S, SD)
Calculated:
2 years $13.8M ($6.9M AAV)
Likely: 4 years, $28M ($7M AAV)
Much like running backs, safeties simply aren’t commanding the dollars they once did. And those over 30 are annual candidates to be roster cuts/cap casualties. Weddle has an opportunity to buck the trend a bit, with back to back outstanding seasons in San Diego to begin his 30’s. Weddle has likely played his last game in San Diego, and while a high annual average salary isn’t likely, multiple offers on the open market should reward him with a longer term deal, guarantees front-loaded of course. View the calculated projection here.

George Iloka, (S, CIN)
Calculated:
4 years $22.5M ($5.6M AAV)
Likely: Franchise tag, then 4 years $24M ($6M AAV)
Iloka’s 2014 had him valuing near the top echelon of strong safeties. But a bit of a step back statistically/rating speaking in 2015 has lowered his calculated market value into the second pay tier. He matches up well with Da’Norris Searcy (TEN), who cashed in a $5.9M AAV deal last offseason. The Bengals will likely franchise tag Iloka to buy time to hammer out this deal, which is likely to come in around $6M per year. View the calculated projection here.

Reggie Nelson (S, CIN)
Calculated:
4 years $20M ($5M AAV)
Likely:4 years $22M ($5.5M AAV)
Even at 32 years old, Nelson should be on the the top priorities for Cincinnati heading toward March. He reeled in a career-high 8 INT to go along with 52 tackles and 2 fumble recoveries in 16 2015 games. He’s calculating toward a slight raise ($4.8M up from $4.5M), but demand should push his deal over $5M per year when it’s all said and done. View the calculated projection here.

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Article by: Michael Ginnitti