Skip to content

NFL free-agency predictions: Top offensive players

Julian Catalfo / theScore

NFL free agency is almost here.

The festivities get underway with the beginning of the negotiating period Monday and the official start of the new league year Wednesday.

To get set for the action, let's play matchmaker. Where might the top offensive players end up? And what kind of contracts can we expect to be dished out in the coming days?

Kirk Cousins, QB

David Berding / Getty Images Sport / Getty

3-year, $115M deal with $80M guaranteed

The Vikings may want Cousins back, but this thing seems to be trending in a different direction. Minnesota will see cap charge for his void years ($28.5 million) accelerate onto this year's salary cap if an extension isn't in place by the time the new league year opens on March 13. Bringing Cousins back on a new deal alongside that kind of dead money figure is almost certainly not an option, so the Vikings are running out of time. Meanwhile, there have been rumblings that the Falcons are preparing to make a run at the veteran quarterback in free agency. This move would immediately make Atlanta the favorite in the NFC South.

Baker Mayfield, QB

Jared C. Tilton / Getty Images Sport / Getty

3-year, $85M deal with $50M guaranteed

Mayfield revitalized his career with a fun 2023 season in Tampa Bay. This one could get interesting - several quarterback-needy teams are likely lurking in the shadows - but finding a way to continue this relationship feels like the most logical move for both parties. A short-term contract with financials topping the Geno Smith extension might be the sweet spot. Such a deal minimizes the long-term risk for the Bucs while also getting Mayfield a well-deserved payday after significantly outplaying his $4-million salary last season. Win-win.

Russell Wilson, QB

Michael Reaves / Getty Images Sport / Getty

1-year, $1.2M deal (veteran's minimum)

You may wonder why an accomplished quarterback would agree to play for the league minimum. Well, in this case, he doesn't have much of a choice. The offset language in Wilson's contract with Denver stipulates that any salary he makes from another team this season comes out of the $39 million he's still getting from the Broncos. While he could get a creative deal that guarantees some additional money next season, there's no reason for a new team to pay him anything more than the minimum. Wilson isn't the same player he was in Seattle - his drop-off has been staggering. But the price tag makes him an interesting, no-risk option for teams that don't have any other path to upgrading under center. From the Steelers' perspective, this certainly beats running it back with Kenny Pickett and Mason Rudolph.

Saquon Barkley, RB

Sarah Stier / Getty Images Sport / Getty

3-year, $38M deal with $25M guaranteed

The Bears have a ton of cap space to improve the roster around likely No. 1 pick Caleb Williams. While many will scoff at the idea of paying a running back, a clean cap sheet with a rookie quarterback on the way should make Chicago more than willing to spend. And we're not talking about a washed-up player here, either. Barkley is still an explosive playmaker with plenty of gas in the tank. His presence, both as the lead ball carrier and as a receiver out of the backfield, would go a long way toward easing Williams' development.

Josh Jacobs, RB

Ian Maule / Getty Images Sport / Getty

3-year, $36M deal with $28M guaranteed

Jacobs will have options elsewhere, and the new front office may not be willing to meet his price. But all indications are that head coach Antonio Pierce sees him as a leader of a new player-focused operation. Jacobs had also expressed a desire to return if Pierce got the full-time job. The Raiders should be motivated to get this done, even if it takes some additional guarantees. Jacobs is a true three-down feature back who can take some pressure off a potential rookie addition at quarterback.

Derrick Henry, RB

Wesley Hitt / Getty Images Sport / Getty

2-year, $24M deal with $18M guaranteed

The Texans are another cap-rich team that can justify making a splash at running back to support their rookie-contract quarterback. While Houston could be in the mix for Barkley and Jacobs, Henry is a pretty good fit, too. At 30 years old, the contractual commitment should be minimal. This would be a low-risk, high-reward move for a Texans team that suddenly finds itself approaching contender status.

Austin Ekeler, RB

Kevin Sabitus / Getty Images Sport / Getty

2-year, $13M deal with $9M guaranteed

Some player-team fits simply make too much sense not to happen. Arguably the NFL's premier receiver out of the backfield, Ekeler would be an outstanding addition to the Chiefs' offense. The price tag should be affordable coming off a down year, and a pass-heavy role with Isiah Pacheco serving as a between-the-tackles complement offers Ekeler the ideal situation for his skill set. Staying in the AFC West and getting two revenge games per year is a nice bonus, too.

Tony Pollard, RB

Harry How / Getty Images Sport / Getty

1-year, $8M deal with $8M guaranteed

Pollard having to settle for a one-year deal admittedly feels weird. There may be a team willing to bet on his upside with a longer commitment. But this kind of contract, in this kind of offense, wouldn't be so bad for a player looking to re-establish his value. Reuniting with former offensive coordinator Kellen Moore to spearhead a dominant Eagles run game could allow Pollard to put up some gaudy numbers. Doing so after a career-high 252 carries this past season would be a great way to silence workload concerns and put him in position for a better payday next year.

Calvin Ridley, WR

Andy Lyons / Getty Images Sport / Getty

4-year, $84M deal with $58M guaranteed

Ridley's arrival didn't quite push the Jaguars' offense over the top, but there's plenty of blame to go around for last year's struggles. The talent is still abundantly clear, and he should be paid accordingly. While his lack of a new deal seemingly opens the door for another team to swoop in, that may also be by design. Jacksonville can prevent the conditional fourth-round pick it traded to the Falcons from converting to a second-rounder if Ridley doesn't sign an extension by March 13. Letting him get to the open market is certainly risky business, but the two sides may have had something in the works for a while now. The Jaguars can't afford to add No. 1 receiver to their long list of roster needs ahead of a crucial 2024 season.

Gabe Davis, WR

Rich Barnes / Getty Images Sport / Getty

3-year, $48M deal with $28M guaranteed

Davis is a fascinating player. Everyone remembers the four-touchdown game in the playoffs. The true breakout never followed, though, and he heads to free agency without a 1,000-yard season on his resume. Could it be, as Davis appeared to suggest in a recent social media post, a matter of opportunity? Was he truly underused in the Bills' offense? Giants head coach Brian Daboll, who coached Davis for two years in Buffalo, would know better than anyone. And the Giants sure could use a playmaker.

Marquise Brown, WR

Ric Tapia / Getty Images Sport / Getty

2-year, $25M deal with $17M guaranteed

Hollywood Brown has yet to make good on his true potential at the NFL level. He's certainly shown flashes, though, and at least a few teams would be willing to bet on the 26-year-old putting it all together. The Titans, who desperately need speed in their offense, should be at the front of the line. Brown reuniting with DeAndre Hopkins could go a long way toward putting Will Levis in a position to succeed heading into Year 2.

Tyron Smith, OL

Rich Barnes / Getty Images Sport / Getty

2-year, $28M deal with $20M guaranteed

A brutal run of injuries led to Smith playing the 2023 season on a bargain $9-million contract. He bounced back in a big way, earning All-Pro honors for the first time since 2016. Teams may hesitate to offer top dollar given his age and injury history, but there's little doubt he's still among the best left tackles in the game. If there were a club willing to give him one last payday, it could be an aggressive contender like the Rams. Solidifying the offensive line would be an important step to maximizing their chances of another Super Bowl run with Matthew Stafford.

Robert Hunt, OL

Icon Sportswire / Icon Sportswire / Getty

4-year, $60M deal with $38M guaranteed

Hunt is the top guard on the market this year. The Cardinals need all the help they can get up front, and they've got the cap flexibility to make a splash. Hunt's annual average should be in the ballpark of the three-year, $48-million extension Kevin Dotson signed with the Rams.

Mike Onwenu, OL

Justin K. Aller / Getty Images Sport / Getty

4-year, $72M deal with $45M guaranteed

Finally having found a home at right tackle after playing all over the offensive line, Onwenu has positioned himself for a major payday. The former sixth-round pick could even be knocking on the door of a top-five annual salary among players at the position. It sounds steep, but teams like the Commanders shouldn't blink at the price tag. They've got more cap space than any team in football, and bolstering the offensive line in front of their eventual rookie QB should be the top priority.

Trent Brown, OL

Icon Sportswire / Icon Sportswire / Getty

1-year, $9M deal with $7M guaranteed

Washington's needs on the offensive line are dire - there may only be one starting-caliber player under contract up front. So why not double down on former Patriots tackles? Brown has had some injury issues over the years, but he's still an impact player when on the field. And how can you argue with the likely price tag? A strong pair of bookend tackles would be a nice way for the Commanders to start their free-agent spending spree.

Daily Newsletter

Get the latest trending sports news daily in your inbox