by Rob Joyce
On Monday the 2017 NFL season came to an unofficial start of sorts, as free agency officially began. Right away, teams began throwing money at available players, in some cases keeping them with the same team, while others hope the new acquisitions are the missing piece to put their organization over the hump.
Entering Tuesday, here are the top players available on the open market:
5) Jay Cutler:
For now Tony Romo is still a Cowboy, so for a team looking for a potential bridge quarterback, the inscrutable Cutler is the best available signal caller. His time in Chicago never went as the Bears would have hoped, and by the end it was clear both teams needed to move on before his unconditional release. However, for a 33-year-old with a 62 percent career completion rate and 208 touchdowns to his name, he still has talent. A QB-needy team just needs to figure out how much they want to pay for someone with perceived attitude issues and the turnover tendency.
4) Adrian Peterson:
He’s proven doubters wrong before, but you’d be forgiven if you were skeptical about giving a soon-to-be 32-year-old running back with 2,418 career rushes coming off a meniscus tear big money. Alas, someone is going to be enticed by the former MVP. After all, he won a rushing title just two years ago, and has gas left in the tank after playing just 20 games the last three seasons combined.
3) Morris Claiborne:
He went through some struggles entering the league as highly-touted defensive back, but Claiborne started to find his footing last season. He led the league in completion percentage against through the first month of the season and was on his way to a Pro Bowl-type year before an injury ended his season after Week 7. Injuries have been an issue for the 27-year-old, who hasn’t played more than 11 games in a season since his rookie campaign in 2012. But that could benefit a team willing to overlook his history, as he could provide high-level production for mid-level pay.
2) Johnathan Hankins:
Free agent Olivier Vernon came in and was a pass rushing menace for the Giants last year. But it was Hankins and Damon Harrison that anchored a top-five rushing defense. A 6-foot-3, 230-lb. behemoth who’s only 24, he won’t boast big sack totals. But put him in a 4-3 and opponents will have an awfully hard time finding holes through which to run.
1) Don’t’a Hightower:
The Patriots’ linebacker has won two Super Bowls in his five years with New England, but in classic Bill Belichick fashion they don’t want to pay someone big-time money when they feel they can replace at least most of the hole for cheaper. Hightower is the veteran leader who has started 64 career games, but Belichick isn’t going to overpay to keep him. If the Jets, Titans and Steelers, all of whom the former first-round pick visiting, wants to hand him $10-12 million a year, then the Pats will let them.