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2017 NFL Free Agents: Early Predictions for Expected Top Names on the Market

Published by Bleacher Report on Wed, 11 Jan 2017

Eight teams are still playing for a chance to go to the Super Bowl and win it, which means 24 other NFL teams are making plans so they can do just that in the 2017 season.While every team will try to hit home runs in the NFL draft next spring, the more immediate step is finding the proper mix of talent through free agency.The New York Giants did just that last year when they signed Damon Harrison, Olivier Vernon and Janoris Jenkins to upgrade their defense. As a result, the Giants went from ranking dead-last in yardage allowed to 10th in that category, and they were second in points allowed.It's not always that easy, and despite the money spent and the study involved, free-agent signees are not guaranteed to be successful.Here's a look at some top names and predictions where they could end up.QB Kirk Cousins, WashingtonCousins has put two solid years together and has become an established NFL quarterback. He's not perfect because he will try to force the ball into tight windows a bit too often, but he completed 67 percent of his passes for 4,917 yards with 25 touchdowns and 12 interceptions in 2016.Quarterbacks who produce at that level are difficult to find, and he appears to be the best signal-caller who is not under contract going into 2017.Prediction: Cousins will either be franchise-tagged or sign a new contract with the Redskins.RB Christine Michael, Green BayThe Packers were in a desperate situation earlier this year with injuries to their running backs, so they converted wide receiver Ty Montgomery to the position and brought in Christine Michael.Michael had a couple of highlights in the regular season, including a 42-yard touchdown run against the Chicago Bears in Week 15, but he has a chance to help improve his status even more in the playoffs. He led the Packers with 10 carries for 47 yards in the wild-card win over the Giants, and if he can do even more Sunday against Dallas, he will have a good chance to sign a decent contract.Prediction: Michael makes the most of his chance with the Packers and signs a new deal with the running back-needy Baltimore Ravens.WR Alshon Jeffery, ChicagoThe Bears have many areas to look at in the offseason if they are going to improve from their 3-13 record. Jeffery is a talented wideout who has had moments of brilliance with the Bears, using his 6'4" frame and long reach to make big plays for them.He was at his best in 2013 when he caught 89 passes for 1,421 yards and seven touchdowns, and he was also quite spectacular in 2014. The past two seasons have seen him lose time due to injury and suspension, though. The feeling here is that Jeffery may not be thrilled with the Bears and can find greener pastures elsewhere.Prediction: Miami Dolphins head coach Adam Gase is familiar with Jeffery, as he was the Bears offensive coordinator before landing his current job. The Dolphins need big-play receivers, and Jeffery will sign a lucrative deal with Miami.TE Martellus Bennett, New EnglandThe Patriots brought in Bennett last year with the hope of having the best tight end one-two punch in the league at the position. Rob Gronkowski is the best tight end in football, and having another excellent playmaker and blocker at the position would only make the Patriots that much more dangerous.But Gronkowski went down with a back injury midway through the season, and Bennett finished the regular season as the team's No. 2 receiver with 55 receptions for 701 yards and seven touchdowns. Opponents have been all over Bennett since the Gronkowski injury because they apparently fear his ability to make big plays.Prediction: Bennett's brother Michael recently signed a lucrative contract extension with the Seattle Seahawks. Bennett would like a new deal with the Pats, but he won't get it. Look for him to sign with the Oakland Raiders and become a big-play tight end for the Silver and Black.DE Calais Campbell, ArizonaCampbell has been a solid pass-rusher for the Cardinals since 2009, and while he has never reached double digits in sacks, he had nine in 2013 and eight in 2011 and 2016. He is a viable pass-rusher who has long arms and the ability to get low when he is coming around the corner.Campbell will be 31 years old prior to Week 1 next year, and some teams may be unsure of how much he has left in the tank.Prediction: The Giants will not be in that group that has doubts about Campbell's future. Look for the Giants to part company with Jason Pierre-Paul and bring in Campbell to be their big-play pass-rusher.FS Eric Berry, Kansas CityBerry is a huge part of the Chiefs' big-play defense, and he can help himself if he can put together at least a couple of impressive postseason games. Berry has already authored a memorable story as he overcame Hodgkin lymphoma to have a brilliant 2016 season with Kansas City.Berry was second on the Chiefs with 77 tackles, and he also recorded 13 passes defensed and four interceptionstwo for touchdowns.Berry is beloved by his teammates.Eric is the heart and soul of this team, the embodiment of what were about, quarterback Alex Smith told the Kansas City Star's Vahe Gregorian earlier this season. Thats selflessness, hard work, giving it up for the guy next to you. Thats all Eric talks about, and its real, its sincere...and its from the heart."Prediction: The Chiefs will recognize how valuable Berry is to their team and re-sign him to a lucrative contract extension in the offseason.
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