With NFL free agency set to get going in less than a month and a couple big moves already behind us at this early point in the offseason, we promise to start seeing the NFL transaction wire heat up big time here soon.
From a reigning Super Bowl MVP who might very well be traded to a former Heisman winner looking for another opportunity in the NFL, these are going to be the players we talk about the most around the league this summer.
The list takes into account popularity of NFL players over the past month and thus far this year to help conclude why they were talked about in the past and what situations will lead to us focusing on them moving forward.
Nick Foles, quarterback, Philadelphia Eagles
Fresh off earning Super Bowl LII honors, Foles is going to be in high-demand during the offseason. That doesn’t only mean the talk show circuit and interviews throughout the sports world.
Instead, a ton of teams are going to call Philadelphia up about his services. And why not? Here’s a dude that completed over 72 percent of his passes with six touchdowns and one interception while throwing for nearly 1,000 yards in three playoff starts. As evidenced by the Jimmy Garoppolo extension, teams needs that sense of having a franchise quarterback. That will lead to a ton of interest in Foles’ services this spring.
Rob Gronkowski, tight end, New England Patriots
Whether Gronkowski actually retires remains to be seen. But if he were to call it quits on the NFL at the young age of 28, other opportunities will present themselves for one of the most colorful figures in the game. In fact, he’s already been linked to both the WWE and a career in Hollywood as an actor.
Coming in as the eighth-most popular figure in our SNIPdaily NFL Top 100 for the year, Gronkowski is already a brand. His decision to talk openly about retirement could be a way to pinch the Pats for a new contract. He could also truly be considering retirement. That will make him a highly talked about figure around the NFL world during the offseason.
Kirk Cousins, quarterback, Washington Redskins
Once the Redskins traded for Alex Smith, we knew full well that Cousins would blow up around the NFL world. No longer was he facing the threat of being franchised for a third consecutive year. Instead, Cousins will hit the free agent market for the first time in his career. That’s an absolutely huge deal for the Pro Bowl signal caller.
Cousins also has to be feeling a bit thicker in the pockets these days after Garoppolo’s record-setting extension. He’s now looking at $30 million annually in free agency. Let’s not even mention that Cousins is the most-popular member of his team. And it’s not even close. He comes in No. 1 overall ahead of head coach Jay Gruden in the SNIPdaily Redskins Top 40 by a wide margin. Wherever Cousins lands, this popularity isn’t necessarily going to be on the downswing. Just imagine if Cousins heads to Cleveland to be that organization’s franchise guy. Crazy stuff, indeed.
Jimmy Garoppolo, quarterback, San Francisco 49ers
Jimmy GQ. A 7-0 record as a starter in the NFL. A perfect 5-0 record as the 49ers’ starter after being acquired from New England back in October. And now, the NFL’s richest man. Last week, San Francisco signed Garoppolo to a five-year, $137.5 million contract after just seven career NFL starts. That’s absolutely insane.
Now the toast of the Bay Area for an up-and-coming team, Garoppolo is already having future free agents contact him about potentially joining the 49ers. What a cushy gig, aye? Obviously, this will all lead to a further spike in popularity for a man that’s been anointed as the game’s next great quarterback. Sit back. Watch. And enjoy.
Colin Kaepernick, free agent quarterback
Having not played an NFL game in nearly a calendar year, Kaepernick remains front and center around the league. It started with the National Anthem protest back in August of 2016 and continued with Kaepernick remaining the central focus of President Donald Trump’s bigoted attack on NFL players.
Now, Kaepernick has been mentioned as a possible partner in Diddy’s bid to buy the Carolina Panthers. The background here being a collusion case he’s filed against the NFL and the potential that the Oakland Raiders might show interest in him as a backup. Kaepernick surely isn’t going away, as evidenced by the fact that he comes in No. 2 behind only Tom Brady among the most-popular figures in the SNIPdaily NFL top 100 over the past year. Whew.
Case Keenum, quarterback, Minnesota Vikings
A career backup, Keenum excelled in filling in for the injured Sam Bradford throughout the 2017 season. Here’s a guy that had posted a 9-15 record with 24 touchdowns in as many starts in his career prior to this past season. He responded when called upon, leading Minnesota to a 11-3 record in 14 starts and a first-round bye in the playoffs.
We’re not yet sure if Keenum will return to the Vikings in free agency. All three of their quarterbacks are free agents. The team is also likely going to show interest in Kirk Cousins. This will make Keenum a highly intriguing figure during the spring. Will a team pony up the cash for the quarterback, banking on his 2017 performance not being a mirage?
Dion Lewis, running back, New England Patriots
The electric Lewis is coming off the best season of his career. For the first time in five years, he played a full 16-game slate, tallying 1,110 total yards and nine touchdowns. Lewis also averaged 5.0 yards per rush and caught 91 percent of the passes thrown in his direction. Amazing stuff, indeed.
Lewis now enters the offseason as a highly sought after free agent, and will likely move on from a Patriots team that has not valued running backs at a great clip in the past. There’s one team we see as a great fit. Said team could very well help him continue to resurrect his career.
Le’Veon Bell, running back, Pittsburgh Steelers
It looks like the drawn out contract saga surrounding Bell will soon be coming to an end. He’s confident the Steelers will sign him to a long-term deal that will completely reset the running back market as we know it. If that doesn’t happen, Bell will once again have the franchise tag placed on him. This comes after reports from his camp noting that Bell would rather sit out the 2017 season or retire altogether rather than sign the tag. That can now be thrown out the window.
It’s not only Bell’s contract that has him as a talked about figure around the football world. Here’s a dude that has put up 3,830 total yards and 20 touchdowns in 27 games over the past two seasons. It has him as the face of the Steelers’ offense, ahead of both Ben Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown. That’s no small feat. It also has him as the second-most talked about player at his position over the past month on the SNIPdaily RB Top 40, behind only the above-mentioned Dion Lewis. Expect that to continue should Bell’s contract situation draw on.
Drew Brees, quarterback, New Orleans Saints
Fresh off a 2017 season that saw him lead New Orleans to a surprise NFC South title, Brees is technically slated to hit free agency. But based on comments from both the future Hall of Fame quarterback and head coach Sean Payton, that’s not going to happen. Brees will soon be signed to a long-term deal that will make him the highest-paid player in the NFL.
We’re looking at $30-plus annually for the 17-year vet. And why not? Brees will enter the 2018 season with the third-most passing yards in NFL history and tied with Tom Brady for the third-most passing touchdowns in league history. He’s also a brand in Louisiana and the face of the Saints’ franchise. He’s the third-most talked about figure in the state of Louisiana since we started tracking data on SNIPdaily, behind only DeMarcus Cousins and Anthony Davis of the NBA’s New Orleans Pelicans. As the face of a team that will surely be contending for a Super Bowl next season, we’re not expecting that to change.
Johnny Manziel, free agent quarterback
Attempting to make a comeback after not playing in the NFL since 2016, Manziel could soon be taking his talents to Canada. Jettisoned from the NFL due to off-field issues and substance abuse problems, Manziel just recently opened up about his mental health. That’s no small thing.
“I am taking medication for bipolar, and I am working to try to make sure I don’t fall back into any type of depression, because I know where that leads me and I know how slippery a slope that is for me,” Manziel told ABC’s Good Morning America recently.
Always a hot button topic around the sports world, no one knows if this new sense of self will help Manziel make his way back on the NFL field. What we do know is that he’s sober and trying his hardest to change the narrative. It will be intriguing to see if any team gives Johnny Football an opportunity to prove himself, even if it is only as a training camp invite. If that does happen, Manziel will once again be the talk of the NFL world. We can bank on that.