2016 NFL Free Agents: Latest Rumors, Predictions Heading into Wild Card Weekend

Daniel Kramer@dkramer_Featured ColumnistJanuary 6, 2016

LANDOVER, MD - DECEMBER 20: Quarterback Kirk Cousins #8 of the Washington Redskins celebrates with fans after the Washington Redskins defeated the Buffalo Bills 35-25 at FedExField on December 20, 2015 in Landover, Maryland. (Photo by Matt Hazlett/Getty Images)
Matt Hazlett/Getty Images

The NFL playoffs begin this weekend, but there are plenty of high-profile players set to hit the market among the 20 teams whose seasons ended last Sunday.

Players can’t sign with new teams until March 15, though there are quite a few commodities that may not be moving, either by signing extensions or being franchise tagged.

Here is a look at the latest buzz away from the field as most of the attention looms on the run to the Super Bowl.


Eric Weddle Would 'Welcome A Dolphins' Offer'

Sep 13, 2015; San Diego, CA, USA; San Diego Chargers free safety Eric Weddle (left) thanks the fans after the game against the Detroit Lions at Qualcomm Stadium. San Diego won 33-28. Mandatory Credit: Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports
Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

Eric Weddle and the San Diego Chargers are in the midst of a messy divorce, and the three-time Pro Bowl safety already has his sights on his next landing spot.

Weddle would reportedly “welcome” an offer from the Miami Dolphins, according to Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald, where he would team up with Reshad Jones in what would be one of the league's most daunting secondaries.

But for ambition to turn to fruition, Miami will have to break out its checkbook.

The nine-year pro is coming off a five-year, $40 million contract, per Spotrac, and will probably command similar salary figures—if not more—despite being 31.

One thing seems certain: Weddle won’t be returning to the Chargers.

He indicated Tuesday he won’t even facilitate communication with the team he’s spent the last nine years with, per Michael Gehlken of the San Diego Union-Tribune:

Weddle isn’t known to be a locker room headache, and is actually considered a great teammate.

He’d be a worthy addition anywhere but particularly in Miami as the Dolphins hope to improve their 27th-ranked defense—a massive underachievement after signing defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh to a quarterback-caliber contract last season.

While breaking out the checkbook for a big-ticket item may seem brash, doing so would show the Dolphins are truly committed to bolstering a defense in what’s become a competitive AFC East.

Prediction: Weddle signs for most handsome offer

Redskins on Cousins: 'He’s Not Going Anywhere'

Kirk Cousins has been the league’s biggest bargain—and it's not even close.

As arguably one of the game’s top quarterbacks in the second half of the season, he cost the Washington Redskins a mere $660,000, per Spotrac

That figure should increase substantially as his four-year rookie contract will expire at season’s end, but Washington is expected to pick up the tab, nonetheless, per Josina Anderson of ESPN:

Though the NFC East was the worst division in football, Cousins still deserves great credit for leading the Redskins to the division title at 9-7—particularly given his murky emergence during his first three seasons.

He started more regularly than a typical backup in his first three seasons behind the oft-injured Robert Griffin III and had an unshakable reputation as a turnover liability, throwing 27 interceptions and fumbling six times in his first 20 games from 2012 through Week 6 of this season.

But in the 10 games since, he’s thrown just three interceptions while racking up 23 touchdowns, finishing the season 10th in passing with 4,166 yards.

He’s earned a handsome extension and could even net more with a lengthy playoff run.

Prediction: Cousins signs multiyear extension with Redskins

Bears 'Seriously Interested' In Long-Term Deal for Alshon Jeffery

Nov 9, 2015; San Diego, CA, USA; Chicago Bears receiver Alshon Jeffery addresses the media at a press conference after a 22-19 victory against the San Diego Chargers in a NFL football game at Qualcomm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

When healthy, Alshon Jeffery is arguably one of the game’s top 10 receivers. But his injury absences the past two seasons have greatly limited the Bears—making his looming free agency a double-edged sword.

Re-signing Jeffery runs the risk of paying a player with a well-chronincded injury history. But by letting him walk, the team’s No. 1 target would seemingly be first-round pick Kevin White, who didn’t play a snap in 2015 due to a lingering shin injury.

While speculation loomed that the Bears would franchise tag Jeffery while they figured out long-term roster plans, the team appears more open now to signing him to a multiyear extension, per John Mullin of CSNChicago.com:

But indications now are that the Bears are seriously interested in the possibilities of a long-term deal with the highly productive wide receiver who is squarely in his playing prime. If contract numbers cannot be mutually agreed upon, the Bears still can secure Jeffery for one year with their franchise tag, or at least extend their negotiating window without Jeffery going uncovered into free agency next March.

Of course, Jeffery would have to agree to an extension with the Bears.

He was noncommittal in postseason interviews about his future and maintained that his No. 1 factor in free agency will be finding a suitor poised to win championships, per Larry Mayer of ChicagoBears.com:

I love the city of Chicago, but I'll let my agent and [general manager Ryan] Pace deal with that situation. I’ll let them deal with that. I just play football. ...

Everyone plays the game to win championships. That’s what's most important to me. It's not about the money. It's about what the right situation is for me. Winning a championship is all I care about. ...

We have a great team here in Chicago. Unfortunately, it didn't work out this year. But we've got something to build on for next year.

That Jeffery spoke of a 2016 outlook in the sense of “we” when speaking of the Bears is encouraging for fans in Chicago.

Prediction: Bears franchise tag Jeffery


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