NFL Free Agents 2017: Predictions for Biggest Names Left on Market

Chris RolingFeatured ColumnistAugust 23, 2017

CLEVELAND, OH - OCTOBER 18: Defensive end Desmond Bryant #92 of the Cleveland Browns against the Denver Broncos at Cleveland Browns Stadium on October 18, 2015 in Cleveland, Ohio. Broncos defeated Browns 26-23.  (Photo by Andrew Weber/Getty Images)
Andrew Weber/Getty Images

NFL free agency doesn't exactly end this time of year.  

In fact, the beginning of notable rosters cuts actually balloons the market again. For example, the Cincinnati Bengals cleared up cap space recently by cutting defensive tackle Brandon Thompson—only to see the rival Cleveland Browns turn right around and pick him up, according to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport

While the free-agent market this time of year could never match the gate-opening frenzy, cut days have a way of reigniting the flame as teams keep an eye out to see what leaks to market before making further moves. 

To help stay ahead of the game, here's a look at some of the bigger names still on the open market. 

        

Tyson Jackson

HOUSTON, TX - FEBRUARY 05:  Tyson Jackson #94 of the Atlanta Falcons reacts in the first quarter against the New England Patriots during Super Bowl 51 at NRG Stadium on February 5, 2017 in Houston, Texas.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Tyson Jackson is a good example of how the late-summer market can reignite interest in a veteran. 

The Atlanta Falcons decided to part ways with the 31-year-old defensive lineman in March. While he isn't the biggest name anymore, the former No. 3 pick (there's an easy detail to forget) is still a quality name who manages to stir up a buzz this time of year. 

Jackson lost his gig in Atlanta as a cap-saving measure and because he's a run-stuffing presence these days, which there is certainly a market for despite the league's pass-happy ways.  

Rapoport noted one team with an interest in the veteran:

The San Francisco 49ers actually seem like the ideal fit for Jackson. New head coach Kyle Shanahan knows about the veteran and what he brings to the table after their time in Atlanta together, and there is nothing wrong with boasting quality depth to help bring along a rookie talent like Solomon Thomas.

Jackson will need to show up ready to compete, though. He'll be fighting for a job behind names like Arik Armstead and DeForest Buckner and others such as Aaron Lynch on a team where every job is up for grabs in the middle of a serious rebuild. 

Granted, the market could pick up and other teams could enter the fray now in a sort of domino effect. But for Jackson, taking the mentor and depth role suits him as his career winds down. 

Prediction: Jackson signs with the 49ers

       

Desmond Bryant

PITTSBURGH, PA - NOVEMBER 15:  Defensive lineman Desmond Bryant #92 of the Cleveland Browns looks on from the field before a game against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field on November 15, 2015 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  The Steelers defeated the B
George Gojkovich/Getty Images

Desmond Bryant, on the other hand, is a great example of the situation mentioned in the introduction. 

The Browns gave the 31-year-old lineman the boot to make room for the Thompson signing, which wasn't hard to see coming because he missed all of last year with a chest injury and cost the team more than they were willing to pay. 

But Bryant won't sit long on the market. He's seen extensive snaps this preseason and, playing with backups or not, he's shown he has something to offer teams in the same way Jackson does. 

Plenty of teams will have an interest in this situation, even if the market for defensive linemen does feel saturated right now. Of the notable teams in need of depth along the offensive trenches, the Detroit Lions stand out. 

In Detroit, Ziggy Ansah sits on the physically unable to perform list and the line could use some reinforcements in the interim. Keep in mind the front continues to age with guys like Haloti Ngata there as well, so adding quality depth to the rotation is a win for all. 

For Bryant, it's a chance to keep playing without having to relocate far. He'll have plenty of phone calls here soon, but if ease of transition and playing are big factors, Detroit makes sense. 

Prediction: Bryant signs with the Lions 

           

Colin Kaepernick 

SANTA CLARA, CA - JANUARY 01:  Colin Kaepernick #7 of the San Francisco 49ers drops back to pass against the Seattle Seahawks during the second quarter of their NFL football game at Levi's Stadium on January 1, 2017 in Santa Clara, California.  (Photo by
Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

Fans only need one guess to figure out who the most notable free agent is. 

Colin Kaepernick remains on the market for a multitude of reasons, though strictly from an on-field standpoint, he's a career 59.8 percent passer with 72 touchdowns against 30 interceptions to his name with another 13 scores as a rusher. 

Kaepernick had a so-so campaign a year ago, throwing for 2,241 yards and 16 touchdowns against four interceptions. Of course, the team around him was miserable, so it's hard to pile on too much when players with lesser outright playing time over the past two years like Mike Glennon cashed in on $45 million deals. 

Former teammate Alex Smith is one player who is confused with Kaepernick still sitting on the market. 

"Crazy to think he’s not playing. Yeah, that’s a crazy thing. As good as he was playing. Young, strong, I felt like he had a long career ahead of him. Crazy that at this point he’s out of a job," Smith said, according to the Kansas City Star's Sam Mellinger

Still, the NFL has a quarterback problem right now, and in that sense, it's hard to imagine a former Super Bowl quarterback under the age of 30 sits on the open market much longer. Teams like the Dallas Cowboys have problems with depth, and teams like the Jacksonville Jaguars have a problem with starters, to point out two examples. 

If a team like Jacksonville wants to win games, bringing on Kaepernick isn't the worst idea in the world. The team has worked hard to rebuild the defensive side of the ball with names like Malik Jackson and Jalen Ramsey, yet the offensive side flounders as Blake Bortles struggles to do something as simple as throwing with consistent mechanics. 

At worst, Tom Coughlin and the Jaguars could ink Kaepernick to a deal and get him on the field at some point during the regular season if the Bortles-Chad Henne combo doesn't help the team continue the turnaround. 

Prediction: Kaepernick signs with the Jaguars

          

Stats courtesy of NFL.com.