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2018 NFL Free Agents: Rumors, Predictions for Jimmy Graham and Other Top Names

Chris Roling@@Chris_RolingFeatured ColumnistJanuary 3, 2018

ARLINGTON, TX - DECEMBER 24:  Jimmy Graham #88 of the Seattle Seahawks celebrates a second quarter touchdown against the Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium on December 24, 2017 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

For now, the 2018 NFL free-agency period will feature some of the most interesting crops of names to hit the open market in a long time. 

So it goes when a top-tier tight end like Jimmy Graham sounds like he has one foot out the door and more than one potential franchise quarterback could hit the open market, provided something doesn't get worked out between all involved. 

We're still a ways away from seeing the final group set to hit the market. Teams will shore up restricted free agents, unrestricted guys could figure things out and the odd thing like a grievance (think AJ McCarron vs. the Cincinnati Bengals) will find conclusions. 

Until then, though, it's open season for the rumor mill. Here are the most notable nuggets making the rounds. 

             

Jimmy Graham

Ross D. Franklin/Associated Press

This could be Graham's only shot to secure a gigantic contract after drumming up a bidding war on the open market. 

Graham is 31 years old, and though he's had problems dealing with nagging injuries as usual, he'll find himself with massive offers on the table in front of him because of his upside and ability to create mismatches. 

Meaning, Graham is a candidate to join the potential mass exodus of talent from the Seattle Seahawks. The idea he'd come back seems like a distant one based on a note from Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times: "But Graham has been an uneven fit in Seattle and at age 31 is undoubtedly excited to enter free agency for the first time in his NFL career. Generally considered really unlikely to be back in Seattle."

Quietly, Graham still caught 10 touchdowns this year despite Russell Wilson's incessant struggles behind a miserable offensive line. But his proven skill set and coming in at 6'7" and 265 pounds means he could produce almost anywhere in the league. 

With this his only trip to free agency on his career, it's easy to think a rebuilding team with money to splurge will lure Graham away. Think about a team like the Chicago Bears—they haven't shied away from pursuing the biggest names lately and have offered major contracts. Graham would be an ideal fit to help along young quarterback Mitchell Trubisky. 

Graham, too, has the past connection with Bears general manager Ryan Pace, which doesn't hurt.  

Prediction: Graham signs with the Bears 

                      

Jimmy Garoppolo

One of the potential franchise quarterbacks who could hit the open market is Jimmy Garoppolo of the San Francisco 49ers. 

Unlikely, of course. Even the 49ers wouldn't claim they saw this coming—Garoppolo led the team to five straight wins to close the season, completing 67.4 percent of his passes with 1,560 yards and seven touchdowns against five interceptions.  

The impact of an elite passer on an entire team is staggering and no clearer than what Garoppolo just did, helping an average defense look great and making lesser-known names such as Marquise Goodwin look like stars. 

As such, it shouldn't come as a surprise to see the following from Matt Maiocco of NBC Sports Bay Area: 

Matt Maiocco @MaioccoNBCS

The #49ers will work toward a multi-year extension for Jimmy Garoppolo. If the sides do not agree on years, dollars and structure by March 6, the team will place the franchise tag on him to assure he remains with SF for 2018 season. https://t.co/mOXFKXIwvA

Predictable, as a team wouldn't let a 26-year-old quarterback with apparent gigantic upside get away. He'll spend a full offseason learning Kyle Shanahan's offense while the front office works on improving the roster around him, creating quite the unpredictable ceiling for his 2018 campaign. 

We can't know how Garoppolo and his representatives feel about a long-term deal right now, but the smart play might be a three-year deal or so taking him to the age of 30 before the potential to reset the market on his own when it comes time for a second deal. 

Prediction: Garoppolo re-signs with the 49ers 

      

Case Keenum

GREEN BAY, WI - DECEMBER 23:  Case Keenum #7 of the Minnesota Vikings drops back to pass during a game against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field on December 23, 2017 in Green Bay, Wisconsin.  The Vikings defeated the Packers 16-0.  (Photo by Stacy Re
Stacy Revere/Getty Images

The Minnesota Vikings and Case Keenum could be headed for a split already. 

Keenum joined the Vikings this season and went on to lead the team to 13 wins while completing 67.6 percent of his passes for 3,547 yards and 22 touchdowns against seven interceptions. 

So much for his journeyman status. 

Keenum's outburst could be a product of superb coaching, though the truth is probably somewhere closer to the middle. The Vikings would obviously like to have a talent like him back, though the front office sits in the unique situation of having a guy like Teddy Bridgewater as a fall-back option. 

According to CBSSports.com's Jason La Canfora, neither side has blinked as of yet: "Sources said they have not extended any offers to Keenum and, given his great season and impending free agency, Keenum's camp has not made any inquiries, either."

Arguably the best surprsie quarterback success story since Kurt Warner, at this point it wouldn't come as a surprise to see Keenum put up great performances in the playoffs. The market is already a mess for the position thanks to huge contracts doled out to guys like Mike Glennon, making the situation the Vikings face all the more difficult. 

Still, the haul the New England Patriots received for a guy like Garoppolo or the asking price for a McCarron means the Vikings should know the value of holding on to Keenum at all costs, even if Bridgewater is the long-term plan. Look for some sort of tag here to lock him down before either holding on to him or testing the trade market. 

Prediction: Keenum sticks with Vikings on a tag

       

Stats courtesy of NFL.com.

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