NFL free agency begins Monday with Le'Veon Bell, Landon Collins and Trey Flowers set for big paydays

Ed Malyon
The Independent

Antonio Brown's trade to the Oakland Raiders late into Saturday night was a significant move in an off-season that is only just about to heat up.

Pittsburgh ended up getting shafted by Brown's social media antics and public statements that deprived them of all leverage in their quest to reclaim something approaching the value of the best receiver in the league.

Now though, the farce is over and Oakland (soon to be Las Vegas) is Brown's new home, with the 30-year-old wideout also counting on $30m more in guaranteed money.

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Now it is the turn of the free agents to go and get their cash, with Brown's former teammate Le'Veon Bell the top of the list.

Bell was the best running back in the league but refused to play on a $14m franchise tag last season and was eventually let go by the Steelers.

Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown has been traded to Oakland (AP)
Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown has been traded to Oakland (AP)

It means that one of the best runners in football is available, but with a history of a high workload and having spent a season away from the game. His value will be interesting to see, but it feels certain that by Monday night he'll have signed a deal in the region of $50m with approaching $30m in guarantees.

Nick Foles leads a tepid quarterback market in free agency but is universally expected to sign for the Jacksonville Jaguars. John De Filippo, Foles' quarterbacks coach in Philadelphia when he won the Super Bowl, is offensive coordinator in Jacksonville and his thinking aligns with that of the team's top brass in that they believe they're a QB away from competing for a championship. Let's revisit that one next year and see how close they were, because Foles remains a boom-or-bust proposition.

Of the defensive players, Trey Flowers will likely get the biggest pile of cash after leaving New England. The Super Bowl winner is a dynamic edge defender who teams will fall over themselves to hand tens of millions of dollars to, though veteran pass-rusher Justin Houston may well get more than him on an average per year basis, just over a couple of seasons.

The main strength of the free agency group this year is undoubtedly safety where pro bowler Landon Collins and multi-time all-pro Earl Thomas are the pick of the bunch. Collins will get a long-term, big-money deal with the Indianapolis Colts very closely following his moves while Thomas is keen to play for boyhood team Dallas. The Cowboys' sentimental streak could make this dream a reality.

Top free agent predictions

Quarterback: Nick Foles to Jacksonville - 2 years, $45m ($25m gtd)

Running back: Le'Veon Bell to New York Jets - 4 years, $65m ($30m gtd), Mark Ingram to Chicago Bears - 2 years, $22m ($16m gtd), Tevin Coleman to Indianapolis

Wide receiver: Tyrell Williams to Indianapolis - 4 years, $61m ($25m gtd), Golden Tate to Pittsburgh - 3 years, $38m ($24m gtd)

Offensive tackle: Trent Brown to Houston - 5 years, $70m ($46m gtd)

Defensive tackle: Ndamukong Suh to Los Angeles Chargers - 2 years, $19m ($13m gtd)

Edge rusher: Trey Flowers to Miami Dolphins - 4 years, $70m ($52m gtd), Justin Houston to Indianapolis - 2 years, $33m ($20m gtd)

Safety: Landon Collins to Indianapolis - 5 years, $62m ($38m gtd), Earl Thomas to Dallas - 3 years, $38m ($26m gtd)

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