After the confetti falls on the field following Super Bowl XLIX, teams will begin looking at their rosters and deciding who can be kept, and who must walk into the free-agent market.
Many of the stars slated to hit free agency will be signed or be slapped with the franchise tag. However, some will out-price their current teams and be the subject of a massive bidding war. Who are these lucky men? Here are 10 that will be raking in the dough soon.
10. Julius Thomas
Thomas, 27, is one of the top-three tight ends in football, showcasing his skills with 12 touchdowns this season. He might be tough for the Denver Broncos to keep, who also have to pay Demaryius Thomas along with large existing contracts. Thomas will likely command approximately five years and $50 million with $15M in guarantees.
9. Justin Houston
Houston will be franchise-tagged by the Kansas City Chiefs. Houston, 26, is leading the NFL with 13 sacks and is one of the best 3-4 outside linebackers going against the run. General manager John Dorsey has been locking up key members of the team (Allen Bailey, Alex Smith, Jamaal Charles) and won’t let Houston see the market. Dorsey will ultimately pay Houston this summer, likely around six years and $75 million.
8. Ndamukong Suh
The Detroit Lions have not made strong indications that Suh is part of the long-term plans of the organization. If Suh, 28, hits the open market, he will become one of the most sought-after free agents of all-time. Suh’s money will be in Gerald McCoy’s neighborhood, checking in near $100 million.
7. Jeremy Maclin
Maclin, 27, would have been a high-profile receiver on the market last year, but tore his ACL in training camp of 2013 and inked a one-year deal instead, staying with the Philadelphia Eagles. Maclin has bounced back, catching 71 passes for 1,088 yard and nine touchdowns. Look for Maclin to earn $8-10 million on a four-year deal.
6. Devin McCourty
McCourty is one of the top safeties in football today, and plays for a team notorious for allowing free agents to walk in the New England Patriots. In this day and age of pass-happy offense, McCourty, 28, would be a hot item on the market. He probably would not get Jairus Byrd money, but could attain five years and $35 million.
5. Jerry Hughes
Hughes, 27, is one of the most underrated players in the NFL. After amassing 10 sacks in 2013, Hughes already has 9.5 in 2014. Pass-rushers are always at a premium and Hughes will be the top player available in this area. As a 4-3 defensive end who only weighs 254 pounds, he could become a 3-4 outside linebacker. Hughes will get a big payday, cashing in around five years and $40 million.
4. Randall Cobb
Cobb, 25, is an interesting player. Is Cobb a product of Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers or could he become a No. 1 receiver in any offense. This year, Cobb has caught 58 passes for 837 yards and 10 touchdowns. Cobb also provides kick return value, perhaps netting him a four or five-year deal around nine million per year.
3. Mike Iupati
Iupati is arguably the best guard in football right now. Since being drafted by the San Francisco 49ers in 2010, the 27-year-old has anchored a strong unit by the Bay. If the 49ers allow Iupati to hit the market, he will become one of the highest paid at his position. A six-year, $50 million deal seems right.
2. Demaryius Thomas
Thomas, 27, won’t be leaving the Denver Broncos, but he will be very rich come 2015. Thomas is going to be paid among the top-three receivers, especially after posting 82 receptions, 1,192 yards and nine touchdowns. Without question, Thomas is going to bring in $100 million over six years.
1. Dez Bryant
Jerry Jones is usually very aggressive in keeping talent in-house. However, he hasn’t tried to lock Bryant up with enough fervor to get the job done. Bryant, 26, would cause a feeding frenzy among NFL teams and, like Thomas, would earn $100 million at the drop of a hat.