The 2018 NFL free-agent market is one week old, and already most of the top players are spoken for. As of Wednesday morning, nearly 80 of our top 100 free agents had signed contracts or agreed to terms. Naturally, then, it's time to turn the page and look ahead to ... the 2019 market.
It's not easy to project the makeup of next year's class knowing that some players will sign early contract extensions and others will receive the franchise tag. But the future market grew in relevance when quarterback Kirk Cousins and cornerback Trumaine Johnson signed massive deals last week after fending off early extension offers and previous franchise tags.
What follows is a ranking of the top 25 players whose contracts will expire after this season. Will any of them follow the Cousins-Johnson example? Consider this the first installment in a yearlong evolution of the 2019 class.
Note: Ages listed as heading into the 2019 season.
1. Matt Ryan, QB
Current team: Atlanta Falcons | Age entering 2019 season: 34
It's widely assumed that the Falcons will retain Ryan, even if it hurts -- much as their division foes in New Orleans have done for years with Drew Brees. That would mean a massive extension in the next 11 months, one that surpasses Cousins' $28 million annual average and possibly his $84 million in full guarantees as well. Cousins was entering his age-30 season when he hit free agency, but teams would still fall over themselves to sign a 34-year-old Ryan if they had a chance.
2. Aaron Donald, DT
Team: Los Angeles Rams | 2019 age: 28
The 2017 Defensive Player of the Year held out last summer in hopes of a new deal. He didn't get one and is set to play in 2018 on a fifth-year option worth $6.892 million. Now the Rams will try to get him signed ahead of his contract expiration. Will they face consequences for their too-low offers last year?