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Top 10 2016 NFL Free Agents

Von Miller

Von Miller

Before the NFL starts its new league year on March 9, each team will have tough decisions to make on a number of players. For some teams, it is deciding on if a particular free agent fits their roster. For others, it is deciding whether or not to re-sign their own players.

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From now until March 1, all 32 NFL teams can choose to place their franchise tag on one player that's scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent when the new league year begins. The franchise tag will guarantee that player a one-year salary for the average of the top five players at his position or 120 percent of that player's previous year salary, whichever is greater.

If a team chooses to franchise a player, they may attempt to work out a long-term contract until July 15. With the salary cap increasing this offseason, the franchise tag could seem like a bargain to some teams.

Here are the top 10 unrestricted free agents with a little more than weeks until free agency starts on March 9.

1. Von Miller, LB, Denver Broncos

Most experts expect the Super Bowl 50 MVP to have the franchise tag placed on him before the March 1 deadline. If by some chance the Broncos let Miller hit the open market, he will easily be the most sought-after free agent.

All Miller has done in his five seasons is record 60 sacks, been invited to four Pro Bowls (2011, ‘12, ‘14, ‘15) and has been a first-team All-Pro twice (2012, ‘15).

Miller is a complete linebacker, able to make just as many plays against the run as he can in rushing the quarterback or defending the pass. So it is easy to see why he tops this list.

2. Josh Norman, CB, Carolina Panthers

While Norman has been in the league four seasons, 2015 was the cornerback's coming out party. He was the best corner in the league last season, as he recorded four interceptions and nearly shut down every wide receiver who lined up against him.

Much like Miller, it is hard to imagine the Panthers letting Norman get to the open market. Carolina will likely franchise Norman.

3. Muhammad Wilkerson, DE, New York Jets

While the Jets still have Sheldon Richardson and Leonard Williams, their best defensive lineman last season was Wilkerson.

In 2015, Wilkerson recorded 64 tackles, 12 sacks and defended seven passes, resulting in his first Pro Bowl invitation. Contract talks haven't appeared to progressed very far with Wilkerson, so the franchise tag remains an option.

4. Eric Berry, S, Kansas City Chiefs

After having a cancer scare in 2014, Eric Berry looked better than ever in ‘15. Last season, the safety racked up 61 tackles, two interceptions and 10 pass breakups.

Jason Cole of Bleacher Report has reported that a long-term contract with the Chiefs could be worked out before the NFL Scouting Combine this week. Either way, expect Berry to be in a Chiefs uniform next season.

5. Alshon Jeffery, WR, Chicago Bears

You would think the Bears would do everything they could to keep their No. 1 target  with the team for the long haul. However, the NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport has reported that no decision has been made on Jeffery's future and he could hit the free agent market.

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In an injury-riddled season, Jeffery caught 54 passes for 807 yards and four touchdowns in nine games. Prior to that however, Jeffery posted more than 80 receptions and scored a total of 17 times in 2013 and ’14 combined. If the Bears decide not to franchise Jeffery, he will be the top wideout, and arguably the No. 1 offensive player, on the market.

6. Cordy Glenn, OT, Buffalo Bills

Quality left tackles are hard to find in the NFL. Glenn allowed just two sacks and two quarterback hits last season and will have his choice of teams if the Bills don't franchise him.

7. Malik Jackson, DL, Denver Broncos

While Von Miller may be the Broncos’ top priority this offseason, the team also has several other key defenders that are pending free agents, including Jackson. A key piece up front for the NFL’s No. 1-ranked defense, Jackson would not lack for suitors should be become available.

Jackson had 45 tackles and five sacks in 2015. With the Broncos likely to retain Miller and the team re-signing Derek Wolfe to a four-year, $36.7 million extension in January, Jackson's could potentially be too expensive for the Broncos.

8. Olivier Vernon, DE, Miami Dolphins

With long-time Dolphins pass rusher Cameron Wake recovering from an Achilles injury at 34 years old the team may be forced to place the franchise tag on Vernon.

After Wake was lost for the season in Week 8, Vernon became the team's No.1 pass rusher, recording 5.5 sacks over the final nine games.

Many expect Vernon will leave Miami if the team does not place the tag on him. Reports are that he is looking for somewhere in the neighborhood of $13-$15 million a season.

9. Doug Martin, RB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Running backs are a dime a dozen in the NFL, but Martin should have a lot of value on the free agent market. After posting two seasons of fewer than 500 yards rushing, Martin improved his stock after finishing second only to Adrian Peterson in 2015.

Last season, Martin rushed for 1,402 yards and scored six touchdowns. Tampa Bay reportedly wants to keep Martin, as he played an essential role in the Bucs’ top-five offense last season.

10. Bruce Irvin, LB, Seattle Seahawks

The Seahawks could have chosen to exercise the fifth-year option on Irvin's rookie contract. Instead, the team will let him hit the open market and Irvin could cash in big.

While Irvin only recorded 5.5 sacks last season, the pass rusher market seems a little thin. Irvin may not be a game-changer, but he still could receive as much as $10 million per year from a team that could use a pass-rushing boost.

5 Other Notable Potential Unrestricted Free Agents

Sam Bradford, QB, Philadelphia Eagles

Kirk Cousins, QB, Washington Redskins

Matt Forte, RB, Chicago Bears

Russell Okung, OT, Seattle Seahawks

Eric Weddle, S, San Diego Chargers

— Written by Antwan Staley, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and has extensive experience covering Florida sports teams. Staley has written for Bleacher Report, Pro Player Insiders and is a reporter for Sports Talk Florida. Follow him on Twitter @antwanstaley.