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10 riskiest NFL free agents in 2019

Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

NFL free agency begins on March 13 when we will start seeing a bunch of players being pursued by new franchises.

As per the usual each year, some new signings will make perfectly logical sense. But in other cases we are bound to watch some head-scratching shifts take place.

This leads us to explore the following 10 NFL free agents who should come with a risk label warning.

Clay Matthews, linebacker

For however popular of an on-field and off-field character Matthews has been, his skills are slipping down the drain. The six-time Pro Bowler is coming off of a mere 3.5-sack season, which represented the lowest of his career that began in 2009. The fact that he last played in all 16 games in 2018 is a plus. But, expecting this soon-to-be 33-year-old linebacker to remain in good health would be a stretch. Whether he re-signs with Green Bay or tests the open market, Matthews makes for a dicey option.

Nick Foles, quarterback

Fly Foles fly. The Eagles decided to let Foles become a free man and he makes for the top option for teams in need of a quarterback. Basically, the franchise that puts the most cheddar in Foles’ basket is going to land him. Currently, the Jaguars seem to be the front-runners. But, the Jags or another team suddenly expecting a miracle turn-around with Foles under center should be cautious. Sure, Foles is a Super Bowl MVP. But, he is also the same guy who has bounced about the league and has only 44 starts over seven seasons. Buyers should beware.

Le’Veon Bell, running back

Talk about being cautious. Bell has not played an official NFL game since January of 2018. He could return in excellent shape and pick up where he left off — he posted 1,946 total yards and 11 touchdowns in 2017. Or depending on where Bell ends up, this type of production might drop. The Steelers offense is one of the better in the league. Does Bell repeat his success if he signs with the New York Jets? More importantly, will Bell earn his keep once he gets that generous salary he is seeking? Stay tuned.

Earl Thomas, safety

Thomas reportedly wants to be the highest-paid safety in the league. C’mon man. Thomas is fantastic at what he does — when he is healthy. But, he is coming off a short 2018 season after suffering a ghastly leg injury in Week 4. And the last time Thomas played in all 16 games was in 2015. We must also mention Thomas turns 30 in May and last left Seattle on a very sour note. Because of his talent, he will draw plenty of attention on the open market. Though, a team forking over the $13-plus million per year he is looking for might not reap the full reward.

Golden Tate, wide receiver

Tate’s brief tenure with the Philadelphia Eagles was a complete disaster. After being traded by the Lions, Tate managed to nab only 30 receptions for 278 yards and one touchdown. Had he stayed in Detroit, he was on course to record over 1,000 yards in 2018. Or was he? Is Tate showing signs of a decline, or were the Eagles just a poor fit? He is 30 years old and his success moving forward may be matchup dependent as to where he might sign. We must wonder if the Lions eat some crow and re-think getting him back on board.

Ziggy Ansah, defensive end

Speaking of the Lions, Ansah has likely played his last game for Detroit. He had been playing out a franchise-tagged season before suffering a shoulder injury in December of 2018. Turning 30 in May and coming off an injury are not exactly top selling points for Ansah’s resume. Though, Ansah has two seasons in his six years of playing when he posted double-digit sacks. He will command some looks in free agency but is a bit of a risk.

Demaryius Thomas, wide receiver

It seems like Thomas went from setting the wide receiver market in 2015 to crashing his own market in 2018. Traded to the Houston Texans mid-season, the 31-year-old receiver played in seven games when he managed only 23 receptions for 275 yards and two touchdowns. That was prior to him suffering a season-ending Achilles tear in December. And, a recent arrest for vehicular assault for an incident that occurred in February does little to help his case. That, on top of his wear and tear, makes him a risky sell as a free agent.

Cameron Wake, linebacker

The Miami Dolphins are on the fence when it comes to re-signing Wake. After all, he turned 37 years old this past January. Though, he still produced at a decent level in 2018 after recording six sacks and 36 combined tackles. Prior to this, he combined for 22 sacks throughout 2016-17. If the Dolphins wish to let him go, Wake should still attract some attention out there as a free agent. The biggest question mark surrounding Wake is, when will Father Time fully kick in?

Michael Crabtree, wide receiver

The Baltimore Ravens were quick to swoop in on Crabtree last offseason after the Oakland Raiders released him. But, Crabtree did not really mesh in Baltimore. He led the league with eight drops — something that has been an issue for him in the past — and scored only three touchdowns. This was a dramatic drop in scoring considering Crabtree recorded 25 touchdowns during his three years as a Raider. Keeping the latter in mind, some team in need of an experienced wideout will come kick the tires on Crabtree, hoping for the best.

Teddy Bridgewater, quarterback

Bridgewater might just be the riskiest free agent within this list. If the Saints decide to part ways, other teams either in need of a backup or potential starter will speak up. But, with Bridgewater comes that major knee injury he suffered ahead of the 2016 season. It was an injury so devastating that it kept him out of play nearly two whole seasons. Since, Bridgewater has participated in only six games. He was talented enough to warrant a first-round pick by Minnesota in 2014. But that seems like ages ago.