NFL free agents will be making their moves in just a few short weeks. Ahead of Valentine’s day we wanted to play Cupid and offer some perfect matches.
Here, we take a look at the players most likely to be coveted by multiple teams with deep pockets, pairing them with new teams (assuming they don’t re-sign with their current teams) that seem to be the best fits.
DeMarcus Lawrence, defensive end (Indianapolis Colts)
After what Lawrence has done the past couple of seasons in Dallas (25 sacks), the young man is set to get paid a king’s ransom in free agency. A versatile pass rusher, Lawrence is the cream of this year’s crop. The team with the most cash to spend just so happens to need help on the edge, making this an easy match.
Le’Veon Bell, running back (San Francisco 49ers)
Kyle Shanahan’s offense is magic for running backs. He loves to utilize them a ton both on the ground and through the air — on screens and as pure receivers all over the field. No player can do it all like Bell can. He’s looking for a mammoth long-term deal, and might still receive the transition tag from Pittsburgh. But that won’t keep teams from throwing the bank at Bell. San Francisco just so happens to have plenty of cash to spare.
Jadeveon Clowney, EDGE (New York Jets)
Defensive coordinator Gregg Williams is going to bang on the table for general manager Mike Maccagnan to bring in a top-tier pass rusher this year. Landing Clowney would certainly fit that description. One of the best overall defensive ends in the game today, Clowney is a huge fish this spring that will require a big net to haul in. New York has loads of money to spend and still has a young quarterback entering the second year on his rookie deal. That’s a perfect fit.
Teddy Bridgewater, quarterback (Washington Redskins)
Jay Gruden’s offense is centered around the run, and he requires his quarterbacks to make accurate, on-time throws based on quick reads. Kirk Cousins and Alex Smith both ran it well, and Bridgewater could be a terrific short-term starter in Washington, too. The franchise might consider bringing in a first-round rookie, but none of them are going to be ready right out of the gate. Bridgewater could prove his worth on a short-term deal, providing a benefit to both himself and Washington.
Earl Thomas, safety (Dallas Cowboys)
We already know Thomas wants to play for the Cowboys. One would assume Jerry Jones is interested in adding another talented defensive back to his impressive young defense. Still one of the best in the game before his awful broken leg last year, Thomas’ ball-hawking skills would elevate Dallas’ entire defense. The big question is, what is the safety market going to look like this year. Also, will the Cowboys will pony up what it takes to bring Thomas home to Texas? They should.
Tevin Coleman, running back (Houston Texans)
Lamar Miller had some huge games for Houston last season and was responsible for one of the most electric moments of the entire season (watch here). But Houston would be wise to keep his workload down and bring in another dynamic running back who could spell him. Coleman is that guy. He’s not a bell-cow back but proved to be one of the game’s best second-stringers in Atlanta. Adding him to Houston’s offense would give the Texans an incredible 1-2 punch.
Frank Clark, defensive end (Buffalo Bills)
There aren’t many defensive ends who’ve made as much of an impact the past couple of years as Clark has for Seattle. The Seahawks will certainly try to sign him to a long-term deal before he hits free agency. But Clark might be able to land a lot more if he waits. Buffalo has over $79 million in cap space and has need of a dynamic pass rusher who relies just as much on strength as speed off the edge.
Golden Tate, wide receiver (Oakland Raiders)
We all know how much Jon Gruden loves his veterans. Tate, at the age of 30, certainly checks all the boxes for Gruden and the Raiders offense. Though he’s not necessarily a player who has yet to peak, Tate’s abilities after the catch make him a perfect fit in Gruden’s short-pass offense. He’d instantly upgrade the team’s screen game and give Derek Carr a reliable set of hands in the middle of the field.
Grady Jarrett, defensive tackle (Cleveland Browns)
Jarrett has developed from a player who had a ton of potential into a guy who has the ability to absolutely wreck interior offensive lines on a regular basis. I’ll be shocked if Atlanta lets him hit the open market. But if he does he’ll have huge offers elsewhere. Cleveland is one of the teams with the most money to spend. New Browns defensive coordinator Steve Wilks would love to land a top defensive tackle to give himself a defensive line like the one he had in Carolina a couple years back. It’s a great fit.
C.J. Mosley, linebacker (Green Bay Packers)
One of the best 3-4 inside linebackers in the game today, Mosley has a chance to land a nice payday. Over the course of the past five years, the former ‘Bama star has shown unique versatility with 8.5 sacks and nine interceptions. He’s still just 26 years old, but his youth did nothing to keep him from becoming one of the leaders on a defense full of veterans in Baltimore. The Packers have long needed a reliable star in the middle of their defense. Mosley would fill a significant void, both in terms of talent and leadership.