Free agency around the NFL has reached a snooze with the league preparing for this month’s draft. Once the annual event in Nashville is over, we’ll see a third wave of free agency.
That’s certainly a good thing for some of the top available players on the market. This list includes a multi-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle, a future Hall of Fame safety and one of the most underrated linebackers in the NFL.
Let’s take a gander at the top-10 free agents still available heading into the 2019 NFL Draft.
Ndamukong Suh, defensive tackle
It’s rather interesting that Suh remains a free agent after being among the most coveted on the open market last year. The five-time Pro Bowler recorded 19 quarterback hits and 4.5 sacks playing next to Aaron Donald with the Los Angeles Rams last season.
Always looking for a pay day, the 32-year-old Suh might have priced himself off the market during the early stages of free agency. He’s recently hinted at a potential fit in New Jersey, but nothing has come of it. Suh will have to take pennies on the dollar to latch on with a team at this point.
Ezekiel Ansah, EDGE
Prior to suffering through an injury-plagued 2018 campaign, Ansah saw the franchise tag placed on him by his former Detroit Lions squad. This came after the Pro Bowler recorded 12 sacks during the 2017 campaign. The issue here has been injuries. Ansah has suffered through various ailments in each of the past three seasons.
With all of that said, we’re still surprised to see that Ansah remains on the market. The San Francisco 49ers seemed like a fit initially with former Lions defensive line coach Kris Kocurek manning the same position in Northern California. But the acquisition of Dee Ford might change this thinking. It will be interesting to see where Ansah lands post-draft.
Eric Berry, safety
A surprise release of the Kansas City Chiefs back in March, Berry has drawn interest from multiple teams. That included a visit with the Dallas Cowboys recently. A five-time Pro Bowler, Berry remains one of the most-respected players in the game.
At issue here is a bevy of injuries in recent seasons. In fact, Berry has played in a grand total of three games since the 2016 campaign. This leads us to believe the borderline future Hall of Famer will have to take a short-term deal. Look for it to be with a contender some time later this offseason.
Jamie Collins, linebacker
Yet another surprise release, the Browns decided to move on from this former Pro Bowl performer back in March. This came after Collins starred in Cleveland for 2.5 seasons following a trade from the New England Patriots.
A questionable three-down player, Collins provides an ability to make the sure tackle while being a consistent threat in the backfield. Despite struggles in coverage last season, he recorded 100-plus tackles to go with 13 tackles for loss and four sacks. He’d be a nice late-offseason get for any team.
Demaryius Thomas, wide receiver
Last season was a complete and utter disaster for Thomas. Dealing with a less-than-stellar quarterback situation in Denver, the four-time Pro Bowler recorded just 36 receptions for 402 yards in eight games before being dealt to the Houston Texans in October. Thomas ultimately recorded just 23 catches in seven games for Houston before suffering a torn Achilles.
Said injury has obviously impacted Thomas’ stock in free agency. Even then, he’s the most accomplished pass catcher remaining on the market. The 31-year-old put up an average of 91 receptions for north of 1,300 yards from 2012-17. Having already met with the Patriots, we’re expecting him to latch on with a contender following the draft.
Timmy Jernigan, defensive tackle
Given the signing of Malik Jackson, it was not a huge surprise that Philadelphia decided to release Jernigan. Jackson is certainly an upgrade from a pass-rush perspective. With that said, Jernigan remaining on the market is still somewhat of a surprise.
The 26-year-old former Florida State standout recorded a tremendous 2017 seaosn, proving himself to be elite stopping the run. Unfortunately, injuries marred his 2018 campaign with Jernigan missing all but three games. That’s likely why he remains on the market.
Donald Penn, offensive tackle
The skeptic in us can conclude that the Raiders did Penn wrong during the latter part of his career in Oakland. He held out last offseason in hopes of landing a new contract. In turn, Jon Gruden and Co. gave Penn a bit more cash for the 2018 season — only to release him mere months later. All the while, Oakland went with Kolton Miller as its starting left tackle. That didn’t work out too swimmingly.
As it relates to the 35-year-old three-time Pro Bowler, Penn could act as a stopgap option for a team in need of a blindside protector. There’s needs in both Minnesota and New England. It’s certainly something to think about.
Nick Perry, EDGE
We’re noticing a trend here. Most of the top remaining free agents are coming off injury-plagued 2018 campaigns. That’s no different for this former Green Bay Packers first-round pick. Perry missed the final seven games of last season and recorded just 1.5 sacks. This came after 2016 and 2017 campaigns that saw the USC product put up 18 combined sacks.
Still just 29 years old, the expectation here is that Perry will receive a ton of play from pass-rush needy teams once this month’s NFL Draft concludes. He’s proven to be better than average from that perspective.
Andy Levitre, guard
A model of consistency, Levitre started each of his first 128 NFL games in stops with the Bills, Titans and Falcons. While he’s never earned a Pro Bowl trip, Levitre has been a solid figure along the offensive line for years now.
At issue here is the torn triceps the guard suffered as a member of the Falcons last season. Given his relatively advanced age of 32, this has to be concerning for teams. Though, it would not be a surprise if his former offensive coordinator with Atlanta, 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan, shows interest later in the offseason.
Zach Brown, linebacker
One of the most underrated players in the entire NFL, Brown has had to deal with multiple short-term contracts after breaking out as a member of the Tennessee Titans back in 2012. It’s unfortunate. Teams just don’t value his brand of play from the linebacker position.
In no way does that mean Brown can’t be a top-end contributor. He’s recorded 90-plus tackles in five of his six NFL seasons and earned a Pro Bowl nod in his only season with the Bills back in 2016. Look for a contending team to pick Brown up in short order.