The start of NFL free agency is closing in with teams ready to spend tens of millions apiece to land some of the top players in the game. In a year that is loaded with top free-agent quarterbacks and some exciting defensive talent available, a few NFL teams will come out of free agency having aced the offseason.
It’s not always about spending the most money during free agency. In fact, some teams often overspend and then find themselves outside of the playoff hunt in the final weeks of the season. Being able to find value in free agency is what separates good general managers from great ones and it’s the very thing that can define an offseason.
Of course, it’s also important for teams to hold onto their young stars. Franchise quarterbacks are extremely difficult to find, which makes keeping them a top priority. That makes this offseason especially crucial for the Dallas Cowboys, who must find a way to keep their own stars and still address needs on the roster.
Here are five NFL teams in prime position to ace free agency.
Despite a plethora of injuries, the Eagles found a way to sneak into the playoffs this past season. It’s an impressive accomplishment that they made it in given their holes on the roster, but they need to add more talent to realistically become a top contender in the NFC again. Fortunately, there are plenty of young, impact players available in free agency at their greatest positions of need.
While $41 million in cap space doesn’t provide general manager Howie Roseman with a lot to work with, he knows how to spend it wisely. The Eagles will get into a bidding war for top cornerback Byron Jones and their ability to win now could convince the former Cowboys’ star to sign in Philadelphia over New York. Jones provides this defense with a shutdown corner and would be a marquee addition. But Philadelphia’s offense also needs a deep threat. That’s where Breshad Perriman, one of the most underrated free agents, can come in and provide incredible value. Those two together, plus an edge rusher like Shaq Lawson, would be an outstanding trio of free-agent signings for the Eagles.
The Dolphins have holes throughout their entire roster, which is perfect since they also have a league-leading $88 million in cap space. We’ve highlighted a few trades that would help Miami, including a sign-and-trade for defensive lineman Chris Jones, but here we’ll keep a focus on free-agent targets.
Even after potentially adding Jones in a sign-and-trade, there are plenty of more moves for the Dolphins to make in free agency. This team needs help along the offensive line and in the secondary with their eye reportedly looking at several ex-New England Patriots players. Joe Thuney would be an outstanding addition at offensive guard, while Devin McCourty’s talent and leadership would be appreciated at safety. Throw in a deal for Jason Peters, who could start at left tackle and mentor those around him. That’s a free-agent class that the Dolphins could be proud of and it would help them take major strides next season.
Indianapolis entered the 2019 offseason with plenty of cap space, but general manager Chris Ballard took an extremely cautious approach. We’re not expecting that to happen again in free agency this year, especially coming off a disappointing season. Supported with $86 million to spend and an owner craving to win, the Colts should be big spenders this offseason.
The writing is on the wall for Philip Rivers to sign with the Chargers and if any coaching staff can bring the best out of him, it will be Frank Reich. Rivers will need more weapons to be successful in this offense and that’s exactly why Emmanuel Sanders can be the perfect, veteran addition. He’ll pair nicely with T.Y. Hilton and give Rivers two talented weapons to work with. Of course, the Colts will bring back offensive tackle Anthony Castonzo as well to help this offense flow. Finally, Indianapolis can provide Jadeveon Clowney with the big contract he wants and he’ll give them an excellent defender on the edge to help this defense for years to come.
Las Vegas Raiders
Jon Gruden and the Raiders want to make a big splash before they settle into Las Vegas. There’s no better way to bring excitement to a new fan base than with some big free-agent signings and players for fans to get excited about watching in a new stadium. The question is, should the prized acquisition be Tom Brady or younger talent elsewhere.
While Brady seems like an attractive option, the Raiders can still win with Derek Carr. He just needs a lot more help around him for this team to reach its potential. Gruden can throw a chunk of the team’s $55 million in cap space to Pro Bowl cornerback Chris Harris Jr and star safety Anthony Harris. The Raiders know how dominant Harris Jr. is as a slot corner and with a playmaking safety above him, this secondary will be outstanding. Add in linebacker Nick Kwiatkoski, a sleeper who can start for the Raiders, and it can make this one of the best defenses in the AFC. Pair that with an improved offense, using two first-round picks to helping Carr, and this team will be ready to roll.
The key to the offseason for the Cowboys is taking care of their own. While a long-term contract with Dak Prescott is the ultimate goal, placing the exclusive franchise tag on him secures that he’ll be under center for the 2020 season. From there, Jerry Jones needs to make sure that Amari Cooper is back in Dallas next season. Fortunately for the Cowboys, that is likely to happen due to Cooper’s desire to spend his life with the team.
While that might eat up a significant chunk of the team’s $74 million in cap space, more moves can be made. Mike McCarthy’s relationship and history could help convince defensive lineman Mike Daniels and free safety Haha Clinton-Dix to join the Cowboys. It’s an efficient use of the cap space and still gives Dallas enough financial flexibility to sign cornerback Trae Waynes. Prescott and Cooper will be the big-name signings while Daniels, Clinton-Dix and Waynes would fit into this defense nicely. Complement a strong start in free agency with an excellent draft haul and the Cowboys could contend for a Super Bowl next season.