Now that the official start of NFL free agency is about a week away, we’re hearing even more rumors about potential landing spots for some of the top players.
The quarterback position is an obvious area of strength, with several proven starters hitting the open market. Where will Tom Brady and Philip Rivers land?
On the defensive side of the ball, there are multiple Pro Bowl players set to potentially change teams. For instance, where will top edge rusher Jadeveon Clowney and shutdown cornerback Byron Jones end up?
Without further ado, let’s look at the top 10 NFL free agents and their likeliest landing spots come next week.
Amari Cooper, wide receiver, Dallas Cowboys
Unless the Cowboys are able to sign Dak Prescott to a long-term deal ahead of Monday’s franchise tag deadline, Cooper is going to hit the open market. It’s not an ideal scenario for the Cowboys about 18 months after trading for the Pro Bowl receiver.
Cooper, 25, will be met with an absolutely huge market once free agency opens on March 18. The former first-round pick is averaging north of 75 catches with 1,100 yards over the past two seasons. He’d obviously be the prize of the free-agent class at wide receiver, standing above the rest in a weak market.
Logically, two NFC East rivals in that of the Philadelphia Eagles and New York Giants make the most sense. I am going to go with the latter. The draw of New York City and the ability to team up with young quarterback Daniel Jones coupled with New York’s excess of cap room makes the Giants the best fit for Cooper. Prediction: New York Giants
Chris Jones, edge, Kansas City Chiefs
Kansas City will end up placing the franchise tag on Jones ahead of the deadline. But much like what we saw with fellow former Pro Bowler Dee Ford last March, it will likely be for the sole purpose of trading him. The Chiefs were unable to come to terms with Jones on a long-term deal ahead of the 2019 season and find themselves just $19.2 million under the cap.
If a trade were to be worked out, a number of suitors come to mind. Jones, 25, has recorded 49 quarterback hits and 24.5 sacks over the past two seasons. He’s done so while playing multiple positions along the defensive line for the defending champs.
With a vast trade market and a ton of demand, it makes sense to look at teams that have draft pick assets. Boasting two second-round picks, including the No. 34 overall pick, the Indianapolis Colts make the most sense. They have $86-plus million in cap room and a major pass-rush need. It would be a match made in heaven. Prediction: Indianapolis Colts (trade)
Tom Brady, quarterback, New England Patriots
The talk surrounding this six-time Super Bowl champion has been seemingly never ending since New England’s season came to a premature end in the AFC Wildcard Playoffs. What we do know is that Brady will test the free-agent market. There’s also a good chance he decides to leave New England after two decades.
If this is the case, the Las Vegas Raiders and Tennessee Titans have been bandied about the most as his future home. I’ll go with common logic and suggest that Las Vegas looks for a lesser option to compete with Derek Carr for the starting job.
As it relates to the Titans, their interest in Brady is well known. His connection with head coach Mike Vrabel from their days as teammates in New England adds another layer to this. While it’s an open question whether Brady would be an upgrade over fellow impending free agent Ryan Tannehill, this is the direction I expect Tennessee to go in. Prediction: Tennessee Titans
Jadeveon Clowney, edge, Seattle Seahawks
Despite recording just 13 quarterback hits and three sacks in an injury-plagued first season with Seattle, Clowney wants big-time cash on the open market. The expectation here is that his Seahawks will push back against that and look in another direction (more on that later).
If this is indeed the case, other pass-rush needy teams with a ton of cash to spend will come calling. After all, we’re talking about a former No. 1 overall pick who earned three consecutive Pro Bowl trips prior to last season.
Even with the emergence of youngster Maxx Crosby, I fully expect Las Vegas to be in play here. It’s well known that head coach Jon Gruden has been looking for an elite pass rusher since trading Khalil Mack. With nearly $60 million to spend under the cap, look for the Raiders to back up the Brink’s truck for this elite talent. Prediction: Las Vegas Raiders
Ryan Tannehill, quarterback, Tennessee Titans
If Brady lands with Tennessee, it changes the entire dynamic of the quarterback market heading into free agency. Tannehill likely joins Philip Rivers as the best backup option behind the future Hall of Famer. This veteran completed north of 70% of his passes with 22 touchdowns and six interceptions en route to earning NFL Comeback Player of the Year honors last season.
Always looking to add a veteran quarterback to the mix, Bruce Arians and the Buccaneers make the most sense here. While they’ve been linked more to Rivers, that was with the expectation that Tannehill wouldn’t be available. Now that the dynamic has changed on this front, look for Tampa to replace Jameis Winston with another former first-round pick. Prediction: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Yannick Ngakoue, edge, Jacksonville Jaguars
One of the best young pass rushers in the game, the 24-year-old Ngakoue has made it clear he’s not going to return to Jacksonville. At issue here is the fact that his Jaguars are hellbent on placing the franchise tag on the Pro Bowler.
That’s led to speculation that Jacksonville will ultimately tag-and-trade the Pro Bowler after he put up 71 quarterback hits and 29.5 sacks over the past three seasons. If this is the case, look for Pete Carroll and the Seahawks to target the youngster. They have an extra second-round pick from the Frank Clark trade last year and a major need at edge pass rusher. It makes too much sense, especially if Clowney does depart in free agency. Prediction: Seattle Seahawks (trade)
Dak Prescott, quarterback, Dallas Cowboys
It’s really coming down to the wire for Prescott and his Cowboys. We’ve read the reports that Dallas is offering its Pro Bowl quarterback well north of $100 million guaranteed. Though, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of traction gained on this front with the franchise tag deadline looming.
Either way I spin it, there’s legitimately no shot Dallas lets Prescott hit the open market in a week. It’s not happening. If Jerry Jones and Co. are forced to, they’ll place the exclusive franchise tender on the young signal-caller. This was an easy pick. Prediction: Dallas Cowboys
Byron Jones, cornerback, Dallas Cowboys
One season removed from a Pro Bowl appearance with Dallas, the 27-year-old Jones is slated to sign a record-breaking contract once free agency opens. Speculation continues to increase that it will surpass the five-year, $75.3 million deal Xavien Howard signed with the Miami Dolphins last May. If this is indeed the case, don’t expect Jones to be back with the Cowboys.
Among those linked to him the most, the Philadelphia Eagles make the most sense. The likes of Sidney Jones and Avonte Maddox struggled at corner last season. Philadelphia’s top off-season priority will be to add help at corner and wide receiver. It’s in this that the Eagles will use some of the $45.6 million they have to spend under the cap to land Jones from their bitter division rivals. Take it to the bank. Prediction: Philadelphia Eagles
Philip Rivers, quarterback, Los Angeles Chargers
Let’s say for a second that it’s safe to assume Brady won’t be back with the Patriots. There’s absolutely no reason to believe that Bill Belichick is going to go into rebuild mode with Jarrett Stidham or another young quarterback. This means New England will hit the open market for a signal-caller to replace their franchise guy.
Rivers, 38, makes the most sense. Much like Brady, he continues to show command of the offense. Sure the borderline future Hall of Famer is coming off a disastrous season, but he was better than Brady back in 2018. If the Brady-Pats relationship ends, Rivers is almost a no-brainer to replace the all-time great signal-caller. Prediction: New England Patriots
Jameis Winston, quarterback, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
A lot has been made of Winston’s struggles with turnovers last season. After all, the former No. 1 overall pick became the first player in league history with 30-plus touchdowns and 30-plus interceptions. It will lead to a one-way ticket from Tampa Bay after Bruce Arians put the dude on absolute blast.
At this point, I am not convinced Winston has a ton of options to become a full-time starter. He’ll assess the market. The one potential landing spot is a Chargers team that’s moving on from Rivers and stuck between a rebuild and contention. Even if Los Angeles were to draft a quarterback in April, getting a stop-gap option makes sense. Winston is a better player than current backup signal-caller Tyrod Taylor. It’s not close. Prediction: Los Angeles Chargers