Best remaining NFL free agents
The first wave of NFL free agent signings has come and gone, but there are still many left unsigned. Here are a few key names to keep in mind when thinking about the best remaining NFL free agents.
CB Logan Ryan
Logan Ryan has had a productive career so far. He was a 3rd-round pick of the Patriots in 2013 and won 2 Super Bowls in New England. He was also productive in Tennessee. In 3 years with the Titans, he may have only intercepted 4 passes, but that number doesn’t tell the whole story. Last season, he had a career high 18 pass breakups and 113 tackles while playing in all 16 games. That all came after ending the previous year with an injury. He also had 11 pass breakups in 2017. That kind of production is useful anywhere, even though he is hitting a bad age for corners. It’s a passing league, Ryan can definitely help someone.
QB Jameis Winston
Winston was a star at Florida Sate and has played decently in the NFL. He is a polarizing player, to say the least. His off-field struggles seem to be a thing of the past, but his play on the field is inconsistent. Last year, he hit an incredible mark for quarterbacks with over 5000 passing yards. However, he also hit a new low with a whopping 30 interceptions thrown. He’s not the first to throw that many, but most others did that as ROOKIES. This was in his 5th season. Jameis is still young with potential and starter experience, so he definitely has value somewhere in the league.
QB Cam Newton
There was a report last week that Newton had signed in New England, but but there has been nothing since to confirm that rumor. So, he lands on this list. Cam is easily one of the best remaining NFL free agents and the best quarterback available. He is a true dual-threat in a league that has started to trend that direction. He has been to the Super Bowl and won the MVP award. Recent seasons have brought injury battles, which will understandably cause concern. The key here is whether or not a team thinks Cam can return to form. He has not been the same since his initial shoulder injury. Finding the true facts behind these injuries could be the deciding factor. Regardless, he is the best available at his position.
DE Jadeveon Clowney
It’s somewhat shocking that Clowney is still available. Although he has had some injury struggles, he has been a dominant force when healthy. However, teams seem unwilling to pay what he has asked for so far. He has since dropped his asking price a bit, and I would expect him to sign soon. Whoever pulls it off will get one of the most dominant players in the league.
DE Ziggy Ansah
Ansah had a breakout season in Detroit in 2015 with 14.5 sacks. However, he has not played a full season since. He rebounded from a poor 2016 with 12 sacks in 2017, which was enough to earn him a franchise tag from the Lions. He only played 7 games that season, effectively end his tenure with the team. He signed with Seattle last year, but had minimal production. His past success earned him a spot on this list, but no one knows if he has anything left.
DE Everson Griffen
Griffen has been the leader of the Vikings’ defensive line for years. He has terrorized opposing QBs with 74.5 sacks. With so many teams needing premium pass rushers, it’s a little surprising he’s still available. He has had some off-field issues, which may be causing some concern, but I would expect him to have his pick of any team soon.
DE Jabaal Sheard
Sheard may not be a household name, but he’s always been a player I really liked. He’s been in the league since 2011 with the Browns, Patriots, and Colts. He was a member of the Pro Football Writer’s Association’s All-Rookie Team in 2011. He has the ability to get 8-9 sacks per season, not premium pass rushing numbers but still pretty good. He is best suited as a 4-3 defensive end and can add a rotational pass rush to teams looking to fill that role.
CB Eli Apple
Apple was not originally on the best remaining NFL free agents list, as he had a deal with the Raiders fall through, but he is back on the market. He was traded to New Orleans during a 2018 season that saw the Giants trade away several good players. He started 25 games for the Saints and played well for an emerging defense. At just 24 years old, he is just now entering the prime of his career. He can be a productive #2 CB wherever he lands.
RB Devonta Freeman
Freeman is another star who fell victim to injuries. He had back to back 1000 yd rushing seasons in 2015 and 2016, and was a key component of a potent Atlanta offense. That performance led the Falcons to give him a 5 year contract extension after the 2016 season, signaling a big future for the running back. Freeman would battle injuries the next season and has not been the same since. At 28, he is approaching the dreaded 30 year old mark for running backs, but he may still have something to give.
DT Damon Harrison
Harrison has played for several teams and always had a reputation throughout the league as one of the best run-stuffing defensive tackles. The Giants traded him to Detroit in 2018 for a 5th-round draft pick. He played well for the Lions, and there was a noticeable improvement in their run defense after the trade. After signing a contract extension last offseason, the two sides decided to part ways. Harrison didn’t have his best season last year, but he is far from washed up. He can definitely help a team looking for a dominant veteran at the nose position.
EDGE Markus Golden
Golden was a 2nd-round pick by the Cardinals in 2015. In that short time span, he has logged 2 double-digit sack seasons. After struggling in his final 2 seasons in Arizona, he thrived as a pass-rushing linebacker with the Giants last year. He started all 16 games and tallied 10 sacks. In a league that relies so much on passing and defending the pass, Golden will make a great addition. I wouldn’t expect him to remain on the market long.
T Jason Peters
Peters is definitely one of the best remaining NFL free agents. I hate to say it, but this might be an age issue. Peters is one of the best offensive tackles in football but is 38 years old. Of course, it could be that he is just taking his time picking the right team. He has spent the last 10 years in Philadelphia and would be wise to wait it out. Peters is an accomplished, decorated player and will have options should he choose to keep playing.
CB Darqueze Dennard
Dennard had a stellar college career at Michigan State, which turned him into the 11th overall pick in the 2014 Draft. He never quite lived up to that hype, but has become a good nickel defender. He is very physical and willing to support the run at the point of attack if need be. He had a deal with Jacksonville fall through but absolutely has value to teams. Teams with struggling secondaries should have him on their lists.
CB Dre Kirkpatrick
The former 1st-rounder was released by the Bengals after 8 seasons as the best player in their secondary. He hasn’t played a full season since 2015, but his productivity has been there when he is on the field. He still defends passes well and is someone you want to avoid when throwing the ball. After back to back injury-riddled seasons, Kirkpatrick should be eager to show he can still play at a top level. His accomplishments and veteran presence will get him that chance somewhere.
DE/DT Adam Gotsis
Gotsis is hitting free agency for the first time in his career after the completion of his rookie contract. Although the stats from his first 4 years aren’t eye-popping, he has been a steadily productive player for Denver’s defense. His role is pretty clear to me at this point. He is a textbook 3-4 defensive end who excels at stopping the run. That is why teams will sign him. He does not offer huge pass-rush production, but he does the little things right and perfectly fits the aforementioned role. In a 4-3 defense, he would probably play defensive tackle.
G Ron Leary
Leary is probably best known for his days with the vaunted Cowboys offensive line, where he was a consistent starter for a few years. He fell out of favor in Dallas and eventually signed with Denver. His time in Denver has included a few injuries, which may raise some questions. Teams should still sign him for the quality of play he has had when on the field in his career. He also gives them a chance to add a veteran presence. This would be good for a team that has a young offensive line trying to find a way to gel and or recently lost a starter to another team. Leary won’t get a huge deal, but he may be as good a value remaining on the market.
(*Note- Obviously with such a unique offseason, the coronavirus could be affecting some teams from signing because they need players’ physicals)