NFL Best Free Agents Remaining: But Why Are They Here?

By Saransh Sharma, Pranav Thiriveedhi, and Rohan Krishnan

This year’s NFL Free Agency has been the best in NFL history, but the craziest part of all of this is that there are still elite players left as free agents right now. Players like Cam Newton, Jadeveon Clowney, and Everson Griffen still see their names on the market and not on a team. Here are the top 12 free agents, and our predictions for where they will go:

  1. Jadeveon Clowney, OLB/DE

This one to me is actually mind-boggling considering his production. Now, to be fair, the Coronavirus pandemic has hurt the value of guys like Clowney, because the outside linebacker position was one that had an abundance of talent in this year’s NFL Draft, so teams could bank on a younger, cheaper player to develop and become a good linebacker. He was hurt last season and only played 13 games and only had 3 sacks, but he forced 4 fumbles, had his first interception and pick-6, deflected 3 passes, and had 13 QB hits, which is an average of 1 per game, which is pretty solid. The problem is that the idea of waiting a season and going for a small contract for this upcoming season, and then cashing out after next season is not as viable an option as it used to be due to the impacts of Coronavirus. That being said, Clowney is open to waiting for the summer to roll around and sign a big deal if it comes then.

Prediction: Jets Sign Clowney on 3-year, $52.5M deal, $39M Guaranteed

  1. Cam Newton, QB

Oh how the mighty have fallen. Just a few years ago, Cam Newton was coming off of a 15-1 MVP season, and a near Super Bowl victory. Now, Newton, having dealt with a few injuries, has been released by the Panthers and is now struggling to get a contract as even a backup for this upcoming season. Honestly, I think that Cam Newton is definitely starter material, but he just has to do his due diligence and wait it out this year and be a backup. Newton surely can still play at a starter level and play at a high level as well, I just do not see it being this season.

Prediction: Steelers Sign Newton on 1-Year ‘Prove-It’ Deal

  1. Everson Griffen, DE

Now this is a player who I understand why he is unsigned. 2 years ago, when the Vikings went to the NFC Championship Game, Griffin had 13 sacks, 12 tackles for loss and 3 forced fumbles. In the next 2 seasons combined, he has 13.5 sacks, 16 tackles for loss, and no forced fumbles. The only number that has been near the same in 2017 is the QB hits, which he had 24 just this past season after 25 in 2017. Granted, in the 2018 season, Griffen did only play 11 games, so the stats look unusually low, but these past 2 seasons, Griffen’s low number of sacks really is costing him now come free agency time. 8.0+ sacks is something Griffen is used to doing, so seeing him now barely being able to get that is strange, and the health issues have not helped either. That being said, Griffen’s talent still warrants him getting a 1-year ‘prove-it’ deal, and then signing onto another deal of a bigger salary with the same or different team. 

Prediction: Seahawks Sign Griffen on 1-Year ‘Prove-It’ Deal to Replace Clowney

  1. Larry Warford, OG

Larry Warford was a surprise release a week ago by New Orleans, but a lot of it apparently had to do with the fact that he put on some weight and New Orleans did not like that it was happening during this offseason, so they let him go, and they also have a young, worthy replacement for him at Left Guard in Andrus Peat, who got a 5-year, $57.5M extension a few weeks back. Warford, despite the weight concerns, is still capable of being an elite left guard in the NFL.

Prediction: Warford Goes Back to Detroit, Signs with Lions on 3-Year Deal

  1. Jason Peters, OT

Jason Peters has been a monumental piece of the Philadelphia Eagles offense since 2009, protecting various NFL quarterbacks who achieved stardom through their years in Philly such as Michael Vick, Nick Foles, and Carson Wentz. Jason Peters is a Super Bowl champion who is decorated with achievements such as being a 9x Pro Bowler, 2x First Team All-Pro, 4x Second Team All-Pro, and a member of the NFL 2010’s decade team is now at an older age of 38, but still has the fire to play into his 40s. He is currently a free agent coming off an average year at a price of $3.5 million, but is still holding strong communication with the Eagles and is being eyed on by the Broncos, Jets, and Browns as well, who all would perform much better with his veteran status.

Prediction: Peters re-signs with the Eagles to a 1-Year or 2-Year Deal

  1. Logan Ryan, CB

Logan Ryan is one of the NFL’s most elusive and underrated cornerbacks coming off an amazing season with the Tennessee Titans. The 29 year old is a sharp veteran, who has the ability to force turnovers and provide pass breakups during crucial plays. In 2019, finishing his contract with $9.5 million left for the year, Logan Ryan combined for 113 tackles, 4.5 sacks, 4 interceptions, and 4 force fumbles. Teams that would benefit from Logan Ryan include the Dolphins, Eagles and Jets. Logan Ryan has commented about the Jet’s interest in him and how signing with the team he shared practiced fields with in college would make sense for him, but he is adament that he wants to sign with a “contender.”

Prediction: The South Jersey native signs with the Eagles to a 1-year Deal

  1. Carlos Hyde, RB

Carlos Hyde is one of the best players from the 2014 NFL Draft and also one of the best running backs to play the game in his time so far. After another 1000 yard season, this time with the Houston Texans (Carlos Hyde has jumped over a lot!), the free agent running back is looking for another team to call home for the 2020 season. After rejecting the Texan’s offer, Hyde sees interest coming from the Philadelphia Eagles, who need a veteran running back to mentor Miles Sanders. I don’t really see other teams very interested in him and there is major competition between three running backs to sign with the Eagles.

Prediction: Hyde stays a FA into the start of the season or signs a small deal with a rebuilding team

  1. Markus Golden, LB

Markus Golden is one of the NFL’s most underrated 3-4 edge rushers coming off a good season with the New York Giants. Last year, playing all 16 games, Golden acquired 72 tackles, 10 sacks, a force fumble and 1 defensive touchdown. When Markus Golden is healthy, he poses as a legitimate threat to any offense and will finish every season with double-digit sacks to his name. As of now, the Giants and Lions see interest in signing the electric edge rusher. 

Prediction: Markus Golden signs a 3-year deal with the Lions, fixing up that faulty pass rush

  1. Taylor Gabriel, WR

Gabriel is seen as a speedy playmaker but did not live up to the hype in Chicago. In two seasons with the Bears, Gabriel managed just 96 catches for 1,041 yards and six touchdowns. He also dealt with concussions and as a result Chicago released him to clear cap space. However, he is currently the top option on the WR market because he is still a talented player and has the speed to hurt defenses deep. He could be very serviceable to a team that needs a deep threat to complement their best receiver. 

Prediction: Gabriel signs a 1-year deal with the Packers to help stretch the field

  1. Cordy Glenn, OT

Cordy Glenn has been a solid player for the majority of his career. He is 30 years old and could be a great veteran presence for a team looking for a tackle. However, his 2019 season was suspect as he only played 6 games and had a tumultuous relationship with the Bengals which led to his release. He was suspended by the team at one point for “internal disciplinary reasons” and dealt with concussions which probably explains why he has not been signed yet. I can definitely see a team taking a gamble on him though because he was great when he played and is a serviceable starter. 

Prediction: Glenn signs a 1-year deal with the Vikings

  1. Mike Daniels, DT

Mike Daniels is coming off an injury-plagued season with Detroit. He played nine games due to foot and arm injuries and finished with nine tackles and just 1 sack. It is clear that he is not the player he once was, but that doesn’t mean he can’t be a useful player. Before signing with the Lions, Daniels was one of the Packers best defensive players and an emotional leader. He can help mentor younger players, provide some solid IDL depth, and help stuff the run. 

Prediction: Daniels signs a 1-year vet min deal with the Cowboys and reunites with Mike McCarthy

  1. Delanie Walker, TE

Delanie Walker is another player who has been dealing with different injuries the past few seasons and was cut by the Titans due to the rise of young tight end Jonnu Smith. Walker has had a lot of success with Tennessee however and was the greatest tight end to ever play for them. He is 36 and is entering his 15th season in the NFL but I think he still has some left in the tank. He has always been productive for Tennessee when healthy and can provide endless options as a receiver and a blocker to change an offense. He could bring some good value to a team with a young tight end group.

Prediction: Walker signs a 1-year deal with the Patriots to help mentor Dalton Keene and Devin Asiasi

How the NFC South Became the League’s Most Stacked Division in 4 Days

By Saransh Sharma & Pranav Thiriveedhi

The NFC South for many years was the most QB-driven division in the NFL, with the record-breaking quarterback and Super Bowl XLIV MVP Drew Brees leading the Saints, and NFL MVP’s Matt Ryan and Cam Newton leading the Falcons and Panthers, respectively (somehow Brees has never won an NFL MVP award). For years, it was a division which saw Newton and Ryan’s teams going on playoff runs, and Brees being left out to dry with no help, or having to pull a Houdini act just to get to the playoffs, and then there’s the Buccaneers, who had famed 2015 No. 1 pick and National Champion Jameis Winston at QB, and despite some up-and-down seasons from him, the team hadn’t gone to the playoffs since 2007. However, since Newton and Ryan’s Super Bowl chokes, Brees and the Saints have built themselves through the NFL Draft, Ryan and the Falcons cannot get over their 28-3 blown lead in Super Bowl LI, Newton is being scapegoated for getting injured in one of the most dangerous sports in the world, and Winston throws nearly as many interceptions as he does touchdowns. Newton and Winston are currently free agents, and have been replaced by Teddy Bridgewater, and Tom Brady, the Greatest of All-Time. So now, the ship is re-written, with the NFC South back to being elite and QB-driven, but these weren’t the only big moves in the division:

Tom Brady Chooses the Florida Beaches

Let’s start with the obvious: Tom Brady. If it wasn’t for the Coronavirus pandemic, the Buccaneer’s signing of the six-time superbowl winning quarterback would be the top headline across the United States. Tom Brady joined the NFL in the year 2000, where he won six Super Bowls, nine AFC Championships, and 17 Division Titles with the New England Patriots. But now, in the year 2020, in one of the craziest offseasons in as long as I can remember, Tom Brady is leaving the team he played on for almost half of his life. Even though it is still months before the regular season’s start, no one can tell if this move was worth it for Tom Terrific. On March 16th, when free agency opened its door, several teams were in the bidding race for Brady, including the Patriots (of course!), Titans, Chargers, Broncos, Raiders, and Buccaneers. But on March 20th, Tom Brady officially signed a 2 year contract with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. His new contract in Tampa guaranteed a $50 Million deal, also included with $9 Million in incentives. But the most interesting part of Brady’s new contract with the Bucs is the prohibited clause. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are not allowed to use their franchise tag or trade Tom Brady while he is under that same contract. 

So, why did Tom Brady join the Tampa Bay Buccaneers? It obviously wasn’t for the money because other teams were offering Brady $30 Million per year or more. I think, and I’m going to go on a limb here and state that Tom Brady joined the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for his fit on the team, and the elite group of receivers the Buccaneers possess. The Buccaneers are home to two of the most explosive, elusive wide receivers in the game today: Mike Evans and Chris Godwin. Last season, the previous starting quarterback, Jameis Winston, threw for an astounding 5,109 yards with those two firing on all cannons on the offense. Now imagine what would happen if you were to take a league average Jameis Winston out of the center and replace him with arguably the greatest quarterback of all time. What are the odds Tom Brady and the Buccaneers don’t do something special next season? Tom Brady finally got his A grade receivers for the first time since he had prime Wes Welker, his top 10 offensive line, and a team more younger and healthier, something he never got on the Patriots. If the Buccaneers and Brady don’t make a run for the playoffs next season, I wouldn’t even know what to tell you.

Todd Gurley Goes Back to Georgia

Just two years ago, Todd Gurley was named the NFL’s Offensive Player of the Year after having over 2,000 yards from scrimmage and 19 total touchdowns. That season was the best season of his career and the Sean McVay Rams offense looked like it was going to be dominant for years to come, despite an early Wild Card loss to the Atlanta Falcons. In 2018, Gurley had over 1,800 scrimmage yards and 21 total touchdowns, and this time, led his team to the Super Bowl, where he and the offense could get nothing going, getting embarrassed and putting up just 3 points total. Going into that game, however, the big storyline was that Gurley had some knee issues which slowed him down a bit in the playoffs, but mainly in the Super Bowl, where Super Bowl 50 hero CJ Anderson took the majority of the carries at Running Back. Just a month after the Super Bowl loss, Gurley was told by doctors that he had arthritis in his right knee. Gurley got surgery, yet the ‘arthritic component’ to the knee injury still remained, meaning that the arthritis could cause him to be injured yet again. Gurley went into the 2019 season with the possibility of being benched for guys like Malcolm Brown or Darrell Henderson, and there was even trade talk during the season. Gurley finished with career lows in carries and yardage, but was still 5th in the league in touchdowns. The lack of carries and yardage played a big role in the Rams lack of success this past season, going 9-7 and missing the playoffs. 

However, despite the rough year and the arthritis issue still looming, Gurley still is amongst the top in the league in terms of carries, yards, and touchdowns for running backs since he was drafted in 2015. The part that is hard to put together about him getting released is the fact that he produced great stats even with the injury scares and such, and even in his down year, it was his team that lost faith in his ability, as he just simply did not get the ball enough. 24 hours after being released, Gurley signed with the Atlanta Falcons for a 1-year prove-it deal, but I expect this to become long-term and a lethal combination for years to come, with Gurley being the clear favorite in the backfield, and QB Matt Ryan and WRs Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley. Gurley now has the best offensive line he has had since 2018, has an offense that is Super Bowl-caliber when healthy, and is very balanced. Expect Head Coach Dan Quinn to have the offense run through him early on in the season, and Gurley to just cruise to another great season from there.

Teddy Bridgewater is Officially a Starting QB Again

580 miles north of Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, the Panthers in Charlotte have also grabbed a new franchise quarterback, at least for the next three years. Teddy Bridgewater, star on the Minnesota Vikings (before his devastating injury), and savior on the New Orleans Saints, just signed a three year, $63 Million deal with the Carolina Panthers. The deal included a signing bonus of $15 Million and a number of incentives sprinkled in. Teddy Bridgewater just got his bag in Charlotte, but that means the exit for one the best quarterbacks in the NFC South, Cam Newton, who has been on the decline the last few years with the Panthers. I love Teddy Bridgewater’s new signing with the Carolina Panthers, but something feels wrong for me. The Carolina Panthers are not exactly the New Orleans Saints or Minnesota Vikings, both teams with one of the biggest and loudest fan bases in the country. And the way Teddy has moved throughout his NFL career, he has thrived on loving fanbases, something I feel Carolina won’t give him immediately. 

Teddy Bridgewater is also the man under center for one of the few teams in the NFL, where the fanbase believes a running back, in this case Christian McCaffrey for the Panthers, can lead their team to success. Bridgewater needs to “bridge” a great relationship with CMC off and on the field, because a great tandem of players in the backfield would really help the Panthers move ahead in an already stacked NFC South. Bridgewater also has great depth and deep threats through receivers DJ Moore, Curtis Samuel, and newly signed Robby Anderson (wideout who played for the Jets last season). With an offense possessing the ability to do really great next year, only time will tell for Bridgewater. A strong start to the season and no injuries will propel Teddy Bridgewater into the limelight with his new Carolina Panthers. 

Emmanuel Sanders Tries to Go for 4 Super Bowls with 4 Teams

As seen by the headline, Emmanuel Sanders has the chance to go to his 4th Super Bowl and for his 4th NFL team, something that no NFL player has ever done. Sanders’ career resume is one of the most consistent you will ever see in terms of stats, but he has not had his chance to shine ever since Peyton Manning retired from the NFL in 2016, leaving the Broncos with limited talent at the quarterback spot, hindering Sanders the most. Despite all of that, Sanders gave it his all in Denver for the next 3 seasons, before getting traded midseason this year to the San Francisco 49ers, who were 7-0 at the time, and eventually became the NFC Champions, and if Jimmy Garoppolo did not overthrow him in the 4th quarter of the Super Bowl, he probably would have won a Super Bowl with them, and stayed with the 49ers.

The move to go to New Orleans was a rather shocking one by Sanders. Many believed he would go to Dallas or Washington, the teams that showed lots of interest in him and needed a veteran presence at the wide receiver position, and were pass-happy offenses. But Sanders instead went to the most pass-happy offense in the NFL in New Orleans, and he has the chance to play with Drew Brees, the 3rd quarterback that will be a future-Hall of Famer throwing the ball to him. Much like in Pittsburgh and Denver, Sanders will play second fiddle behind Michael Thomas, as he was behind Mike Wallace and Demariyus Thomas in Pittsburgh and Denver. That being said, Brees now has Thomas, Sanders, Jared Cook, Tre’Quan Smith, and Alvin Kamara as his targets, which presents the scariest core of receivers in that department. With Sanders now in the mix, the Saints receivers have the edge over teams like the Buccaneers, but the big question will be, can Brees outplay Brady, and can he keep the Saints as not only NFC South favorites, but Super Bowl favorites? Sanders will play a huge role in deciding that, and consider his luck in the NFL, he will probably go to a Super Bowl as a Saint as well.

TB12 to TB: How Brady’s Move Down South Affects His Legacy

Tom Brady might not have shocked the world by saying he was leaving the New England Patriots just two days back, but if you said that to me after he signed a 2-year, $41 million extension in 2016 after a season where Brady was one drive away from yet another Super Bowl appearance, I would have said you were crazy. If you said that his destination would be Tampa Bay, I would think you were even crazier. Either way, Brady in 2020, did just that, but he earned that right. Since that extension, Brady went to 3 Super Bowls in 4 years, and won 2 of them. Though he just left New England, here’s when the dominos started to fall, which led to the door opening for Brady to leave:

The First Fallen Domino: Jimmy G

Through all that, he endured the Deflategate suspension, nagging injuries to guys like Rob Gronkowski and Julian Edelman, a new face in town in Jimmy Garoppolo, whom coach Bill Belichick loved, and much more. Keep that name in mind, however. A guy who was drafted in the second round in 2014 by New England after having won another Super Bowl, their first in 10 years. When Brady accepted his 4-game suspension in 2016, however, Belichick put in Jimmy G, who won his first 2 games, and then led the Pats to a third straight win before getting hurt and handing the ball over to rookie QB in Jacoby Brissett. But Belichick seemed to have fallen in love with Jimmy G and found his successor to Brady. Brady felt disrespected, and it fueled him to win another Super Bowl, in the infamous 28-3 blown lead by the Atlanta Falcons.

The Second Fallen Domino: The Unsung Hero, Danny Amendola

I wrote back after Super Bowl LII that New England’s demise had begun, as Brady had lost to backup QB Nick Foles and the Philadelphia Eagles in what is, in my opinion, the best Super Bowl I have ever seen. That offseason, he ended up losing receivers Danny Amendola and Brandin Cooks in free agency. The big name here is Amendola. Amendola for years had been the ‘third guy’ behind Rob Gronkowski and Julian Edelman, but he may have been the unsung hero for Tom Brady and the Patriots. Through the Super Bowl runs where New England beat Seattle and Atlanta, and lost to Philadelphia in an epic, Amendola was the one whom Brady used to always find in the clutch, his ‘Ol’ Reliable’, per se.

To me, I thought New England made the mistake of letting Amendola go instead of Julian Edelman or Chris Hogan because Amendola was a guy Brady counted on and was close with on and off the field. Amendola seemed to be the guy that would make the big catches and touchdowns in 4thquarters of close ballgames, most notably his game-winning touchdown catch against Jacksonville in the AFC Championship Game in 2017 to save Brady from being beaten by… Blake Bortles. Funny, right? Amendola wound up going to Miami, then Detroit with former Pats Defensive Coordinator Matt Patricia, and he’s still there now. Looking back on the past two years, however, and seeing how the offense played, Brady could have used Amendola in many clutch moments.

The Third Fallen Domino: Antonio Brown

I understand what Bill Belichick was thinking back in October 2018 when Antonio Brown got released. Great player, but we need to know if this guy is well-minded. The last thing Belichick wanted was to get a guy on his team that would be a distraction to the team, like Aaron Hernandez. At the time, AB had been lashing out many times on social media, such as with his former teammates in Pittsburgh, and at that time, when he hired marketing agents to get himself off the Oakland Raiders. Safe to say that Belichick doesn’t normally think players like AB would fit in ‘The Patriot Way’, but somehow, he signed him. AB lasted 11 days on the team before getting released again after sexual assault allegations (which had been going on when Belichick signed him).

But Brady grew a chemistry with AB in the short time. While the stats did not show it, their love on Twitter certainly has, when Brady showed respect for AB even after his departure from New England, and even now, with Brady now in Tampa, Antonio Brown still shows up on Brady’s radar. But this was where it all fell down for Brady in New England. Brady was not happy that a guy with the talent of AB was released, but by ‘The Patriot Way’, he was not the right guy. But with Gronkowski retired and AB gone (along with Chris Hogan gone in free agency and Demariyus Thomas traded midseason), Brady just had Edelman and James White to rely on. Those guys did not stay relatively healthy, the offensive line Brady relied on got hurt as well, and Brady wilted under the pressure a bit after the 8-0 start. He had a great last season in New England, but the team had no pieces around him to keep him from leaving.

So, Tampa is Home. Now What?

Well the legacy of Brady does not require him to win a Super Bowl necessarily. Like LeBron James when he went to the LA Lakers, Brady is putting himself in the toughest position possible, going into an NFC South division with Super Bowl contenders like the New Orleans Saints, who by the way, are led by Drew Brees, a top 5 QB of all-time, an Atlanta Falcons team that just signed Todd Gurley, and a young Carolina Panthers team. Brady easily just put himself in the most stacked division in the NFL, and with the new 14-team playoff (so 7 per conference), all 4 of these teams can be playoff and Super Bowl contenders in Brady’s way. Not to mention that the NFC also has Aaron Rodgers, another top 5 QB of all-time, a near-MVP in Carson Wentz, and the defending NFC Champs in San Francisco. (Side Note: My top 5 All-Time QBs are: Brady, Joe Montana, Peyton Manning, Steve Young, Drew Brees). Brady is definitely not expected to win a Super Bowl, but as a 43-year old who has shown he can still win 10+ games every year and win Super Bowls, the expectations are high. Brady will probably have to at least get Tampa Bay to the playoffs, something they haven’t done since ’07, and then a playoff win (or more). This is a team that before Brady never had hope, but he brings it. Fans are already flocking to get season tickets, players want to play for Tampa, life is good in Tampa right now. I mean, warm weather, a stadium with a pirate ship, and Tom Brady, what more do you need?

To me, Tampa can contend for a Super Bowl with Mike Evans and Chris Godwin as Brady’s weapons, his best since he had Randy Moss and Wes Welker, but the task is rather daunting. It’s hard to keep expectations low with Tom Brady, so I believe that he probably will take Tampa to at least one NFC Championship Game throughout his current contract (he signed a 2-year deal for $50M, fully guaranteed, with $9M available in incentives) to keep his legacy cemented as it is right now, which is as the Greatest of All-Time.