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

2019-20 NCAA College Football Playoff Semifinals Predictions

The New Year’s Eve fireworks will be arriving a little earlier this year, as the College Football Playoff Semifinals get set to kick off this Saturday. Clemson and Oklahoma return to the stage with Clemson being the defending champion, and Oklahoma returning for the 3rdconsecutive year. This year, however, LSU enters the playoff for the first time and dethrones their SEC counterpart in Alabama, and Ohio State returns to the place they thought they should have been last year. This year also features a new feat, where 3 transfer quarterbacks (Joe Burrow, who transferred from Ohio State to LSU; Jalen Hurts, who transferred from Alabama to Oklahoma; and Justin Fields, who transferred from Georgia to Ohio State), are leading their teams into the College Football Playoff. So, will it be a transfer quarterback leading their team to a championship, or will Trevor Lawrence lead Clemson to a repeat?

Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl: #4 Oklahoma vs. #1 LSU, 4PM EST, ESPN

The first game to kick off the playoff will be the battle of the Heisman winner and runner-up, Burrow and Hurts. This will be Hurts’ fourth time in the College Football Playoff (technically his third since he was backup and did not play last year, but it is his 4thsince he was with Alabama the past 3 years), with his 7thOffensive Coordinator (he had 5 different coordinators at Alabama and two Co-Offensive Coordinators at Oklahoma), coming off his third Conference Championship win. In terms of winning, overcoming adversity, and constantly playing the underdog role, Jalen Hurts might be the most decorated college football player ever. He is the true definition of a winner. While many scouts believe he is not the most NFL-ready QB, he certainly deserves the shot to be a starter on an NFL team come next season after he is drafted.

On the other side is Joe Burrow, Heisman-winning QB who has broken every SEC passing record in the book by a healthy margin, will be the #1 pick in the NFL Draft by the Cincinnati Bengals come April, and will lead the heavily-favored LSU into the Peach Bowl as the #1 team in the country. But things didn’t come that easy for Burrow. Burrow in 2017 was part of the Ohio State College Football Playoff team, where he played backup behind JT Barrett and Dwayne Haskins. At the time, not many people knew who he was, as he was a 3rd-string QB who had been redshirted. In 2018, Ohio State looked to life after Barrett, and then-Head Coach Urban Meyer, chose Dwayne Haskins well before the season began, leading Burrow to go into the transfer process, where LSU Head Coach Ed Orgeron, served him to a lobster dinner and got him. Burrow last season led a struggling LSU offense that could barely put up 27 points in a game. This year, under new Offensive Coordinator Joe Barry, he leads the nation’s #1 offense, and has two 1,000+ yard receivers to throw to in JaMarr Chase and Justin Jefferson, and a 1,000+ rusher in Clyde-Edwards Helaire (whom he may not have on Saturday due to injury). The transcendence of Burrow has been one of the most unexpected, but the story is incredible.

Now, to the game. Oklahoma’s wide receiving core, led by CeeDee Lamb, who is regarded by many including me as the best receiver in college football and the upcoming NFL Draft, will cause problems for Derek Stingley and Grant Delpit, the best cornerback and safety in the country, respectively. His speed and quickness is almost Tyreek Hill-like, as he has the ability to take any pass to the house. The problem here for Oklahoma’s offense come with the running backs, who will be led by redshirt sophomore Kennedy Brooks. Brooks is getting the starting nod after Trey Sermon had a season-ending injury midseason against Iowa State, and after Rhamandore Stevenson was one of 3 Sooners players suspended for failed drug tests. Brooks is a great back, but not good enough to lead an already-fringe running game. Hurts will be required to put his head down and run with the ball himself quite a bit, which, as great of a runner as he is, is exactly what LSU wants, is for their linebackers to stop the run and not have to worry about helping out too much in the passing game.

For LSU, the running game will most likely feature Edwards-Helaire (according to Coach O), but even if they don’t have him available, the three backup running backs have had healthy doses of experience in the offense this season and have been very effective in scoring touchdowns, with 9 TDs between the 3 of them. As far as defenses, don’t expect too much of it, this will be a high-scoring game. But as I said earlier, the lack of ability to keep pace could haunt them, much it did for Oklahoma the past few years. Oklahoma is too thin in the run game, and does not have enough talent in the secondary to stop the core of Chase, Jefferson, Thaddeus Moss, and Terrace Marshall. Prediction: 49-41, LSU

Playstation Fiesta Bowl: #3 Clemson vs. #2 Ohio State, 8PM ET, ESPN

The defending champion Clemson Tigers find themselves playing in a playoff game rematch once again, but not against Alabama this time. Clemson instead is squaring off against Ohio State this year, the team with the nation’s best defense and best defensive player in Chase Young. Clemson has been decimated by the media the entire year for having an incredibly weak schedule for an elite Power 5 conference team, yet that criticism hasn’t slowed them down one bit. Coach Dabo Swinney has kept his mouth out of the media trap and instead focused on the field and players and looks to go for back-to-back 15-0 seasons. Trevor Lawrence has had a down year but really picked up last year’s form towards the end of the season, Travis Etienne keeps showing why he could be the best running back in the 2020 NFL Draft, and the Brett Venables-led defense keeps feasting on opposing offenses.

Ohio State, on the other hand, has been Top 2 in the rankings ever since they went into Madison, Wisconsin and won 48-0 on Saturday Night Football back in October. Their electric defense has helped them sport a ball-control oriented offense that is run-first behind JK Dobbins and then uses a lot of 5-wide Spread to pass the ball out of with Justin Fields, a transfer QB from Georgia (Georgia is probably regretting benching him for Jake Fromm, which prompted Fields’ transfer request). Speaking of Fields, another Heisman finalist who has defied odds, he is coming into this game nursing a knee injury he suffered against Michigan back at the end of November, and it hasn’t shown too much improvement since. Fields had a great one-legged performance in the B1G Championship Game against Wisconsin in their 14-point comeback win, however, and despite the knee, looked good for most of the game. Much like in that game, Ohio State will use Dobbins on early downs, and then look towards their Fields and their receivers, such as KJ Hill Jr. and Chris Olave to make plays downfield.

This game comes down to running back play, Dobbins vs. Etienne. Whichever team can control the line of scrimmage better in this one will win the game, as ball control and clock management will be vital. Clemson often goes for this approach in semifinal games, and. Ohio State will need to use this in order to keep Fields healthy, because unlike in 2017, they do not have a Jalen Hurts or Joe Burrow-type guy on their bench that can come in and perform on the big stage. While on paper this matchup would favor Clemson, the Chase Young-led pass rush might be too much for Lawrence and could force him into throwing interceptions, something he has done often this season compared to last. Predcition: 34-31, Ohio State

2019 NFL Midseason Predictions

The first half of the NFL season has presented us with many surprises, and a surge of a new generation of NFL talent. The San Francisco 49ers remain the only undefeated team in the NFL currently, the Cincinnati Bengals remain the only winless team, and players like Christian McCaffrey are taking over the league and putting on an MVP-worthy performance. Here is what has happened this season, and what will continue throughout the season.

The Panthers are 5-3 Without Cam Newton, and Will Make the Playoffs

Currently, the Panthers are on the outside looking in as the 8-seed in the NFC and 2ndin the NFC South, but their 5-3 record, Christian McCaffrey’s video-game numbers, and the new-look defense has put them in a position to compete with Kyle Allen, not Cam Newton, at quarterback. Allen, who took over for the now-on-IR Newton in Week 3, has gone 5-1 as the starter, losing only to the undefeated 49ers. Allen hasn’t done anything out of the ordinary, just played mistake-free, smart football that has kept his team in a position to win. Sure, they have 2 dates with New Orleans, a home game against Seattle, and tough road games against Green Bay and Indianapolis, they should be able to win the home games, Indianapolis, and potentially one game against New Orleans to go at least 9-7, and considering how teams like the Eagles, Vikings, and Rams have struggled this season, Carolina should be able to get the 6-seed in the NFC.

Like I Predicted in Preseason, Aaron Rodgers Will Be the MVP

Aaron Rodgers got off to, well, a sluggish start in the new Matt LeFleur offense, but Green Bay’s defense stepped up big. Then, Rodgers said that the offense needed to ‘step it up’, and A-Rod and the Pack offense has not looked back since. Currently standing at 6-2 and the 3-seed in the NFC, they will be one of the top NFC Super Bowl contenders along with the Saints. Rodgers is currently 5thin passing yards and 4thin passing TDs, is among the top of the MVP race along with Russell Wilson and Christian McCaffrey, and if he keeps this pace up, he can outpace Wilson in the MVP race and get his 2ndNFL MVP award.

Lamar Jackson Proved Everyone Wrong… and He Won’t Stop Anytime Soon

Lamar Jackson was critiqued by Bill Polian before last year’s NFL draft and was told to convert to Wide Receiver. Jackson was drafted in the first round as a QB by the Ravens and guaranteed that they would get a Super Bowl out of him. He eventually took the starting job from Joe Flacco and led the Ravens to the playoffs. This season, Lamar has been able to use his arm along with his legs and become an elite QB. Last Sunday, he beat the record-setting Patriots defense and the GOAT Tom Brady to end their undefeated season up to that point. Now, he put the Ravens in position to potentially go to the Super Bowl, currently leading the Ravens to the 2-seed in the AFC, good enough for a first-round bye and homefield in the AFC Divisional Round. Expect Lamar to keep playing the way he always does, prove people wrong, and keep winning.

The Eagles Need to Sign Either Dez Bryant or Antonio Brown

So, yeah, Philadelphia, the Super Bowl 52 Champions, have changed a lot roster-wise since then. They have lost LeGarrette Blount and Jay Ajayi, Torrey Smith, Trey Burton, a plethora of signings that have not worked out, such as DeSean Jackson and Zach Brown, and many underperforming players, such as Nelson Agholor, Zach Ertz, and just about everyone on defense. Oh, and they lost their savior Nick Foles, but everyone knew Wentz would be starting either way. Anyways, the Eagles have lost many games this season due to their poor receiver play, most notably Agholor. Wentz has been let down by receivers dropping passes than I could catch, and has lost many winnable games because of it, like the game at Atlanta where Agholor dropped the ball, the game at home against Detroit where rookie JJ Arcega-Whiteside dropped a wide-open TD. The other games they lost, being to Dallas and Minnesota on the road, they’ve simply been blown out due to poor overall team play. If Philadelphia really wants to compete and be the Super Bowl-contending team they once were, they NEED to sign a big-name wide receiver. They missed out on Josh Gordon, as he went to Seattle to join Russell Wilson and his already-stacked WR core, so now that leaves them with Dez Bryant, who tweeted today that he is ready to reach out to teams soon, and of course, the drama-king of the NFL, Antonio Brown. While both risky due to character issues and health, either would be an immediate impact to a team that desperately needs hands. With AB, the Eagles can challenge Green Bay, Seattle and New Orleans, and with Bryant, they can at least win the NFC East if not contend with Green Bay, Seattle and New Orleans. Whoever they decide out of these two, they need to sign one of these in order to be a legit contender.

My Saints-Chiefs Super Bowl Prediction Remains the Same

I still see these two teams meeting in the Super Bowl. In the AFC, do I think that the Ravens are ready? Not yet, simply because the defense has been suspect for the majority of the season. Does New England beat Kansas City in the playoffs again, if they meet up? No because the offense isn’t at the point where they can keep up with Kansas City. Their inconsistency in the run game will outweigh the consistency of Julian Edelman, James White, and Mohamed Sanu’s production. In the NFC, is Green Bay good enough on defense to sustain the play of A-Rod and the offense? To me, this is the very-early frontrunner to win next year’s Super Bowl, but not this year. Seattle lies in the same realm, with their defense not being able to get to the level of Wilson and the offense. The Saints and Chiefs have complete rosters, and defenses good enough to meet the level of the offense and keep them in it. Kansas City has dropped games this year due to Mahomes playing through injury and not because they have regressed as a team. If anything, they are probably better, especially with their run game, and New Orleans, the NFL’s most complete team currently, just has everything you want in a team, with their next-man-up mentality, going 5-0 with Teddy Bridgewater replacing the injured Drew Brees and Latavius Murray replacing the injured Alvin Kamara, and their big-play ability on defense as well. So, expect some fireworks in Miami on February, and expect the Saints to take home the Lombardi.

The AFC Playoff Predictions: After Week 17

The AFC has had many surprises which you won’t even believe would have happened even before the season started. Here is what I think will happen after Week 17.

Number 1: Denver Broncos

The Denver Broncos are winners of 11 straight games. They are led by 4-time MVP Peyton Manning. Another key part of their success has been Eric Decker becoming Manning’s favorite target, and Von Miller and Co. getting some big stops on D. There is no one stopping ‘em now. Though, they will lose in the Divisional Round to the Colts 34-31.

Number 2: New England Patriots

The Patriots had a strong offseason after losing the Super Bowl, making Shane Vereen and Stevan Ridley great replacements for BenJarvus Green-Ellis. They also got former Pat Jabar Gaffney, and Brandon Lloyd, who have had great seasons. They will lose to the Colts in the Divisional Round 31-29.

Number 3: Houston Texans

Houston has had the best season ever as a team. Arian Foster has improved, and Matt Schaub has played better than ever. On the D, JJ Watt is having a MVP-caliber season. This combo of offense and defense has made the Texans the most dangerous team in the NFL. They will lose to the Bengals in the Wild Card Round 31-10.

Number 4: Baltimore Ravens

The Ravens were the number 2 seed, then lost to the Steelers in OT 23-20, and the Redskins in OT 31-28. Ray Lewis and Ed Reed are aging, and Lewis is injured. Terrell Suggs hasn’t been able to lead the team on a struggling D, though Haloti Ngata and Lardarius Webb is a shut-down corner. Joe Flacco has had an all-over-the-place-styled-season. Ray Rice had carried this team to some big wins early in the season. They will lose to the Colts in the Wild Card Round 44-20.

Number 5: Indianapolis Colts

Andrew Luck has made the Colts forget about Peyton Manning, and also, he is playing just like Manning, leading his team to huge come-from-behind wins in the 4th quarter. Rookie Wide Receivers T.Y. Hilton and Donnie Avery have had spectacular seasons. Reggie Wayne had been criticized and many said he was to old to lead the team and play as Andrew Luck’s go-to guy, though he changed that this season. Former Baltimore Ravens Defensive End Corey Redding was signed to a $10.5 million dollar contract, and Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis have had some great seasons leading this always-brilliant D. They will make it to the Super Bowl, though lose 38-26.

Number 6: Cincinnati Bengals

The Bengals were the 6th seed last year, and will repeat that same result. Andy Dalton, BenJarvus Green-Ellis, and AJ Green have had great seasons. They will lose in the Divisional Round to the Broncos 38-33.