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

NFL 2019 Season Predictions: Preseason Edition

The NFL preseason is just a few weeks away now and the NFL is now seemingly shifting towards a younger generation of talent. While the New England Patriots still reign supreme as the defending NFL Champions, teams like the Cleveland Browns, with Baker Mayfield, Odell Beckham Jr, and Jarvis Landry, the New Orleans Saints with Michael Thomas and Alvin Kamara helping out Drew Brees, the LA Chargers, with Keenan Allen and Melvin Gordon looking to help Philip Rivers get a ring before he retires, and of course the Kansas City Chiefs led by the most exciting player in football, Patrick Mahomes. Safe to say that New England will have more competition than they have had in years, but have other teams eclipsed them yet? Here are my predictions for the season (all these predictions are subject to change based on team health, performance, and other factors that can affect a team throughout the NFL season. These are just predictions are of today):

Aaron Rodgers Returns as the NFL’s Best QB & Wins MVP

Aaron Rodgers last season was said to have the ‘worst season of his career’, yet many do not realize that he had the second-most passing yards in a season in his illustrious career and threw just 2 interceptions. They let the lack of wins, good players around him, and his individual health overlook the greatness he achieved over the previous season. Now, I am not saying that it was one of his best years, but to say it was his worst is a bit overdramatic. Rodgers will have a new coach and system, a healthy receiving core, running back, and offensive line, and a much-improved defense to back him up. Expect him to rival Mahomes for the MVP.

The NFC East, NFC North, and AFC West Will Have Two Playoff Teams Each

These three divisions will come into the season with the most competition out of all of them. The NFC East and North have winners which are up in the air, unlike the AFC West which has Kansas City as the clear favorite. The NFC East has Philadelphia and a much-improved Redskins roster, as well as Dallas (assuming that they can figure out Ezekiel Elliott and Dak Prescott’s contract issues, which I will assume they do not, knowing the Cowboys). The NFC North features the best defense in the NFL in the Chicago Bears and a healthy and vamped-up Packers team, and those will be the teams that go on to the playoffs. However, unlike last year, Green Bay will take back the crown of NFC North champions.

As for the NFC East, I think Philadelphia, having a healthy roster and simpler offense to run around Carson Wentz in order to keep him healthy, similar to how they played with Nick Foles. Coach Doug Pederson knows that with the lack of playing time that Wentz has gotten late in seasons due to injury is because of the gameplan, and he will be able to change it. I think Washington will be the next team in from the NFC East. Rookie QB Dwayne Haskins is in a great position right now, good young receivers on offense, a steady running attack, which will help him as a scrambler, and one of the best defenses in the NFL (when healthy). So, Philadelphia might win the division, but Washington will be the wild-card sleeper in the playoffs that could pull off an upset or two.

Pittsburgh Will Be Better Without AB and Le’Veon

Last season, one of the most talented teams in the NFL was blown out of proportion by one player sitting out an entire season to “protect his body” for his impending free agency, and another player who decided that rather than care about winning and the team he played for, that he would instead only care for himself. These players were Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown, respectively. Now, while these are two top 5 players at their position, Pittsburgh also found themselves with two more players with top 5 potentials at their position in James Conner and JuJu Smith-Schuster. The Steelers also have a much more stout defense this year, and that coupled with no distractions should keep Pittsburgh in Super Bowl contention, although Cleveland will take the division.

While Mahomes May Not Win the MVP… The Chiefs Will Be in the Super Bowl

Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs were a non-offside call and a coin toss away from going to the Super Bowl instead of New England. However, New England won the toss, there was no offsides call, and New England scored a touchdown to end it. This year, Kansas City brings the same slew of weapons in Travis Kelce, Tyreek Hill, and Damien Williams, and a defense that looks like they can actually make some stops. They’ll win the AFC West handily, and should steamroll through the AFC Playoffs as well, leading them straight to the promise land where they will face…

The New Orleans Saints Will Be Kansas City’s Opponent

New Orleans also had their hearts ripped out of them during the NFC Championship Game when the most obvious defensive pass interference call was not called by the referees. Every single person in the stadium knew it was pass interference, including LA Rams CB Nickell Robey-Coleman, who got away with the call and even admitted after the game that he was “thankful” for the no-call. This year, however, New Orleans kept the core of their team together and is going to bring the same energy and extra motivation to win it all. The NFC South hasn’t improved enough to the point where New Orleans will have trouble there, and they are the deepest team in the NFC, so they should find a way to be in the Super Bowl. You know what they say, third times a charm. Expect them to get home-field advantage through the NFC, the best record in the NFL, and the ring. A game like this between 2 teams that are so explosive on offense, it comes down to who is the more complete defensive team, and that is clearly New Orleans.