The unofficial start of free agency is just around the corner, with the legal tampering period beginning today. This offseason is sure to be filled with one-year prove it deals for many different reasons, which could shape how the free agent market plays out. The obvious issue is that the coronavirus pandemic makes it harder for teams to bring players in for visits, which could be a huge detriment in a team’s pursuit of a player. The salary cap has also decreased, meaning players could look to sign a deal that would make them a free agent again next season when the salary cap is expected to rebound. It’ll be a much different offseason than the NFL is accustomed to, but it should still bring the same excitement. Let’s run through some of the big names in free agency, and predict where they will end up.
OG, Joe Thuney – Signs a four-year, $59 million dollar deal with the Cincinnati Bengals
Protecting QB Joe Burrow is a priority for the Bengals, and bringing in Thuney would allow them to do just that. With the Bengals having over $40 million in cap space, giving Thuney this huge deal makes sense as they try to protect their franchise QB after he suffered a torn ACL last season.
OT, Trent Williams – Resigns with San Francisco 49ers for three-years, $70 million dollars
After sitting out all of the 2019 season, Williams returned back to his high level of play this past season with the 49ers, and he has said he wants to stay in San Francisco. Both sides seem interested in a reunion, and end up reaching a deal that pays Williams handsomely.
DE, Melvin Ingram III – Signs a two-year, $20 million dollar deal with the Las Vegas Raiders
This signing just makes too much sense for it to not happen. Gus Bradley is the new Defensive Coordinator for the Raiders, and has previously worked with Ingram when both were with the Chargers. Ingram has also been spending time in Las Vegas before free agency, which could imply a visit between both sides is imminent. The Raiders need pass rush help, and Ingram can provide that while also serving as a mentor on the Raiders d-line.
OLB, Shaq Barrett – Resigns with Tampa Bay Buccaneers for four-years, $79 million dollars
Once again, Tom Brady takes a pay cut for his team to be able to resign players like Shaq Barrett. The only difference is that this time it’s not for the New England Patriots. Barrett was one of the best pass rushers in the league last season for the Bucs, and Tampa Bay realizes it. Both sides seem interested in running it back, and they eventually will reach a deal.
TE, Hunter Henry – Resigns with Los Angeles Chargers for four-years, $46 million dollars
There has been much speculation that Henry would be a good fit with the New England Patriots after he was seen talking with their head coach, Bill Belichick, after their game this past season. However, Henry has said he wants to play with a good QB wherever he ends up, and depending on how you view Cam Newton, that may not be something the Patriots can offer him. Henry has built a good rapport with Chargers QB Justin Herbert, which could be a deciding factor for the young tight end. By resigning with the Chargers, Henry would get the financial security he was looking for, along with the solid play of Herbert under center.
TE, Jonnu Smith – Signs a four-year, $43 million dollar deal with the New England Patriots
Ever since Rob Gronkowski first retired, the Patriots have been struggling to find a reliable tight end to replace him, and it has impacted their offense significantly. Jonnu Smith provides as a receiver and a blocker, which is something that Belichick loves about tight ends. Smith is also more athletic than your average tight end, and is only 25 years-old. New England will use their ample cap space to find their next starting tight end.
S, Anthony Harris – Signs a two-year, $13 million dollar deal with the Cleveland Browns
Before being franchise tagged by the Minnesota Vikings last offseason, the Browns were rumored to be heavily interested in the sixth-year safety out of Virginia. With Harris being allowed to test free agency, the Browns will pounce and bolster their secondary by locking up Harris to a two year deal.
CB, Casey Hayward – Signs a one-year, $8 million dollar deal with the Las Vegas Raiders
Heyward has played in Gus Bradley’s system for the past four seasons, and has thrived during that time. So why not reunite the two in Las Vegas, as the Raiders look to improve their defense. Heyward would add a solid veteran presence to a younger Raiders secondary, while also potentially hitting the free agent market again next offseason.
S, John Johnson III – Signs a four-year, $54 million dollar deal with the Las Vegas Raiders
Raiders GM Mike Mayock and Johnson are both alumni of Boston College, and have had past interactions that have created a relationship between the two. With the Rams currently stuck in salary cap hell, there’s little chance of them bringing back Johnson. Combine that with Mayock’s relationship to Johnson, and that should help the Raiders land the highly desired safety in free agency.
OLB, Matthew Judon – Signs a four-year, $66 million dollar deal with the Jacksonville Jaguars
If Urban Meyer wants to get his rebuild in Jacksonville off to a good start, he has to add more pass rushers alongside Josh Allen. Matthew Judon would provide just that and more, by mentoring their younger pass rushers like Allen and K’Lavon Chaisson.
OLB, Haason Reddick – Signs a three-year, $45 million dollar deal with the Carolina Panthers
When Reddick was in college at Temple, his head coach was Matt Rhule, who is currently the head coach of the Carolina Panthers. A reunion makes perfect sense for both sides, as the Panthers need to add pass rushers to help Brian Burns at defensive end, and Reddick gets paid like the premier pass rusher he is.
DE/OLB, Yannick Ngakoue – Signs a one-year, $12 million dollar deal with the Cleveland Browns
The Browns are rumored to be highly interested in Ngakoue and have tried to acquire him numerous times in the past, but were unsuccessful. Now they will be able to bring him in, and give Myles Garrett a pass rushing partner.
DE, Carl Lawson – Signs a four-year, $58 million dollar deal with the Miami Dolphins
After trading Shaq Lawson (no relation to Carl) to the Houston Texans on Sunday, it became obvious that the Dolphins were going to look to add a edge rushers in free agency. Lawson has untapped potential, posting 5.5 sacks with the Bengals last season, and will hopefully be able to improve upon that in a Brian Flores’ led defense.
OLB, Bud Dupree – Signs three-year, $46 million dollar deal with the Las Vegas Raiders
Ever since trading Khalil Mack to the Chicago Bears, the Raiders have struggled to find a replacement for their elite pass rusher. Despite coming off a torn ACL, Bud Dupree has elite pass rusher traits that will help turn around this Raiders defense for years to come.
WR, Will Fuller – Signs a one-year, $14.5 million dollar deal with the New York Jets
Will Fuller is going to be suspended for the first six games next season, and with a lowered salary cap, it would be best for Fuller to only sign a one-year deal this offseason. By doing this, Fuller would be counting on himself to show out in the games he plays in next season in order to cash out big time come next offseason.
CB, Mike Hilton – Signs a four-year, $31.4 million dollar deal with the Atlanta Falcons
The Falcons’ secondary has struggled in recent years, and Hilton has developed into a solid cornerback after going undrafted and bouncing around the league for a few seasons. Hilton is one of the best slot corners in the league, which should help the Falcons begin to improve a secondary unit that is in dire need of help.
C, Corey Linsley – Signs a three-year, $41.5 million dollar deal with the Arizona Cardinals
Improving the offensive line for Kyler Murray is a must for the Cardinals if they want to take that next step up and become serious contenders. Linsley is one of the best centers in the league currently, and will get paid as such.
WR, Corey Davis – Signs a two-year, $21 million dollar deal with the Baltimore Ravens
The Ravens are in need of more receivers after their offense struggled at times this past season. After having a breakout season last year with the Titans, Davis is able to cash in on a two-year deal that will allow him to hit the market again once the salary cap bounces back.
WR, Kenny Golladay – Signs a four-year, $70 million dollar deal with the New England Patriots
The Patriots struggled immensely with getting production from their receivers last season, and by signing Golladay, they will begin to get rid of that problem. Golladay, when healthy, is one of the league most dynamic receivers and will look to continue that in New England.
WR, Curtis Samuel – Signs a four-year, $50 million dollar deal with the Jacksonville Jaguars
Curtis Samuel will once again pair up with his former college head coach, Urban Meyer, who was able to use Samuel so dynamically back in his college days. Samuel was a swiss-army knife while at Ohio State, and even showed brief glimpses of that during his time in Carolina. Look for Meyer to get the best out of Samuel in Jacksonville with expected number 1 overall pick Trevor Lawrence.
DE, Trey Hendrickson – Signs a one-year, $7 million dollar deal with the Detroit Lions
Lions Head Coach Dan Campbell and Defensive Coordinator Aaron Glenn are familiar with Hendrickson after just coming over from the Saints this offseason. This deal will give Hendrickson a prove it deal and let him hit the market again next offseason.
CB, Shaquill Griffin – Signs a one-year, $11 million dollar deal with the Indianapolis Colts
With Xavier Rhodes most likely departing from Indianapolis, the Colts will be able to get younger, and arguably better at the cornerback position. Griffin is young, still being only 25, and still has room to improve, but will have to prove it on the one-year deal.
CB, William Jackson III – Signs a one-year, $12.5 million dollar deal with the Jacksonville Jaguars
The Jaguars lack cornerback depth, and by signing a guy like William Jackson they will be able to improve that area quickly. Jackson III has past injury history, and this deal will allow both him and the team to get a one year trial in hopes of getting a long-term deal done if deserving next offseason.
WR, JuJu Smith-Schuster – Signs a four-year, $64.6 million dollar deal with the New York Giants
JuJu will be able to go to a big market and team up with Saquon Barkley and Daniel Jones, while also getting paid a decent amount of money. Smith-Schuster will also be able to hit the market again at age 28, and can look to maximize his earnings in the process.
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