- Finding the perfect homes for the top 10 free agents hitting the market.
After a frantic end to the franchise tag period, we’ve arrived at free agency and it feels a little like shopping for a home after the spring market rush. There’s some nice stuff still out there, and it will absolutely cost a fistful of cash, but it may not be the dream place you’d envisioned when you started looking in the first place.
Jadeveon Clowney, DeMarcus Lawrence and Frank Clark are all off the market. Perhaps Dee Ford is available via trade, but teams without loads of cap space looking for talent are focused on the draft pool.
Removing the tagged players from the board, here are the 10 best players from Andy Benoit’s top 100 free agents list, and some guesses on where they’ll go once the legal tampering period opens next week.
1. Earl Thomas, S
Old team: Seahawks
Potential new team: 49ers or Cowboys
Some recent financial decisions have cooled the Thomas to Dallas rumor mill. While he could take less to join what Jerry Jones hopes is a superteam capable of making a deep run into the playoffs, it may not be a wise business decision for a player turning 30 in early May. The 49ers make sense in that they’re also an emerging team with a scheme rooted in the Seahawks’ defensive structure. Former Legion of Boom teammate Richard Sherman is also in tow to recruit.
There’s no question: Thomas would put the Cowboys over the top defensively, but unless Dak Prescott and Demarcus Lawrence somehow come in under budget (not likely) he could end up being a luxury the Cowboys cannot afford.
2. Landon Collins, S
Old team: Giants
Potential new team: Chiefs or Redskins
Collins was drafted into a Steve Spagnuolo defense, and could be on his way there again. Kasas City tried to solidify its secondary by making a last-minute effort to secure a safety last year, and that need has not disappeared overnight. Collins is a good centerpiece player in free agency in that he fits two positions well and is physical enough to handle heavy run duty. David Merritt, Collins’s first position coach, is also with the Chiefs. Some other tentacles from that Giants staff lead to Cincinnati and Jacksonville, though it would be surprising to see them fishing in the big pond once free agency opens.
In Washington, they seem to be building on a staff that would like to utilize more versatile safety types like Collins, plus they have some cap room to play with and it’s never a bad thing to add a division rival with institutional knowledge to pass around.
3. Tevin Coleman, RB
Old team: Falcons
Potential new team: Jets, Colts, Ravens, Eagles or Raiders
The safer and cheaper alternative to Le’Veon Bell in this class, as Andy Benoit has discussed at length. Coleman’s market is going to be interesting in that there are more than a few teams willing to at least browse the high-end running back market. Whether a team has a second-year quarterback, or a quarterback that functions better off a play-action type running game, he is a quintessential runner who has the capability of taking over certain games, while also playing a valuable complementary role.
4. Trey Flowers, DL
Old team: Patriots
Potential new team: Dolphins
It wouldn’t be hard to believe Brian Flores wanting a familiar piece with him as he takes over a brand new defense. As most Belichick defectors are quick to point out, they do not want to replicate the demeanor and roster-building strategy of their former boss to exact specifications. But…if Flowers’s market cools thanks to a draft heavy on defensive talent, he could be too hard to pass up for his former defensive coordinator.
5. Le’Veon Bell, RB
Old team: Steelers
Potential new team: Jets, Ravens or Patriots
The Jets are viewed as the odds-on favorite, mostly because they have the spending money and the market Bell desires. I argued recently on the MMQB podcast that this deal either happens right away, or deeper into June after the draft is settled and rosters are finalized. Depending on what state of mind he’s in, Bell could take the most money, he could take the biggest workload in his old division (Baltimore would certainly make him a centerpiece of that offense) or he could take the opportunity to win a Super Bowl. Belichick’s infatuation with Bell is well known, as is Tom Brady’s affinity for backs who can make more out of short-yardage receiving situations.
6. C.J. Mosley, STACK LB
Old team: Ravens
Potential new team: Ravens, Dolphins, Chiefs or 49ers
While it makes sense to see him end up back in Baltimore, there are new coaches looking to establish a good defense from scratch, competitive teams looking to elevate their defenses and Super Bowl contenders who could offer a shot at the Lombardi Trophy in exchange for a shorter deal. This array of potential landing spots covers just about all of them.
7. K.J. Wright, LB
Old team: Seahawks
Potential new team: Seahawks, Buccaneers, 49ers or Raiders
Wright made it clear he’d prefer to stay in Seattle, and it’s hard to give up the type of field mate like Bobby Wagner. The temptation will be: Who out there is willing to throw money at a player who will turn 30 before training camp and missed 11 games last year?
8. Mitch Morse, C
Old team: Chiefs
Potential new team: Rams
While teams often don’t realize the importance of a heady center, they rarely spend at the top of the market for one. Not since Alex Mack went to Atlanta or Rodney Hudson went to Oakland, have we seen this much buzz over a center. The Rams make sense given that they’ve just let John Sullivan walk, and probably still view themselves as one or two players away from a Super Bowl.
9. Nick Foles, QB
Old team: Eagles
Potential new team: Jaguars
This one seems like a no brainer, even if, as we noted last week, it’s a calculated risk. With Josh Rosen potentially available, and Teddy Bridgewater commanding the lead in the bridge passer/high-upside category, Foles appeals to a very specific category of shopper: Teams who need to win right now, or else.
10. Anthony Barr, STACK LB
Old team: Vikings
Potential new team: Vikings, Browns, Patriots, 49ers or Raiders
For more on Anthony Barr, check out our free agency breakdown here. There isn’t much not to like out of a first-round pick who is still developing as a pass rusher, who can stay on the field for all downs and hang in coverage.
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