The wild and crazy first tier of NFL free agency frenzy has come and gone. As is the case every year, we saw numerous players change teams. From superstars like Melvin Gordon and Todd Gurley, to potential breakout players in Cory Littleton and D.J Reader, and even Hall of Famers in Tom Brady and Phillip Rivers, tons of big names have switched locales in the last two plus weeks.
We also saw more than a few intriguing names stay with their current teams as well, as players like Ryan Tannenhill, Arik Armstead, and Amari Cooper, re-signed with Tennessee Titans, San Francisco 49ers, and Dallas Cowboys respectively, while guys like Dak Prescott, Derrick Henry, Chris Jones, Shaq Barrett, Hunter Henry, and Joe Thuney among others, were kept off the market via the franchise tag.
With the on going Covid-19 virus grabbing worldwide headlines, NFL free agency, has pretty much been the sole sports distraction we’ve had since the pandemic swept the globe. We here at Hot Sauce Sports offer you another reprieve during these challenging times, as we give our top 15 remaining NFL free agents, and where they should sign.
The first overall pick of the 2011 NFL Draft, is on the free agent market, after he was released by the Carolina Panthers on March 24th.
Only five years removed from being named the 2015 NFL MVP, and taking the Panthers to the Super Bowl, Newton, who has thrown for 182 touchdowns, and added another 58 on the ground, remains unsigned due to a long list of injuries, most notably, a Lisfranc injury that required surgery, and caused him to miss all but two games last season.
While injury concerns are legitimate for Newton, given the staggering amount of hits he has taken over his career, he has the most upside of anybody on the free agent market. When healthy, the Auburn product is capable of slicing up defenses with both his arm and feet. The three-time Pro Bowler, will also only turn 31 just after the NFL Draft, so besides some wear and tear, age shouldn’t be a factor. After saying goodbye to Tom Brady, and despite the team saying that they are willing to start the season with unproven second year Quarterback Jarrett Stidham as their starter, I think Newton signing with the Patriots, just makes too much sense. While. they don’t have much for weapons at Wide Receiver, with the exception of Julian Edelman, (that’s ironically one of the reasons Brady left) this year’s draft is loaded with quality pass-catchers. More importantly, last time I checked, New England still had a guy named Bill Belichick.
Without a doubt he is the best pass rusher on the market. Unfortunately for the first overall pick of the 2014 NFL Draft, Clowney, remains there, due to his reported asking price of $20 million per season.
In another one of Houston Texans General Manager Bill O‘Brien’s one-sided trades designed to cause every single one of the team’s fans to run for the hills, he traded Clowney, to the Seattle Seahawks, a week before the season started, for two backup players (one of them Barkevious Mingo, just signed with the Chicago Bears), and a 2020 third round pick.
In Seattle, the three-time Pro Bowler, had only three sacks, four forced fumbles, and 13 Quarterback hits, but he did have two defensive touchdowns, while he played the majority of the year with a core injury that caused him to miss three games.
Despite the low sack totals, he was still disruptive versus the run, and helped creative QB pressures and sacks for his teammates. Clowney, would still end up being voted to the 2020 Pro Bowl as an alternate. While re-signing with the Seahawks makes the most sense for both parties, going south to sign with the Tennessee Titans, to team with Kamalei Correra, Harold Landry lll, and the newly signed Vic Beasley Jr., could be the more logical move, as the franchise looks to close the gap between themselves and reigning Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs. Clowney, has reportedly lowered his contract demands from $20 million, to somewhere between $17-18 million per year. Let’s see if that will help.
The 32-year old hits the free agent market, after voiding the final year of his contract earlier this month, ending his nine year relationship with the Minnesota Vikings, who took him with the 100th pick of the 2010 NFL Draft.
In his last season in the Twin Cities, Griffen, registered eight sacks, and an interception. The Defensive End, was also voted to the Pro Bowl for the fourth time in his career. In need of some help at DE, Griffen, has been linked to the Seahawks, as it would reunite the former USC Trojan, with his college Head Coach, and current Seattle Seahawks Head Coach, Pete Carroll. If the reunion with Carroll doesn’t happen, a team like Philadelphia Eagles, who are looking to bolster their Defensive Line, would be a good landing spot, and would most likely cost Philly less than it would to trade for disgruntled Jacksonville Jaguars DE Yannick Ngakoue.
The thirty for thirty man himself. The turnovers were astounding, and history-making as Jameis Winston, became the first Quarterback in NFL history to throw 30 interceptions in one season. He also tossed a league record seven INTs that were returned for touchdowns.
On the flipside, the Florida State product, did throw 33 touchdown passes, which were the second highest in league, and led the NFL in yardage, with 5,109 yards.
There is no question that Winston has talent. It just the turnovers and decision making that are biggest reasons he remains unsigned. While being signed to be a team starter is most likely out of the question, the first overall pick of the 2014 NFL Draft, should look to sign somewhere as a high-end backup, on a team with either a top level Offensive Coordinator, a Head Coach with a history of leading an offense, or at the very least, a strong veteran QB for Winston to learn from. If one of those things is able to happen, perhaps we could be looking at the next Ryan Tannenhil. The Pittsburgh Steelers, who looked lost without future Hall-of-Famer Ben Roethlisberger, would be smart to Winston, instead of going into the 2020 season being one play away from having to rely on Mason Rudolph and Duck Hodges like they did last year.
As if being a starting Cornerback on two Super Bowl winning teams wasn’t enough, Logan Ryan, will also go down in NFL history, as the player who intercepted Tom Brady’s final pass as a New England Patriot.
Rubbing a little extra salt in the wound of New England fans, Ryan, ran the pick back nine yards for a touchdown, and helped eliminate his former team in this year’s Wild Card game between the Pats, and the Tennessee Titans.
One of the top slot corners in the league, Ryan, is coming off of a three-year deal for $30 million contract he signed with the Titans back in 2017.
The 29 year old Rutgers product, is reportedly looking for a new deal that will pay him at least the same $10 million a year deal he just had.
While he might not see that figure, there is no shortage of teams that could use his services, as he tallied four interceptions, 4.5 sacks, and four forced fumbles.
One team in particular that comes to mind, is the Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs, who lost their top slot defender in Kendall Fuller, to free agency.
Clay Matthews lll
While he has clearly lost a step from being a perennial Pro Bowler he was with the Green Bay Packers just a few seasons ago, with 91.5 career sacks, Clay Matthews, is still more than capable of getting after the Quarterback.
Last season, after signing with the Los Angeles Rams, Matthews, shone in tinsel town, as he recorded 10 sacks. Unfortunately, the USC product was released by the Rams in February, in a move that gave the franchise some much-needed salary cap relief. Ideally suited for a 3-4 defense, the soon to be 34-year old, would be a perfect fit for a team like the Baltimore Ravens or Tennessee Titans, where he could line up as an Edge Rusher.
Another possibility, would be going back home with the Packers, where he could move back to Middle Linebacker spot, he played during parts of his last few seasons in Green Bay.
Off the field, Reid, is leading the charge on getting the recently signed collective bargaining agreement between the NFL owners and NFL Players Association, torn up, and a revote held, after the deal was agreed upon on March 15th. According to Reid and his representatives, language in the aforementioned deal, was changed after the CBA, had already been agreed upon by the Player’s Association.
The last time Reid challenged the NFL, he forced the league to settle with him out of court, but it seemingly affected him on the field, as he went unsigned all the way until Week 4 of the 2018 season. On the field, Reid, has been a hammer on the back end of defenses first with the San Francisco 49ers, and for the last two seasons, with the Carolina Panthers. In 2019, the LSU product, finished first on the team in solo tackles with 97, tied for third in tackles for loss with seven, while adding four sacks.
Despite re-signing the Safety to a three-year extension last off-season, the Panthers released Reid, along with the number one player on the list, as they begin the Matt Rhule era with a rebuild. With the exception of Tyrann Mathieu, the Houston Texans, have had a revolving door at Strong Safety the last few years, as the likes of Tashaun Gibson Sr., Jahleel Addae, Mike Tyson, and Andre Hall, have started at the spot. This would be a good landing spot for both sides, as it would give the team some stability and an upgrade, and it would allow Eric to play with his younger brother Justin Reid, who is the team’s starting Free Safety, and is one of the league’s best young players at the position.
Yes, he is 38 years old, but the man is a potential future Hall-of-Famer. Jason Peters, is also a two-time All-Pro, and a 9-time Pro Bowler. While injury is always a concern for the veteran, he missed three games last year, and in the past, has suffered a ruptured Achilles, to go along with both a torn ACL and MCL.
When Peters is on the field however, he still has the ability to get it done, as evidenced by the fact that only allowed three sacks last season. With the Philadelphia Eagles electing to go with 2019 first round pick Andre Dillard as their new starting Left Tackle this coming season, Peters, is left looking for a new team.
Looking to show his versatility, the 15-year vet, recently he would be open to playing Right Tackle for a team this year if need be. The Eagles’ NFC East division rivals the Washington Redskins, currently have a whole at Left Tackle, with their current LT Trent Williams, refusing to play for the team and demanding a trade.
What better way to shore up the most important part of the Offensive Line, and stick it to a rival, than for Washington to sign Jason Peters?
Just like Tampa Bay Buccaneers Defensive End Shaq Barrett, Markus Golden, had a breakout year of his own. After producing 19 sacks in four seasons with the Arizona Cardinals, the Linebacker/Defensive End, signed a one-year deal with the New York Giants.
In his lone year in the Big Apple, the former Missouri Tiger, put up 10 sacks, a career-high 72 tackles, to go along with a defensive touchdown. Unlike the aforementioned Barrett, Golden, did not receive the franchise tag.
Although he suited up for all 16 games last year, injuries might be a concern, as Golden, missed a combined 17 games the previous two seasons due to an ankle injury, and a torn ACL.
Best used as an Edge Rusher in a 3-4 defense, Golden, would provide a huge boost to a number of teams.
I think the Ravens make the most sense. Last season they tried unsuccessfully to sign former fan-favorite and Edge Rusher Terrell Suggs, as they lacked depth behind Matt Judon, Tyus Bowser, and Jaylon Ferguson. This year the same problem remains, as the team basically has nothing behind those three players.
Coming off of a Super Bowl victory as a starting Cornerback for the Kansas City Chiefs, isn’t a bad way to hit the free market.
Bashaud Breeland, makes his second trip to the market in as many years, after signing a one year prove it deal with KC last season, after an injury filled 2018 campaign with the Green Bay Packers, that saw him only suit up in only seven games.
The gamble paid off for Breeland, as he provided solid coverage throughout the season, while also recording two interceptions, eight pass deflections, two fumble recoveries (one of which he returned for a touchdown), and an aforementioned Super Bowl ring. Still just 28 years old, the former Clemson Tiger, should still have a lot of tread remaining on his tires.
The Atlanta Falcons, who recently cut their number one Cornerback in Desmond Trufant, to create salary cap space, have virtually nothing at the position in terms of experience, would be wise to take a waiver on Breeland, if they can agree on a fair price.
Just like pass rushers, you can never have enough Cornerbacks. Prince Amukamara, isn’t just your run of the mill Defensive Back either. While he will never be looked at as a ball hawk, with only 10 career interceptions in eight seasons, with his long reach, and his ability to thrive as a press CB, the former first round pick, can provide solid coverage for anybody’s secondary.
Last season with the Chicago Bears, the former Nebraska Cornhusker, recorded 10 pass breakups, and helped the team finish ninth against the pass, and fourth overall in total defense.
Cut by the Bears to help them gain salary cap space this off-season, Amukamara, could potentially do wonders on a Cornerback needy team like the New York Jets, who cut former starters Trumaine Johnson, and Darryl Roberts this off-season.
After five years in the league Carlos Hyde, finally topped 1,000 yards rushing, as he ran for 1,070, as a member of the Houston Texans.
Hyde came to Houston, after he was acquired via trade from the Kansas City Chiefs, a week before the regular season started. As surprising as it may sound that it took the Ohio State product so long to hit 1,000 yards, it’s even more shocking that Bill O’Brien, didn’t offer the Chiefs Deshaun Watson, or J.J Watt, for Hyde’s services.
Clearly more effective in a two back tandem, as he was at the beginning of his career with Frank Gore, or last season with Duke Johnson, at 230 pounds, Hyde, could add a little muscle to a backfield like the Los Angeles Chargers, who have given the reigns to former third down specialist Austin Ekeler, or perhaps as a running mate with Derrick Henry of the Tennessee Titans.
If Hyde is looking to be the number one Running Back the Los Angeles Rams could be a solid option, as they still don’t have a replacement for Todd Gurley.
The second near 40-year old to make the list, Cam Wake, doesn’t have a dad bod, and like Jason Peters, can still play at a high level. The one thing Wake does have however given his age, is injury concern, as he has missed the final seven last season with the Tennessee Titans, due to a knee injury.
If you ignore past the injury, and look at the numbers, Wake, is the only player on the free agent market with over 100 sacks (100.5). He is also a six-time Pro Bowler, and a four-time All Pro.
Prior to joining the NFL, Wake, spent two years in the Canadian Football League. In the CFL, the Penn State product was a two-time All-Star, and a back-to-back winner of the CFL Most Outstanding Defensive Player Award. All of those accolades show that the Defensive End, has a long track record of chasing down Quarterbacks. After adding Edge Rusher in Vic Beasley, this off-season, it appears a return to the Titans is not in the cards for Wake.
If his price were to come down to about somewhere between $6-8 million, perhaps signing with the San Francisco 49ers, would make sense, as the reigning NFC champs, are lacking depth on the Defensive Line, after losing DeForest Buckner Sheldon Day, and Anthony Zettel, this off-season.
The man nicknamed “Snacks”, stands 6 foot 3, and weighs in at over 350 pounds. Needless to say, stuffing the run is his specialty.
Unfortunately for “Snacks”, last season with the Detroit Lions, the big man had what can be best described as an up and down year.
While he did post 49 tackles, the second lowest number of his career, only three tackles for loss (also his 2nd worst showing), and a personal worst 66.7 run-defense grade according to PFF, the William Penn alum, also registered two sacks, and a tied career-high with three pass deflections.
Prior to this past season, Harrison, had earned a 90.0 plus grade against the run, for four straight years. In 2018, the massive Defensive Tackle, led the NFL in stuffing the ground game, as he recorded 81 tackles, and a career-high nine TFLs, while splitting time with the New York Giants, and Lions.
Last season could very well be an outlier for Harrison, as the Lions defense was just flat out bad all around, as they finished 21st against the run, last versus the pass, and 26th overall. Chances are, at 31 years of age (he will turn 32 in November) he is closer to the player we have seen previously, than the one we saw last year. The Green Bay Packers, who are probably still having nightmares after Raheem Mostert, of the San Francisco 49ers, ran all over them in the NFC Championship Game, for a franchise record 220 yards and four touchdowns, would be smart to add a run stuffer like “Snacks”. After only playing for the Giants and Lions, going to a contender would make sense for Harrison too
After eight years of suiting up for the Cincinnati Bengals, Dre Kirkpatrick, was recently released by the franchise, as the team looks to rebuild their secondary, as they have added three new Cornerbacks. The move also freed up more than $8.2 million off their salary cap, for a player who didn’t see the field after Week 6, as he was lost for the season with a knee injury.
The former Alabama Defensive Back, had an up and down tenure with the Bengals. For as many interceptions (10), pass deflections (65), and tackles (302) that he has made, the 2012 first round pick, has also given up more than his fare share of big plays. As fate would have it, the Minnesota Vikings, have more than a few holes in their secondary, as Cornerbacks Trae Waynes, and Mackenzsie Alexander, both signed with Bengals in free agency, effectively taking Kirkpatrick’s spot.
Signing with Minnesota, would also reunite Kirkpatrick with current Vikes Head Coach Mike Zimmer, who was the his Defensive Coordinator during the CB’s first two years with the Bengals.