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NFL

NFL Free Agency Preview: Who is on the Market

Frank Dyevoich| January 16th, 2020

Super Bowl LIV is just three weeks away and yesterday I broke down the complicated ins and outs of free agency. Today I’m going to break down the top upcoming free agents at several positions. A lot of these players will likely be given the franchise or transition tag assuming they don’t reach a long term deal before free agency begins.

For an explanation of how complicated free agency is click here.

Quarterbacks

1. Dak Prescott (DAL) – Prescott is an unrestricted free agent. I don’t expect the Cowboys to pay him the $40 million he wants, so expect him to get the exclusive franchise tag.

2. Jameis Winston (TB) – Winston played on his fifth-year option in 2019 since he was a first-round pick. He is now an unrestricted free agent. I don’t expect the Buccaneers to pay him the money he wants after throwing 30 interceptions, so expect him to get the exclusive franchise tag in what will likely be his last season to prove to the Buccaneers brass that he is their guy for the future.

3. Ryan Tannehill (TEN) – Tannehill had a magical season once he took over for Marcus Mariota in week seven. He led the league in yards per pass attempt (9.6), yards per completion (13.6) and passer rating (117.5). It is a guarantee that Tannehill and the Titans will reach a long-term agreement, so I do not expect him to become an unrestricted free agent.

4. Tom Brady (NE) – This storyline is going to be interesting because it is in his contract that he can not be franchise tagged. The Patriots have to either sign him or let him walk with no compensation in return.

Running Backs

1. Derrick Henry (TEN) – Henry is a beast plain and simple. He makes defensive players look like they are three feet tall, he runs right through them as if they were not even there and he pushes them aside like they are little children. He is a man amongst boys. The Titans know that he is the heart and soul of their offense, but they will likely be reluctant to offer him $14 million a year. I expect the Titans to franchise tag Henry like the Steelers did Le’Veon Bell. Of course, they could transition tag him to test his market in the hopes they can sign him cheaper than expected.

2. Melvin Gordon (LAC) – Gordon held out for the first part of the season in hopes of getting a long-term contract. It did not work. What is worse is that he looked terrible when he came back. Fun fact: If Gordon didn’t fumble on the one-yard line vs. the Titans, then the Titans would not have made the playoffs. Gordon is an unrestricted free agent and I fully expect him to hit the market and change teams.

3. Kenyan Drake (AZ) – I have been a Drake truther since day one. All he has done in the NFL is produce, and when he was finally given his shot to be the main running back for the Cardinals, he took his opportunity and, well, ran with it. Over the last three games of the season, he averaged 121 rush yards per game, 6.0 yards per carry, and two touchdowns per game. Drake is an unrestricted free agent and I fully expect him to reach an extension with the Cardinals.

4. Jordan Howard (PHI) – Howard is an unrestricted free agent. Miles Sanders stepped up in his absence for the Eagles and performed better than expected, so Howard could find himself on another team in 2020. He is only 25 years old.

5. Kareem Hunt (CLV) – Hunt is a restricted free agent since he only has three accrued seasons in the NFL. He played on a one-year contract this season after being released by the Chiefs last year. When Hunt stepped onto the field this year, he looked like his old self. He was explosive, tough to bring down, prolific in the passing game and efficient in the red zone. This is going to be interesting to watch because the Browns could place an original round tender on him (third round) or let him test the market. Personally, I’d love to see him on the Buccaneers with Bruce Arians.

6. Matt Breida (SF) – Breida is a restricted free agent. He has been the change of pace running back for the 49ers, and he is as tough as they come. He went undrafted, so the 49ers only options are to place a first or second-round tender on him if they want compensation if he leaves. However, I expect the 49ers to work out a deal with Breida.

7. Austin Ekeler (LAC) – Ekeler was a savage this season. He finished as a top-five fantasy football running back, and he fell just seven yards shy of 1,000 receiving yards. The Chargers are expected to move on from Gordon so Ekeler could be the main running back heading into 2020. He is a restricted free agent so I expect the Chargers to use a second-round tender on him since he was also undrafted. I’d be shocked if they let him test the market.

Wide Receivers

1. Amari Cooper (DAL) – Perhaps the most interesting offseason storyline is going to be what the Cowboys are going to do with Cooper and Prescott. Normally, they can only tag one, but since this is the last year of the CBA, then can franchise tag one and transition tag the other, and that is what I expect. Cooper disappears from time to time so I imagine the Cowboys are not thrilled with the potential of a $20 million per year contract. Look for Prescott to receive the exclusive franchise tag and Cooper to receive the transition tag.

2. A.J. Green (CIN) – Green has been plagued by injuries over the last few seasons, but there is no denying that he is still one of the best wide receivers in the league when healthy. He has made it clear that he wants to stay with the Bengals, and the team would be wise to keep him now that they are going to draft Joe Burrow. If they are unable to come to a long-term agreement, expect the Bengals to place the exclusive franchise tag on Green.

3. Emmanuel Sanders (SF) – Sanders was a huge bright spot for the 49ers when they acquired him from the Broncos midseason. The problem, however, is that Sanders is going to be 33 years old and he is likely looking for his last big payday. The 49ers, on the other hand, might not be so quick to sign an aging receiver when studs like Tee Higgins, Laviska Shenault Jr., and Henry Ruggs III will likely be sitting there at the end of the first round of the NFL Draft. I expect the 49ers to let Sanders test the market.

4. Robby Anderson (NYJ) – Anderson is my favorite free agent wide receiver because his upside in the right offense is through the roof. We have seen Tannehill and Drake absolutely exploded when there were rid of Adam Gase’s coaching schemes and Anderson could be next on the list. If the Jets tag Anderson, it will be with the transition tag, but I fully expect him to test the market. Imagine Anderson with Aaron Rodgers?!

Tight Ends

1. Hunter Henry (LAC) – Henry is going to be signed to a long-term contract. The Chargers absolutely love him and he has shown flashes of greatness during his time in the NFL. If they are unable to come to an agreement, expect the Charges to place the exclusive franchise tag on Henry.

2. Austin Hooper (ATL) – Hooper has been one of the best tight ends in the NFL over the last few seasons. He has become a safety blanket for Matt Ryan and a steady threat for the Falcons in the red zone. Given the horrific tight end landscape across the NFL, there is no way that the Falcons do not sign Hooper to a long term extension.

Defense

1. Chris Jones (KC) – Jones has been one of the best defensive linemen in the league and he is deserving of a maximum contract from whichever team he winds up on. However, I do not expect the Chiefs to let him go so look for Jones to get the exclusive franchise tag if a long-term agreement can’t be reached.

2. Shaquil Barrett (TB) – Barrett led the league in sacks this year with 19.5. He is in line for a big extension from the Buccaneers after he bet on himself and played under a one-year deal worth $4 million in 2019. If a long-term agreement can’t be reached, expect Barrett to get the transition tag.

3. Yannick Ngakoue (JAX) – Ngakoue is an absolute animal. He has made it clear that he is looking to be the highest-paid defensive player and that will require $24 million a year. I expect Ngakoue to get a deal in the neighborhood of $22 million. If the Jaguars are unwilling to pay him, he is a prime candidate for the exclusive franchise tag.

4. Bud Dupree (PIT) – Dupree played this year on his fifth-year option and he went out and had a career season. The Steelers definitely want to keep Dupree, but they have been reluctant to sign linebackers to lucrative contracts in the past. Look for Dupree to get the transition tag if a long-term agreement can’t be reached.

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