The negotiating window for the 2019 NFL free agency period begins today, with deals able to become official Wednesday. As usual, signings are expected to happen fast this season, and several players could command contracts north of $10 million per year.
Where will the top players in this year’s class go? We made predictions for 10, based on salary cap room, team interest and player fit.
Quarterback Nick Foles to the Jacksonville Jaguars: This is the easiest one to predict. The Denver Broncos traded for Joe Flacco, and then dealt Case Keenum to the Washington Redskins. Other than the Miami Dolphins, who might cut Ryan Tannehill, what other team is looking to sign a starting quarterback?
Even though the Jaguars know there is unlikely to be a bidding war, Foles could get around $20 million per year. What is going to be interesting to see is how Foles’ signing affects the rest of the free-agent quarterback market. Many passers in this year’s class will probably have to sign for much less than they expected.
Running back Le’Veon Bell to the New York Jets: In my bold predictions column earlier this offseason, I wrote that the Houston Texans could end up landing Bell, and that is still the case. But like last year, when they were willing to offer the biggest contract in free agency to Kirk Cousins, only to see him sign with the Minnesota Vikings, the Jets should offer the largest deal to land Bell. Don’t be surprised, however, if the Baltimore Ravens get into the Bell bidding.
Wide receiver Tyrell Williams to the Cleveland Browns: This year’s free-agent class of wide receivers is made up mostly of slot receivers. That should help Williams, an athletic outside target at 6-foot-4, land the biggest receiver contract, maybe around $12 million a year. Williams is great in the red zone and will give Baker Mayfield a big target to complement Jarvis Landry. The Indianapolis Colts will also be in the mix for Williams.
Center Matt Paradis to the New York Jets: The Jets probably will end up being the most active team in free agency, and their biggest offseason assignment is rebuilding their offensive line. Even though Paradis is coming off an injury-plagued season, he’s a good anchor to build around on the line.
Free safety Earl Thomas to the San Francisco 49ers: Former teammate Richard Sherman is trying to recruit Thomas to the 49ers, but he said that he thought Thomas would go to the Dallas Cowboys if all offers were even. The Cowboys have five high-priced players in need of contract extensions, so they won’t be bidding for Thomas. The veteran defensive playmaker wants $15 million a year, but he will settle for less and go to the 49ers.
Safety Landon Collins to the Detroit Lions: I still can’t believe the New York Giants didn’t put the franchise tag on Collins, who is one of three safeties in the past decade to go to the Pro Bowl in three of his first four years. Thomas and Eric Berry were the other two. The Lions cut Glover Quin, but they will be aggressive in trying to land a top safety who is 25 years and only going to get better.
Wide receiver John Brown to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers: This one is a little tricky, because the Bucs are tight against the cap and they might have to release DeSean Jackson to get Brown on the roster. Coach Bruce Arians always wants a speed receiver in his offense, and Brown, who signed a one-year deal with the Baltimore Ravens last year after playing for Arians’ Cardinals earlier in his career, could stretch the field for him.
Wide receiver Devin Funchess to the Buffalo Bills: The Bills briefly entered the Antonio Brown trade sweepstakes but dropped out after seemingly over finding out that Brown didn’t want to be a Bill. Coach Sean McDermott and general manager Brandon Beane know Funchess from their days in Carolina, and he’s a big receiver who can help rebuild the receiving corps.
Right tackle Daryl Williams to the New York Giants: General manager Dave Gettleman made the first move to fix the Giants’ offensive line by trading for Browns guard Kevin Zeitler, sending back edge rusher Olivier Vernon and swapping fourth-round choices. Because he knows Williams from his days as the Carolina Panthers’ general manager, it’s easy to forecast that he’d go after Williams to fill their void at right tackle.
Wide receiver Golden Tate to the New England Patriots: Tate, who started his career with the Seahawks, is considered the best of the slot receivers available in free agency, and coach Bill Belichick is always looking for receivers who can do well in the middle of the field. The Philadelphia Eagles traded a third-round pick to acquire Tate at midseason from the Lions, and while he struggled to make an impact, he did have a pivotal touchdown catch in the team’s wild-card round upset over the Chicago Bears. The Patriots reportedly were looking to trade for Randall Cobb of the Green Bay Packers last season, and it’s safe to say they will be adding a receiver this offseason to address a depleted position group.
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