NFL free agency predictions: Projecting where top players will sign
Free agent frenzy
NFL free agency is right around the corner, and there are some big names on the market. A number of teams are looking to make a splash to improve their chances of winning the Super Bowl.
Where will Tom Brady sign? Can the 49ers keep Arik Armstead? What about Emmanuel Sanders? Can Jon Gruden get a big name for the Raiders' first season in Las Vegas?
Here are some predictions -- bold and not so bold -- about where some of the best free agents on the market will play next season. (Note: Drew Brees has already said he only will play for the New Orleans Saints and Hunter Henry and Chris Jones reportedly will be franchise tagged so they did not make the list.)
15. Marcus Mariota, QB
Mariota never realized his potential in Tennessee with the Titans. Three head coaches and four offensive coordinators later, the Titans benched him for Ryan Tannehill last season. But Mariota had a number of great moments, including beating the Kansas City Chiefs in the playoffs at Arrowhead Stadium, in his early years. He's still only 26 and has the skills to be a good starting quarterback in the modern NFL if a team is willing to take a chance on him and build an offense around his strengths.
The Raiders will bring him in as a "1B" option behind Derek Carr, but don't be surprised if he's starting come the middle of the season.
14. Jameis Winston, QB
Prediction: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Bruce Arians and the Bucs are going hard after Tom Brady, but they'll whiff and settle back on Winston hoping his new LASIK surgery can help cut down on the mistakes.
13. Ryan Tannehill, QB
Prediction: Tennessee Titans (franchise tag)
Tannehill was electric after taking over for Mariota in Week 6, helping lead the Titans to the AFC Championship Game despite not doing much through the air in the playoffs. The Titans, like the Bucs, will pursue Brady but eventually tag Tannehill in order to make sure he doesn't turn back into a pumpkin before giving him a long-term deal.
12. Anthony Harris, S
Harris has been one of the best safeties in the NFL, per PFF, over the past two seasons. Arians has said his goal is to fix the defense with the $80 million in cap space, so he'll bolster his secondary with a ballhawk from Minnesota.
11. Emmanuel Sanders, WR
Prediction: New England Patriots
Sanders showed he still can be a No. 1 receiver even at 32. He'll be too expensive for the 49ers to keep and the Patriots need to show Brady they'll get him the weapons he wants to contend for a title.
10. Arik Armstead, DL
Prediction: Indianapolis Colts
The Colts have a ton of money to spend and need help in the middle of their defense. With Chris Jones getting franchise tagged by the Kansas City Chiefs, the Colts grab the next best lineman on the board by paying a sum too rich for the 49ers' blood.
9. Byron Jones, CB
No, Mariota won't be the only move the Raiders make. With around $57 million in cap space, the Raiders land the best corner on the market to pair with emerging star Trayvon Mullen. The defense has to get better and this is the first step.
8. Teddy Bridgewater, QB
Prediction: Chicago Bears
General manager Ryan Pace might be saying Mitchell Trubisky is his quarterback, but they need a contingency plan. Bridgewater showed he was more than a capable starting quarterback while backing up Drew Brees in New Orleans, and he'll have the starting job by Week 3 in Chicago.
7. A.J. Green, WR
Prediction: Green Bay Packers
Let's get weird. The Cincinnati Bengals probably will franchise Green, seeing as presumptive No. 1 overall pick Joe Burrow already has made it clear he wants the veteran receiver in orange and black. Maybe they do Green a solid and let him hit the market. The Packers would love to add him to an offense that needs another receiving weapon to complement Davante Adams as Aaron Rodgers' career winds down.
6. Jadeveon Clowney, EDGE
Prediction: New York Giants
Sure, Clowney and the Seattle Seahawks want to make it work. But the Giants are going to knock on his door with an offer too rich for him to refuse and too rich for the Seahawks to match.
5. Chris Harris, CB
Prediction: Houston Texans
The Broncos acquiring A.J. Bouye from the Jacksonville Jaguars spelled the end of Harris' time in Denver. The Texans need to make some drastic improvements to their secondary in order to take the next step, so they'll give Harris a four-year deal worth around $60 million to pair him with Gareon Conley and Lonnie Johnson.
4. Philip Rivers, QB
The Rivers era with the Chargers is over, but the aging gunslinger still thinks he has a few years in the tank. It comes down to the Bucs or the Colts, but Tampa chooses the young QB who turns the ball over a lot as opposed to the aging turnover machine. The Colts believe they are close to being Super Bowl contenders, but is Rivers the missing piece?
3. Amari Cooper, WR
Prediction: Buffalo Bills
The Cowboys would prefer to keep Cooper by signing him to a shorter-term deal worth around $18 million per year. But the Bills offer him more financial security and make a splash to try to take over the AFC East if Tom Brady leaves the Patriots.
2. Dak Prescott, QB
Prediction: Dallas Cowboys
Jerry Jones won't let Prescott walk. The Cowboys will tag him with the hope of working out a long-term deal.
1. Tom Brady, QB
Prediction: New England Patriots
We really don't know where Brady wants to go or which teams are interested. Will the 49ers make a run at him? What about the Raiders? The Bucs reportedly are set to make a run at him as well. In the end, Brady doesn't want to start over at age 43 and signs for two more seasons to finish his career in New England.