NFL free agents 2020: Top 15 free agents remaining
Could the New England Patriots make another splash in NFL free agency?
The Patriots had less than $1 million in cap space after signing quarterback Cam Newton to a one-year contract on July 9. But the team then came into more money: New England settled contractual grievances with Antonio Brown and Aaron Hernandez to give them $7.79 million in salary cap space, and now that cap space has climbed even higher after several players including Dont'a Hightower and Marcus Cannon have opted out.
While many of the NFL's top free agents have long since been signed, there's still plenty of talent on the free-agent market, including three-time Pro Bowl defensive end Jadeveon Clowney and former Atlanta Falcons running back Devonta Freeman.
Could the Patriots target any of the free agents still out there? Here's a look at the top 15 players still available in free agency.
Jadeveon Clowney, Defensive End
2019 stats: Three sacks, four forced fumbles, two fumbles recovered (one touchdown), 31 tackles (seven for loss)
2019 salary: $16 million
Clowney's first season in Seattle went swimmingly as he reminded us all what he's capable of when healthy. The modest three sacks don't tell the whole story as he again was exceptional at pressuring the QB. It's surprising to see Clowney still on the market at this point in the offseason, but perhaps his demands are simply too high at the moment.
Devonta Freeman, Running Back
2019 stats: 184 rushes, 656 rushing yards, two touchdowns; 59 receptions, 410 receiving yards, four receiving touchdowns
2019 salary: $6.75 million
A two-time Pro Bowler, Freeman has missed 18 games over the last three seasons due to injury. The Falcons released him in March and later signed All-Pro Todd Gurley, but at 28 years old, Freeman should have more in the tank and could revive his career in a new city if he can stay healthy.
Jason Peters, Offensive Tackle
2019 stats: 13 games played, 10 penalties, three sacks allowed
2019 salary: $3.5 million
Peters has been an All-Pro twice and has made it to nine Pro Bowls during his playing career. Peters is still a very strong all-around blocker but the potential for regression ahead of his age-38 season will keep him from climbing higher on this list, especially after he dealt with nagging injuries that affected his 2019 performance.
UPDATE (July 14): Peters is returning to the Eagles, reportedly agreeing to a one-year contract that could be worth as much as $6 million, per ESPN's Adam Schefter.
Kelvin Beachum, Offensive Tackle
2019 stats: 13 games played, nine penalties, four sacks allowed
2019 salary: $8 million
Beachum was arguably the most important player on the Jets offense aside from Sam Darnold. When the Jets were without Darnold or Beachum last season, they had an 0-6 record and averaged just 197.7 yards and 9.3 points per game. When both were healthy, the Jets averaged 329.1 yards and 22.7 points per contest en route to a 7-2 record.
UPDATE (July 17): The Arizona Cardinals have signed Beachum to a one-year contract.
Everson Griffen, Defensive End
2019 stats: Eight sacks, 11 tackles for loss, one interception, two passes defensed
2019 salary: $8.1 million
Griffen racked up 74.5 sacks during his 10-year career in Minnesota and earned his fourth Pro Bowl nod last season at age 32. He won't come cheap, but Griffen would bring experience and talent to any team looking for a premier pass-rusher.
Logan Ryan, Cornerback
2019 stats: 113 tackles, 4.5 sacks, four interceptions, four forced fumbles
2019 salary: $9.5 million
Logan Ryan, a former member of the Patriots, was one of the most productive cornerbacks in the NFL last season. The veteran can play in the slot and outside and has a knack for making big plays. Some team should be interested in signing him as a starter, though he does give up big plays deep, on occasion.
Markus Golden, Edge Rusher
2019 stats: 72 tackles, 10 sacks, one fumble recovery, one defensive TD
2019 salary: $1 million
One of the more underrated edge rushers on the open market, Golden started all 16 games for the Giants last year and was their most consistent pass rusher. His best fit is as a 3-4 linebacker and when he's healthy, he's a legitimate threat to log double-digit sacks each season.
UPDATE (July 28): Golden is returning to the Giants on a one-year deal.
Larry Warford, Offensive Guard
2019 stats: 15 games played, six penalties, two sacks allowed
2019 salary: $8.3 million
The former Pro Football Focus Rookie of the Year made the Pro Bowl during all three of his seasons with the New Orleans Saints and is the best offensive guard on the free-agent market. Warford should be a great pickup for a club that has the cap space to sign him.
UPDATE (July 28): Warford has decided to opt out of the 2020 season, per ESPN's Adam Schefter.
Jordan Reed, Tight End
2018 stats: 54 receptions, 558 yards, two touchdowns
2019 salary: $9.67 million
Reed missed the entire 2019 season after suffering his seventh documented concussion during the preseason and has been plagued by injuries throughout his career. But the former Pro Bowler appears determined to play in 2020 and would improve a lot of tight end rooms around the league.
Michael Bennett, Defensive End
2019 stats: 6.5 sacks, 14 tackles for loss, 15 QB hits
2019 salary: $2.6 million
Bennett is back on the free-agent market after splitting the 2019 season between the Patriots and Dallas Cowboys. While he couldn't carve out a starting role with either team, the three-time Pro Bowler boasts a strong enough resume to land a job with a team looking for pass-rush help.
UPDATE (July 21): Michael Bennett announced his retirement from the NFL after 11 seasons via an Instagram post.
Damon Harrison, Defensive Tackle
2019 stats: Two sacks, three tackles for loss, two QB hits
2019 salary: $4 million
Harrison has been a reliable run-stuffer during his eight-year NFL career, missing just one game since his rookie year. "Snacks" signed an $11.25 million contract extension with the Detroit Lions this offseason, but the team released him in February.
Aqib Talib, Cornerback
2019 stats: 14 tackles, two passes defensed (five games played)
2019 salary: $4.2 million
The five-time Pro Bowler and former Patriot has appeared in just 13 games over the last two seasons due to injury and didn't play a single game with the Miami Dolphins after the team acquired him from the Los Angeles Rams via trade last October. He's in the tail end of his career but perhaps has one more good season left in him.
Eric Reid, Safety
2019 stats: 130 tackles, six passes defensed, four sacks, two fumble recoveries
2019 salary: $4.4 million
Reid was a solid everyday safety in Carolina, where he started all 16 of the Panthers' games last season and finished second among all NFL safeties with 130 tackles. He's looking to latch onto his fourth team in three years after spending his first five seasons with the San Francisco 49ers.
Tony Jefferson, Safety
2019 stats: 21 tackles, three passes defensed (five games played)
2019 salary: $12.6 million
Jefferson has carved out a decent NFL career after signing with the Arizona Cardinals as an undrafted free agent in 2013. His 2019 season with the Ravens ended in October with a torn ACL, but he was the starting strong safety on an excellent Baltimore defense in 2017 and 2018.
Timmy Jernigan, Defensive Lineman
2019 stats: Two sacks, three tackles for loss, three QB hits
2019 salary: $1.6 million
Jernigan started nine games for the Eagles last season as their left defensive tackle but has experience at defensive end, as well. The versatile 27-year-old could be a nice bargain pickup in free agency after earning just $1.6 million last season.