We're more than a week away from the start of the NFL's new year, more than a week away from free agents having the ability to hit the market and accept new contracts. We're more than a week away from pursestrings loosening across the league, yet the market is already smiling on Trey Flowers.
We saw this coming, but now that we're just hours away from the deadline to apply the franchise tag, teams have finally caved and tagged some of the league's top edge defenders.
Demarcus Lawrence of the Cowboys, Jadeveon Clowney of the Texans, Frank Clark of the Seahawks and Dee Ford of the Chiefs will all been tagged by their respective teams, giving them guaranteed one-year contracts. All can re-negotiate new deals with their teams, but they'll be kept from the market.
With the supply of available pass-rushers suddenly dwindling, and edge-needy teams remaining edge-needy going into free agency, Flowers is looking like he could receive the biggest deal of those untethered.
His competition? Dante Fowler, Ziggy Ansah, Clay Matthews, Cameron Wake, Terrell Suggs, Shane Ray and Alex Okafor. Justin Houston is reportedly going to be released by the Chiefs, and he'll likely command as much or more than anyone from that list as a pass-rush specialist.
While Flowers doesn't necessarily fit the profile of the twitched-up, bendy, corner-cutters that come in atop the highest-paid players at the position, he is much more than an edge-setter.
"He didn't have the sack numbers that [other pass-rushers on expiring deals] did, but I don't really look at sacks as indicative of pass-rush ability," former NFL agent Joel Corry told us on The Next Pats Podcast. "He had 64 quarterback pressures during the regular season. That was tied with Frank Clark and one more than Lawrence had and five more than Clowney had."
Not only is Flowers looking like the premier player at his position in free agency, but he could see the offers thrown his way climb quickly because two of his former coaches are now running teams of their own -- Matt Patricia in Detroit and Brian Flores in Miami -- and it only takes two to drive up the asking price. For those teams, Flowers could serve an on-the-field technician and an off-the-field example for locker rooms with nascent cultures.
He was always going to be in demand, but after big names at the position have been franchised around the league, Flowers is looking like he's about to be the richest of the bunch.
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