Top 30 free agents of the 2020 NFL offseason
2020 NFL Free Agency
The 2020 NFL offseason is upon us, and with it comes the hope for a better tomorrow for all but one team across the league. First up is free agency, which kicks off on March 16, when teams can begin negotiating with contract terms with free agents. Signings become official on March 18.
Here's a look at 30 players who are certain to have their suitors, assuming they get a chance to hit the open market. We'll update the status of each player as re-signings, franchise tags and eventual free-agents contracts are announced.
1. Dak Prescott, QB, Cowboys
It's highly unlikely Prescott will hit the open market. The Cowboys are building the franchise with him as the centerpiece, and rightfully so. He's expected to command a salary north of $35 million per year, but it's more likely he'll be slapped with the franchise tag for 2020.
2. Drew Brees, QB, Saints
Unlike Prescott, there's a legitimate chance Brees hits the open market if he doesn't re-sign with the Saints before the spending spree kicks off. At 41 years old, Brees isn't a candidate for a long-term deal. But if his time in New Orleans is over, he'd be a great option for a contender that's a quarterback away.
3. Tom Brady, QB, Patriots
Father Time appeared to finally catch up with Brady in 2019, but in a league starving for competent quarterback play, Brady will have plenty of suitors who view him as the final piece of a championship roster. And let's face it: The Patriots would be foolish to let him walk after 20 seasons of Hall-of-Fame play.
4. Jadeveon Clowney, EDGE, Seahawks
Few players entered the NFL with as much terrorizing upside as Clowney when he was a draft prospect back in 2014. And while he hasn't quite lived up to the hype (hasn't recorded a double-digit sack season in his career), he's still a fierce and active edge defender who forces opposing coordinators to gameplan him. He'd be the finishing touch for a defense ready to jump from good to great.
5. Yannick Ngakoue, EDGE, Jaguars
Arguably the free-agent class' best pass-rusher, Ngakoue has 37.5 sacks through his first four seasons in the NFL. Players like him don't often hit the open market, so there's a good chance the Jaguars will use the franchise tag. But if Ngakoue somehow gets free, all 32 teams will be interested.
6. Brandon Scherff, G, Redskins
Despite being limited to 19 games over the last two seasons, Scherff remains the big-ticket offensive lineman in 2020's free-agent class. He's powerful. He's intimidating. He's downright nasty. When healthy, there aren't many guards in the NFL as effective as he is.
7. Chris Jones, DL, Chiefs
Jones is a darkhorse to receive one of the richest contracts on the open market, assuming he gets there. He's one of the rare talents who can generate interior pressure (24.5 sacks over the last two seasons). Jones is a game-wrecker whose best season is probably still ahead of him. That's a scary thought.
8. Amari Cooper, WR, Cowboys
The Cowboys can't franchise two players this offseason, so Cooper is likely to hit the open market if he doesn't reach a long-term deal with Dallas. He'd be the best receiver available for teams looking to juice up their passing attack. Get ready to pay up, though. He's probably going to command a payday near $20 million per season.
9. Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Saints
Bridgewater has a chance to be the next-best quarterback on the open market after Dak Prescott, Drew Brees and Tom Brady come off the board. In fact, Bridgewater (aside from Prescott) may be the most attractive young passer for teams looking to add stability and a long-term option at the position. At just 27 years old, Bridgewater has several prime years remaining in his career.
10. Shaquil Barrett, EDGE, Buccaneers
Prior to the 2019 season, Barrett's single-season high in sacks was 5.5 back in 2015. Then came his 19.5-sack explosion this year. Talk about great timing! Barrett's best option will be to return to Tampa Bay and continue his status as the defense's best edge defender, and they'll pay up for him to return. But if they don't, teams will have to balance last season against the rest of his career before paying an elite pass-rusher contract.
11. Anthony Castonzo, OT, Colts
Is Castonzo an elite offensive tackle in the NFL? No. Is he the best free-agent offensive tackle in this year's class? Yes. As a result, he's going to get paid. He's started 132 games in his career and projects as an instant upgrade for several teams searching for a blindside protector.
12. Byron Jones, CB, Cowboys
Jones is rarely the first Cowboy mentioned when the team's upcoming class of free agents is discussed, but he's an elite athlete who's settled in nicely as a bonafide cover guy in the NFL. He was the 18th-highest-graded corner in the NFL last season, per Pro Football Focus, and will get paid more like a top-five guy on the open market.
13. AJ Green, WR, Bengals
Green is a strong candidate to sign a one-year prove-it deal following an injury-riddled 2019 season, one in which he missed the entire year. Green has eclipsed 1,000 receiving yards in six of his eight years in the league, and the two seasons he failed to reach the mark he played just 10 games or less. Green may not be the player he once was, but he's still a viable WR1 for a team needing a true alpha in the passing game.
14. Hunter Henry, TE, Chargers
Henry is the free-agent market's top tight end but his recent injury history could force him to take a short-term deal (maybe even a one-year deal) before cashing in with a top-of-the-position contract. Still, he won't come cheap, as 25-year old has 17 touchdowns over less than three full seasons.
15. Jarran Reed, DT, Seahawks
Reed was limited to 10 games in 2019 after being suspended for six weeks for violating the NFL's personal conduct policy, and when he returned to the field, his level of play wasn't quite at the level fans became accustomed to over his first three seasons. The question teams must answer is whether Reed's 10.5 sack season in 2018 was an anomaly or is that the player they'll get after handing over a big-money contract. Reed has just five sacks in his three other seasons, combined.
16. Derrick Henry, RB, Titans
Henry won the NFL's rushing title in 2019 with 1,540 yards in just 15 games. He added 18 total touchdowns and has been the driving force behind Tennessee's remarkable season. There's no denying Henry will remain among the league's elite running backs for the foreseeable future, but how much will teams be willing to pay for a position that's given plenty of reasons to beware spending free-agent dollars for production (see: Todd Gurley, Devonta Freeman, Jerrick McKinnon, to name a few).
17. Austin Hooper, TE, Falcons
Aside from Julio Jones, Hooper was the Falcons' best pass-catcher in 2019 and proved he's ready to emerge as one of the top playmaking tight ends in the NFL. He had 787 yards and six touchdowns in 13 games and projects as an even more productive player in the next phase of his career. One burning question remains, however: Will he have as much success without Jones drawing so much of the defense's attention?
18. Philip Rivers, QB, Chargers
Rivers is in the twilight of his career. There's no denying that. His arm isn't as strong as it once was and his already limited mobility is downright non-existent now. But there's enough spunk left in the fiery field general to have confidence he has one more season left in the tank. He did, after all, throw for 4,615 yards and 23 touchdowns in 2019. (Note: we'll just ignore the 20 ints).
19. Arik Armstead, DL, 49ers
Armstead enjoyed a breakout 10-sack season in 2019, but the three years that preceded this year's explosion leave some doubt about what kind of player we'll see in 2020. Armstead had just nine sacks (total) in the four years before this season. Still, he's Pro Football Focus' No. 5 edge defender in 2019 is set to break the bank this spring.
20. Jack Conklin, OT, Titans
Conklin resurrected his career in 2019 after back-to-back sub-par seasons. His 80.5 PFF grade is the second-highest of his career and he's proven he's all the way back from a Torn ACL suffered in the 2017-18 playoffs. With Derrick Henry also slated for free agency, the Titans will have a tough decision to make about where to prioritize their free-agent budget.
21. Kenyan Drake, RB, Cardinals
No reasonable football fan would've imagined Drake on this list when the season started, but after being traded to the Cardinals in time for Week 9's game against the 49ers, Drake went nuts. He had three games over 100 yards ran for eight touchdowns in just eight games. He finished the year with 817 yards and eight scores and averaged an impressive 5.2 yards per carry in Arizona. He has a lot of tread left on his tires and should have a reasonable asking price, too.
22. Matthew Judon, LB, Ravens
One of the most underrated free agents in the 2020 class is Judon, who was a massive part of the Ravens' success on defense during their fantastic 2019 campaign. Judon ended the year with 9.5 sacks and has been a steady performer throughout his career in Baltimore, racking up 28.5 sacks over his first four seasons. He's the ideal complementary pass-rusher for a team that already has an alpha on the roster.
23. Justin Simmons, S, Broncos
Simmons was Pro Football Focus' highest-graded safety in 2019. The 26-year-old ended the season with 94 tackles and four interceptions. There's going to be a long line of interested teams waiting to make their pitch to the ball-hawking third-line defender. Much like some of the other headline names in this class, Simmons is something of a one-year breakout player. Buyer beware.
24. Jameis Winston, QB, Buccaneers
Winston is a curious case-study who will have as many believers as doubters in free agency this year. The first quarterback to throw for 30 touchdowns and 30 interceptions in the same season, Winston has a high-end arm that's limited by his low-end decision-making. Still, there's no questioning his ability to make the big play, as evidenced by his career-high 5,109 passing yards in 2019. At just 26 years old, there's plenty of upside remaining in Winston's career.
25. Emmanuel Sanders, WR, 49ers
Teams looking for a crafty veteran receiver will strongly consider Sanders, who provided the kind of spark in the 49ers passing game the team was desperately seeking prior to trading for him. Potential suitors will envision him doing the same for them in 2020 after ending 2019 with 66 catches for 869 yards and five score.
26. Bud Dupree, EDGE, Steelers
Dupree finally looked like the kind of athletic pass rusher in 2019 that he was projected to be when he was a first-round pick in the 2015 NFL draft. He broke out for 11.5 sacks in 2019 after failing to exceed more than six in any other year of his career.
27. Dante Fowler, Jr., EDGE, Rams
Fowler finished 2019 as the No. 43 edger rusher on Pro Football Focus' grading scale in what was his most productive year as a pass rusher with 11.5 sacks. It's unlikely the Rams will be able to re-sign him this offseason, which is an exciting proposition for teams craving a potentially game-changing pass-rusher. The only thing stopping Fowler from being an elite NFL defender is himself.
28. Joe Thuney, G, Patriots
Thuney will challenge Brandon Scherff as the most-desired guard on the open market. He finished 2019 with the third-best PFF grade at the position and it doesn't hurt having the winning pedigree he'll bring to an organization after years of learning under Bill Belichick and Tom Brady.
29. Melvin Gordon, RB, Chargers
Gordon began 2019 by holding out for a big-money contract, and when that didn't work, he returned to the Chargers to post a barely average season. He ran for just 612 yards in 12 games, averaging 3.8 yards per carry along the way, but there's no denying his ability as one of the NFL's better all-around running backs. Gordon could end up being one of the better bargain signings this offseason.
30. Markus Golden, LB, Giants
Golden isn't a sexy name in this year's free-agent class, but the 10-sack edge defender has a violent and active playing style that teams will covet. Injuries have limited him to just 62 games in five seasons, but when he's healthy, he's a productive and disruptive player.