Finding Homes for NFL's Best Free Agents Still Left on the Market

Zach Kruse@@zachkruse2Senior Analyst IMarch 21, 2018

Finding Homes for NFL's Best Free Agents Still Left on the Market

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    The first wave of free agency is over, but plenty of good players remain available as teams look into finding the best values of the second wave.  

    Of NFL.com's top 101 free agents of 2018, 27 are still without new deals, including 10 inside the top 40. 

    Here's a look at where the top 10 available players on the list could land.  

DL Ndamukong Suh: Seattle Seahawks

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    Wilfredo Lee/Associated Press

    It's the beginning of a new era for the Seahawks defense. Is there a better way to begin the rebuilding effort along the defensive line than by adding Ndamukong Suh, who remains one of the top interior disruptors in the NFL?

    The Seahawks have long been anchored by talented defensive linemen, such as Michael Bennett, Brandon Mebane, Cliff Avril and Sheldon Richardson. Bennett was traded to Philadelphia, Mebane is in Los Angeles, Avril has an uncertain playing future and Richardson just signed a new deal in Minnesota. 

    Suh could give the Seahawks their next great defensive threat up front. He won't come cheap, but when have head coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider been afraid of getting aggressive and adding an elite talent? The answer: never. 

CB Bashaud Breeland: Green Bay Packers

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    Jeff Haynes/Associated Press

    Could a cut foot be a blessing in disguise for the Green Bay Packers, a team that needs a veteran cornerback as much as any team in football? 

    Bashaud Breeland had signed a three-year, $24 million deal with the Carolina Panthers, but that contract was voided when Breeland failed his physical because of a laceration on his foot suffered earlier in the month, according to David Newton of ESPN.com

    Teams will likely want to wait for Breeland's foot to fully heal before pursuing another contract, but the Packers shouldn't wait too long. Mike Pettine's new defense needs at least one new starter, and Breeland has experience as both a press-man cornerback on the perimeter and as a slot defender on the inside.

    According to Rob Demovsky of ESPN, the Packers were "in discussions" with Breeland before he signed in Carolina. If the interest remains, and Breeland starts looking for other options, the Packers should pounce. 

S Kenny Vaccaro: Dallas Cowboys

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    The Cowboys have shuffled their secondary by releasing veteran cornerback Orlando Scandrick and moving former safety Byron Jones to cornerback full-time. While Dallas now feels strongly about its setup at corner, the depth at safety is a question mark. 

    Enter Kenny Vaccaro, the versatile defensive back who grew up in Texas, once starred for the Longhorns in Austin and is now looking for a new home. 

    According to Nick Underhill of the New Orleans Advocate, the Cowboys had interest in adding Vaccaro as recently as last offseason. Interest then could materialize into action now. 

    Vaccaro never quite lived up to his first-round billing in New Orleans, but he'd bring a veteran presence and some untapped potential to the Cowboys' safety group. Over five years with the Saints, Vaccaro tallied 385 tackles, 7.5 sacks and eight interceptions, although he did battle injury issues almost every season. His versatility would be a big asset in Dallas.

S Eric Reid: Chicago Bears

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    Time will tell if Eric Reid's protests during the national anthem will affect his ability to find a new home. But in terms of on-field fits, Reid will find a hard time beating the one available in Chicago. 

    Not only are the Bears coordinated on defense by Vic Fangio (who was in San Francisco when the 49ers drafted Reid in the first round), but Chicago could use his hybrid skill set, especially if he's still interested in playing more linebacker. Reid transitioned to a roving linebacker role for the 49ers in 2017, and he'd give the Bears an athletic option at the position in certain sub-packages, plus extra depth at safety. 

    Reid produced a Pro Bowl season (and four interceptions) under Fangio as a rookie in 2013.

    It's possible Reid will want to find an opportunity to play more traditional safety, but it might be tough to pass up if his first NFL coordinator comes calling with a specific role in mind. Adding Reid, who has 10 career interceptions, could be another big addition for the Bears and general manager Ryan Pace, who has bolstered his roster with several signings already in free agency.

WR Terrelle Pryor: Seattle Seahawks

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    The Seahawks lost speedster Paul Richardson in free agency, but quarterback Russell Wilson has already identified the receiver he wants as a replacement. 

    It's Terrelle Pryor, who broke out as a receiver with the Cleveland Browns in 2016 but busted on a one-year deal with Washington last season. 

    According to Ian Rapoport of NFL Network, Wilson is "recruiting him hard" after Pryor took a recent visit to Seattle. 

    During his final year in Cleveland, Pryor produced 77 catches, 1,007 yards, three 100-yard games and four touchdowns. Expectations are low after he limped through an injury-plagued season in Washington, but Pryor still has undeniable athletic ability and talent, and he could rebound in a big way if provided a chance to play with Wilson in Seattle. 

DL Johnathan Hankins: Detroit Lions

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    Jeff Haynes/Associated Press

    Johnathan Hankins, the 26-year-old run-stuffer, is now looking for his third team in three years after the Indianapolis Colts released him unexpectedly last week. He lasted just one year into a three-year deal, but the Colts' loss should be the Detroit Lions' gain. 

    The Lions have a big need on the interior of the defensive line after losing Haloti Ngata in free agency. In Hankins, Detroit would be getting its best defensive tackle since Ndamukong Suh left for Miami. Hankins can anchor against the run and collapse the pocket as a rusher.

    Linebacker Devon Kennard, who played with Hankins in New York in 2016 and just signed with the Lions this offseason, has already started recruiting the 320-pounder to Detroit. 

    Here's another possible boost for the Lions: Hankins is from Dearborn Heights, Michigan, a suburb on Detroit's western side. The hometown allure worked with T.J. Lang last offseason. 

CB E.J. Gaines: Arizona Cardinals

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    Rich Barnes/Associated Press

    The Cardinals hosted E.J. Gaines on an official visit this past weekend, according to Mike Garafolo of NFL Network. While no deal has been completed, it's possible Gaines will reassess the market and find his best fit remains in Arizona. 

    Gaines would give the Cardinals a legitimate No. 2 cornerback behind Patrick Peterson. While he's short (5'10") and has a long injury history (27 missed games in four years), Gaines has undeniable coverage talent, and he's coming off a strong year for the Bills in 2017.

    More than likely, the snag between the two sides is on guaranteed money and the length of the deal, two common obstacles for negotiations with an often-injured player. But if they can figure out a deal that works for both sides, Gaines will get an ideal situation as the No. 2 cornerback behind an All-Pro and the Cardinals will finally have two solid starting cornerbacks.

OL Jack Mewhort: Cincinnati Bengals

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    Interest in Jack Mewhort has been dampened by his ailing knees, which forced him onto injured reserve each of the last two seasons. He's missed 17 games since the start of 2016. But when healthy, the 2014 second-round draft pick is a rock-solid option at right guard. 

    The Bengals need more help on the offensive line, even after trading for left tackle Cordy Glenn. Signing Mewhort to a short deal and plugging him in at right guard could be the kind of value signing that helps glue together the pieces in front of quarterback Andy Dalton

    Mewhort, who went to school at Ohio State, could also give the Bengals another option at right tackle. He started a few games there for the Colts over the years. This looks like a match that could really benefit both sides, especially if the contract is structured in a way that protects the Bengals against another major injury to Mewhort's knees.

WR Jordan Matthews: New Orleans Saints

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    The Saints were in on former Green Bay Packers receiver Jordy Nelson, who looks destined to play the slot as he enters his 11th NFL season. The Saints were also interested in Jimmy Graham, another slot option who had his best production as a big receiver in the New Orleans offense. 

    Clearly, the Saints want help in the slot. That's where Jordan Matthews can help immediately.

    Despite a disappointing year in Buffalo in 2017, Matthews started his career with three productive seasons in Philadelphia, playing mostly from the slot. He could give Drew Brees the big, reliable target he needs in the middle of the field.

    In fact, Matthews could be the Saints' delayed answer to losing veteran receiver Marques Colston, who extended his career several years by developing into a big slot receiver. Matthews couldn't ask for a better landing spot.

S Tre Boston: Kansas City Chiefs

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    Alex Gallardo/Associated Press

    If the Chargers can't get Tre Boston back to Los Angeles, it wouldn't be surprising if an AFC West rival made a big push to add the ascending young safety. 

    The Kansas City Chiefs could use an upgrade on the backend, especially after making big changes at cornerback and with Eric Berry coming back from missing 15 games in 2017. The secondary needs another reliable communicator and leader at safety. That's where Boston could make an immediate difference. 

    The former Carolina Panthers draft pick produced a breakout season in 2017 by tallying 79 tackles and five interceptions. He's a leader on defense who could give the Chiefs a centerfielder-type with range and tackling ability. Combining Boston with Berry would give Kansas City one of the NFL's better safety duos. 

Others

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    Ben Margot/Associated Press

    WR Mike Wallace: The Philadelphia Eagles could see him as a cheap deep threat, but a return to Baltimore remains in the cards.

    LB NaVorro Bowman: Unless his market really heats up, Bowman looks destined to land back in Oakland with the Raiders.

    S Tyvon Branch: After a strong year in Arizona, Branch could follow former Cardinals defensive coordinator James Bettcher to the New York Giants.

    RB Adrian Peterson: He might want a chance to play for the Houston Texans, but Peterson's best bet might be to wait out the market and find an opportunity later in the summer. A return to Arizona isn't off the table, either.

    CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie: If the Packers keep striking out on veteran cornerbacks, DRC might become an option. The Carolina Panthers, Cleveland Browns, Denver Broncos and Tampa Bay Buccaneers also make sense. 

    DL Bennie Logan: The Dallas Cowboys could use a space-eating, run-stuffing lineman for the middle of their defense.

    CB Tramon Williams: A long history in Green Bay, experience playing for Mike Pettine and a big need at cornerback could lead Williams back to the Packers.