Bold Free-Agent Predictions for Every NFL Team
Free agency matters.
We can argue about whether it's overrated, but there's little doubt that it often helps teams and hurts others. And now that all but two NFL franchises have reached the offseason, it's time to look ahead to the one of the earliest, most entertaining and important stretches on the NFL calendar, which begins March 13.
Now, the word "bold" can be vague, which is convenient because by the time franchise tags and re-signings water down the free-agent pool, there won't be room for 32 audacious and/or eye-catching moves during free agency.
So not all of these 32 predictions were created equal in terms of boldness, but none would be cheap, all would impact starting-caliber players and all would create plenty of local buzz.
With that in mind, here's one bold free agency-related prediction per franchise.
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Arizona Cardinals Sign Tyrell Williams
New offensive-minded Arizona Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury will likely push general manager Steve Keim to get young quarterback Josh Rosen more support, and impending Los Angeles Chargers free-agent wide receiver Tyrell Williams makes a lot of sense.
Williams is an ideal complement to veteran Larry Fitzgerald, who generally lines up in the slot. In Los Angeles, the 6'4", 205-pound Williams usually leveraged size and speed advantages as an X or Y receiver, and he's got tremendous playmaking ability.
The Cards could also use a stud offensive tackle to help protect the 21-year-old Rosen, but the free-agent market is comically thin at that position. So instead, look for them to make a minor splash on an outside threat like Williams.
And considering that the well-accomplished undrafted Western Oregon product is only 26, he and second-year second-round pick Christian Kirk would leave the receiving corps in good hands regardless of how much longer Fitzgerald sticks around.
Atlanta Falcons Sign Ezekiel Ansah
Atlanta Falcons edge-rusher Vic Beasley Jr. was superb as a sophomore in 2016, but each of his three other NFL seasons indicate he might be a bust. And with Takkarist McKinley yet to emerge up front and impending free agent Grady Jarrett lacking support across the defensive line, the Falcons will probably enter the offseason desperate for defensive end help.
Enter Detroit Lions impending free-agent pass-rusher Ezekiel Ansah, who has two 12-plus-sack seasons in his last four but struggled with injuries (including a dislocated shoulder) under the franchise tag in 2018 and thus is likely to hit the open market in March.
The fifth overall pick of the 2013 draft won't be cheap, and his lack of consistency is a potential red flag, but he appears to be a good fit in a low-pressure situation that would include surrounding talent. And besides, the Falcons have few other glaring holes and enough money to bring back Jarrett and acquire a player of Ansah's ilk.
This is a crucial year for defense-oriented Falcons head coach Dan Quinn, who is trying to prove his 2016 Super Bowl campaign wasn't a fluke. He'll likely lobby general manager Thomas Dimitroff for veteran help on his side of the ball, and Ansah could be the answer.
Baltimore Ravens Sign Mark Ingram
It appears the Baltimore Ravens are moving all of their chips to the center of Lamar Jackson's table, which means they'll likely employ a uniquely run-heavy attack in 2019 and beyond. That could put them in the market for an interior offensive lineman to team with—and eventually replace—stalwart guard Marshal Yanda, but it might also mean bringing in more talent in the offensive backfield.
Undrafted rookie running back Gus Edwards averaged a strong 5.2 yards per carry in limited action, but Edwards wouldn't be the first obscure young back to flash once in the pan and then disappear. Heck, the Ravens saw a similar flash from Alex Collins in 2017 before he became practically useless in 2018.
Look for Baltimore to partner Edwards with a consistent, steady and well-accomplished veteran such as Mark Ingram, who has averaged at least 4.5 yards per carry on at least 125 (but no more than 250) attempts in each of his last four seasons.
Ingram will turn 30 in December, but he hasn't been overworked in New Orleans and would bring a nice veteran presence to an offense that will likely say goodbye to quarterback Joe Flacco in the coming weeks.
Buffalo Bills Sign Golden Tate
It was tempting to go overly bold with the Buffalo Bills and prognosticate the signing of Le'Veon Bell in Orchard Park, but Buffalo still owes big money to LeSean McCoy, and you'd imagine general manager Brandon Beane, head coach Sean McDermott and offensive coordinator Brian Daboll realize they're in bigger need of either a franchise left tackle or a steady pass-catcher for 22-year-old quarterback Josh Allen.
With no top-notch offensive linemen slated to hit the open market, Buffalo's splash is more likely to come on a player such as Golden Tate, who would immediately become the top target in that offense.
It's sickening that Zay Jones and Robert Foster are probably the best two wide receivers in an attack that lacks depth and experience at the position, but the 30-year-old Tate is a consistent veteran with a Super Bowl ring and a Pro Bowl nod on his resume.
No other receiver scheduled to hit free agency has a track record like Tate's, and the Bills are expected to have enough salary-cap space to outspend most teams.
Carolina Panthers Sign Colin Kaepernick
The Carolina Panthers could get bold in a multitude of ways this offseason. They could sign a top-tier center to replace the retiring Ryan Kalil; they could upgrade on highly paid and even more highly disappointing left tackle Matt Kalil; they could bring in a big-money pass-rusher to help and eventually replace the ancient Julius Peppers (39); they could start rebuilding the secondary with a star defensive back; or they could sign a free-agent quarterback by the name of Colin Rand Kaepernick.
It's possible the ship has sailed on Kaepernick's NFL career. It's easy to argue he's been blackballed because he's the founding father of NFL protests during the national anthem, and he brought a case against the league for collusion. But so did Eric Reid, who is the Robin to Kap's Batman regarding NFL player protests against racial injustice and systematic oppression, and he was signed in the fall by—you guessed it—the Panthers.
New owner David Tepper took a chance on Reid because he's a good player and Carolina needed a safety. Kaepernick is undoubtedly a good player, too, and now it's beginning to look as though Tepper's team may need a quarterback.
With that in mind, why wouldn't the Panthers bring Kaepernick on board alongside Reid? Reid has already served as a guinea pig, and it's possible the upside will outweigh the downside—especially if Newton's bad shoulder continues to hold him back.
Chicago Bears Sign Dee Ford
Don't look for the Chicago Bears to drop cannonballs all over the free-agent pool this March. Last offseason was about splashes in Chicago, and now a well-rounded, emerging roster should generally be left to jell.
Still, it wouldn't be surprising to see the Bears invest in another pass-rusher to complement Khalil Mack—somebody who could rotate with Leonard Floyd or even replace Roquan Smith or Danny Trevathan on passing downs.
That man could be impending Kansas City Chiefs free-agent edge-rusher Dee Ford, who doesn't do anything particularly well except harass quarterbacks—but wouldn't be asked to do much else within a highly supportive Chicago defense.
Ford, 27, will be expensive, but Chicago is set in so many other spots that it might outbid cap-richer counterparts for his services.
It sure would be fun to see him there, and you know new defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano will lobby hard for at least one additional piece with Ford-like abilities.
Cincinnati Bengals Let Andy Dalton Go
This probably won't happen because the Cincinnati Bengals are stubborn, and there are no signs they're prepared to give up on the painfully mediocre Andy Dalton at quarterback. So consider it more of a bold suggestion than a bold prediction. And don't complain, because the alternative—considering Cincinnati's free-agency track record—is for me to predict that its boldest move will be signing a backup safety.
And that's why it's odd the Bengals are hanging on to Dalton. They're notoriously frugal, Dalton is scheduled to cost them $16.3 million in salary-cap space in 2019, he can be cut free of charge, and he isn't very good.
His numbers have regressed since he posted a triple-digit passer rating in 2015, and that isn't likely to change now that he's 31 years old.
To the Bengals' credit, they finally moved on from stale head coach Marvin Lewis earlier this offseason. Next, they should consider cutting bait on Dalton and giving their new head coach (rumored to be quarterback-minded Rams assistant Zac Taylor) a fresh start with a new signal-caller.
Cleveland Browns Sign John Brown
The Cleveland Browns are also probably out of splashes following about a half-decade in the NFL wave pool. They've got their franchise quarterback in Baker Mayfield, their franchise running back in Nick Chubb, an elite receiver in Jarvis Landry and several defensive players worth building around.
But since Landry spends most of his time in the slot, Mayfield could use another speedy target out wide.
Cue John Brown's jump from one AFC North squad to another.
The Browns can afford to overpay Brown, who isn't a superstar but is coming off a season with the Ravens in which he tied for fourth in the league (alongside Tyreek Hill) in yards per catch (17.0).
Still only 28, the experienced former Cardinal also has a 1,000-yard season and 22 career touchdowns under his belt. He'd be an immediate upgrade over Rashard Higgins opposite Antonio Callaway.
Dallas Cowboys Sign Earl Thomas
Bold can be surprising, and surprising can be bold, but there's no rule that bold must be surprising, which is why the Dallas Cowboys would still be performing an act of boldness by signing superstar safety Earl Thomas—even if the whole Milky Way has been predicting said development for well over a year.
Thirteen months to be exact. That's how long ago Thomas visited the Cowboys locker room following a game between Seattle and Dallas at AT&T Stadium and told the most popular team from his home state to "come get me."
It's rare, but the Cowboys have a bunch of money to spend this offseason—more than $48 million, per Spotrac—and with Amari Cooper on board and the offensive line still jacked, they'll probably spend that cash on the defense.
Look for them to lock up impending free-agent defensive end Demarcus Lawrence before they make it happen with Thomas.
Denver Broncos Release Case Keenum, Sign Joe Flacco
John Elway appears low on patience.
In his season-closing press conference, the Denver Broncos general manager would only say that Case Keenum remains the team's quarterback "right now." And that tepid endorsement stems from the fact that the 2017 breakout Minnesota Vikings star did his best pumpkin impression with a dud showing in Denver in 2018.
Foles, 30, is probably the better option because he's done more lately and is younger, but that's exactly why we'll peg the 34-year-old Flacco for Denver. Every time Elway has to make a decision on a quarterback, he makes the wrong one.
Detroit Lions Move on from Ezekiel Ansah
While the Falcons might be willing to gamble on Ansah, the Detroit Lions might have had enough. Detroit general manager Bob Quinn didn't draft him, he isn't necessarily a Matt Patricia guy, and a second franchise tag is probably off the table following an injury-derailed sixth season for Ansah.
Somebody else will likely be happy to pay him a lot more money than the Lions, who are scheduled to rank below the league median with less than $30 million in salary-cap space, and a fresh start might be better for both parties anyway.
This is bold because it leaves the pass rush in dire straits, but giving big bucks to a soon-to-be 30-year-old Ansah wouldn't be very Patriot-like for two former New England employees in Quinn and Patricia.
Look for them to instead use that No. 8 overall pick on a potential cornerstone edge-rusher.
Green Bay Packers Release Jimmy Graham
Less than a year ago, the Green Bay Packers committed an uncharacteristically bold act by pursuing and handsomely paying veteran tight end Jimmy Graham.
This year, their only bold act should be to admit they erred in giving the now-32-year-old a three-year, $30 million contract with $11 million guaranteed.
They should release him.
Swallowing a $7.3 million cap hit won't be easy for general manager Brian Gutekunst, even if they can spread that expense over two seasons if they designate the move as a post-June 1 cut. But at the nine-year mark of his career, the five-time Pro Bowler just isn't worth the roster spot at $10 million a year. His touchdown total plummeted from 10 with the Seattle Seahawks in 2017 to just two in 16 games with Aaron Rodgers and the Packers in 2018.
The Packers can afford to cut bait, and Gutekunst's best approach would be to consult with new head coach Matt LaFleur on which free-agent or draft-bound tight ends would work best in an offense that is expected to undergo major changes.
Houston Texans Sign Trent Brown
The Houston Texans offensive line has been an easy target to mock for much of the franchise's 17 years of existence, and there are excuses to neglect the unit that is in charge of protecting franchise quarterback Deshaun Watson.
The Texans have to concern themselves with the statuses of impending free-agent defenders Jadeveon Clowney and Tyrann Mathieu. But they've got $59 million in cap space, and they need more proven talent at the tackle positions.
Watson was one of the most frequently pressured NFL quarterbacks in 2018. Thanks at least partly to horrendous blocking from disappointing left tackle Julie'n Davenport, the second-year No. 12 overall pick was sacked a league-high 62 times.
Even if they re-sign Clowney and Mathieu and draft an offensive lineman early, they should look to add an established blindside protector with upside and the ability to physically dominate.
That just might be the 6'8", 380-pound, 25-year-old Trent Brown, who has done a fantastic job of keeping Tom Brady upright during the New England Patriots' Super Bowl run.
Indianapolis Colts Sign Trey Flowers
The Indianapolis Colts have the cap space to outbid anybody—even the New York Jets—for anybody. Naturally, that has led to speculation that they could be in on Le'Veon Bell. But the Colts seemed to realize late last season that their running game is just fine in the hands of 2017 fourth-round pick Marlon Mack, especially with Mack and Co. running behind Indy's in vogue offensive line.
Instead, look for the Colts to make their big splash on defense.
Coordinator Matt Eberflus' unit was greater than the sum of its parts in 2018, but it's time for general manager Chris Ballard to provide Eberflus with even stronger parts. With Jabaal Sheard and several relatively unknown players leading the charge from the edge, Indy ranked below the league median in terms of sack rate and total sacks and 29th in adjusted sack rate at Football Outsiders.
That's why Ballard could outpay the rest of the league to steal Trey Flowers from the rival New England Patriots.
The underrated 25-year-old would be a perfect fit for Indy's defense, and his versatility makes him special. He's a consistently strong run defender, and his modest sack numbers don't do justice to his ability to bring pressure.
This makes too much sense.
Jacksonville Jaguars Sign Nick Foles
Few would be floored by news that the Jacksonville Jaguars were giving up on Blake Bortles in favor of Foles, but a major quarterback swap always requires some bravery and boldness.
That's especially the case because Foles hasn't experienced success outside Philadelphia. He won a Super Bowl MVP with the Eagles, and he made a Pro Bowl and a playoff run there in 2013. But he was far from impressive as a backup with the St. Louis Rams in 2015, and it's fair to point out that he's never experienced sustained NFL success—even in Philly.
But that shouldn't and won't stop the Jags from throwing large wads of cash at the 30-year-old, simply because it's time to give up on Bortles and they need some of that Foles magic dust.
It's possible the no-longer-cap-rich Jags are outbid in the looming Foles sweepstakes, but the Miami Dolphins are more likely to go the draft route and, if they don't do the same thing, the Broncos could prefer a more established vet like Flacco. And beyond that, there aren't any clear-cut quarterback-needy teams who might pay Foles now to capitalize on a competitive window.
Kansas City Chiefs Let Dee Ford Walk, Sign Ronald Darby
It's possible that new Kansas City Chiefs defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo—known partly for his "four aces" package that featured a quartet of strong pass-rushers with the 2007 New York Giants—will lobby his new bosses to keep all three of Kansas City's elite defensive linemen around.
But Justin Houston is already making a lot of money, and Chris Jones will be due a large payday after next year.
With that in mind, the Chiefs might want to avoid tagging or getting into a bidding war to keep Ford, who would be worth more to richer, more desperate counterparts.
Remember, even with Houston, Jones and Ford all clicking in 2018, Kansas City's defense ranked 31st in football and couldn't get stops when it mattered in the playoffs.
The Chiefs defense desperately needs more balance and could use a top-notch outside cornerback to work next to slot specialist Kendall Fuller. Impending free-agent Ronald Darby fits that mold, has plenty of experience at age 25, might be the best corner on the market and would be a heck of a lot cheaper than Ford.
Los Angeles Chargers Sign Ndamukong Suh
You heard it here first: Ndamukong Suh will remain in Los Angeles in 2019.
But instead of suiting up for the L.A. Rams, Suh just might wind up making the trek from the Rams' headquarters in Thousand Oaks to the L.A. Chargers' facility in Costa Mesa.
Suh didn't live up to his $14 million salary with the Rams in 2018, and the team has a lot of other key contracts to look at. While the Chargers have less cap space, they don't have as many pressing in-house concerns. And considering how badly they could use a strong inside presence to complement top-tier pass-rushers Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram, paying up for Suh makes a lot of sense.
The Bolts don't have many other holes, but defensive tackles Brandon Mebane and Darius Philon are both impending free agents, and the team should still have the cap space to add a player like Suh.
Los Angeles Rams Keep Dante Fowler Jr. over Ndamukong Suh
The Rams could pay through the roof to keep Suh. But they probably won't be able to retain both him and defensive end Dante Fowler Jr. And Fowler fills more of a need, considering they've already got Aaron Donald inside.
So look for the Rams to boldly pick the former over the latter. After all, they gave up two middle-round draft picks for Fowler on Oct. 30, and he was the team's best edge-rusher late in the season and has been the same in the playoffs.
It's been a turbulent ride for the 2015 No. 3 overall pick, but he's still just 24 years old, and it appears he's finding a groove as a sack artist.
Suh has the more impressive resume, but Fowler could be the future (alongside Donald).
Miami Dolphins Release Ryan Tannehill but Don't Spend to Replace Him
It appears the Miami Dolphins are ready to end the Ryan Tannehill era.
Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald reported last month that "the Dolphins are prepared to move on from Tannehill after seven seasons instead of paying him the $19 million he's owed each of the next two seasons and carrying a $26.6 million cap hit next season."
None of that money is guaranteed, and Miami could use the extra salary-cap space.
But don't be shocked if they dump Tannehill and use that found money on other positions. The Dolphins roster requires a lot of work, and paying somebody like Flacco or Foles would seem counterintuitive.
Heck, ESPN's Adam Schefter reported earlier this month that the team is already so locked into a rebuild that it is eyeing the quarterback class in the 2020 draft.
Canning Tannehill and neglecting to replace him could be the first step in Miami's quest to tank the 2019 season.
Minnesota Vikings Sign Ja'Wuan James and Mitch Morse
Bringing in offensive tackle Ja'Wuan James might not qualify as bold, and hiring center Mitch Morse isn't likely to generate large-font headlines either. But considering the state of their offensive line, the Minnesota Vikings would send a considerable message if they were to sign two linemen like James and Morse in March.
I'd expect the Vikings to also be in on Trent Brown, but because they need help across the line, the likely cheaper James would make a lot of sense alongside an interior offensive lineman like Morse.
Both are 26 years old. James has generally been a disappointment as a 2014 first-round pick but hasn't been a bad starter at right tackle. Morse has been good of late when healthy, but the 2015 second-rounder has missed 14 games the last two seasons.
The potential scenario here is James comes on board to play right tackle; second-year second-round pick Brian O'Neill competes with Riley Reiff for the left tackle job; one settles for a swing tackle role; and Morse battles for positioning inside with Tom Compton, Mike Remmers and Pat Elflein.
That would give one of the least competent offensive lines in football a significantly better chance at becoming somewhat reliable in 2019.
New England Patriots Sign Adam Humphries
Considering the state of their wide receivers and tight ends, the New England Patriots will surely spend time cruising the free-agent market in search of talent at those positions.
And while it's easy to envision wideouts like John Brown, Tate and Donte Moncrief having success in New England, impending Tampa Bay Buccaneers free-agent Adam Humphries feels like he was tailor-made for Bill Belichick and the Pats.
Humphries was inspired by Wes Welker—the original shifty slot receiver the Patriots stole from another Florida team over a decade ago. He's also shifty, and he's got sure hands as well as strong route-running skills.
He probably wouldn't be as expensive as those listed above, mainly because he's yet to put up big numbers while overshadowed in Tampa. But his productivity has increased steadily during his first four NFL seasons, and the 26-year-old looks to be on the verge of a breakout.
Would anybody be surprised if that breakout took place under Belichick in Foxborough?
New Orleans Saints Re-Sign Teddy Bridgewater
Because Drew Brees and even Taysom Hill get more attention than Teddy Bridgewater on the New Orleans Saints quarterback depth chart, it's widely assumed that Bridgewater will join his fourth roster in a 13-month span in March.
But Brees is on the wrong side of 40 and coming off a poor finish to another non-championship season, while Hill is more of a specialist who has passing ability. And those realities could be enough to cause the Saints to pay up for Bridgewater.
New Orleans didn't just trade a third-round pick to the New York Jets in exchange for Bridgewater and a sixth-rounder in August so the 26-year-old former Pro Bowler could collect dust on the sideline for a few months and then hit the road. He was acquired as Brees insurance then, and that shouldn't change merely based on a so-so 23-pass sample in Brees' stead.
Brees had a strong year but posted a mere 84.7 passer rating during his final four regular-season games and struggled in a home playoff loss to the Rams. When he went cold down the stretch, so did a Saints offense that had been on fire. Meanwhile, despite a near-constant presence, Hill completed just three passes on seven attempts all season.
The Saints are a deep, talented team with a limited number of key players slated to hit free agency. They don't have much money to spend, but they can and should devote a good chunk of their salary-cap space to retaining Bridgewater for at least another year.
New York Giants Sign Devin Funchess
The New York Giants have a strong connection to the Carolina Panthers, thanks mainly to the fact Giants general manager Dave Gettleman ran the Panthers front office from 2013 to 2016.
That means he drafted wide receiver Devin Funchess 41st overall in 2015, and now the 6'4" receiver is scheduled to hit the open market after he scored 21 touchdowns in four seasons with the Panthers.
Regardless of whether they keep Odell Beckham Jr., the Giants could use another target for Eli Manning. And while Funchess might not be a superstar, the Michigan product has a high ceiling and has yet to turn 25.
He'd immediately become a starter on the outside and could make it easier for Gettleman to consider shopping Beckham on the trade market. And the Giants have more money to spend than the Panthers, who might not prioritize Funchess with DJ Moore, Curtis Samuel and Greg Olsen already on board.
New York Jets Don't Sign Le'Veon Bell
The New York Jets have for quite some time been favored to land superstar running back Le'Veon Bell in free agency. With that in mind, their bold move would be resisting the temptation to send a Brinks truck to Bell's South Florida residence. And general manager Mike Maccagnan will exercise that discipline.
It's not as though Maccagnan can't afford Bell, and the three-time Pro Bowler would certainly bolster support for 21-year-old signal-caller Sam Darnold. But new quarterback-oriented Jets head coach Adam Gase will likely be more concerned with improving the protection and receiving options for Darnold, who wasn't badly supported by backs Isaiah Crowell and Bilal Powell as a rookie in 2018.
Instead, Darnold would benefit greatly from another starting-caliber receiver opposite Robby Anderson, and the entire Jets offensive line is in need of revamping following a brutal year for that unit.
So look for the Jets to spend their money there and/or on a defense that surrendered the fourth-worst points-per-game total in the NFL in 2018. And look for Bell to go elsewhere.
Oakland Raiders Sign Le'Veon Bell
Bell will go elsewhere, as in Oakland, where the Raiders seem just dumb enough to overcommit to an aging player with baggage at a non-premium position. Why will the Raiders pay the 26-year-old Bell?
1. Because Jon Gruden has salary-cap space to burn
2. Because Gruden might figure he can fill other holes with his three first-round draft picks
4. Because they're looking to make a splash before they move to Las Vegas in 2020, and Bell is the biggest name on the free-agent market
Of course, the Raiders also need help at running back. And while there are more fiscally responsible ways to approach that problem, this team has lost the benefit of the doubt.
Philadelphia Eagles Sign Kareem Hunt
Kareem Hunt is a 23-year-old running back with strong pass-catching skills and a Pro Bowl as well as a rushing crown on his resume. So even though Hunt is likely facing league-imposed discipline after TMZ released disturbing video in late November that shows him shoving and kicking Abigail Ottinger, the reality is he's likely to find an NFL job in 2019.
The Philadelphia Eagles happen to be in need of a top-tier running back to better support Carson Wentz and the passing game, and they've already been linked to Bell, per Schefter (via NBC Sports Philadelphia). But Hunt will probably be cheaper than Bell as a result of those off-field concerns, which could cause the Eagles to bite.
The Chiefs released Hunt as soon as the video emerged, but it's possible Kansas City head coach Andy Reid could endorse Hunt to former colleagues Doug Pederson and Howie Roseman in Philadelphia.
Of course, it's also possible Reid could tell the Eagles to stay away, or that he'll say nothing at all.
Regardless, there's a clear connection between the staffs in Kansas City and Philly, and Pro Football Talk's Mike Florio listed the Eagles as a candidate to claim Hunt off waivers in December.
Until the team states it won't go there, this is a potential bold move for the 2019 Eagles.
Pittsburgh Steelers Sign Blake Bortles
The Pittsburgh Steelers often operate as though they're allergic to free agency. But if they dip a toe into those waters this March, it just might be for a poor man's Ben Roethlisberger.
The similarities between Roethlisberger and Blake Bortles are undeniable, and it wouldn't be far-fetched for the two to join forces. Pittsburgh, after all, lacks experience behind Big Ben, and Bortles—who according to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport will probably be released with a post-June 1 designation—has plenty of big-game experience.
His performances in those big games explain why he's unlikely to find a starting job this offseason, but Bortles did help the Jaguars beat the Steelers in a road playoff contest just a year ago, and he possesses many of Big Ben's qualities (including size, mobility and arm strength).
The 6'5", 236-pound Bortles would probably make a decent spot starter if the soon-to-be 37-year-old Roethlisberger (6'5", 240 lbs) were to go down at any point, but at age 26, it's also still possible Bortles could emerge as an heir apparent in a new environment (and with a hell of a lot more support).
San Francisco 49ers Sign Bryce Callahan
Many of us spent the first wave of last year's free-agent period waiting for the San Francisco 49ers to sign a big-time pass-catcher. And while Sammy Watkins, Allen Robinson, Paul Richardson and Taylor Gabriel jumped to new teams with shiny new contracts in tow, the 49ers held back.
Considering the way tight end George Kittle emerged in 2018, there's little reason to expect San Francisco to suddenly go that route in 2019. And even if it does, it's possible that happens via trade (See: Brown, Antonio and Beckham Jr., Odell).
Instead, look for the Niners to bolster the secondary with a cornerback who can do a better job of handling opposing receivers in an NFC West that is loaded with good ones. And while they'd probably prefer a strong outside presence like Pierre Desir of the Colts, Indy has the money to keep Desir, and the 49ers could probably save a few bucks with underrated slot specialist Bryce Callahan.
Michael Renner of Pro Football Focus wrote earlier this month:
"Slot cornerbacks rarely get paid in free agency, but that doesn’t mean they’re not valuable. In fact, our data found that targeting the slot was actually more valuable than receivers split wide. Over the last two seasons, targeting Callahan in the slot has netted opposing quarterbacks a passer rating of 74.3 (2017) and 78.9 (2018)—both top-five figures each season."
Have fun with that, Cooper Kupp, Robert Woods, Doug Baldwin, Tyler Lockett and Larry Fitzgerald.
Seattle Seahawks Sign Landon Collins
And there's your Earl Thomas replacement for the Seattle Seahawks.
The Seahawks look as though they'll lose Thomas, as it's clear they were never willing to pay up for an injury-prone safety approaching his 30th birthday.
Landon Collins doesn't have the same resume and thus won't be quite as expensive, but he's only 25 years old and missed just one career game before a shoulder injury prematurely ended his fourth NFL season in December.
The only teams with more cap space than the Seahawks that might be in on Collins are the Bills and Raiders, but Seattle is probably a more enticing landing spot for the three-time Pro Bowler. And you know the Seahawks will be motivated to bring in an impact defensive back as part of their attempt to rebuild the Legion of Boom.
If they swing and miss on Collins, expect them to make runs at Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and/or Lamarcus Joyner.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers Sign Rodger Saffold
Contain yourself, Tampa Bay Buccaneers fans, because you might get a new interior offensive lineman! He's 30, he almost made a Pro Bowl once and PFF's Michael Renner recently raved that he "may not be an elite guard, but he’s been in the tier below for quite some time."
That's right, it's Rodger Saffold!
OK, so maybe this year's bold move for the Bucs will come in the draft, or maybe it already came when they filled their head-coaching vacancy with Bruce Arians. But this is as close as cap-strapped Tampa Bay might come to making a splash in free agency, especially because the team's core is already in place.
They've got supposed franchise quarterback Jameis Winston, who's entering a make-or-break year; they've got several high-quality young pass-catchers; and they've got a couple of talented offensive tackles, a strong left guard in Ali Marpet and a highly-paid center in Ryan Jensen. They spent a fortune on the defense last offseason, and while there's still room for improvement there—especially in the secondary—you'd think Arians would push for at least one bona fide addition on his preferred side of the ball.
The versatile Saffold could be that guy. He's been extremely reliable in Los Angeles and has performed well down the stretch during the Rams' Super Bowl run. One more solid performance Sunday could make it even tougher for the Rams to retain him, and the Bucs make a lot of sense as a potential poacher.
Tennessee Titans Sign Brandon Graham
When Brandon Graham was last a free agent in 2015, the Tennessee Titans reportedly expressed interest in him. A lot has changed since, but we're expecting the Titans to once again chase Graham and land him this time around.
In 2015, Graham was coming off a strong season in which he established himself as an emerging pass-rusher at outside linebacker in Bill Davis' 3-4 defense. He's been back on the line of late, but Titans defensive coordinator Dean Pees would probably love to throw Graham into the mix with Derrick Morgan, especially with running mate Brian Orakpo retiring after 10 NFL seasons.
That is if they retain Morgan, who is 30 and set to hit free agency after an abysmal season.
Regardless, Tennessee needs an established pass-rusher to chase Luck and Watson (and Foles?) in the AFC South. He might not be a big-number sack guy, but he's earned "a top-15 pass-rush grade among qualifying edge defenders each of the last four seasons," according to PFF.
He could be just what the doctor ordered, even if on a four-year delay.
Washington Redskins Sign Andy Dalton
We're boldly predicting that the Bengals will release Dalton, and the Washington Redskins make a lot of sense as a bold landing spot for the Red Rifle.
After all, the Redskins might need quarterback insurance. Veteran starter Alex Smith suffered a gruesome leg injury in November, which led to multiple surgeries, a four-week hospital stay and plenty of justified doubt about the 34-year-old's future.
And Dalton would be an ideal stopgap who would probably be down with a short, prove-it contract in a new environment. He would suit the Washington offense, and Redskins head coach Jay Gruden was Cincinnati's offensive coordinator for the first three years of Dalton's career.
It's far-fetched considering that Dalton remains under contract with the Bengals, but crazier developments have happened in the always wild NFL offseason.