Biggest Potential Bargains in 2019 NFL Free Agency
The NFL free-agency period doesn't lack for excitement. The league's top available stars tend to get rapidly scooped up, sometimes in a matter of minutes.
However, history has shown that big-money players don't always offer the best value. Just look at the 2018 free agents who failed to live up to their contracts—such as New York Jets cornerback Trumaine Johnson and Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins—for recent examples.
Instead, the bargain players—those who sign lower-tier deals in the second wave of free agency—often end up providing the most value. Guys like Baltimore Ravens wide receiver John Brown, Houston Texans defensive back Tyrann Mathieu and Indianapolis Colts tight end Eric Ebron didn't break the bank, but they each proved to be critical additions on their respective teams.
Here's a look at the 2019 free agents who are most likely to follow in those footsteps.
WR Tyrell Williams
Tyrell Williams has mostly been a role player during his time with the Los Angeles Chargers. However, he has the combination of size (6'4", 205 lbs) and speed that NFL teams covet in a No. 1 receiver, and he's flashed legitimate playmaking ability.
"I definitely feel like I'm a No. 1 receiver," Williams said, per Eric D. Williams of ESPN.com. "So I want to make sure that I clean up all of the little things in route running and blocking, to make sure I solidify myself as a No. 1."
Williams had a 1,000-yard season back in 2016, and he's averaged more than 15 yards per reception in each of the last three seasons. Because of his upside, Williams could land a sizable contract in free agency.
However, Williams isn't likely to match the three-year, $48 million deal Sammy Watkins received from the Kansas City Chiefs last offseason. The oft-injured Watkins was the No. 4 overall pick in 2014, which may have convinced the Chiefs to overpay him, while Williams entered the league as an undrafted free agent.
Williams has been both more productive and healthier than Watkins over the past two seasons, so he should prove to be a far better bargain.
S Adrian Phillips
Chargers safety Adrian Phillips is coming off his first Pro Bowl appearance. As a result, the former undrafted free agent is in line for a much better deal than the one-year, $1.5 million contract he played on in 2018.
Phillips isn't yet a superstar, and he's likely to command less on the open market than safeties like Earl Thomas, Lamarcus Joyner and even Mathieu. However, he could be a better bargain than any of them.
Phillips can play the hybrid safety/linebacker role that has become popular in a variety of defensive schemes. He amassed a career-high 94 tackles, nine passes defended, one interception and one forced fumble with the Chargers last season.
Phillips also won't turn 27 until the end of March, which means teams shouldn't hesitate to ink him to a long-term deal. By the time he reaches the final few seasons of that contract, he could be one of the best bargains in the NFL.
RB Bilal Powell
Running back Bilal Powell suffered a neck injury in late October that New York Jets head coach Todd Bowles initially said "could be career-ending," per Connor Hughes of The Athletic. Bowles later backtracked and said Powell was expected to make a full recovery and play again, but that uncertainty could affect his market.
If Powell checks out medically, some team may land a huge bargain by signing him on the cheap.
The 30-year-old is a tremendous change-of-pace and receiving back—he had 942 yards from scrimmage in 2017—which would make him a valuable addition to any backfield. But since running backs typically aren't in high demand during free agency, his injury history and age may make him fly under the radar.
Teams looking for their own version of what the New England Patriots have in James White could potentially get one by giving Powell a chance.
WR Adam Humphries
Much like Tyrell Williams, Tampa Bay Buccaneers receiver Adam Humphries could land a fairly lucrative contract in free agency. There aren't a ton of high-end options hitting the market, and there is nothing close to a sure thing in the upcoming draft.
Humphries has developed into one of the league's better slot receivers. He's sure-handed, has some after-the-catch ability and is a savvy route-runner.
The four-year veteran had a career-high 76 catches for 816 yards and five touchdowns last season, and he amassed at least 600 receiving yards in each of the last three seasons. No one will confuse Humphries for Jarvis Landry, but he isn't likely to cost close to $15 million per year, either.
The 26-year-old Humphries could be a solid bargain for a receiver-needy team.
LB Terrell Suggs
While Humphries' time in the spotlight is just beginning, Terrell Suggs' is reaching its end. He'll turn 37 in mid-October and doesn't fit the traditional profile of a potential free-agent bargain.
However, Suggs is likely to agree to an below-market deal either to return to the Baltimore Ravens or to chase a ring with another contender.
Chris Long's deal with the Philadelphia Eagles—which will carry a cap hit of $5.6 million in 2019—is a fair comparison. For a player who can still get after the quarterback, that's a bargain.
Suggs may not be the dominant sack artist he once was, but he did have 7.0 sacks in 2018 and 11.0 sacks in 2017. As a situational pass-rusher, he could provide a ton of value to a contender like the Patriots, the Los Angeles Rams, the Kansas City Chiefs or the Ravens.
RB Spencer Ware
Chiefs running back Spencer Ware isn't likely to garner a ton of attention early in free agency. He plays a position that can easily be filled through the draft, he missed the entire 2017 season with a torn PCL, and his stint as the starter following Kareem Hunt's release this past season was short-lived.
However, Ware can provide plenty of value for a team in need of running back help.
At 5'10" and 229 pounds, Ware is a bowling ball of a back, but he can also be a pass-catching weapon out of the backfield. He was valuable as a third-down back even when Hunt was starting, and he caught 20 balls for 224 yards in 2018.
Ware has also proved in the past that he can be a team's lead back. He started 14 games for Kansas City in 2016 and amassed 921 yards rushing, 447 yards receiving and five total touchdowns.
While teams aren't likely to look to Ware to fill a starting role, he can still be a valuable piece of a backfield. At only 27 years old, he can do so for several seasons, too.
OT Greg Robinson
Offensive tackle Greg Robinson was a disappointment for most of his NFL career, but the 2014 No. 2 overall pick finally emerged as a reliable starter for the Cleveland Browns this past season. As a result, the Browns have considered signing Robinson to a long-term deal.
"I like Greg and I like everything he represents," Browns general manager John Dorsey said, per Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com. "With regard to could he be our left tackle, we've had ongoing conversations with his representatives."
However, Robinson isn't likely to command high-end money in free agency since his stretch as a successful starter with Cleveland lasted only eight games. That's a small sample size, which means he's probably headed for another prove-it deal whether with Cleveland or elsewhere.
If a team can get a starting-caliber left tackle on such a deal, it has to be considered a bargain. Expect Robinson to command far less than the $15.5 million per season Nate Solder got from the New York Giants last offseason.
CB Pierre Desir
Cornerback Pierre Desir is far from a household name. The Browns originally selected him with a fourth-round in 2014, but he emerged as a quality starter with the Indianapolis Colts over the last two seasons, starting 18 regular-season games in that span.
Desir brings to the table a combination of size (6'1", 198 lbs), physicality and football instinct. It took him some time to adjust from playing at Lindenwood University to playing in the NFL, but now that he's figured it out, he's become one of Indianapolis' better defenders.
Desir is only 28 years old and should have several quality seasons ahead of him. However, he isn't likely to get a huge contract on the open market since he isn't a star and doesn't have a long track record of success.
Expect Desir to command something in the $4 million per year range that E.J. Gaines got from the Browns last offseason. For a starting-caliber cornerback, that's a bargain.
All contract information via Spotrac.