The 2019 NFL Scouting Combine is underway, which is one of the biggest steps in the draft process. It can also be a big step in the NFL's free-agency process. This is because all 32 teams are gathered together at the same time, along with the representatives of many pending free agents.
Of course, speaking with said representatives before March 11 is technically tampering, but believing that it doesn't occur would be naive. Decision-makers are going to speak to agents—and other decision-makers—at the combine, and some preliminary negotiations will likely take place.
Naturally, rumors surrounding some of the league's top pending free agents also seem to ramp up during combine week. This is the case again in 2019. Here, you'll find some of the latest rumors and predictions about free agency's top targets.
The Philadelphia Eagles have decided not to use the franchise tag on former Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles. This means that a team will be free to sign him instead of having to trade for him.
There are several quarterback-needy teams who could have interest in Foles, including the Washington Redskins, New York Giants and the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Jacksonville is a team that appears to be a good quarterback away from making a run at the Super Bowl. The Giants need an eventual replacement for Eli Manning, and the Redskins need at least a one-year replacement for Alex Smith, who is still recovering from a broken leg. For New York and Washington, Foles' knowledge of the NFC East would be valuable.
For now, it appears the Jaguars are the team most likely to sign Foles, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter:
This makes a ton of sense, as Jacksonville was able to get within a few plays of the Super Bowl in 2017 before losing to the New England Patriots in the AFC title game. Foles, meanwhile, torched those same Patriots en route to Philadelphia's first Super Bowl victory.
Prediction: Jaguars sign Foles to a three-year deal.
Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le'Veon Bell is likely to be the hottest running back on the open market this year—though he'll only be a target .
For starters, Bell is going to want a lucrative contract, both because he believes he deserves it and because he needs to make up for missing his 2017 franchise-tag payday. This likely leaves only teams flush with cap space with a realistic shot at signing him.
According to Spotrac, the New York Jets and Indianapolis Colts are projected to have the most cap space in 2019.
While the Colts have a strong backfield duo in Marlon Mack and Nyheim Hines, they appear willing to at least consider the possibility of adding Bell. Mike DeCourcy of Sporting News recently asked Colts general manager Chris Ballard about adding to the running back position.
"First thing, I'm not going to comment on that loaded question you just fired at me in terms of a specific player," Ballard told DeCourcy. "I'll say this: If we think it's the best thing for our team, we will always try to do the right thing."
Realistically, the Colts don't feel like major players for Bell. The Jets, though, might well be.
"I think we'll be very active in free agency," Jets general manager Mike Maccagnan said, per Pro Football Weekly.
The Jets also have a bigger need at the running back position than Indianapolis and a young quarterback in Sam Darnold who is still learning the NFL game.
Prediction: Jets sign Bell to a four-year deal.
There are several quality pass-rushers headed to free agency, which isn't usually the case. However, the top two edge-rushers—Demarcus Lawrence and Jadeveon Clowney—will likely either be signed or given the franchise tag before the March 5 tag deadline.
"I'm confident we'll get a deal done," Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said of Lawrence, per Todd Archer of ESPN.com.
If Clowney and Lawrence are both off the board, teams will be looking to the next tier of pass-rushers, where longtime Baltimore Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs sits. While he has lost a step at age 36, Suggs is still a capable rotational pass-rusher—one who amassed seven sacks in 2018 and 18 in total over the past two seasons.
For a contending team like the Patriots, the Los Angeles Rams or the Kansas City Chiefs, Suggs could be the kind of veteran presence who helps deliver a Lombardi Trophy. Suggs definitely plans to play in 2019, according to Schefter, though the Baltimore Ravens are interested in re-signing him:
Though the Ravens aren't quite on the same level as New England and Los Angeles, they were a playoff team in 2018 and should also be considered a contender. Suggs would be just as much of a boon to Baltimore.
Prediction: Ravens sign Suggs to a two-year deal.