NFL Free Agency 2019: Buying or Selling Latest Rumors

Maurice Moton@@MoeMotonFeatured ColumnistMarch 11, 2019

NFL Free Agency 2019: Buying or Selling Latest Rumors

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    Butch Dill/Associated Press

    It's lying season in the NFL.

    The period between the NFL Scouting Combine and the official start of free agency is rife with speculation as to how teams plan to mold their rosters for the upcoming year. 

    We'll put draft talk on pause to focus on veterans with expiring contracts. Who is reportedly showing interest in the top names set to hit the open market?

    At times, NFL beat writers and insiders come away with conflicting reports. Depending on the source, information may lead to some truths, and others trace back to a smoke screen to deceive competing suitors for a specific player. Agents may also have a hand in embellishing interest in their clients. 

    Clubs will have the opportunity to negotiate with player representatives Monday. Before the wink-and-nod agreements become public, we'll dive into the juiciest rumors pertaining to free agency and buy or sell each report.

          

Jacksonville Jaguars Split on Nick Foles?

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    Quarterback Nick Foles
    Quarterback Nick FolesJonathan Bachman/Getty Images

    CBS Sports' Jason La Canfora hit the brakes on the foregone conclusion Nick Foles signs with Jacksonville. The insider reported the Jaguars may have interest in the quarterback prospects in this year's draft class.

    "I continue to hear the Jags remain somewhat split on what to pay Nick Foles, and that Tom Coughlin remains very intrigued by some quarterbacks in this draft," La Canfora wrote. 

    If the front office plans to take a quarterback at No. 7 overall, Jacksonville could go lukewarm on Foles, especially with a price tag that goes beyond its expectations. Nonetheless, the Jaguars saved approximately $30 million after terminating the contracts of defensive tackle Malik Jackson, running back Carlos Hyde, safety Tashaun Gipson, right tackle Jermey Parnell and long snapper Carson Tinker, per Mia O'Brien and Ben Murphy of First Coast News.

    It's not a coincidence the front office shed those contracts days before the legal tampering period Monday. The extra cap space gives the Jaguars room to sign a quarterback to replace Blake Bortles under center. According to Spotrac, Foles could make an average of $19.2 million annually on his next deal.

    Jacksonville can acquire the former Philadelphia Eagles signal-caller on a short-term pact and still draft a quarterback of the future in the first round. As ESPN.com's Dan Graziano reported, expect the Jaguars to go all-in on Foles at the turn of the new NFL year.

    Verdict: Sell

Oakland Raiders More Interested in Ha Ha Clinton-Dix Than Landon Collins?

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    Safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix
    Safety Ha Ha Clinton-DixAssociated Press

    The Oakland Raiders head into the 2019 offseason with limited talent at safety. Last offseason, the front office waived 2017 second-rounder Obi Melifonwu. Marcus Gilchrist will test the open market. Head coach Jon Gruden and general manager Mike Mayock have to find a starter to pair with Karl Joseph. 

    According to the Las Vegas Review-Journal's Michael Gehlken, the team will pursue Ha Ha Clinton-Dix once the open negotiating period kicks off Monday. The report also suggests Landon Collins' price may be too steep.

    Logically, the preference for Clinton-Dix over Collins makes sense for the Raiders secondary. Over the last few seasons, Joseph established a strong presence closer to the line of scrimmage, which is also the case for the former New York Giants safety. 

    Clinton-Dix has shown better coverage skills, logging 14 interceptions and 28 pass breakups in five seasons. As a solid tackler, he can play both safety spots, whereas Collins doesn't offer much as a pass defender. The Redskins safety won't come at a cheap price either, but he's a better complement to Joseph on the back end.

    Verdict: Buy

Indianapolis Colts in 'Strong Pursuit' of Tyrell Williams?

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    Los Angeles Chargers Tyrell Williams
    Los Angeles Chargers Tyrell WilliamsThearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

    Chester Rogers, a third-year undrafted product from Grambling State, listed second in receptions (53) and receiving yards (485) among Indianapolis Colts wideouts last season. He appeared in all 16 games but played just 52.2 percent of the offensive snaps. 

    General manager Chris Ballard must add a perimeter playmaker on offense, someone to complement wide receiver T.Y. Hilton. According to La Canfora, the front office has its sights set on Los Angeles Chargers wideout Tyrell Williams.

    "Tyrell Williams is the consensus best outside wide receiver on this market, and at just 26 with no warts and strong production and great size and metrics, his time has come," La Canfora wrote. "He was stuck behind some studs with the Chargers but will eclipse $12 million a year, I reckon, with the Colts and Raiders in strong pursuit."

    The Raiders reportedly agreed to acquire wideout Antonio Brown in exchange for third- and fifth-round picks, and they'll pay him $30.1 million in guarantees, per NFL Network's Ian Rapoport. That investment may take them out of the running for Williams, who will likely demand a lucrative deal on the open market.

    The Colts could add arguably the most dynamic free-agent wideout to a passing offense that ranked sixth in yards and second in touchdowns last year. At 6'4", 205 pounds, Williams would fit in Indianapolis as a strong red-zone threat opposite Hilton.

    Williams averages a career 16.3 yards per catch as a potential big-play option in the aerial attack. Quarterback Andrew Luck could optimize his skill set on the perimeter.

    Verdict: Buy

Are the New York Jets the Favorite to Sign Le'Veon Bell?

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    Running back Le'Veon Bell
    Running back Le'Veon BellGregory Shamus/Getty Images

    According to Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert (via ESPN.com's Jeremy Fowler), the front office won't tag running back Le'Veon Bell, which allows him to test free agency. Where will he suit up for the upcoming season?

    According to The Athletic's Connor Hughes, a renowned agent thinks the New York Jets stand out as the team that will sign Bell. "I heard from one high-profile agent who is well versed in the running back market that the Jets are 'undeniably the favorite' to sign the Steelers running back," he wrote. 

    Per the New York Post's Brian Costello, links to the 27-year-old ball-carrier have not come from within the Jets organization—it's pure speculation. "The people I spoke with seemed to be deducing that the Jets would be in on Bell, not that they were told that by anyone from the Jets," he wrote.

    DraftAnalyst.com's Tony Pauline suggests the Jets won't aim for the biggest name at running back. "I'm told the New York Jets will target second-tier running backs during free agency," he wrote. "This affirms reports from our February 14 podcast on the Jets showing little interest in Le'Veon Bell."

    Gang Green absolutely needs to upgrade the offense with high-end playmakers. General manager Mike Maccagnan will have $92.4 million in cap space to target big names on the market, but that doesn't mean he should pay top dollar for a player at a replaceable position. 

    As an offensive coordinator or head coach, Adam Gase has worked with serviceable running backs Knowshon Moreno, C.J. Anderson, Matt Forte and Jay Ajayi, none of them comparable to Bell in status. The Jets may pass on paying the two-time All-Pro tailback a lucrative deal to acquire a dual-threat option such as Tevin Coleman, who would cost less on the open market.

    Verdict: Sell

New York Jets Targeting Donte Moncrief, Danny Amendola, Cole Beasley?

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    Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Cole Beasley
    Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Cole BeasleyJim Cowsert/Associated Press

    There's more chatter pertaining to who the Jets may target in an attempt to surround quarterback Sam Darnold with talent. A source close to Hughes projects a trio of wideouts that will cross Gang Green's radar.

    "They'll be in the mix for a wideout or two as well. Keep an eye on Donte Moncrief and Danny Amendola when the new league year begins, along with Cowboys receiver Cole Beasley, according to league sources," Hughes wrote. 

    It's not a short list of top-notch players within a depleted wide receiver market, but Amendola played one season under Gase in Miami last year. The Jets signed Quincy Enunwa to a four-year extension and applied a second-round tender to Robby Anderson.

    Enunwa and Anderson have major upside, but the Jets need to look for a dynamic lead wide receiver or push their chips toward a deep incoming class of high-potential wideouts.

    Moncrief and Amendola have been underwhelming in terms of production in recent years. Neither has cracked 750 receiving yards in a single season. The former Dolphins wideout averages just 9.7 yards per reception. Beasley profiles as a slot receiver at best. 

    This case may involve agents attempting to boost interest in their clients, but the Jets need a No. 1 option on the perimeter—not another supporting cast member at wideout. Gang Green should aim a little higher or target the big-play receiver in the free-agent class, Tyrell Williams. 

    Verdict: Sell

            

    Editor's Note: Amendola is expected to sign a contract with the Detroit Lions, per Dianna Russini of ESPN. 

Arizona Cardinals Set to Make Big Push for C.J. Mosley?

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    Baltimore Ravens linebacker C.J. Mosley
    Baltimore Ravens linebacker C.J. MosleyJoe Robbins/Getty Images

    The Arizona Cardinals fired head coach Steve Wilks and his staff after one season. That regime used a 4-3 base scheme, lining up four defenders across the front. Under new lead skipper Kliff Kingsbury, defensive coordinator Vance Joseph will employ a 3-4 alignment.

    The Cardinals released Josh Bynes, who lined up at middle linebacker last year. As a result, there's a void to fill at the heart of the defense. The Baltimore Ravens haven't come to terms with star inside linebacker C.J. Mosley, which opens the door for other clubs to acquire the four-time Pro Bowler on the market.

    Mosley will command a top-dollar salary, but Arizona has the cap space ($42.5 million) to match his demands. According to Pauline (h/t Bleav), the Cardinals are primed to put together a big offer for the impending free-agent linebacker. 

    The Ravens will likely remain in the mix to retain their defensive centerpiece, but the Cardinals have the financial means to sway him away from Baltimore. It's not a surprise the front office plans to elevate the defense with a playmaker in the middle.

    Verdict: Buy

New Orleans Saints Interested in Adam Humphries?

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    Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Adam Humphries
    Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Adam HumphriesJulio Aguilar/Getty Images

    New Orleans Saints wide receiver Ted Ginn Jr. couldn't replicate his solid 2017 campaign, a year in which he racked up 787 receiving yards and four touchdowns with a 75.7 percent catch rate. Early in the 2018 term, he suffered a knee injury that cost him several games. The 33-year-old spent a large portion of the season on injured reserve and appeared in just five contests.

    Now, in the final year of his contract, Ginn's career goes into the twilight stage.

    And other than Tre'Quan Smith, the Saints don't have a wide receiver on the books beyond the 2019 season, per Spotrac. He had some bright spots during his rookie year last season, but the Central Florida product must show consistency before he's considered a reliable target.

    According to The Athletic's Larry Holder, the Saints liked what they saw in a wide receiver from a division rival over the last few years. "Someone like Adam Humphries intrigues the Saints, I'm told. They're probably more familiar with the Buccaneers slot receiver than many teams given the ties to the NFC South," Holder wrote. 

    Barring a return to the Buccaneers, Humphries will hit the open market as arguably the top slot receiver available for suitors. He recorded 76 catches for 816 yards and five touchdowns during the 2018 campaign. 

    It's a wise move to load the offense with weapons for quarterback Drew Brees, who's going into his age-40 season on the final year of his contract. Humphries could take some pressure off Thomas in the middle of the field and on short passing plays.

    Verdict: Buy   

Jared Cook Set to Make $8-9 Million on Next Contract?

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    Oakland Raiders tight end Jared Cook
    Oakland Raiders tight end Jared CookThearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

    The Ravens re-signed tight end Nick Boyle on a three-year, $18 million extension Thursday. He's caught 75 passes for 613 yards in four years with the team and provides tremendous value as an inline blocker. That's an important aspect since the coaching staff turned the reins over to quarterback Lamar Jackson, who ran for 695 yards and five scores on the ground in 2018. 

    If Boyle earned a contract worth $6 million annually, what could Raiders tight end Jared Cook take home? According to the NFL Network's Tom Pelissero, the 31-year-old may command $8-9 million on the open market.

    The free-agent pool isn't littered with talent at tight end, which makes the figure a reasonable estimate based on the demand across the league. In his age-31 term, Cook logged a career high in receiving yards (896) and touchdowns (six) with the Raiders.

    Cook isn't an ascending asset, but a team that needs a big-body pass-catcher to supplement the passing attack would probably spend $8 million per year on him. In all likelihood, he's in line for a short-term deal as a quarterback's safety blanket.

    Verdict: Buy

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