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NFL Free Agents 2019: Examining Rumors Surrounding Top Players

Steve Silverman@@profootballboyFeatured ColumnistMarch 10, 2019

Earl Thomas has a chance to sign a big contract as a free agent.
Earl Thomas has a chance to sign a big contract as a free agent.Elaine Thompson/Associated Press

There is no offseason in the NFL, and the 32 teams in Roger Goodell's world are coming to the point in the year when they can start to make the key moves to get better for the 2019 campaign.

When the season ended, every team went thought its year-end assessments and determined the areas that had to improve. In addition to the self-scouting mission, veteran players on expiring contracts have the right to look for new deals.

Teams get to start signing free agents Wednesday at 4 p.m. ET, the start of the new league year.

One of the players who has a chance to upgrade his status is Seattle Seahawks free safety Earl Thomas. He has been one of the top defensive backs in the league for years, although injury problems limited him last term.

Thomas earned $8.5 million with the Seahawks in 2018, and he wants an increase. CBS Sports NFL insider Jason La Canfora reported that his sources have said that Thomas expects somewhere in the neighborhood of $13 million per season in his next contract.

The safety and the Dallas Cowboys are a potential match, but if it's not the Cowboys, the indication is that another team will offer him a deal that is fairly close to the $13 million he is seeking. Thomas is a six-time Pro Bowler, and he is also a three-time first-team All-Pro. 

Thomas is a big hitter with the skills to make plays on the ball. He has recorded 122 tackles, and he has had as much as five interceptions in a season. Thomas will be 30 when the season starts, and if he gets the deal he wants or anything close to it, he will have to demonstrate that he is the kind of player who can change a game with his talent, athleticism and drive.

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Thomas is not the only defensive back who expects to hit it big in free agency.

Tyrann Mathieu is coming off an excellent year for the Texans.
Tyrann Mathieu is coming off an excellent year for the Texans.Eric Christian Smith/Associated Press

Tyrann Mathieu proved himself to the Houston Texans last season. However, if the Texans are going to keep Mathieu in their secondary, they are going to have to fight for him.

La Canfora reported that while the Texans want to keep Mathieu in the fold, they are going to get competition from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Baltimore Ravens.

It seems quite likely that Mathieu will get a contract that will pay him an average of $12 million, at least for the first two years of the deal.

Mathieu made a name for himself as a college player when he went by the nickname of the Honey Badger for his ferocious play at Louisiana State. However, he has grown into a mature professional player, and 2018 was arguably his best season.

Mathieu had 89 tackles, eight passes defensed and two interceptions. He has shown he can play either corner or safety, and he appears to be coming into the prime of his career.

After the New England Patriots traded for Michael Bennett in a deal with the Philadelphia Eagles that will be announced Wednesday, there appears to be a chance that that Martellus Bennett could come out of retirement for the chance to play with his brother for the first time in their professional careers.

ESPN NFL insider Adam Schefter tweeted that both brothers want to play together. If Martellus Bennett comes out of retirement to play tight end, the Patriots are interested in his services and he can make the team, it would be the tight end's second tour of duty in New England.

He caught 55 passes for 701 yards and seven touchdowns for the Pats in 2016.

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