NFL Rumors: Analyzing Free-Agent Buzz on Earl Thomas, Le'Veon Bell and More

Kristopher Knox@@kris_knoxFeatured ColumnistMarch 12, 2019

Seattle Seahawks free safety Earl Thomas stands on the field during warmups before an NFL football game against the Dallas Cowboys, Sunday, Sept. 23, 2018, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
Elaine Thompson/Associated Press

The 2019 edition of NFL free agency is (almost) officially underway. While deals cannot actually be signed until 4 p.m. ET on Wednesday, teams are free to contact players and to essentially lock in deals ahead of the new league year.

Several of free agency's top targets are already off the board, at least unofficially, including players like C.J. Mosley and Nick Foles, who have each reportedly agreed to deals worth more than $80 million.

Albert Breer @AlbertBreer

New Jaguars QB Nick Foles gets a four-year, $88 million deal, with upside to $102 million, source said. In the first 2 years, Foles pulls down $46.625 million. Really solid deal, and his own team to run.

Ian Rapoport @RapSheet

Sources: Former #Ravens LB CJ Mosley is expected to sign with the #Jets on a massive 5-year, $85M deal worth $51M guaranteed. That’s $17M per year. It took a lot to leave Baltimore. 💰💰💰

There are still some quality players who haven't been linked to deals yet, though, which means there is still plenty of action ahead. Here's some of the latest buzz surrounding the market's remaining players.


Earl Thomas Looking for $14M Per Year

Former Seattle Seahawks safety Earl Thomas is one of the biggest names available in free agency this year. He's a six-time Pro Bowler and a three-time All-Pro, and those kinds of defenders do not become available often.

However, Thomas is also on the verge of turning 30 and has a recent injury history that will give some teams pause. He has finished two of the last three seasons on injured reserve with a broken leg.

Therefore, while it's hard to discount Thomas as a player, he does carry some risk. This, along with his desire to be the league's highest-paid safety, could be why he's still available after the opening day of the "legal tampering" period.

According to NFL Network's Jane Slater, Thomas is seeking a deal worth at least $14 million per year:

Jane Slater @SlaterNFL

I said “rumored to be” but can now confirm, at least in the market of 14M or more a year, per source. He wants to beat S Eric Berry’s number which is roughly 13M a year https://t.co/uj7ntUHI7L

This figure isn't as outlandish as it might have seemed just a few days ago, even for an aging player with some injury concern. This is because Landon Collins—another player who received a deal over $80 million—is expected to earn $14 million per season on his new six-year deal with the Washington Redskins, per Spotrac.

Collins is just 25, but he's also a box safety who is coming off a partially torn rotator cuff. Thomas is an elite back-end safety who can possibly be had for that same yearly salary but with a much smaller overall investment.

Don't be surprised if Thomas gets the money he's looking for.


Jets Are Divided on Le'Veon Bell

Doug Benc/Associated Press

Former Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le'Veon Bell is another big name who hasn't been scooped up yet. Like Thomas, he is an elite player, but like Thomas, he's also looking for big money and does carry some concerns—like having spent a year away from football.

Presumably, Bell is looking for a contract similar to the four-year, $57.5 million extension Todd Gurley signed last offseason. That's a hefty chunk of money, and it could be limiting Bell's market.

According to Connor Hughes of The Athletic, the New York Jets are the favorites to sign Bell, and there really isn't another team close:

Connor Hughes @Connor_J_Hughes

Credit Le’Veon Bell’s side for keeping his client’s intentions hidden, but those around league continue to tell me the #Jets are the favorite for to sign him without a clear No. 2. His market isn’t as robust as originally believed.

The problem is that not even the Jets are completely sold on Bell.

"There's a general feeling in the building that Bell is worth pursuing only to a certain point," Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News wrote. "In other words, the Jets do not want to break the bank and fork over what Bell evidently wants: $15-16 million per year."

It won't help Bell that the Jets have already committed big contracts to players like Mosley. According to Rich Cimini, the Jets aren't in a rush to get a deal done:

Rich Cimini @RichCimini

The big-spending Jets remain interested in Le'Veon Bell, but I wouldn't say it's a hot and heavy pursuit at this point. Let's see what happens. Free agency is always fluid. #Jets

While this is all good news for a sleeper team that may want to come in and snag Bell, it's terrible for the running back himself. If the Jets aren't eager to give Bell a big contract, and there aren't other teams looking to engage in a bidding war, it's unlikely he'll get the money he was hoping to command in free agency.


Adrian Amos Not Expected Back With Chicago

David Zalubowski/Associated Press

Though safety Adrian Amos isn't quite a household name the way Tomas and Bell are, he's still one of the better free agents still available. He's been a valuable piece if the Chicago Bears secondary for the past four years, and he's also just 25 years old.

Chicago fans, though, shouldn't expect to see Amos back in 2919. According to Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune, Amos is closing in on a deal with a team that isn't the Bears:

Brad Biggs @BradBiggs

Don't know where but sounds like Adrian Amos has a deal with a team and he will not be returning to the #Bears, That's what multiple sources have said. We'll see how it pans out.

This isn't too surprising, as Amos was always going to be difficult to re-sign on the cheap. Matt Lombardo of NJ Advanced Media reported over the weekend that Amos was going to have a "robust" market:

Matt Lombardo @MattLombardoNFL

Adrian Amos would seemingly be an ideal fit for the #Giants as a replacement for Landon Collins, but I’m told per #NFL sources that a robust market is developing for former #Bears safety with several teams showing interest.

Now that fellow strong safety Collins is off the board, there should be plenty of teams turning their attention toward Amos. However, it appears the Indianapolis Colts aren't one of them.

Joel A. Erickson @JoelAErickson

Colts are out of the running for Chicago safety Adrian Amos, source says

Don't be surprised if he's another player who gets a lucrative deal before the official start of free agency.

*Update: Amos has agreed to a deal with the Green Bay Packers, according to NFL Media's Ian Rapoport.