NFL Rumors: Analyzing Free-Agent Buzz on Earl Thomas, Le'Veon Bell and MoreMarch 12, 2019
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.
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:
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
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:
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:
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
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:
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:
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.
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.