NFL Free Agents 2019: Top Rumors and Updated Predictions

Kristopher Knox@@kris_knoxFeatured ColumnistMarch 13, 2019

Seattle Seahawks free safety Earl Thomas walks near the sideline during warmups before an NFL football game against Dallas Cowboys, Sunday, Sept. 23, 2018, in Seattle. (AP Photo/John Froschauer)
John Froschauer/Associated Press

While NFL free agency won't officially get underway until 4 p.m. on Wednesday, many of the league's top available players have already reportedly agreed to deals. This is how things go during the league's "legal-tampering" period, though as Anthony Barr proved, that whole deal-becoming-official thing is pretty significant.

Barr originally agreed to join the New York Jets, only to spurn them and return to the Minnesota Vikings.

Mike Garafolo @MikeGarafolo

Plot twist! LB Anthony Barr has decided to agree to terms to remain with the #Vikings, sources say. He will not be a member of the #Jets after all.

Could other players change their minds before the 2019 league year officially begins? What's going on with the top players who haven't agreed to deals already? Here you'll find some of the latest buzz and free-agency predictions here.


Earl Thomas

Former Seattle Seahawks safety Earl Thomas is an upper-echelon player. He's also 29 years old, though, is coming off his second broken leg in three seasons and is asking for an extremely high salary. According to NFL Media's Jane Slater, he's seeking a deal worth at least $14 million per season.

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

On one hand, this doesn't seem like a completely unreasonable request. Strong safety Landon Collins, after all, just signed his own deal worth $14 million per year, per Spotrac.

On the other hand, though, the safety market is quickly drying up. According to ESPN's Adam Schefter, the Oakland Raiders added Lamarcus Joyner, the Kansas City Chiefs agreed a deal with Tyrann Mathieu, while the Houston Texans replaced Mathieu with Tashaun Gipson.

As Albert Breer of theMMQB pointed out, Gipson's deal is a bargain compared to what Thomas is seeking.

Albert Breer @AlbertBreer

New Texans S Tashaun Gipson is getting a 3-year deal worth a little more than $22 million, source said. Less than half what Earl Thomas was looking for.

It's beginning to look more and more like Thomas won't get what he's looking for on the open market, and he may have to settle for whatever reasonable deal an interested team will offer. According to NFL Media's Ian Rapoport (h/t Jori Epstein of USA Today), the Dallas Cowboys value Thomas in the $10-11 million-per-year range.

Could the Cleveland Browns scoop up Thomas for slightly more than that. It's entirely possible given the excitement generated by their recent trade for wideout Odell Beckham Jr, as Schefter reported. According to CBS Sports' Jason La Canfora, the Browns are "feeling good" about their chances to land him.

Prediction: Browns sign Thomas to a three-year, $33 million deal.


Teddy Bridgewater

Bill Feig/Associated Press

The New Orleans Saints appear to be close to getting backup quarterback Teddy Bridgewater under contract.

Jane Slater @SlaterNFL

Teddy Bridgewater expected to re-sign with the New Orleans Saints despite a bigger deal on the table from Miami. I’m told Bridgewater values the locker room culture and prospect of one day becoming the Saints starting QB per source informed. #Saints

This isn't surprising as Bridgewater has already spent a year in the offense, and because Saints head coach Sean Payton is high on the former first-round pick.

"I have my guy," Payton said, per Dianna Russini of ESPN (h/t B/R). "His name is Teddy Bridgewater."

Here's the thing, though. Any deal between Bridgewater and New Orleans is unofficial until 4 p.m. ET. It feels unlikely that Bridgewater would pull a Barr and sign elsewhere if a deal really is in place, but as Ben Volin of the Boston Globe pointed out, one might not be:

Ben Volin @BenVolin

I'm told that reports of Teddy Bridgewater agreeing to a deal with the Saints are premature. Not saying it won't happen, but Bridgewater doesn't have a deal yet, and multiple teams are still involved

There are a couple of factors likely in play here. One is money, and Slater reported that the Miami Dolphins offered a better deal. The other is playing time, and if Miami is ready to dump Ryan Tannehill, it may be able to offer Bridgewater a starting gig right away.

Bridgewater could change his mind before the official start of free agency, though remaining in Payton's offense would likely be better for his long-term career.

Prediction: Saints sign Bridgewater to a three-year, incentive-laden deal.


Tyrod Taylor

If Bridgewater does return to New Orleans and Nick Foles signs with the Jacksonville Jaguars as widely expected, then it really leaves Taylor as the top quarterback option still available. According to Omar Kelly of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, Miami's interest in him is real.

Omar Kelly @OmarKelly

Real. Dolphins have liked Tyrod Taylor for a while. I like Taylor. He’s better than Tannehill. I’ve said that since he was with Buffalo. https://t.co/pvZBGvDFkw

While Taylor only lasted a handful of games with the Cleveland Browns in 2018, he was a solid bridge option for eventual starter and rookie first-round pick Baker Mayfield. Before that, he spent three seasons as the Buffalo Bills' starter and even made the Pro Bowl back in 2015.

Should the Dolphins bring in Taylor, they'll likely do so as a bridge quarterback to their own first-round rookie.

Of course, drafting a quarterback in Round 1 may require moving up, depending on how many quarterbacks Miami views as first-round material. The Dolphins don't select until the 13th overall pick, and if they cannot move up to get their guy, they may have to wait until 2020.

All of this leads to a two-year deal with Taylor making the most sense.

Prediction: Dolphins sign Taylor to a two-year deal with no guaranteed money in Year 2.