2019 NFL Free Agency: Burning Questions Heading into Week 2March 17, 2019
2019 NFL Free Agency: Burning Questions Heading into Week 2
The first wave of 2019 free agency has reached its epic conclusion, and boy has it been interesting. To illustrate just how unpredictable the NFL market has been this year, just consider that the Miami Dolphins' trade of starting quarterback Ryan Tannehill felt like little more than a footnote.
There are still plenty of notable players available, though, and plenty of moves yet to be made. Naturally, this means there are also a lot of questions that need to be answered as we wade into the second week of free agency.
Here, we'll be focusing on questions whose answers could shape not only the remainder of free agency but the remainder of the entire offseason.
What Is Miami's Plan at Quarterback?
Brian Flores took over the Miami Dolphins shortly after the Super Bowl. Flores' New England Patriots won that Super Bowl in part because they have a future Hall of Famer at quarterback. Flores is now the coach of a team that has...Luke Falk?
The Dolphins are barren at quarterback after trading Tannehill. What they plan to do at the position in the next week or so will be important, and it could tell us a lot about their draft plans.
Even if Miami intends to draft a quarterback high, the front office will likely want an experienced head in place. If they have no interest in drafting a quarterback, though, they'll probably be looking at someone who can start for an entire season and be respectable.
Miami was interested in Teddy Bridgewater and Tyrod Taylor. It whiffed on both. Now, it'll be looking at options like Ryan Fitzpatrick, Josh McCown, Robert Griffin III and Blake Bortles. The Dolphins could also bring back Brock Osweiler, who made five starts for the team in 2018.
So what's Miami's next step at quarterback? Dolphins fans aren't the only ones wondering.
What Is the Giants' Plan in General?
The Tannehill trade felt relatively tame after watching the New York Giants trade away both pass-rusher Olivier Vernon and star wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr.
While the moves were a bit unexpected, they did make sense at the time. They seemed to indicate that general manager Dave Gettleman was ready to embrace a rebuild, as the Giants waved goodbye to a win-now mentality and inherited a young guard (Kevin Zeitler), a young safety (Jabrill Peppers) and first- and third-round draft picks.
But then, Gettleman signed 30-year-old receiver Golden Tate to a four-year, $37.5 million free-agent deal. While Tate is a terrific player, this is the kind of move a contender might make, not a team looking for a fresh start.
"People around the league are trying to figure out what, exactly, they're trying to accomplish," Ian O'Connor of ESPN.com wrote of the Giants.
It's a fair question. Maybe, just maybe, the Giants will make some moves in the second week of free agency that provide a little clarity.
What's Next for Jordy Nelson?
Wide receiver Jordy Nelson might be 33 years old, but he proved late in his lone season with the Oakland Raiders that he can still ball. Nelson came on strong toward the end of the 2018 season and finished with 63 catches, 739 yards and three touchdowns. In his last five games, he had 75 receiving yards or more on four occasions after only hitting that mark once in his previous 10 outings.
Oakland released him after the start of free agency, but that had little to do with his own ability. The Raiders loaded up at receiver by adding Antonio Brown, Tyrell Williams and J.J. Nelson. There just wouldn't be much room for the aging wideout in Jon Gruden's offense, so he's now on the open market.
The big question, of course, is where does Nelson land? Could he rejoin the Green Bay Packers, the team with which he spent his first 10 pro seasons? Will a contender pick him up to flesh out its receiving corps? Will he be the next cast-off receiver to join the New England Patriots?
Given that Nelson's release just occurred Friday, there are no answers yet as to his future. Those will likely come into focus in Week 2.
Will Oakland Add a Running Back?
While the Raiders did invest heavily at wide receiver, they have yet to make any notable moves at running back. They gave restricted free agent Jalen Richard a second-round tender, and that's really about it.
So, what is Oakland's plan at the position?
Doug Martin and Marshawn Lynch—both of whom suited up for the Silver and Black in 2018—are still available. So are veteran backs like Spencer Ware, Jonathan Stewart, T.J. Yeldon and C.J. Anderson.
If the Raiders add a veteran capable of starting or at least being a significant piece of the offense, then perhaps it means that Gruden will be content to go with a committee backfield for another year. If not, then the Raiders may be planning to add a potential workhorse in April's draft.
All that is clear for now is that the first wave of free-agent running backs—a group that included Le'Veon Bell, Mark Ingram, Tevin Coleman and Frank Gore—didn't come crashing into Oakland.
Are the Cowboys in Play for Eric Berry?
The Dallas Cowboys have been pretty quiet in free agency. In fact, the only external free agent they've signed is defensive tackle Christian Covington, who comes over from the Houston Texans.
This wasn't the way things were supposed to go for Dallas. The Cowboys had been linked to free-agent safety Early Thomas since late in 2017. Thomas, however, signed with the Baltimore Ravens and left Cowboys fans without a fresh playmaking safety.
Dallas fans, though, may still have a shot at that safety. The Kansas City Chiefs released Eric Berry after adding Tyrann Mathieu. According to Mike Fisher of 247Sports, the Cowboys are "investigating" Berry's health.
Berry has played just three games over the last two seasons because of injuries, but he's also a three-time All-Pro. Will the Cowboys take a chance and make Berry their first big move of free agency? If so, it would change the complexion of Dallas' defense.
Will the Colts Become Buyers?
The Indianapolis Colts had a true bounce-back year in 2018. They saw the return of a healthy Andrew Luck, went on a late-season five-game winning streak and even got themselves a playoff win. Seeing as how Indianapolis is armed with more cap space than anyone, it wouldn't have been a surprise to see the Colts chase some top talent in order to take the proverbial next step.
So far, Indianapolis has re-signed cornerback Pierre Desir and added receiver Devin Funchess—and that's it.
Chris Ballard is a smart general manager, and he clearly has a plan for the Colts roster. If he didn't want to toss out cash for some big names early, it obviously wasn't part of the plan.
Now that we're entering the value stage of free agency, however, is Ballard going to start filling some holes, or will he be content to focus on building with Indianapolis' nine draft picks? We should get our answer sooner than later.
Who's in on Ndamukong Suh?
You might not have expected to see Ndamukong Suh among the unsigned at the second stage of free agency. He's one of the biggest names in football, and even at 32, he's still incredibly productive. Last season alone, Suh provided 59 tackles and 4.5 sacks for the Los Angeles Rams.
Oh, and Suh is extremely durable. He's never missed a game because of injury in nine years as a pro.
So which teams are interested in Suh? Well, that's a bit of a mystery. There hasn't been a lot of chatter surrounding the five-time All-Pro, and we know very little about where his next destination might be.
According to Ryan Kartje of the Orange County Register, the Rams don't believe they can afford to re-sign Suh. According to NFL Media's Ian Rapoport (h/t Rotoworld), Suh would prefer to stay on the West Coast.
That's basically all the clarity we have on Suh's future at this point. Will we find out more in the second week of free agency? Fans eager to see Suh harassing quarterbacks with their favorite teams certainly hope so.
Who Wants Blake Bortles?
The Rams may not be in the market for Suh, but they are interested in former Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles. According to NFL Network's Michael Silver, the Rams have already scheduled a visit with Bortles.
Which other teams are interested in adding Bortles? Los Angeles cannot be the only one.
Yes, Bortles was dumped in favor of Nick Foles following another disastrous campaign for Jacksonville in which he was benched, going 3-9 in games he played. However, he's still a quarterback with impressive physical tools, playoff experience and 73 regular-season starts under his belt. At the very worst, Bortles is a high-end backup—and those are always in demand.
Beyond that, though, Bortles is a 26-year-old who was drafted third overall in 2014. Those players tend to get multiple chances, even when they've shown nothing. Bortles has actually had stretches of very good play. There's likely at least one coach out there interested in making Bortles their next reclamation project.
We should soon find out just what kind of market there is for Bortles.
Will the Browns Make Another Big Move?
Cleveland Browns general manager John Dorsey has been active in free agency thus far. He's already traded for Odell Beckham Jr. and Olivier Vernon, signed defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson and added tight end Demetrius Harris, among other moves.
Adding these players to a young core headlined by budding star quarterback Baker Mayfield has made the Browns the talk of the NFL this offseason. It's worth wondering, though, if another big move is coming.
There are some dots to connect here. Eric Berry and pass-rusher Justin Houston are both still on the open market. Both are former Chiefs, and Dorsey came to Cleveland after four years as Kansas City's general manager.
It wouldn't be a shock to see Dorsey go after either player or other big names left in free agency—such as Ndamukong Suh, Jordy Nelson, Ezekiel Ansah or even Clay Matthews.
Cleveland still has more than $36 million in cap space available and may not be finished stockpiling talent for a 2019 run.
*All contract and cap information via Spotrac.