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2020 NFL Free Agents: Predictions for Players Who Will Command Most Interest

Zach Buckley@@ZachBuckleyNBANational NBA Featured ColumnistDecember 23, 2019

Seattle Seahawks defensive end Jadeveon Clowney (90) breaks off the line of scrimmage in a week 7 NFL football game against the Atlanta Falcons, Sunday, Sep. 27, 2019 in Atlanta. (Michael Zarrilli/AP Images for Panini, via AP)
Michael Zarrilli/Associated Press

While the NFL has yet to finish Week 16, let alone watch Week 17 play out, the offseason is unofficially on for all the clubs already left out of the postseason picture.

Over the coming weeks, the rest of the league will shift its focus to the annual roster transformation period.

This free-agent class is loaded, even if all reasonable predictions see Dak Prescott, Drew Brees and Tom Brady staying in place. Looking beyond the franchise quarterbacks, we'll forecast where three top talents at other spots will land on the open market.

                       

Players Who Will Command Most Interest

Jadeveon Clowney, DE

The top overall pick in 2014, Jadeveon Clowney has technically spent his NFL career with the Houston Texans and Seattle Seahawks. Truth be told, though, he's occupied the opposition's backfield for the majority of that time.

He's a disruptive force in the best possible way. He has an otherworldly blend of power and speed, meaning there isn't a comfortable one-on-one matchup for him on any offensive line. His penetrations may not always lead to sacks (he's never had more than 9.5 in a season), but offenses know where he is at all times.

"He's a very disruptive player," veteran Seahawks tackle Duane Brown told NFL.com's Michael Silver. "Even though his stats aren't mind-blowing, other teams know you've got to account for him, and trust me, he's affecting the game."

Anyone with a pass-rushing need and (plenty of) money to spend will likely be linked with Clowney, starting with his current club. Considering Seattle parted with two players and a third-round pick to acquire him and has the space to re-sign him, that feels like the safest bet.

Prediction: Clowney re-signs with Seattle.

                 

Amari Cooper, WR

The Dallas Cowboys will soon flood the market with star free agents.

Quarterback Dak Prescott, receiver Amari Cooper and corner Byron Jones are all playing out the final year of their contracts and have yet to reach agreement on new deals. Sources told CBS Sports' Jason La Canfora that the only way Cooper doesn't hit free agency is if he's franchise-tagged, which becomes problematic when La Canfora reported the Cowboys "will place the franchise tag on [Prescott] if need be."

That could have Cooper searching for a new place of employment, but at least the timing is right. Despite the occasional hiccup, he's having one of his best seasons with 71 receptions on 102 targets for 1,073 yards and a career-high eight touchdowns. He's also clearly the top receiver available, especially if teams are wary of A.J. Green's health after he missed the entire season.

Dallas will do what it can to keep Cooper, but using the franchise tag on Prescott would throw everything off. It would also free up Cooper to a club desperate for a top-shelf receiver, like the Indianapolis Colts, who can't keep T.Y. Hilton healthy or get consistent production around him.

Prediction: Cooper signs with Colts.

                 

Melvin Gordon, RB

Think Melvin Gordon would take his contract holdout back if he could? In a heartbeat, right?

It didn't net him a new deal, and in fact cost him money along the way. Adding insult to injury, it possibly convinced the Los Angeles Chargers that they might have a better back on their roster in Austin Ekeler, who's a much more dynamic receiver and averaged 0.4 more yards per rush (4.2 to 3.8).

All of this puts Gordon's future with the team very much in doubt.

"I don't know, man," Gordon told the Los Angeles Times' Mike DiGiovanna. "It's hard to look and say you warrant anything when you're losing. I just have to do my job. No one knows their situation. It's the business side of things. I don't know if I'll be here or somewhere else."

Someone will pony up for Gordon. He has 35 rushing touchdowns since the start of 2016, plus another 11 scores through the air over that stretch. He's only 26, too, so his age shouldn't impact his earnings too much. Whenever he signs that check, though, it seems unlikely it will come from the Chargers given that they already declined the chance to pay him sufficiently once.

Prediction: Gordon signs with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.