1 Player Each NFL Team Should Want to Re-Sign in Free Agency

Kristopher Knox@@kris_knoxFeatured ColumnistDecember 26, 2019

1 Player Each NFL Team Should Want to Re-Sign in Free Agency

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    With only one week remaining in the 2019 NFL regular season, many fanbases are already looking ahead to free agency and the draft—offseason staples that represent hope and the possibility of fresh, exciting additions.

    While bringing in new players is a way to patch roster holes and upgrade talent levels, hanging on to premium players is critical to a team's sustained success. The challenge is determining which pending free agents to retain and which to replace.

    Here, we'll examine one player from each team that should be a free-agent priority, based on factors including performance, potential, health, role and potential price tag. 

            

Projected Cap Space

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    Charles Knoblock/Associated Press

    Before we dig into each team's free-agent priorities, let's take a look at their projected 2020 salary-cap space (top 51 contracts), as listed by Spotrac.

    1. Miami Dolphins: $103.6 million

    2. Indianapolis Colts: $97.8 million

    3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: $89.5 million

    4. Buffalo Bills: $89.5 million

    5. Dallas Cowboys: $85.3 million

    6. Houston Texans: $76.1 million

    7. Seattle Seahawks: $73.1 million

    8. New York Giants: $71.5 million

    9. Arizona Cardinals: $70.5 million

    10. Oakland Raiders: $70.2 million

    11. New York Jets: $67.5 million

    12. Denver Broncos: $64.6 million

    13. Tennessee Titans: $61.4 million

    14. Cincinnati Bengals: $60.6 million

    15. Los Angeles Chargers: $55.8 million

    16. Cleveland Browns: $51.7 million

    17. Baltimore Ravens: $51.2 million

    18. Washington Redskins: $47.3 million

    19. Detroit Lions: $42.8 million

    20. New England Patriots: $42.7 million

    21. Philadelphia Eagles: $37.6 million

    22. Carolina Panthers: $31.4 million

    23. Green Bay Packers: $25.7 million

    24. Los Angeles Rams: $24.2 million

    25. Kansas City Chiefs: $21.3 million

    26. San Francisco 49ers: $17.1 million

    27. Chicago Bears: $10.6 million

    28. New Orleans Saints: $5.1 million

    29. Pittsburgh Steelers: $2.2 million

    30. Jacksonville Jaguars: $1.2 million

    31. Minnesota Vikings: -$1.9 million

    32. Atlanta Falcons: $-2.2 million

Arizona Cardinals: WR Larry Fitzgerald

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    Lindsey Wasson/Associated Press

    At 36 years old, Larry Fitzgerald is going to continue getting questions about his potential retirement until he does decide to call it a career. And when that time comes, there will be no waffling.

    "I love what I do, but when it's over, it's over," Fitzgerald said in mid-December, per ESPN's Josh Weinfuss.

    If Fitzgerald decides that it isn't over this offseason, the Arizona Cardinals must re-sign him. Arizona needs to develop Kyler Murray into a top-tier quarterback, and having a savvy, dependable veteran receiver will only help expedite that process.

    Fitzgerald, who has 71 receptions for 759 yards and four touchdowns this season, is a security blanket out wide and the type of asset that few young quarterbacks have.

    Given his recent performances, running back Kenyan Drake is a top option for the Cardinals should Fitzgerald decide to retire. But if Fitzgerald wants to play in 2020, he should play in Arizona.

Atlanta Falcons: LB De'Vondre Campbell

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    Given his breakout status over the past two seasons, tight end Austin Hooper may be the Atlanta Falcons' most high-profile pending free agent. But considering their lack of projected cap space, paying to retain him may not make sense.

    Offense—specifically the passing attack—hasn't been Atlanta's biggest issue in 2019. Instead, the Falcons were largely done in by a defense that was awful in the first half of the season. It has improved considerably over the latter half, allowing just 18.1 points per game as opposed to 31.3 over the first eight weeks.

    Linebacker De'Vondre Campbell, who leads the team with 126 tackles, has been one of the most consistent Falcons defenders down the stretch. While keeping him may also be costly, he should be viewed as a bigger priority than Hooper.

    The Falcons need to bolster their defense, and keeping Campbell will help them build their linebacker corps rather than rebuild it.

Baltimore Ravens: CB Marcus Peters

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    Nick Wass/Associated Press

    With players like Lamar Jackson, Mark Ingram II and Marquise Brown under contract for 2020, the Baltimore Ravens have their offensive core in place. Their offseason focus should be on solidifying and strengthening their defense—which, to be fair, doesn't need a ton of improvement.

    Baltimore's top free-agency priority should be cornerbacks Jimmy Smith and Marcus Peters, two talented players who bring a lot of depth to the Baltimore secondary. Of the two, Peters is the most valuable for the Ravens.

    Not only does Peters bring the sort of big-play potential that can demoralize an opponent—he has two pick-sixes since joining Baltimore in October—but he's also only 26. He could be a defensive centerpiece for years to come.

    Smith is a key Ravens veteran, but at 31 years old, he doesn't hold the same long-term potential.

Buffalo Bills: G Quinton Spain

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    The Buffalo Bills have relied on their running game and opportunistic strikes from second-year quarterback Josh Allen this season. While that offensive formula won't work for every team, it works for Buffalo because of its second-ranked scoring defense (16.4 points per game allowed).

    If the Bills want to maintain that formula in 2020, they need to re-sign guard Quinton Spain.

    Spain came to Buffalo after four seasons with the Tennessee Titans, and he's been nothing short of phenomenal. He has started all 15 games for the Bills and has allowed zero sacks while committing only four penalties, according to Pro Football Focus. According to Football Outsiders, he has played 99.5 percent of Buffalo's offensive snaps this year.

    Spain is an interior rock in Buffalo, and at 28 years old, he has many prime playing years ahead of him.

Carolina Panthers: CB James Bradberry

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    Brian Blanco/Associated Press

    With the Carolina Panthers' 2019 season being largely overshadowed by what has gone wrong—Cam Newton's injury, Ron Rivera's firing—it's been easy to overlook the positives. Carolina's 13th-ranked pass defense is a bright spot that shouldn't go unnoticed considering the teams the Panthers have faced.

    The steady presence of cornerback James Bradberry has played a huge role in that.

    "He's held his own against an NFC South murderer's row of receivers headlined by Julio Jones, Michael Thomas and Mike Evans," The Athletic's Joseph Person wrote earlier this month. "Through 13 games, Bradberry ranks among the league's top 10 cover corners (according to Pro Football Focus) and has allowed only one touchdown."

    Bradberry is becoming the centerpiece of Carolina's secondary, and he deserves a contract befitting of that role. While Carolina is in the bottom half of the league in terms of projected cap space, it can and should sign Bradberry to a long-term extension.

Chicago Bears: S Ha Ha Clinton-Dix

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    Charles Rex Arbogast/Associated Press

    Ha Ha Clinton-Dix may not be the best safety set to hit the free-agent market, but his physical style of play fits the Chicago Bears defense perfectly.

    Clinton-Dix has thrived in his first season with the Bears—he has 74 tackles, five passes defended, two interceptions and a defensive touchdown—and it makes sense to bring him back for another.

    The other top pending free agent on Chicago's defense is linebacker Danny Trevathan. He has been a mainstay with the Bears over the last four seasons, but he will be coming off a significant elbow injury—he landed on injured reserve in mid-December—and will turn 30 in March.

    Clinton-Dix, meanwhile, has played in all 15 games this season and just turned 27. The Bears should want to keep him in the middle of their secondary for the foreseeable future.

Cincinnati Bengals: WR A.J. Green

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    Frank Victores/Associated Press

    Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green is not the weapon that he once was. Injuries have limited him severely in recent years—he missed the entire 2019 season and played only seven games in 2018—and he's had only one 1,000-yard season over his last four.

    It's fair to wonder how much the 31-year-old has left in the proverbial tank. However, the Bengals should be willing to find out.

    The 1-14 Bengals don't have many players whose return should be a priority. Green is the exception. If he can get back to his pre-injury form, he should still command plenty of defensive attention. That will open things up for the rest of the Bengals offense and will help whomever Cincinnati has under center in 2020.

    If the Bengals stick with Andy Dalton, he and Green can reestablish the chemistry they've shared since they were drafted together in 2011. If the Bengals decided to move on from Dalton—they might select LSU quarterback Joe Burrow with the No. 1 overall pick—Green can be the youngster's veteran security blanket.

Cleveland Browns: LB Joe Schobert

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    According to Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com, the Cleveland Browns are willing to let linebacker Joe Schobert leave in free agency. That is unquestionably the wrong approach.

    Among all of the Browns slated to hit the open market, Schobert is the one Cleveland should want to keep. He was a Pro Bowler in 2017 and is having an arguably even better season this year. Through 15 games, Schobert has amassed 125 tackles, 2.0 sacks, four interceptions and two forced fumbles.

    Not only has Schobert been phenomenal for Cleveland over the past few years, but he only recently turned 26. He can be a big piece of a young Browns team poised to grow together, which seems to be the vision general manager John Dorsey has for the franchise.

    Letting Schobert walk would only further weaken a defense that wildly underperformed in 2019.

Dallas Cowboys: QB Dak Prescott

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    This may be the biggest non-surprise of any team featured here.

    The Dallas Cowboys' two most significant free agents are quarterback Dak Prescott and wideout Amari Cooper. If the Cowboys can pick only one, they have to go with the guy throwing the passes instead of the one catching them.

    Is Prescott an elite quarterback? Perhaps not, but he's an above-average starter who can lead the offense for the next decade-plus.

    "I think Dak has given us every opportunity to have success this year," Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones said, per the Dallas Morning News.

    Several franchises would love to have such a quarterback at the helm, and Dallas will be one of them if it lets Prescott walk. Giving him the franchise tag is an option, but with quarterback contracts jumping in value yearly, a long-term extension would make far more long-term sense.

Denver Broncos: FS Justin Simmons

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    The Denver Broncos may no longer have a championship-caliber defense, but they do still have several elite players on that side of the ball. Two of them—cornerback Chris Harris and safety Justin Simmons—are both set to become free agents.

    Either one could be considered a top priority in a vacuum. Harris is one of the most consistent and reliable cornerbacks in the game, while Simmons has emerged as a legitimate playmaker at the free safety position.

    This season, Simmons has 89 tackles, 14 passes defended and four interceptions.

    What puts Simmons ahead of Harris is age. Harris is still a top-tier cornerback at 30 years old, but his future upside is limited. Simmons, meanwhile, is 26 and only entering his prime. He can be part of a young Broncos core that includes Bradley Chubb, Courtland Sutton, Noah Fant and possibly quarterback Drew Lock.

Detroit Lions: S Tavon Wilson

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    Given the state of the Detroit Lions defense—it ranks 29th in yards allowed—one might forgive the Lions for letting all of their defensive free agents walk. However, strong safety Tavon Wilson should be the exception.

    While Wilson isn't an elite box safety, he's still excellent in run support and is one of Detroit's best tacklers at the second level. He has also been relatively healthy over the past two seasons, missing only one game in that span.

    Wilson has played in all 15 games this year and has 92 tackles, a sack and four passes defended.

    At 29 years old, Wilson is young enough to have several good seasons in his future, yet he's seasoned enough to provide a veteran presence for what should be a retooled Lions defense in 2020.

Green Bay Packers: OT Bryan Bulaga

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    Green Bay Packers offensive tackle Bryan Bulaga has never been named to a Pro Bowl. However, that doesn't mean he hasn't been one of the most important pieces of the Packers offense over the last several years.

    This season, Bulaga has battled through injuries to start all 15 games and provide an anchor on the right side of the offensive line.

    "He's been absolutely critical, Packers head coach Matt LaFleur said, per Jason Wilde of the Wisconsin State Journal. "First of all, I think he's playing at a really high level. And he's been instrumental."

    The Packers should want Bulaga to continue filling that instrumental role in 2020 and beyond. Though he has been around since 2010, he's only 30 and should have a least a few high-level years left in him.

    The same could be said about quarterback Aaron Rodgers, and Green Bay should take advantage by ensuring that Rodgers has a solid line in front of him.

Houston Texans: LB Whitney Mercilus

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    Mark Zaleski/Associated Press

    The Houston Texans have activated star edge-rusher J.J. Watt off injured reserve, which means he should be available for the postseason. However, the Texans had to get into playoff position without one of their best defenders.

    They were able to do so in no small part because of veteran linebacker Whitney Mercilus.

    Mercilus has often been overshadowed by Watt and Jadeveon Clowney, who the Texans traded to the Seattle Seahawks in September. However, he has been a vital piece of Houston's front seven for nearly a decade and was terrific again in 2019.

    Through 15 games, Mercilus has 48 tackles, 7.5 sacks, two interceptions and two forced fumbles. At 29, he should have plenty left to give the Texans defense, and Houston is eager to retain him.

    "We want Whitney back," head coach Bill O'Brien said, per Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle.

Indianapolis Colts: OT Anthony Castonzo

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    Michael Conroy/Associated Press

    Barring the surprise return of Andrew Luck or an unexpected move in free agency, the Indianapolis Colts are likely to go into 2020 with Jacoby Brissett as their starting quarterback again. Putting him in the best position to succeed should be their top priority.

    That should make the retention of starting left tackle Anthony Castonzo one of their biggest offseason goals. Castonzo has held down the left tackle spot since the Colts selected him in the first round of the 2011 draft.

    While Castonzo has never been a Pro Bowler, he's been mostly reliable in recent years. So far in 2019, he has allowed only three sacks and committed two penalties, according to Pro Football Focus.

    The offensive line is one of Indianapolis' biggest strengths, and it should do everything possible to keep that line intact for 2020.

Jacksonville Jaguars: DE Yannick Ngakoue

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    Michael Conroy/Associated Press

    Jacksonville Jaguars defensive end Yannick Ngakoue might be the most underrated player in what is shaping up to be a talented defensive free-agent class. The Maryland product has mostly flown under the radar since the Jaguars selected him with a third-round pick in 2016.

    Ngakoue was named to the Pro Bowl in 2017, but he's been a high-impact player in each of his four seasons. So far this year, he has 40 tackles, 8.0 sacks, six passes defended and an interception. In his career, he has 120 tackles, 37.5 sacks and 13 forced fumbles.

    The challenge for Jacksonville will be finding the cap space needed to re-sign Ngakoue. Parting with defensive tackle Marcell Dareus would be a good first step. Dareus is slated to carry a cap hit of $22.5 million in 2020, but only $2.5 million of that is dead money.

    While Dareus is a talented interior defender, Jacksonville has a potential replacement in 2018 first-round pick Taven Bryan.

Kansas City Chiefs: DT Chris Jones

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    Paul Sancya/Associated Press

    The ability of a defensive lineman to generate interior pressure cannot be undervalued. It's the easiest way to collapse the pocket and one of the hardest defensive strengths to combat—it's far easier to chip a rusher off the edge than to double-team a defensive tackle in the interior.

    This is precisely why players like Aaron Donald and Grady Jarrett have gotten contracts rivaling those of elite edge-rushers in recent years. It's the same reason why the Kansas City Chiefs must re-sign defensive lineman Chris Jones.

    Jones has been a dominant pressure presence over the last two seasons, amassing 23.5 sacks since the start of 2018. He's the most valuable member of Kansas City's new-look 4-3 front, and at just 25 years old, Jones is a player who should only get better in the coming years.

    If the Chiefs don't make a long-term deal for Jones a priority, another team will.

Los Angeles Chargers: TE Hunter Henry

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    Phelan M. Ebenhack/Associated Press

    A caveat here. If the Los Angeles Chargers want to bring back quarterback Philip Rivers on a bridge deal, then that should be their top priority. However, now is the time for L.A. to make a change for the future. Rivers' play was diminished in 2019, and Los Angeles is likely to wind up with a high first-round pick—presumably one that could be used on a new signal-caller.

    If Rivers isn't the top choice for retention, then tight end Hunter Henry should be. The Chargers don't lack for pass-catching weapons, but an elite tight end can make a passing offense virtually impossible to defend.

    Make no mistake, though Henry's career has been slowed by injuries, he is in the process of becoming an elite tight end. In 11 games this season, he has caught 50 passes for 610 yards and four touchdowns. Prorated to reflect a 16-game season, that would equal roughly 73 receptions, 887 yards and six touchdowns.

    With more consistent quarterback play, Henry should be a 1,000-yard pass-catcher in the very near future. At 25 years old, Henry should also be a productive pass-catcher for the foreseeable future. And if the Chargers do move on with a young quarterback, Henry can provide a reliable and efficient outlet option.

Los Angeles Rams: EDGE Dante Fowler Jr.

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    Los Angeles Rams offensive tackle Andrew Whitworth has stated that he wants to continue playing in 2020. If he does, the Rams must re-sign the 38-year-old to a short-term deal.

    However, a bigger priority in free agency should be bringing back edge-rusher Dante Fowler Jr. The Jaguars' 2015 first-round pick has found a career resurgence in Los Angeles and been particularly effective this season.

    Through 15 games, Fowler has 56 tackles, 11.5 sacks, five passes defended and two forced fumbles.

    It's important to note that Fowler has been more than just a sack artist. Unlike some edge-rushers, he's been an effective run-defender and hasn't been a complete liability in coverage. However, it is his pressure ability that should have the Rams keen on retaining him.

    There aren't many 25-year-old pass-rushers just sitting around in the NFL. Los Angeles has one, and it should keep him.

Miami Dolphins: G/C Evan Boehm

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    Realistically, the Miami Dolphins could get away with ignoring their impending free agents. This is the reality of having a team that is built to tank. The one player worth making an offseason priority, defensive back Eric Rowe, already received an extension in early December.

    If the Dolphins are going to bring anyone else back, interior offensive lineman Evan Boehm would make some sense. He has starting experience at both guard and center and is just 26 years old. Young, versatile line depth is a valuable commodity.

    Offensive tackle J'Marcus Webb could be another depth option. Given his level of play—seven sacks allowed, eight penalties, according to Pro Football Focus—and age (31), Miami is probably better off letting him walk.

Minnesota Vikings: S Anthony Harris

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    The Minnesota Vikings are facing a tough dilemma in free agency. They're armed with virtually no cap space and have three valuable defensive backs headed to market—cornerbacks Trae Waynes and Mackensie Alexander and safety Anthony Harris.

    Given Minnesota's financial situation, it will be tough to bring back any of the three. However, Harris should be the one the Vikings prioritize. This is because A) Harris is a tremendous safety and B) because the Vikings have invested heavily in the cornerback position.

    If both Alexander and Waynes leave, Minnesota will still have two-time Pro Bowler Xavier Rhodes and 2018 first-round pick Mike Hughes at cornerback.

    If Harris gets away, the Vikings will struggle to replace a player who has racked up 60 tackles, six interceptions and a touchdown so far this season.

New England Patriots: QB Tom Brady

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    Tom Brady's level of play has declined in 2019—though a shoddy offensive line and a lack of receiving weapons haven't helped—which could lead the Patriots to finally consider passing the torch. However, they shouldn't want to make a clean break in the offseason.

    The reality is that Brady is still an upper-echelon quarterback, and another one isn't just going to fall into New England's lap. If the Patriots target a new signal-caller in the draft, they're unlikely to draft high enough to land a day-one starter.

    The Patriots should want to ink Brady to a new one- or two-year deal while finding and grooming his eventual replacement—not a future trade chip.

    As long as Bill Belichick remains the head coach in New England, the expectation will be to chase a championship. Building around Brady one more time will be the best way to do that in 2020.

New Orleans Saints: QB Drew Brees

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    The New Orleans Saints are in a similar situation with quarterback Drew Brees as the Patriots are with Brady—there just aren't many suitable alternatives. In Brees' case, however, there hasn't been a decline in 2019.

    Though he did miss five games with a thumb injury, Brees has been outstanding this season. He's completed 75.3 percent of his passes—a career high—for 2,726 yards with 24 touchdowns and just four interceptions.

    There is also a financial reason for wanting to retain Brees. When the Saints restructured his contract in March, they pushed $21.3 million of that deal back to 2020. That year will void in March, however, meaning if Brees leaves, New Orleans will have to pay $21.3 million not to have him on the roster.

    Another restructuring could alleviate some of that financial burden or at least leave the Saints paying a player they'll actually have on game days.

    Re-signing backup Teddy Bridgewater as Brees' eventual replacement would make sense, but New Orleans should be eyeing another potential playoff run in 2020 with Brees at the helm.

New York Giants: LB Markus Golden

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    Matt Rourke/Associated Press

    The New York Giants have struggled to identify and develop defensive talent in recent years. Their trade for defensive end Leonard Williams—who has just 21 tackles and no sacks in seven games with the Giants—appears to be the latest whiff.

    However, the Giants did uncover one gem this past offseason when they signed linebacker Markus Golden to a one-year "prove it" deal.

    The former Cardinal has done exactly that, racking up 65 tackles and 10.0 sacks in 15 games this season. Perhaps just as importantly, Golden wants to be part of the rebuild in New York.

    "I know everybody here wants to win," Golden said, per Newsday's Tom Rock. "That's a good sign because I want to make sure I'm able to win."

New York Jets: WR Robby Anderson

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    While Jamison Crowder has emerged as the New York Jets' No. 1 receiver this season, speedster Robby Anderson has been a crucial piece of the passing attack. Not only is he a regular producer of stats—he has 761 yards and five touchdowns—but his deep-threat ability helps to open up underneath routes and the running game.

    This season, Anderson has averaged a career-best 15.5 yards per reception.

    The Jets should want to keep Anderson for one simple reason. Doing so will help quarterback Sam Darnold continue to grow and thrive as a passer, as the two have built a rapport when Darnold has been healthy. At 26, Anderson has the potential to grow and thrive alongside him.

    Plus—unless the Jets are able to land A.J. Green, Emmanuel Sanders or Amari Cooper—they're not likely to find an upgrade over Anderson in free agency.

Oakland Raiders: G Richie Incognito

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    Four-time Pro Bowl guard Richie Incognito comes with character and off-field concerns, including the Dolphins' bullying scandal and threats to shoot funeral home employees in 2018. That is why the Oakland Raiders were able to land him with a one-year, $1 million deal.

    Incognito's play has been strong enough that the Raiders should want to bring him back—provided they're still comfortable with Incognito the person.

    A road-grader of an interior lineman, Incognito is also more than adequate in pass protection. He's allowed just a single sack this season, according to Pro Football Focus.

    At 36, Incognito is nearing the end of his playing career, but he's still a tremendous blocker. Since Oakland's big, physical offensive line was one of its biggest assets this season, keeping that unit intact should be a priority.

Philadelphia Eagles: S Rodney McLeod

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    Matt Rourke/Associated Press

    The Philadelphia Eagles have struggled to defend the pass for much of 2019—they rank 19th in yards allowed—but have gotten solid play from veteran safeties Rodney McLeod and Malcolm Jenkins. McLeod is slated to become a free agent.

    The Eagles should want to retain McLeod, both for his productivity—he has 69 tackles, two interceptions and a forced fumble—and his importance to the secondary. According to Football Outsiders, McLeod has played 99.8 percent of the team's defensive snaps this season.

    Cornerback Ronald Darby will be another option for the Eagles' top priority, though he has struggled with consistency and is on injured reserve with a hip injury. Bringing back McLeod should take precedence.

Pittsburgh Steelers: LB Bud Dupree

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    Keith Srakocic/Associated Press

    The Pittsburgh Steelers are light on projected cap space, but they don't have many important players scheduled for free agency. Of their nine upcoming unrestricted free agents, defensive tackle Javon Hargrave and linebacker Bud Dupree are the two most integral to the roster.

    Of those two, Dupree, who has finally started to develop into a high-end edge-rusher, should be the top priority.

    Hargrave is a tremendous interior defender, but Dupree is a 26-year-old pass-rusher who has 10.5 sacks this season. He and third-year linebacker T.J. Watt give the Steelers an elite pass-rushing tandem that should remain together for 2020 and beyond.

    If Pittsburgh cannot create the cap space to bring back Dupree, then Hargrave can and should become the top target. It almost certainly won't have the space to sign both.

San Francisco 49ers: WR Emmanuel Sanders

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    Nick Wass/Associated Press

    The San Francisco 49ers have two premium players scheduled to reach free agency: defensive end Arik Armstead and wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders. The former has amassed 53 tackles and 10 sacks, while the latter ranks third on the team in receptions despite appearing in just nine games after coming over in a trade.

    Ideally, the 49ers would bring back both players. If forced to choose, however, Sanders would likely be the priority.

    While Armstead is younger (26 to 32) and likely has more upside, he also plays a position of depth for San Francisco. Even without Armstead, the 49ers can field a defensive end rotation featuring Dee Ford, Nick Bosa and Solomon Thomas—three first-round picks including two in the top five.

    Sanders, meanwhile, has emerged as San Francisco's most reliable pass-catcher next to tight end George Kittle. Partnering those two with rookie Deebo Samuel has given the 49ers a threatening passing attack, one that should be kept intact for 2020.

Seattle Seahawks: Edge Jadeveon Clowney

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    The Seattle Seahawks traded a pair of players and a 2020 third-round pick to acquire defensive end Jadeveon Clowney just before the season. Now that they have him, it only makes sense to re-sign him.

    Clowney has had some injuries this season, and he hasn't piled up sacks—he has three in 12 games—but he's wrecked offensive game plans when healthy and was nearly single-handedly responsible for shutting down the 49ers during the Seahawks' Week 10 win.

    More importantly, Seattle does not have a high-level edge-defender aside from Clowney and has just 26 sacks this year, which ranks 30th in the league.

    Clowney is just 26 years old and can be a long-term building block. Retaining him won't be cheap, but the Seahawks are flush with cap space and should bring him back on a long-term deal.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: QB Jameis Winston

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    While the Tampa Bay Buccaneers could find some intriguing quarterback options in the offseason—Teddy Bridgewater, possibly Cam Newton—it may make more sense to give Jameis Winston another year under Bruce Arians.

    The Buccaneers aren't going to draft high enough to land one of the top prospects in the draft.

    Consistency and ball security have been issues for Winston under Arians, but his talent has not. Winston has regularly shredded opposing defenses, racking up 4,908 yards and 31 touchdowns. Signing Winston to a short-term deal or franchise-tagging him would give Arians the time he needs to determine if Winston's turnover issues—he has 28 interceptions—can be fixed.

    Arians said Saturday the team won't make up its mind until the offseason.

    "There's been no decision on any player. We don't make those decisions until the end of the season," he said, per ESPN's Jenna Laine.

Tennessee Titans: QB Ryan Tannehill

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    Like the Buccaneers, the Titans should prioritize re-signing their quarterback. Unlike the Buccaneers, they shouldn't re-sign the one they drafted in 2015.

    Regardless of whether Tennessee views Ryan Tannehill as a long-term solution, it should re-sign him. The former Dolphin has thrived in Nashville, steadying the position and putting the Titans in position to make the playoffs.

    Tannehill has completed 70.7 percent of his passes for 2,544 yards and 20 touchdowns with just six interceptions. Tennessee is 6-3 with him as the starter.

    Even if the Titans want to try their luck in the draft, Tannehill could be the perfect bridge quarterback for the next season or two. It would also make sense to sign him to a two- or three-year, incentive-laden deal to further evaluate him as a potential long-term answer.

    Tannehill is 31 years old and could be Tennessee's quarterback for the next half-decade or so.

Washington Redskins: G Brandon Scherff

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    Mark Tenally/Associated Press

    Assuming the Washington Redskins plan to stick with and develop rookie quarterback Dwayne Haskins—and there's no reason to think they're ready to give up—the offseason plan must be to surround him with talent.

    That is why retaining guard Brandon Scherff should be a priority. He's one of the league's best and perhaps Washington's best offensive lineman. Though he was placed on injured reserve last week with elbow and shoulder injuries, Scherff was named to his third Pro Bowl in five NFL seasons.

    At 27 years old, he is only entering his prime and can be a mainstay on the line for years to come.

    While the Redskins don't have too much cap space, they should do everything possible to keep Scherff. Haskins has a lot of growing to do, and weakening the line would only increase his learning curve.

       

    Contract information and free-agent statuses via Spotrac.

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