2020 NFL Free Agents: Top Rumors, Speculation and Predictions

James Dudko@@JamesDudkoFeatured ColumnistDecember 29, 2019

PHILADELPHIA, PA - DECEMBER 22: Amari Cooper #19 of the Dallas Cowboys in action against the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field on December 22, 2019 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

Amari Cooper is going to give the Dallas Cowboys a few tough decisions to make headed into 2020 NFL free agency. The Cowboys will want to make retaining quarterback Dak Prescott a priority, but making sure his favorite target is still in the fold would surely aid No. 4's development next season.

Cooper wants to stay in Dallas, but Los Angeles Chargers running back Melvin Gordon III already sounds like he's ready to move on from the AFC West outfit. A versatile runner with a nose for the end zone, Gordon could cash in this offseason, even if he won't fetch the kind of money the New York Jets handed Le'Veon Bell this year.

Meanwhile, Jameis Winston has done enough to earn a second season under Bruce Arians, despite the Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback's alarming number of interceptions.


Cooper Will Stay with Cowboys

Speculation has been rife that the Cowboys won't be able to tie down Prescott without losing Cooper and all-purpose defensive back Byron Jones. Cooper and Jones are the other big-ticket pending free agents on the Cowboys roster, and Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports reported this month the franchise tag would likely be required to keep Cooper.

Staying put and building on his rapport with Prescott is something the wideout wants, according to Ryan Moore of the Dallas Morning News:

David Moore @DavidMooreDMN

Amari Cooper, a free agent at the end of the season, reiterated his stance that he wants to stay in Dallas. Big part of lure is he likes playing with Dak Prescott.

Prescott's preference will likely determine Cooper's future with the Cowboys. Yet while the quarterback may value his most talented outside target, there are reasons to believe paying Cooper would be foolhardy.

The fifth-year pro has had a problem with drops and wasn't trusted at key times during the 17-9 loss at the Philadelphia Eagles last week:


Amari Cooper: NFL leader in drops since 2015 https://t.co/zmfqmdDpv8

The costly defeat likely signalled the death knell for the Cowboys' playoff hopes:

Albert Breer @AlbertBreer

Neither Amari Cooper nor Randall Cobb were on the field for fourth-and-8 with the season on the line. Dallas throws a 50/50 ball to Michael Gallup.

Clarence Hill Jr @clarencehilljr

the Cowboys limited Amari Cooper snaps in the 4th quarter against the eagles because he wasn't playing well, per sources. They legitimately didn't think having him in on 4th and 8 have them the best chance to win. if he is not hurt, this will be revisited in contract talks

Issues like these may prevent Cooper from cashing in on the open market. Ironically, it could benefit the Cowboys if a small list of suitors encourages him to lower his demands and stay put.


Gordon to Cash In

Gordon won't be toting the rock for the Chargers in 2020. Instead, he will earn himself a handsome payday from a team needing a multipurpose back to underpin its offense.

For his part, Gordon has left the door ajar for a return to the Chargers, even if he remains in the dark about his future, per Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times: "No one knows their situation. It's the business side of things. I don't know if I'll be here or somewhere else. Hopefully, it is here."

However, his holdout that bled into the start of the 2019 regular season has damaged Gordon's stock in L.A. Meanwhile, Austin Ekeler's emergence as a legitimate dual threat this season only increases the likelihood the Chargers wave goodbye to Gordon.

ESPN Stats & Info @ESPNStatsInfo

Austin Ekeler is the 2nd player in Chargers history with 100 rush yards and 100 receiving yards in the same game. Ekeler joins Lionel James on Sept. 22, 1985 at the Bengals. https://t.co/oaUjbtRpI2

Even so, the latter is still only 26 and has 46 career touchdowns. Gordon won't be short of tempting offers once free agency opens.


Winston to be Tagged by Bucs

Attempting to figure out Winston's true value is a quick invitation to a headache. The erratic signal-caller can make all the throws that the pro level requires without breaking a sweat.

Unfortunately, Winston can also make defensive backs famous in the interception charts. He threw 30 picks this season, proof of an alarming penchant for self-destruction.

Yet Winston also had 33 touchdowns and 5,109 yards through the air.

B/R Gridiron @brgridiron

Most passing yards by a QB in their first five seasons: 1️⃣ Peyton Manning 2️⃣ Jameis Winston https://t.co/LAzA5rKAtu

Rick Stroud @NFLSTROUD

Jameis Winston is the first QB to throw for 450 yards in consecutive games in NFL history.

Given the fact that Winston can be awfully good, QB guru and head coach Arians won't want to give up on the 25-year-old just yet. At the same time, Arians and the Bucs hierarchy would be wise to guard against committing to Winston's mercurial performances for too long.

NFL Network's Ian Rapoport has reported the Buccaneers want to bring Winston back, but placing a franchise or transition tag on the passer makes most sense. The transition tag would leave the Bucs devoid of any compensation if they failed to match an offer sheet proffered by another team.

With edge-rusher Shaquil Barrett also needing a new deal, Rapoport pointed to the transition tag as an "intriguing option" for Winston. Either way, expect No. 3 to be tagged early on in the free-agent process.