Ideal Target for Every NFL Team in Free Agency

Brent Sobleski@@brentsobleskiNFL AnalystFebruary 17, 2020

Ideal Target for Every NFL Team in Free Agency

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    The hope for every NFL team is one key free-agent signing will push it to the next tier of success.

    Franchises should never build through free agency, but a well-placed veteran can make a significant impact. For example, Tyrann Mathieu's addition to the Kansas City Chiefs lineup helped create a Super Bowl-caliber defense.

    Judicious signings can create an advantage.

    Before going any further, one must acknowledge certain big-name targets will never hit the open market. It's hard to envision quarterbacks Dak Prescott, Drew Brees and Tom Brady playing for any other team. Current teams will also desperately try to re-sign some of their best players at other positions before they become available to the rest of the league.

    Furthermore, the idea of an "ideal target" in free agency insinuates the inclusion of a player not previously with the team. New additions bring excitement to potentially fill problem areas.

    As such, the following are perfect free-agent matches.

Atlanta Falcons: EDGE Dante Fowler Jr.

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    Sometimes, everything in the universe aligns.

    The Atlanta Falcons had the second-fewest sacks (28) last season. They also decided to move on from first-round bust Vic Beasley Jr. At the same time, a 25-year-old pass-rusher, who is coming off his best season, reportedly prefers the organization as his next destination.

    Sources told Pro Football Network's Tony Pauline that Dante Fowler Jr. "wants to play in Atlanta for the Falcons."

    The 2015 third overall draft pick bet on himself after a rough start to his career. While operating under a one-year deal, Fowler registered a career-high 11.5 sacks and created consistent pressure throughout the 2019 campaign with the Los Angeles Rams. 

    His best performance came against the Falcons in Week 7 when the edge defender registered seven total tackles, three sacks, four quarterback hits and a deflected pass.

Arizona Cardinals: DT Chris Jones

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    Chris Jones got his ring. Now, it's time to get that bag. The defensive lineman couldn't enter free agency at a better time.

    The Kansas City Chiefs should do everything in their power to retain Jones since the 25-year-old defender is already counted among the league's best. But Jones can enter free agency as arguably the top non-quarterback on the market.

    Aaron Donald, a two-time Defensive Player of the Year winner, was the only player last season more successful in pass-rush win rate (under 2.5 seconds) than Jones when facing double-teams on 60 percent or more of his snaps, as ESPN's Seth Walder noted. That's staggering and exactly why Jones deserves a massive deal wherever he goes.

    The Arizona Cardinals' time to strike is now since their franchise quarterback, Kyler Murray, is operating under a rookie deal. Thus, Jones can become the team's highest-paid player and address the void found in the middle of the Cards defense.

Baltimore Ravens: EDGE Shaquil Barrett

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    Every year, the Baltimore Ravens manage to land a significant offseason addition even when it's not entirely expected—which is the sign of a well-run organization where players want to be.

    Baltimore is one of the league's best franchises at drafting and developing talent. As such, the front office can't re-sign everyone.

    Right now, the team's leading sack artist, Matthew Judon, is a pending free agent. The Ravens may use the franchise tag and possibly trade Judon, but the issue remains the same: Baltimore's pass rush could use a boost.

    Thus, signing the NFL's reigning sack king wouldn't be surprising. Shaquil Barrett broke through as a first-time, full-time starter last season. He registered a whopping 19.5 sacks and 82 total pressures, per Pro Football Focus.

    Oh, he happens to be a Baltimore native, too.

Buffalo Bills: WR A.J. Green

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    The Buffalo Bills continue to build their team the right way under the supervision of general manager Brandon Beane and head coach Sean McDermott.

    They've slowly put the pieces together to create a playoff squad. Now, it's time to take the next step.

    The Bills should no longer be happy with just getting into the postseason. The AFC East appears ripe for the plucking thanks to the uncertainty within the New England Patriots organization.

    Josh Allen's continued develop is vital. Buffalo lacks a true No. 1 receiving threat and outside target.

    A.J Green's injury history—he 23 missed games over the last two seasons—is concerning. Yet, the 31-year-old must still be accounted for at all times when he's on the field. Defenses will roll coverage toward Green, which would create more space for John Brown and Cole Beasley. Plus, Green is an ideal downfield threat to complement Allen's big arm.

Carolina Panthers: DT D.J. Reader

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    An inside-out approach may be the best path toward rebuilding the Carolina Panthers. Matt Rhule inherits a roster that is weak on both sides of the trenches.

    Defensively, the front requires a complete overhaul.

    Gerald McCoy, Mario Addison, Vernon Butler and Kyle Love are free agents. Dontari Poe is a likely salary-cap casualty since his release will save the Panthers $9.8 million. Kawann Short is likely a year removed from the same fate since a 2021 release will save the team another $9.8 million.

    Fortunately, defensive tackle is the deepest position in this year's free-agent class.

    D.J. Reader might not be the biggest name, but he's certainly a potential long-term building block. The 25-year-old, 347-pound North Carolina native is a well-rounded defender. According to Pro Football Focus, Reader posted the third-best run-defense grade (with 250 or more snaps) and the best overall grade among free-agent interior defenders.

Chicago Bears: TE Austin Hooper

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    Last season, six Chicago Bears tight ends combined to make 46 receptions for 416 yards. For context, 21 individual tight ends eclipsed one or both of those numbers.

    Obviously, Austin Hooper surpassed the Bears' woeful tight end production with 75 receptions for 787 yards on his way to a second Pro Bowl berth.

    "Well, I think he's a great receiving tight end," Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank said of Hooper, per ESPN's Vaughn McClure. "He plays hard. He plays well. He plays under pressure well. ... He's been a consistent performer for us since we drafted him [third round, 2016]."

    Hooper is exactly the type of performer the Bears currently lack. He can provide a reliable outlet to make life easier on quarterback Mitchell Trubisky.

    Granted, the 25-year-old tight end shouldn't be viewed as a Travis Kelce-like difference-maker in head coach Matt Nagy's scheme, but he's the best option in thin free-agent and weak draft classes.

Cincinnati Bengals: OL Austin Blythe

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    Ideal is a relative term.

    For some NFL organizations, the chance to land the top available free agent on the market is ideal. Others operate differently. The Cincinnati Bengals fall into the latter category.

    Owner Mike Brown isn't going to authorize a free-agent spending spree and the Bengals aren't going to be primary suitors for any of the most sought-after individuals. In fact, the team might be better served trying to retain its own, like wide receiver A.J. Green.

    But Cincinnati clearly needs help elsewhere after a miserable 2019 effort. The offensive line desperately requires fortifications.

    Austin Blythe put together an outstanding 2018 campaign when Zac Taylor was still on the Los Angeles Rams staff. He may not be a big-name target, but he would help solidify the offensive interior. Blythe can take over right guard with Trey Hopkins at center and Michael Jordan, Billy Price and John Miller vying for the other guard spot.

Cleveland Browns: S Anthony Harris

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    Two positions—offensive tackle and safety—will dominate the Cleveland Browns' offseason plans.

    They don't have a starting-caliber player on the roster at either position. Right tackle Chris Hubbard and strong safety Morgan Burnett are expected to be future roster cuts, while left tackle Greg Robinson and free safety Damarious Randall are free agents. None of them should return after poor seasons.

    Tackle seems to be the more obvious need since it's considered a premium position and the Browns must protect Baker Mayfield to see if he can develop into a franchise quarterback. But the free-agent options at tackle aren't promising.

    The Browns could target the top available safety, who has a previous working relationship with Cleveland's new secondary coach, Jeff Howard.

    Anthony Harris is an ideal free safety for Joe Woods' single-high-heavy defensive scheme. Last season, the 28-year-old defensive back led the league's safeties in coverage grade, according to Pro Football Focus. The veteran's addition will make life easier on cornerbacks Denzel Ward and Greedy Williams.

Dallas Cowboys: CB Trae Waynes

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    The Dallas Cowboys' free-agent options won't be plentiful since Dak Prescott and Amari Cooper's potential re-signings are the organization's top priorities.

    If/when those deals are reached, Dallas can turn its attention to the secondary since Byron Jones is also a free agent and the top available cornerback on the market.

    Theoretically, the Cowboys have the financial flexibility to afford Prescott, Cooper and Jones, but the emphasis on Jones may decrease since Rod Marinelli and Kris Richard are no longer running the defense.

    Instead, Dallas can lean on Chidobe Awuzie as its top cover corner and go after another cornerback who will probably cost half of what Jones demands.

    New Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy saw Trae Waynes quite a bit during his time in the NFC North. The 2015 first-round pick still struggles at times, but he's physical against the run and flashes in coverage.

Denver Broncos: LB Joe Schobert

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    Joe Schobert is arguably the NFL's most underappreciated off-the-ball linebacker.

    The previous statement sounds a tad hyperbolic, right?

    Well, Schobert was the league's only defender in 2019 with 130 or more tackles, nine deflected passes and four interceptions.

    Now, the 2017 Pro Bowler isn't the same athlete at middle linebacker as Broncos head coach Vic Fangio had in Chicago with Roquan Smith, but Schobert is a complete defender capable of being a downhill presence and comfortable working in space. He's also one of the smartest players on the field.

    According to Pro Football Network's Ben Allbright, the Denver Broncos "would be intrigued" if the Cleveland Browns allow Schobert to leave in free agency.

    Denver lacked a true field general last season. With Todd Davis possibly being cut, Schobert can slide in next to Alexander Johnson to form an improved ILB duo.

Detroit Lions: LB Cory Littleton

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    The Detroit Lions linebacker corps didn't play well last season as a whole. The group was even worse when asked to work in space.

    A defense can't be hamstrung by second-level defenders who aren't comfortable in the passing game. An emphasis is now placed on athleticism and range instead of old-school downhill slobberknockers.

    Detroit is already big and physical in the trenches. The front office can complement its current personnel by adding a more versatile linebacker.

    Cory Littleton worked his way into a starting role for the Los Angeles Rams before he became a Pro Bowl performer in 2018. He's posted back-to-back 125-tackle campaigns. More importantly, he would fill a significant void in the middle of Detroit's defense.

    According to Pro Football Focus, Littleton's 90.6 coverage grade over the last two seasons is third-best in the league. 

Green Bay Packers: WR Robby Anderson

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    Today's Green Bay Packers under the direction of general manager Brian Gutekunst aren't the same old Packers. Green Bay is actually active in free agency now.

    Two years ago, the team signed Jimmy Graham, Muhammad Wilkerson and Marcedes Lewis to varying results. The 2019 signings of Za'Darius Smith, Preston Smith, Adrian Amos and Billy Turner proved to be far more successful.

    This aggressive approach should carry into 2020 with wide receiver in the team's crosshairs.

    Green Bay can't go another season without a legitimate second receiver. Davante Adams is fantastic, but the unit needs far more from its wide receivers.

    Robby Anderson is a dynamic downfield threat who can open up the scheme and make quarterback Aaron Rodgers more effective. In a relatively weak wide receiver free-agent class, the 26-year-old is a perfect target for the Packers.

Houston Texans: RB Derrick Henry

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    The Houston Texans could pull off a major coup by signing the NFL's leading rusher away from a division rival.

    Derrick Henry made the Tennessee Titans offense go—which led to 1,540 rushing yards.

    "It's no secret that we hand the ball to Derrick a lot and he's gaining a lot of yards," Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill said, per ESPN's Turron Davenport. "Off of that comes some play action, and we can take some deep shots down the field. It puts defenses in tough situations."

    The question at this point is rather simple: Is a franchise willing to break the bank for a running back?

    Houston has $66 million in projected salary-cap space for the 2020 season. Neither Carlos Hyde nor Lamar Miller is the answer at running back. A backfield of Henry and quarterback Deshaun Watson would make the Texans one of the favorites in the AFC.

Indianapolis Colts: QB Philip Rivers

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    Normally, free agency is about building toward the future by signing quality players entering their prime years. The Indianapolis Colts should take a different approach because it'll help the team maximize both their short- and long-term potential.

    The Colts can't be entirely comfortable with Jacoby Brissett as their starting quarterback. Clearly, the front office prepared for this possibility when it structured last year's contract extension. The team can save $8.9 million against the 2020 salary cap with his release.

    That difference can help pay for Philip Rivers, who is an ideal fit after previously playing for both head coach Frank Reich and offensive coordinator Nick Sirianni. Aside from Rivers' high turnover rates—which shouldn't be completely swept aside—the 38-year-old quarterback was better across the board in 2019 compared to Brissett.

    Indianapolis has a chance to improve the quarterback position now with Rivers, who would be an ideal mentor to whomever the front office decides to draft and groom.

Jacksonville Jaguars: TE Hunter Henry

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    Much like the Bears earlier, the Jacksonville Jaguars received very little production from the tight end position last season. Jacksonville's seven tight ends combined to make 53 receptions for 459 yards and three touchdowns.

    To be fair, James O'Shaughnessy played in only five games because he suffered a torn ACL. 

    Still, Jacksonville requires massive upgrades to its skill positions. The team lacks the offensive explosiveness necessary to excel in today's game.

    Wide receiver isn't the deepest position in free agency, whereas tight end provides a few exciting options.

    Hunter Henry, in particular, brings a complete skill set as a potential mismatch in the passing game and solid blocker. His injury history is concerning, but he could be a difference-maker in the Jaguars offense.

Kansas City Chiefs: CB Byron Jones

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    The Kansas City Chiefs are now a destination team after their Super Bowl victory. Top free agents will consider them over other options, even at a lesser price, just for the opportunity to play with the league's best.

    Kansas City will need the help, too.

    Obviously, the Chiefs will be hamstrung to a degree this offseason because a Patrick Mahomes extension will be forthcoming. While that's in the works, the front office has to deal with a whole host of free agents set to leave including Chris Jones, Demarcus Robinson, Bashaud Breeland, Kendall Fuller and Anthony Sherman.

    Byron Jones should be the Chiefs' No. 1 target if the organization finds a way to splurge on one free-agent signing. Jones developed into one of the league's better cornerbacks over the last two seasons, and his added presence would help a secondary set to lose multiple defensive backs.

Las Vegas Raiders: WR Emmanuel Sanders

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    Emmanuel Sanders had a profound impact on the San Francisco 49ers offense upon his midseason acquisition. Granted, the previous statement doesn't apply to the team's Super Bowl performance, but the veteran showed what he can do as a No. 1 target in an already talented offense.

    The soon-to-be 33-year-old Sanders will likely look to cash in a final time this offseason. Most teams won't want to spend a significant amount on an aging receiver, but the Las Vegas Raiders don't operate like most organizations.

    Head coach Jon Gruden values veteran experience. He's willing to place older players in prominent positions to expedite the building process. Sanders would immediately give the Raiders a much-needed option in the passing game.

    Tight end Darren Waller served as quarterback Derek Carr's favorite target. A combination of Sanders and Tyrell Williams would make the Raiders offense more challenging to defend. 

Los Angeles Chargers: OT Jack Conklin

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    The offensive tackle market went wonky the last two years and reset for subpar talent. Nate Solder and Trent Brown became the highest-paid offensive linemen in NFL history despite not being considered elite performers.

    That's the value of a good and experienced blocker in today's game. Jack Conklin is about to get paid as the top available tackle on the market.

    Sure, bigger names are available, but they're on the downsides of their careers, while Conklin is only 25 years old.

    Conklin was a first-team All-Pro as a rookie, struggled the following two seasons and came back strong in 2019.

    The Los Angeles Chargers' offensive tackle situation is a disaster. Russell Okung enters the final year of his deal after last year's health scare. Trent Scott and Sam Tevi simply can't get the job done.

    Slide Conklin into right tackle and let him protect the Chargers' next quarterback.

Los Angeles Rams: EDGE Kyle Van Noy

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    The Los Angeles Rams must build through free agency because general manager Les Snead keeps trading away first-round picks.

    How much the team can afford remains in question. Currently, the Rams have some workable salary-cap space ($23.3 million). The team will likely spend some of it on left tackle Andrew Whitworth, linebacker Corey Littleton, right guard Austin Blythe, defensive lineman Michael Brockers and/or edge-rusher Dante Fowler Jr.

    If Fowler walks, a new edge-rusher receives priority.

    Kyle Van Noy likely won't demand the same salary as Fowler, Jadeveon Clowney, Shaquil Barrett or Yannick Ngakoue, but he won't come cheap, either.

    "I'm looking obviously to get paid a lot," Van Noy said, per NBC Sports Boston's Tom E. Curran. "I'll just leave it at that."

    The 28-year-old is arguably the league's most versatile edge defender. The Rams will have to make a hard decision or two to land that caliber of player.

Miami Dolphins: EDGE Yannick Ngakoue

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    The first step of the Miami Dolphins rebuild is complete. The front office stripped the organization of tradeable assets it felt didn't fit the franchise's long-term vision.

    In doing so, Miami built a treasure trove of draft and financial assets. The latter can now be used in free agency. As it currently stands, the Dolphins have the most projected salary-cap space at $93.7 million. The team can afford a big-ticket item at a premium position.

    At 24 years old, Ngakoue is the only player over the past decade with 37.5 sacks and 13 forced fumbles through 65 or fewer career games.

    The Jacksonville Jaguars, meanwhile, currently lack the financial flexibility to retain the defensive end, though the team might consider the franchise tag if it can clear some salary-cap space. If it can't, Ngakoue could stay in-state and become a building block for Miami. 

Minnesota Vikings: CB Logan Ryan

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    The Minnesota Vikings can't look toward free agency with an eye on any specific option because they have a lot of roster maneuvering to complete before outside options become affordable.

    Currently, the Vikings are $12.3 million over the projected 2020 salary cap.

    Multiples roster cuts will need to take place just for the team to afford its 2020 draft class and maybe...possibly...sign a significant free agent.

    Releasing defensive end Everson Griffen, cornerback Xavier Rhodes, defensive tackle Linval Joseph and left tackle Riley Reiff would clear over $40 million. That would finally give Minnesota room to breathe.

    If some space is created, Logan Ryan is the type of physical and reliable defensive back that Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer loves. Ryan led all cornerbacks last season with 113 total tackles. He can also take over the nickel role since Mackensie Alexander is a free agent.

New England Patriots: TE Eric Ebron

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    The New England Patriots are masters at maximizing value at minimum prices.

    Two versions of Eric Ebron exist. Everyone knows the disappointing former 10th overall pick whose inconsistency and drops are infuriating. But a Pro Bowl version can be coaxed out at times, too. Ebron led tight ends in 2018 with 13 touchdown receptions before reverting back to his less desirable version in 2019.

    But Ebron's regression had to do, in part, with a significant quarterback change. Andrew Luck utilized the tight end position to the fullest, whereas Jacoby Brissett didn't.

    The Patriots, meanwhile, have next to nothing at the position. Matt LaCosse and Ryan Izzo certainly didn't get the job done last season.

    Sure, the organization could make a run at Austin Hooper or Hunter Henry, but Ebron provides an opportunity to buy low and get the most return on investment.

New Orleans Saints: OG Joe Thuney

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    The New Orleans Saints placed an emphasis on interior line play long before it became a leaguewide trend.

    The reasoning was simple enough: Drew Brees is a 6'0" pocket passer. So the Saints made significant investments in Carl Nicks, Jahri Evans, Max Unger, Larry Warford and Andrus Peat over the years.

    Peat is an upcoming free agent, though, which will leave a hole at left guard.

    If Brees does return, the Saints should once again look to fortify the offensive interior with the best left guard on the market.

    Joe Thuney is as reliable as it gets. Thuney was one of three offensive linemen to play 600 or more snaps last season without a penalty, per Pro Football Focus. He's also never missed a game during his four-year career.

    The Saints don't have a significant amount of salary-cap space ($12.3 million) to utilize, especially without a starting quarterback signed. But the front office always finds way to massage the numbers and sign free agents.

New York Giants: EDGE Jadeveon Clowney

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    A single stat—three sacks last season—dominates any conversation regarding Jadeveon Clowney yet fails to paint an accurate picture.

    Has Clowney been a disappointment regarding sack production? Yes. Even so, the 27-year-old's game is quite impressive.

    Clowney is an elite run defender with pass-rushing presence. The latter point is important, because offenses still specifically game-plan for him. He takes pressure off other pass-rushers even though his numbers have never been great.

    The New York Giants need more of an edge presence.

    The defense is strong up the middle with Dexter Lawrence, Dalvin Tomlinson and Leonard Williams, if he's re-signed. Markus Golden led the defense last season with 10 sacks, but he's a free agent. Even if Golden returns, he doesn't draw the same attention as Clowney.

    The Giants have plenty of salary-cap space ($61.3 million), especially with Saquon Barkley and Daniel Jones under rookie contracts. The time to splurge is now.

New York Jets: OG Brandon Scherff

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    The New York Jets' primary offseason plan is rather simple: Do everything in their power to protect quarterback Sam Darnold.

    Basically, the Jets should address the offensive line in free agency and the draft. There's no reason to be picky since New York was easily one of the league's worst pass-blocking units last season. General manager Joe Douglas should look at the best opportunities possible during each of the offseason's steps.

    Tackle isn't particularly deep in free agency. So the Jets can concentrate on the best available interior blocker in Brandon Scherff. The three-time Pro Bowl performer is a fantastic guard. More importantly, he's a tone-setter. Scherff's physicality and toughness are both lacking up front for the Jets.

    Four years ago, Douglas was part of a similar signing when the Philadelphia Eagles acquired Brandon Brooks. Douglas could start at the same position in an attempt to fix the Jets.

Philadelphia Eagles: WR Amari Cooper

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    Quarterback Dak Prescott is the Dallas Cowboys' No. 1 priority. Wide receiver Amari Cooper is next in line.

    But what if the four-time Pro Bowler becomes frustrated with how Dallas approaches its offseason and his contract negotiations?

    Imagine the Philadelphia Eagles swooping in to claim not only an elite free-agent wide receiver but also one their main rival has every intention of re-signing this offseason.

    Nothing would be sweeter for the Eagles organization, especially since wide receiver is a legitimate long-term concern.

    Yes, Alshon Jeffery and DeSean Jackson remain under contract. Their current deals make them impossible to move this year. However, next offseason is a completely different story. Both will likely be gone prior to the 2021 campaign. Cooper would solidify the position and be Carson Wentz's top option for the foreseeable future.

Pittsburgh Steelers: EDGE Jordan Jenkins

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    The possibility of losing Bud Dupree has to be at the forefront of the Pittsburgh Steelers' thoughts this offseason. His re-signing is viewed as a priority, and the franchise tag could come into play.

    But the Steelers lack financial flexibility since they're currently one of three teams over the projected 2020 salary cap.

    "As we're putting together the free-agency plan, the draft plan, it all comes together and we see what we can do from a salary-cap standpoint," general manager Kevin Colbert told Missi Matthews of the team's official site. "... We may have to make some decisions prior to that."

    The Steelers may have to look at alternatives if Dupree's retention isn't financially feasible.

    Jordan Jenkins isn't as explosive as Dupree, but he'll come much cheaper. Plus, Jenkins is reliable setting the edge and continues to improve as a pass-rusher. The 25-year-old led the New York Jets last season with eight sacks.

San Francisco 49ers: CB Chris Harris Jr.

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    The San Francisco 49ers are in a bind because the front office has upcoming contract negotiations with George Kittle—which will likely make him the league's highest-paid tight end—with little salary-cap space to get much more done.

    Furthermore, general manager John Lynch must address the fact that wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders, safety Jimmie Ward, defensive tackle Sheldon Day and defensive ends Arik Armstead and Ronald Blair are pending free agents.

    On top of that, cornerback is San Francisco's most questionable position since Richard Sherman turns 32 next month and Emmanuel Moseley hasn't quite proved himself as a long-term starter.

    As such, the organization should look toward a short-term option at a discount price with someone who wants to play for a contender.

    Chris Harris Jr. is no longer the game's best all-around cornerback. But he's still a quality defender who can play outside and over the slot. His physicality and experience would lend well to the 49ers defense.

Seattle Seahawks: DE Arik Armstead

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    A player's situation matters. Obviously, money is the driving factor in most decisions. If all things are equal (or close to equal), other factors come into play.

    For example, the right system to shine should be at the forefront of a player's mind to maximize overall effectiveness and earning ability.

    A transition from the San Francisco 49ers defense to the Seattle Seahawks should be as easy as they come. Defensive end Arik Armstead would go from playing in a Pete Carroll-inspired defensive scheme to actually playing for Carroll.

    Armstead finally found his comfort zone in San Francisco's defense last season under Robert Saleh's supervision and broke out with a career-high 10 sacks. The 26-year-old defender can bring a Michael Bennett-like presence to Seattle's defense since he can start at base end and move inside for certain sub-packages.

    If the Seahawks can't re-sign Jadeveon Clowney, Armstead would become the logical target since Seattle has $59.7 million in available salary-cap space.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: DT Leonard Williams

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    The Tampa Bay Buccaneers plan to prioritize defense, not quarterback, during this year's free agency.

    "Oh, yeah. To me, it's the whole defense," head coach Bruce Arians told reporters when asked about the team's pending free agents. "You can't get 'em all, but ... those young guys grew. We can't let that go. I don't care who's my quarterback. We've gotta have a defense."

    The Bucs have plenty to address with Shaquil Barrett, Jason Pierre-Paul, Ndamukong Suh, Carl Nassib, Beau Allen and Rakeem Nunez-Roches set to test the market.

    Tampa Bay will likely sign only a couple of them. That's OK. The front office should consider other options, like Leonard Williams.

    Williams is perfectly suited for Tampa Bay's three-man front since he can bounce from 5-, 4i- and 3-technique. The redistribution of cap space—of which the Bucs have $85 million, which is the third-most in the league—for a 25-year-old Florida native instead of older options like Suh and Pierre-Paul makes far more sense.

Tennessee Titans: EDGE Bud Dupree

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    Cameron Wake is still a bad man, but the Tennessee Titans can't realistically rely on the 38-year-old edge defender in any type of significant role, especially after he finished last season on injured reserve.

    Harold Landry III developed nicely as a consistent pass-rusher at one outside linebacker spot. The Titans need a solid bookend, though.

    Bud Dupree developed last season into the player the Pittsburgh Steelers originally envisioned when the organization made him the 22nd overall pick in the 2015 draft. Dupree led the Steelers in 2019 with 16 tackles for loss on running plays, according to Bob Labriola of the team's official site. He added 11.5 sacks and 17 quarterback hits as well.

    The Titans have an opportunity to build the game's best linebacker corps with Landry, Rashaan Evans and Jayon Brown already in place. Dupree (if the Steelers don't use the franchise tag) would solidify said status.

Washington Redskins: RB Melvin Gordon III

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    The opportunity to overpay a running back shouldn't be the ideal situation for any team.

    But let's take a step back and consider how helpful the addition of a legitimate workhorse could be for second-year quarterback Dwayne Haskins while he's still operating under a rookie contract. 

    The Washington Redskins have a talented backfield. On paper, the group looks great with Adrian Peterson, Derrius Guice, Chris Thompson and Wendell Smallwood. However, Peterson turns 35 years old next month, Guice hasn't proved he can stay healthy, and both Thompson and Smallwood are free agents.

    Melvin Gordon III can serve as the offense's focal point while Washington's youngsters continue to develop. Haskins' growth is the key, but wide receivers Terry McLaurin, Kelvin Harmon and Cam Sims are 24 or younger.

    If the organization can mend fences with left tackle Trent Williams and find the right RB1, then Washington would be working toward a complete offense. 


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