NFL Free Agency 2020: Best Potential Bargain at Every Position
The 2020 edition of NFL free agency is slated to kick off March 18. The ability of teams to contact and negotiate with players before the official start of free agency means there will be a flurry of signings the moment the market opens.
It also means the first wave of signed players will be heavily compensated.
The biggest deals usually come in the first few days of free agency. However, the biggest deals aren't always the best. Sometimes unheralded signings prove to be the most impactful because they combine value with production.
For example, cornerback Bashaud Breeland signed a one-year, $2 million deal with the Kansas City Chiefs last offseason. He then started 18 games, including the postseason, and help the Chiefs win Super Bowl LIV.
While not every potential bargain will help deliver a title next season, each can substantially outperform their contract because they were undervalued or have untapped potential or a heavy risk-reward factor.
Here, we'll run down the best potential bargains at each position.
Quarterback: Ryan Tannehill
Quarterback Ryan Tannehill revived his reputation with the Tennessee Titans last season. After spending six years as a middling starter with the Miami Dolphins, he thrived with the Titans, posting a 117.5 quarterback rating, going 9-4 as a starter (including the playoffs) and helping Tennessee reach the AFC title game.
Tannehill's strong season will lead to a sizeable free-agent contract. However, his deal likely won't be in the same ballpark as those of Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Philip Rivers and even Teddy Bridgewater.
With less than one full season of high-level play on his resume, Tannehill is probably looking at a short-term "prove it" pact. If he does prove it, Tannehill could also prove to be one of free agency's biggest steals.
A return to Tennessee would make a lot of sense, though he isn't a lock to be back.
"With free agency, it's a two-way street," Titans head coach Mike Vrabel said on PFT Live, per Michael David Smith of Pro Football Talk. "Players have to want to be back and teams have to make decisions."
If Tannehill doesn't return, he would be a great fit in a run-oriented offense—such as the one the rival Indianapolis Colts ran in 2019.
Potential Suitors: Titans, Colts
Running Back: Carlos Hyde
Carlos Hyde is the epitome of a journeyman running back. He has played for four franchises in his six seasons and three in the last two years.
However, Hyde is coming off his best season. In 2019, he racked up 1,070 rushing yards and six touchdowns for the Houston Texans.
While Hyde was a productive runner, he isn't going to command the sort of free-agency attention Melvin Gordon III and Derrick Henry will. He'll be 30 in September and is a one-dimensional back.
While Hyde did have a 59-catch season in 2017, he's averaged just 10 receptions over the last two years and only 5.5 yards per catch for his career.
Hyde would be best-suited for a team that utilizes a committee backfield. He makes sense for Houston, as he could again pair with Duke Johnson. Hyde could also be a target for the Philadelphia Eagles as a replacement for fellow pending free agent Jordan Howard.
Potential Suitors: Texans, Eagles
Wide Receiver: Breshad Perriman
Wide receiver Breshad Perriman was one of the biggest bargains of the 2019 offseason. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers signed him to a one-year, $4 million contract—well below the market rate for a young wide receiver with upside.
Devin Funchess inked a one-year, $10 million with the Colts in the same offseason.
Perriman showed late in the season he was well worth what the Buccaneers gave him. He thrived as a starter with Mike Evans and Chris Godwin injured, finishing the season with 645 yards and six touchdowns on 36 receptions.
While Perriman's performance down the stretch will likely get him a raise, he isn't going to see the money Amari Cooper, A.J. Green and Emmanuel Sanders will. He'll likely be a bigger bargain than fellow complementary receivers such as Robby Anderson—according to The Athletic's Connor Hughes, Anderson could get up to $15 million per year in free agency.
While he still must prove he can be successful over the long haul, Perriman could be an ideal target for any team looking for a field-stretching pass-catcher. Re-signing Perriman may not be a priority for the Buccaneers, who have both Evans and Godwin under contract, but it should be for receiver-needy teams such as the New England Patriots and Las Vegas Raiders.
Potential Suitors: Patriots, Raiders
Tight End: Jacob Hollister
After two underwhelming seasons with the Patriots and some bench time with the Seattle Seahawks, tight end Jacob Hollister finally got an opportunity with Seattle when Will Dissly went down with a torn Achilles in 2019. Hollister finished the season with 41 receptions, 349 yards and three touchdowns. All his production came in Seattle's final 10 games.
With Dissly and the recently signed Greg Olsen on the roster, the Seahawks may not have a need for Hollister. However, there are plenty of teams that could use him.
The Patriots may be at the top of the list. While Hollister wasn't able to carve out a role there previously, he already knows the offense and wouldn't be sitting behind future Hall of Famer Rob Gronkowski this time around.
Hollister could also be a bargain replacement for Austin Hooper should he leave the Atlanta Falcons in free agency. The Falcons plan to let him test the market before committing to any deal.
"Oftentimes you have to look at what the market is to determine whether you're willing, as an organization, to step up and pay those players a certain amount of money," Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff said, per Matthew Tabeek of the team's official website.
Hooper will likely be one of the most sought-after players in free agency.
Potential Suitors: Patriots, Falcons
Offensive Line: Connor McGovern
This year's class of free-agent offensive linemen is a strong one. At tackle, Jack Conklin, Andrew Whitworth, Bryan Bulaga and Anthony Castonzo will command plenty of attention. The interior is just as promising, with Brandon Scherff, Joe Thuney and Graham Glasgow leading the pack.
Denver Broncos center Connor McGovern might get overlooked because of the team's poor line play in 2019.
"We'd like to get better there obviously," general manager John Elway said, per Rich Kurtzman of Mile High Sports.
McGovern was simply fantastic in 2019, though. According to Pro Football Focus, he allowed just one sack and was whistled for zero penalties in 1,013 snaps. Capable of playing guard and center, McGovern is also one of the most versatile linemen headed to the market.
While McGovern won't be a dirt-cheap option, he isn't likely to be a top-paid one like Scherff or Thuney. Expect the Broncos to push to retain him, while the Patriots could be a suitor depending on what transpires with Thuney and injured center David Andrews.
Potential Suitors: Broncos, Patriots
Defensive Line: Danny Shelton
The market for defensive linemen will also be a strong one, with Chris Jones, D.J. Reader, Javon Hargrave, Ndamukong Suh and Arik Armstead headlining the group.
Patriots defensive tackle Danny Shelton isn't going to be the first choice for many teams. Best-suited for a nose role in a 3-4 front, Shelton will have a limited market. However, for teams that fit his skill set, Shelton can be a steal.
He appeared in all 16 games in 2019 and finished with 61 tackles, three sacks and a forced fumble—strong numbers for an interior lineman in a 3-4 base defense. At just 26 years old, Shelton may only be scratching the surface of his potential as well.
A return to the Patriots might make the most sense for Shelton, as he has thrived there for two seasons. He could also make sense for the Pittsburgh Steelers, though, depending on what happens with Hargrave.
Having played his first three seasons with the Cleveland Browns, Shelton has some familiarity with the AFC North and many of the linemen he could face if he returns to the division.
Potential Suitors: Patriots, Steelers
Edge-Rusher: Mario Addison
Nine-year veteran Mario Addison has long been a reliable edge-rusher for the Carolina Panthers. Though he's only posted double-digit sacks once in his career, he has had at least nine in each of the past four seasons and at least six in each of the past six.
Teams looking to bargain hunt for an edge-defender should have Addison on their radar.
At 32 years old, he isn't going to command a hefty long-term contract. He'll be overshadowed by high-profile edge-rushers Jadeveon Clowney, Yannick Ngakoue, Shaquil Barrett, Matthew Judon, Bud Dupree and Markus Golden.
Teams willing to open their pocketbooks for a sack artist will have options ahead of Addison. However, for a playoff hopeful seeking a proven situational edge-rusher, Addison could be the perfect fit. The Seahawks and Raiders—who had only 28 and 32 sacks in 2019—should each make pursuing Addison a priority.
Potential Suitors: Seahawks, Raiders
Linebacker: Nick Vigil
This year's class of non-rush linebackers isn't as deep as those at other positions. This means notable linebackers Danny Trevathan, Kyle Van Noy and Joe Schobert are likely to see plenty of that proverbial fat cash.
However, teams looking for a budget option will be in luck. Cincinnati Bengals linebacker Nick Vigil will be available, potentially at a discount price.
Vigil was one of Cincinnati's most productive defenders in 2019. He finished the season with 111 tackles, a sack, a forced fumble and an interception. Though he isn't a big hitter or premier cover man, Vigil is a fine chase-and-tackle linebacker who consistently finds his way to the football at the second level.
A lack of high-impact plays and a role in one of the league's worst defenses should keep Vigil's price down. However, he would be a great addition to a team such as the New Orleans Saints, who have linebackers Alex Anzalone (shoulder) and Kiko Alonso (ACL) recovering from significant injuries.
Vigil is also one of the few defenders the Bengals should want to retain this offseason.
Potential Suitors: Bengals, Saints
Cornerback: Bashaud Breeland
Bashaud Breeland isn't likely to be as big a bargain as he was a year ago—the Lombardi Trophy is a heck of a resume builder—but he could still be a value option. With high-profile players Josh Norman, Jimmy Smith, Chris Harris Jr., Prince Amukamara, Bradley Roby and James Bradberry hitting free agency, Breeland could be well down the list for several teams.
Breeland was a productive starter in 2019, amassing 48 tackles, eight passes defended and two interceptions. He did allow 29 receptions, according to Pro Football Focus, but he was targeted a whopping 61 times.
A return to Kansas City would make sense, and that's what Breeland would like.
"I'll cross that bridge when I cross it. But at this point in time, I'm looking forward to be a part of the Kansas City Chiefs," Breeland told SiriusXM NFL Radio.
A return to the Washington Redskins would also make sense. Breeland spent the first four years of his NFL career there, and Washington needs a replacement for Norman, who was released earlier this month.
Potential Suitors: Chiefs, Redskins
Safety: Tre Boston
In a safety market littered with notable names in Devin McCourty, Malcolm Jenkins, Tony Jefferson and Haha Clinton-Dix, Carolina's Tre Boston will likely be overlooke. This has been a trend for him in each of the past two seasons, as he signed with the Arizona Cardinals and the Panthers in July 2018 and July 2019.
Boston would be a fine addition for any team. Possessing both tremendous ball skills and plenty of physicality, he is a huge asset at the back end of a secondary. In 2019, Boston amassed 68 tackles, 11 passes defended and three interceptions. He allowed a completion rate of just 50 percent, according to Pro Football Focus.
At just 27 years old, Boston is in the prime of his career too.
He played on a one-year, $2.1 million deal in 2019. While he should get a raise following another strong campaign, he isn't going to command a top-five salary. A return to Carolina would make a lot of sense, and he would be a perfect bargain replacement for McCourty in New England should the Patriots allow him to walk.
Potential Suitors: Panthers, Patriots
Contract info via Spotrac.