NFL Free Agency 2020: The 1 Player Each Team Should Let Walk
Parting is such sweet sorrow for some players and teams in free agency, when the focus tends to shift to what new life can be brought in to make a difference. The quarterback market projects to be wild, offensive linemen are always in high demand, and the right choice could see your favorite team's hype begin to grow.
But figuring out who needs to go is just as important as figuring out who should stay.
Sometimes it's a messy contract situation. Sometimes there are cap casualties as teams pay for previous spending sprees. Sometimes an individual simply no longer fits the front office's vision. Regardless of the reasoning, some players are going to be forced to hit the road when the free-agency period officially opens on March 18.
Here we'll take a look at one player that each franchise should just let walk. There are some talented contributors on this list, but whether their team simply can't afford them or they no longer fit in, they should be wearing a different uniform next season.
Arizona Cardinals: OT Marcus Gilbert
The Cardinals' decision to trade for Marcus Gilbert last season was a low-risk move since they only gave up a sixth-round pick to acquire the veteran tackle. Unfortunately, a torn ACL for the former Steeler meant they didn't get any production from him.
He was placed on injured reserve before playing a single snap and sat out all of the 2019 season.
The injury isn't just a one-off occurrence for Gilbert. He's only played in 12 games over the last three seasons and just can't seem to stay healthy.
Rather than bring back Gilbert and hope for the best, the Cardinals should focus on bringing back offensive tackle Justin Murray, who is an exclusive-rights free agent. Both head coach Kliff Kingsbury and general manager Steve Keim have been vocal about liking the 26-year-old who started 12 games for them.
The Cardinals could acquire one of the top tackle talents in the draft with the No. 8 pick, and good options will likely still be there when they pick again at No. 40.
The team has already invested heavily in an extension for left tackle D.J. Humphries. The Cards should make better use of their cap than extending Gilbert, an aging veteran with significant injury history.
Atlanta Falcons: TE Austin Hooper
The Falcons enter free agency among the most cash-strapped teams in the league with just $4.5 million in cap space. Unfortunately, that means they won't be able to retain all of the talent they have ready to hit free agency.
Austin Hooper has all the tools to be a top tight end. The 25-year-old had 75 catches, 787 yards and six touchdowns in 2019, continuing his trend of increased production in each of his first four seasons. At this point in the Falcons' building process, however, he's more of a luxury than a must-have asset.
General manager Thomas Dimitroff has been noncommittal about bringing the tight end back. He told reporters at the scouting combine that the team intends to negotiate with Hooper when he hits free agency but that "you have to look at what the market is to determine whether you're willing ... to step up and pay those players a certain amount of money."
Dimitroff said the same thing about linebacker De'Vondre Campbell. Of the two, it would make more sense to pursue Campbell. The defense was 20th in DVOA last season, per Football Outsiders, and doesn't have the kind of talent the team has on offense to make up for losing Hooper.
Baltimore Ravens: CB Jimmy Smith
The Baltimore Ravens have a glut of talent at the cornerback position. The acquisition of Marcus Peters back in October combined with the presence of Marlon Humphrey and Tavon Young gives them a solid foundation in the secondary.
That also means Jimmy Smith—who has been part of that foundation for a long time—may go elsewhere this offseason.
Smith has been a mainstay in the Baltimore secondary for years, playing all nine seasons of his career with the team, but he may be ready to hit free agency for the first time. General manager Eric DeCosta suspects the veteran will want to test his value on the open market, per Jonas Shaffer of the Baltimore Sun.
Cornerback depth is always a need for teams, which is one argument for bringing him back. It's also the reason someone else is going to be willing to throw some money at Smith despite the fact he'll be 32 years old in July and has struggled with injuries. He missed six games last year with an MCL sprain and hasn't played a full season since 2015.
Someone is going to take a risk on Smith, but the Ravens are one of the few teams who don't need to.
Buffalo Bills: DT Jordan Phillips
The Bills enter the offseason as one of the teams with the most buying power in free agency. With more than $83 million in cap space, they can really afford to bring back anyone they want this season and still sign some of the marquee names out there.
But reckless spending now could lead to tough decisions in the near future. The cap flexibility comes from having most of their good young core playing on rookie deals, so they'll need that extra cash when they go to extend the likes of Tre'Davious White, Matt Milano and Dion Dawkins.
So while Jordan Phillips is coming off a career year in which he racked up 9.5 sacks, it isn't necessarily a great idea to bring him back. The 27-year-old's breakout stands in stark contrast to his production in his first four seasons in the league. He had just 5.5 combined sacks with the Miami Dolphins and Bills before this season.
Phillips had great production, but the Bills play a heavy rotation up front. He played just 52.1 percent of the snaps, fourth among the defensive line.
A defensive tackle with his potential could land a deal making $6-8 million a year, but that's too much for the Bills to bet he's going to sustain numbers he's only put up once in his career. Instead, the team should use that money to extend one of their true young stars set to hit the market in the near future.
Carolina Panthers: DT Vernon Butler
The Carolina Panthers defense is in for an overhaul with the installation of Phil Snow as defensive coordinator. After primarily running a three-man front last season, Snow has said the team will be more "multiple" in their looks this season.
New head coach Matt Rhule and Co. will need to make decisions on a lot of defensive players. Kyle Love, Gerald McCoy, Bruce Irvin and Mario Addison all have expiring contracts that will need to be sorted out.
Butler could (and should) be the odd man out. He put up a career-high six sacks playing the defensive end spot in their base 3-4 defense. However, he ended the season on a low note, as he was ejected in the final game of the season for punching Indianapolis tight end Jack Doyle and responded by flipping off the Colts crowd.
Butler would be better off signing with a team that is running the scheme that allowed him to shine this season, and the Panthers would be better off spending their money retaining some of the aforementioned players.
Chicago Bears: ILB Danny Trevathan
In four seasons with the Chicago Bears, inside linebacker Danny Trevathan has only played a full season once. Granted, he was placed on injured reserve in 2019 after a fluky arm injury, but the point remains he hasn't been able to stay on the field.
Trevathan's time out this year allowed Nick Kwiatkoski the opportunity to prove himself, and he did just that. The two played almost identical snaps this season, with Kwiatkoski on the field for 512 defensive snaps to Trevathan's 559. Yet, the younger Kwiatkoski put up better numbers while also playing a large role on special teams.
- Kwiatkoski: 76 tackles, eight TFL, three sacks and one interception
- Trevathan: 70 tackles, two TFL, one sack and no interceptions
Kwiatkoski is also due to hit free agency, so the team will likely have to choose between the two. The improved play of the former special teamer makes him the better option to pair with Roquan Smith and officially makes Trevathan expendable.
Cincinnati Bengals: TE Tyler Eifert
Injuries have played a major role in Tyler Eifert's time in Cincinnati. He's always flashed elite tight end potential, but this is the first time since his 2013 rookie season that he has played in at least 15 games.
Now that he's shown the ability to stay on the field, it's time for the Bengals to get out of the Eifert game for good.
Eifert was able to play all 16 games for the first time in his career in large part because head coach Zac Taylor and his staff did a good job of using him in a rotation. He only played 45 percent of the snaps, while fellow tight end C.J. Uzomah was in on 59 percent.
Eifert was fourth on the team in targets with 63, trailing far behind Tyler Boyd, Auden Tate and Alex Erickson. If the Bengals can find a way to get A.J. Green back, there will be even fewer targets to go around.
The team used a second-round pick on tight end Drew Sample in last season's draft. The Bengals would be better off to see what they have in the second-year player in rotation with Uzomah than paying what Eifert can get as a free agent elsewhere.
Cleveland Browns: S Damarious Randall
When Damarious Randall was traded to the Cleveland Browns in the deal that sent DeShone Kizer to Green Bay in 2018, there was hope that Randall would be a top-flight safety to anchor the Cleveland secondary.
That hasn't been the case.
Instead, Randall had an incredibly disappointing season in his contract year. For the first time in his career, he had no interceptions, and he missed five games due to injury.
Randall played all over the place for the Browns. He has been slotted in at corner, box safety and free safety throughout his career, but without playmaking ability, the value isn't there for the Browns moving forward. Looking at the market, it's likely there will be options at safety that make more sense with their new coaching staff.
Minnesota Vikings safety Anthony Harris comes to mind. He had a great season for the Vikings, who will likely not be able to afford to bring him back with the second-lowest amount of cap space in the league. Harris should also be familiar with new head coach Kevin Stefanski, who coached with the Vikings from 2006-2019. Jimmie Ward is another safety who could enter free agency and should have knowledge of new defensive coordinator Joe Woods' system coming with him from San Francisco.
Dallas Cowboys: CB Byron Jones
There are going to be cap casualties in Dallas because the Cowboys have a huge offseason in front of them when it comes to retaining talent. They have three free agents in their prime set to get big paydays in quarterback Dak Prescott, receiver Amari Cooper and cornerback Byron Jones.
If they were to bring back all three, it would be awfully hard to do anything else.
Instead, the Cowboys should focus on Prescott and Cooper while hoping to also bring back Robert Quinn on the defensive line.
Jones has been fantastic. He is Pro Football Focus' top-ranked free-agent corner and finished 14th overall at the position in 2019. He has not produced turnovers like you'd hope a star defensive back would, but his coverage has been invaluable.
The Cowboys should not let Jones walk because he won't produce. He will. The question is whether he's worth more than the other guys they are going to need to pay. Jones is expected to command at least $16 million a year, so signing him would put a large dent in the remaining money needed to keep Prescott and Cooper, plus other players on the bubble, such as Quinn and receiver Randall Cobb.
If the market ends up coming down, the Cowboys could and should be a contender for his services. But as it stands, Jones is simply too expensive to retain.
Denver Broncos: CB Chris Harris Jr.
Watching Chris Harris Jr. walk away won't be easy for the Broncos. He's played all nine seasons of his career there and is one of the few players remaining from the 2015 Super Bowl-winning team.
However, it sounds like Harris is ready to leave the Broncos, and Denver should be prepared to let him.
"I think everybody deserves to see what they're worth, and I deserve it at this point," Harris said, per Nicki Jhabvala of The Athletic. "I think I worked my tail off for nine years, I gave the city every ounce of effort that I could give and, shoot, it's time to see what everybody else thinks about me."
Harris' history as a top corner in the league should fetch him a large payday, but he isn't worth it for the Broncos. At 30 years old, he just put up one of his least productive seasons. Plus, per ESPN's Adam Schefter, the Broncos have a deal in place to trade for Jacksonville cornerback A.J. Bouye, who is two years younger and has two years left on his current deal.
Despite playing all 16 games this season, Harris had just one interception and six passes defended. Both are tied for career lows.
Overpaying for a player who may be on the downside of his physical prowess when trying to rebuild the roster in the new Drew Lock era isn't a prudent move.
Detroit Lions: DL Mike Daniels
Mike Daniels came to the Detroit Lions on a one-year, $8.1 million "prove it" deal after a successful run with NFC North rival Green Bay.
The problem going into 2020 is that he didn't prove much. The 30-year-old only appeared in nine games and amassed 10 tackles and one sack. Heading into next season, he'll be on the wrong side of 30, has suffered injuries to both feet in recent years and ended this season on IR with an arm injury.
The Lions have already moved on from defensive tackle Damon Harrison freeing up an additional $6.7 million in cap space. So if the team really wants a veteran presence on the inside they can afford one who can give them production as well as leadership.
Instead, the team should focus its effort on bringing back A'Shawn Robinson. The 24-year-old hasn't been super productive, but he's only missed six games over the past four years, so he at least offers health and youth.
Green Bay Packers: WR Geronimo Allison
Outside of Davante Adams, the Green Bay Packers just need a complete reset at wide receiver.
For a long time, the organization has forced quarterback Aaron Rodgers to make something out of nothing with the weapons they gave him. Allison is a perfect example of that. The team signed the former undrafted free agent to a one-year, $2.8 million deal last season and expanded his role in the offense after a promising 2018 campaign that was cut short by injury.
The results were not good. Allison saw a career-high 55 targets, yet he didn't live up to his increased role. He actually had less yardage than he did on his 30 targets the year before and equaled his touchdown production, scoring just twice.
At 36 years old, the Packers can't continue to expect Rodgers to be effective without investing in real weapons for him to utilize.
Receivers Allen Lazard and Marquez Valdes-Scantling could still develop into something more than they are right now, but Allison has proven he is what he is at this point. His presence will only serve to slow down the development of the passing game.
Houston Texans: RB Lamar Miller
This should be an easy decision for the Texans.
Lamar Miller missed all of the 2019 season with a torn ACL after a solid three-season stretch in Houston. He racked up 2,934 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns with 678 receiving yards and five scores in his time as a starter for the Texans.
The problem is the Texans run game didn't skip a beat with him out last season. Carlos Hyde had over 1,000 yards rushing as the lead back, while Duke Johnson averaged 4.9 yards per carry with over 400 yards receiving as the change-of-pace back in Houston.
Hyde is also set to hit free agency. But with his recent success, he's a better bet than Miller, who turns 29 in April and is coming off an injury, so Hyde should be the priority of the two. Miller's pass-catching abilities are also redundant with Johnson under contract through 2021.
Coming off a base salary of $5.5 million, he's unlikely to be worth the money the Texans would need to shell out for a guy who will be the third running back on the depth chart.
Indianapolis Colts: S Clayton Geathers
Clayton Geathers was brought back to the Indianapolis Colts last season on a one-year deal to be a stabilizing force at the position for a young group.
He did that, starting in 10 games as a serviceable safety. He earned a 65.7 grade from PFF and made 54 tackles, but he was ultimately supplanted by rookie Khari Willis as the starter. In essence, Geathers has served his purpose for the team.
Heading into his second season, Willis should be the Day 1 starter. It doesn't help Geathers' case that he is one of the last holdovers from the Ryan Grigson era. Fourth-year GM Chris Ballard has no reason to feel obligated to bring Geathers back, and he most likely won't.
Per Spotrac, the Colts have the second-most cap room in the league. They should be major players in the market, so even if they don't want to trust Willis as the starter, they have the cash for a major upgrade at the position.
Jacksonville Jaguars: WR Keelan Cole
The Jaguars have already been active in shedding some of the contracts that would have made this list.
They elected to decline their club option for defensive tackle Marcell Dareus, saving them $20 million. Linebacker Jake Ryan is also set to hit free agency after they declined his option. Those were the two most obvious choices, as both were costly players who missed most or all of last season with injuries.
A lack of cap flexibility and the desire to bring back defensive end Yannick Ngakoue means the Jaguars are going to have to be frugal. So if another team pursues one of their restricted free agents, such as wide receiver Keelan Cole, the Jaguars are probably going to need to let them walk.
Cole is a reliable fourth wide receiver. He hauled in 24 passes for 361 yards and three touchdowns this season. But he also saw a major reduction in his role, going from 70 targets in 2018 to just 35 targets in 2019.
If another team is interested in signing Cole to play a similar or larger role, Marqise Lee's return to the lineup next season and the emergence of Dede Westbrook and D.J. Chark makes losing Cole tolerable.
Kansas City Chiefs: WR Demarcus Robinson
Demarcus Robinson has flashed real playmaking ability in his four seasons with the Kansas City Chiefs. He averaged 14.0 yards per catch this season with four touchdowns and added three receptions for 35 yards in the postseason.
But the perk of having a quarterback like Patrick Mahomes is that you don't have to break the bank to keep a receiver like Robinson around when the QB has the ability to just keep the offense moving along without him. Former Chiefs receivers Albert Wilson and Chris Conley are prime examples of that.
Wilson was a reliable performer in the Kansas City offense before signing a three-year, $24 million deal in Miami. In the first two years of that deal, he has put up a pedestrian 742 yards and five touchdowns.
Conley fared better in his first season out of Kansas City last season with Jacksonville. He had 775 yards for the Jaguars, but the Chiefs didn't seem to miss his production too much on their way to a Super Bowl.
Long story short, some team is most likely going to be willing to pay Robinson money to be their No. 2 wide receiver. Robinson isn't that guy for the Chiefs and shouldn't be paid like it.
Las Vegas Raiders: RB DeAndre Washington
Josh Jacobs has emerged as one of the Raiders' biggest stars as they prepare for their move to Las Vegas. The Alabama product had a huge rookie season with 1,150 rushing yards and 20 receptions.
DeAndre Washington was the No. 2 back and had 36 receptions on 41 targets. Jalen Richard, however, made the same number of catches on 43 targets.
Richard signed a two-year contract extension last month, so the writing could be on the wall for Washington. Richard, 26, is roughly a year younger than the Texas Tech product, and both are diminutive. Washington is 5'8", 210 pounds, while Richard is 5'8" and 205 pounds.
Las Vegas would be better off letting Washington go to a team looking for a No. 2 receiving back while letting Richard handle that role. The No. 3 back could be someone to help in short-yardage situations or a late-round draft pick with upside.
Los Angeles Chargers: RB Melvin Gordon III
With Philip Rivers on the way out, the Los Angeles Chargers offense is in for a makeover. In addition to its new signal-caller, the team should make a shift in its backfield.
Melvin Gordon III spent the first part of the 2019 season in a contract holdout. The Chargers wisely balked at that idea and gave Austin Ekeler and Justin Jackson a chance to shine. The tandem responded by putting up a combined 362 yards on the ground in September sans Gordon. Ekeler added 270 yards and three scores through the air.
Once Gordon came back, he averaged 3.8 yards per carry and finished the season with 612 rushing yards in 12 games.
Ekeler can't be the answer by himself. He's best as part of a tandem, but keeping him is likely going to cost some money. He's a restricted free agent, so the Chargers will have to match whatever offer he gets if they want to retain him.
However, Gordon shouldn't be part of that tandem. He didn't add enough to the rushing attack last year to warrant big money, and if the Chargers are just going to split the carries, they will be better off investing less into the position as a whole.
Los Angeles Rams: DE Michael Brockers
The Los Angeles Rams have three vital pieces of their defense set to hit free agency: Michael Brockers, Cory Littleton and Dante Fowler Jr. The likelihood that they can keep even two of the three seems small.
The team is projected to have just $14.8 million in cap space, per Over the Cap. Unfortunately, Brockers is the least valuable of the trio.
As one of the longest-standing members of the team (drafted by the Rams in 2012), he brings leadership and stout run defense. Aaron Donald has been vocal in his support for Brockers and his importance to the defensive front.
But at 29, Brockers is older than both Littleton (26) and Fowler (25). Plus, the team has draft capital invested in Fowler. The organization gave up a 2019 third-round pick and a 2020 fifth-rounder for the edge-rusher in 2018.
Brockers' experience and his level of play are sure to fetch him a solid offer on the open market. As things stand, the Rams don’t have the money to spend to bring back their premier guys.
Miami Dolphins: CB Aqib Talib
If you forgot Aqib Talib was on the Miami Dolphins, you're forgiven. The team acquired the veteran prior to the October trade deadline along with a fifth-round pick in a deal with the Rams, and he never suited up. He was already on injured reserve with a fractured rib.
The Dolphins have more projected cap space than anyone at $93.7 million, so money is not an issue. But bringing back a 34-year-old corner who is not likely to return to his peak isn't wise. In 2017 and '18 (his last two full seasons), Talib failed to record double-digit pass breakups for the first time since his rookie year in 2008.
The rebuilding Dolphins should focus on adding players whose ages better fit their timeline to be competitive.
Talib will likely get signed by a contender hoping to get good coverage out of him down the stretch or in spot duty. It's a better situation for both parties if Talib's run as a Dolphin never actually manifests on the field.
Minnesota Vikings: CB Trae Waynes
The Minnesota Vikings are a mess when it comes to cap space. According to Over the Cap, they have the lowest effective space in the league at $1.4 million, and they have several key defensive free agents, including Trae Waynes, fellow cornerback Mackensie Alexander, Anthony Harris and Everson Griffen.
The edge-rusher has to be the top priority. Griffen bounced back with 8.0 sacks in 2019 after just a 5.5-sack effort the year prior, and he helps take attention from Danielle Hunter.
Harris is coming off the best season of his career, so if the team can find the cap space, he should be a higher priority than Alexander and Waynes. Both cornerbacks are estimated to be worth $8.4 million per year, according to Spotrac's market-value tool.
Waynes earned a 65.1 grade for the season from PFF and had one interception, while Alexander had one interception and earned a 65.7. The two have put up virtually identical numbers, and both serve different roles in the defense.
The fact that Waynes tends to play on the outside, with Alexander playing in the slot, likely gives him a small advantage on the open market. The Vikes should let him go.
New England Patriots: WR Phillip Dorsett
Tom Brady's free agency looms over the New England Patriots. Whether or not he reunites with head coach Bill Belichick for another Super Bowl run will shape the rest of the team's decisions.
Regardless of whether TB12 returns to Foxborough, the receiving corps has to be better. For years, the franchise has been able to piece together a group of receivers and make them look functional.
Those days are over. Brady threw for 4,057 yards and 24 touchdowns to eight interceptions in 2019, yet he posted the lowest QBR (52.5) of his career.
Dorsett earned $2.5 million last season, and the 2015 first-round pick recorded 29 receptions for 397 yards and five touchdowns. That is in line with what he's produced throughout his career, but he doesn't have a high ceiling.
Instead of bringing him back, his targets should be dispersed to players who may be able to do more with the opportunity. N'Keal Harry, last year's first-round pick, showed signs of life at the end of the 2019 campaign and could make Dorsett obsolete.
New Orleans Saints: OG Andrus Peat
The Saints have a lot on their plate this offseason and not much cap flexibility to get things done. They only have a projected $12.3 million in cap space.
All three quarterbacks on the roster—Drew Brees, Teddy Bridgewater and Taysom Hill (received first-round tender Friday, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter)—are set to hit the market if they aren't extended. Eli Apple’s and Vonn Bell's contracts are also expiring, leading to questions in the secondary.
Offensive lineman Andrus Peat has had a successful run in New Orleans. His five years with the team have been highlighted by two Pro Bowl appearances, but he only earned a 49.7 grade from PFF in 2019.
Even if he leaves, the Saints will have plenty of talent up front.
Terron Armstead and All-Pro Ryan Ramczyk form one of the best tackle duos in the league, and right guard Larry Warford has earned multiple Pro Bowls. Peat will be missed, but the line isn't going to fall apart.
They can afford to look for cheaper alternatives at left guard and use the cap flexibility to fill more pressing needs.
New York Giants: OT Mike Remmers
With Eli Manning's retirement, the Giants are officially in the Daniel Jones era. That means protecting their second-year quarterback has to be one of their top priorities.
Mike Remmers doesn't fit that bill. The soon-to-be 31-year-old is middling at best and isn't going to get better at this stage of his career. He only cost the Giants $2.5 million this season, but he allowed five sacks, according to STATs (via the Washington Post).
Big Blue are the sixth-richest team heading into the offseason, with a projected $73.3 million in cap space. That means they don't have to choose between upgrading Nate Solder's left tackle spot or Remmers' right tackle position. They can (and should) upgrade both.
The team should be a major player on the free-agent tackle market, and it wouldn't be surprising if it spends its No. 4 draft pick on another tackle. Either option would make Remmers expendable as New York looks to rebuild the offensive line.
New York Jets: RB Ty Montgomery
The New York Jets have one of the longest lists of pending free agents in the league. Most are replacement-level guys who will be fortunate to find new homes.
One area they'll definitely need to sort out is the running back position. The team has maintained that it doesn't plan on parting ways with Le'Veon Bell, who signed a four-year, $52.5 million contract with New York last offseason but averaged a career-low 3.2 yards per carry.
Granted some of that can be attributed to a woeful offensive line. The Jets were 31st in Football Outsiders' adjusted line yards.
But the Jets need options behind Bell. That option is clearly not Ty Montgomery. The team brought him in on a cheap $895,000 deal, but it didn't utilize him as much as it could have.
Montgomery only saw 17 targets in the passing game and 32 rushing attempts. Bilal Powell was the preferred backup with 59 carries.
The former Packer is unlikely to return, and the Jets should look for alternatives they'll actually be willing to use if the situation is right.
Philadelphia Eagles: CB Ronald Darby
Ronald Darby has been incredibly frustrating in his three seasons with the Philadelphia Eagles.
On one hand, some of his numbers look good. He's accrued six interceptions and 32 passes defended, and that's despite only appearing in 28 games. But that's where the frustration begins.
The 26-year-old is fresh off his healthiest season with the Birds, playing in 11 games. But it was his worst season statistically. According to PFF, Darby allowed 39 receptions on 62 targets and carried a 45.9 grade.
Tim McManus of ESPN.com reported that the Eagles are likely to be players in the market for cornerback Byron Jones, so it's clear they are looking to acquire a strong player at the position. The oft-injured and struggling Darby should get the change of scenery he desperately needs.
Pittsburgh Steelers: DT Javon Hargrave
This choice is based on simple math. The Pittsburgh Steelers' cap situation doesn't allow them the luxury of bringing back Javon Hargrave next season. They are the only team in the red.
With both Hargrave and Bud Dupree set to hit the market, the team should choose Dupree.
Pittsburgh had a strong run defense last season, holding opponents to just 3.8 yards per carry (third leaguewide). Hargrave was a part of that, but he was only on the field for 62.9 percent of the snaps. A lot of the credit goes to fellow D-linemen Cameron Heyward and Stephon Tuitt, both of whom are still under contract.
However, Dupree and T.J. Watt form one of the best pass-rushing tandems in the league. The Steelers led the NFL in sacks last season with 54. Dupree and Watt combined for 26 of those. If the team can't bring Dupree back, it'll allow opponents to give more attention to Watt.
In short, Dupree means more to the pass rush than Hargrave means to stopping the run.
San Francisco 49ers: WR Emmanuel Sanders
One of these is not like the other: Kendrick Bourne (24 years old), Jalen Hurd (24), Dante Pettis (24), Deebo Samuel (24) and Emmanuel Sanders (32).
The San Francisco 49ers brought in the former Bronco and Steeler halfway through 2019 to give Jimmy Garoppolo a consistent set of hands on the field and provide veteran leadership.
He certainly served that purpose. He had 36 catches for 502 yards with three touchdowns in 10 regular-season games as he helped his team to a Super Bowl berth. However, he was the team's fourth-leading pass-catcher in the postseason behind Samuel, Bourne and tight end George Kittle.
With Pettis looking to prove himself one more season and Hurd coming back from injury, the Niners are loaded with young wide receivers and could even add more talent in the draft. They would be better off letting Sanders walk and giving more looks to their young assets to see what they have.
Seattle Seahawks: OT Germain Ifedi
There's a bit of a conundrum with the tackle position this offseason. Several teams are looking to improve their situation, but there aren't many free agents-to-be who can improve a team's outlook.
That's a classic recipe for an overpay.
Germain Ifedi is a 2016 first-round pick who has a nearly perfect bill of health. He's played in 60 games over his first four seasons and is just 25 years old. Someone is going to pay him way too much money after missing out on the likes of Jack Conklin and Bryan Bulaga.
But Ifedi isn't either of those guys. Ben Linsey of Pro Football Focus warned that those looking at Ifedi are bound to be disappointed:
"Simply put, Ifedi hasn't been very productive on the football field. In four years as a starter for the Seahawks, Ifedi has PFF grades of 52.0, 51.7, 55.6 and 58.8. His run-blocking grade of 48.7 since entering the NFL in 2016 ranks third-worst among all tackles with 1,500 or more offensive snaps over that span."
The Seahawks should allow some other team to overpay for Ifedi and either give George Fant a chance to be a consistent starter or seek cheaper options through the draft.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: WR Breshad Perriman
Breshad Perriman probably played his way out of Tampa Bay in the best way possible.
The 26-year-old wideout had 25 catches for 506 yards and five touchdowns over the final five games of the season in what was easily the best stretch of his career. Perriman is a burner who can stretch the field, which is always a marketable skill. He'll likely command much more than the $4 million he was paid in 2019.
The Bucs are projected to have $85 million in cap space, but they have Mike Evans and Chris Godwin, one of the best receiver tandems in the league. Giving Perriman the type of money he will get on the open market to be a clear-cut WR3 is not a smart move.
The 2015 first-round pick is likely to be pursued by a team looking for a second receiver who can stretch the field. Tampa Bay should look for its next Perriman in free agency rather than try to bring back the one it has now.
Tennessee Titans: CB Logan Ryan
The Tennessee Titans are one of the most unenviable teams in free agency this season.
Fresh off an AFC Championship Game appearance, they have to make major decisions regarding several players that got them to that point. Jack Conklin, Ryan Tannehill, Derrick Henry and Marcus Mariota all are set to hit the market, and the roughly $50 million they have to spend is going to go to some combination of those players quickly.
Mariota is obviously on the way out. He was supplanted by Tannehill. It will be difficult to keep Conklin, Tannehill and Henry, but after the season all three had, the Titans should make every effort to do so.
That leaves Logan Ryan as the odd-man out. The slot corner is good-not-great at his job and earned a 64.9 grade at PFF last season, allowing 80 receptions on 114 targets. He was useful as a blitzer with 4.5 sacks to go with his four interceptions, but he's more of a luxury than a necessity. And the Titans aren't in a position to spend much outside of the core pieces they are trying to bring back.
Washington Redskins: OT Donald Penn
If the Washington Redskins are serious about protecting Dwayne Haskins next season, they need Trent Williams back at left tackle. It's that simple.
Donald Penn did an admirable job essentially coming off the street to fill in last season. Williams missed the entire season because of his holdout. Now, Washington needs to convince him to rejoin the team with Ron Rivera as head coach or find a trade so it can use a pick to replace him.
Regardless, the 36-year-old Penn shouldn't be counted on to be a contributor anymore. Protecting a developing quarterback should be the top priority, and bringing back Penn to man that spot once again would be irresponsible.
The Redskins don't have a lot of talent set to leave, so they can re-sign anyone they want. But Penn shouldn't return as they look to build an offensive line for the future.