The 1 Free Agent Each NFL Team Can't Afford to Lose

Alex Ballentine@Ballentine_AlexFeatured ColumnistMarch 14, 2020

The 1 Free Agent Each NFL Team Can't Afford to Lose

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    In the NFL, talent retention is just as important as acquisition and development. 

    The poker game known as free agency requires teams to do some soul searching and truly valuate what certain players mean to their franchise. As players start to see the massive dollar signs they can potentially earn, it becomes increasingly difficult to keep them in the fold. 

    Whether it's a franchise quarterback or veteran presence that gives the team continuity, sometimes a franchise simply can't afford to watch a player walk. The GMs that can correctly diagnose which players to hold, fold and trade are the ones who consistently put a contender on the field. 

    As all 32 teams prep for the NFL's silly season, here's one player each team should be doing whatever it can to keep. Each man on this list has proven he can produce on the field, has upside worth the team's investment and/or plays a role that can't be easily replaced through free agency or the draft. 

    In short, they're too important to the team's goals to let them walk.   


Arizona Cardinals: RB Kenyan Drake

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    The Cardinals are in full-on Support Kyler Murray Mode right now. 

    And they should be, because that's the model to follow when you draft a quarterback No. 1 overall. You surround him with the weapons and protection he needs to thrive as soon as possible. 

    That was the logic behind the Cardinals making the move to trade for Kenyan Drake in October 2019, and that's the logic that should compel them to do what they can to bring the former Miami Dolphin back. 

    After joining Arizona, Drake racked up more than 800 yards from scrimmage in eight games and showed he is able to impact the game both as a runner and receiver. As an added bonus, he has relatively few carries (456 since 2016) for a 26-year-old back. 

    Extending tackle D.J. Humphries was already a smart way for the team to kick off the offseason. Getting Drake back on the roster for 2020 could be the next.

Atlanta Falcons: LB De'Vondre Campbell

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    The Falcons are one of the most cap-strapped teams in the league, meaning there are going to be some cap casualties in Atlanta, and even then, retaining talent is going to be difficult. 

    That means some talented players, like tight end Austin Hooper and potentially linebacker De'Vondre Campbell, will have to go. 

    For what it's worth, Campbell has expressed interest in staying with the club, while Hooper has essentially bid Atlanta farewell

    If Atlanta is going to clear the space to sign either of the two, it makes more sense to go with Campbell. The offense will be fine going forward with Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley as the top two pass-catching options, but the defense is not set up to succeed without Campbell. 

    His coverage skills and versatility at linebacker make him a unique talent on a defense that was 20th in DVOA last season.

Baltimore Ravens: DL Michael Pierce

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    The Ravens already took care of their most pressing need in placing the franchise tag on pass-rusher Matthew Judon. After letting Terrell Suggs and Za'Darius Smith walk last offseason, it was imperative they brought back their top edge-defender.

    Now they can direct their attention to interior defender Michael Pierce.

    After last season, it's easy to make the argument the Ravens can let him walk. However, that overlooks the bigger picture. In his four years with Baltimore, he's played a critical role in a defense that has traditionally been strong at stopping the run.

    Pierce and the run defense took a dip last season, giving up 4.4 yards per carry (20th). In 2018, when Pierce carried a 92.0 PFF grade against the run, Baltimore's defense held teams to a league-best 3.7 yards per carry.

    The Ravens know what Pierce can offer when he's at the top of his game. His subpar season in 2019 could benefit them as it drives down his price, allowing the Ravens to keep continuity in their front seven.

Buffalo Bills: EDGE Shaq Lawson

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    The Bills figure to be big spenders in free agency. Their fiscal wisdom and smart drafting has them in great position with a lot of talent on the roster and $78.4 million in cap space. 

    As one of the few teams with a playoff roster and great cap flexibility, the Bills can pretty much afford to bring back whoever they want. While they shouldn't hand out bad contracts just because they have the money, Lawson should be one of those players returning. 

    The Bills were in the middle of the pack when it came to pressuring opposing quarterbacks. They generated pressure on just 23.3 percent of dropbacks, which resulted in 44 sacks.

    Lawson was responsible for 6.5 of them, second on the team. There are some premier pass-rushing options on the market, and the Bills should probably still be a player for them considering how much money they have. 

    However, if the San Francisco 49ers taught us anything this season, it's that you can never have enough guys who can get after the quarterback. Bringing Lawson back on that principle alone is a no-brainer.

Carolina Panthers: S Tre Boston

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    New head coach Matt Rhule is bringing in Phil Snow to serve as defensive coordinator for the Carolina Panthers, which means they will likely be switching from their base 3-4 to a more "multiple" look. 

    That makes the fits for defensive linemen such as Gerald McCoy and Mario Addison questionable. But the one thing they'll need regardless of what the front is doing is someone to man the back of the defense. That's where Tre Boston shines. 

    He's been a journeyman with three teams in the last three seasons. That hasn't been a production issue, though. In those three seasons, he has 11 interceptions and 28 passes defended. 

    Some would argue James Bradberry needs to be brought back. That would be nice, but he's reportedly looking for more than $15 million per year in his next deal. Considering he's projected to earn around $9.6 million per year, Boston is much more feasible as the new regime looks to build the defense.

Chicago Bears: S Ha Ha Clinton-Dix

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    The Bears signed Clinton-Dix to a one-year "prove it" deal last offseason. He held up his end of the bargain, which means it's time for the Bears to hold up theirs. 

    Clinton-Dix isn't as flashy or versatile as some of the safeties ready to hit the market, but he provided steady play in the secondary for Chicago. He chipped in two interceptions while holding opposing passers to a 67.0 rating when targeted. 

    Linebacker Nick Kwiatkoski should be a priority as well, but whoever ends up playing beside Roquan Smith is going to be put in a position to win. 

    Playing high safety is a dangerous job, but Clinton-Dix can be put on an island and has proven to be a dependable asset. That's not as easily replaceable as the second inside linebacker in the Bears 3-4 base.

Cincinnati Bengals: WR A.J. Green

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    These days, it seems the expectation is that rookie quarterbacks are ready to dominate right away. That will definitely be true of Joe Burrow, who is coming off one of the most impressive runs in college football of all time. 

    That means the Bengals are going to need to surround Burrow with as much talent as possible. Bringing back star receiver A.J. Green has to be part of that plan. 

    The Bengals are reportedly looking to use the franchise tag on Green. That's an expensive one-year investment, but one that makes sense for the Bengals. 

    Green's injury history is troubling. He missed all of last season with an ankle injury and only played in nine games in 2018. It's hard to tell what he will be capable of when he finally does come back. 

    The tag could be the ultimate "prove it" deal for Green, who is second in Bengals history in receptions, receiving yards and touchdowns. If he shows he can still produce at an elite level in his age-32 season, then he's worth another contract. 

    If he gets hurt again or just isn't what he used to be, it is at least fitting he was part of ushering in the Joe Burrow era.

Cleveland Browns: RB Kareem Hunt

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    Kareem Hunt is a restricted free agent, so the Browns will have complete control over his destination. Even if a team is interested in signing him, they would need Cleveland to refuse to match the offer and give the Browns the appropriate draft pick for the tender. 

    For what it's worth, the Browns will reportedly tender the running back, per Scott Petrak of the Chronicle-Telegram, although it isn't clear what level the tender will be. 

    Hunt's off-the-field issues have decreased his value for a lot of teams. The Browns took a chance on him last season, but he was already involved in an incident in January where he was pulled over with marijuana in his vehicle but wasn't charged, per Nate Ulrich of the Akron Beacon Journal.

    When Hunt is on the field, he is still an asset. When he joined the Browns after serving an eight-game suspension last season, he and Nick Chubb formed one of the most elusive tandems in the league, according to PFF's metrics. 

    New head coach Kevin Stefanski figures to use running backs heavily. As the offensive coordinator for the Minnesota Vikings last season, he gave backup Alexander Mattison 110 touches, even with Dalvin Cook in the backfield as well. 

    The Browns' combination of Chubb and Hunt could be something special if the Browns are willing to match any offers that might be thrown Hunt's way.

Dallas Cowboys: QB Dak Prescott

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    There isn't a quarterback like Dak Prescott on the market.

    There are a lot of talented passers with expiring contracts. Drew Brees, Tom Brady, Ryan Tannehill and Philip Rivers come to mind, but none are as young with as many prime years left as Prescott. 

    Prescott, who turns 27 in July, can and should be a franchise quarterback for the next five seasons at least. With 30 touchdowns, 11 interceptions and nearly 5,000 yards passing last season, he proved he can put up the numbers to carry an offense. 

    The Cowboys were No. 2 in the league in offensive DVOA last season. While that didn't result in a trip to the postseason, they're shaking things up in 2020 with Mike McCarthy taking the helm. 

    McCarthy coached the Green Bay Packers in the Aaron Rodgers era. It makes no sense to bring him in to lead the team if they don't do whatever it takes to get their quarterback back in the building long-term.

Denver Broncos: OG/C Connor McGovern

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    The Broncos already took care of their biggest must-retain free agent, placing the franchise tag on safety Justin Simmons. Their top priority now is it to give Drew Lock the best chance to succeed next season.

    Connor McGovern has been a steady presence along the Broncos offensive line the past two seasons, starting 31 of 32 games at either guard or center. He's excelled at stopping interior pressure, conceding just one sack last season.

    The Broncos will likely need to upgrade the tackle position in the offseason, but the group played fairly well last season (PFF's 12th-ranked O-line). Bringing back McGovern keeps the consistency and lets the Broncos worry about filling one less need.

Detroit Lions: OG Graham Glasgow

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    This one isn't likely to happen considering Graham Glasgow has openly discussed the prospect of playing for someone other than the Lions next season. 

    "I'm bummed that I'm not able to stay cause I love Michigan and I love the Detroit area, Ann Arbor," Glasgow said, per Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press. "I've been here for almost about a decade now and it's awesome and I really, really like the guys in the locker room and I think we have a good team and a good group of guys. So in that regard, it sucks. But you don't play football forever, so I think that being able to go somewhere else and make some money is an exciting thing."

    Glasgow spent five season with the University of Michigan football team before getting drafted by Detroit. If the Lions can convince anyone to stay in the Motor City, it should be him. 

    Instead, it appears they are set to lose a consistent offensive lineman who has played both center and guard in his four seasons with the team. 

    In 15 starts for the Lions last season, he was stellar in pass protection, giving up zero sacks, per PFF

    It doesn't seem the team is putting much stock in that, but maybe it should.

Green Bay Packers: OT Bryan Bulaga

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    Quarterback Aaron Rodgers is 36 years old, which means the Packers shouldn't be all that concerned with age. They're in win-now mode. 

    So when it comes to a decision on whether it's worth it to pay for an aging tackle like Bryan Bulaga, the answer is a resounding yes. Bulaga has been a consistent part of the Green Bay offensive line for all nine seasons of his career thus far. 

    Bulaga will be 31 next season, but his play has yet to deteriorate. He was PFF's 15th-rated tackle in 2019. 

    If the Packers lose Bulaga, it isn't like the market is teeming with tackles of his caliber. The draft is always risky, and Green Bay doesn't have time to wait for players in important roles to develop.

Houston Texans: DL D.J. Reader

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    J.J. Watt knows a little something about defensive line play, so if he says D.J. Reader is the "best nose guard" in the NFL, well, there's probably something to that. 

    Watt said that back in 2018, and Reader has done nothing but improve since. In his fourth season, he showed he can handle a sizable workload with a second consecutive season of more than 600 snaps

    Nose tackles are underappreciated in general these days, but Reader's ability to plug up lanes and occasionally push the pocket is vital to Houston's success up front. 

    If keeping Reader makes Watt happy it's likely the best decision for all involved. The Texans defense would have a big hole to fill if he doesn't come back.

Indianapolis Colts: TE Eric Ebron

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    Few teams utilized tight ends in their offense more than the Indianapolis Colts last season. Head coach Frank Reich's offense was fourth in percentage of tight end targets in 2019 and fifth in 2018

    Eric Ebron has been a big part of that. His 2018 breakout, which saw him put up 750 yards with 13 touchdowns, was overshadowed by an ankle injury that cut his season short. He also took a back seat to fellow tight end Jack Doyle at times. 

    However, the Colts offense leaves room for both tight ends to be successful. Doyle is the better blocker and traditional tight end, while Ebron's receiving ability gives them the opportunity to do multiple things out of 12 personnel. 

    That's a grouping the Colts were in 28 percent of the time, per Sharp Football Stats. If the Colts want to continue utilizing that grouping, they'll need to find a way to keep Ebron. He's perfectly suited to play the role of receiving tight end. 

    There will be competition. The New England Patriots, Miami Dolphins and Arizona Cardinals are just a few teams with a need at tight end that spring to mind. But once you get past Hunter Henry and Austin Hooper, this free-agent class is devoid of receiving tight ends. The draft isn't likely to help either.

Jacksonville Jaguars: EDGE Yannick Ngakoue

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    This pick is kind of cheating. 

    NFL Network's Ian Rapoport reported the Jaguars placed the franchise tag on Yannick Ngakoue on Friday, but that doesn't mean they will definitely retain him for the 2020 season. The 24-year-old pass-rusher would be one of the best players available on the open market, but it's certainly possible the Jaguars could trade him if he forces their hand. 

    If forced to deal him, it wouldn't be the worst thing in the world, as they're likely to be the beneficiary of a bidding war in a tag-and-trade situation. 

    Still, the ideal situation would be to keep him. Pass-rushing talent doesn't come cheap, and he has been highly productive with 37.5 sacks and 14 forced fumbles in his four seasons thus far. Considering his age, there's a good chance he still has his best football in front of him. 

    Looking at the rest of Jacksonville's free-agent class, there really isn't another talent that is must-keep. It's Ngakoue or bust, even if it looks like it's bust at this point.

Kansas City Chiefs: EDGE Emmanuel Ogbah

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    Make no mistake: defensive tackle Chris Jones is and should be priority No. 1 in Kansas City. As one of the best interior disruptors in the league, he's the most valuable non-quarterback free agent on the market this offseason.

    But with Jones set to get the franchise tag if the two sides don't reach a deal, it's safe to assume he's already coming back. 

    From there, Kansas City will need to be a bargain-bin shopper. Unsurprisingly, the Chiefs are one of the teams with the least financial flexibility; they have a lot of talent to pay. 

    That means a guy like Ogbah is important to keep around. The former Cleveland defender was productive in the rotation for the Chiefs before tearing his pectoral. He tied his career-high of 5.5 sacks in the 10 games he appeared in this season, so his injury history and level of play could mean the Chiefs keep him at a team-friendly price.

Las Vegas Raiders: CB Daryl Worley

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    Most of the talent leaving the Las Vegas Raiders this offseason is comprised of rotational players or starters who desperately need to be replaced, but that's not the case with Daryl Worley. The 25-year-old corner deserves more time to develop, and the Raiders would be wise to invest the capital and time into seeing what he can become. 

    The former third-round pick came to the Raiders after being waived by the Philadelphia Eagles in 2018, so the opportunity cost hasn't been much. He's paid them in full with two seasons as a starter and much-improved play. He allowed a 53.5 percent completion rate to opposing quarterbacks when targeted this season. 

    After dealing Gareon Conley to the Texans in October, the Raiders don't have much young talent at corner. Worley can fill that hole without breaking the bank.

Los Angeles Chargers: S Adrian Phillips

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    Let's be honest: Hunter Henry was the Chargers' biggest free-agency priority. They've applied a short-term solution there with the franchise tag to keep their offensive weapon.

    They can now add an All-Pro special teamer and safety back to their ranks by re-signing Adrian Phillips, and that makes him an important free agent in his own right. Getting Phillips to re-sign will be like signing an outside free agent since the 28-year-old missed most of last season with a broken arm.

    In 2018, the combination of Phillips and Derwin James was devastating, and the Chargers were the ninth-ranked team in passer rating allowed. With Phillips mostly out of the lineup this past season, that rank dipped to 23rd.

Los Angeles Rams: LB Cory Littleton

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    As it stands, the Los Angeles Rams are set to go into free agency with around $23.3 million. That's not a whole lot of money when you consider Dante Fowler Jr., Michael Brockers and Cory Littleton are all set to hit the market. 

    They won't be able to bring back all three, and even getting two of the trio is going to be difficult. If they have to choose one, Littleton should be the guy. 

    Fowler is an impressive pass-rusher, but the presence of Aaron Donald means any edge-rusher is going to get a boost. Teams have to commit so much attention to him that it frees up guys on the outside. There is no such situation at linebacker, and the Rams don't have someone to step into Littleton's place. 

    The 26-year-old has good coverage skills and recorded nine pass breakups and two interceptions last season. He brings something to the table as a blitzer with 7.5 sacks over the past two campaigns, and he can play the run. You can't say that about a lot of linebackers set to hit the market.         

Miami Dolphins: OG/C Evan Boehm

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    This is a stretch. Evan Boehm could walk tomorrow, and the Miami Dolphins wouldn't be notably worse. That's true of every one of their free agents. There's a reason Miami was bad last season.

    Boehm is worth keeping around, though. 

    The 26-year-old is a utility interior offensive lineman who can fill in as both a guard or center. His pass blocking is a strength. He surrendered just one sack last season in 595 snaps, according to PFF

    With approximately $96.5 million in cap space and draft capital that includes three first-round picks, the Dolphins are in for a roster overhaul. Boehm might be one of the few who are worthy of keeping around for depth.        

Minnesota Vikings: S Anthony Harris

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    The Minnesota Vikings offense doesn't stand to lose any major free agents. The defense is another story, as a good chunk of the secondary is set to hit the market.

    The team will need to make decisions on cornerbacks Trae Waynes and Mackensie Alexander along with safeties Anthony Harris and Andrew Sendejo. With $20.1 million in projected cap room, the Vikings can't (and shouldn't) retain them all, but they'll need to rebuild the unit.      

    Keeping Harris would go a long way to making that job easier. Waynes and Alexander played important roles, but their production is replaceable. Harris was stellar, recording a league-leading six interceptions along with 11 pass breakups and 60 combined tackles. Finding someone to take his spot would be difficult, and losing him would leave a massive gap in the defense.     

    Harris can play all over the field. He's one of the top players at his position and should be paid as such.      

New England Patriots: EDGE Kyle Van Noy

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    The New England Patriots and Kyle Van Noy are perfect for each other. 

    The 28-year-old linebacker was less-than-stellar with the Lions, only starting seven games in two-plus years in Detroit. But Pats head coach Bill Belichick and Co. figured out how to utilize him, and he's been a productive starter ever since.

    In 2019, the Pats unleashed him as a pass-rusher, and he responded with 60 pressures, according to Sam Monson and Steve Palazzolo of PFF. 

    Van Noy could find another team interested in his services. His versatility and pass-rushing are both marketable skills. But the Patriots need his playmaking abilities, and he might need New England to keep utilizing those skills. 

    It's in both parties' best interest to keep the relationship going.                

New Orleans Saints: LB A.J. Klein

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    The New Orleans Saints obviously need to retain quarterback Drew Brees, but it appears that won't be a problem. The team can turn its attention to other needs. 

    It should be a priority to re-sign veteran linebacker A.J. Klein. The seven-year veteran won't be a huge name in free agency. He's never been a Pro Bowler and hasn't been a league leader in any stat categories. But he's provided consistent play at his position for three seasons. 

    He's only missed five games in his run as a starter in New Orleans and recorded 193 tackles, 6.5 sacks, two interceptions and 18 tackles for loss. 

    Retaining the likes of Klein isn't going to make headlines, but it is the kind of signing that gives the Saints—who should be a Super Bowl contender in 2020—continuity.        

New York Giants: DL Leonard Williams

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    There isn't much to this one. The Giants already invested too much in Leonard Williams to let him walk now. Big Blue needs talent, and it has already given up two draft picks to acquire Williams.

    GM Dave Gettleman pried Williams from the crosstown-rival Jets with a 2020 third-pick and a 2021 fifth-round pick that could become a fourth. That's a lot to give up for a team that isn't a contender at this point. 

    If the Giants let Williams walk now, that deal was for naught. He isn't an elite pass-rusher, but the 2015 first-round pick plays well against the run and can play multiple alignments on the front.

    The Giants owe it to themselves to retain Williams and see what he can become.

New York Jets: WR Robby Anderson

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    It's simple. The New York Jets can't be all-in on building around quarterback Sam Darnold and not bring back their best receiving option. 

    Robby Anderson's value doesn't just lie in his production. It's in how and where he wins as a receiver. He gives Darnold a downfield option who is able to stretch defenses vertically. He finished last year with 11.3 yards before catch per reception, tying for 16th in the league with Tennessee's A.J. Brown

    That's a good indication of Anderson's utility as a deep threat. He's been a consistent producer in that role with three consecutive 700-plus-yard seasons. 

    If the Jets elect to look elsewhere, there aren't a lot of options out there with Anderson's ability level. The Bengals plan to use the franchise tag on A.J. Green, according to ESPN's Dan Graziano and Jeremy Fowler, and Amari Cooper will be much more expensive if he leaves Dallas.         

Philadelphia Eagles: S Rodney McLeod

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    Rodney McLeod isn't going to a Pro Bowl anytime soon, and he doesn't put up the gaudiest numbers. But he does provide a durable, safe option at his position. 

    The 29-year-old safety played 100 percent of the snaps on defense for the Philadelphia Eagles in 2019. It was the third time he'd done that across eight career seasons with the Eagles and Rams. He also showed some playmaking ability with two interceptions and two forced fumbles. 

    Last month, Tim McManus of ESPN reported the Eagles have serious interest in cornerback Byron Jones. That doesn't bode well for Ronald Darby, who is also set to hit the market. If the Eagles bring back McLeod, they won't have to worry about also upgrading at the safety position. 

    The safety market should allow Philly to bring back McLeod on a team-friendly deal. With names like Jimmie Ward, Anthony Harris and Devin McCourty potentially available, McLeod won't have much leverage.    

Pittsburgh Steelers: EDGE Bud Dupree

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    Bud Dupree is a bit of an enigma, but the Steelers' free-agent class is underwhelming overall. 

    Javon Hargrave is the only other free agent of note, and the Steelers have depth on the inside to cover his loss. Just getting back Stephon Tuitt from his season-ending pec injury last October could salve the wound.

    What the Steelers don't have is an edge-rusher to pair with T.J. Watt to get the results Dupree did last season. The two combined for 26 of the team's league-high 54 sacks. 

    There's reason to believe Dupree's numbers could be unsustainable. He was ninth in the league in sacks but 32nd in pressures, meaning he was extremely efficient for the number of times he got in the backfield. 

    Even so, pass-rushers don't come cheap on the open market. Dupree is at least worth the franchise tag to see if he can continue to be effective as Watt's running mate.      

San Francisco 49ers: S Jimmie Ward

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    The San Francisco 49ers have a lot of potentially outbound talent to worry about. Defensive end Arik Armstead and wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders will be expensive to keep around, and safety Jimmie Ward rounds out the trio of big-money guys who could walk. 

    Of the three, it's most important to keep Ward. 

    The 2014 first-round pick's career was a bit of a disappointment before his breakout 2019 season. The 49ers moved him all around in an attempt to find his true fit, he was rarely healthy, and he only played in double-digit games twice in his first five seasons. 

    Last year, he found a home at free safety and started 13 games there, anchoring a secondary that finished seventh in opponent passer rating. The Niners are well-stocked with pass-rushers—including reigning Defensive Rookie of the Year Nick Bosa—so losing Armstead wouldn't be the end of the world. They have plenty of young options at receiver to account for the loss of Sanders. 

    Losing Ward after finally watching their investment in him pay off would be a big blow to the secondary.    

Seattle Seahawks: DL Quinton Jefferson

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    All of the attention in Seattle is geared toward Jadeveon Clowney and Jarran Reed, but Quinton Jefferson is one of the most important guys they'll need to make a decision about.

    Clowney didn't quite live up to expectations. He's a gifted athlete, but even if a bounceback season is in the cards, he will be making a lot of money for a guy who had three sacks last year. Reed is also coming off a disappointing year. In 2018, he racked up 10.5 sacks, but he put up just two in 10 games during a suspension-shortened 2019 campaign. 

    Jefferson was arguably the Seahawks' second-best defensive lineman last year. He only had 3.5 sacks, but that was good for second on the team. And he commanded a double-team on 183 of his rushes, according to Neil Hornsby of PFF. His win rate of 10.9 percent in those situations ranked 17th in the league. 

    The 26-year-old shouldn't cost the Seahawks nearly as much as Reed or Clowney, and he still has upside with only two seasons as a true contributor. He could be even better in 2020 and beyond.           

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: EDGE Shaquil Barrett

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    There's a strong chance the Buccaneers will be forced to overpay Shaquil Barrett to get him to stay in Tampa. 

    The pass-rusher had 14 sacks with the Denver Broncos in his first five seasons in the league. In his debut for head coach Bruce Arians' team in 2019, he led the league with 19.5. That jump in production screams regression to the mean. 

    Granted, that was Barrett's first season as a legitimate starter. But that one campaign is likely going to lead to an overpay. 

    If Tampa fails to retain him, though, the options are sparse. Signing another one of the premier pass-rushers won't save the Bucs money, and then questions of fit come into play. Using their first-round pick on an edge defender could be another way to go about it, but this year's class doesn't offer a ton of upside at the position at No. 14. 

    Barrett likely won't perform up to his contract, but the Bucs defense—which was seventh in sacks last year with 47—is worse off without him.             

Tennessee Titans: QB Ryan Tannehill

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    The Titans have a franchise-defining offseason ahead of them. The team rode Derrick Henry to the AFC Championship Game, but that came after it turned over the reins from Marcus Mariota to Ryan Tannehill under center.

    What the Titans decide to do with Tannehill will affect the franchise long-term. 

    Tennessee reportedly expects to be a strong player in the Tom Brady sweepstakes. Jeremy Fowler of ESPN reported on Get Up that the squad thinks it has a "pretty good chance" to lure him from the Patriots to Nashville.

    Head coach Mike Vrabel has ties to Brady. The two played together in New England from 2001-08, so he knows what the quarterback is capable of. 

    The problem is that Brady will turn 43 years old in August and is coming off his worst statistical season in passer rating (88.0), accuracy (60.8 percent completion rate) and touchdowns 24 in the last six years. Some of that was due to a suspect supporting class and the loss of tight end Rob Gronkowski, but it's fair to assume some of that was due to physical regression. 

    Tannehill comes with his own questions. One stellar run with the Titans and some postseason magic that was mostly because of Henry and the running game doesn't erase seven inconsistent years with the Dolphins. 

    It would carry more risk, though, to let go of the quarterback who almost got you to the Super Bowl in exchange for a soon-to-be 43-year-old who has never played outside of the New England.   

Washington Redskins: OG Brandon Scherff

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    With Ron Rivera taking the reins in 2020, the last thing he'll want to do is worry about rebuilding an offensive line. 

    The new Washington head coach has seen what subpar O-line play can do to an offense. His Carolina Panthers were PFF's 18th-ranked line at the end of the 2019 season and were 17th in adjusted line yards on runs up the middle. His new team was better by both metrics. It had the 13th-ranked offensive line and was ninth in adjusted line yards up the middle.

    Brandon Scherff, 28, was a big part of that, and he will be one of the best offensive linemen to hit the market if the Redskins are unable to lock him up. 

    Rivera told Larry Michael on Redskins Nation about his desire to bring the guard back into the fold. With star left tackle Trent Williams seeking a trade after sitting out last season, losing Scherff would force Washington to potentially replace two foundational pieces.          


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