The calendar has turned to June, the NFL draft is a thing of the past and the start of free agency is roughly two-and-a-half months in the rearview mirror. Yet marquee players like Jadeveon Clowney and Cam Newton remain unsigned.
In Newton's case, there's a fairly simple explanation. The draft left virtually no starting jobs available at quarterback. Newton could join a team like the Cincinnati Bengals or Los Angeles Chargers, but he would only be a placeholder for rookies Joe Burrow and Justin Herbert, respectively.
The big exception is the New England Patriots, who lost Tom Brady in free agency and are staring down a season with either Jarrett Stidham or Brian Hoyer under center.
According to ESPN's Jeremy Fowler, league sources believe that Newton and the Patriots "talked early in free agency" but obviously did not come to an agreement. Per Fowler, Newton is expected to take his time picking a new team, and sources are not sure whether he would take a backup job.
This isn't surprising. Newton has been hampered by injuries over the past two years and is likely looking to show that he is healthy capable of being a high-level starter. Reestablishing his market will be difficult if he's holding a clipboard. Being a bridge quarterback for a team like Cincinnati or Los Angeles presents its own issues.
If, for example, Newton were to join the Chargers and then play too well, it could be tough to turn over the keys to Herbert. Going with a journeyman like Tyrod Taylor—as the Chargers are—likely leaves a lower bar for the rookie to meet whenever he finally does see the field.
By waiting, Newton may be able to slip into a starting role—whether because of injury or if a team like the Patriots decides that its starting options are unacceptable.
The extension Newton signed with the Carolina Panthers in 2015 was worth roughly $104 million, so earning a paycheck probably isn't an immediate concern for the 2015 MVP. Finding the right situation is.
Jadeveon Clowney's unemployment may have less to do with fit and more to do with finding the right contract. ESPN's Dianna Russini reported at the start of free agency that the star pass-rusher was seeking something in the $20 million-per-year range. Fowler later reported that Clowney would consider a short-term deal in order to reestablish his reputation as a sack artist.
According to ESPN's Adam Schefter (h/t ESPN's Jake Trotter), Clowney has resisted offers fro the Cleveland Browns.
"I think he has balked at going to Cleveland for whatever reason," Schefter said on ESPN Cleveland's The Next Level. "I think he's been hesitant to go because if he wasn't, he would have gone already because it's the most money.
However, as Pat McAfee of the Pat McAfee Show pointed out, the "most money" doesn't necessarily mean a contract that Clowney wants.
"I don't think he turned down a multiyear, big, big contract from the Browns," McAfee said. "... What's a big deal, by the way?"
Cleveland may have indeed offered a hefty contract but not one in the range Clowney is seeking. Like Newton, he has no reason to rush into a contract with the regular season at least three months away. Whatever offers teams like the Browns have made will likely still be there in July or August.
While Clowney could be snatched up before the start of training camp, so too could free-agent tackle Jason Peters and free-agent defensive end Everson Griffen. Both players have multiple Pro Bowls on their resumes and both have had markets this offseason, according to Fowler:
Peters, according to Fowler, has drawn interest from the Arizona Cardinals. With Arizona looking to develop and protect second-year quarterback Kyler Murray, the addition would make a ton of sense.
Expect both Peters and Griffen to be on rosters before the start of Week 1.