As NFL teams wrap up virtual OTAs, several notable veterans remain on the open market. General managers have approached the late waves of free agency with caution during an offseason of uncertainty amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Newton is only two years removed from one of his better campaigns, completing a career-high 67.9 percent of his pass attempts. Griffen earned a fourth Pro Bowl nod in 2019.
In addition to Newton and Griffen, we'll match two other high-profile free agents with potential takers, specifically playoff contenders that need to fill a roster void.
QB Cam Newton
Most teams have the primary and backup quarterback positions set for the 2020 campaign. The New England Patriots don't seem interested in Newton after initial discussions with him, per ESPN's Jeremy Fowler.
"League sources believe Newton and the New England Patriots talked early during his free agency but nothing materialized," Fowler wrote in late May.
Newton will likely sign with a team that has a coaching staff familiar with his capabilities, which points to Washington and the Buffalo Bills.
Ron Rivera and Newton worked together between the 2011 and 2019 seasons in Carolina, but Washington has Dwayne Haskins, a second-year signal-caller who needs time to develop under center. If Washington want to add a star quarterback, that move may put unnecessary pressure on the 23-year-old.
As the Panthers defensive coordinator, Bills head coach Sean McDermott had a close look at Newton between the 2011 and 2016 campaigns. He also has a young quarterback in Josh Allen, who's going into his third year, but Buffalo has an opportunity to win the AFC East as the Patriots prepare for a new era without Tom Brady.
Newton and Allen share some similarities. They rank first (22) and second (17), respectively, in rushing touchdowns among quarterbacks in their first two terms. Both have experienced issues with accuracy, completing less than 60 percent of their career pass attempts. Newton (6'5", 245 lbs) and Allen (6'5", 237 lbs) also have comparable body statures.
Through two terms, Allen has thrown for 5,163 yards, 30 touchdowns and 21 interceptions. If he's unable to elevate the Bills offense, Newton could step in and lead this club to a deep playoff run. Buffalo has a roster good enough to become a strong postseason contender.
Prediction: Newton signs with the Bills
RB Lamar Miller
The Philadelphia Eagles will start a new left tackle in Andre Dillard. He'll replace Jason Peters, who's still a free agent. Right guard Brandon Brooks tore his Achilles; the three-time Pro Bowler is expected to miss the entire 2020 campaign.
In case the Eagles have issues clearing lanes for their ball-carriers with two new starters on the front line, the front office should add a veteran running back who's shown the ability to grind out yards behind a below-average run-blocking offensive line.
In 2019, the Eagles' five-man group ranked 14th in run blocking, per Football Outsiders. As a rookie, running back Miles Sanders totaled 818 rushing yards on 4.6 yards per carry, though Philadelphia allowed fellow ball-carrier Jordan Howard to walk during free agency.
Before Lamar Miller tore his ACL and MCL, he racked up 2,934 rushing yards and averaged 4.1 yards per carry with the Houston Texans between the 2016 and 2018 seasons. During that period, the club's offensive lines showed a steady decline in run blocking, ranking 15th, 20th and 27th, per Football Outsiders.
At 29 years old, approximately 10 months removed from a significant knee injury, Miller could become a cheap bargain-bin pickup capable of providing a short-term boost to the Eagles ground attack.
Prediction: Miller signs with the Eagles
DE Everson Griffen
The Cleveland Browns may replace defensive end Olivier Vernon before Week 1. The front office can release him and save $15.5 million in cap space, per Over the Cap.
In 2019, Vernon battled a knee injury and missed six contests. He tied a season-low 3.5 sacks. The Browns could find an expensive upgrade or a cheaper alternative who can generate more pocket pressure. They've already explored the former option.
"The Browns have also been big players in the Clowney sweepstakes this offseason, and they haven't given up on the idea of landing him, sources tell cleveland.com. This is despite a report last month by ESPN's Adam Schefter that Clowney turned his nose up at Cleveland's offer despite the fact it was higher than anyone else's."
Cabot reported Clowney hopes to sign a deal worth $17-$18 million per year, which is a steep price for a player who logged just three sacks last season. The Browns can acquire an impactful player at a cheaper price.
In March, Scott Petrak of the Chronicle-Telegram suggested Griffen's connection to the Browns coaching staff makes him a free-agent target.
Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski served as an assistant, position coach and offensive coordinator for the Minnesota Vikings during Everson's 10-year tenure with the NFC North club. The 32-year-old registered eight sacks last season. At a lower price, he could come at a better value than Vernon, who has an expensive price tag following a down season.
Prediction: Griffen signs with the Browns
CB Trumaine Johnson
Trumaine Johnson had a rough two-year run with the New York Jets that ended with his release in March. He had been benched under former head coach Todd Bowles for his late appearance to practice. Current lead skipper Adam Gase took him out of the starting lineup early in the 2019 campaign.
Perhaps Johnson just didn't fit with the Jets. He could redeem himself with a new team. The ninth-year veteran is tied for fifth in interceptions (23) since his 2012 rookie term. One team will likely sign him in hopes to add some ball production in the secondary.
The Kansas City Chiefs may open the 2020 term without cornerback Bashaud Breeland. In April, he was arrested and faced a possible four-game suspension for a prior substance-abuse violation, per NFL Network's Tom Pelissero and Mike Garafolo.
In 2019, Breeland started 15 out of 16 contests for the Chiefs, primarily on the boundary. As the league sorts out his off-field transgressions, Kansas City can pursue Johnson.
Johnson may have to settle for a modest deal coming off an injury-riddled, subpar season. If so, general manager Brett Veach should pounce on the opportunity to shore up the cornerback position opposite Charvarius Ward.
Prediction: Johnson signs with the Chiefs