Predicting Where 2020's Top Remaining NFL Free Agents Will Sign

Chris Roling@@Chris_RolingFeatured ColumnistJuly 1, 2020

Predicting Where 2020's Top Remaining NFL Free Agents Will Sign

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    Rick Scuteri/Associated Press

    NFL free agency isn't close to slamming the door on some of its top bits of drama as the league inches toward the normally scheduled start of training camps near the end of July. 

    The market still features a slew of heavyweight names up for grabs, including some quality offensive linemen and one of the NFL's top defenders. 

    While reasons for their availability differ, the list isn't hard to assemble thanks to factors like name recognition, ability and production, never mind how attractive they are to multiple teams. 

    Below, we'll zoom in on the top available names and outline probable landing spots based on team need, fit and other factors like cap space.  

Jadeveon Clowney, Edge

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    Chris Szagola/Associated Press

    Jadeveon Clowney continues to be a massive point of confusion when it comes to his contract status in the NFL. 

    Clowney is one of the NFL's best defenders. An 87.3 PFF grade from a season ago says it all—he's borderline elite, if not elite, in most areas. 

    But he doesn't put up big pressure numbers. 

    Clowney had just three sacks over 13 games last season with the Seattle Seahawks. He's had more than six in a season just twice over six years. That's a big part of the reason his actual position—which determines payout on tags—has been disputed multiple times in the past. 

    Which isn't to say Clowney doesn't have a big market...but pay is likely why he's still a free agent. 

    Still, disputed pay rate or not, it's hard to ignore the usual suspects. The Cleveland Browns come to mind first. According to ESPN's Adam Schefter, the Browns have offered the most money of any team to Clowney, and as recently as mid-June, the Cleveland Plain-Dealer's Mary Kay Cabot reported the team still has an interest. 

    At this point, expect Clowney to take the best offer. He might be able to feast statistically while opposing offenses focus on slowing Myles Garrett, setting him up for his next contract. 

    Landing Spot: Cleveland Browns

Everson Griffen, DL

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    Bruce Kluckhohn/Associated Press

    Given the premium the NFL places on rushing the passer, it's a little shocking to see a veteran like Everson Griffen on the open market. 

    While he's 32 years old, Griffen spent 2019 playing in 15 games and posting another 8.0 sacks. He had 5.5 over 11 games the year prior and has had 10.5 or more in three of his last six seasons. 

    How effective was he last year? PFF hit him with a 77.6 grade, and his sacks were accompanied by 35 pressures

    Griffen has never played a down for another team since he entered the league in 2010, so it's a little hard to see him leaving the Vikings. 

    Chris Tomasson of the St. Paul Pioneer Press reported in April that a return could still happen, and the Vikings didn't add a high-profile rookie at his position. Add in nearly $12 million in cap space during an odd offseason and Griffen might just stay home. 

    Landing Spot: Minnesota Vikings

Dre Kirkpatrick, CB

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    Stephen Brashear/Associated Press

    It isn't often a prime boundary corner—quite the premium player in the NFL—sits on the open market near the start of July. 

    So it goes with former Cincinnati Bengals corner Dre Kirkpatrick after a late-March release as the team looked to clear cap space. Presumably, he hasn't had a ton of traction finding a new landing spot because of outside circumstances limiting travel and opportunities to complete physicals for interested teams (something that applies to all current free agents). 

    Still, it's important to keep Kirkpatrick on the radar.

    He's only 30 years old and is a bigger (6'2", 190 lbs) boundary player who has held up well in diminishing circumstances over the years in Cincinnati. Last season, he was targeted 30 times and allowed just 19 completions. The year prior, he faced 72 targets and gave up 36 completions with just two touchdowns permitted. 

    Kirkpatrick feels like one of those veterans about to net a prove-it deal somewhere before he tries for an even bigger contract the year after.

    Keep a close eye on the Minnesota Vikings, for whom former Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer serves as head coach. They could use some talent additions to a secondary that lost two starters (Trae Waynes and Mackensie Alexander). Interestingly, they both departed for the Bengals in free agency. 

    Landing Spot: Minnesota Vikings

Jason Peters, OT

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    Michael Perez/Associated Press

    It isn't too often an offensive lineman of Jason Peters' caliber remains available going into July. 

    Offensive line play—especially on the edges at tackle—is coveted in today's NFL, and Peters is still steady in that regard. He might be 38 years old, but his play has far from dipped with age. 

    A season ago, Peters put in 13 games of work with the Philadelphia Eagles and threw out an 82.4 grade at Pro Football Focus, permitting just three sacks in the process. That's right in line with where he has typically graded, and aside from the 2017 season, during which he only suited up in seven games, he's mostly stayed healthy and reliable since entering the league in 2004. 

    Peters has yet to find a new home, but ESPN's Jeremy Fowler reported in May that plenty of teams were interested. Still, it's easiest to see him re-upping with the Eagles on a short deal, which would net him plenty of playing time while the organization gets a quality mentor for younger players on the line.

    Landing Spot: Philadelphia Eagles

Eric Reid, S

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    Butch Dill/Associated Press

    The safety market hasn't been the kindest to veterans over the last few years, hence guys like Tre Boston continually having to settle for one-year deals despite submitting productive seasons. 

    Eric Reid might be the next case study in that regard.

    He was a first-round pick in 2013 and is only 28 years old, coming off two productive years with the Carolina Panthers and tallying a career-high 130 tackles last season. He wasn't a standout in coverage, which would explain the 46.6 PFF grade, but he'll continue to be productive in the right role closer to the line of scrimmage against the run. 

    Fit is going to be most important for Reid, who seems destined to settle for a one-year deal and try again before the age of 30. 

    Perhaps no team makes more sense than the Houston Texans. Eric's brother, Justin, is one of the NFL's standout safeties there and could use a player of Eric's caliber next to him at the back end of the defense, which would explain why Justin talked to Texans head coach Bill O'Brien about the idea back in April. 

    Landing Spot: Houston Texans

Logan Ryan, CB

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    Steven Senne/Associated Press

    Slot corners haven't had the nicest time in recent markets, either. Veteran corner Logan Ryan is the most current example.

    Ryan, 29, spent the last three years with the Tennessee Titans and was productive in each. In 2019, he put up a career-high 113 tackles with 4.5 sacks, getting targeted 103 times and allowing 68 catches for five scores. He only allowed two scores over 64 targets the year before. 

    A slot man who can play boundary if asked, Ryan is one of those hardnosed close-to-scrimmage players who hold up better against the run than expected while also possessing good coverage skills. 

    At this point, a rebuilder like the Miami Dolphins with a ton of cash to throw out on a one-year deal would make sense.

    Miami still has roughly $28 million in free space and could use a reliable veteran in the slot to work with Byron Jones and Xavien Howard. A short pact would leave wiggle room to work out a long-term deal after the upcoming season. 

    Landing Spot: Miami Dolphins

Larry Warford, OL

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    Phelan M. Ebenhack/Associated Press

    Larry Warford was a late cut, likely directly related to what his former team did in the 2020 NFL draft. 

    Warford spent the last three seasons protecting Drew Brees with the New Orleans Saints but saw his big pricetag become too much when the team used a first-round pick on Cesar Ruiz. 

    Still just 29 years old, Warford is one of the more attractive linemen left on the board after he posted a 73.1 PFF grade last year, which he ended with just two sacks permitted and six penalties over 970 snaps. 

    Realistically, almost any team in the league wouldn't mind a guard upgrade at the right price. That means a sense of desperation by a team will likely play a part in where he signs. 

    Look for the Houston Texans to come calling.

    The front office has made some improvements to the line in front of Deshaun Watson (most notably by acquiring Laremy Tunsil), but there's no such thing as enough after the quarterback suffered 44 sacks last season. Houston has roughly $19 million to work with and would easily upgrade a guard spot with Warford.

    Landing Spot: Houston Texans

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