The Best NFL Free Agents Still Available Ahead of 2020 Training Camps

Chris Roling@@Chris_RolingFeatured ColumnistJuly 16, 2020

The Best NFL Free Agents Still Available Ahead of 2020 Training Camps

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    John Froschauer/Associated Press

    Slowly, the NFL free-agency dominoes keep falling. 

    Cam Newton landed with the New England Patriots in a highly publicized deal, and Jason Peters agreed to re-up with the Philadelphia Eagles on Tuesday.

    Those were two of the biggest names left on the market as training camps approach. And with a former MVP quarterback and one of the best offensive tackles off the board, it could start a small rush as teams fill out areas of need.

    The best free agents left aren't just recognizable names. They also have proven track records, could provide an instant impact and won't break the bank compared to the value they'll return.  

    Here's a ranking of the top names based on those factors, plus some ideal team fits for each. 

8. Eric Reid, S

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    Butch Dill/Associated Press

    It's no great surprise that Eric Reid remains on the open market. 

    The NFL keeps getting an influx of modern safeties in recent drafts, meaning guys who can effortlessly play either safety spot or even kick inside to the slot or otherwise. 

    Reid is more of a the-closer-the-better sort of player, which certainly still has a role in today's game. He's only 28 years old and put up a career-high 130 tackles last season. But coverage is the issue: He allowed eight touchdowns and a 77.1 completion percentage last season on 70 targets. 

    At this stage of the market, adding Reid as a rotational piece and playing to his strengths against the run close to the line of scrimmage is a good value add. While many teams might not be explicitly hurting for such a contributor, he's one of the most productive players left on the market, and the veteran presence and stability he would add creates a net positive. 

    Best Fits: Houston Texans, Jacksonville Jaguars

7. Reshad Jones, DB

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    Lynne Sladky/Associated Press

    Reshad Jones just wasn't a fit with the Miami Dolphins and was cut in March as a cost-saving measure, but he will end up being a fit somewhere in 2020. 

    Jones only played in four games in 2019 due to multiple injuries and is now 32 years old, both of which are potential red flags. But as recently as 2018, he put up 72 total tackles with three interceptions, allowing just a 56.1 completion percentage and finishing with a 72.1 grade from Pro Football Focus over 76 percent of the defense's snaps. 

    While Jones probably isn't going to flirt with his Pro Bowl form again (he was most recently a Pro Bowler in 2017), he's a great potential value add for almost any team looking to boost the depth chart. Teams will want to see he's healthy before committing, but the productive, lengthy resume speaks for itself. 

    Best Fits: Washington, Indianapolis Colts

6. Larry Warford, OL

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    Chris O'Meara/Associated Press

    It always felt like Larry Warford would have to wait in line behind Jason Peters. 

    Peters played the more valuable tackle position and could even kick inside, whereas Warford is strictly a guard (for now)

    Despite being a late cut by the New Orleans Saints to save money, Warford will have plenty of suitors. He's just 29 years old and in the middle of his prime, and a team in win-now mode choosing to pass on the big salary he could command after drafting offensive lineman Cesar Ruiz in the first round isn't a red flag. 

    It helps Warford was still solid last season in front of Drew Brees, finishing with a 73.1 PFF grade over 970 snaps. While teams in need of competition will want to do their due diligence to see if Warford's healthy, a veteran who can come in and play right away has big value right now given the unknowns of 2020 training camps and the season itself. 

    Best Fits: Cincinnati Bengals, Houston Texans

5. Logan Ryan, DB

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    Steven Senne/Associated Press

    Some notable defensive backs have had a tough time in free agency thanks to a top-heavy market with plenty of depth, plus another incoming rookie class of versatile players. 

    Logan Ryan is a notable example who will undoubtedly still find work for the 2020 season. 

    Undoubtedly, because Ryan is a strong slot corner who posted a career-high 113 tackles last year while holding up well in coverage, allowing 68 catches and five scores on 103 targets for the Tennessee Titans. The five scores sounds bad, but he only let up two the season prior, and hiccups here and there aren't major ordeals considering the Titans asked him to fluctuate between inside and out. 

    Versatile defensive backs who can move all over the field, remain strong in coverage and still put up a stout run defense aren't easy to find. By this stage of free agency, rebuilders and contenders alike should have an interest in such a veteran at 29 years of age.

    Best Fits: Washington, Miami Dolphins

4. Darqueze Dennard, DB

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    Brynn Anderson/Associated Press

    Darqueze Dennard had a deal in place with the Jacksonville Jaguars not long after the start of free agency for a reason. 

    Granted, things fell apart for reasons unknown. But a three-year deal for a 28-year-old 2014 first-round pick made plenty of sense for a team in need of secondary help. 

    Dennard, after all, is a superb slot player who only allowed 48.6 percent completion rate last year on his way to a solid 72.2 grade from PFF. He's also shown throughout his career he can play inside and out, though what role he wants might be part of the reason for his odd trips to market over the past two seasons. 

    Either way, attendance has been the biggest negative for Dennard. He's played in just one full 16-game season since being drafted and only got in nine games last year. 

    But as the running theme shows, at this point on the NFL calendar, he's an incredible value as a guy who can come in and be an effective starter right out of the gates. 

    Best Fits: Carolina Panthers, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

3. Cameron Wake, EDGE

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    Wilfredo Lee/Associated Press

    It's a little easy to forget about Cameron Wake, even if he does provide a premium in the way he creates pressure. 

    Wake is now 38 years old, and retirement speculation occurred earlier this year, though his agent firmly shut it down

    One would think that would have teams flocking to Wake, who played nine games last year with the Tennessee Titans and nabbed 2.5 sacks and 13 pressures on just 195 snaps, hence the 83.5 PFF grade. For those who need more evidence, Wake came off the edge in Miami the year prior over 517 snaps and put up 33 pressures with six sacks and an 81.7 PFF grade in 14 starts. 

    While Wake is by no means an every-down player anymore, he's clearly still a strong situational pass-rusher, never mind the veteran presence he brings to unknown circumstances this summer and during the season. 

    Best Fits: New England Patriots, Cleveland Browns

2. Everson Griffen, EDGE

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    Bruce Kluckhohn/Associated Press

    It's a matter of time before a team gets a massive steal in Everson Griffen, who happens to provide a premium skill: pressure. 

    In fact, the 32-year-old Griffen still creates a whole lot of pressure. 

    Last year alone, he put up 35 pressures and eight sacks, chalking up a 77.6 PFF grade along the way. Call it par for the course, as the 2010 fourth-round pick has missed meaningful games just once since becoming a full-time starter in 2014 and has posted at least eight sacks in a season six times since 2012, with highs of 12 and 13. 

    If Griffen were coming off a down season, it might make more sense that he's had an extended wait. But a big influx of pass-rushing talent via the draft and a muted offseason for veterans in the 30-plus range means there's still a massive steal sitting out there for a team willing to invest. 

    Best Fits: Minnesota Vikings, Cleveland Browns

1. Jadeveon Clowney, EDGE

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    Chris Szagola/Associated Press

    Unlike some of the other top edge defenders available, Jadeveon Clowney has a big problem: He doesn't create a ton of pressure. 

    That's probably the main culprit behind his still being available, as the same issue popped up during past negotiations over tags as teams debated what position he actually plays. 

    Technicalities aside, Clowney's lacking the pressure numbers to nail down elite pass-rusher money. He had just three sacks over 13 appearances in Seattle last season, and he's posted nine or more sacks just twice over six seasons. Last year, he had just 30 pressures, too. 

    That isn't meant to tear down Clowney, of course, but to contextualize why one of the league's greatest defenders is still out there. He is elite in most other facets, which is summed up well by his stellar 87.3 PFF grade last season, never mind the 89.2 the year prior. 

    At this point, Clowney's going to be a steal for the team that signs him, even if it's a one-year deal before he tries the market again next offseason. 

    Best Fits: Seattle Seahawks, Cleveland Browns