There were myriad takeaways to process after Cam Newton joined forces with the New England Patriots, and the most critical perhaps resonated well beyond the geographic reach of the Northeast.
As Newton himself showed as a 31-year-old three-time Pro Bowler and former MVP, the 2020 NFL free-agent class has hardly been picked clean.
The unsigned ranks remain populated with impact players, so let's break out the crystal ball to see where three of the best might soon take their talents.
Jadeveon Clowney, Defensive End
Three years after Newton was the first player selected in the 2011 draft, Clowney earned that distinction in the 2014 talent grab.
Armed with an unfair blend of strength, speed and explosiveness, the pass-rusher promised to wreak havoc on NFL quarterbacks and delivered on that potential. He routinely lived in the opposition's backfield, and from 2016 to 2018, he tallied 53 tackles for loss with 24.5 sacks.
Last season, his first (and maybe only) with the Seattle Seahawks, he was statistically quieter (seven tackles for loss, 3.0 sacks), but he again impressed on the eye test with his ability to penetrate. He comes with some medical questions—he had core surgery this offseason and has previously dealt with knee injuries—which might explain why he's still available.
But at some point, a pass rush-needy team will realize his potential and pursue him heavily enough to get a deal done. The Tennessee Titans have a need on the edge, enough cap space to chase Clowney and their star running back, Derrick Henry, has already endorsed a Clowney contract. This needs to get done if Tennessee wants to make another deep playoff run.
Prediction: Clowney signs with Titans.
Devonta Freeman, Running Back
It isn't shocking to see Freeman still in search of a contract. He's a running back in his late 20s (28 to be exact) who's had injury problems in the past and just posted a career low in yards per carry (3.6).
Saying that, he's still a dual-threat back who completed a ridiculous run between 2015 and 2017 that featured 3,000 rushing yards, 1,357 receiving yards and 35 total touchdowns. He can juice up an offense and even carry it in spurts.
There's a decent chance he simply set his price tag too high. His agent, Kristin Campbell, recently severed ties with the running back, seemingly signaling a disconnect between what each party felt Freeman should be chasing in free agency. If his initial target rate was doable, he'd probably have a deal by now, so he might need to bring that number down.
Whenever it enters a reasonable range, the Patriots should pounce. They just increased their buying power after settling compensation grievances with Antonio Brown and the late Aaron Hernandez. They don't have a standout running back on their roster, and Sony Michel is coming off foot surgery. Freeman's abilities as a rusher and receiver could be an asset for this roster and give Newton more room to breathe.
Prediction: Freeman signs with Patriots.
Everson Griffen, Defensive End
If not for Clowney, every team in need of a pass-rusher might be drooling over Griffen. Some are probably in that boat even with Clowney on the market.
Griffen earned his fourth playoff trip this past season after recording 41 tackles with 11 tackles for loss, 8.0 sacks and 24 quarterback hits. His 57.0 sacks since 2014 are the seventh-most over that stretch.
Something is holding teams back from inking Griffen. Maybe it's the fact he'll be 33 years old before the calendar flips to 2021. Perhaps he's seeking a pay rate teams simply can't afford. It's tough to tell, but it won't last forever.
He's too good to go unsigned much longer, and someone will soon realize that. It should probably be the Minnesota Vikings, who have employed him since making him the 100th overall pick of the 2010 draft. The chemistry they've already created is invaluable given the challenges of the current football climate, and their proximity to contention should make them interested in a player they know firsthand can be a difference-maker.
Prediction: Griffen re-signs with Vikings.