NFL Free Agents 2020: Predictions for Biggest Names Left on Market

Chris Roling@@Chris_RolingFeatured ColumnistAugust 26, 2020

FILE - In this Sept. 29, 2019, file photo, Seattle Seahawks outside linebacker Jadeveon Clowney (90) watches during an NFL football game against the Arizona Cardinals in Glendale, Ariz. Jameis Winston, Cam Newton and Clowney didn't have to wait long at all to find homes in the NFL when they came out of college. The three former No. 1 overall draft picks are finding things moving much more slowly as they search for new homes or contracts this offseason. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri, File)
Rick Scuteri/Associated Press

NFL free agency continues to play a major role in the greater league outlook, and perhaps more so in 2020 than usual. 

With no preseason games, an uptick in roster options for teams and some major names still on the market, free agency has managed to remain a significant talking point into late August. 

At this stage, free agents remain on the open market for a reason. But the best of the best still boast top talent capable of helping teams upon arrival. 

Here's a look at the best players left out there and predictions for where they might end up. 


Logan Ryan 

Steven Senne/Associated Press

At first, it was a little hard to figure out why defensive back Logan Ryan wasn't quickly finding a home. 

After all, the veteran has been one of the better slot corners with some notable versatility over the last few seasons. 

But it turns out Ryan might instead view himself as a safety, not a corner, according to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport: 

Ian Rapoport @RapSheet

Free agent Logan Ryan views himself as a safety, rather than the cornerback he’s generally listed as. To that end, his agent emailed all 32 GMs these top safety stats and asked them to compare his production. An interesting discussion to be sure as one of the top FAs looms. https://t.co/NZni6BYmND

That obviously dramatically changes the discussion about his trip to market. It also seems to align with a prior report from the Miami Herald's Armando Salguero that Ryan wants north of $10 million per year. 

Big money and a positional question mark have a way of keeping teams hesitant. But Ryan is still a quality player. He's only 29 years old and allowed just 68 completions on 103 targets last year while playing all over Tennessee's secondary. 

At this stage, Ryan might have to settle a bit when it comes at least to positional demands. A team like the Cleveland Browns, after losing Greedy Williams for a stretch and Grant Delpit for the season, probably won't hesitate with some of that roughly $37.5 million in cap space. 

Prediction: Ryan signs with the Browns


Earl Thomas 

John Raoux/Associated Press

Earl Thomas is a new addition to the market—but he probably won't last long there. 

Thomas' release from the Baltimore Ravens is likely to result in a grievance, in which the team will pursue some money. But while that goes on in the background, other teams are sure to remain interested in one of the game's best safeties. 

From a strictly football standpoint, Thomas remains one of the more desirable free agents on the open market. He's 31 years old coming off a season in which he posted a solid 76.7 grade at Pro Football Focus over 91 percent of Baltimore's defensive snaps, allowing just 11 completions on 25 targets and picking off two passes with four passes defensed. 

The obvious candidate to net Thomas is the Dallas Cowboys, the team he'd made open requests to about getting him in the past.

And while the Dallas Morning News reported that the Cowboys will pass on Thomas, Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy offered a different take: 

Ian Rapoport @RapSheet

#Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy told reporters today that he’s discussed FA S Earl Thomas with VP of Player Personnel Will McClay, but didn’t have much more to report. McCarthy did say he’s "very confident” in the current 80-man roster.

That doesn't 100 percent mean the Cowboys are going to get Thomas right away. But Jerry Jones hasn't shied away from controversy with past free-agent signings and his franchise sits on a cozy cap outlook at roughly $12.7 million

Adding Thomas next to Ha Ha Clinton-Dix in the secondary would merely be another strong move for a Cowboys team clearly in win-now mode, and Thomas has made it pretty clear in the past he'd like to play there. 

Prediction: Thomas signs with the Cowboys


Jadeveon Clowney

Chris Szagola/Associated Press

Jadeveon Clowney has felt like the biggest name on the market for a long time now. 

And it's no wonder why. The No. 1 pick in the 2014 draft is one of the NFL's top outright defenders, hence the 87.3 PFF grade from last season in Seattle courtesy of 31 total tackles, seven for loss, three sacks, one interception and four forced fumbles. 

But it's also no wonder why Clowney isn't getting the massive contract he wants—a lack of pressure. 

Clowney has posted more than six sacks in a season just twice. Last year, he only hit home on 17 hurries with 30 pressures, numbers down even from his 2018 performance in Houston. 

Edge defenders who don't put up big pressure numbers don't tend to get the big edge-rusher money, even if they're former No. 1 picks with stellar track records in all other facets. 

It doesn't help that plenty of potential suitors have filled gaps on the roster or made big splashes recently. Think, the Seattle Seahawks trading for Jamal Adams. 

One team that hasn't eliminated itself? The Tennessee Titans, with interesting comments coming from the organization as recently as mid-July: 

Joe Nocco @JoeNocco

GM Jon Robinson just now to ESPN’s Dianna Russini on NFL Live in regards to free agent pass rusher Jadeveon Clowney: #Titans still “monitoring the situation” & “may or may not” have had contact with Clowney’s representation within “the last week.” 👀 #TitanUp #Texans #Seahawks

That doesn't mean the Titans and Clowney will see eye-to-eye on money, but his fit on a contender like this clearly makes sense. 

And at this point, Clowney doesn't have other real options before the season starts. From Tennessee's perspective, it would merely be a "rich get richer" scenario, too. 

Prediction: Clowney signs with the Titans