Quarterback Cam Newton agreed to join the New England Patriots on a one-year, incentive-laden deal on Sunday. But there are still some prominent NFL free agents available ahead of the upcoming season.
Let’s dissect the five best unsigned players two months away from the kickoff of the 2020 season.
5. Logan Ryan, Cornerback
After spending the past three seasons with the Tennessee Titans, Logan Ryan appeared New York-bound to play for the Jets, before the deal fell through. The 29-year-old cornerback was said to be seeking $10 million annually at the start of free agency. The Jets are reluctant to deliver that kind of money to Ryan.
Touched base with someone close to #Titans free agent CB Logan Ryan, one of the top players available. The versatile DB is open to entertaining all offers and will consider a short term deal. I’m told he won’t take less than $10M per year he earned last year.
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) March 19, 2020
Ryan led the Titans in tackles (113, a career-best) and passes defended (18) last season. He finished third on the team in sacks, with 4.5.
Still unsigned, Ryan will likely have to settle for a much smaller contract. The two-time Super Bowl champion is the best player at his position on the market, so cornerback-needy teams would be wise to contact him and see if his financial demands have softened.
The Jets remain an option if Ryan decreases his asking price. Another potential suitor, and fellow AFC East team, could be the Miami Dolphins. Head coach Brian Flores served as the safeties coach during Ryan’s tenure with the New England Patriots and the two could reunite in Miami.
4. Larry Warford, Guard
Earning Pro Bowl honors in each of the past three seasons with the New Orleans Saints, Larry Warford will likely be signed before the season begins. Across 970 snaps in 2019, Warford allowed just two sacks and committed only six penalties.
The Philadelphia Eagles make the most sense for Warford’s next destination. They just lost superstar guard Brandon Brooks to a season-ending Achilles tear. Pro Football Focus rated Brooks the best offensive linemen in the NFL.
— PFF (@PFF) January 23, 2020
The Jets, Houston Texans and Chicago Bears are also potential suitors for Warford.
3. Everson Griffen, Defensive End
Everson Griffen has spent his entire 10-year career with the Minnesota Vikings. The 32-year-old defensive end opted out of his contract in March, voiding the final three years of his deal.
A four-time Pro Bowler, Griffen is seeking one last big payday in the league. He remains a presence in the pass rush, registering eight sacks in 2019. Griffen previously announced his tenure with the Vikings was over for good, but later insisted he hasn’t closed the door completely on a return to Minnesota.
Griffen said goodbye to the #Vikings in an Instagram post last month, but told me "never say never" on a return.
Other teams have questions about what happened in 2018. Some answers here, and Griffen says if they call him, he's an open book. A top pass rusher still available. https://t.co/3HlZdLuVQV
— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) April 10, 2020
Griffen might end up sticking with the lone franchise he has played for in his professional career. He has also been linked to the Cleveland Browns and the Arizona Cardinals.
Two veteran free agents who have had markets despite not signing — Jason Peters, Everson Griffen. Both have had strong interest from multiple teams (Cardinals believed to be among those for Griffen). Both staying patient, waiting for right opportunity.
— Jeremy Fowler (@JFowlerESPN) May 22, 2020
The Browns ranked 20th in sacks and 30th in run defense, both areas Griffen can help strengthen. The Cardinals, meanwhile, would be looking to end their offseason — which included a trade for superstar wideout DeAndre Hopkins — with one final splash.
2. Antonio Brown, Wide Receiver
Seven-time Pro Bowl wide receiver Antonio Brown had his career turn to shambles last year. After leading the NFL in touchdown receptions (15) in 2018, the five-time All-Pro appeared in just one game during the 2019 season with the Patriots after being released by the Oakland Raiders last September. The Patriots cut him after Week 2.
Brown has no shortage of off-the-field issues. His former trainer accused him of sexual assault and sexual misconduct, allegations the NFL claims it is still investigating. Brown also received two years’ probation in June after pleading no contest to a burglary with battery, burglary of an unoccupied conveyance and criminal mischief after having an altercation with a moving truck driver.
Brown is almost certainly facing a suspension if he returns to the league. But because of his incredible talent, teams will likely pursue Brown, albeit with caution. He was recently seen catching passes from Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson.
Antonio Brown getting some route running work in and catching passes from Russell Wilson. (Via AB's Instagram). pic.twitter.com/OYcUHhHX1x
— Field Yates (@FieldYates) July 2, 2020
The Seahawks have discussed the possibility of bringing Brown to Seattle.
— Michael Silver (@MikeSilver) June 23, 2020
The Green Bay Packers make a lot of sense, too, as they enter the 2020 season without a clear No. 2 receiver to compliment three-time Pro Bowler Davante Adams. Brown, 31, would add plenty of speed on the outside for Green Bay.
1. Jadeveon Clowney, EDGE
Former No. 1 overall pick Jadeveon Clowney remains unemployed after turning down lucrative contract offers from the Seahawks and Browns. Clowney spent the first five years of his career with the Houston Texans, before being traded to the Seahawks prior to the 2019 season.
Clowney mustered just three sacks last year, a big dip from his dominant nine-sack campaign in 2018. Nonetheless, he is undoubtedly the best defensive talent among the free agents.
The 27-year-old star pass rusher originally wanted $20 million annually, but he may have to loosen his demands if he wants to be on a roster this fall. Clowney has had durability woes, missing 20 out of a possible 72 games in his NFL career.
Teams looking to fortify their run defense would love to have Clowney at their disposal. Clowney had a bit of a down year relative to his high expectations, but the edge defender is just two years removed from his best NFL season.
Jadeveon Clowney earned a run-defense grade of 91.8 last season, ranking second among edge defenders and one of only two who had a 90-plus run-defense grade. #Seahawks
— PFF SEA Seahawks (@PFF_Seahawks) August 31, 2019
Clowney is adamant on playing for a contender and has reportedly named the Dallas Cowboys and New Orleans Saints as his ideal destinations.