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Predicting where the best remaining NFL free agents will sign

Predicting where the best remaining NFL free agents will sign

As of 4:00 PM EST on Tuesday, any free agent signings will not count for compensatory picks for the 2020 NFL Draft, meaning teams will be more likely to spend money to get the remaining impact players still on the market. Here are some good landing spots for the top free agents still available.

Jay Ajayi

An extremely talented runner, Ajayi has yet to find a new home because of his lack of durability. In his four-year career, he has missed a total of 21 games, including 12 last season. He is a top-15 runningback, which may not seem like high praise, but the NFL has an abundance of very good players in the backfield.

When Ajayi is healthy, he is a threat both running with the ball and catching it. The hold-up is likely due to teams not willing to commit money to him long-term with his injury history.

If Ajayi lower his asking price, there are many teams who could use his services. Ajayi is basically what the Tampa Bay Buccaneers wanted Ronald Jones II to be when they drafted him in the second round a year ago, but his 23 carries point to him approaching bust status.

The problem is right now the Bucs can’t even afford to sign all of their draft picks because they have so little cap space, so Ajayi may not be in their plans. Minnesota and Atlanta are two more cash-strapped teams who could use a complement to their starting RBs, but Ajayi’s best option may be to return to Philadelphia on a short-term deal.

Ndamukong Suh

He is no longer the unstoppable force he was in 2012, but Suh is still a very disruptive player, and he made life miserable for offensive lineman playing next to Aaron Donald last season. Suh signed with the Rams for $14 million in order to have a chance to win a Super Bowl and to prove he is still able to contribute at a high level. He had a nice rebound season after a disappointing 2017, but his market has remained dry. Suh is probably looking for one last big payday, as he will turn 33 in January.

If he is willing to take another short-term deal, his options open up. The Seattle Seahawks could use a DT next to Jarran Reed, and their defensive line needs help after the trade of Frank Clark. If the Houston Texans didn’t play a 3-4, Suh would be a fantastic target, but he isn’t a scheme fit. The Indianapolis Colts still have the most cap space in the league, and have a need at DT. Suh to Indy almost makes too much sense to happen.

Ziggy Ansah

With how much pass-rushing is valued in today’s NFL, it’s a bit surprising to see a player of Ansah’s caliber still on the market in May. He has struggled with injuries throughout his career, but when he’s healthy, he is one of the best defensive ends in the NFL.

Since 2013, he has missed 16 games, including nine last season, and is banged up in-game quite a bit. Yet in 2014 and 2015 when he played in every game, he racked up 22 sacks, 28 tackles for loss, and an incredible 60 quarterback hits. He wins with speed, power, bend, and technique, and is strong against the run.

Ansah has met with the Buffalo Bills, New Orleans Saints, and Baltimore Ravens, and would be an excellent addition to each team. For the Saints, he would provide a fantastic complement to All-Pro Cameron Jordan. In Baltimore, Ansah would replace Za’Darius Smith and Terrell Suggs as the Ravens’ primary pass-rusher. And if Buffalo, he would start opposite of Jerry Hughes, over the disappointing Shaq Lawson. Given his injury history, Ansah is a risk, but the reward may be too much to pass up for a team on the cusp of contention.

Tre Boston

Despite still being unsigned, Boston is one of the most versatile defensive backs in football. He is elite in deep coverage, has the size and physicality to play box safety, can play man coverage, and blitzes well. Based on his recent Twitter activity, he has little interest in signing another one-year deal, and wants to be a part of the many safeties who have been paid well this offseason.

The Cleveland Browns are a great fit, as even after acquring Eric Murray through trade, Morgan Burnett through free agency, and Sheldrick Redwine through the NFL Draft, still have a need at safety. Boston could play either spot well and give the Browns more versatility in the secondary. A return to his former team, the Los Angeles Chargers, could also be a possibility.

Muhammad Wilkerson

After developing a reputation for laziness after signing a big contract with the New York Jets, Wilkerson took a cheap deal with the Green Bay Packers in order to prove he was still a good pass-rushing option. Three games into the season, he suffered a broken ankle.

He and the Packers did have mutual interest in a return, but that was before Green Bay signed Preston Smith and Za’Darius Smith in free agency and drafted Rashan Gary 12th overall. With under $10 million in cap space remaining, it doesn’t make much sense to sign Wilkerson again unless he is willing to take a paycut from even last year’s low salary of $5 million.

The Detroit Lions splurged on former Patriot Trey Flowers, and have arguably the best DT rotation in the NFL with A’Shawn Robinson, Da’Shawn Hand, and Snacks Harrison, but adding another solid end would take that front-seven to the next level. Wilkerson also has the ability to move inside and rush as a DT, which could make him a fit with the Eagles.

Jamie Collins

A Pro Bowler with the Patriots in 2015, Collins’ time in Cleveland has been disappointing. He certainly wasn’t bad, but he never showed the same dominance that he displayed in New England, and his play wasn’t worth his salary of over $10 million. Collins is a very instinctive player and tends to freelance quite often, which leads to some excellent plays, but also some very bad ones. He also has a reputation for lacking consistent effort, which never helps.

Depending on his relationship with Bill Belichick and the Patriots’ front office, returning to his old team is not out of the question. Another organization that could use some help at linebacker is Kansas City, who even despite adding two talented players through the NFL Draft in Juan Thornhill and Khalen Saunders, are primed to have a second consecutive finish as the worst defense in football. Collins must be realistic about his asking price however, as he is not going to get close to what he was earning in Cleveland. $5 million to $6 million is more realistic.

Eric Berry

A former All-Pro and cancer survivor, Berry has played just three games over the past two seasons and was making a large amount of money before the Chiefs decided to move on. He is a risk because of his injury history, and because he hasn’t really played significant snaps since 2016, it’s hard to know if he will be even close to the same player he used to be.

On the field, Berry is a perfect fit with the Cleveland Browns, but he does not have a good relationship with general manager John Dorsey, so that is unlikely to happen. The Colts, Cowboys, and 49ers all could use upgrades at safety, and at the right price, could take a flyer on Berry, hoping he will be able to stay on the field.