DeMarcus Lawrence - Dallas Cowboys:
- I am always skeptical of a player who explodes during his contract season. Is it that they finally figured it out or are they just looking for a payday? I am a cynical person who will always think the latter in this scenario especially with defensive players. Which, is why I would not back the truck up for one of the top sack artists in the league in DeMarcus Lawrence. He also cooled off considerably down the stretch so maybe he was getting worn down after playing a full season for once. Before this season where he played all 16 games he played 9 last year, 16 the year before that with 8 sacks and then his rookie season he played only 7 games. To me he is a bit too up and down with his health and off field issues getting suspended to give a long term deal to. I would like to franchise him first prior to giving him a large deal.
Possible Landing Spots: Dallas Cowboys, Miami Dolphins, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, New York Jets, or the Detroit Lions.
I would imagine the Cowboys would franchise tag one of their best defenders, but there are reports they are working towards a long term deal. However, if he is in the open market I can see one of the Florida teams to tempt him with their low taxes. Most likely I think the Bucs would be hungry after them with how bad they are on the edge and he would give them more options come draft day.
Ziggy Ansah - Detroit Lions:
- Another talented, but oft injured defensive end. I think Lawrence has demonstrated the ability to be a dominant pass rusher on his own unlike Ansah, which gives him the leg up in the top free agent category. However, I think Ansah who was so new to football has a lot more to improve on moving forward. Unlike Lawrence who missed a ton of games on occassion, Ansah has only missed a handful of games a year, but that is still worrisome since nagging injuries can wear players down. I would like to see the Lions give him some help and franchise him before they give him a long term deal.
Possible Landing Spots: Detroit Lions, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, New York Jets, or the Cincinnati Bengals.
Like Lawrence, I think he most likely gets franchise tagged, but if he does hit the market expect the Bucs to be in on him again. Possibly the Jets or Bengals as well who could use some more youth and explosive play on the outside. He is also an interesting candidate to move as a 3-4 standing edge rusher thanks to his length and speed.
Kony Ealy - New York Jets:
- A cast off of both the Panthers and more so the Patriots has resusitated his stock by putting together a solid year for the Jets. He is still incredibly young at 26 if he hits the open market. Ealy also has the versatility to be a base end or a standing edge rusher in a 3-4 system. I can see him being a nice buy low target for a lot of teams looking to add a little juice to their pass rush.
Possible Landing Spots: Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Miami Dolphins, Chicago Bears, or the Cincinnati Bengals.
As you can tell I think the Bucs should be looking at most of the edge rushers available here or in the draft. The Dolphins could use some youth on the edge and it would be nice to pair him with another former Mizzou Tiger Charles Harris. A sleeper team could be the Bears who like to buy low on players and could have a need if they decide to move on from Pernell McPhee this off season.
Adrian Clayborne - Atlanta Falcons:
- Clayborne stats this season are clearly going to be inflated after his 6 sack performance against the Cowboys with Tyrone Smith out. However, he is a solid base end who can rush the passer decently and an even better run stuffer. He should be a sought after end if the top two guys end up being franchise tagged.
Possible Landing Spots: Detroit Lions, New York Jets, Dallas Cowboys, or the Cincinnati Bengals.
I doubt he returns to the Falcons who have a few players they need to keep at more pressing positions. They already drafted Takk McKinley for this situation if they lose him. I think landing with the Lions would be perfect giving them a solid compliment to Ziggy Ansah and a more stable option if Ansah misses time again. A sleeper team could be the Cowboys who would rather have him on their team not to get beat up by him again. Plus, they can use him to bring more firepower to their defense.
David Irving - Dallas Cowboys:
- Another solid defensive lineman for the Cowboys could possibly leave this off season. However, he is an RFA so it would take a little more prying to get him. He does have a lot of untapped potential as a versatile lineman with a lot of length and strength to him. At just 25 years of age there's a lot of upside here to work into. A lot of teams will give him a look thanks to his ability to be a base end, inside tackle, or a five-technique.
Possible Landing Spots: Dallas Cowboys, Green Bay Packers, Buffalo Bills, Cleveland Browns, or the New England Patriots.
To land a RFA you need to part with some picks depending on what level the Cowboys give him so most likely he will stay with the Cowboys. However, if a team really wants him the Packers could use him adding more beef to their defensive front. The Browns and Bills seem like good spots due to their plethora of picks and need for some more talent. I think a sleeper could be the Patriots who notoriously move picks for rising players and more so then ever as they look for more ready to play players as Brady ages. They could love Irving's versatility in their unique scheme.
DaQuan Jones - Tennessee Titans:
- Jones has been one of the better players on the Titans front who can run stuff very well and provide some push in the passing game. He also has size versatility as a five-technique or a base tackle. At just 26 years old he should have some upside to get better and can have a renaissance like Akiem Hicks has had with their very similar skill sets.
Possible Landing Spots: Tennessee Titans, Los Angeles Chargers, Arizona Cardinals, or the San Francisco 49ers.
I can see him being a sought after free agent and the Titans could have a lot of competition if they do not keep him. The Chargers need to upgrade their tackle spots now in a 4-3 front and same could be a said about the 49ers who also have a lot of cap space. I can see the Cardinals also make a push for him who need some more talent up front since Robert Nkemdiche has been such a disappointment.
Dontari Poe - Atlanta Falcons:
- I am not a huge fan of Poe which is why I have him under the the bunch ahead of him. He is a big tackle who needs good depth to rotate with to keep him fresh. Poe is also a known underachiever when he does not have a lot of motivation. He is still relatively young, but I would be wary of giving him a long term deal. Poe also has some injury concerns that he has dealt with way back since his Kansas City days.
Possible Landing Spots: Seattle Seahawks, Detroit Lions, Dallas Cowboys, or the Green Bay Packers.
I can see a lot of teams dabble in his upside, but there are a few spots where I can actually see him work out. Seattle is one of them that tends to be able to take in less then motivated players and turn them into solid cogs to their defense. Poe can be the next one. The Lions could work with Matt Patricia as the new coach who is a no nonsense guy. The Cowboys and Packers could also be interested in his services.
Nigel Bradham - Philadelphia Eagles:
- Bradham is a part of the great off ball trio the Eagles have. Unfortunately, for him I think he is the weaker of the three and will probably be allowed to leave by the Eagles. He is a good all around player in his ability to cover and attack the run game. Only turning 29 he should still have more in the tank left and could be a desirable player to pick up if they win the Super Bowl bringing him more clout to his resume.
Possible Landing Spots: Philadelphia Eagles, New York Giants, Detroit Lions, Oakland Raiders, or the Miami Dolphins.
A lot of teams could use his services if the Eagles do not retain him. The Giants have always needed upgrades in their linebacking core for awhile now. The Lions could use him to help mentor Jarrad Davis who has a lot of similar traits. The Raiders really need new linebackers and so do the Dolphins to bring their defenses together.
Anthony Hitchens - Dallas Cowboys:
- This is a weak year for free agent linebackers and one who could be sought after due to that is Anthony Hitchens who has been a solid backer for the Cowboys. He is stronger in run support, but he is still young with a lot of time to continue to improve. Hitchens was the last man standing the past few years in a Dallas linebacking core that has dealt with it's deal of injuries and did a pretty good job holding down the fort for them.
Possible Landing Spots: New York Giants, Detroit Lions, New England Patriots, or the Washington Redskins.
He probably will not get a ton of headlines where ever he signs, but I can see him being a savvy pick up for a team in need of linebacking help. The Giants and Redskins both need new talent at linebacker. Since it's common for divisional opponents to take players from each other due to familiarity these two spots could be the favorites. I could see the Pats who need better linebackers outside of Dont'a Hightower who cannot stay healthy may make a move for him. The Lions could also use new linebackers to support Jarrad Davis who is their only long term option there.
Jeremy Attaochu - Los Angeles Chargers:
- There is not many real edge rushing outside linebackers available that can make a difference outside of a few sleeper options who just have not had an opportunity yet. Attaochu was kind of lost in the shuffle as the Chargers shifted to a 4-3 front where Melvin Ingram and Joey Bosa are better fits. Unfortunately, for Attaochu that is not the case where he does not have the size to be a down end nor does he have the coverage skills to be an off ball linebacker. Maybe if he lands with another 3-4 schemed front he could end up thriving again where he left off in 2015 when he had a 6 sack campaign.
Possible Landing Spots: Chicago Bears, Kansas City Chiefs, Tennessee Titans, or the New England Patriots.
The Bears love a by low candidate or a player who was underutilized in a wrong scheme. They could also have a need if they end up cutting Pernell McPhee. The Chiefs could use him with Dee Ford up for free agency and could use some youth across from Justin Houston. The Titans and Patriots both need some more fire power on the edge and Attaochu could be a nice sleeper pick up for any of these teams.
Dee Ford - Kansas City Chiefs:
- Speaking of Dee Ford he had an impressive break out campaign last year posting 10 sacks, but unfortunately sustained a back injury that threw off the rest of his season. The former first rounder does have a lot of potential to turn into a nice player. However, outside of one year he has not done much and seems over matched against big blockers due to his smaller size. Maybe if he is used as just a designated pass rusher where he is used on obvious passing downs he could have more success.
Possible Landing Spots: Chicago Bears, Seattle Seahawks, New England Patriots, or the Minnesota Vikings.
Again, the Bears should be looking at buy low candidates on the edge. He may not be a scheme fit perfectly with the Vikings or Seahawks, but I can see him having success as an off ball blitzing linebacker in either of their schemes. Especially, with the Seahawks where he can fill that LEO linebacker spot left by Bruce Irvin a few seasons ago. The Patriots could also be in the market for his services as they try to retool this pass rush.
Avery Williamson - Tennessee Titans:
- Williamson has been one of the bright spots on the Titans defense that was very up and down in the passing game. He does need improvement in that department, but he is excellent in the run game. At only 26 he has a lot of room to grow and should be a good fit around the league in 3-4 fronts more so than 4-3 where he would have more coverage duties.
Possible Landing Spots: Tennessee Titans, New England Patriots, Detroit Lions, New York Jets, or the Pittsburgh Steelers
Seeing as he is a tad scheme specific he needs to land with a team that can maximize his skill set. I think the Titans should try to tag him, but he could slip through the cracks with their other more pressing needs. The Patriots would be a great fit in their scheme and since Patricia is going to Detroit he could be a good fit there also. The Jets are losing a few good backers so they could have a need. Unfortunately, for the Steelers they may have a need at linebacker with Ryan Shazier's future up in the air.
Navorro Bowman - Oakland Raiders:
- Once a great linebacker has now been relegated to a nice mercenary linebacker who can bounce around the league. None of it is a fault of his own, but just unfortunate knee injuries have sapped his explosiveness and will probably scare people off from giving him a long term deal. When he is healthy he is an excellent run defender with great leadership qualities and instincts that can help pull any defense together. Just ask Oakland with how much better their run defense became when he arrived.
Possible Landing Spots: Oakland Raiders, New England Patriots, Philadelphia Eagles, or the Minnesota Vikings.
At this point of his career I can see Bowman take a pay cut to play on a team with Super Bowl aspirations. Like the Patriots, Eagles, and Vikings who could all use one more linebacker like him to round out their roster come next year. The obvious landing spot could be the Raiders where he obviously would like to stay in the Bay Area and with a new promising coaching direction.
Malcolm Butler - New England Patriots:
- The former Super Bowl hero may feel the wrath of the penny pinching New England Patriots. I really do not blame him if he seeks top corner money after being an undrafted free agent on a cheap deal. He is a very talented corner with a lot of upside to tap into as he continues to get better with each passing season. He deserves to get paid and should be highly sought after in a pass happy league.
Possible Landing Spots: Pittsburgh Steelers, Los Angeles Rams, Chicago Bears, or the Arizona Cardinals.
The Steelers may want to steal a player from New England for once and can use him after how bad their secondary was against Jacksonville. The Rams could be in need of new corners if they let Trumaine Johnson walk. Same could be said about Chicago if they fail to retain either Prince Amukamara or Kyle Fuller. Meanwhile, the Cardinals have been looking for a proper running mate to work across from Patrick Peterson for awhile now. I can see him being a player to land with a dark horse team no one things of in the end.
Trumaine Johnson - Los Angeles Rams:
- When healthy Johnson is one of the best corners in the league with rare length and footwork to battle with teams top receivers. The drawback is his health concerns where he always ends up getting nicked up throughout the year. He is a very talented player and should get a shot to earn back trust with a team to stay healthy. If he does remain healthy than he can be a great free agent pick up.
Possible Landing Spots: New England Patriots, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Oakland Raiders, or the Los Angeles Chargers.
I am not sure if he take a long term deal since he may be penalized for his health at the discussion table. He should take a one year deal to prove he can stay healthy. Spots where he can do that is with New England who will need a new corner if they lose Malcolm Butler. The Bucs are always in need of secondary help and could be a team willing to give him a long term deal. The Raiders need help at corner as well with how poor their secondary was the last few years, but I am not sure they have cap space to afford him. A sleeper team could be the Chargers who need a more stable corner across from Casey Hayward.
E.J. Gaines - Buffalo Bills:
- Another former Rams corner who has had to deal with the injury bug who could be a nice pick up is Gaines. He is a talented corner who should primarily work out of the slot at his size. When healthy he is a lock down corner, but that has been a big issue for him. Having played only 11 each of the past two seasons makes him a tad bit of a risk. He also had a break out year during a contract year which is always a risky proposition to give a long term deal to.
Possible Landing Spots: Chicago Bears, Pittsburgh Steelers, Miami Dolphins, or the New York Giants.
As mentioned above the Bears could be in need of new corners if they fail to resign any of their free agents. The Steelers should look into bringing in new pass defenders after giving up 45 points to the Jags, which is just unacceptable. The Dolphins have improving outside corner, but could use a nice slot corner. A sleeper team who may need new corners is the Giants where all three of their starters have had to be suspended at different times. A culture change is needed and starting there is a good spot in New York.
Kyle Fuller, Prince Amukamara, and Bryce Callahan - Chicago Bears:
- The Bears trio of starting corners may not get a lot of press, but all three played very well this past season. Fuller is obviously the one with the most talented of the trio with a ton of upside and played like a top corner down the stretch for Chicago. Unfortunately, he did all of this in a contract year which makes it difficult to trust him with a long term contract. However, his brother is playing great in Washington so maybe that is spurring him to play better. Amukamara is a tad bit lower due to his inability to create turnovers, but he is a solid press corner in the right scheme. Meanwhile, Callahan is a solid tenacious slot corner when he is healthy.
Possible Landing Spots: Fuller - Chicago Bears, Washington Redskins, Oakland Raiders, or the Cincinnati Bengals. Amukamara - Chicago Bears, New England Patriots, New York Giants, or the Cleveland Browns. Callahan - Miami Dolphins, Houston Texans, Los Angeles Rams, or the Los Angeles Chargers.
Fuller is a player the Bears should resign since the fans just saw Alshon Jeffrey another home grown talent thrive else where. I would be hesitant to give him a big long term contract, but you might have to to prevent seeing him succeed elsewhere. The Redskins may be in talks with him to pair him back up with his brother. The Raiders again need new corners, but may not need the money. A sleeper team who may overspend for him is the Bengals who need new young corners. Amukamara should stay in Chicago where he just fit Vic Fangio's scheme so well and may even take a discount to stay with him. Other teams that may tempt him is New England who needs new corners. A return to New York where he may be a better scheme fit now and the Browns who could over spend for him with their need at corner. Lastly, Callahan may be a cap causality for the Bears so I can see him land in a bunch of spots who could use a new young slot corner.
Morgan Burnett - Green Bay Packers:
- The Packers' secondary was terrible last year, but the only one who could do his job well was Burnett. He has been a solid safety along side Ha-Ha Clinton-Dix for awhile now and is a jack of all trades type of safety. His versatility will be appealing to a lot of teams and he should thrive elsewhere for a few more seasons like other Green Bay defenders have done in recent seasons. I doubt they retain him after signing a bunch of other free agents early.
Possible Landing Spots: Cleveland Browns, Los Angeles Chargers, Los Angeles Rams, or the Pittsburgh Steelers.
The Browns could use a veteran safety to pair with Jabrill Peppers to mentor him and pick up the slack. The Chargers hit it out of the park with another former Packer Casey Hayward and could do the same reuniting Burnett with him. The Rams have two starting safeties headed to free agency and could be in the market for an upgrade. Obviously, the Steelers should look to replace the under performing Mike Mitchell.
Lamarcus Joyner - Los Angeles Rams:
- As mentioned above, the Rams could be losing both their starting corners. The better of the two is Joyner who began his career as a mid round pick to turn himself into a solid all around player. He continues to get better each year and at just 27 he should continue to be one of the better safeties in the league. The former Seminole should be in high demand this off season and turn into one of the better pick ups.
Possible Landing Spots: Los Angeles Rams, Los Angeles Chargers, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, or the Carolina Panthers.
The Rams should make a big push to resign him or Trumaine Johnson. I think Joyner would be the smarter option. The Chargers could be in play with Tre Boston a soon to be free agent. As per normal the Bucs are still in need of a safety and the Panthers could use an infusion of youth in their safety spots.
Kenny Vaccaro - New Orleans Saints:
- Once the lone bright spot on a bad Saints defense may now be without a home with the emergence of Marcus Williams and Vonn Bell. He is coming off a groin injury, but when healthy he is one of the better cover safeties in the league with versatility to float down to the slot. He is also a hard hitter when a receiver goes through the middle. Vaccaro should sign a one year deal to prove he is fully healthy to earn a bigger pay day. At just 27 he still has a bunch of solid seasons in his future.
Possible Landing Spots: Pittsburgh Steelers, Los Angeles Chargers, Dallas Cowboys, or the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
The Steelers should be looking for a veteran to replace Mike Mitchell or Sean Davis who both played terribly this season. Again the Chargers should be in the market for a safety. The Cowboys could be an interesting landing spot for the former Longhorn. Then again the Bucs who notoriously over pay free agents may tempt him to come sure up the back end of their defense.
Tre Boston - Los Angeles Chargers:
- The Chargers hit it big with Boston on a one year deal last off season. So much so they may not be able to afford him this off season where he should be a sought after player. His weakness is his run support where he can miss a few tackles. However, his ability in coverage is excellent and the harder trait to teach. At just 25 there is a lot of upside here to tap into and mold. A nice long term deal is definitely in his future.
Possible Landing Spots: Los Angeles Chargers, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Green Bay Packers, or the Cincinnati Bengals.
I can see him staying with the Chargers where he found a lot of success and have the opportunity to stay at glamorous city. If not I can see the Bucs trying to pry him away giving a nice young safety to build around. The Packers could be a sleeper team if they start to dabble in free agency more. The Bengals could also be a location for him with their current crop of safeties aging rapidly.