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Paul Sancya / Associated Press
This year’s edition of the free NFL agency, which officially begins on March 18, could change the league.
Notable quarterbacks like Tom Brady, Drew Brees and Philip Rivers are all slated for the open market. However, quarterback isn’t the only deep position in the free agency this year.
Teams seeking defensive help will have numerous top-level players to choose from. Led by NFL sack leader Shaquil Barrett and Super Bowl champion Chris Jones, the free-agent defensive class is both talented and profound.
Here, we will analyze the most attractive defensive free agent options based on factors such as production, age and rise. We will also identify potential landing points based on schematic adaptation, production potential and protection constraints.
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Ted S. Warren / Associated Press
The Minnesota Vikings will have a hard time keeping safety Anthony Harris, who is coming out of a six interception campaign in his career. Over $ 11 million over the limit is expected and Harris isn’t their only noteworthy free agent.
Harris may have to sign a demonstration deal since he only has two seasons of initial experience, but it won’t be cheap. The team that signs him must have a fair amount of space on the hat and perhaps also a certain familiarity with him.
The Cleveland Browns adapt on both fronts. New coach Kevin Stefanski hails from the Vikings, as well as new defensive coach and game coordinator Jeff Howard. The Browns are also expected to have approximately $ 49.6 million in limit space and will likely use it.
“We want to gain aggressive talent because that’s the name of the game from the NFL front-office perspective,” said new Browns CEO Andrew Berry, for Jeff Risdon of Browns Wire.
With Brown’s confidence, Damario Randall will also become a free agent, expecting Cleveland to chase aggressively–and finally disembark–the 28 year old Harris.
Prediction: Browns signs Harris with a three-year contract.
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Paul Sancya / Associated Press
Byron Jones is arguably the hottest cornerback on this year’s free agent market. The 27-year-old was a Pro Bowler in 2018 and is making his fifth season as an appetizer for the Dallas Cowboys.
While the Cowboys would probably like to keep their corner no. 1, doing it will be difficult. They are expected to have around $ 77 million in the space limit, but they must make an agreement with quarterback Dak Prescott and could make Amari Cooper their next priority. Handing out a third big deal may not be realistic.
Jones should at least have a crack in the free agent market, where he will likely go to the highest bidder. The first buzz suggests that the Denver Broncos could be the bidder.
“There there were noises from the Senior Bowl that CB Byron Jones could be the main target Broncos in free agency ” Cecil Lammey of 1043TheFan.com tweeted. “It is worth keeping an eye on while the Cowboys try to get Dak Prescott, Amari Cooper and maybe even Jones signed / sealed.“
Denver, which has nearly $ 62 million in unused space, can afford to run Jones seriously. Expect it to be the new centerpiece of coach Vic Fangio’s defense if the Broncos make their way.
Prediction: Broncos signs Jones with a five-year contract.
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David Zalubowski / Associated Press
If the Broncos land Jones, they are unlikely to report 30-year-old cornerback Chris Harris Jr. This would likely make the four-time Pro Bowler one of the best free agency goals.
Harris has not only proven to be a quality coverage corner, but has also demonstrated the ability to do it from a variety of positions and roles. It can move from the slot to the perimeter and still be effective, and is also able to excel in area or man coverage.
This type of schematic versatility should appeal to Detroit Lions coach Matt Patricia a lot. Last year, Lions ranked 32nd in the pass defense and reportedly made an offer for Harris before the commercial deadline.
“The Lions were just teams that made an offer for Chris Harris Jr. Their offer wasn’t as good as the third round offer. ” Mike Klis by 9News Denver a tweet. “… BHolding it, Broncos calculates to get the third compensatory draft choice for Harris in 2021.“
Armed with a forecast of $ 45.8 million in the limit space, Lions can afford to bring Harris to the fold.
Prediction: Lions sign Harris with a three-year contract.
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Mark LoMoglio / Associated Press
Shaquil Barrett had a breakout season for ages in his first year with the buccaneers of Tampa Bay.
The former Denver defender produced only 14 bags in his first four active seasons (he didn’t play as a rookie). In 2019, he led the NFL with 19.5.
Bag leaders rarely reach the free agency, and there is also a possibility that Barrett won’t. He expressed a desire to stay in Tampa and even said he would take less money to do it.
“I won’t take drastically less, but I’m open to doing what I think is best for my career, and I think it would be in Tampa,” said Barrett on SiriusXM Radio (with JoeBucsFan.com).
Since it has only one elite production season, Barrett is unable to restore the pass-rusher market. However, the Buccaneers are expected to have nearly $ 80 million in maximum space and can afford to offer him a profitable and incentive-packed deal.
Prediction: the buccaneers sign Barrett with a three-year extension.
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Chris Szagola / Associated Press
Although he has yet to have a season like Barrett’s 2019 campaign, Jadeveon Clowney is still a premium pass-rusher. The Seattle Seahawks were traded for the 27-year-old just before the start of the 2019 season and may be interested in holding him back.
However, Clowney’s top priority in the free agency will be to land with a title contender.
“I just want to win,” he said, for ESPN’s Brady Henderson. “I’m trying to get to the Super Bowl by any means. This is what I am looking for: who will take me there? I’m not trying to join a team without apologies without money.“
While Seattle was a playoff team last season, Clowney may be intrigued by the possibility of playing for the Baltimore Ravens. Baltimore set the best 14-2 record in the NFL and should be ready to compete in the AFC for the foreseeable future.
Baltimore is also looking to add pass-rusher in the offseason.
“The Ravens are expected to chase pass-rushes that can attack the offense once Lamar Jackson and Co. build an advantage,” Matt Miller wrote in early January.
The Ravens are expected to have around $ 24.4 million in maximum space, so while money isn’t the most important factor for Clowney, he should still be able to get a fair amount from Baltimore.
Prediction: the crows sign Clowney with a four-year contract.
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Michael Conroy / Associated Press
Although not as prolific as Clowney or as productive as Barrett in 2019, Jacksonville Jaguars’ defensive end Yannick Ngakoue has quietly become one of the best young defenders of the NFL. The 24-year-old has only lost one game in four seasons and averages around 30 tackles, 9.5 bags and three forced fumbles per year.
Ngakoue should be right there with Clowney and Barrett for teams looking for an edge defender. However, the jaguars hope to detain him.
“It’s a deal we think may take some time, but it should be done relatively easily, hopefully,” said Jaguars general manager David Caldwell, for John Oehser of the team’s official website.
Space on the edge will be a problem, as jaguars are expected to exceed $ 3.4 million. However, Jacksonville can free up $ 20 million in space by releasing defensive equipment Marcell Dareus.
The presence of the first round of 2018 Taven Bryan makes Dareus expendable. Expect Jacksonville to release Dareus and sign Ngakoue for a long-term deal.
Prediction: Jaguars signs Ngakoue with a four-year extension.
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Steve Luciano / Associated Press
Chris Jones is exiting the 9.0 sack season as a defensive gear, produced 15.5 sacks in 2018 as a defensive ending and is only 25 years old. He will be one of the most requested free agents this season.
Jones has helped Kansas City chiefs win their first Super Bowl title in 50 years and has been the centerpiece of their defensive front for the past two seasons. However, Jones will get it paid in free agency, and Kansas City is expected to have just under $ 14 million in the space limit.
With quarterback Patrick Mahomes waiting for a new contract at some point in the near future, it may not be feasible for the Chiefs to sign Jones on a long-term deal. This could open the door for rivals from the Las Vegas Raiders division to step in and grab their former enemy.
“The Raiders will surely chase Jones if the Chiefs don’t give him the money they want or label him in a franchise,” wrote Athletic’s Vic Tafur. “This is a fact, in my opinion.”
The addition of Jones would make a lot of sense for Las Vegas. A defensive line centered around him, Maxx Crosby and Clelin Ferrell would have been formidable. With nearly $ 52 million in bullet space, the Raiders can also give Jones the kind of deal he envisions looking for.
Prediction: the Raiders sign Jones with a five-year contract.
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Michael Wyke / Associated Press
While Jones has earned his reputation as one of the league’s most disruptive linesmen, Houston Texans D.J.’s defensive defense Reader has flown largely under the radar. Being more than a traditional nose attack, its numbers aren’t mind-blowing – it has 154 tackles and 6.5 bags in four seasons – but it’s a force at the point of attack.
“The former theft of the fifth round has turned into one of the best tackles in the nose of the game, preparing it for a substantial payday at the age of 25,” wrote Gennaro Filice of NFL.com.
Pro Football Focus awarded Reader a higher overall score than Jones and rated it as No. 1 internal defender in the next free agent market.
While Reader may not be suitable for all teams, those managing a 3-4 base defense should have it at the top of the wish list. The Texans should also hope to hold him back, as replacing him with a draw choice would be difficult after two first rounds and a second round choice were given to bring Laremy Tunsil on the offensive.
With over $ 55 million in planned space, Texans can afford to give Reader a profitable extension.
Prediction: Texans sign Reader with an extension of five years.
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Gregory Payan / Associated Press
Los Angeles Rams linebacker Cory Littleton is one of the best young defenders of the NFL. He is a tackle machine – he had 134 total tackles in 2019 – and he is one of the best pass-defenders in the league at the second level.
“He now joins a free agency out of the best season of his career, with a proven track record in the most valuable linebacker play area,” wrote Sam Monson of Pro Football Focus.
The Rams are expected to have less than $ 15 million in the space limit and have several other key players ready to become free agents such as Greg Zuerlein, Andrew Whitworth and Dante Fowler Jr. Littleton could get an offer elsewhere that the Rams cannot afford to match.
That offer may come from the New York Giants, which are expected to have nearly $ 62 million in cap space and which could potentially separate from the average linebacker Alec Ogletree.
“There is a possibility that the giants cut the average linebacker Alec Ogletree,” wrote NJ Advance Media’s Darryl Slater. “The move would make a lot of sense. Ogletree struggles in passing coverage, a big deal for an internal linebacker in today’s NFL. Coverage is Littleton’s strength.”
The Giants could save over $ 8 million against the limit by cutting Ogletree, which would make it easier for them to offer Littleton a non-refusable offer.
Prediction: the giants sign Littleton with a five-year contract.
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Bruce Kluckhohn / Associated Press
Although the security of Denver Broncos Justin Simmons is not a household name, it could become so during the free agency. The 26-year-old has emerged as an elite free security and is coming out of a stellar 2019 campaign.
Last season, Simmons racked up 93 tackles, defended 15 career passes and four interceptions. It will be a prominent name on the open market if Denver allows him to join a free agency.
The Broncos have the maximum space (almost $ 62 million) to make it a long-term competitive offer, otherwise they could use the franchise tag. Tagging Simmons would prevent reaching the market while the two sides negotiate a long-term agreement.
Even Simmons wouldn’t necessarily oppose the franchise tag.
“I don’t know if I’m the type of guy who would like to sit. Playing is my passion and if it happens, it happens,” he said, for Mike Klis of 9News Denver. “Obviously, we would like to make a long term deal and talk [general manager John] Elway and all the guys there are fantastic and I love the system. I think the system is suitable for both sides. “
Expect the Broncos to tag Simmons by the March 10 deadline.
Prediction: Denver gives Simmons the non-exclusive franchise tag.
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