2020 NFL Mock Draft (Day 2 Re-Mock)

  1. Cincinnati Bengals – OT Ezra Cleveland (Boise State)

Teams typically pick another offensive player after drafting a quarterback in the first round. The Bengals are pretty set with skill position players, but they could definitely use help on the offensive line. Ezra Cleveland could have easily gone in the first round and could be an instant upgrade at the right tackle position.

  1. Indianapolis Colts – WR Denzel Mims (Baylor)

The Colts apparently had their eyes on Brandon Aiyuk, but the 49ers took him in the first round. Maybe they’ll target another wide receiver at 34, given how deep this wide receiver class is. They need another receiver for the long-term to go with TY Hilton and last year’s 2nd round pick Parris Campbell.

  1. Detroit Lions – DE Yetur Gross-Matos (Penn State)

The Lions surprisingly didn’t move down from the 3rd pick, even though they likely still could have gotten Jeff Okudah a few picks later and even though they have needs all across the roster. They should just take the best available player left on the board at 35 and Yetur Gross-Matos, an expected first round pick, would make a lot of sense for them, given their need for another defensive end opposite Trey Flowers.

  1. New York Giants – S Grant Delpit (LSU)

Surprisingly no safeties went in the first round. It’s not a great safety class, but one or both of Grant Delpit and Xavier McKinney were expected to go in the first. Perhaps the Giants will be the first team to take a safety this year and select one of those two to start opposite Jabrill Peppers. This could be either Delpit or McKinney, but Delpit seems to be higher rated overall.

  1. New England Patriots – OLB Zach Baun (Wisconsin)

The Patriots traded down from 23, which made sense because they wouldn’t have picked again until 87 had they selected there. They may still be able to get whoever they were targeting at 23 at 37. Baun would have made some sense for them in the first round and is a much better value at this point in the draft. He’s a hybrid defensive end/linebacker and will fit in perfectly in New England in the old Kyle Van Noy role.

  1. Carolina Panthers – CB Jaylon Johnson (Utah)

Top cornerback James Bradberry was a big loss in free agency and the Panthers didn’t do anything to replace him. They’re very thin at cornerback, so a rookie could play a big role. This could easily be a position they target at the top of the second round.

  1. Miami Dolphins – RB D’Andre Swift (Georgia)

Some thought the Dolphins were going to take a running back at 30 after moving down with the Packers, but they went cornerback instead. Maybe they are targeting a running back with this pick. They have probably the thinnest running back depth chart in the league, so they have to address the position at some point.

  1. Houston Texans – DT Ross Blacklock (TCU)

The Texans are pretty thin on the defensive line after losing DJ Reader to the Bengals in free agency. They don’t have many picks to work with because of their asinine trade spree over the past year with Bill O’Brien in charge of everything, but they need to address the defensive line at some point. Blacklock would be a good value if he fell to 40.

  1. Cleveland Browns – DE AJ Epenesa (Iowa)

The Browns could use a long-term bookend for Myles Garrett. Olivier Vernon is highly paid (15.5 million in 2020) and in the final year of his contract, so he might not be around much longer and they don’t have great depth at the position either.

  1. Jacksonville Jaguars – RB Jonathan Taylor (Wisconsin)

The Jaguars are reportedly trying to trade Leonard Fournette. Even if they end up keeping him for 2020, he’s going into the final year of his contract, so I don’t expect him to be around beyond this season. The Jaguars lack another good option behind him on the depth chart though, so they’ll have to address this position in the draft.

  1. Chicago Bears – CB Kristian Fulton (LSU)

The Bears had to move on from starting cornerback Prince Amukamara this off-season for cap purposes and didn’t have the financial flexibility to find a real replacement. If the season was to start today, they’d likely be starting former Steelers first round pick Artie Burns. The Bears didn’t have their first rounder because of the Khalil Mack trade, but they have two picks in the 2nd round and should look to add a cornerback who could play immediately if needed.

  1. Indianapolis Colts – S Xavier McKinney (Alabama)

The Colts could use a better starting safety option opposite Malik Hooker. Xavier McKinney was considered a potential first round pick and top safety off the board, so he’d be a great value at this point.

  1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – RB JK Dobbins (Ohio State)

The Buccaneers continue adding help for Tom Brady, after drafting offensive tackle Mekhi Becton in the first round. Running back is a big need as well, with the Buccaneers needing a more reliable complement to Ronald Jones. Look for them to take one of the day 2 running backs.

  1. Denver Broncos – OT Josh Jones (Houston)

The Broncos got young Drew Lock some receiving help in the first round with Jerry Jeudy. Now they get him some help upfront. Left tackle Garret Bolles has been a disappointment since going in the first round in 2017 because of his extreme tendency to commit penalties and could be on his last chance in 2020. Jones gives them insurance at left tackle and should have the versatility to kick inside to guard if needed.

  1. Atlanta Falcons – DE Julian Okwara (Notre Dame)

The Falcons passed on K’Lavon Chaisson in the first round and filled a bigger need at cornerback, but they could still use edge rush help. Look for them to target this position on day 2 as they continue to try to build their defense.

  1. New York Jets – WR Tee Higgins (Clemson)

Most expected the Jets to go wide receiver in the first round, but they took an offensive lineman instead. Perhaps they love the depth of this wide receiver class and think they can get a great value on day 2. Tee Higgins in the middle of the 2nd round would qualify as a great value and would be a big addition for a Jets team that lacks a long-term #1 receiver and needs an immediate option to play in 3-wide receiver sets with Breshad Perriman and Jamison Crowder.

  1. Pittsburgh Steelers – QB Jacob Eason (Washington)

If there’s one thing the Steelers learned in Ben Roethlisberger’s absence last season, it’s that neither Mason Rudolph nor Devlin Hodges are their quarterback of the future. With Roethlisberger going into his age 38 season and coming off of a serious injury, the Steelers need a good backup plan and a long-term option at the position.

  1. Chicago Bears – WR KJ Hamler (Penn State)

The Bears need to find a wide receiver to play in three wide receiver sets with Allen Robinson and Anthony Miller. Hamler may remind Matt Nagy of Tyreek Hill, or at least of Taylor Gabriel.

  1. Dallas Cowboys – S Antoine Winfield (Minnesota)

The Cowboys had CeeDee Lamb fall into their lap in the first round, but had that not happened many were expecting them to take a defensive back. Winfield could either provide depth at cornerback or play safety long-term, with HaHa Clinton-Dix only on a one-year deal.

  1. Los Angeles Rams – OLB Josh Uche (Michigan)

The Rams lost both Dante Fowler and Clay Matthews this off-season. They signed Leonard Floyd, but he’s not much of a pass rusher and he’s only on a one-year deal. Samson Ebukam, the other projected starter, is also set to hit free agency next off-season. They desperately need a talented young edge rusher.

  1. Philadelphia Eagles – S Kyle Dugger (Lenoir-Rhyne)

The Eagles lost Malcolm Jenkins this off-season and didn’t bring in an obvious replacement. After addressing their glaring need at wide receiver in the first round, I expect the Eagles to turn their attention to defensive needs like safety on day 2.

  1. Buffalo Bills – DE Jabari Zuinga (Florida)

The Bills lost Shaq Lawson and Lorenzo Alexander this off-season, so they need to replenish depth at the edge defender spot. They signed Mario Addison in free agency, but need one more player in the mix. A young player makes sense, with Addison going into his age 33 season and fellow starter Jerry Hughes going into his age 32 season.

  1. Baltimore Ravens – WR Michael Pittman (USC)

The Ravens aren’t a passing team and when they do pass they mostly feature tight ends, but the Ravens still need to get Lamar Jackson a reliable wide receiver option opposite Marquise Brown. Their lack of talent at wide receiver was evident in their playoff loss to the Titans. Pittman is a bigger player who would complement the speedier Brown well.

  1. Miami Dolphins – DT Marlon Davidson (Auburn)

The Dolphins pick for the 5th time already, but still have plenty of needs they can fill. Davidson is a great value at this point and would provide much needed depth behind Christian Wilkins and Davon Godcheaux at defensive tackle.

  1. Los Angeles Rams – MLB Logan Wilson (Wyoming)

Dante Fowler isn’t the only linebacker the Rams lost to a big contract elsewhere this off-season, with middle linebacker Cory Littleton signing with the Raiders. They badly need help at the middle linebacker spot in his absence, so this should be a priority position for them to address on day 2.

  1. Minnesota Vikings – DE Curtis Weaver (Boise State)

The Vikings replaced Stefon Diggs and Xavier Rhodes in the first round, but still have other key departures to replace, including defensive end Everson Griffen. Griffen could still return, but he’s going into his age 33 season, so the Vikings need to think about the future at defensive end either way.

  1. Seattle Seahawks – DT Jordan Elliott (Missouri)

The Seahawks re-signed Jarran Reed, but they lost Quinton Jefferson and Al Woods, leaving them thin at the defensive tackle position. Unless the Seahawks bizarrely take another linebacker, defensive tackle will likely be a position they focus on during the draft’s 2nd day.

  1. Baltimore Ravens – G Matt Hennessy (Temple)

Losing right guard Marshal Yanda to retirement is a huge blow because he was still playing at a high level in 2019. Look for the Ravens to replace him early in the draft. 

  1. Tennessee Titans – CB Trevon Diggs (Alabama)

The Titans haven’t totally closed the door on re-signing Logan Ryan, but he wants a significant contract and the Titans already have significant money committed to Malcolm Butler and will soon need to lock-up fellow starting cornerback Adoree Jackson long-term on a big contract. The Titans could take a cornerback on day 2 to give them a cheaper option and close the door on bringing back Ryan.

  1. Green Bay Packers – TE Cole Kmet (Notre Dame)

The Packers almost have to get Aaron Rodgers some help on day 2 right? It’s hard to imagine Rodgers is taking the news well that his long-term replacement has been drafted, but maybe the Packers can smooth things over by getting him some much needed pass catchers. Even if that’s not how they’re thinking about it, the Packers have pressing needs at wide receiver and tight end, so it would make sense either way.

  1. Kansas City Chiefs – G John Simpson (Clemson)

The Chiefs need cornerback help, but if there isn’t a cornerback who fits the range, the Chiefs won’t force it in the 2nd round. Instead, they could address a need like the offensive line, where they have an open spot at left guard. Simpson could compete immediately with Andrew Wylie for the starting job.

  1. Seattle Seahawks – OT Matt Peart (Connecticut)

The Seahawks added Brandon Shell in free agency, but he’s a borderline starting option and could be pushed by a rookie. They also need a long-term option at left tackle, where Duane Brown is going into his age 35 season.

  1. Cincinnati Bengals – MLB Malik Harrison (Ohio State)
  2. Washington Redskins – TE Albert Okwuegbunam (Missouri)
  3. Detroit Lions – DT Justin Madubuike (Texas A&M)
  4. New York Jets – OLB Bradlee Anae (Utah)
  5. Carolina Panthers – OLB Akeem Davis-Gaither (Appalachian State)
  6. Miami Dolphins – OT Lucas Niang (TCU)
  7. New England Patriots – TE Adam Trautman (Dayton)
  8. Arizona Cardinals – OT Prince Tega Wanogho (Auburn)
  9. Jacksonville Jaguars – DT Raekwon Davis (Alabama)
  10. Cleveland Browns – WR Gabe Davis (Central Florida)
  11. Indianapolis Colts – OLB Willie Gay (Mississippi State)
  12. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – OLB Terrell Lewis (Alabama)
  13. Denver Broncos – DE Neville Gallimore (Oklahoma)
  14. Atlanta Falcons – RB Cam Akers (Florida State)
  15. New York Jets – CB Darnay Holmes (UCLA)
  16. Las Vegas Raiders – G Robert Hunt (Louisiana)
  17. Las Vegas Raiders – QB Jalen Hurts (Oklahoma)
  18. Dallas Cowboys – DE Jonathan Greenard (Florida)
  19. Denver Broncos – WR Laviska Shenault (Colorado)
  20. Los Angeles Rams – WR Lynn Bowden (Kentucky)
  21. Detroit Lions – OT Ben Bartch (St. John’s MN)
  22. Buffalo Bills – RB AJ Dillon (Boston College)
  23. New England Patriots – S Jeremy Chinn (Southern Illinois)
  24. New Orleans Saints – WR Bryan Edwards (South Carolina)
  25. Minnesota Vikings – DT James Lynch (Baylor)
  26. Houston Texans – OLB Darrell Taylor (Tennessee)
  27. Las Vegas Raiders – OLB Jacob Phillips (LSU)
  28. Baltimore Ravens – OLB Alton Robinson (Syracuse)
  29. Tennessee Titans – OLB Khalid Kareem (Notre Dame)
  30. Green Bay Packers – WR Devin Duvernay (Texas)
  31. Denver Broncos – G Tyler Biadasz (Wisconsin)
  32. Kansas City Chiefs – CB Cameron Dantzler (Mississippi State)
  33. Cleveland Browns – DT Jason Strowbridge (North Carolina)
  34. New England Patriots – MLB Joe Bachie (Michigan State)
  35. New York Giants – OLB Alex Highsmith (Charlotte)
  36. New England Patriots – QB Jake Fromm (Georgia)
  37. Seattle Seahawks – TE Harrison Bryant (Florida Atlantic)
  38. Pittsburgh Steelers – RB Eno Benjamin (Arizona State)
  39. Philadelphia Eagles – OLB Davion Taylor (Colorado)
  40. Los Angeles Rams – RB Darrynton Evans (Appalachian State)
  41. Minnesota Vikings – G Jonah Jackson (Ohio State)
  42. Baltimore Ravens – RB Joshua Kelly (UCLA)

2020 NFL Mock Draft

1. Cincinnati Bengals – QB Joe Burrow (LSU)

The Dolphins are reportedly making a “godfather” option to the Bengals to move up to #1. They have the draft capital over the next two years to make a very appealing offer (although they wouldn’t have had to do this if they had benched Ryan Fitzpatrick for the final two games of the season), but the Bengals seem pretty set on Burrow, who they have been talking to weekly over video for the past month. Either way Burrow would be the pick here, most likely to Cincinnati, but you never know.

2. Washington Redskins – DE Chase Young (Ohio State)

There may be some trade chatter here too, but ultimately the Redskins are expected to stay put and take Chase Young, the draft’s consensus top defensive player. It would likely take a similar “godfather” offer from a team for the Redskins to be willing to move down and give up the opportunity to draft Young.

3. Miami Dolphins (TRADE) – QB Tua Tagovailoa (Alabama)

I’ve had the Lions trading down from this spot since my initial mock draft and it seems likely to happen. Teams will want to move up to this spot to secure their favorite of the remaining quarterbacks and the Lions will want to move down because they have a bunch of needs and can still get one of their target defensive players a few spots later. The Dolphins have always been the favorite to move up here, assuming they want to, over teams like the Chargers, Jaguars, and Raiders. 

Not only do they have the fewest spots to move up, but they also have more draft capital than any team in the league. They have a whopping 5 first round picks in the next two drafts and, with four second round picks as well, they might not have to give up a single one of those first rounders to get this deal done. Draft day reports suggest a trade is close for the Dolphins to move up to this spot, either with an ultimate goal of moving up all the way to 1 or to secure their 2nd ranked quarterback on their board at 3. There has been a lot of smoke tying the Dolphins to both Justin Herbert and Tua Tagovailoa, but I’m sticking with my original pick of Tua here.

4. Los Angeles Chargers (TRADE) – QB Justin Herbert (Oregon)

With Tua off the board, that could prompt one of the other teams looking at a quarterback to also move up in order to secure their quarterback. Like the Dolphins are favored to move up to 3, the Chargers should be favored to move up to 4. The Chargers don’t have as much draft capital as the Dolphins do, but with only two spots to move up, they should have enough to get this deal done. The Giants wouldn’t need a king’s ransom just to move down a couple spots and select a player they likely would have taken at 4. The Chargers like Tyrod Taylor as a short-term solution, but he’s going to be a free agent next off-season and a franchise quarterback on a rookie contract is the most valuable asset in football, so they won’t hesitate to move up to secure Herbert if they like him enough.

5. Detroit Lions (TRADE) – DT Derrick Brown (Auburn)

The Lions’ trade down works to perfection as they still have the same choices on defense as they would have had if they had stayed put at 3. I’ve gone back and forth between defensive tackle Derrick Brown and cornerback Jeff Okudah, who would both fill massive needs, with linebacker Isaiah Simmons also a possibility, but I’ve heard more tying Brown to the Lions in recent days than Okudah and this is a deeper cornerback class than defensive tackle class in the second round. With Damon Harrison, A’Shawn Robinson, and Mike Daniels all gone from last year’s team, the Lions badly need someone like Brown to go with free agent acquisition Danny Shelton and holdover Da’Shawn Hand.

6. New York Giants (TRADE) – OT Andrew Thomas (Georgia)

I’ve had the Giants taking a defensive player in the past, but there has been more buzz about an offensive tackle here lately. They need immediate help at right tackle and long-term help at left tackle, where Nate Solder is expensively paid and going into his age 32 season. They’ll likely have their pick of any of the top offensive tackles in this class and could start what some are predicting is going to be a run on tackles in the top-10. With the Chargers and Dolphins both taking quarterbacks, that run becomes less likely, but Thomas is still expected to hear his name called very early and he’d make sense at this spot for the Giants.

7. Carolina Panthers – OLB Isaiah Simmons (Clemson)

With Luke Kuechly’s sudden retirement, the Panthers have a big hole to fill at linebacker. Simmons is a similar player to Panthers linebacker Shaq Thompson, their other every down linebacker with Kuechly last year, which could make Simmons an odd fit on the Panthers, but I think the pairing could work. The Panthers would have as much speed and coverage ability at linebacker as any team in the league and could use one or the other as a safety or slot cornerback depending on the situation. Cornerback Jeff Okudah is also an option here, as the Panthers are in a good spot to sit back and pick between the defensive players who fall to them after the quarterbacks go high.

8. Atlanta Falcons (TRADE) – CB Jeff Okudah (Ohio State)

The Cardinals are also in a good spot to sit back and wait for a defensive player to fall to them, although not necessarily to take themselves. There is a lot of talk about the Falcons wanting to move up into the top-10 for a defensive player and the Cardinals, who lack a second round pick after trading it for DeAndre Hopkins, seem like an obvious trade partner. On the trade value chart, the Falcons giving up 16 and 47 to the Cardinals for 8 is about an even trade, so they won’t have to get terribly creative with this deal either. In the past I’ve had the Falcons moving up for Isaiah Simmons, but cornerback Jeff Okudah seems to be the target now if he slips out of the top-6.

9. Jacksonville Jaguars – CB CJ Henderson (Florida)

The Jaguars got leaped by the Falcons for this draft’s top cornerback Jeff Okudah, but Henderson is getting his own top-10 buzz of late, so they might be happy with either cornerback. With Jalen Ramsey and AJ Bouye both being traded, the Jaguars desperately need to reload at the cornerback position. Henderson could be their top cornerback even as a rookie. The Jaguars have another pick at 20, which they got for Ramsey, but they can’t afford to wait on a cornerback.

10. Cleveland Browns – OT Tristan Wirfs (Iowa)

I’ve had this as a trade spot in past mocks, with teams looking to leap the Jets for a wide receiver and the Browns potentially feeling they can still get a good tackle later in the first. That could still happen, but it would require a team being so in love with one particular wide receiver that they can’t sit back and wait for a deep wide receiver class to come to them, which may not happen. If the Browns stay put, they’ll have their choice of the remaining tackle prospects, with Wirfs possibly moving into the #2 spot after a dominant combine. Wherever the Browns pick, I’d be shocked if they took anything other than a left tackle, with a glaring hole in their starting lineup at that position and up to 6-7 offensive tackles projected to go off the board in round 1. 

11. New York Jets – WR CeeDee Lamb (Oklahoma)

The Jets signed Breshad Perriman to replace Robby Anderson in free agency, but the Jets also need to replace free agent Demaryius Thomas in three wide receiver sets. Perriman is also only signed to a one-year deal and isn’t the long-term #1 option the Jets need to give Sam Darnols. If no one moves up into the top-10 for a wide receiver, the Jets could easily be the first team to dip into the wide receiver pool and take one at 11 overall. It’s between CeeDee Lamb and Jerry Jeudy to be the top wide receiver off the board, but recent buzz has had Lamb higher.

12. Las Vegas Raiders – WR Jerry Jeudy (Alabama)

The Jets take a wide receiver one pick earlier and now the Raiders follow suit by taking Jerry Jeudy. The Raiders added Antonio Brown for a reason last off-season and, while that didn’t work out, they definitely could have used his help opposite Tyrell Williams and still have a big need at that position after only taking a flier on Nelson Agholor in free agency this off-season. The Raiders found a steal with slot receiver Hunter Renfrow in the 5th round of the draft last year. Now they find an outside receiver.

13. Miami Dolphins (TRADE) – OT Jedrick Wills (Alabama)

The 49ers have a pair of first rounders after acquiring this pick from the Colts for DeForest Buckner, but they somehow don’t pick again until the 5th round, so they’ll almost definitely be looking to move down from one of their two first rounders in order to accumulate more picks. The Dolphins have already moved up to secure their quarterback, but they have so much draft capital that they can afford to move up again. They desperately need a left tackle to protect whoever their quarterback ends up being and it’s unlikely that one of the top-4 guys will still be there at 18. To make this move up, the Dolphins send the 49ers their 3rd and 4th round picks and the 49ers send back one of their three 5th rounders to the Dolphins.

14. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – OT Mekhi Becton (Louisville)

The Buccaneers landed Tom Brady and now will have to make sure they protect the soon-to-be 43-year-old. Right tackle is still a glaring hole with long-term veteran starter Demar Dotson still unsigned ahead of his age 35 season, so the Buccaneers may be planning on filling this hole early in the draft with one of the top tackle prospects.

15. Denver Broncos – WR Henry Ruggs (Alabama)

This draft class lacks a clear elite wide receiver prospect as it’s unlikely any wide receivers go before the 10th pick, but there could be as many as 7 wide receivers that go in the first round in total. The Broncos could easily be one of the teams that takes a wide receiver, as they don’t have much at the wide receiver position behind Courtland Sutton after trading away Emmanuel Sanders mid-season and not addressing this position in free agency.

16. Jacksonville Jaguars (TRADE) – DE K’Lavon Chaisson (LSU)

The Cardinals got this pick in their trade down with the Falcons, but they’re not done making moves. They have a young franchise quarterback on a cheap rookie deal and, as we’ve seen teams in that situation do in the past, they could be very aggressive about maximizing their chances of winning while their quarterback is still cheap. They’ve already added DeAndre Hopkins via trade, but they still have a projected 80 million in cap space for 2021, and could add another veteran like disgruntled Jaguars franchise player Yannick Ngakoue.

The Jaguars are currently looking for a first round pick and more for Ngakoue, but no one has offered them even a first round pick, so they may have to get creative with trade proposals for a player who clearly wants out. In this scenario, Jacksonville wouldn’t get the 16th pick straight up from the Cardinals, but they’d get the second rounder that the Cardinals got from the Falcons (47th) and a swap of the 20th pick and the 16th pick. 

In this trade, Ngakoue would be valued as equivalent to the 33rd overall pick on the trade value chart, which might be the most the Jaguars could hope for, and the Jaguars would have the ability to move up and grab a replacement for Ngakoue in K’Lavon Chaisson, who likely wouldn’t have been available at 20 (the Cowboys at 17 are known to like him). The Jaguars have now added a top cornerback prospect, a top edge rusher prospect, and still have another 2 picks in the top-50, their own second rounder and the Falcons’ second rounder.

17. Dallas Cowboys – WR Justin Jefferson (LSU)

The Cowboys get jumped for the defensive end they likely would have taken, so they address another need. The Cowboys had one of the most explosive passing games in the league last season, but without Randall Cobb, who signed with the Texans in free agency, they lack a good 3rd receiving option. The Cowboys should look to add a 3rd receiver or a pass catching tight end early in the draft to fill that need and with the wide receiver class being deeper than the tight end class I suspect they’d go that route early. Taking Jefferson here also has the added benefit of keeping him away from the division rival Eagles, who are known to be high on him.

18. San Francisco 49ers (TRADE) – DT Javon Kinlaw (Mississippi)

The 49ers trade down with the Dolphins and are still able to address their biggest need with a player who would have been in consideration at 13, so their trade worked out well. With DeForest Bucker being sent to the Colts in order to get that 13th pick in the first place, the 49ers are very thin at defensive tackle, so they will be happy if they can get a blue chip defensive tackle prospect from that pick and replenish later picks at the same time.

19. Las Vegas Raiders – CB AJ Terrell (Clemson)

The Raiders have added some nice young pieces on defense in the past couple drafts, but need to keep building their defense, especially the back seven. The Raiders are very thin at cornerback, so a highly drafted rookie can start for them from week 1. Their first pick at 12 is probably too high for a cornerback unless Okudah or Henderson fall, but cornerback is a strong possibility at 19.

20. Arizona Cardinals (TRADE) – OT Josh Jones (Houston)

The Cardinals trade down twice and, through a couple trades, essentially get the franchise tagged Yannick Ngakoue for doing so. Ngakoue won’t be cheap to keep long-term, but the Cardinals have an inexpensive franchise quarterback and the financial flexibility long-term to make an aggressive move like that to try to make a big leap as a team in Kyler Murray’s second season in the league. In addition to the cost of Ngakoue’s contract, the Cardinals miss out on one of the top-4 tackle prospects in this draft, but there’s enough depth at the position for the Cardinals to still find a needed upgrade at right tackle later in the first round.

21. Philadelphia Eagles – WR Denzel Mims (Baylor)

Wide receiver was a major problem for the Eagles in 2019. They should get more from 2019 2nd round pick JJ Arcega-Whiteside and Alshon Jeffery and DeSean Jackson should hopefully be healthier next season, but they still need to address this position through the draft. Jeffery and Jackson are both injury prone and will be in their 30s next year with big salaries, so their days with the team may be numbered and they need insurance for them in the short-term.

22. Minnesota Vikings – DE Yetur Gross-Matos (Penn State)

The Vikings got this pick from the Bills for Stefon Diggs. It’s a trade that makes sense for both sides. The Bills are in win now mode and need a legitimate #1 receiver like Diggs, while the Vikings are tight on cap space and are a run heavy team that doesn’t need to commit significant money to their quarterback and top-2 wide receivers. The move leaves the Vikings thin at wide receiver, but this is a deep wide receiver class and the Vikings have three picks in the first 2 rounds, so they don’t need to find a replacement for Diggs right away. Instead, they use this pick to replace Everson Griffen and fill a big need at defensive end.

23. New England Patriots – MLB Kenneth Murray (Oklahoma)

This could be a spot for a quarterback, but the Patriots seem to at least somewhat like Jarrett Stidham as a developmental prospect, so it makes more sense that the Patriots would add a veteran stopgap in free agency rather than using a high draft pick on a quarterback. Lost in the story of Brady’s departure from New England is the story of all of the Patriots losses at linebacker, with Jamie Collins, Kyle Van Noy, and Elandon Roberts signing elsewhere this off-season. The linebacker position should be a priority on draft day.

24. New Orleans Saints – QB Jordan Love (Utah State)

The Saints clearly value Taysom Hill, giving him a first round tender this off-season, but even the first round tender is only worth 4.641 million, so that’s not necessarily a sign that they view him as a quarterback of the future. His salary is more than justifiable by his role as a “gadget” player and special teamer and it’s telling that when Drew Brees was hurt last year the Saints turned to a traditional quarterback Teddy Bridgewater and actually scaled Hill’s usage down significantly. If they don’t view Hill, who is already going into his age 30 season, as a long-term quarterback option, they may add one through the draft this year. We know the Saints were interested in taking Patrick Mahomes a few years ago before the Chiefs moved up ahead of them and took him. Jordan Love has drawn some comparisons to Mahomes as a prospect. He enters the league very raw, but would benefit from sitting a year or two on the bench behind Brees.

25. Minnesota Vikings – CB Jeff Gladney (TCU)

The Vikings have had a history of taking defensive backs early, even when they don’t need to, taking Xavier Rhodes in the first round in 2013, Trae Waynes in the first round in 2015, Mackenzie Alexander in the second round in 2016, and Mike Hughes in the first round in 2018. This off-season, they need to, so it would make sense that the Vikings would take another cornerback early. Waynes and Alexander both left as free agents this off-season, while Rhodes was a cap casualty after two down seasons. Hughes is still on his rookie deal, but has had an injury plagued two years in the league thus far. Even if he pans out, they still need a long-term starter opposite him.

26. Miami Dolphins – S Xavier McKinney (Alabama)

The Dolphins got this pick from the Texans for Laremy Tunsil, but one of their extra first round picks comes from their trade of Minkah Fitzpatrick to the Steelers, a trade the Dolphins never really wanted to have to make, and a trade the Dolphins seemed to regret after Fitzpatrick broke out with the Steelers. Without Fitzpatrick, the Dolphins lack an impact making safety, so it wouldn’t be a surprise if they used one of their later two first round picks on the position.

27. Green Bay Packers (TRADE) – MLB Patrick Queen (LSU)

It wouldn’t be a trades mock draft if I didn’t include the Seahawks moving down. Somehow, the Seahawks have not drafted at their original pick in the first round since 2012 and over that stretch have selected just three times total in the first round, with one of those first rounders coming from the Chiefs in the Frank Clark trade. Expect them to trade down and accumulate more picks, possibly trading down more than once as they’ve done several times in recent years. The Packers moving up here to leap the Ravens for Patrick Queen makes sense. Both the Packers and Ravens desperately need middle linebacker help and the middle linebacker class drops off significantly after Murray and Queen.

28. Baltimore Ravens – G Cesar Ruiz (Michigan)

The Ravens miss out on the middle linebacker they likely would have been targeting here, so they address another need instead. Losing right guard Marshal Yanda to retirement is a huge blow because he was still playing at a high level in 2019. Look for them to replace him early in the draft. Ruiz is the consensus top interior offensive lineman in this draft and is on the 1st/2nd round border, possibly being pushed up into the first out of positional need in a thin guard class.

29. Tennessee Titans – OLB Zack Baun (Wisconsin)

The Titans need to improve their pass rush, with only one player on the roster having more than 5 sacks last season. Harold Landry, their 2018 2nd round pick, led the way with 9, but they need a long-term option opposite him. They signed Vic Beasley in free agency, but only on a one-year deal and he’s been highly inconsistent in the past. Even if he has a strong season in 2020, the Titans will likely still need a long-term option because Beasley could price himself out of the Titans’ range with a bounce back 2020 campaign.

30. Seattle Seahawks (TRADE) – DT Ross Blacklock (TCU)

The Seahawks re-signed Jarran Reed, but they lost Quinton Jefferson and Al Woods, leaving them thin at the defensive tackle position. The Seahawks could target that position after trading down. Blacklock would also make sense as their pick at 27 if they have to stay put.

31. San Francisco 49ers – OT Austin Jackson (USC)

The 49ers need a long-term replacement for Joe Staley, who is going into his age 36 season. Jackson can start his career at right guard, where he could be an immediate starter, and would be a long-term bookend for Mike McGlinchey whenever Staley is no longer around.

32. Kansas City Chiefs – RB Jonathan Taylor (Wisconsin)

Damien Williams scores a lot of touchdowns in the playoffs, but he mostly just picks up what’s blocked on probably the easiest offense in the league to run on, given how much defenses have to respect the pass. The Chiefs have lacked an explosive back since getting rid of Kareem Hunt and could target one of the top backs in this draft class at the end of the first round. Jonathan Taylor could add another dimension to an already deadly offense.

2020 Franchise and Transition Tag Candidates

The franchise/transition tag period for the 2020 off-season starts this Thursday February 27th and goes through March 12th. After the 12th, all non-tagged players with expiring contracts will hit the open market. Those dates were both moved forward by two days with the NFL and NFLPA still trying to negotiate a new CBA ahead of the new league year. Those negotiations complicate this situation in a couple ways. On one hand, if a new CBA is agreed to, the franchise tag and transition tag values could be drastically changed from their current projections. On the other hand, without a new deal, teams will have access to both the franchise tag and the transition tag this off-season, making life much easier for teams with multiple top free agents. There’s a much larger pool than usual of top free agents who could be tagged this off-season, even with top free agents Tom Brady, Drew Brees, and Jadeveon Clowney all ineligible for the tag for different reasons. Below is a list in order of descending likelihood of candidates to be tagged without a long-term deal. 

QB Dak Prescott (Dallas)

This seems like the most no brainer franchise tag candidate, assuming a long-term deal isn’t worked out beforehand. The Cowboys might not be quite willing to meet Prescott’s 40 million dollar annual salary ask, but they’re unlikely to let him hit the open market without any compensation and the projected 26.895 million dollar franchise tag is a much easier number for the Cowboys to keep him at. Prescott is also unlikely to sign the tag right away, meaning the Cowboys could still pursue other quarterback options like Tom Brady this off-season and eventually trade Prescott at some point. 

DE Yannick Ngakoue (Jacksonville)

Not much remains of the dominant defense the Jaguars had in 2017 that carried them to the AFC Championship game, but Ngakoue was still a bright spot in an otherwise disappointing season for the Jaguars in 2019. He had 8 sacks and another 10 hits on the quarterback, giving him 37.5 sacks and 55 hits in 63 games for his career, along with a 12.0% pressure rate. His play against the run leaves something to be desired, but guys who can get to the quarterback as consistently as he does are guys you can build your defense around and those guys get paid on the open market. 

The Jaguars’ cap is clogged with big contracts, but they can move on from underperforming veterans to clear space for Ngakoue, who was severely underpaid in the final year of his rookie deal in 2019, making 2.025 million. The 2016 3rd round pick is only going into his age 25 season and is someone the Jaguars should want around for a long time. If he does end up leaving the Jaguars, I imagine it would only be in a tag and trade situation, as the Jaguars are unlikely to let him walk for nothing.

The only complication here is that while the defensive end franchise tag is worth 19.316 million, Ngakoue would likely get upwards of 20+ million annually with 50+ million guaranteed on the open market and may not be happy about being tagged. The Jaguars could have to agree to a long-term deal with him or work out a trade quickly to prevent it from becoming a problem, but that certainly beats the alternative of losing him outright.

DE Shaq Barrett (Tampa Bay)

Shaq Barrett is a player who the franchise tag seems tailor made for. After just 14 sacks in 4 seasons with the Broncos, Barrett led the NFL with 19.5 sacks this season after signing a one-year deal with the Buccaneers last off-season. Barrett played better than his sack total suggested in Denver, as he was a strong run defender who always flashed in limited pass rush opportunities behind the likes of Von Miller, DeMarcus Ware, and Bradley Chubb, with a 12.1% pressure rate in the first 4 seasons of his career, but the Buccaneers only signed him for 4 million last off-season and might not want to commit to him on a big money deal long-term just yet. Likewise, Barrett might not mind the one-year, 16.266 million dollar payday with an opportunity to break the bank next off-season with another strong season in Todd Bowles’ system. For that reason, the franchise tag makes a lot more sense than the transition tag for both sides.

DT Chris Jones (Kansas City)

Pat Mahomes was obviously going to win Super Bowl MVP for his efforts in leading the team back, but he was also pretty underwhelming for the first three quarters of the game and threw a pair of interceptions, so some felt that Chris Jones should be MVP instead for his 4th quarter disruptions of Jimmy Garoppolo. Jones didn’t just have a strong Super Bowl either, as the 2016 2nd round pick has finished in the top-8 among interior defenders on PFF in each of the past 3 seasons, while totalling 31 sacks, 33 hits, and a 12.3% pressure rate over that time. His play against the run leaves something to be desired, but as a pass rusher he’s been more productive than any interior player other than Aaron Donald and more productive than most edge players for that matter. Those guys usually get paid and the Chiefs are unlikely to let him hit the open market.

Whether or not Jones ultimately gets paid by the Chiefs is the question though. The Chiefs already have 12 million or more annually committed to 5 players on their roster and 8 million or more annually committed to 9 players on their roster. Those 9 players currently occupy about 61% of their cap space and that’s before the inevitable Pat Mahomes megadeal. The Chiefs might not be able to afford the 9 figure deal Jones would likely command on the open market. They could franchise tag him and bring him back on a one-year deal, but this could also be a tag and trade situation like the Chiefs did with Dee Ford last off-season. The tag and trade scenario would not work as well with the transition tag, so I wouldn’t expect the Chiefs to go with the cheaper option.

S Justin Simmons (Denver)

Simmons seems like a likely franchise tag candidate. A 3rd round pick in 2016, Simmons was a solid starter prior to 2019 (32 starts in his first 3 seasons in the league), but broke out in a big way in the final year of his rookie deal last season, finishing 1st among safeties on PFF. The Broncos might not want to commit to a top of market deal based off of one dominant season, but he’s more than earned the 12.735 million dollar franchise tag and is not someone the Broncos would want to lose. The transition tag, which could force the Broncos to make a long-term commitment this off-season, probably isn’t an option.

QB Ryan Tannehill (Tennessee)

At first glance, Tannehill might seem like an obvious franchise tag candidate. He took over a 2-4 team last season and led them to 7 wins in their final 10 games to qualify for the post-season, where they won a pair of games on the road in big upsets and advanced to the AFC Championship game. In the process, he led the NFL with a 117.5 QB rating. He had a good situation around him with a strong running game and offensive line and a capable receiving corps, but he’s still not the kind of player the Titans would want to lose. However, his performance in 88 starts with the Dolphins in his first 7 seasons of his career (87.0 QB rating) suggest he’s unlikely to have suddenly become an elite quarterback, so committing to him on a big money, long-term deal is risky. 

The 26.895 million dollar franchise tag seems like a great middle ground option, but there are some complicating factors. For one, the Titans are rumored to be interested in trying to sign Tom Brady this off-season, but won’t be able to talk to him until they’ve made a decision on tagging Tannehill or not. The Titans could tag him and try to negotiate with Brady anyway, but Tannehill could end up opting to sign the tender to keep his job on a contending team. The 26.895 million dollar franchise tag is a steep increase for a quarterback who took home just 10.425 million last season. 

On top of that, the Titans also want to keep running back Derrick Henry off the open market and if a new CBA is ratified soon, the Titans wouldn’t have the option of both the franchise tag and the transition tag and would have to make a decision between Tannehill and Henry. I’d still expect Tannehill to be tagged as, even though this could be a big off-season for quarterback movement, the Titans still don’t want to be left without a chair at the end of it, but it’s not a given, especially if a new CBA is agreed to and/or the Titans get a sense they might get Brady.

OLB Matthew Judon (Baltimore)

Judon has never had a double digit sack season in his career, but he was still a dominant pass rusher in 2019, with 9.5 sacks, 24 hits, and a 14.1% pressure rate. He has his struggles against the run and his 38th ranked finish overall among edge defenders on PFF in 2019 was his career best, so he’s not an elite overall player, but he’s also not the kind of player the Ravens want to lose because of his pass rush productivity (12.2% pressure rate in his career). Working in the Ravens’ favor is the fact that Judon would be tagged as a linebacker (16.266 million) rather than a defensive end (19.316 million) because the Ravens run a 3-4 and the NFL uses archaic position titles for the franchise tag. 

WR AJ Green (Cincinnati)

It’s clear that AJ Green would prefer not to be franchise tagged, but he wouldn’t have much of a say in the matter. His only option would be to hold out the season and try to force a trade by doing so, but I don’t think Green would risk missing the season now at age 32 after missing all of last season with injury. The Bengals have never committed to top market long-term deals with players at any position and Green, despite being arguably their best player in the past decade, is unlikely to be an exception given his age and injury history. 

The Bengals likely view Tyler Boyd, who they extended on a 4-year, 43 million dollar deal, as their long-term #1, but Green can still be a difference maker when he’s on the field, and the Bengals may want to bring him back to help with likely #1 pick Joe Burrow’s development. They may view the franchise tag as a bridge to a short-term team friendly deal as the best way to proceed with Green this off-season even if that doesn’t seem to be what Green himself wants, as he’d like to try to sign a guaranteed long-term deal with a legitimate contender this off-season. The transition tag, which would force the Bengals to match a long-term deal or lose Green for no compensation, is unlikely to be an option.

OT Anthony Castonzo (Indianapolis)

There are rumors Castonzo is considering retiring ahead of what would be his age 32 season, so this is obviously assuming he wants to continue playing. If he does, the Colts will likely want to retain a left tackle who has been rock solid for them since being drafted in the first round in 2011 and still played at a high level in 2019, even being on the older side. He’s started 132 games in 9 seasons in the league, finishing in the top-23 among offensive tackles in all but his rookie season, including 3 seasons in the top-8 and a 7th ranked finish in 2019. Castonzo likely wouldn’t command a 4+ year deal in free agency, so the Colts could use either tag on him and work on a short-term extension that pays him near the top of the left tackle market for another couple seasons. They have plenty of cap space and wouldn’t want to break up a strong offensive line.

DE Arik Armstead (San Francisco)

Armstead is a good fit for the franchise tag. A first round pick in 2015, Armstead was a good run stopping defensive end with solid peripheral pass rush stats through his first 4 seasons in the league (12.3% pressure rate), but missed 18 games with injury, averaged just 406 snaps per season, and totalled a combined 9 sacks. That all changed in the final year of his rookie deal, when he broke out with 10 sacks, while adding 9 hits, and a pressure rate of 12.5%, while continuing to play the run well and playing 776 snaps overall. Overall, he finished as PFF’s 4th ranked edge defender on the season. 

The 49ers don’t want to lose someone like that with their Super Bowl window still wide open, but it would be risky to give him a big long-term deal with a lot of guaranteed money because he’s only put it all together once. Armstead also hasn’t objected to questions about the franchise tag, likely understanding that the 19.316 million it would pay him next season is still a significant sum for one year for a player who had 9 career sacks a season ago and understanding that if he has another strong year he’d likely break the bank in free agency next off-season. The transition tag is less likely because he’d probably get an offer, forcing the 49ers to decide whether or not to commit to a long-term deal with him.

DE Leonard Williams (NY Giants)

Williams was the 6th overall pick by the Jets in 2015 and overall lived up to expectations. He never posted huge sack numbers, but he was consistently a strong run stuffer and had good peripheral pass rush stats as well, adding 70 hits and a 9.7% pressure rate to his 17 sacks in 71 games with the Jets. He maxed out as PFF’s 10th ranked interior defender in 2016 and has finished in the top-28 three times. Williams made it no secret about the kind of long-term deal he’s looking for this off-season though and, as a result, the Jets traded Williams in the middle of what was an overall down year for him to the Giants for a 3rd and 5th round draft pick to recoup something for a player they weren’t expecting to bring back. 

Even after he finished last season 42nd among interior defenders on PFF, the Giants still seem to value him highly and likely didn’t trade significant draft picks for him to see him walk in free agency. Still only going into his age 26 season, Williams has obvious bounce back potential for 2020 and beyond and is likely to be tagged by the Giants with the idea of working out a long-term agreement with him. They view him as a long-term building block. 

WR Amari Cooper (Dallas)

Cooper’s situation is complicated by Dak Prescott also being a pending free agent, but the Cowboys are unlikely to let Cooper walk for nothing, after using a first round pick to acquire him just a season and a half ago. Assuming the Cowboys get use of both tags, Cooper would be an obvious candidate for the transition tag, as the Cowboys would likely match any deal he’d get on the open market. He’s averaged a 84/1225/9 slash line per 16 games in 25 games with the team and could be looking at 18-20 million annually on a long-term deal, still only going into his age 26 season.

RB Derrick Henry (Tennessee)

Henry would be a no-brainer franchise tag candidate if Tannehill wasn’t also a pending free agency. Instead, the Titans will have to hope there isn’t a new CBA and that they’ll have use of both their franchise tag and transition tag. With Tannehill likely to be franchised, Henry would be an obvious candidate for the transition tag. The 10.189 million dollar transition tag is still a steep sum for a running back, but Henry is incredibly important to the Titans’ offense and it’s likely they value him higher than any other team would and, as a result, would match any long-term deal he gets on the open market. Even after his rushing title and dominant post-season performance last season, Henry still might not reach the Todd Gurley/Ezekiel Elliott tier of running back contracts because of his limitations on passing downs. 

G Brandon Scherff (Washington)

Not much has gone right for the Redskins over the past few seasons, but the selection of Brandon Scherff 5th overall in 2015 has been one of the bright spots and, as such, the Redskins are unlikely to let one of their few true building blocks leave this off-season. Injuries are a minor concern as he’s missed 15 games in the past 3 seasons, but he’s also finished in the top-27 among guards on PFF in all 5 seasons in the league, including top-7 finishes in 2017 and 2019. Expect the Redskins to give him one of the two tags with the idea of buying them more time to sign him to a long-term deal. 

CB James Bradberry (Carolina)

The Panthers’ top cornerback, Bradberry is rumored to be looking for offers of about 14-15 million annually in free agency this off-season. The Panthers have plenty of cap space and could keep him with the 16.471 million dollar franchise tag or the 14.57 million dollar transition tag. Bradberry regularly matches up with top wide receivers, but he has had trouble holding his own, finishing in the top-15 among cornerbacks in yards allowed in each of the past 3 seasons, including 2 seasons in the top-7. Still, he’s only going into his age 26 season and the Panthers may project him as a better player going forward than he’s been in the past.

S Anthony Harris (Minnesota)

Harris wasn’t even drafted back in 2015, but the former special teamer has been a revelation as a starter for the Vikings at safety over the past season and a half. After playing 621 career defensive snaps through week 7 of his 4th season in the league in 2018, Harris took over as the starter in week 8 and has been one of the best safeties in the league since, finishing 5th among safeties on PFF in 9 starts in 2018 and then 2nd as a 15-game starter in 2019. 

Harris has been a late bloomer, but he’s only going into his age 29 season and should command a top of the market deal in free agency. The Vikings don’t want to lose him, but will need to let other players go and get creative with the cap to tag him. With so much long-term money tied up in other places and another top level safety on the team in Harrison Smith, this could ultimately be a tag and trade scenario.

TE Hunter Henry (LA Chargers)

Henry has missed 23 games in 4 seasons in the league since the Chargers took him in the 2nd round in 2016, but he’s averaged a 53/667/7 slash line per 16 games, despite spending his first two seasons as a part-time player behind Antonio Gates on the depth chart. Last season was his first full season as a starter and, though he missed 4 games with injury, he ranked 9th in the NFL in receiving yards by a tight end and was on a 869-yard pace per 16 games. Throughout his career, he’s averaged an impressive 8.85 yards per target in his career and he is also an above average blocker to boot. 

Signing Henry to a big long-term deal may be a risk, but he doesn’t turn 26 until December and there is plenty of evidence that Henry could have a monster season if he can ever put it all together for a 16-game stretch and that’s probably not the kind of player the Chargers want to lose, especially with franchise star Philip Rivers likely on his way out this off-season. I’d say there’s a better chance than not that the Chargers tag him, with the franchise tag making more sense than the transition tag because the Chargers wouldn’t have to worry about making a decision on whether or not to match.

OLB Dante Fowler (LA Rams)

Fowler has had an interesting career. Drafted 3rd overall in 2015 by the Jaguars, Fowler tore his ACL at his first practice as a professional, missed his whole rookie season, and had lost his starting job by his return, playing just 30.7 snaps per game in 39 games for the Jaguars before they traded him to the Rams for a 3rd and 5th round pick in the middle of the 2018 season. Fowler had shown promise as a pass rusher in limited action with the Jaguars, with a 10.6% pressure rate, but was underwhelming in his half season with the Rams, with 2 sacks, 5 hits, and 16 hurries on 256 pass rush snaps. Fowler hit free agency last off-season because the Jaguars had declined his 5th year option, but the Rams were willing to bring him back on a one-year, 12 million dollar deal and were rewarded with Fowler breaking out with a 11.5-sack season. 

With Fowler still only going into his age 26 season, he figures to secure a big deal in free agency this off-season. Fowler’s peripheral pass rush stats, 6 hits and a 13.2% pressure rate, weren’t as good as his sack total and he finished just 35th overall among edge defenders on PFF, so the cap strapped Rams might not see bringing him back as a necessity, but they could still tag him to keep him off the open market because the 16.266 million dollar franchise tag and the 14.08 million dollar transition tag are likely both less than he’d get annually in free agency.

DT DJ Reader (Houston)

The 6-3 346 pound Reader isn’t just a big run stuffer, although he is one of the better run stuffing base package nose tackles in the league. What could make him worth the 12.321 million dollar transition tag or even the 15.5 million dollar franchise tag is his ability to stay on the field for all 3 downs, playing 60.6% of the snaps over the past 2 seasons. He had just 2.5 sacks last season, but added 11 hits and a 9.9% pressure rate and he has a 8.4% pressure rate for his career. The 2016 5th round pick has gotten better every season in the league and finished last year as PFF’s 5th ranked interior defender overall. Big run stuffers like him that also contribute on passing downs are rare.

OLB Bud Dupree (Pittsburgh)

Dupree’s 11.5 sacks in 2019 suggest he’s someone the Steelers wouldn’t want to lose, but they are tight on cap space and Dupree has some obvious downsides. The former first round pick never topped 6 sacks in a season before his contract year in 2019 and even in 2019 he had just a 9.5% pressure rate and several of his sacks were the result of playing on an overall strong defense with a dominant edge rusher in TJ Watt on the opposite side. He was just PFF’s 25th ranked edge defender, still a career best, and has just a 9.3% pressure rate for his career, so he could be an overpay on a big long-term deal.

Tagging Dupree and making him repeat his big sack total to get a long-term deal would make a lot more sense than committing to him long-term this off-season, but the 16.266 million dollar linebacker tag could be too big of a cap hold for a #2 edge defender for a Steelers team that is short on cap space already and needs to figure out a long-term deal for TJ Watt sometime soon. The most likely scenario in which he returns to the Steelers in 2020 may be one where he returns on a team friendly deal long-term deal after not finding the market he expects in free agency. On a long-term deal, the Steelers could lower his cap hit for 2020 and keep kicking the can on their cap problems. For that reason, the transition tag might make the most sense of all. 

OT Jack Conklin (Tennessee)

Conklin’s situation is complicated by the Titans also having Ryan Tannehill and Derrick Henry, as well as to a lesser extent cornerback Logan Ryan, set to hit the open market without a tag. The Titans can use both tags if a new CBA isn’t agreed to before free agency, but the Titans wouldn’t be able to keep all of their top free agents off the open market without signing some long-term deals. Unless Tannehill or Henry sign a long-term deal before free agency, they’re likely to take precedence over Conklin for the tags.

That being said, if either of those two players does re-sign long-term before free agency and the Titans have the transition tag available, Conklin would become an obvious choice, even above the 29-year old Ryan. The 26-year old Conklin is very much in the prime of his career and is only hitting free agency because the Titans Jon Robinson led front office made a rare mistake last off-season in declining Conklin’s 5th year option over concerns about the health of his knee. 

That 5th year option would have had Conklin under contract for 12.86 million in 2020. The transition tag instead would cost the Titans 14.666 million. After Conklin finished last season as PFF’s 12th ranked offensive tackle, the long-term deal the Titans are likely to have to match will probably exceed both of those totals annually with significant upfront guarantees. Injury concerns appear to be a non-factor with Conklin having never missed a game aside from the 7 he missed in 2018 while recovering from his January 2018 torn ACL. 

CB Byron Jones (Dallas)

Jones is a distant 3rd on the Cowboys’ free agent priority list behind Prescott and Cooper, but if one of those two gets signed long-term and both the franchise tag and transition tag are available to the Cowboys this off-season, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Jones get the transition tag. Even then, the Cowboys might not match a long-term deal he gets elsewhere as he’s likely to get paid at the top of the cornerback market and the Cowboys have other financial obligations and promising young cornerbacks behind Jones on the depth chart, but the Cowboys will likely at least try to keep a cornerback who has finished 7th and 15th among cornerbacks on PFF in the past 2 seasons respectively.

S Devin McCourty (New England)

I don’t know if McCourty would get the 12.735 million dollar franchise tag for his age 33 season in 2020, but the 10.801 million dollar transition tag could be an option. McCourty was still PFF’s 11th ranked safety last season for one of the best defenses in the league, so that wouldn’t be an unreasonable amount for him to get on a one-year deal and it would give the Patriots the right to match if McCourty were to try to sign elsewhere. McCourty probably would prefer to stay in New England, so he may give the Patriots the right to match regardless, but it wouldn’t surprise me to see the Patriots keep such an important player off the open market entirely.

CB Chris Harris (Denver)

Harris is a veteran who is likely to want to test the open market over being tagged, given that he’s running out of chances to sign big money deals with legitimate contenders, now going into his age 31 off-season. Harris definitely took a step back last season, finishing 35th among cornerbacks on PFF, after finishing in the top-18 in 8 straight seasons prior to last season, but there’s still an argument to be made for bringing Harris back on the 14.57 million dollar transition tag and seeing what his market is. Harris is still the Broncos’ best cornerback and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him bounce back in 2020. A long-term deal with significant guarantees might not be the best idea, but he could easily have another couple strong seasons left in the tank. As of right now, it looks like the Broncos are willing to let Harris test the market without a tag, but that could change.

TE Austin Hooper (Atlanta)

Hooper is much less likely to be tagged than fellow top free agent tight end Hunter Henry, but that’s primarily because the Falcons don’t have much cap flexibility and already have made significant investments on offense. Still, Hooper is the safer choice between the two tight ends, as his receiving totals in the past 2 seasons have both topped Henry’s career best mark and he’s also only missed 5 games in 4 seasons in the league, while Henry has missed 23, though Henry is the better blocker and more efficient pass catcher on a per target basis. Hooper is still a solid blocker though, making him one of the few tight ends in the league who can be mismatches in the passing game and hold their own in the run game. He’ll get paid by someone this off-season and the Falcons attempting a tag and trade wouldn’t be a shock.

S Jimmie Ward (San Francisco)

Much like fellow former 49ers first round pick Arik Armstead, Ward has had injury issues throughout much of his career and finally put it all together in 2019. A first round pick in 2014, Ward missed 29 games in the first 5 seasons of his career and had to settle for a 1-year, 4.5 million dollar deal to return to the 49ers last off-season. That contract started out with more of the same, with Ward missing the first 3 games of the season, but he returned to play the rest of the way and finished 8th among safeties on PFF. His previous best finish was 28th, so he’s the definition of a one-year wonder and his injury history is obviously concerning, but I would expect the 49ers to at least consider tagging him, even though it’s likely unrealistic given their cap situation to keep both Armstead and Ward on big contracts long-term.

MLB Cory Littleton (LA Rams)

Originally undrafted in 2016, Littleton has worked his way up from a special teamer in his first two seasons to a starter in 2018 and, after a solid first season as a starter, Littleton took his game to another level in 2019, finishing 6th among off ball linebackers on PFF. He has a few things working against his chances of getting tagged though. For one, the Rams are tight on cap space. Two, the linebacker tag value is inflated because of 3-4 edge rushing linebackers, so Littleton would cost 16.266 million on the franchise tag and 14.08 million on the transition tag, which would rank 3rd and 5th annually among non-rush linebackers. Three, the Rams also have rush linebacker Dante Fowler set to hit free agency and may prefer to tag him instead, if they end up keeping either one.

RB Kenyan Drake (Arizona)

The idea of Drake being tagged would have seemed ridiculous a few months ago when the Cardinals acquired him from the Dolphins at the trade deadline for just a 6th round pick, but Drake turned what was supposed to be a temporary stint as the starter with David Johnson and Chase Edmonds hurt into a full-time gig, rushing for 643 yards and 8 touchdowns on 123 carries (5.23 YPC) in 8 games, while adding 28 catches for 171 yards through the air. 

Johnson still has 5.1 million guaranteed on his contract for 2020 and the Cardinals would lose cap space if they cut him, but they could trade him, though they’d likely have to get creative with the deal structure and eat salary in that scenario. Reportedly, they’d be doing that with the idea of tagging Drake and keeping him long-term. It might not be likely, but Drake is a perfect fit for the Cardinals’ wide open offense with his ability to make plays in space and run over defenses that are lined up to defend the pass. 

Drake never posted big numbers in Miami, but he averaged 4.60 yards per carry on 333 carries running behind an awful offensive line, while breaking 67 tackles and averaging 3.29 yards per carry after contact. The one downside is he’s never had more than 170 carries in a season even dating back to high school, so he hasn’t proven he can hold up as a feature back for a full season yet, but he also has fresh legs going into his age 26 season with 456 career carries. Drake could be a candidate for the transition tag as well as the Cardinals likely value him more than any other team would and would match any long-term deal he signs. Johnson’s presence on a big salary obviously complicates things though.

2019 NFL All-Breakout Team

Every year young players breakout and make the Pro-Bowl and even the All-Pro team for the first time. This list is the most likely player by position to do so in 2019. All players on this team are in their third year in the league or less and have never made a Pro-Bowl or All-Pro team.

Quarterback Baker Mayfield (Cleveland)

Drafted first overall in the 2018 NFL Draft by a previously winless Browns team, Baker Mayfield’s career got off to an underwhelming start. He led a week 3 comeback in relief of an injured Tyrod Taylor to give the Browns their first victory in almost two years, but then went 1-4 in his next 5 starts. Through week 8 he had completed just 58.3% of his passes for an average of 6.60 YPA, 8 touchdowns, and 6 interceptions. 

That changed when head coach Hue Jackson and offensive coordinator Todd Haley were fired before week 9. Mayfield flourished in new play caller Freddie Kitchens’ offense. He completed 68.4% of his passes for an average of 8.57 YPA, 19 touchdowns, and 8 interceptions and led the Browns to a 5-3 finish in 8 games without Jackson and Haley. Now with new #1 wide receiver Odell Beckham in the mix, Mayfield has sky high expectations for his second season in the league. He’s still inexperienced and a sophomore slump is still a possibility, but Mayfield is clearly a potential Pro-Bowler in 2019. 

Running Back Christian McCaffrey (Carolina)

It might seem strange to have Christian McCaffrey on a breakout players list, but he technically meets the requirements after getting snubbed for the Pro-Bowl in 2018, which knocks a very deserving Nick Chubb from this list. The 2017 8th overall pick, McCaffrey had a 219/1098/7 slash line as a runner and a 107/867/6 slash line as a receiver last season. His 5.01 YPC average was highest among running backs with at least 200 carries and he caught 86.3% of targets thrown his way without a single drop. Perhaps most impressively, McCaffrey played every single snap in 8 games and played 96.9% of the snaps through week 16, before resting in a meaningless week 17 game. If he has a similar season in 2019, hopefully he won’t be snubbed again. 

Wide receiver Cooper Kupp (LA Rams)

A third round pick in 2017, Kupp looked on his way to making his first Pro-Bowl last season, with 30 catches for 438 yards and 5 touchdowns through 5 games (96/1402/16 extrapolated over 16 games), but he suffered a knee injury week 6 and then ended up tearing his ACL a few weeks later, ending his season. The injury complicates things, but if he can return close to full strength, Kupp could easily have Pro-Bowl level production. 

One thing that may prevent him from that could be his own teammates, as Robert Woods and Brandin Cooks both topped 1000 yards in 2018. Kupp has been quarterback Jared Goff’s most reliable receiver over the past 2 seasons though, completing 68.0% of his 150 targets to Kupp for 1,435 yards, 11 touchdowns, and just 2 interceptions, a 117.5 QB rating. The Rams run three wide receiver sets so frequently that slot receiver is an every down position in this offense, so Kupp should get plenty of targets if he’s close to his old self.

Wide receiver Chris Godwin (Tampa Bay)

The second of three wide receivers selected in the third round in 2017 to make this team, Chris Godwin hasn’t had the opportunity yet to be an every down player in a deep receiving corps, but he’s still totalled 93 catches for 1,367 yards and 8 touchdowns in 32 career games, while averaging 1.91 yards per route run. Now with DeSean Jackson and Adam Humphries both gone, Godwin will have the opportunity to be an every down player, and will line up both outside and on the slot. He could easily top 1000+ yards receiving and make his first Pro-Bowl. 

Wide receiver Kenny Golladay (Detroit)

Also a 3rd round pick in 2017, Golladay was only a part-time player as a rookie, but still managed a 28/477/3 slash line, while averaging 1.66 yards per route run and 9.94 yards per target. In his second season in the league in 2018, Golladay took on a larger role and took a step forward, putting up a 70/1063/5 slash line, while averaging 1.87 yards per route run and 8.93 yards per target. Golladay is the Lions’ #1 wide receiver with Golden Tate gone and he could easily take another step forward in his third season in the league.

Tight end OJ Howard (Tampa Bay)

OJ Howard easily could have made the Pro-Bowl last season if he hadn’t gotten hurt, as his 34/565/5 slash line in 10 games extrapolates to a 54/904/8 slash line across a full 16 game season. Also a strong run blocker, Howard was PFF’s 3rd ranked tight end when he went down for the season with an ankle injury week 11 and his 2.26 yards per route run average also ranked 3rd in the NFL among tight ends. Assuming he stays healthy, the 2017 19th overall pick could easily have a Pro-Bowl caliber season in 2019. Like his teammate Chris Godwin, Howard will benefit from the Buccaneers losing DeSean Jackson and Adam Humphries this off-season. 

Left tackle Dion Dawkins (Buffalo)

Dion Dawkins looked like a future Pro-Bowler as a rookie in 2017, as the second round pick was forced into action at left tackle when long-time starter Cordy Glenn got hurt and allowed just 3 sacks and 3 hits, while committing just 4 penalties, in 11 rookie year starts. Dawkins played well enough for the Bills to trade Glenn in the off-season, but Dawkins was not nearly as good in his second season in the league, allowing 7 sacks and 2 hits, while committing 13 penalties in 16 starts. Dawkins has the potential to bounce back in his third season in the league though and could still develop into a Pro-Bowl caliber player long-term.

Left guard Will Hernandez (NY Giants)

The 34th overall pick in 2018, Will Hernandez’s rookie year was overshadowed by Quenton Nelson, who went 6th overall and made the All-Pro team as a rookie, but Hernandez looks to have a bright future as well, after finishing 22nd among guards on PFF as a rookie. At 6-2 340 pounds, Hernandez was known for his run blocking coming out of college, but he also held up in pass protection as a rookie, allowing just 5 sacks and 3 hits, while committing only 2 penalties total. With the Giants getting rid of Odell Beckham this off-season, they’ll likely try to run the ball more in 2019 and Hernandez fits the hard nosed style of football they want to play. He could easily take a step forward and earn Pro-Bowl consideration in his second season in the league.

Center James Daniels (Chicago)

Daniels primarily makes this list for lack of a better option, but the 2018 2nd round pick was considered by many to be the top center prospect in his draft class. Daniels’ 10 rookie year starts came out of position at left guard, where he held up well in pass protection (0 sacks, 3 hits), but predictably struggled to get push in the run game. His 6-3 295 frame made him one of the smallest starting guards in the league, but now he’s moving back to his natural position of center, where his lack of size will be less of an issue. A second year breakout year is certainly within the realm of possibilities. 

Right guard Chris Lindstrom (Atlanta)

Lindstrom is the only rookie on this list and, like Daniels, largely makes this list of lack of a better option. Lindstrom was selected 14th overall by the Falcons and the former tackle was one of the best pass blocking guards in college football last season. Largely expected to be a week 1 starter, a Pro-Bowl appearance might be a little much to expect him as a rookie, but he could easily develop into that kind of player long-term. 

Right tackle Ryan Ramczyk (New Orleans)

Ramczyk could have easily made the Pro-Bowl in either of his first 2 seasons in the league, as he’s been responsible for just 7 sacks, 7 hits, and 9 penalties in 31 career starts, while finishing 9th and 6th respectively among offensive tackles on PFF. Right tackles don’t always get the Pro-Bowl consideration they deserve, but Ramczyk is arguably the best right tackle in the league and could easily get stronger Pro-Bowl consideration in his 3rd season in the league.

Interior Defender Vita Vea (Tampa Bay)

The 12th overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, Vea’s career got off to a rough start when he suffered a calf strain early in training camp that kept him out through week 4. Despite that, Vea had a solid rookie year overall. The 6-4 347 pounder isn’t just a big run stuffer, with 3 sacks and a 10.2% pressure rate as a rookie. He was especially good down the stretch, after he was completely past his injury, with a 12.8% pressure rate in his final 6 games. Vea also saw his snaps per game go up to 46.8 in his final 6 games, after averaging 30.3 snaps per game in his first 7 games. If he can avoid further injury, he could easily have a breakout second season in the league.

Interior Defender Da’Shawn Hand (Detroit)

Hand was just a 4th round pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, but he came with more upside than a typical fourth rounder. Once the top recruit in the country, Hand had an underwhelming collegiate career at the University of Alabama, but he showed off his athletic upside at the combine with a 4.83 40 at 6-4 297, which lead to the Lions taking a chance on him in the 4th round. So far, that chance seems to have paid off. Hand didn’t play a ton as a rookie, but he earned more playing time as the season went on, averaging 39.6 snaps per game in his final 9 games before suffering a season ending knee injury week 14, and he earned above average grades from PFF for both his run stuffing and pass rushing. 

Overall, he was PFF’s 13th ranked interior defender and he had 3 sacks and a 9.5% pressure rate on 263 pass rush snaps. It could be tough for him to see a significantly bigger role with the Lions adding Mike Daniels and Trey Flowers to what looks like a loaded defensive line, but if Hand continues developing it’ll be hard to keep him off the field and 40 snaps per game is plenty of time for him to disrupt offenses. More talent around him could allow him to have more easy shots at the quarterback.

Edge Defender Bradley Chubb (Denver)

It’s a bit of a surprise that Chubb didn’t make the Pro-Bowl as a rookie. Chubb had name recognition as the 5th overall pick in the draft and his 12 sacks were 14th most in the NFL. Chubb wasn’t quite as great as those sack numbers suggest, as much of his pass rush production came from having Von Miller disrupting the passer on the other side, and he finished just 50th among edge defenders on PFF, but Chubb also had a 12.5% pressure rate on his own and could easily take a step forward in his second season in the league. With Miller still lining up opposite him, Chubb has a good chance to break double digit sacks again, which could easily send him to his first Pro-Bowl. 

Edge Defender Carl Lawson (Cincinnati)

A 4th round pick in 2017, Lawson’s career got off to a promising start, when he had 8.5 sacks, 12 hits, and a 15.2% pressure rate as a rookie. Lawson only had 1 sack in 2018, but he added 7 hits and a 13.6% pressure rate in 7 games before going down for the season with a torn ACL. The injury definitely complicates his long-term progression, but Lawson looked like one of the best young edge rushers in the league before getting hurt and could easily pick up right where he left off. If he does, double digit sacks and a Pro-Bowl trip wouldn’t be a surprise from him in his third season in the league.

Linebacker Jayon Brown (Tennessee)

Just a 5th round pick in 2017, Brown struggled when forced into action as a rookie, finishing as PFF’s 76th ranked linebacker out of 99 eligible on 487 snaps. He made a big leap from year one to year two though and finished the 2018 season as PFF’s 9th ranked linebacker on 852 snaps. The undersized 6-0 226 pounder wasn’t great against the run, but he was one of the best coverage linebackers in the league, allowing just 5.09 yards per attempt and no touchdowns on 56 targets. He’s also an adept blitzer, totalling 6 sacks last season and pressuring the quarterback on 18.1% of his 144 career blitzes. He’s a perfect fit as a linebacker in the modern NFL and could easily make his first Pro-Bowl in 2019.

Linebacker Matt Milano (Buffalo)

Milano is similar to Jayon Brown, as an undersized (6-0 223) linebacker who went in the 5th round in 2017. Milano flashed on 450 rookie year snaps and then took a step forward as an every down player in his second season in the league in 2018, ranking 16th among linebackers on PFF before going down for the season with a broken leg in week 14. Like Brown, he isn’t great against the run, but he was one of the best coverage linebackers in the league last season, allowing the 2nd lowest QB rating into his coverage of any linebacker in the league, picking off 3 passes and only allowing a reception every 13.2 coverage snaps (8th in the NFL among linebackers). If he can rebound from his broken leg and make it through the season healthy, he has Pro-Bowl potential.

Cornerback Marlon Humphrey (Baltimore)

The 16th overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, Humphrey has allowed just 49.7% completion and 5.87 yards per attempt in two seasons in the league, but he has only started 13 of 30 games, as part of arguably the deepest cornerback group in the NFL. The Ravens still have three other cornerbacks set to make more than 6 million dollars in 2019 (Tavon Young, Jimmy Smith, and Brandon Carr), but Humphrey has shown he deserves an every down role. He looks like a future #1 cornerback and could easily have a breakout third season in the league.

Cornerback Tre’Davious White (Buffalo)

Tre’Davious White easily could have made the Pro-Bowl as a rookie in 2017, when he allowed 50.0% completion, deflected 12 passes, and committed just 3 penalties, but he ended up getting snubbed. In 2018, he wasn’t nearly as good, allowing 57.5% completion, deflecting 5 passes, and committing 10 penalties. Despite the sophomore slump, the 2017 27th overall pick still has a bright future and could easily bounce back to being one of the top cornerbacks in the league in his third season in the league in 2019. If he does that and a couple of those deflections turn into interceptions (just 4 picks as a rookie), he’ll definitely draw Pro-Bowl attention. 

Cornerback Adoree Jackson (Tennessee)

Selected 18th overall in 2017, Adoree Jackson hasn’t quite played at a Pro-Bowl level yet, but his career is off to a solid start, as he’s finished 36th and 31st respectively among cornerbacks on PFF in his 2 seasons in the league. Now going into his 3rd season in the league, he could easily take another step forward. One big thing that would help him make his first Pro Bowl appearance is coming down with more interceptions. He had just 2 in his career so far, but he’s deflected another 23 passes, so it’s not as if he’s not making plays on the ball. 

Safety John Johnson (LA Rams)

Despite playing for a high profile Rams team, John Johnson doesn’t get a lot of national attention, but he looks like a budding young star at the safety position. Drafted in the 3rd round in 2017, Johnson barely played in his first 5 games, but he’s started all 27 games since and has finished 11th and 8th respectively among safeties on PFF. Not even 24 until December, Johnson could easily take another step forward in his 3rd season in the league and earn Pro-Bowl recognition for the first time.

Safety Malik Hooker (Indianapolis)

Malik Hooker went 15th overall in 2017 and was considered a top-10 talent by most, falling because of durability concerns. The scouting report has proven to be accurate with Hooker, as he’s played well when on the field, but he’s missed 11 games with injury in 2 seasons in the league, including a torn ACL that ended his rookie season after 7 games. Hooker was PFF’s 13th ranked safety in 14 games in his first season back after the ACL tear in 2018 and, only going into his age 23 season, he still has a high ceiling if he can avoid injury.

Perfect 53 Man Roster 2019

Last year, I made my own version of Bill Barnwell’s “Perfect Roster.” The idea is, following certain criteria, to build the best team you can fit under the NFL’s 188.2 million dollar cap. This year, I’m bringing it back. This is my version of the team. Below are the criteria in Barnwell’s own words (last year’s version, so all years get moved forward, and the salary cap has increased).

Quarterbacks

Patrick Mahomes KC QB 2017 1st $4,479,776
Dak Prescott DAL QB 2016 4th $2,120,849
Taysom Hill NO QB 2017 UND $735,000

Last year, there was more debate about the quarterbacks, with Carson Wentz, Jared Goff, Deshaun Watson, and Dak Prescott all on rookie contracts. This year, it would be hard to take anyone but Pat Mahomes. Not only is Mahomes the reigning league MVP, but with a cap hit under 4.5 million for 2019, he’s also easily the league’s best value. Dak Prescott remains on the team as a backup because he gives them a franchise caliber quarterback that can step in if needed at a very reasonable price. Taysom Hill is listed as a quarterback, but he’s mostly on the team for special teams purposes. Hill could see a few snaps as a gadget player, but I wouldn’t want to take Mahomes or any of my other offensive starters off the field regularly for a gadget player, so Hill won’t have much of an offensive role in any capacity.

Running Backs

Alvin Kamara NO RB 2017 3rd $1,050,693
Chris Carson SEA RB 2017 7th $661,282
Phillip Lindsay DEN RB 2018 UND $575,000
James Develin NE FB Veteran $1,600,000

Alvin Kamara is one of the top running backs in the league and a clear choice out of the 2017 3rd round picks. Phillip Lindsay is a bit of a redundant talent, but he’s the obvious choice out of 2018 undrafted free agents, after becoming the first offensive undrafted free agent in NFL history to make the Pro Bowl as a rookie. He provides strong insurance for Kamara. Chris Carson is a power back who can compliment Lindsay and Kamara and is an easy choice among 2017 7th round picks. James Develin is a do everything veteran fullback who comes at a very reasonable price. 

Wide Receivers

Adam Thielen MIN WR Veteran $8,105,000
Michael Thomas NO WR 2016 2nd $1,628,763
JuJu Smith-Schuster PIT WR 2017 2nd $1,144,302
Jakeem Grant MIA WR 2016 6th $755,096
Hakeem Butler ARZ WR 2019 4th $696,126
Kelvin Harmon WAS WR 2019 6th $526,960

Michael Thomas and JuJu Smith-Schuster are arguably the two best rookie contract wide receivers in the league and, while Adam Thielen is on a 4-year, 64.2 million dollar veteran extension, because of how the deal is structured, his cap number is just 8.105 million for 2019, which makes him a bargain. Thielen, Thomas, and Smith-Schuster make a dominant top trio, so depth isn’t a huge concern, but Jakeem Grant gives me a situational deep threat who can also contribute as a return man (and fills the need for a 2016 6th round pick) and Hakeem Butler and Kelvin Harmon are developmental prospects who I thought were the best players selected in their respective rounds in this past draft. 

Tight Ends

Travis Kelce KC TE Veteran $10,718,400
Nick Boyle BAL TE Veteran $3,333,333
Tyler Eifert CIN TE Veteran $3,025,000
Jordan Thomas HOU TE 2018 6th $599,602

Travis Kelce is arguably the top overall tight end in the league, so he was worth splurging for at a 10.718 million dollar cap hit. He’s one of just 5 players on this roster with an 8 figure cap hit. Nick Boyle won’t win any foot races, but he’s arguably the best run blocking tight end in the league and he also provides a reliable set of hands as an underneath receiver at a very reasonable cap number. Tyler Eifert is another inexpensive veteran. He’s an injury risk, but has the talent to be one of the top tight ends in the league when healthy, so he’s worth a shot. Jordan Thomas is a developmental prospect who fills the requirement for a 2018 6th round pick. 

Offensive Line

David Bakhtiari GB OL Veteran $14,200,000
Zack Martin DAL OL Veteran $14,000,000
Rob Havenstein LAR OL Veteran $8,300,000
Joel Bitonio CLE OL Veteran $7,000,000
Mitchell Schwartz KC OL Veteran $6,430,000
Jason Kelce PHI OL Veteran $2,444,000
Austin Blythe LAR OL 2016 7th $2,025,000
Chase Rouiller WAS OL 2017 6th $681,792

Like last year, the offensive line is where I spent the bulk of my cap space on veteran players. David Bakhtiari and Zack Martin are arguably the best offensive tackle and guard respectively in the league and are worth their large cap hits. Joel Bitonio and Jason Kelce are also among the best in the league at their position and have below market cap hits. Same with Mitchell Schwartz and Rob Havenstein at right tackle, though those two will have to compete with each other for the starting job. Autsin Blythe has developed into an above average starting right guard for the Rams, after being a mere 7th round pick in 2016. He provides versatile depth and a spot starter in case injuries strike on the interior and he fills a draft requirement. Chase Rouiller fills my requirement for a 2017 6th round pick and also provides versatile depth, though the Redskins’ starting center is only about an average starter. 

Interior Defenders

Aaron Donald LAR ID Veteran $17,108,000
Kenny Clark GB ID 2016 1st $2,978,707
DJ Reader HOU ID 2016 5th $2,078,845
Da’Shawn Hand DET ID 2018 4th $740,491
Terry Beckner TB ID 2019 7th $523,079

Even at a cap hit of over 17 million, I had to have Aaron Donald, the most dominant player in the NFL, on this team. He’ll start next to Kenny Clark, who has quietly developed into one of the best interior defenders in the league and has just a 2.979 million dollar cap hit, despite going in the first round in 2016. DJ Reader is a situational run stuffer from the 2016 5th round, Da’Shawn Hand is a situational pass rusher from the 2018 4th round, while Terry Beckner is a developmental prospect who was the first pick in the 7th round in 2019 and fills my requirement for a Buccaneer. 

Edge Defenders

Khalil Mack CHI ED Veteran $11,900,000
Josh Allen JAX ED 2019 1st $4,135,025
Lorenzo Alexander BUF ED Veteran $3,750,000
Brandon Graham PHI ED Veteran $3,500,000
Chase Winovich NE ED 2019 3rd $744,328

Khalil Mack has signed a 6-year, 141 million dollar extension, but his cap number is just 11.9 million, so I can sneak him on to my team. Good luck trying to block him and Donald at the same time. Brandon Graham also got a big long-term deal, re-signing for 40 million over 3 years this off-season, but the cap strapped Eagles structured his deal in a way that keeps his cap hit at 3.5 million for 2019. He’s going into his 30s, but is still one of the better pass rushers in the league on a per snap basis. Lorenzo Alexander gives me a versatile player who can rush the passer, play standup linebacker, and play special teams at a very reasonable price. Josh Allen could end up being the top player from the 2019 NFL Draft and he comes at the price of the 7th overall pick (cap hit 2.2 million dollars less than the 1st overall pick). Allen woukd have a situational role as a pass rusher as a rookie, even on a loaded team. Chase Winovich is another developmental prospect and was a strong value pick in the 3rd round. 

Linebackers

Luke Kuechly CAR LB Veteran $9,962,573
Zach Brown PHI LB Veteran $2,500,000
Darius Leonard IND LB 2018 2nd $1,647,228
Leon Jacobs JAX LB 2018 7th $592,670
Blake Cashman NYJ LB 2019 5th $570,773
Te’Von Coney OAK LB 2019 UND $498,000

Luke Kuechly is arguably the top linebacker in the league and he comes at a significant discount compared to his top competition for that role, Bobby Wagner, who has a 14.0375 million dollar cap hit. Darius Leonard is the reigning Defensive Player of the Year and was obviously a smart choice in the second round in 2018, while Zach Brown is a veteran run stuffer who comes at a reasonable price and can play as a 3rd linebacker in base packages. Leon Jacobs, Blake Cashman, and Te’Von Coney fill draft and team requirements and can play special teams. 

Cornerbacks

Stephon Gilmore NE CB Veteran $9,170,833
Byron Jones DAL CB 2015 1st $6,266,000
Jason Verrett SF CB Veteran $1,500,000
Byron Murphy ARZ CB 2019 2nd $1,452,636
Desmond King LAC CB 2017 5th $714,998

Stephon Gilmore is arguably the top cornerback in the league and his cap hit is reasonable, despite a 5-year, 65 million dollar deal. Byron Jones is also one of the top cornerbacks in the league and he fills my requirement for a 2015 1st round pick on a 5th year option without breaking the bank (like top-10 picks Leonard Williams, Brandon Scherff, and Amari Cooper would have at cap hits of over 12.5 million). Desmond King went in the same round as George Kittle, so he wasn’t a no brainer addition to this team, but he’s already arguably the top slot cornerback in the league and adds value as a return man as well, which gives him the edge over Kittle. Jason Verrett is an inexpensive injury flyer who has the talent to contribute if healthy and he fills the requirement for a 49er. Byron Murphy probably wouldn’t play much, but he was a strong pick in this year’s second round and has a lot of long-term potential. 

Safeties

Derwin James LAC S 2018 1st $2,815,671
Kevin Byard TEN S 2016 3rd $2,249,265
Justin Reid HOU S 2018 3rd $924,893
Eddie Jackson CHI S 2017 4th $811,449

Derwin James, Kevin Byard, and Eddie Jackson are all among the top safeties in the league and all are on rookie deals. More and more teams and using 3 safeties at the same time with regularity, so I think we’d figure out how to use Byard, James, and Jackson at the same time. Justin Reid wouldn’t play much on defense behind those three, but he was a solid starter as a rookie for the Texans and is one of the most impressive players from the 2018 3rd round. What gives him the edge is his ability to play special teams in addition to defense.

Special Teams

Michael Dickson SEA P 2018 5th $642,537
Aldrick Rosas NYG K 2016 UND $645,000
Josh Harris ATL LS Veteran $930,000

Michael Dickson and Aldrick Rosas are among the best in the league at their position and are inexpensive in terms of draft compensation and salary. I don’t know much about Josh Harris, but I needed a long snapper and someone from the Falcons and he fits perfectly into the remaining cap space I have. He’s been long snapping for the Falcons since 2012, so he has to be doing something right.

2019 2nd round NFL Re-Mock

  1. Arizona Cardinals – OT Cody Ford (Oklahoma)

 

Cody Ford was expected to go off the board on day 1. He would make sense for the Cardinals, who need to protect Kyler Murray better than they protected Josh Rosen. Teams that take a quarterback in the first round unsurprisingly usually use their next pick on another offensive player.

 

  1. Indianapolis Colts – WR AJ Brown (Mississippi)

 

I had the Colts taking AJ Brown at 26 in my mock yesterday. They moved out of that pick, but could still target Brown at 34. He’ll fill a big need for them as a long-term complement to TY Hilton.

 

  1. Oakland Raiders – TE Irv Smith (Alabama)

 

The Raiders have next to nothing at the tight end position. I thought they might address this position with one of their three first rounders, but they can still do so at 35 with Irv Smith, who many expected to go in the first.

 

  1. San Francisco 49ers – CB Byron Murphy (Washington)

 

The 49ers need cornerback help and could have their pick of three cornerbacks (Byron Murphy, Greedy Williams, and Rock Ya-Sin) who many expected to go in the first round. DeAndre Baker was the only first round cornerback this year, but some preferred Murphy as the top cornerback in the draft.

 

  1. Seattle Seahawks – CB Greedy Williams (LSU)

 

The Seahawks are another team with a cornerback need that could address it in the early second round. I had the Seahawks taking Greedy Williams at 21 in my mock draft yesterday and he continues to make sense for them.

 

  1. Jacksonville Jaguars – OT Jawaan Taylor (Florida)

 

The Jaguars were linked to Jawaan Taylor with the 7th pick, but Josh Allen fell to them and Taylor ended up falling out of the first round entirely, due to injury concerns. He may not last long on day 2 though and the Jaguars fill a big need by drafting him.

 

  1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – OLB Jaylon Ferguson (Louisiana Tech)

 

The Buccaneers could use more edge rush depth, with both Carl Nassib and Shaq Barrett set to hit free agency next off-season. Jaylon Ferguson is a player the Buccaneers have shown a lot of interest in and he should come off the board sometime in the 2nd round.

 

  1. Buffalo Bills – CB Rock Ya-Sin (Temple)

 

Rock Ya-Sin is another cornerback who easily could have gone in the first round. The Bills took fliers on Kevin Johnson and EJ Gaines in free agency as potential starters opposite Tre’Davious White at cornerback, but both players are injury prone and on one-year deals. Rock Ya-Sin can be a long-term starter.

 

  1. Denver Broncos – QB Drew Lock (Missouri)

 

The Broncos clearly weren’t eager to address the quarterback position in the first round, but if they really like Drew Lock as has been rumored they might still be able to him in the 2nd round. The Broncos have talked up Joe Flacco since acquiring him, but they didn’t give much up to get him and it’ll be hard to justify paying him 44.5 million between 2020-2021 when the Broncos could take a development quarterback to start long-term instead.

 

  1. Cincinnati Bengals – MLB Mack Wilson (Alabama)

 

Everyone knew the Bengals wanted to take Devin Bush at 11 in the first round, which is why the Steelers moved up to 10 to take him instead. The Bengals can address their linebacker need on day 2 with a lesser prospect.

 

  1. Detroit Lions – CB Lonnie Johnson (Kentucky)
  2. Green Bay Packers – WR DK Metcalf (Mississippi)
  3. Los Angeles Rams – C Erik McCoy (Texas A&M)
  4. Indianapolis Colts – DT Dre’Mont Jones (Ohio State)
  5. Carolina Panthers – S Juan Thornhill (Virginia)
  6. Miami Dolphins – C Elgton Jenkins (Mississippi State)
  7. Cleveland Browns – CB Sean Bunting (Western Michigan)
  8. Minnesota Vikings – CB Trayvon Mullen (Clemson)
  9. Tennessee Titans – OLB Jachai Polite (Florida)
  10. Denver Broncos – WR Deebo Samuel (South Carolina)
  11. Philadelphia Eagles – WR Parris Campbell (Ohio State)
  12. Houston Texans – CB JoeJuan Williams (Vanderbilt)
  13. Houston Texans – RB Damien Harris (Alabama)
  14. New England Patriots – QB Will Grier (West Virginia)
  15. Philadelphia Eagles – RB Darrell Henderson (Memphis)
  16. Dallas Cowboys – TE Dawson Knox (Mississippi)
  17. Indianapolis Colts – MLB Te’Von Coney (Notre Dame)
  18. Los Angeles Chargers – OT Greg Little (Mississippi)
  19. Kansas City Chiefs – CB Julian Love (Notre Dame)
  20. New Orleans Saints – WR JJ Arcega-Whiteside (Stanford)
  21. Kansas City Chiefs – S Kacey Gardner-Johnson (Florida)
  22. New England Patriots – DT Isaiah Buggs (Alabama)

Top-50 2019 NFL Free Agents

1. DE Trey Flowers (New England)

Trey Flowers could have easily been franchise tagged by the Patriots, even at a one-year value of around 17 million dollars. The Patriots opted against committing that much of their cap to one player, which means they will likely be moving on from Flowers this off-season, as Flowers could command upwards of 17-18 million annually on the open market. Flowers’ sack totals don’t jump off the page (21 in 45 games in the past 3 seasons), but he added 39 hits and 97 hurries, to give him a 12.2% pressure rate, impressive for a player who frequently lines up on the interior in pass rush situations. Also a dominant run stuffer, Flowers was Pro Football Focus’ 3rd ranked edge defender in 2018 and, with all the other dominant defensive linemen getting franchise tagged, Flowers figures to command a big contract in free agency.

He should have plenty of suitors, but one team in particular that would make a lot of sense is New England’s division rival the New York Jets. Not only do the Jets have among the most cap space in the league (93 million), they also desperately need pass rushers for their new 4-3 defense. They could easily outbid the rest of the league for Flowers’ services. Flowers could play both defensive end and defensive tackle and, only going into his age 26 season, would give them a much needed young building block on defense.

Prediction: 4 year, 74 million dollar contract with NY Jets

2. RB Le’Veon Bell (Pittsburgh)

It’ll be interesting to see what kind of market Le’Veon Bell gets this off-season, after sitting out the season and turning down 14.5 million on the franchise tag, not wanting to risk injury before he could cash in as a free agent on a long-term deal. His willingness to sit out a season won’t sit well with a lot of teams, and his history of injury and drug suspension is concerning as well, for a player looking to be paid at the top of the running back market.

Bell is only going into his age 27 season and talentwise he’s just as good as Todd Gurley and David Johnson, who set the running back market last off-season with deals that pay them 13+ million annually, but Bell comes with a lot more risk and it’s worth wondering if either Gurley or Johnson is worth that kind of money either. Bell’s holdout was in large part a protest against running backs being seen as replaceable and not worth giving big contracts, but his backup James Conner largely disproved his point, as Bell was pretty easily replaced by the Steelers.

Someone will probably still give Bell a big contract, although he may be disappointed by the guarantees he’s offered, given his history. One team that would make a lot of sense is the Texans, who will likely be aggressive in free agency this off-season, as they seek to maximize their title window with Deshaun Watson under contract for about 4 million total over the next 2 seasons. Bell has averaged 138 yards from scrimmage per game in his past 49 games and would be a huge upgrade over Lamar Miller in Houston’s offense. Adding him to an offense with Deshaun Watson, DeAndre Hopkins, and Will Fuller could make the Texans a very dangerous offense and I have to think joining another AFC contender would be appealing to Bell.

Prediction: 3 year, 44 million dollar contract with Houston

3. QB Nick Foles (Philadelphia)

It’s a poorly kept secret that Nick Foles is expected to sign with the Jaguars, who have cleared cap space by cutting underperforming veterans. Jacksonville was one of the only starting jobs open to Foles and they gave him easily the best chance to get back to the post-season. Foles likely won’t come cheap, but the Jaguars paid 20 million to Blake Bortles last season and Foles should be a noticeable improvement under center.

Foles has been inconsistent throughout his career, but going to a run heavy, defense minded team like the Jaguars will be good for him, as will reuniting with John DeFilippo, his quarterbacks coach in 2017, now the Jaguars’ offensive coordinator. The Jaguars were better than their 5-11 record in 2018, going 2-6 in games decided by a touchdown or less, and an upgrade at quarterback could easily put the Jaguars right back into contention in the AFC.

Prediction: 3 year, 73 million dollar contract with Jacksonville

4. S Earl Thomas (Seattle)

Earl Thomas headlines a deep safety group in free agency. Thomas is one of the best safeties in the league when healthy, but his season has ended with a broken leg in 2 of the past 3 seasons and he’s going into his age 30 season, so he might not get quite the contract he’s looking for in his first trip to the open market. Thomas has been a top-13 safety on PFF in 6 straight seasons though and a top-2 safety in 3 of the past 4 seasons, so he will still command a lot of attention. He’s frequently tied to the Cowboys, his hometown team who happens to need a safety, but the 49ers have more financial flexibility and there’s been talk of him reuniting with Richard Sherman in San Francisco. The 49ers have 66 million in cap space and an obvious need at safety. They could pay Thomas close to the 13 million annually that Eric Berry, the highest paid safety in the league, makes.

Prediction: 4 year, 50 million dollar contract with San Francisco

5. S Adrian Amos (Chicago)

Adrian Amos isn’t as big of a name as Earl Thomas, but he’s still been one of the better safeties in the league over the past couple years. A mere 5th round pick in 2015, Amos has earned a positive grade on PFF in all 4 seasons in the league (56 starts) and has finished 3rd and 10th among safeties in the past 2 seasons respectively. The Bears don’t have a ton of cap space and probably won’t be able to re-sign both Amos and slot cornerback Bryce Callahan, but I have to think they’d pick Amos if it came down to the two. Not only is Amos the better player, but this is also a deeper free agency class at safety, so they may be able to keep Amos at a discount, while Callahan will likely have more of a bidding war.

Prediction: 5 year, 43 million dollar contract with Chicago

6. S Landon Collins (NY Giants)

A year ago, it seemed unlikely that the Giants would let Landon Collins leave, as the 2015 2nd round pick finished 10th among safeties on PFF in 2016 and 12th in 2017 and looked like one of the Giants’ few young building blocks. However, he had a bit of a disappointing year in 2018, finishing 44th at his position, and the cap strapped Giants decided they didn’t want to pay him at the top of the safety market, opting not even to try using the 11 million dollar franchise tag on him.

The Colts were linked to Collins as soon as it was reported that he was likely done in New York and, unlike the Giants, the Colts have the financial flexibility to sign Collins to a top of the market deal at 12-13 million annually, as the Colts have the most cap space in the NFL and an obvious need at safety. Still only going into his age 25 season, Collins has obvious bounce back potential and would pair well with budding young safety Malik Hooker in Indianapolis. Hooker and Collins could easily be the top safety duo in the NFL for years to come.

Prediction: 5 year, 63 million dollar contract with Indianapolis

7. MLB Jordan Hicks (Philadelphia)

Jordan Hicks has been a dominant linebacker whenever healthy, finishing in the top-14 among non-rush linebackers on PFF in 3 of 4 seasons in the league, but he’s also missed at least 4 games with injury in 3 of 4 seasons in the league. Hicks showed his upside by making all 16 starts and finishing 3rd among middle linebackers on PFF in 2016 and the Eagles defense wasn’t nearly as good without him in 2018. The Eagles have freed up cap space with some releases, so I expect them to find a way to keep him. He should get around the 5-year, 50 million dollar extensions that Eric Kendricks and Benardrick McKinney got last off-season.

Prediction: 5 year, 52 million dollar contract with Philadelphia

8. OLB Justin Houston (Kansas City)

The first cap casualty on this list, Justin Houston was let go by the Chiefs ahead of a 17 million dollar non-guaranteed salary, with the Chiefs looking to lock up fellow edge defender Dee Ford on a long-term deal. Houston is going into his age 30 season and has missed 21 games with injury over the past 4 seasons, but should still be in high demand, especially among teams like the Rams that want to add talent without sacrificing their compensation picks. Houston has maintained a 15.1% pressure rate over the past 4 seasons, including a 2018 season in which he finished 12th among edge defenders overall on PFF and had 9 sacks and a 12.8% pressure rate in 12 games. He almost makes too much sense for a Rams team whose biggest need is on the edge of the defensive front.

Prediction: 2 year, 24 million dollar contract with LA Rams

9. C Matt Paradis (Denver)

Originally a mere 6th round pick by the Broncos in 2014, Matt Paradis is older than most first time free agents, going into his age 30 season, and he’s coming off of a broken leg that ended his 2018 season, but he hasn’t had any other major injuries and interior offensive linemen can play at a high level into their 30s, so Paradis could still challenge to be the highest paid center in the league, at upwards of 10.5 million annually. He’s finished in the top-8 among centers on PFF in 3 straight seasons, including 2nd place finishes in 2016 and 2018. The Broncos don’t have a ton of cap space, but can’t afford to lose their best offensive lineman and will likely prioritize keeping their most important free agent.

Prediction: 4 year, 42 million dollar contract with Denver

10. DT Sheldon Richardson (Minnesota)

If you just look at sack numbers, Sheldon Richardson has declined in recent years, with 7 sacks in the past 3 seasons, compared to 16.5 in his first 3 seasons. His pressure stats tell a different story however, as he pressured the quarterbacks at a 10.4% rate in his first 3 seasons, as opposed to 9.8% in the past 3 seasons, not a huge difference. Also a strong run stuffer, Richardson is an above average starting interior defensive lineman that can play in both a 3-4 and a 4-3 defense.

Character concerns limited him to a one-year deal worth 8 million with the Vikings in his first trip to free agency last off-season, but he could get a multi-year deal this time around. The Saints don’t have a ton of cap space, but have proven in the past that they are willing to be aggressive in free agency to maximize their Super Bowl window with Drew Brees at the end of his career. Defensive tackle is a need position for them with Tyeler Davison hitting free agency and Sheldon Rankins tearing his achilles in the playoffs. They may view Richardson as the missing piece.

Prediction: 3 year, 30 million dollar contract with New Orleans

11. CB Ronald Darby (Philadelphia)

Ronald Darby would probably be top-5 on this list if he didn’t have injury concerns, as he’s only going into his age 25 season and has shown #1 cornerback ability, but also has struggled to stay healthy in recent years, missing 15 of 32 games in 2017 and 2018, including the final 7 games of 2018 with a November torn ACL. He could still easily get paid a lot as the top available cornerback this off-season, as teams will expect him to keep getting better on his second contract, given his age.

His interception total (6 in 4 seasons) is underwhelming, but his 54 pass breakups are 10th in the league over the past 4 seasons, despite the missed time with injury. Those pass breakups have come in 46 games and all players ahead of him in pass breakups played at least 55 games over that stretch. The cap strapped Eagles are unlikely to be able to bring both him and Jordan Hicks back, but the Chiefs freed up cap space when they released Justin Houston and could look to make a splash move like this to upgrade their secondary.

Prediction: 4 year, 48 million dollar contract with Kansas City

12. OT Trent Brown (New England)

The Patriots acquired Trent Brown inexpensively last off-season, swapping picks 95 and 143 with the 49ers to acquire him during last year’s draft and paying him just 1.907 million in 2018, and he proved to be a diamond in the rough, starting all 19 games at left tackle en route to a Super Bowl victory. Brown isn’t a one-year wonder either, allowing just 9 total quarterback pressures in 10 games in 2017 with the 49ers before going down with a shoulder injury. Part of the reason the 49ers moved on from him is because they felt the 6-8 380 pounder was not fleet of foot enough to play left tackle long-term for them, but he showed with the Patriots that he can make up for his lack of foot speed with his incredibly long arms and huge frame.

The Patriots don’t have much financial flexibility and, with 2018 1st round pick Isaiah Wynn coming back from injury and likely able to replace Brown in the lineup, it’s unlikely Brown returns to New England. Much like the Patriots’ previous left tackle Nate Solder, Brown is a strong candidate to be overpaid elsewhere in once again a weak left tackle class in free agency. I would expect him to get at least the 13.75 million annually Tampa Bay’s Donovan Smith got on his recent new contract. The Texans struck out on Solder last off-season, but still badly need a left tackle and have plenty of cap space (74 million) to work with, so it wouldn’t be a surprise at all to see Brown join another former Patriot in Texans head coach Bill O’Brien.

Prediction: 4 year, 56 million dollar contract with Houston

13. G Rodger Saffold (LA Rams)

Rodger Saffold had injury problems early in his career, but he’s played 46 of 48 games over the past 3 seasons and has played at a high level, allowing just 6 sacks combined and finishing in the top-8 among guards on PFF in both 2017 and 2018. His age (going into his age 31 season) could prevent him from getting 4+ years on a new contract, but guards tend to age better than other positions and Saffold could easily become one of the highest paid guards in the league in terms of average annual value, especially with a lack of good available guards this off-season. The Bills need offensive line help badly and have among the most cap space in the league. Saffold could fill a hole at either left or right guard for the Bills.

Prediction: 3 year, 34 million dollar contract with Buffalo

14. DE Ezekiel Ansah (Detroit)

Ezekiel Ansah made 17.143 million on the franchise tag in 2018, after a 12-sack 2017 season, but he and the Lions were far apart in contract negotiations last off-season due to the Lions’ concerns about his durability. Ansah dealt with ankle and knee injuries during the previous 2 seasons and managed just 2 sacks in 13 games in 2016 due to an ankle injury, though he did add 12 quarterback hits. The Lions’ concerns about his long-term durability proved to be wise, as Ansah was limited to 146 snaps by shoulder injuries in 2018.

He’s considered highly unlikely to return to Detroit, but he could still have a hot market. With most of the good edge defenders getting franchise tagged, someone will likely pay a high price for a player with the upside of Ansah, who has a career 13.1% pressure rate and 48 sacks in 80 games. His age (30 in May) could limit him to 2-3 year deals, but he should get a good annual average. The Raiders are desperate for an edge defender and have plenty of cap space to work with, even after acquiring Antonio Brown.

Prediction: 3 years, 45 million dollar contract with Oakland

15. WR Golden Tate (Philadelphia)

Golden Tate is going into his age 31 season, but should be able to take advantage of a weak wide receiver market to get a good annual value on a 2-3 year deal. He struggled to acclimate after being traded to the Eagles at last year’s trade deadline, but he topped 1000 yards in 3 of 4 seasons prior to last season and was on his way to another 1000-yard season in 2018 before the trade. Tate should have plenty of suitors, but the Colts could easily stand out as the best. Not only do they have among the most cap space in the league, but they also have a great offense led by quarterback Andrew Luck and need to add at least one, maybe two wide receivers this off-season. Tate could easily have a few more productive years with Luck and should get around the 3-year, 33.5 million dollar deal DeSean Jackson got at a similar age two off-seasons ago.

Prediction: 3 years, 36 million dollar contract with Indianapolis

16. MLB CJ Mosley (Baltimore)

This might seem a little low for CJ Mosley, who ranks 4th in the NFL with 579 tackles over the past 5 seasons, but he has his issues in coverage. That likely won’t stop him from becoming one of the highest paid middle linebackers in the league though. The Ravens did not franchise tag him, but that’s largely because the linebacker tag value is skewed by rush linebackers and would have paid Mosley 15.5 million, significantly more than the 12.35 million made annually by Luke Kuechly, the highest paid non-rush linebacker in the league. Mosley could come close to matching Kuechly in average annual value though. The Ravens freed up a lot of cap space by moving on from Joe Flacco and rarely let their defensive stars leave, so I would expect him to ultimately return to Baltimore.

Prediction: 4 year, 48 million dollar contract with Baltimore

17. DT Ndamukong Suh (LA Rams)

Ndamukong Suh is going into his age 32 season, but he’s remarkably never missed a game with injury in 9 seasons in the league and still played at a high level in 2018. He only had 4.5 sacks, but that was largely because of his role as the nose tackle in the Rams’ 3-4 defense. He finished 15th overall among interior defensive linemen on PFF. In the first 8 seasons of his career in a 4-3 defense, he averaged about 6.5 sacks per season and he has a career pressure rate of 9.4%, despite lining up almost solely on the interior in sub packages.

Suh signed a one-year deal with a contender last off-season, signing for 14 million with the Rams, after being released by the Dolphins, rather than being paid his 17 million dollar non-guaranteed salary. Now a free agent again, Suh may do something similar with another contender. The Patriots could lose both Malcom Brown and Danny Shelton in free agency this off-season and Suh would give them a good replacement.

Prediction: 1 year, 10 million dollar contract with New England

18. S LaMarcus Joyner (LA Rams)

A 2nd round pick in 2014, LaMarcus Joyner was a man without a position for the first three seasons of his career, bouncing between slot cornerback and safety, before breaking out as a full-time starting safety in his 4th season in the league in 2017, finishing 2nd among safeties on PFF. The Rams franchise tagged him, not wanting to lose one of their better defensive players, but were skeptical about giving him a long-term deal. Not only had Joyner only had one good year, but the Rams also had other significant long-term financial considerations.

Joyner disappointed a little bit in 2018, finishing 28th among safeties on PFF, and the Rams seem to have already moved on with a cheaper alternative in Eric Weddle. This is a deep safety class, but Joyner figures to be paid near the top of the safety market. The Redskins don’t have a ton of cap space, but they like to be aggressive in free agency and need to replace both of their safeties, with HaHa Clinton-Dix hitting free agency and DJ Swearinger getting cut for disciplinary reasons at the end of last season. They can sign Joyner to a 5-year deal with a big signing bonus to keep his cap hit down in 2019.

Prediction: 5 year, 55 million dollar contract with Washington

19. OT Daryl Williams (Carolina)

Daryl Williams was a 4th round pick in 2015 and made 26 starts from 2016-2017, including a breakout 2017 season in which he finished 14th among offensive tackles and 2nd among right tackles on PFF. Unfortunately, he missed all but one game due to knee injuries in 2018, but he’s still in the prime of his career in his age 27 season and should have many interested suitors. He’s unlikely to be back in Carolina, where Taylor Moton played well in his absence, but the Giants have a glaring hole at right tackle and their GM Dave Gettleman originally drafted Williams with the Panthers.

Prediction: 4 year, 42 million dollar contract with NY Giants

20. OLB KJ Wright (Seattle)

KJ Wright was one of the best 4-3 outside linebackers in the league from 2011-2017, an unheralded member of a dominant Seattle defense, but he was limited to 233 snaps by injury in 2018 and could have a bit of a depressed market in free agency. One destination that makes a lot of sense for him is the Chargers, who employ his former defensive coordinator Gus Bradley. If Wright bounces back even somewhat in 2019, he’ll be a big upgrade over the oft injured Jatavis Brown.

Prediction: 3 year, 27 million dollar contract with LA Chargers

21. QB Teddy Bridgewater (New Orleans)

By now, most know Teddy Bridgewater’s story. A solid starter who made 28 starts in his first 2 seasons in Minnesota, Bridgewater suffered a gruesome knee injury before the start of the 2016 season and missed close to two full seasons. As a free agent last off-season, he had to settle for a one-year dollar, 6 million deal with just 500k guaranteed at signing from the Jets and, while he impressed enough in the pre-season to warrant a 3rd round pick in a trade from the Saints, he struggled in his one start in New Orleans, completing just 14 of 23 attempts for 118 yards, a touchdown, and a pick in a home loss to the Panthers.

With Case Keenum likely going to Washington and Nick Foles likely going to Jacksonville, Bridgewater is left without a clear starting job opening in free agency and may have to settle for another backup job. His best option is probably to take an incentivized deal with Miami, who could be cutting loose Ryan Tannehill and his 18.75 million dollar non-guaranteed salary. At this point it’s really unclear what to expect from Bridgewater. Given that his start last year came in a meaningless week 17 game, Bridgewater hasn’t seen any meaningful action since 2015, but he’s still only going into his age 27 season. Now 3 years removed from the injury there could still be a comeback in his story.

Prediction: Incentivized 1 year contract with Miami

22. OLB Shaq Barrett (Denver)

Shaq Barrett’s sack numbers (14 in 61 career games) don’t jump off the page, but he hasn’t even played half of the snaps in his career, stuck in a deep edge rush rotation in Denver. Also a strong run defender, Barrett adds 22 quarterback hits and 65 quarterback hurries on 833 career pass rush snaps, giving him a solid 12.1% pressure rate for his career. Only going into his age 27 season, a pass rush needy team could easily give him a bigger deal than most expect, projecting Barrett to be a more productive player in a larger role. The Titans, who lost Brian Orakpo to retirement and Derrick Morgan to free agency, have a big need for an edge defender and have the cap space (about 43 million) to outbid teams.

Prediction: 4 year, 42 million dollar contract with Tennessee

23. TE Jared Cook (Oakland)

The 2018 Raiders season was a miserable one for most involved, but Jared Cook managed to have a career year, putting up career highs in catches (68), yards (896), and touchdowns (6). That was in part because he was Derek Carr’s only reliable receiver, as his 101 targets were also a career high, but he finished as PFF’s 7th ranked tight end overall and earned a career best 75.7 grade. Teams will have some concern that he had his best season in his 10th season in the league and soon-to-be-32-year-old tight ends usually aren’t in high demand, but he’s by far the best tight end option in free agency and should cash in from a tight end needy team like the Lions. The Lions had just 45 catches by a tight end in 2018 and enter the off-season with about 44 million in cap space to work with.

Prediction: 3 year, 25 million dollar contract with Detroit

24. S Tyrann Mathieu (Houston)

It’s hard to believe Tyrann Mathieu is only going into his age 27 season. Originally a 3rd round pick in 2013, Mathieu had a Defensive Rookie of the Year caliber year in 2013 and a Defensive Player of the Year caliber year in 2015, but both seasons ended with him tearing his ACL. Mathieu also missed time with a shoulder injury in 2016 and hasn’t been as good in his other 4 seasons as he was in 2013 and 2015. Signed to a big 5-year, 62.5 million dollar extension by the Cardinals in 2016, Mathieu was released just two off-seasons and 21.6 million dollars later and had to settle for a one-year prove it deal with the Texans that ended up paying him just 7 million last season.

Mathieu wasn’t dominant in his one season in Houston, but he’s played all 32 games over the past 2 seasons and should still be in the prime of his career. He should be able to get a pay increase on a multi-year deal this time around, even in a strong safety class. The Packers never used to get involved in free agency, but they are trying a new approach under their new GM. With about 35 million in available cap space, expect them to be players in free agency this off-season and they need an upgrade at both safety spots. Mathieu would fill one of those spots.

Prediction: 3 year, 30 million dollar contract with Green Bay

25. RB Jay Ajayi (Philadelphia)

A 5th round pick in 2015, Jay Ajayi has averaged 4.48 yards per carry on 562 career carries, but has had a lot of trouble staying healthy, missing 22 of 64 games, including the final 12 of last season with a torn ACL. Knee concerns are a big part of why he fell in the draft and they will hurt his free agency stock as well, but there’s no denying the talent. Ajayi showed what he can do if he stays healthy in 2016, rushing for 1272 yards and 8 scores on 260 carries, averaging 4.89 yards per carry and finishing 4th in the NFL in rushing yards, and he still has plenty of upside, only going into his age 26 season.

The Buccaneers were one of the worst rushing teams in the league last season, averaging 3.92 yards per carry, 31st in the NFL. Ronald Jones, who they drafted 38th overall last year, was a huge disappointment and the Buccaneers may prefer to add a veteran instead this off-season. A one-year incentivized deal would make sense for both sides. If Ajayi stays healthy and repeats his 2016 season, he could cash in on a bigger multi-year deal in free agency next off-season.

Prediction: Incentivized 1 year contract with Tampa Bay

26. OT Ja’Wuan James (Miami)

The Dolphins have had offensive line issues in recent years, but Ja’Wuan James has been a solid starting right tackle for them when healthy. His durability is a concern, as he missed 9 games in 2016 and 8 games in 2017, but he played at least 15 games in his other 3 seasons and has earned a positive grade from PFF in all 5 seasons in the league. The Dolphins can’t afford to lose him. They’ve freed up cap space by releasing several veteran players and the rebuilding Dolphins should use some of it to keep the soon-to-be-27-year-old James around long-term, even if it means paying him as one of the top right tackles in the league.

Prediction: 5 year, 45 million dollar contract with Miami

27. CB Bryce Callahan (Chicago)

I mentioned in Adrian Amos’ write up that the cap strapped Bears would likely have to choose between their free agent safety and their free agent slot cornerback Bryce Callahan. I think Amos is the more likely of the two to return, as the Bears can get Amos on a reasonable deal in a strong safety class, but would likely have to get into a bidding war for arguably the league’s best slot cornerback.

The 8.5 million annually Tavon Young got on his recent extension seems like a likely starting point for Callahan in free agency. In addition to having a big need at tight end, the Lions also have a big need at cornerback and will likely use some of their cap space to find help at that position in free agency. For a team like the Lions that uses a lot of sub packages, a good slot cornerback like Callahan is a necessity.

Prediction: 4 year, 34 million dollar contract with Detroit

28. DE Cameron Wake (Miami)

Cameron Wake isn’t the biggest name, but he’s been one of the best edge rushers of the past decade, pressuring the quarterback on 15.8% of pass rush snaps in 10 seasons in the league. Even in his age 36 season in 2018, he had a 17.3% pressure rate (2nd in the NFL) and finished with 6 sacks despite being a part-time player. Wake isn’t a long-term option at his age, but he should still have a good market in free agency.

The Seahawks have a good amount of cap space (33 million) and a need at the defensive end position, but are unlikely to spend big on a defensive end in free agency because they need to sign franchise tagged Frank Clark to a big long-term deal as well. A cheaper short-term option like Wake would make more sense and Wake could see joining the Seahawks as his chance to contend for a Super Bowl. While he made the post-season just once in 10 seasons in Miami, the Seahawks have qualified in 6 of 7 seasons in the Russell Wilson era.

Prediction: 1 year, 8 million dollar contract with Seattle

29. WR Tyrell Williams (LA Chargers)

Tyrell Williams has been stuck behind Keenan Allen for the past two seasons and split playing time with Mike Williams this past season, but he still topped 650 yards in both seasons. In 2016, when Keenan Allen missed all but one game with a torn ACL, Williams topped 1000 yards, putting up a 69/1059/7 slash line. Williams has averaged 1.51 yards per route run in his career and, while a lot of that is as a result of playing with Philip Rivers, Williams is still only going into his age 27 season and likely will be seen as a potential #1 receiver by several teams. He has great physical tools at 6-4 207 and should be able to take advantage of a shallow group of receivers in free agency to get paid. The Bills have a huge need for wide receivers and the cap space to be aggressive in free agency (75 million). Williams deep ball ability (16.3 yards per catch in his career) makes him a good fit with Josh Allen, who desperately needs a long-term #1 option.

Prediction: 4 year, 46 million dollar contract with Buffalo

30. QB Tyrod Taylor (Cleveland)

Tyrod Taylor capably led the Bills’ run heavy offense as the starting quarterback for 3 years (43 starts from 2015-2017), averaging 7.16 yards per attempt, adding 1,575 yards on the ground, and throwing just 16 interceptions on 1,236 pass attempts, but they decided they wanted to go with a younger, cheaper option with a higher upside and traded Taylor to the Browns for a 3rd round pick that they eventually used to help them move up and draft Josh Allen. Taylor started week 1 for the Browns, but was a poor fit for Todd Haley’s offense and never got his job back from Baker Mayfield after getting hurt week 3.

Unlikely to find a guaranteed starting job, a lot of dots have connected Taylor to the Ravens, where he would be an ideal fit in the same Greg Roman led run based offense that he had success in with the Bills, as a veteran backup behind 2nd year starter Lamar Jackson. Taylor may prefer somewhere where he has a better chance to make starts in 2019 though, so he can try to rehab his stock for another trip to free agency next off-season. Behind the oft injured Marcus Mariota seems like a better spot for him. The Titans have plenty of cap space and can afford to pay a premium for a much needed high end backup. With Taylor, the Titans won’t be doomed when Mariota suffers his annual injury.

Prediction: 1 year, 8 million dollar contract with Tennessee

31. DT Tim Jernigan (Philadelphia)

An above average starter that finished 39th among interior defensive lineman on PFF in 2017, the Eagles gave Tim Jernigan a 4-year 48 million extension ahead of free agency in December 2017 and promptly regretted it. Jernigan injured his back and missed most of the 2018 season after having off-season surgery. Needing to clear cap space, the Eagles declined the final 3 years of his contract this off-season, ultimately paying him 13 million for 100 mediocre snaps on his extension.

Jernigan likely won’t get that big of a contract on the open market, but he’s only going into his age 27 season and he’s a useful player when healthy, playing the run well, while adding a little bit of pass rush. The Eagles’ defense clearly missed him in 2018. The Bills need to replace the retiring Kyle Williams and have the cap space to be aggressive at the defensive tackle position for the 2nd straight off-season. Jernigan would rotate with 2018 3rd round pick Harrison Phillips and veteran Star Lotulelei, who signed in Buffalo for 50 million over 5 years last off-season.

Prediction: 4 year, 40 million dollar contract with Buffalo

32. CB Pierre Desir (Indianapolis)

Originally a 4th round pick by the Browns in 2014, Pierre Desir never played more than 392 snaps in a season in his first 4 seasons in the league, 3 with the Browns and then 2017 with the Colts. However, Desir had a surprise breakout year in his 5th season in the league in 2018, making 12 starts and finishing as PFF’s 25th ranked cornerback. He’s a risky signing, a one-year wonder already going into his age 29 season, but the Colts have the most cap space in the league and can’t afford to lose their best cornerback. I would expect them to outbid other teams to keep Desir, who is obviously a great fit in defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus’ defensive scheme.

Prediction: 3 year, 30 million dollar contract with Indianapolis

33. C Mitch Morse (Kansas City)

A 2nd round pick in 2015, Mitch Morse has been unspectacular in 4 seasons in the league, but he’s been a solid starting center and should be in demand in free agency. With the Chiefs having limited cap space, it seems likely they’ll get outbid for Morse in free agency. Only going into his age 27 season, Morse could keep getting better, but injuries have become a concern for him in the past couple years, as foot and head injuries have limited him to 18 of 32 games in 2017 and 2018. That could limit his market and he may be better off taking a one-year prove it deal and trying free agency again in 2020, but this isn’t a deep center class in free agency, so Morse could cash in somewhere. The Jets have a big hole at center and among the most cap space in the league.

Prediction: 4 year, 30 million dollar contract with NY Jets

34. DE Muhammad Wilkerson (Green Bay)

At one point, Muhammad Wilkerson was one of the best defensive linemen in the league, finishing 3rd among interior defensive linemen on PFF in 2012, 5th in 2014, and earning a 5-year, 86 million dollar contract after the 2015 season. However, Wilkerson seemed to coast once getting paid and was released after 2 years and 37 million. He signed a 1-year prove it deal worth 4.5 million with the Packers last off-season as a free agent and was off to a great start, but had his season cut short after 3 games with a broken ankle. The Packers seemed pleased with his play though and could easily bring him back on a similar deal. Still only going into his age 30 season, Wilkerson could easily have a bounce back year if he stays healthy and motivated.

Prediction: Incentivized 1 year contract with Green Bay

35. DT Henry Anderson (NY Jets)

A strong run stuffer in his first 3 seasons in the league with the Colts, Henry Anderson struggled to stay healthy, missing 19 of 48 games, and was sent to the Jets for a mere 7th round pick last off-season when the new coaching staff decided he wasn’t a good fit for their scheme. With the Jets, not only did he play all 16 games for the first time, but he also broke out as a pass rusher with 7 sacks and a 10.5% pressure rate, as opposed to 3 sacks and a 8.1% pressure rate in his first 3 seasons in the league. Teams will be wary of the contract year breakout year and the Jets may not see him as a good scheme fit with Gregg Williams coming in as defensive coordinator, but he’ll still be in demand and he’ll be a better scheme fit in Seattle, where they need to reload on the defensive line. Anderson would allow them to do that without breaking the bank.

Prediction: 3 year, 24 million dollar contract with Seattle

36. CB Steven Nelson (Kansas City)

The Chiefs have had major issues on defense in recent years that have prevented them from taking that next step, but Steven Nelson has not been the problem. He did miss 7 games with injury in 2017, but he’s earned positive grades from PFF in 3 straight seasons, with his best season coming in 2018, when he finished 37th among cornerbacks. He’s also allowed fewer than 60% completion in 3 straight seasons. Only going into his age 26 season, Nelson could keep getting better and should draw a lot of attention on the open market. Cornerback is another position the Jets could address in free agency, as they look for an upgrade on free agent Morris Claiborne.

Prediction: 4 year, 36 million dollar contract with NY Jets

37. S HaHa Clinton-Dix (Washington)

A first round pick in 2014 and a solid starter in Green Bay for the first 4 and a half seasons of his career, HaHa Clinton-Dix was surprisingly sent to the Redskins for a 4th round pick at the trade deadline last year. The Packers were able to get something for a player they likely were not going to re-sign anyway, but Clinton-Dix was also their best safety at the time and their safety play was horrendous in the second half of the season after moving on from him. Considering they were in playoff contention at the time, getting a 4th round pick for a capable player didn’t seem worth it.

Clinton-Dix didn’t make much of an impact in his half season in Washington and he joins a deep safety class, so he probably won’t break the bank, but he should have several interested suitors. The Raiders are one team that figures to spend on defense in free agency, with plenty of remaining cap space even after the Antonio Brown trade and holes all over arguably the worst defense in the league. A deal similar to the one Eric Reid signed with the Panthers (22 million over 3 years) would make sense for Clinton-Dix, as it would allow him to test free agency again before he turns 30, in probably a thinner free agent group of safeties.

Prediction: 3 year, 21 million dollar contract with Oakland

38. WR Cole Beasley (Dallas)

Cole Beasley has never put up huge numbers, but he’s caught 176 passes for 1819 yards and 12 touchdowns from Dak Prescott the past 3 seasons, an average slash line of 59/606/4 per game and he’s been especially dependable on 3rd and 4th down, with a whopping 39.2% of his catches coming on 3rd or 4th down. His reliability in big spots and 76.5% catch rate (75 catches on 98 targets) earned him PFF’s 5th highest wide receiver grade in 2016. Beasley is unlikely to return to Dallas, however, after recent comments ripping the organization for pre-determining which receivers get the ball.

The diminutive 5-8 180 pounder won’t be a fit for every team and his age (going into his age 30 season) won’t do him any favors either, but this is a thin receiving class and receiver needy teams will be interested. He should at least top the 2-year, 12 million dollar deal that Danny Amendola got in free agency last year, but it also doesn’t seem like money is as important to him as a good fit. It’s hard to imagine a better fit than Green Bay, who needs a replacement for Randall Cobb on the slot and another pair of reliable hands. Playing with several rookies in the receiving corps, Aaron Rodgers struggled by his standards in 2018. Someone like Beasley that you can always trust to be in the right spot would be a big help for this team.

Prediction: 2 year, 14 million dollar contract with Green Bay

39. RB Mark Ingram (New Orleans)

Mark Ingram has been half of the most dangerous running back duo in the NFL over the past 2 seasons, rushing for 1,769 yards and 18 touchdowns on 368 carries (4.81 YPC) and adding another 79 catches for 586 yards and another score while working in tandem with Alvin Kamara. It seems likely that duo will be split up this off-season, with Ingram likely to find a bigger role and more money as a free agent on the open market this off-season. Injury prone early in his career, Ingram hasn’t missed a game due to injury in 3 seasons, while averaging 4.91 yards per carry on 573 carries over those 3 seasons. His age (30 in December), position, and previous injury history will concern teams, but he should be able to get a good annual average on a short-term deal.

The Jets are considered one of the favorites for Le’Veon Bell, as they have a glaring need at running back and among the most cap space in the league, but if Bell decides he’d rather play for a team that’s more in contention, the Jets could look to Ingram as their backup plan. He’d give them a obvious upgrade on Isaiah Crowell and Bilal Powell without breaking the bank. He could push for 300 touches in New York.

Prediction: 3 year, 20 million dollar contract with NY Jets

40. OLB Preston Smith (Washington)

Looking purely at sack totals, Preston Smith seemed to struggle in 2018, with just 4 sacks, after 20.5 in his first 3 seasons in the league, but he actually had the best year of his career. Not only did he play a career high 834 snaps and play the run well, but he also had a career high 53 total pressures, despite the underwhelming sack total, giving him a pressure rate of 11.3%, compared to 9.8% in his first 3 seasons in the league. Overall, he finished 20th among edge defenders on PFF.

Turning 27 in November and a former 2nd round pick, Smith is the type of edge defender teams assume will get better on his next contract. With most of the top edge defenders getting franchise tagged, Smith could get easily an above market deal, which probably means he won’t be back in Washington. The Redskins have limited cap space, other more pressing needs, and an in house replacement in 2017 2nd round pick Ryan Anderson.

The Packers, on the other hand, could let go of both Clay Matthews (free agency) and Nick Perry (cap casualty) this off-season, as they shoot higher at the edge defender position. They could give Smith a similar deal to the one they gave Perry two off-seasons ago (59 million over 5 years with 28 million guaranteed in the first two years). Unlike the injury prone Perry, Smith hasn’t missed a game in 4 seasons in the league.

Prediction: 5 year, 55 million dollar contract with Green Bay

41. CB Bradley Roby (Denver)

A first round pick in 2014, Bradley Roby earned positive grades from PFF in each of the first 4 seasons of his career, playing about two thirds of the snaps as the 3rd cornerback behind the talented duo of Chris Harris and Aqib Talib. With Talib traded to the Rams last off-season, Roby became an every down cornerback and matched up with opponents’ top outside receivers more often than not, but he got exposed in that role, allowing a 117.3 QB rating into his coverage and finishing 102nd among 131 eligible cornerbacks on PFF.

Despite that, Roby could benefit from a thin cornerback class in free agency. Only going into his age 27 season, teams may see the first round pedigree and the flashes he showed early in his career and think he’ll be better on his second contract. The 49ers are a cornerback needy team with money to spend. With Richard Sherman on one side, Roby won’t have to match up against #1 receivers as much. He’d be a big upgrade over Ahkello Witherspoon, who was one of the worst starting cornerbacks in the league in 2018.

Prediction: 3 year, 30 million dollar contract with San Francisco

42. DT Malik Jackson (Jacksonville)

Malik Jackson signed a massive 6-year, 85.5 million dollar deal with the Jacksonville Jaguars three off-seasons ago and through the first two seasons of the contract he continued the high level of play he showed in Denver. However, Jackson struggled by his standards in 2018 and played just 61 snaps in the final 3 games of the season, with first round pick Taven Bryan playing a larger role down the stretch. Owed 13 million non-guaranteed in 2019, Jackson was an obvious release for a cap strapped Jaguars team.

He’s still only going into his age 29 season though and was PFF’s 26th ranked interior defensive lineman as recently as 2017, so should still be able to get good money on the open market. He makes a ton of sense for the Eagles, who have freed up cap space with some releases. Not only would he fill a huge need at defensive tackle, he’d do it without costing them the compensation picks they will likely get for losing Ronald Darby and Nick Foles.

Prediction: 3 year, 27 million dollar contract with Philadelphia

43. WR Jamison Crowder (Washington)

Jamison Crowder has been seen as a breakout candidate for a few seasons, but it’s very possible the diminutive 5-9 177 receiver maxes out as an above average slot receiver. He’ll still be in high demand this off-season though, especially with a thin group of receivers. His 29/388/2 slash line in 2018 is pretty bad, but he missed 7 games with injury and when he returned he had to play with Colt McCoy, Mark Sanchez, and Josh Johnson under center. Prior to last season, he averaged a 64/747/4 slash line in the first 3 seasons of his career. Only going into his age 26 season, it’s very possible he gets an above market deal from a team that thinks he’ll be better on his 2nd contract. The Titans are a receiver needy team with cap space, so they make sense as a destination for him.

Prediction: 4 year, 32 million dollar contract with Tennessee

44. WR Adam Humphries (Tampa Bay)

Adam Humphries is kind of the opposite of Jamison Crowder. He entered the season with little expectations buried on the depth chart as the 4th wide receiver on a team with a couple good pass catching tight ends as well, but he carved out a role as the team’s primary slot receiver end wound up with a 76/816/5 slash line on 105 targets. Humphries also had 622 yards in 2016 and 631 yards in 2017, and, only going into his age 26 season, teams will expect he can continue improving. He may outearn Crowder just because of recency bias, even though Crowder has overall had the more productive career, but they should be in the same ballpark. The Cardinals need to build around their young quarterback, whether that ends up being Josh Rosen or Kyler Murray. They have about 42 million in cap space to work with.

Prediction: 4 year, 36 million dollar contract with Arizona

45. CB Darqueze Dennard (Cincinnati)

The Bengals typically do a pretty good job of keeping their own free agents, especially ones they’ve invested a first round pick into like they did with Darqueze Dennard in 2014, but Dennard is a 3rd cornerback in Cincinnati behind Dre Kirkpatrick, who they kept on a 5-year, 52.5 million dollar deal last off-season, and William Jackson, who will soon need a big extension. Even as a 3rd cornerback with just 19 career starts, Dennard has shown his first round talent, finishing above average on PFF in 4 of 5 seasons in Cincinnati, including on 675 snaps in 2018. Given his first round pedigree, some teams will likely project him to a larger role and pay him accordingly, so he’ll probably take more money elsewhere. The Browns need a long-term cornerback opposite Denzel Ward. With a ton of cap space and few needs, I expect them to target cornerbacks in free agency.

Prediction: 4 year, 36 million dollar contract with Cleveland

46. OLB Anthony Barr (Minnesota)

Anthony Barr will be an interesting case in free agency. He was a dynamic player early in his career, finishing 2nd among linebackers on PFF in his 2nd season in the league in 2015, but he hasn’t been nearly as good since. The 9th overall pick in 2014, Barr made 12.306 million on his 5th year rookie option in 2018, but likely won’t get that annually on the open market. He may take a short-term deal and try free agency again in a couple years, rather than locking himself in at a lower rate.

The Vikings don’t have much cap flexibility after locking up several other young building blocks instead of Barr, so a return to Minnesota seems unlikely, but he should have several interested suitors in free agency. The 49ers have the cap space to be aggressive in pursuing him on a short-term deal and they need a veteran linebacker with the overpaid Malcolm Smith likely to be let go this off-season. Barr can also give the 49ers some edge rush in sub packages.

Prediction: 2 year, 22 million dollar contract with San Francisco

47. OLB Jamie Collins (Cleveland)

Jamie Collins has a similar skill set to Anthony Barr, but he’s a few years older, going into his age 30 season. Collins was one of the better linebackers in the league in New England a few years ago, but was traded away for just a 3rd round pick and did not life up to his 4-year, 50 million dollar extension in Cleveland, which is why they cut him rather than paying him 10.5 million non-guaranteed in 2019. The one benefit Collins will have over Barr is that he won’t mess up compensation picks for the team that signs him, which is important to a team like the Steelers that stands to gain a 3rd rounder when Le’Veon Bell signs elsewhere. He’d make sense for them as a short-term stopgap at middle linebacker, which has been a weakness of the Steelers’ defense since Ryan Shazier got hurt.

Prediction: 1 year, 6 million dollar contract with Pittsburgh

48. OLB Dante Fowler (LA Rams)

The 3rd overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft, Dante Fowler’s career got off to as bad of a start as possible, as he tore his ACL in one of the first practices of rookie camp. Fowler didn’t play badly when he returned, but he fell behind Yannick Ngakoue and Calais Campbell on the depth chart. The Jaguars declined his 5th year option and traded him to the Rams midway through the 2018 season for 3rd and 5th round picks.

In 11 games with the Rams, including the post-season, Fowler averaged 54.5 snaps per game, a steep increase from the 31.3 snaps per game he averaged the first 42 games of his career, but he failed to stand out and had just 30 total pressures on 363 pass rush snaps (8.3% pressure rate). Not even 25 until August, he’ll draw interest on upside alone in a thin edge defender class, but he comes with a lot of risk. The Lions could take a chance on him as a younger, cheaper alternative to Ezekiel Ansah.

Prediction: 4 year, 34 million dollar contract with Detroit

49. G TJ Lang (Detroit)

A cap casualty who was not worth the 8.25 million dollar non-guaranteed salary he would have been owed if the Lions kept him, TJ Lang is going into his age 32 season and missed 10 games with a neck injury in 2018. He may ultimately end up retiring and hasn’t played more than 13 games in a season since 2015, but if he can get cleared medically he could be a useful addition to his new team.

Guards can play at a high level into their mid 30s and, while Lang hasn’t been as dominant in recent years as he was in his prime, he’s still earned a positive grade from PFF in 8 straight seasons and ranked 6th among guards in pass protection as recently as 2017. If he does keep playing, one team that would make a lot of sense to sign him on a one-year incentivized deal is the Rams, who need to replace left guard Rodger Saffold. If healthy, Lang could give them a cheap replacement without costing them any compensation picks.

Prediction: Incentivized 1 year contract with LA Rams

50. OLB Za’Darius Smith (Baltimore)

Largely a rotational player his first 3 seasons in the league, Za’Darius Smith broke out in his 4th season in the league in 2018, playing a career high 691 snaps and totaling 8.5 sacks, 18 hits, and 33 quarterback pressures on 458 pass rush snaps (13.1% rate). The one year of production will concern teams, as will his struggles in the run game, but he’s also only going into his age 27 season and teams will likely pay him on the expectation that he continues improving, given how thin the edge rush market is.

With the Ravens having other free agent concerns, they could easily get outbid. The Cardinals have needs all over the field and plenty of cap space, so expect them to add at least a couple free agents on significant contracts. They’ve been tied to Joey Bosa with the #1 overall pick, but if they end up going with Kyler Murray as many expect, they’ll have to look elsewhere for edge rush help.

Prediction: 4 year, 40 million dollar contract with Arizona

2019 Franchise Tag Candidates

The franchise tag period begins February 19th, when teams can officially start placing the tag on players they don’t want to lose in free agency. Each team is allowed one franchise tag, which locks a player in on a one-year deal worth the average of the top-5 cap hits at that players’ position, assuming that player doesn’t choose to sit out the season like Le’Veon Bell did in 2018. Not including players who would only be tagged to be traded (Bell, Earl Thomas, and Nick Foles) and kickers (Stephen Gostkowski and Robbie Gould), there are 9 serious candidates for the franchise tag this season.

DE Trey Flowers (New England)

In addition to Gostkowski, the Patriots also have left tackle Trent Brown set to hit free agency, but with 2018 1st round pick Isaiah Wynn expected to return from injury and compete for the left tackle job, Brown seems unlikely to be tagged at a one-year rate of 15.3 million. Instead, it would either be Gostkowski or Flowers if the Patriots decide to use the franchise tag. They may not choose either, but there’s a case to be made that Flowers is worth about 18.7 million annually, which is around where the defensive end franchise tag number is expected to be.

Flowers’ sack total doesn’t jump off the page (21 in 45 career games), but he’s added another 39 hits and 97 hurries on the quarterback and Bill Belichick knows the value of guys who can consistently disrupt the quarterback, even if they aren’t always getting the sack, and he knows the value of guys who can line up in different spots on the defensive line, which Flowers does. Flowers is also really their only consistent pass rusher and he plays at a high level against the run as well. The transition tag (projected at 15.7 million) is another option, but Flowers’ pass rush productivity isn’t a secret around the league and he’d probably get offers ranging in the 16-18 million annual range that they’d have to match. Either way, he’s going to get paid this off-season.

MLB CJ Mosley (Baltimore)

Mosley seems likely to end up back in Baltimore one way or another, but the franchise tag doesn’t seem like a great option for him. Because the linebacker tag value includes pass rush linebackers in its calculation, the projected franchise tag value for linebackers is 15.8 million, which would put Mosley far above the top non-rush linebacker in the league in terms of average annual salary, which is Luke Kuechly at 12.4 million. Mosley could still top that number on a long-term deal, even if issues in coverage suggest he’s not that caliber of a player, but the Ravens might not want to risk that much of their cap being tied up in a player who isn’t a huge factor in coverage or rushing the quarterback. Perhaps the transition tag (projected 13.6 million) is a better option.

OT Donovan Smith (Tampa Bay)

A 2nd round pick in 2015, Smith made all 64 starts at left tackle for the Buccaneers in 4 seasons on his rookie deal, but he was one of the worst left tackles in the league for the first 3 seasons, before improving in 2018. From 2015-2017, he allowed 34 quarterback hits, most among offensive tackles, and committed 33 penalties, second most among offensive tackles. Those numbers dropped to 9 and 7 in 2018 and evidently the Buccaneers expect him to continue improving, as they are reportedly considering the franchise tag to keep him for 2019. That be a smarter move than giving Smith a big long-term contract, but 15.3 million is a big cap number for a player of Smith’s caliber and it wouldn’t be that hard to find a comparable player for less. Perhaps the transition tag (projected 13.7 million) is a better option here as well.

DT Grady Jarrett (Atlanta)

The Falcons’ defense should be better when healthier in 2019, but they can’t afford to lose Grady Jarrett. Their defense was horrible in 2018, but they were even worse in the 2 games Jarrett missed. First and foremost a strong run stuffer on the interior, Jarrett also has 13 sacks and 28 quarterback hits from the defensive tackle spot over the past 3 seasons. The 15.6 million dollar franchise tag is around what he’d get annually on a long-term extension, so I’d expect this to happen in the absence of a long-term deal.

S Landon Collins (NY Giants)

Safeties have one of the cheaper franchise tags at around 12 million annually. While the Giants don’t have a ton of cap space and have other needs, they can’t afford to lose one of their few truly good players. Injuries have ended his last two seasons, but he’s missed just 5 games in 4 seasons in the league and has been one of the best safeties in the league for each of the past 3 seasons, so he’s fairly low risk and could keep getting better, only going into his age 25 season. Given that, it probably makes more sense for the Giants to extend Collins long-term and lower his 2019 cap hit. He could push to be the highest paid safety in the league, upwards of 13 million annually, but the Giants could still structure that in a way that allows them to still address their many other needs.

DE DeMarcus Lawrence (Dallas)

Lawrence was already franchise tagged by the Cowboys once, playing the 2018 season on a one-year, 17.143 million dollar deal. It was a smart decision by the Cowboys at the time, as Lawrence was a one-year wonder with an early career history of back problems, but now that Lawrence is coming off of another strong season, the Cowboys are in a tough position. They obviously don’t want to lose him, but tagging a player for the 2nd year in a row requires a 20% increase in salary, meaning the franchise tag would cost them about 20.57 million this time around.

That’s a huge number to commit to a non-quarterback, especially with players like Dak Prescott, Amari Cooper, and Ezekiel Elliott also due pay raises soon, but Lawrence has 25 sacks and 23 quarterback hits over the past two seasons, while playing at a high level against the run, so he could command close to 20 million annually on a long-term deal anyway. At the very least, he’ll be looking to top the 5-year, 85 million dollar deal Olivier Vernon got two off-seasons ago.

DE Frank Clark (Seattle)

For many players, the franchise tag amount is more than they’d likely get on the open market in average annual salary. Teams pay a premium for the benefit of being able to go year-to-year without big signing bonuses and large chunks of guaranteed money. That’s not the case with Frank Clark, even at the 18.7 million dollar defensive end rate. Players with 33 sacks and 27 quarterback hits in 3-year stretch before their 26 season tend to get paid. He figures to get around 20 million annually on a long-term extension and the Seahawks have the cap space to make sure he doesn’t go anywhere.

OLB Jadeveon Clowney (Houston)

Clowney seems like a perfect fit for the franchise tag. Not only do the Texans get a slight discount because he’s listed as a linebacker in the Texans 3-4, rather than a defensive end (18.7 million vs. 15.8 million), but it also perfectly fits where he is in his development. Clowney hasn’t quite lived up to expectations as the #1 pick in the 2014 NFL Draft and the Texans may be hesitant to give him a huge long-term contract, but he’s also shown flashes of dominance and could keep getting better, still only going into his age 26 season, so they don’t want to lose him either. I wouldn’t expect him to sign a long-term deal this off-season, but I don’t expect him to go anywhere else.

OLB Dee Ford (Kansas City)

The franchise tag is also a perfect fit for Dee Ford and the Chiefs, who will also benefit from Ford being classified as a linebacker in their 3-4 system. Ford’s 13 sacks and 17 quarterback hits in 2018 suggest a player worth big money, but the 2 sacks he had in 6 games in 2017 before back surgery suggest maybe he’s someone you should make prove it again before giving him a big long-term contract.

Top-10 Most Likely Antonio Brown Trade Destinations

After years of drama in Pittsburgh, perennial All-Pro wide receiver Antonio Brown has formally demanded a trade from the Steelers. Brown has been one of the best overall players in the league in recent years, averaging 114 catches for 1524 yards and 11 touchdowns per season since 2013, all best in the NFL over that 6-year stretch. However, he might not draw as much in a trade as you’d think. Not only do the Steelers have no leverage now that he’s publicly demanded a trade, but he’s also going into his age 31 season and could be on the downside of his career. His contract (39 million over 3 years remaining) isn’t a bad value at all, as the Steelers paid out 19 million of his 4-year, 68 million dollar extension in a signing bonus two years ago, but that raises another concern. Brown is quitting on his team less than 2 years after they gave him a 19 million dollar signing bonus and an additional 10 million in new money in the first year of the deal. That won’t be looked upon favorably around the league.

It’s tough to guess what the Steelers could get for Brown as there really isn’t a good recent comparison. Randy Moss was traded for just a 4th rounder in 2007 at around the same age, but he also was coming off of a 42/553/3 slash line in a season in which he didn’t try hard on a hapless Raiders team. Brown might not be the best teammate, but he always gives effort on gameday and is coming off of another strong season, leading the league with 15 receiving touchdowns. I’d imagine they can get more than a 4th rounder, but it may not be by much, given the circumstances. The Steelers probably won’t like the offers they get, but ultimately don’t seem to have much of a choice, as it’s hard to see this relationship getting repaired.

Given that Brown being traded is seemingly inevitable at this point, the question now becomes where will be play in 2019. While most teams might like to add Antonio Brown to their roster, that list gets much smaller when you remove teams that don’t have pressing needs at wide receiver, teams that don’t have the cap space to add him, and teams that the Steelers wouldn’t trade him to. It’s already been reported that the Steelers don’t want to trade him in the division or to the Super Bowl Champion New England Patriots, for obvious reasons, and I would imagine they wouldn’t want to trade him to any of the teams that are coming off strong years, as they still view themselves as contenders and wouldn’t want to give a fellow contender their missing piece. I excluded all teams that won at least 12 games in 2018, which eliminates the Rams, Saints, Chargers, Chiefs, and Bears.

I also excluded bad teams who are rebuilding and likely wouldn’t want to trade for a soon-to-be-31-year-old wide receiver, which eliminates the Cardinals, Raiders, and Dolphins, teams that currently have negative cap space, which eliminates the Jaguars and Eagles, and teams with limited cap space and more pressing needs elsewhere, which eliminates the Vikings, Buccaneers, Falcons, Lions, and Giants. The Seahawks and the Cowboys are also excluded because the former already has 2 wide receivers making 8 figures annually and the latter already made a big splash move for a receiver and won’t have much cap space left after extending Amari Cooper, Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott, Byron Jones, and DeMarcus Lawrence. That leaves 10 teams with a realistic shot of trading for Brown, with varying degrees of likelihood.

10. Green Bay Packers

I almost eliminated the Packers before this. They went just 6-9-1 last year, but that’s unlikely to fool the Steelers into sending Brown to Green Bay to team up with Aaron Rodgers and Davante Adams. The Packers have plenty of incentive to trade for Brown and could easily be the highest bidder, as Rodgers struggled by his standards last year while playing with inexperienced receivers, but that’s precisely the reason why the Steelers wouldn’t want to see Brown in Packer green. He could easily be their missing piece, especially if they stay healthier on defense. This is still a possibility, but I’d consider this unlikely, especially since Rodgers and the Packers beat the Steelers in their most recent Super Bowl appearance. I doubt they’ve forgotten that.

9. Indianapolis Colts

At 10-6, the Colts weren’t good enough to be eliminated prior to this, but they were arguably the best team in the NFL in the second half of last season and adding Brown, who would fill a big need at wide receiver, would make them all that much better. While that gives them plenty of incentive to try to trade for him, it also would probably give the Steelers a lot of pause about trading him to them. Especially since the Colts will still have plenty of cap space to work with in free agency even after acquiring Brown, the Steelers could easily regret sending Brown to Indianapolis.

8. Houston Texans

The Texans are in a similar boat as the Colts in that adding Brown would help them immensely and they have the cap space to add him easily, but the Steelers might not want to send Brown to a team that looks like an annual playoff contender in the AFC with Deshaun Watson under center. If the Texans got Brown, they’d be able to play him, DeAndre Hopkins, and Will Fuller at the same time, which would be a nightmare for opposing defenses, including the Steelers.

7. Tennessee Titans

The Titans aren’t as good as the previous 2 AFC South teams, but they could become a contender in a hurry if they acquired Brown and Marcus Mariota stayed healthy for a full season. Corey Davis could be a budding #1 receiver, but he’s still young and they don’t have anyone proven opposite him, with both Tajae Sharpe and Taywan Taylor underwhelming last season. This is more likely than the Steelers sending him to the Packers, Colts, or Texans, but I still don’t see this as a strong possibility.

6. Denver Broncos

The Broncos have some promising young receivers, but their only proven veteran is Emmanuel Sanders, who tore his achilles in December, putting his status for the start of the 2019 season in doubt. Sanders’ 10.25 million dollar salary for 2019 is not guaranteed and the Broncos could save that entire amount against the cap if they were to let him go. They could release him and replace him with Brown via trade. Likely not true contenders in the AFC even with Brown, the only reason they aren’t higher on this list is they’ve been a thorn in the Steelers’ side in recent years, winning 4 of the past 5 matchups, including a pair of playoff games and an upset win in 2018 that ultimately caused the Steelers to miss the post-season, so the Steelers may not want to see Brown in Bronco orange.

5. Carolina Panthers

The Panthers rank relatively high because they are an NFC team and you have to believe the Steelers would prefer to send Brown to the NFC. They aren’t an obvious fit for him though because they have minimal cap space (about 19 million as of this writing) and a pair of talented young receivers in DJ Moore and Curtis Samuel who played well down the stretch in 2018. That’s not to say they couldn’t use a player of Brown’s caliber, but they might prefer to commit their remaining cap space to other parts of the roster.

4. New York Jets

The Jets were a bad team last year, but I think they are officially no longer in rebuild/teardown mode. Now that they have a quarterback of the future locked in, it’s time for them to start building around him and they have the second most cap space in the league to build with. With an underwhelming free agency class, the Jets may see acquiring Brown as a better use of their money than paying a similar amount to someone like Golden Tate, even if it means parting with a draft pick. The Jets don’t have a second round pick because of their trade up for Darnold last year, but they do have a pair of 3rds thanks to their trade of Teddy Bridgewater to the Saints, which could be intriguing to the Steelers. The Steelers also probably wouldn’t have to worry about the Jets becoming a contender purely from the addition of Brown.

3. Buffalo Bills

The Bills are similar to the Jets in that they have a young quarterback who needs a #1 receiver, while simultaneously not being good enough to scare the Steelers off from sending him there. They also have a ton of cap space, 4th most in the NFL. The only reason they are higher than the Jets is because they currently have 9 draft picks in 2019, while the Jets have just 6.

2. Washington Redskins

You could argue that the Redskins, who currently don’t have a quarterback, should have been eliminated with the other bad teams that are rebuilding, but owner Dan Snyder doesn’t know the meaning of the word rebuilding and trading for Antonio Brown when he probably wouldn’t even make them a playoff team is the exact kind of splash move he loves making. Given their history of acquiring expensive veterans, the Redskins could be the highest bidder for Brown and the Steelers would have no worries about seeing Brown in the Super Bowl if they sent him to Washington.

1. San Francisco 49ers

I thought about putting the Redskins first because of their history, but the 49ers are too good of a fit, as they check every box. They’re an NFC team that’s unlikely to make the Super Bowl in the next couple of years. They have plenty of cap space and a need at wide receiver. They’re also a team on the rise that has incentive to add a player of Brown’s caliber and free agency is an underwhelming option this year. Brown is also reportedly very interested in going to San Francisco and any team that acquires him will want to make sure he’s committed to them long-term, given how he quit on the Steelers just two years after receiving a huge extension and signing bonus.