0 of 9
Julio Cortez/Associated Press
NFL free agency remains a viable avenue for teams in need of a quick fix.
While the market doesn’t have a headline name like Jadeveon Clowney anymore, the fact that he’s already putting on a show with the Tennessee Titans is a good indication of just how quickly the remaining free agents could make impacts with new teams.
The best remaining free agents have proven production with room for more and make sense for would-be suitors based on age, fit and likely cap hit. The list is limited to players who became free agents over the last calendar year.
Here are the best free agents at each major group, plus potential team fits.
1 of 9
Don Wright/Associated Press
The quarterback position is bone dry on the open market.
Cam Newton finally found a home, and guys like Jameis Winston had to settle for backup roles. That means the top guys left are emergency backups at best.
At this point, teams will weight recent experience heavily, which helps Blake Bortles ascend to the top spot. He was the No. 3 overall pick in the 2014 draft and has 73 regular-season starts and 2,634 passing attempts on his resume. He also helped lead the Jacksonville Jaguars to the AFC Championship Game in 2017.
Granted, Bortles is a free agent for a reason. He’s only 28, but he has a career completion percentage of 59.3 with 103 touchdowns against 75 interceptions. But as a mentor type to a team with health-related question marks around one of their top two passers on the depth chart, he makes plenty of sense. Bortles would make perfect sense for the Dolphins, who have a 37-year-old Ryan Fitzpatrick as their starter and will want to go slow with rookie Tua Tagovailoa while he continues to rehab from hip surgery.
Potential suitor: Miami Dolphins
2 of 9
Jeff Haynes/Associated Press
Devonta Freeman has had one of the more interesting free-agency stories as of late.
The Falcons released Freeman in March, and since then, he’s been a major point of speculation for several teams. However, his agent terminated their relationship after a new contract failed to materialize, and NFL reporter Michael Silver even reported he’s willing to sit out the season if he doesn’t get a deal he likes.
Freeman, still just 28 years old, was a fourth-round pick who has averaged 4.2 yards per carry over 951 career attempts. He’s scored 32 times on the ground and flashed plenty of versatility, hence the 257 career catches for 2,015 yards and 11 more touchdowns.
Freeman last had a visit with Jacksonville in early September, which still makes plenty of sense. The problem is he got pushed aside by another draft class at an undervalued position, and his versatility isn’t that rare anymore. His best shot is latching on with a team dealing with injuries or one that has been sniffing around free-agent running backs, such as the Buffalo Bills, per ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
Potential suitors: Jacksonville Jaguars, Buffalo Bills
3 of 9
Kyusung Gong/Associated Press
Unless onlookers want to speculate about Dez Bryant again, a name like Taylor Gabriel is the best one left at wideout.
Gabriel was cut by the Chicago Bears in early February, but he’s still just 29 years old and is a quality depth option, not to mention a deep threat down the field who can open up offenses.
Back in 2016 with the Atlanta Falcons, Gabriel put up six touchdowns while averaging 16.5 yards per catch. A season ago with Chicago, he got in just nine games but posted 353 yards and four touchdowns, still averaging better than 12 yards per catch.
Still a viable three-wide set option with offensive-spacing talents, Gabriel sounds like a good option for teams already dealing with injuries at wideout such as New Orleans, where Michael Thomas could miss some time with an ankle injury.
Potential suitors: New Orleans Saints, Washington Football Team
4 of 9
John Bazemore/Associated Press
It’s a little weird to think Delanie Walker is still without a team.
While Walker is 36, one of the premier tight ends in Tennessee Titans history still has plenty to offer teams if he can stay healthy. That seems to be the hiccup—he played in just one game in 2018 and made seven appearances in 2019.
But when on the field, Walker has still quietly been uber productive. From 2014-2017, he hit a minimum of 800 yards and three touchdowns in all four seasons while getting 100-plus targets in each.
Of course, Walker isn’t going to be that sort of target hog anymore. But as a situational weapon and locker room leader? He’s a brilliant fit for teams in need of a niche depth piece with huge upside when he actually sees the field. He feels like a good fit in San Francisco with George Kittle dealing with an injury.
Potential suitors: San Francisco 49ers, Washington Football Team
5 of 9
Bruce Kluckhohn/Associated Press
With Larry Warford opting out of the season, there isn’t much to speak of on the open market when it comes to offensive linemen beyond quality depth.
And there’s nothing wrong with that, especially with a player like Josh Kline still available.
Kline, now 30 years old, was cut by Minnesota in March and hasn’t made much noise since. But the veteran journeyman has played in 12 or more games each season dating back to 2014, and last year, he still put up a respectable 61.5 grade at Pro Football Focus over 733 snaps.
A Kline signing isn’t going to have teams scrambling to produce jerseys as fast as possible by any means, but he’s quality interior-line depth and has the ability to come in and spot start without dramatically risking the health of a starting passer. A reunion in Minnesota, where Pat Elflein is thus far struggling, could make some sense.
Potential suitor: Minnesota Vikings
6 of 9
Alex Brandon/Associated Press
There isn’t much of a competition for the top defensive lineman spot with Damon “Snacks” Harrison still available.
Harrison, 31, had a down year in 2019 in not-so-ideal circumstances with the Detroit Lions. That makes it a little easy to forget that the season before that, Snacks had 3.5 sacks and 81 total tackles over stints with two different teams, plus a 92.0 grade from Pro Football Focus.
While Harrison isn’t going to wow with his ability to collapse pockets, he’s still a superb anchor for the middle of a defensive line and, at worst, a terrific rotational piece most teams presumably wouldn’t mind having on the roster. Green Bay is one notable team missing a big name at the spot after Kenny Clark left the Packers’ Week 1 game against the Vikings with a groin injury.
Potential suitor: Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Green Bay Packers
7 of 9
David J. Phillip/Associated Press
It didn’t take long for Todd Davis to ascend to the top of the linebacker list when the Denver Broncos cut him on September 4.
Releasing Davis was a cost-cutting measure by Denver, but he had started 59 games for the team over the past four seasons and was generally favored for his ability to snuff out the run.
Even last year, a solid 65.1 PFF grade had Davis ranked in the top 20 among off-ball linebackers after he put up 134 total tackles over 14 games.
Still just 28 years old, it seems a matter of time before Davis lands somewhere and carves out at least a solid situational role against the rush in new surroundings. Teams lacking or hurting at the spot make the most sense on some sort of one-year deal before Davis can test the market again next offseason. Cleveland, for example, continues to miss Mack Wilson while he recovers from a knee injury.
Potential suitors: Cleveland Browns, Carolina Panthers
8 of 9
Charles Rex Arbogast/Associated Press
Cornerback has been picked pretty dry by a league desperate to shut down the pass.
A recent release like Prince Amukamara still has plenty of value and is probably tops on the call list for teams when injury occurs.
Cut by the Las Vegas Raiders on August 31, Amukamara is a 31-year-old veteran who put in 15 games of work in Chicago a season ago, registering as a top-50 corner with a 67.5 PFF grade.
Amukamara is on the downswing of his career, but a bigger, physical outside guy (6’0″, 206 pounds) with droves of starting experience has immense value to teams, especially later in the season when the depth chart needs a boost. That could apply sooner than later in a place like New York, where rookie Darnay Holmes is already seeing significant playing time.
Potential suitor: New York Giants
9 of 9
Nick Wass/Associated Press
The oddities of the Earl Thomas saga don’t disqualify him from being the best on-field safety available.
Thomas was shockingly cut by Baltimore on August 23, with one of the league’s stronger defenses saying goodbye to a big name and little happening in terms of speculation about his future since.
But Thomas presumably has plenty to offer his next team. He’s still just 31 years old, and over 15 games last year, he put up 49 total tackles with a pair of sacks and interceptions. That was still good enough for a 76.7 mark at PFF, and while it’s a far cry from his 90.2 in 2017, one could argue a change of scenery might be able to get him back to elite form.
While questions about Thomas will persist given he’s yet to find a new team, the obvious names willing to roll the dice on his upside and team improvement still make sense. Dallas has been a point of speculation linked to Thomas in the past, and Jerry Jones doesn’t seem like the type to ignore his availability for too long.
Potential suitors: Dallas Cowboys, Las Vegas Raiders