NFL Free Agency Preview
The following is a 2019 NFL Free Agency breakdown written by Anthony Cervino. Throughout this NFL Free Agency preview, Anthony tries to identify team needs from each and every NFL franchise. He also takes a stab at trying to accurately predict logical landing spots for impending free agents and connect the dots for some surprising moves that we may not see coming.
- AFC North Free Agency Preview
- AFC East Free Agency Preview
- AFC South Free Agency Preview
- AFC West Free Agency Preview
- NFC North Free Agency Preview
- NFC East Free Agency Preview
- NFC South Free Agency Preview
- NFC West Free Agency Preview
NFC West Free Agency Preview
Salary Cap Space: $47,984,422
Notable Impending Free Agents:
- DE Benson Mayowa (28)
- DT Rodney Gunter (27)
- LB Deone Bucannon (26)
- K Phil Dawson (44)
- WR Larry Fitzgerald (35) — re-signed to a one-year deal
- OLB Markus Golden (28)
- WR J.J. Nelson (26)
- S Antoine Bethea (35) — released
- QB Mike Glennon (29) — released
- LG Mike Iupati (31)
- LB Josh Bynes (30) — released
- G John Wetzel (27) — RFA
- DT Olsen Pierre (27) — RFA
Team Needs and Potential Fits:
Offensive Line — The Cardinals allowed the fifth-most sacks (52) in 2018, which isn’t going to help the development of Josh Rosen. Similar to the Buffalo Bills, the Cardinals couldn’t get out of their own way on offense. They couldn’t run effectively or allow Rosen enough time to pass efficiently, translating to an overabundance of stalled drives. The old adage “it starts in the trenches” applies here. Look for the Cardinals to address their front five in both free agency and the draft, especially if they don’t retain impending UFA Mike Iupati.
Wide Receiver — Despite the re-signing of Larry Fitzgerald and the brief flashing of Christian Kirk last season, the Cardinals must upgrade their pass-catchers around Josh Rosen to give him a chance to succeed. With J.J. Nelson set to hit the open market and a less than impressive Chad Williams lingering on the roster, Arizona could be in the market to bring in a quality veteran while younger players collected in the draft develop. Perhaps they make a play to bring back John Brown, who could be one and done in Baltimore. One thing is for sure, if Kliff Kingsbury is going to implement his Air Raid offense, the Cardinals must give him the personnel to make it work. Otherwise, it could be a long year in Arizona for the second straight season.
Pass Rusher — With three key pieces to an Arizona pass-rush that finished fifth in total sacks (49) poised to hit the open market — Benson Mayowa, Markus Golden and Rodney Gunter — the Cardinals could be in the market to add help behind Chandler Jones. If they end up losing Mayowa, Golden, and Gunter in free agency, they will also lose their 11 combined sacks. And while the Cardinals surrendered a league-high 2,479 rushing, getting help on the other side of Chandler Jones, who will turn 29 by the time 2019 Week 1 rolls around, is a priority in a passing league. As far as for the interior of their defense, perhaps they make a play for Ndamukong Suh, who served under new DC Vance Joseph in Miami. With Robert Nkemdiche entering the final year of his contract and continuously plagued by injury, Suh would make a lot of sense here, especially if the Rams can’t afford to retain his services. If Suh is still chasing the dollar and not the championship, look for him to land with a team like the Cardinals. The Cardinals could also elect to draft Nick Bosa No. 1 overall if they decide that Josh Rosen is their QB of the future. If they decide to bail on Rosen and trade him away, then forget about Bosa as they’d be in line to take Kyler Murray at the top of the draft instead. But in an NFC West that employs QBs that include Jimmy Garoppolo, Jared Goff and Russell Wilson, it could be in Arizona’s best interest to pair Bosa with Chandler Jones.
- TE Charles Clay — signed a one-year deal
- TE Ricky Seals-Jones — tendered by Cardinals
- RT Marcus Gilbert — received Gilbert from the Steelers in exchange for a 2019 sixth-round pick
- RB D.J. Foster — re-signed to a one-year deal
Los Angeles Rams
Salary Cap Space: $10,755,316
Notable Impending Free Agents:
- G Jamon Brown (26)
- G Rodger Saffold (30)
- C John Sullivan (34) — team declined his 2019 option
- CB Kayvon Webster (28)
- DE Ethan Westbrooks (28)
- LB Ramik Wilson (26)
- DL Ndamukong Suh (32)
- RB C.J. Anderson (28)
- FS LaMarcus Joyner (28)
- LB Dante Fowler (24)
- CB Sam Shields (31)
- DT Dominique Easley (26)
- ILB Cory Littleton (25) — RFA
- CB Troy Hill (27) — RFA
- DE Morgan Fox (24) — RFA
- RB Malcolm Brown (25) — RFA
Safety — With LaMarcus Joyner all but gone, the Rams have a glaring need at free safety opposite John Johnson on the strong side as Blake Countess would be next in line to start should the team elect not to make a move, which would not be in their best interest. And with limited cap space and a lot of their own players to pay, the Rams may not be able to afford a high-end safety. While drafting a safety would make a lot of sense, targeting a veteran presence like Kurt Coleman in free agency could be the way to go. Coleman could likely be had on the cheap as his 2018 AAV ($5.5 million) is nearly half of Joyner’s 2018 note ($11.2 million).
Offensive Line — Although Andrew Whitworth announced that he would return for 2019, it is no secret that retirement is nearing for the 37-year-old bookend left tackle. What’s more, since Roger Saffold is likely going to hit the open market unless the Rams place the franchise tag on him, there is a good chance that he will be on the move. Not only could Saffold be the best guard on available, but because of Los Angeles’ cap restrictions, they may not be able to re-sign him, especially if another team outbids them. Look for the Rams to address their needs along the front five in the draft. They could ultimately select Whitworth’s successor if the right opportunity presents itself.
Defensive Tackle — It’s like beating a dead horse (excuse my French), but due to their cap restraints, the Rams are poised to lose some of their key players, especially since they are coming off of a Super Bowl appearance and their assets will want to be rewarded for that whether it’s by Los Angeles or an outside party. One of those players that they could lose is Ndamukong Suh, who despite his age (32), is still one of the premier interior pass rushers in the league. If Suh walks, which is the likeliest scenario, the Rams will want to replace him with another effective piece to pair with Aaron Donald to disrupt the middle. They could look to fill the void with Muhammad Wilkerson, who could be had at a value rate coming off of a down season lost to a September ankle injury.
- S Eric Weddle — signed to a two-year deal
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San Francisco 49ers
Salary Cap Space: $60,656,788
Notable Impending Free Agents:
- G Zane Beadles (32)
- G Jonathan Cooper (29)
- RB Alfred Morris (30)
- K Robbie Gould (36) — received the franchise tag
- P Bradley Pinion (24)
- S Jimmie Ward (27)
- RB Raheem Mostert (26) — received an original round tender from the 49ers
Safety — Since Jimmie Ward and Antone Exum are impending free agents and unlikely to be re-signed, the 49ers will be in the market to add a safety or two. In fact, all the reports are suggesting that they will add a top-end starter. Due to his connection to Richard Sherman from their Seattle days, plus, the fact that San Francisco has a ton of cap room, there is a strong chance that Earl Thomas could sign a lucrative deal with the 49ers. And while the Cowboys are also expected to offer him a deal, they can’t pay what the 49ers will offer him due to the talent that they need to re-sign currently on the roster. Unless Thomas is willing to give Dallas a home-town discount — he had already said that he wouldn’t — the 49ers could be his likeliest landing spot.
Wide Receiver — With the 49ers declining Pierre Garcon’s 2019 option, his departure will open up a need for a wide receiver. And although Dante Pettis looks the part and Marquise Goodwin could be a bounce-back candidate on the outside, investing in another playmaker for Jimmy Garoppolo would be in San Francisco’s best interest. Although they’ve been in the center of wide receiver trade rumors all offseason long, they’d likely have to give up big time draft assets to bring in an elite talent like Odell Beckham Jr. And I’m not sure they want to do that, especially since they are coming off of a 4-12 season and have needs on all three levels of their defense. If they want to make a quality signing without spending a king’s ransom of cap money and/ or draft assets, they could bring back Michael Crabtree, who was drafted by the 49ers in the first round in 2009.
Pass Rusher — Since the 49ers finished with tied with three other teams for the eighth-fewest sacks in 2018 (37), the is a tremendous need to upgrade their pass rush. And although they’ve spent first-round picks on their interior pass rush in the past — DeForest Buckner, Solomon Thomas — now is the time to bring in an outside presence to help take pressure off of Arik Armstead. While they could make a play for Ziggy Ansah, the wise move might be selecting Joey Bosa with the second overall pick in April’s draft, assuming Kyler Murray goes at No. 1. If Bosa is the real deal, the 49ers could have one of the most talented defensive front sevens in the NFL in 2019.
- FB Kyle Juszczyk — the team picked up his 2019 option
- LB Elijah Lee — re-signed to a one-year deal
- DB Greg Mabin — re-signed to a one-year deal
Salary Cap Space: $51,994,716
Notable Impending Free Agents:
- DE Frank Clark (25)
- CB Justin Coleman (26)
- RB Mike Davis (26)
- K Sebastian Janikowski (41)
- DE Dion Jordan (29)
- DT Shamar Stephen (28)
- S Earl Thomas (29)
- RG D.J. Fluker (27)
- LG J.R. Sweezy (29)
- QB Brett Hundley (25)
- LB K.J. Wright (29)
- OT George Fant (26) — RFA
- DE Quinton Jefferson (26) — RFA
- DE Branden Jackson (26) — RFA
- C Joey Hunt (25) — RFA
- CB Akeem King (26) — re-signed to a one-year deal
- RB J.D. McKissic (25) — RFA
- FB Tre Madden (25) — RFA
Secondary — While the Seahawks surrendered the 17th most passing yards in 2018, they are a long ways away from the once-stingy play of the Legion of Boom. And with the final piece of the boom, Earl Thomas, primed to get paid on the open market, the Seahawks must find a way to not only replace him but to add quality players to the back end of their defense as well. Playing in the NFC West and facing high-octane passing attacks like the Rams and assumingly the 49ers now that Jimmy Garoppolo will be back in 2019, not to mention the fact the Kiff Kingsbury is bringing the air raid philosophy to the desert in Arizona, Seattle must find a way to contain their opponent’s respective assaults. Since DC Ken Norton Jr. runs a variation of the cover-3 zone, the Seahawks could bring in dependable safties that include Adrian Amos or Clayton Geathers, who both played in similar schemes, to succeed Thomas at a much lesser rate.
Offensive Line — While the Seahawks led the NFL in rushing and finished 2018 second in rushing attempts, their offensive line was very much a middle of the pack unit. And while finishing as a middling unit is an upgrade from what they did in 2017 — they were very much a bottom five line that season — it would be in their best interest to make upgrades for 2019. Since 2018 starters RG D.J. Fluker and LG J.R. Sweezy are free agents, it wouldn’t surprise me if Seattle lost both of their starting guards from last season. The Seahawks have some cap room to play with and could go out and sign a top-end talent like Mike Iupati on the open market. While Iupati is coming off of an injury-shortened season, he is still one of the more dependable guards in the league when healthy.
Pass Catcher — While the Seahawks have needs across their defensive front seven, especially if they lose LB K.J. Wright in free agency, they also could use help at receiver. Yes, they awarded Tyler Lockett with a lucrative extension last season and Doug Baldwin is expected to be good and healthy for 2019, but behind them, there are question marks. Although David Moore flashed in the middle of last season, he failed to score a touchdown after Week 12. Finding Russell Wilson a quality third option should be a priority for the Seahawks this offseason, even if it comes in the form of a tight end… Speaking of tight end, the Seahawks have failed to replace Jimmy Graham and it showed with their sub-par play from their tight ends in 2018. And while Will Dissly, Ed Dickson and Nick Vannett all flashed, they did not make a tremendous impact. One way or another, look for Seattle to find Russell Wilson a third pass-catching option behind Lockett and Baldwin. If they are content with Moore as the WR3, they could look to upgrade their tight end unit in the draft or by bringing in low-end upside options like Geoff Swaim, Jeff Heuerman or Maxx Williams. There is also the possibility that they bring back Luke Wilson after one underwhelming year with the Lions.
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