2020 NFL Free Agency: Predicting Brady’s decision and destinations for other top players

The coronavirus has left the sports world and and the world as a whole in shambles.  The NBA, NHL, and MLB postponed their seasons.  March Madness was outright canceled.  Even schools and workplaces are starting to close.  But there is nothing stopping the NFL off-season from continuing to play out.  With most major sports leagues on hold, the NFL will be the primary focus of the sports world in the coming weeks.

NFL free agency is right around the corner, and many top players will hit the open market.  But the biggest name of them all: Tom Brady.  Speculation of Brady’s decision in free agency has been widespread since the end of the season.  Will he stay in New England, or will he go?  If he does leave, where will he go?  Today I’ll be breaking down Brady’s decision and making some predictions about the other top free agents on the market.  I’ve broken up the free agents by position, as the market for each position can be different.

 

This year’s QB market relies on Tom Brady’s decision, so I’m going to talk about that first.  If Tom Brady ends up leaving New England, he’s going to want to be on a good team in a good city with lots of WR options. The Titans could be a good fit. They have a good group of WRs including the young A.J. Brown, almost-Patriot Adam Humphries, Corey Davis, and veteran tight end Delanie Walker.  But other than that, there are very few good options for him.  The Bears and Panthers lack the receivers.  It’s unlikely the Saints go after Brady even if QB Drew Brees leaves.  The Cowboys and Bucs are leaning towards re-signing their current QBs.  Las Vegas appears to be in the mix for Brady and they have cap space.  But I cannot see them giving up a young, promising Derek Carr for an aging Brady in the end.

It’s going to come down to the Pats and Titans, and I think Bill Belichick will be hesitant to bring back Brady at first in hopes of a cheaper option.  However, Brady’s departure would cause the Pats serious salary cap problems, and I think the options for a replacement will be slim once guys like Brees, Jameis Winston and Dak Prescott re-sign.  Plus, Nashville is a much smaller market than New England.  Even though the Titans are coached by Brady’s former teammate Mike Vrabel and ex-Patriots can be found across the roster, I think Brady is coming home.  The Pats will need to sign a new WR or TE to convince him, but they have the money.

With that, the Titans will bring back QB Ryan Tannehill.  I think the Panthers will get rid of QB Cam Newton in the end, so they’ll sign QB Teddy Bridgewater in hopes of a consistent starter.  This move will put the classic QB carousel into full effect.  Newton will be traded to the Chargers, forcing Rivers to leave.  Meanwhile, I have Rivers heading to Chicago to challenge QB Mitch Trubisky after a rough season.

I can’t see the Titans passing on Derrick Henry, but a number of top running backs will find new homes.  Now that the Chargers have Austin Ekeler as a long term solution, Melvin Gordon will move on to Houston, a team that has been inconsistent at running back in recent years.  Former Texans RB Lamar Miller will help out the Jets backfield in his recovery from a torn ACL, serving behind RB Le’Veon Bell.  Meanwhile, RB Carlos Hyde, who started in Houston with Miller hurt, will head to Tampa for a two man backfield with Ronald Jones II (Peyton Barber will leave in free agency).  The Cardinals do not have the money for both David Johnson and Kenyan Drake, so I have Drake as a younger alternative to LeSean McCoy in Kansas City.  McCoy will head to Cleveland as a veteran backup for Nick Chubb.

The Cowboys need Cooper not only to fill their need at WR but also to convince QB Dak Prescott to return to Dallas.  They have the cap space for both, so that’s not a problem.  I think Sanders will also return, as the 49ers prepare for a duo of Sanders and Deebo Samuel in the long run at WR.  Other receivers will find new homes.

I have WR Robby Anderson headed to Baltimore to play across from Marquise Brown.  He’s the right type of WR for a QB like Lamar Jackson just like Brown is.  He’s fast and he can catch deep balls.  WR A.J. Green may have injury problems, but the Raiders need a #1 receiver and a gamble on Green is worth it for them.  If the Cowboys re-sign Cooper, they won’t need Cobb, so he’ll join fellow ex-Cowboy Cole Beasley in Buffalo.  Meanwhile, Nelson Agholor will head to Miami as they add some much needed depth at WR.

The lack of experience at tight end after Rob Gronkowski’s departure did not work out for the Pats last year.  Hunter Henry is a quality starting tight end.  He’s young, but he has experience, and he’s only going to keep getting better from here.  He’s a great replacement for Gronk and will help fill New England’s desperate need for receiving weapons.  Hooper is the slightly better player, but comes with a much higher price tag.  In the end, I have Hooper back in Atlanta.  Ebron will head to Arizona, where there’s been a hole at tight end as long as I can remember.  The Colts should be fine without him since they have TE Jack Doyle too.  I have Eifert staying in Cincinnati and maintaining the TE duo of Eifert and C.J. Uzomah.  After being released by the Redskins, I have Reed headed to Houston to throw an experienced tight end in the mix with Houston’s inexperienced group of tight ends.

Bulaga has been a key part of the Packers o-line for years, so I can’t see him leaving.  Gilbert has no reason to leave Arizona either, and the Redskins and Colts need Penn and Castonzo back.  But I do have an aging Jason Peters leaving now that the Eagles have added a number of younger players at tackle.  Conklin will also leave, headed to Buffalo to start across from second year o-lineman Cody Ford.

After successful first five years to their careers, I have Scherff and Peat re-signing with their current teams.  I don’t see another team signing Incognito, but the Raiders will probably want him back.  An aging Kalil probably won’t sign elsewhere either, but I have him playing another year with the Jets.  Meanwhile, Seattle and New England have replacements ready for their free agent guards.  Iupati will head to Tennessee and Thuney will head to Houston to fill holes at the position.

The Falcons need to use the money they have on a depleted LB corps, so they may not have the money for Beasley.  I have him headed to the Giants, who need to upgrade all aspects of their defense starting with the pass rush.  I have Clowney returning to Seattle, McCoy returning to Carolina, and JPP returning to Tampa, as those three teams have the money and have the need to bring their top pass rushers back.  With Beasley in New York, Leonard Williams will head to Denver as an upgrade over DE Derek Wolfe.  After a year in Dallas, I have Quinn joining Chandler Jones in improving the Cardinals pass rush.  Brockers will head to Chicago to help fix the Bears’ biggest defensive flaw: the d-line.  With Brockers leading a strong d-line, the Bears should still have the best defense in the league.

The Colts have a lot of cap space this off-season, and they could use a big name d-lineman like Suh alongside some of their younger players.  Jernigan will return to Baltimore, where the front seven is also in desperate need of some new personnel.  The Texans will move on from Reader, instead signing ex-Steelers DT Javon Hargrave.  Reader will head to Vegas as the Raiders fill a DT need they have had for 3 years.  Meanwhile, Robinson and Collins will need to return to their former teams.  Detroit needs Robinson now that they released Damon Harrison, and Collins’ best fit is back in Dallas.

I can’t see much movement happening here.  Dupree, Van Noy, and Collins are all needed by their former teams.  The Pats might struggle to get together the money to re-sign both KVN and Jamie Collins, but I think they’ll be able to pull it off.  If not, Ja’Whaun Bentley is absolutely capable of taking on a starting job alongside Dont’a Hightower, Elandon Roberts, and KVN or Collins.  I think the Pats need at least one of them, but having both back would be nice.  Meanwhile, Barrett and Judon will carry expensive price tags after breakout seasons.  I have Barrett headed to Detroit, who desperately needs a long term solution at linebacker.  The Falcons are in a similar situation, so Judon is a better investment than the re-signing of Beasley.

The Packers don’t necessarily need Martinez back, so I think he’ll head to Baltimore, who should be able to let go of Judon if they sign an inside linebacker like Martinez as an alternative.  Woodyard and Trevathan are needed back on their 2019 teams, and I have them both re-signing.  But Ragland and Schobert will also switch teams.  Miami needs to upgrade their defense in all areas, and they absolutely have the cap space and roster space for Schobert.

The Broncos need a solid #1 corner, and Harris returning is the perfect solution.  The Chiefs should also bring Fuller back after his strong season. But with CB Josh Norman already leaving for Buffalo after release, the Redskins will need to look elsewhere for an upgrade at corner.  I have them adding Waynes and Talib.  Carolina will sign the released Amukamara, a much-needed upgrade over pending free agent James Bradberry.  I have Trumaine Johnson, who was released by the Jets recently, signing with the Texans to fill the gap of multiple current Texans corners set to hit the open market.

The Saints may have limited money, but re-signing Bell will not be a big burden for them.  I don’t see the Pats re-signing McCourty as they have bigger needs at linebacker and on offense.  He’ll head to San Fran as a veteran presence in the secondary.  The Bears also have limited cap space this year, and I can’t see them re-signing Clinton-Dix.  The Broncos will be looking for a big upgrade at safety with Justin Simmons leaving.  There’s no superstar safeties on the market, so a strong safety duo of Clinton-Dix and Joseph will fill Denver’s need.  Berry is hoping to return to the league, and I think the Cowboys will be the team to bring him back as they look for an experienced player to be part of their secondary.  The released Jefferson will head to Detroit, another team in need of veteran help at safety.

That sums up my NFL free agency predictions.  I’ll be tracking these top free agents on social media, using the far right column to track the actual destinations of players.  Stay tuned for more free agency news.  With the rest of the sports world coming to a screeching halt, free agency is about to come into the spotlight.

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