2019 NFL Free Agency Predictions Part 3: Linebackers and Defensive Backs

Welcome to the final article of my 2019 NFL free agency prediction series!  Today, I’ll be sharing my predictions for where the best linebackers and defensive backs end up signing.  Where will Justin Houston, C.J. Mosley, LaMarcus Joyner and other top defensive free agents end up?  Keep reading to find out what I think, and you check out my tentative schedule for the entire series below with links to previous articles.

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2019 NFL Free Agency Predictions

Series Schedule

Monday, March 4: NFL Free Agency Predictions: Part 1: Offensive Skill Positions

Sunday, March 10: NFL Free Agency Predictions: Part 2: Linemen

Monday, March 11: NFL Free Agency Predictions: Part 3: Linebackers and Defensive Backs

 

Note: Predictions as of March 10, 2019.

Linebacker Predictions

OLB

Top Tier OLB

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Matthews may not be the best defender in the game anymore, but he is still a high tier talent at linebacker who will sign a multi-year deal.  I have him going to Buffalo, who has a huge hole at outside linebacker.  After being released by the Chiefs, Houston will head to another LB needy team – Detroit.  Look for Suggs, Bucannon, and Barr to resign with their former teams, who will end up with similar holes without their star linebackers.  McPhee will head to San Francisco, playing next to Malcolm Smith and providing experience to a young defense.

Cheaper OLB Options

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Kendricks and Wright will leave a crowded Seahawks front seven, with Kendricks providing depth in Green Bay and Wright playing across from second year star Darius Leonard in Indy.  Morgan will head to Miami to help out the pass rush in Wake’s absensce.  DE Charles Harris and Morgan could lead their 2019 pass rush.  Smith will serve as a veteran presence on a young Jets defense similar to McPhee in San Fran, while Worrilow returns to Philly for another year despite missing much of 2018.  Ray will fill a lingering need at linebacker for the Pats.

ILB

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Mosley and Alexander will wind up back with their 2018 teams despite interest from many others.   But Barron, who was just released, and Williamson will leave their former teams – with Williamson replacing Barron in LA and Barron heading to Philly as additional LB depth.  Te’o will also leave his 2018 team, heading to Arizona, close to his first NFL home in San Diego.  Brown will return to the Bengals after maintaining a starting job there in 2018.

Defensive Backs

Cornerbacks

CB1s

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There aren’t any top tier corners on the open market, but there are a handful that will score 2-3 year deals.  Claiborne will head to Cleveland after one year on the Jets for 3 years, and Scandrick will resign with Kansas City for 3 years after getting settled there in 2018.  Verrett may have missed 2018 with a torn ACL, but prior to that, he was a star on the rise, and he may benefit from a fresh start with the Colts.  Grimes will replace Jimmie Ward in San Fran on a 2-year deal.  Roby has established himself as a trustworthy starter in Denver, so I see him returning.  Darby, on the other hand, got hurt during his stint in Philly.  He underperformed leading up to that, but he could thrive in Tennessee as an upgrade over some of their current CBs.

CB2-Nickel Options

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Johnson and the young Shaquill Griffin could make for a good CB duo in Seattle.  I have J-Mac and Ward replacing him in Houston.  Gaines will head to Miami and battle against Minkah Fitzpatrick for the #2 CB job, while Skrine and Lippett will return to their New York teams for the same purpose.

Safeties

Top Tier S

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Honey Badger will head to San Francisco, filling a hole the Niners have had at safety since Eric Reid’s departure.  I originally thought Joyner would return to LA joining Mathieu on the west coast, but the Rams signed Eric Weddle recently.  That probably implies that Joyner’s moving on.  Hopefully, the young Packers secondary can follow by his example.  Bethea is not what he used to be, but should still score a one year deal with a safety-needy team.  Thomas may be injury prone, but the Cowboys have been linked to him and should give him a try in 2019.  Iloka can replace Thomas in Seattle, even though they were fine with Thomas on the sidelines in 2018.  Collins will return to New York after other teams don’t want to invest too much in him.

Cheaper S Options

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Amos will return to Chicago, maintaining a dynamic safety duo alongside Eddie Jackson.  Clinton-Dix will join J-Mac and Ward in a changing Houston secondary.  Vaccaro will head to Jacksonville after a year in Tennessee, while an aging Corey Graham provides depth to a strong Ravens secondary.  Exum will play alongside Eric Berry in Kansas City, and Nelson will return to Oakland as they give him one more chance to prove himself despite a decline during his time in Oakland.

That’s all for my NFL free agency predictions.  Stay tuned for more NFL coverage after free agency settles down.

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2019 NFL Free Agency Predictions: Part 1: Offensive Skill Positions

Welcome to the first article of my 2019 NFL free agency prediction series!  Today, I’ll be sharing my predictions for where offensive skill position players (QBs, RBs, WRs, TEs) end up signing.  Where will Le’Veon Bell be headed after a year away from football?  Where will Nick Foles find himself a starting job?  Keep reading to find out what I think, and you check out my tentative schedule for the entire series below.  In later articles, I will include links to the previously posted articles:

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2019 NFL Free Agency Predictions

Series Schedule

Monday, March 4: NFL Free Agency Predictions: Part 1: Offensive Skill Positions

Wednesday, March 6: NFL Free Agency Predictions: Part 2: Linemen

Saturday, March 9: NFL Free Agency Predictions: Part 3: Linebackers and Defensive Backs

 

QB

In my eyes, Foles is the only viable starter that’s currently on the free agent market. Blake Bortles or Ryan Tannehill could eventually be released/traded, but for now, the choice is targeting Foles or waiting for the draft. Unlike other QB needy teams, the Jags could easily return to the playoffs with the right QB leading them. That being said, a veteran QB makes sense. The Giants, Redskins, and others will go for a combo of a rookie and a veteran mentor.

For Washington, Alex Smith will not be able to serve as a veteran mentor considering his severe knee injury in 2018. Colt McCoy isn’t a viable starter in my eyes either. However, Teddy Bridgewater is a free agent who has experience starting, so he could serve as Washington’s bridge starter (no pun intended) until their young QB, whether it be Kyler Murray, Dwayne Haskins, or someone else, has time to develop.

The Bucs and Dolphins will also be on the lookout for veteran backups. Look for them to resign their 2018 backup QBs, Ryan Fitzpatrick and Brock Osweiler. The Bills could also use some depth at QB behind Josh Allen, so bringing back their former QB, Tyrod Taylor, could be smart.

That would leave Josh McCown as the best free agent QB left. I have him going to LA to backup Philip Rivers until they draft Rivers’ successor.

RB

Viable Starters

Bell might be the best player on the open market in a long time. The Steelers refused to pay him what he wanted. But who will be up to pay him? He reportedly wants $25 million annually. I don’t think anyone will give him that, but I think he’d settle for $20 million/year if he ever wants to play again. If the Eagles free up enough cap between Foles’ departure and a release or two, they will be willing to pay for him for some answers at RB. Right now, they have a surplus of RBs, but no clear cut starter.

I see Ajayi, Philly’s last starting RB, leading a refined RB committee in Tampa. Expect an aging Adrian Peterson to do the same in Indianapolis. On the contrary, Ingram and Coleman will leave RB committees to become full time starters on RB needy teams. Coleman will replace Kareem Hunt, while Ingram will replace Marshawn Lynch (I see him retiring). The Ravens’ backfield is getting pretty crowded after the emergence of Gus Edwards, but I think Alex Collins will wind up back in Baltimore.

RB2 Options

The 49ers may have Jerick McKinnon and Matt Breida at RB, but a veteran mentor like 3-time Super Bowl champion LeGarrette Blount could be helpful if they resort to an RB committee.  Yeldon will serve a similar role in Green Bay, playing alongside young RBs Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams.  The Steelers could also use a veteran in their backfield behind new starter James Conner, and I think Martin could be a good fit.  Despite leading the Rams in the playoffs, Anderson may have to settle for a backup/committee role as well.  He could be a good replacement for Coleman in Atlanta.  Murray was successful in Minnesota, and there’s room for him in the backfield, so I see him coming back.  With Coleman headed to Kansas City, the Chiefs will move on from Spencer Ware as he heads to Dallas to backup Ezekiel Elliott.

WR/TE

Top Tier WRs

Sam Darnold showed flashes of talent in his rookie year.  I think a better RB and a #1 receiver could make all the difference for him.  They should chase after Tate aggressively if they cannot land Antonio Brown (I have him going to San Fran).  Bryant barely played last year, but he still could serve as a WR1.  The Bills could be a fit, but if they pass up on Bryant, they could also take D.K. Metcalf in Round 1 of the draft.

Cobb looks to be leaving Green Bay, and the Steelers may seek depth options at receiver after Antonio Brown leaves.  Cobb could be a fit to play across from JuJu Smith-Schuster.  The Lions have no clear cut WR1 after Tate’s departure, but if they sign a lower tier option like John Brown, Matthew Stafford could look evenly split targets among Brown, Marvin Jones, and Kenny Golladay.

Moncrief and Wallace aren’t viable #1 receivers at this point, but they could still be a big help for WR needy teams.  Moncrief could be a good option for the Pats, rather than overspending for Golden Tate.  I have Wallace returning to the Eagles to play alongside Alshon Jeffery and Nelson Agholor.  This trio never played together despite being lined up as Philly’s top 3 receivers on the depth chart in 2018 training camp.

WR Depth Options

The Bills need more than just Bryant or Metcalf – maybe they can pair up Bryant with Beasley, his former teammate.  The Ravens could also use some more depth at WR.  Funchess isn’t a top tier option, but if they cannot land or draft someone top tier, he will have to do.  Maybe they can pair Funchess with a rookie WR1.  The Chiefs may not bring in anyone new, but they could bring back Conley to play behind Tyreek Hill and Sammy Watkins.

The Colts could use some more experienced options across from T.Y. Hilton – Matthews could be a good choice.  They could always draft someone to split time as the #2 receiver with him.  Williams upped his value this season, but I still cannot see many teams paying him WR1 money.  The Jets could use another depth option behind Tate, especially if Robby Anderson leaves.  The Patriots need all the quality WRs they can afford, so Dorsett could be a good option to bring back considering his developing chemistry with Tom Brady.

Top Tier TEs

Eifert has a concerning injury history, and I think it’s time for Cincinnati to move on.  But Detroit could pair him with a drafted TE to ensure security at the position.  Kroft will return to Cincy with Eifert on his way out.  Kroft will return to Cincy with Eifert on his way out.  The Saints could also use a veteran TE alongside the young Dan Arnold, and Cook might be the most consistent veteran on the market.  It would be smart for the Texans to target Noah Fant or T.J. Hockenson in the draft, but signing a veteran in the meantime couldn’t hurt, and James could be a good mentor for their new TE.

Lewis and Rodgers are not cut out to be a team’s #1 tight end at this point.  But they can provide depth as a TE2, with Lewis backing up Vance McDonald and Rodgers backing up Chris Herndon IV.

WR/TE Depth Options

Darnold needs more consistent receivers, so I could see the Jets moving on from Robby Anderson.  Anderson could be a good depth piece in Cleveland, serving as the WR2 over Antonio Callaway.  Humphries is also going into free agency expecting WR2 money.  But I think he will have to settle for a little less, and if his price drops, the Pats may be willing to pay for him for additional depth.  He is a good fit in New England.  Despite a disappointing 2018, I could still see Benjamin contributing behind Davante Adams in Green Bay.  They’ll need to draft a younger receiver to play alongside them though.

If the Lions sign anyone else at TE besides Eifert, I don’t think it will be their 2018 tight end Luke Willson.  Josh Hill has a slightly better track record and could be a good bargain for the Lions.  I see Willson returning to Seattle to compete for playing time with Will Dissly, Ed Dickson, and others.  Kendricks was the most consistent of Green Bay’s tight ends this year, so look for them to retain him alongside Jimmy Graham.

 

Wow, that’s a lot of quality free agents.  The madness will begin in a little over a week.  Stay tuned for more predictions later in the week.