AROUND THE NFL
In addition to Jimmy Johnson and Bill Cowher, the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s special Centennial Class of make goods includes Paul Tagliabue. Jeff Legwold of ESPN.com:
Former NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue, former NFL Films president Steve Sabol and two players from the league’s most iconic defenses were among those selected in the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s Centennial class.
Thirteen members of the 15-member centennial class were revealed Wednesday morning on NFL Network. Tagliabue, Sabol, former Pittsburgh Steelers safety Donnie Shell and Dallas Cowboys safety Cliff Harris were among the ensrhinees.
“Don’t give up on your gifts and you talents,” said Shell on NFL Network. He was signed by the Steelers as an undrafted free agent after playing football and baseball at South Carolina State.
Former Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Harold Carmichael, Chicago Bears tackle Jim Covert, Green Bay Packers Bobby Dillon, New York Jets tackle Winston Hill, Detroit Lions defensive tackle Alex Karras, tackle Duke Slater, Cleveland Browns wide receiver Mac Speedie, Chicago Bears defensive end Ed Sprinkle and former New York Giants general manager George Young are now also Hall of Famers.
The Hall’s Centennial class was selected by a special “blue-ribbon panel,” which included members of the Hall’s board of selectors, league historians, Hall of Famers, as well as New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick.
The 38 finalists were chosen from a list of almost 300 nominees over the course of the past five months.
The Hall of Fame’s Class of 2020 — comprised of modern-era players — will be selected in Miami Beach on Feb. 1, the day before Super Bowl LIV. The Hall of Fame announced the modern-era class will be enshrined in August with part of the centennial class. The remainder of the centennial class will be enshrined at the league’s 100th year celebration in September in Canton.
Tagliabue, Sabol and Young will be enshrined as contributors. Tagliabue and Young had each been finalists for the Hall in previous years. The Giants had finished last in the NFC East in six of the previous seven years when Young was hired. The team won two Super Bowls in his tenure. Sabol’s father, Ed, had been enshrined in 2011.
Shell becomes the fifth member of the Steel Curtain defense to be enshrined in Canton, joining Joe Greene, Jack Lambert, Jack Ham and Mel Blount while Harris is the fourth member of the Doomsday defense to be enshrined, joining Bob Lilly, Randy White and Herb Adderly’s three-year run in Dallas.
Carmcichel was an All-Decade selection of the 1970s and when he retired he held the league record with a reception in 127 consecutive games. He had a touchdown reception on almost 14 percent of his career catches.
“I am numb right now,” said Carmichael on NFL Network, of getting the phone call telling him he made the Hall of Fame. “I had a flashback from 60-some year ago, thinking about the guys that helped me get here.
“This is the ultimate honor you get in the National Football League.”
Hill, whose dominating performance in Super Bowl III was one of the biggest reasons the Jets pulled off one of the biggest upsets in league history by beating the Baltimore Colts, was the only player among the centennial class to have spent significant portions of his career in the AFL.
Dillon, Slater, one of the NFL’s first black players, Speedie and Sprinkle all played before 1960. Karras’ dominant career was often overshadowed by a one-year gambling suspension, along with Paul Hornung in 1963, and the fact he did not play in a playoff game until the final game of his career.
Who is this Jim Covert? We remember Jimbo Covert. Are they any relation?
And, seriously, who is Bobby Dillon? We wiki’d him and he was good – for just eight years. And unfortunately, he came up a year short of being alive for his enshrinement.
Bobby Dan Dillon (February 23, 1930 – August 22, 2019) was an American football defensive back for the Green Bay Packers. Despite only having one working eye, Bobby Dillon is the all-time Green Bay Packer’s career interceptions leader with 52. He had 9 interceptions in one season three times, with a stretch between 1953–58 where he had 48 interceptions, averaging 8 interceptions per season. He was the second player in NFL history to record 50 interceptions. As a paradox of his blindness, Dillon was nicknamed “The Hawk” by Packer fans.
Bobby played for Temple High School and then for The University of Texas, where he was an All-American.
In 2011, the Professional Football Researchers Association named Dillon to the PRFA Hall of Very Good Class of 2011. He died in 2019 at the age of 89.
The Falcons have worn both black and red jerseys during their 50+ years. Lately, they’ve been in red. In April, they are going to unveil new uniforms. Matthew Tabeek at AtlantaFalcons.com:
The Atlanta Falcons are turning the page on their uniforms and are set to usher in a brand-new look for the 2020 season.
Falcons owner and CEO Arthur Blank sent a letter to season ticket members on Tuesday informing them with the exclusive news that the team will unveil a new Falcons uniform design in April of 2020.
“Time and again, we’ve heard you ask for new uniforms over the years,” Blank wrote. “We’ve listened to your feedback and worked closely with Nike and the NFL over the past two years to create a look that represents you and reflects Atlanta’s culture, pride and unity.”
This will be the Falcons’ first full-scale uniform change in 17 years.
We also remind you that the Falcons have given up a home game for the 2020 International Series. It will be against one of their five non-divisional opponents:
Chicago Bears (8-8), Detroit Lions (3-12-1), Denver Broncos (7-9), Las Vegas Raiders (7-9) or Seattle Seahawks (11-5).
Big news out of Charlotte. A national champion with LSU on Monday night (Tuesday morning in the East) and by nightfall Tuesday, Joe Brady is the new offensive coordinator of the Panthers.
Joe Brady agreed to become the offensive coordinator of the Carolina Panthers less than 24 hours after helping LSU win the national title.
A source told ESPN’s Adam Schefter that the 30-year-old Brady, after one year as LSU’s passing coordinator, will return to the NFL and become the league’s youngest active offensive coordinator.
He will join former Baylor coach Matt Rhule, recently named Carolina’s fifth head coach in franchise history.
Baylor defensive coordinator Phil Snow is expected to join Rhule in Charlotte as defensive coordinator, sources told ESPN. Snow and Rhule have been together since 2013, first at rebuilding Temple and then from 2017 to ’19 at Baylor.
But Brady was the bigger get because of his fast ascension in the coaching ranks. He went from a graduate assistant at Penn State in 2015 to an offensive assistant for the New Orleans Saints (2017-18) to LSU in five years.
Brady recently agreed to an extension with LSU that reportedly would have more than doubled his $410,000 annual earnings. While he said Saturday he intended to stay at LSU, his extension did not prohibit him from going to the NFL or accepting a college head coaching job, and Brady took advantage of that on Tuesday.
Brady’s star really shined this past season when he helped quarterback Joe Burrow win the Heisman Trophy and national championship MVP with 5,671 yards passing and 60 touchdown passes, a single-season NCAA FBS record.
Brady won the Broyles Award given to the best assistant coach in college football.
Brady’s philosophy in the spread offense should mix well with that of Rhule, who believes in adapting to the strengths of his players more than forcing players to adapt to what he wants.
He will inherit one of the league’s most dynamic players in running back Christian McCaffrey, who in 2019 became the third player in NFL history to have 1,000 yards rushing and receiving in the same season.
It remains uncertain whether Brady will work with quarterback Cam Newton, who is recovering from surgery to repair a Lisfranc injury. The other two quarterbacks on Carolina’s roster are 2019 third-round pick Will Grier and Kyle Allen.
You can only wonder if the Panthers are looking to dazzle the Bengals with an offer for that top pick. While the DB can see the attraction of Burrow in Cincinnati, could/should a huge offer entice the Bengals. Say the #7, a second, a third, the 2021 #1, the 2022 #2? That’s a lot of picks and quality players.
On the negative side for the team, LB LUKE KUECHLY, himself a native of Cincinnati, also a Queen City, decides to hang it up after eight seasons at the age of 28. Charean Williams of ProFootballTalk.com:
The Panthers have had a good week . . . until Tuesday night. That’s when Pro Bowl linebacker Luke Kuechly announced his retirement.
“I think now is the right chance for me to move on,” Kuechly said, via Max Henson of the team website. “It makes me sad because I love playing this game, I’ve played it since I was a kid. It’s my favorite thing in the world to do. The memories I have from this place and this organization and being on the field with these guys – they’ll never go away.
“In my heart I know it’s the right thing to do. There’s only one way to play this game since I was a little kid – play fast, play physical and play strong. And at this point I don’t know if I am able to do that anymore.”
New coach Matt Rhule will not have one of the greatest players in franchise history to build around on his defense.
Kuechly, 28, played eight NFL seasons and made seven Pro Bowls and five first-team AP All-Pro nods.
He also was defensive player of the year in 2013 and defensive rookie of the year in 2012.
“Beyond his extraordinary performance on the field, Luke has had a tremendous impact on this organization and region,” owner David Tepper said. “In my two seasons with Luke, I quickly recognized how special of a person he is. The respect he gives and garners from others as well as the positive impact he has on his peers is second to none. It’s obviously going to be very difficult for all of us because we know that no player can replace what he’s been for this organization for the last eight years. His presence can’t be replicated.”
Kuechly made 1,092 tackles, the most in the NFL since he entered the league. His 18 interceptions are most by a linebacker since 2012 and third-most in franchise history. His 75 tackles for loss are tied for fifth among linebackers over that span.
David Newton of ESPN.com assesses the Panthers without Kuechly:
It was easy to see that the final weeks of the 2019 NFL season were tough on Carolina Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly. The player who prided himself on being perfect was less than that for perhaps the first time in his career.
There were times he seemed a step slow.
There were times he missed a tackle that he never would have missed before, lost gap control that he never would have lost.
But it wasn’t so obvious that anyone could have anticipated the retirement bombshell Kuechly dropped on Tuesday night, announcing that at 28 he wasn’t sure he could play as fast and physical and strong as he was accustomed.
Until Tuesday night, the word “rebuild” and new coach Matt Rhule didn’t really stick because with Kuechly, there was the feeling the Panthers always had a chance — even when they were losing their final eight games this season and seven of their final eight in 2018.
Quarterback Cam Newton liked to take on the “Superman” persona. Kuechly was the “Man of Steel.”
“Luke is like going to a famous steakhouse, hearing about Wagyu steak,” veteran defensive tackle Gerald McCoy told me late last season as Kuechly approached 1,000 career tackles. “It’s been pampered all its life, played music, too, and wined and all this so it can be prime for you to enjoy. And then when you get to this famous steakhouse and you order the steak and bite into it, it’s like, ‘Wow, it is as advertised.’
“Like Luke Kuechly. Luke Kuechly. Prime steak. As advertised.”
Rhule would have enjoyed coaching Kuechly. Who better to build around than a seven-time Pro Bowl linebacker who loved football as much as anyone, who exuded the kind of leadership and class that is the perfect example for young players?
Kuechly wasn’t just one of the best linebackers in today’s game. He was one of the best linebackers in league history, often compared to Mike Singletary and Brian Urlacher.
He was one of the best people, too.
Now he’s no longer on the field, and whether it’s for fear of suffering another concussion, the overall wear and tear of eight NFL seasons or not wanting to be a part of a rebuild, it doesn’t matter.
The loss of Kuechly makes this feel as if Rhule is starting from scratch, as he did at Temple and Baylor. It makes it feel like 1995, when the Panthers were an expansion team looking for an identity.
Kuechly was a part of the core McCoy talked about when explaining why the new coach would inherit a team that has the ability to win immediately. McCoy also mentioned Newton and tight end Greg Olsen as part of that core.
But both of them could be gone, too. Newton’s health is uncertain at age 30 as he recovers from foot surgery and Olsen has indicated that at 34 he doesn’t want to be a part of a rebuild.
Take them out of the equation with Kuechly and that’s three of the six captains for much of the past six or seven years. That’s the core that former coach Ron Rivera turned into a team that went an NFL-best 15-1 and reached Super Bowl 50 after the 2015 season.
Four years later, the window of contention for the Panthers has shut, and tightly.
Now comes the question: How long will it take Rhule to create a new window?
The cupboard is not bare. There’s Christian McCaffrey on offense, the third player in NFL history to have 1,000 yards rushing and receiving in the same season. There’s linebacker Shaq Thompson (and his new four-year, $54.2 million deal) on defense.
Rhule is laying the groundwork for a strong staff. He reportedly has lured 30-year-old LSU passing game coordinator Joe Brady to be his offensive coordinator and longtime friend and Baylor defensive coordinator Phil Snow to run his defense.
But great coaches need great players, and the loss of Kuechly takes away one of the greatest to wear a Panthers jersey.
Rhule likes challenges. He’s got one now. He’s got almost a clean sheet of paper to build this team any way he wants, particularly if Newton is released or traded.
He’s got a chance to go from the basement to the penthouse the way he did at Temple, going from 2-10 in his first season to 10 wins in his third and fourth seasons. He did the same thing at Baylor, going from 1-11 in his first season to 11-3 in his third.
He’s done this with what he calls a process, and for the most part that has meant starting from scratch. That appears to be the process here, and the first hint might have been in the video before he was introduced at his first news conference.
“I look at the Panthers as an opportunity to say, ‘Hey, what kind of culture is going to be built here? What is the identity going to be? What’s our plan?'” Rhule said. “We’re just going to build. In uncertain times when there’s transition, you just take your two hands and start to build. Each and every year you build a new team. No matter what you do the year before, you start over from scratch and you build.
“We’re going to build a team. You know it’s going to be hard. You know it takes time. You know it takes energy. … So now what’s next? What’s next?”
What’s next for Kuechly remains to be seen, too. He’s always been called a coach on the field. Perhaps Rhule will find a way to add him to his staff as a linebackers coach, as former Panthers coach Dom Capers did with Sam Mills when Mills retired after the 1997 season.
Kuechly will remain a part of the game in some form or fashion. He said as much in his retirement speech: “I hope to still be involved in some way.”
The sad part for those who have followed the Panthers the past eight years is there will be no chant of “LUUUUUKE,” as there was every time No. 59 made a tackle or big play.
The chants could turn to “BOOOO” out of the frustration that comes with rebuilds.
And if there was a question whether this is a true rebuild, there isn’t one now.
Kliff Kingsbury brought joy to WR LARRY FITZGERALD and he’s going to play for another year. Josh Alper of ProFootballTalk.com:
At the end of the regular season, Larry Fitzgerald said he would take some time to make up his mind about playing in 2020 but he gave a hint that suggested he wasn’t done with football just yet.
Fitzgerald said that he “can’t remember having as much joy in the process” as he had during the 2019 season with the Cardinals. The wideout will have a chance to enjoy himself even more in 2020.
The Cardinals announced on Wednesday that Fitzgerald has signed a one-year contract to return to the team for his 17th season.
Fitzgerald had 74 catches for 804 yards and four touchdowns in 2019 and will enter the 2020 season with a streak of 243 straight games with a reception. That’s second-most all-time behind Jerry Rice and Fitzgerald is also second behind Rice in receiving yards and touchdowns.
QB PATRICK MAHOMES and the Chiefs are substantial favorites to get Andy Reid back to the Super Bowl. One problem – when they played in the regular season, it was the Titans who won. Michael David Smith of ProFootballTalk.com:
When the Titans beat the Chiefs in the regular season, Derrick Henry led the way. If the Titans are going to upset the Chiefs again on Sunday in the AFC Championship Game, they’ll be counting on Henry to get the job done again.
Henry carried 23 times for 188 yards and two touchdowns when the Titans beat the Chiefs in the regular season, and the Titans rode him all day. In addition to a spectacular 68-yard touchdown run, Henry ran for 10 first downs in the game. Henry only got stuffed for no yardage once.
The Chiefs’ most glaring weakness all season was their run defense. In most games, that didn’t matter all that much because the Chiefs’ offense was good enough to put them in the lead, and opposing teams had to pass to try to catch up.
The Titans, however, didn’t stop giving the ball to Henry even when they fell behind 10-0 in the regular season, and it’s a safe bet that they won’t stop going to Henry in the AFC Championship Game. They’ll try to attack the Chiefs’ defense by going to Henry over and over again, and given the softness of the Chiefs’ defense against the run, it might just work.
The Chiefs are justifiably favored, but the Titans’ experience in the regular season shows they have a path to victory. When Henry is running the ball effectively, the game is going the way the Titans want.
Tennessee won that game 35-32 in Nashville on November 10. And two years ago, with Marcus Mariota doing his thing and Mike Mularkey coaching, the Titans beat the Chiefs in a Wild Card game in Kansas City, 22-21. And the Chiefs have lost seven home playoff games since 1995, including last season’s AFC Championship Game.
But Kansas City is a 7.5-point favorite?
The Titans would reach the Super Bowl by winning their fourth consecutive road game against a division champion.
THIS AND THAT
FREE AGENT MARKET
Some of these guys will be locked up before free agency starts, but any list with RB DERRICK HENRY outside the top 10 and WR EMMANUEL SANDERS outside the top 50 shows the amazing strength of the potential 2020 free agent market. Kevin Seifert at ESPN.com has his list, edited below:
All 32 teams — whether they are alive in the playoffs or not — are deep into personnel evaluations and roster planning for next season, as the window for taking action on 2020 NFL free agency opens in less than three weeks. The offseason waiver process begins Feb. 3, the day after Super Bowl LIV. Teams can begin to use franchise or transition tags on Feb. 25, and negotiations can begin March 16. Free agency officially opens March 18.
What follows is an early look at the 50 most valuable players set to qualify for unrestricted free agency. We’ve focused this list toward the philosophies of most teams rather than simply looking at skill level or 2019 production in a vacuum. Age is critical as teams attempt to project future performance — 26 and 27 are the sweet spots — and certain positions are always higher priorities. That’s why this ranking includes quarterback Marcus Mariota, benched in Week 6 by the Titans, and not running back Carlos Hyde, who rushed for 1,070 yards at age 29 for the Texans.
There is no doubt that this list will look much different when the market opens. Some players will re-sign with their existing teams, while others will join the pool as roster cuts. But for now, consider this a wish list of the unrestricted free agents who NFL teams hope will be available. We did not include players who are likely to be cut but we did insert a few whose contracts are set to automatically void rather than simply expire. Let’s jump in.
1. Dak Prescott, QB
2019 team: Dallas Cowboys | Age entering 2020 season: 27
Say whatever you want about Prescott’s ceiling. If a 27-year-old quarterback coming off a 4,902-yard season ever reached the open market, he would be swarmed.
2. Tom Brady, QB
2019 team: New England Patriots | Age: 43
Retiring is “pretty unlikely,” Brady said after the Patriots’ wild-card loss to the Titans. That sentiment sets up a two-month guessing game about his 2020 team. The Patriots have agreed not to use the franchise tag on him, and without a new deal by March 18, Brady will become a free agent — and deposit $13.5 million in dead money on the Patriots’ cap — for the first time in his career.
3. Drew Brees, QB
2019 team: New Orleans Saints | Age: 41
Brees produced the NFL’s third-best QBR (72.0) after returning in Week 10 from a torn thumb ligament, trailing only Lamar Jackson and Patrick Mahomes during that period. His performance was a strong signal that he could play at a high level in 2020, even after a shaky outing in the Saints’ wild-card playoff loss to the Vikings. Brees has never been interested in leaving the Saints. Has anything changed? Would the Saints move on in favor of Teddy Bridgewater or Taysom Hill?
4. Yannick Ngakoue, DE
2019 team: Jacksonville Jaguars | Age: 25
Ngakoue turned down a long-term contract offer last summer and could be a candidate for the franchise tag. It’s generally not good business to let 25-year-old pass-rushers leave town.
5. Brandon Scherff, G
2019 team: Washington Redskins | Age: 28
A three-time Pro Bowl selection, Scherff has missed 13 games over the past two seasons due to various injuries. The Redskins’ long-term planning has changed with the hiring of coach Ron Rivera and the reorganization of their front office, so it’s unclear where the team’s priorities will lie. But Scherff projects as the best available offensive lineman if he makes it to the market.
6. Jadeveon Clowney, DE
2019 team: Seattle Seahawks | Age: 27
Rented on the cheap for the season by the Seahawks, Clowney reaffirmed most existing impressions of him: He is a difference-maker when healthy.
7. Ryan Tannehill, QB
2019 team: Tennessee Titans | Age: 32
Tannehill appears to have resurrected his career in Tennessee, having produced the league’s sixth-best QBR (65.2) over the final 10 weeks of the season. His 7.7% touchdown rate — 22 in 286 attempts — was second-best in the NFL. The Titans would be well-advised to at least use the franchise tag on him.
8. Shaquil Barrett, DE
2019 team: Tampa Bay Buccaneers | Age: 27
Rarely has a player raised his value more in a contract year than Barrett did. After signing a one-year contract with the Buccaneers worth $4 million, Barrett led the NFL with 19.5 sacks.
9. Hunter Henry, TE
2019 team: Los Angeles Chargers | Age: 25
Henry returned to full strength after a torn ACL cost him the 2018 season, catching 55 passes for 652 yards — both career-highs. The dynamic role of tight ends in today’s offenses suggests he will be highly sought-after if he reaches the market. The Patriots, in particular, seem like an obvious team of interest.
10. Jarran Reed, DT
2019 team: Seattle Seahawks | Age: 27
After serving a six-game suspension for a violation of the NFL’s personal conduct policy, Reed resumed his role as a starter during the remaining 10 games, but didn’t come close to matching his 2018 sack rate. But there is always a market for inside pass-rushers.
11. A.J. Green, WR
2019 team: Cincinnati Bengals | Age: 32
Injuries have stalled Green’s otherwise Hall of Fame-caliber career.
12. Anthony Castonzo, OT
2019 team: Indianapolis Colts | Age: 32
Castonzo has said he will consider retirement, but he played well enough in 2019 to project as a starter for several more years. And if he ever got on the open market, he would find plenty of suitors. Starting left tackles, young or old, are rarely available.
13. Amari Cooper, WR
2019 team: Dallas Cowboys | Age: 26
Late-season disappointments aside, it’s hard to imagine the Cowboys bidding farewell to a player they used a first-round pick to acquire in 2018.
14. Derrick Henry, RB
2019 team: Tennessee Titans | Age: 26
Henry’s expiring contract provides yet another test of how teams value traditional veteran tailbacks. A market has emerged recently for those who are exceptional in the passing game, but Henry is primarily a (very hard) runner. He was the NFL’s 2019 leader in rushing (1,540 yards), rushing touchdowns (16) and — unfortunately for his potential trip into free agency — rushing attempts (303).
15. Austin Hooper, TE
2019 team: Atlanta Falcons | Age: 25
The Falcons’ tight salary-cap situation could make it difficult to bring back Hooper, whose eye-opening start to the 2019 season will no doubt attract multiple suitors who want to capitalize on tight end mismatches in their offense. Before being slowed by a knee injury, he caught 52 passes through the first eight weeks of the season. He is set to cash in somewhere.
16. Philip Rivers, QB
2019 team: Los Angeles Chargers | Age: 38
Rivers slipped in his 16th season, finishing No. 22 in QBR (48.9), and his teary Week 17 postgame press conference suggested he is ready and willing to move on. It’s not outlandish to think he could put a playoff-ready team over the top. Remember, Brett Favre was 39 when he signed with the Vikings in 2009.
17. Arik Armstead, DL
2019 team: San Francisco 49ers | Age: 26
Armstead recorded 10 sacks in the 49ers’ first 11 games and was one of the key reasons for their defensive turnaround. His breakout year could not have been better-timed.
18. Chris Jones, DL
2019 team: Kansas City Chiefs | Age: 26
Jones didn’t put up the same sack numbers this season (9.0) as he did in 2018 (15.5), but at his age, and with his history as a pass-rusher, Jones is a valuable asset.
19. Kenyan Drake, RB
2019 team: Arizona Cardinals | Age: 25
Drake was wildly productive after arriving from the Dolphins via trade. In eight games, he rushed for eight touchdowns and combined for 814 yards rushing and receiving. Drake’s age and receiving ability make him a rare valuable commodity at his position in free agency.
20. Markus Golden, LB
2019 team: New York Giants | Age: 29
Golden was one of the few bright spots for the Giants, recording 10 sacks — including one that came as a result of a postgame stat change — for a bad team.
21. Matthew Judon, LB
2019 team: Baltimore Ravens | Age: 27
The Ravens have a long history of allowing productive players to leave via free agency — see Za’Darius Smith and C.J. Mosley in 2019 — in part because they are confident in their draft classes to replenish the talent. Will Judon be the next such player?
22. Byron Jones, CB
2019 team: Dallas Cowboys | Age: 27
It has long been thought that Jones would be the odd man out of the Cowboys’ 2019-20 free-agency classes, but that was before they transitioned to coach Mike McCarthy.
23. Justin Simmons, S
2019 team: Denver Broncos | Age: 26
Simmons earned second-team All-Pro honors. Safeties don’t always find success in free agency, but the Broncos might well use their franchise tag to keep him for 2020.
24. Melvin Gordon, RB
2019 team: Los Angeles Chargers | Age: 27
The Chargers’ decision to stand firm during Gordon’s 2019 holdout, and Gordon’s career-low 612 rushing yards upon his return, seem to suggest a parting of ways this offseason. His holdout reduced the mileage on his body, but at least some teams will view him as an aging running back whose best years have passed.
25. Jameis Winston, QB
2019 team: Tampa Bay Buccaneers | Age: 26
All you need to know about Winston is that in 2019 he became the first player in NFL history to throw 30 touchdown passes and 30 interceptions in the same season. The Buccaneers, who have the No. 14 overall pick in the draft, might have no choice but to re-sign or franchise him.
26. Dante Fowler Jr., LB
2019 team: Los Angeles Rams | Age: 26
Fowler produced a career-high 11.5 sacks in his first full season with the Rams, finally putting behind him 3.5 seasons of disappointment with the Jaguars. The talent has always been there.
27. Chris Harris Jr., CB
2019 team: Denver Broncos | Age: 32
Harris is older than an ideal free-agent cornerback, but he was still playing at a high level in 2019, his ninth NFL season.
28. Vic Beasley Jr., DE
2019 team: Atlanta Falcons | Age: 28
The No. 8 overall pick of the 2015 draft, Beasley has never been as much of a play-to-play force as the Falcons had hoped, but that doesn’t mean there wouldn’t be a market for his services.
29. Teddy Bridgewater, QB
2019 team: New Orleans Saints | Age: 27
If there were any doubts, Bridgewater showed he can play at a winning level over an extended period of time. Three years after a catastrophic knee injury, Bridgewater helped the Saints to a 5-0 record after Brees injured his thumb. Bridgewater was picky last offseason, turning down the Dolphins’ starting job to return as a Saints backup. Would he do it again, assuming Brees returns? And can the Saints afford to give him a raise off the $7.5 million he earned this season?
30. Bud Dupree, LB
2019 team: Pittsburgh Steelers | Age: 27
A breakout season for a pass-rusher in a contract year often means big money. Dupree finally put it all together in 2019, starting all 16 games and recording 11.5 sacks while playing across from T.J. Watt.
31. Anthony Harris, S
2019 team: Minnesota Vikings | Age: 29
After three seasons as a backup/special-teams player, Harris emerged as a force in pass defense. He tied for the league lead in 2019 with six interceptions, and his nine picks since the start of the 2018 season are tied for the third-most. The Vikings are tight against the salary cap but could make room to re-sign him.
32. Joe Thuney, G
2019 team: New England Patriots | Age: 27
Thuney earned second-team All-Pro honors after completing his fourth season as a 16-game starter. And the Patriots’ tight salary-cap situation leaves open the possibility that he will hit the market.
33. Jack Conklin, OT
2019 team: Tennessee Titans | Age: 26
Conklin returned from an injury-shortened 2018 season to start all 16 games this season and is eligible for free agency because the Titans declined his 2020 fifth-year option.
34. Eric Ebron, TE
2019 team: Indianapolis Colts | Age: 27
Ebron caught 16 touchdown passes in 27 games after moving from the Lions to the Colts in 2018 and is young for someone who has played six seasons. But he has always struggled with dropped passes, and teams no doubt will want to investigate the circumstances that led Ebron to decide he needed season-ending ankle surgery. The Colts’ public statements made clear they were surprised by the urgent need for surgery.
35. Robert Quinn, DE
2019 team: Dallas Cowboys | Age: 30
Quinn displayed high-end pass-rushing in 2019 for the Cowboys, his third team in as many seasons. If nothing else, Quinn can still provide high-level contributions as a situational pass-rusher.
36. Blake Martinez, LB
2019 team: Green Bay Packers | Age: 27
A tackling machine who hasn’t missed a start in three seasons, Martinez has been a reliable and valuable member of the Packers’ defense spanning two coaching staffs. Not every team values the inside linebacker position, but it only takes one.
37. Robby Anderson, WR
2019 team: New York Jets | Age: 27
A late-season push — 27 receptions for 420 yards over the Jets’ final six games — pushed Anderson up the rankings of young receivers with expiring contracts.
38. Joe Schobert, LB
2019 team: Cleveland Browns | Age: 26
The previous Browns front office made little attempt to re-sign Schobert, their starting middle linebacker for the past three seasons. He produced arguably his best season in 2019, recording 133 tackles while also grabbing four interceptions, second-most among NFL linebackers.
39. Trae Waynes, CB
2019 team: Minnesota Vikings | Age: 28
Waynes didn’t become a full-time starter until his third season with the Vikings, and after playing out his fifth-year option, he would be older than most first-time free agents. 2016 second-round pick Mackensie Alexander and 2018 first-rounder Mike Hughes are both possible replacements.
40. Breshad Perriman, WR
2019 team: Tampa Bay Buccaneers | Age: 26
A career year in the Buccaneers’ high-octane offense demonstrated that Perriman still has big-play ability after an injury-plagued start to his career. He should generate interest..
41. James Bradberry, CB
2019 team: Carolina Panthers | Age: 27
Bradberry is a four-year starter who has spent his career matching up against the NFC South’s battalion of elite receivers. He could end up as the top corner available on the market.
42. Connor McGovern, C
2019 team: Denver Broncos | Age: 27
Centers tend to be highly sought-after in free agency, and McGovern has held down the Broncos’ spot well after taking over for Matt Paradis during the 2018 season.
43. Graham Glasgow, C/G
2019 team: Detroit Lions | Age: 28
Glasgow has started at both center and guard, and he has missed only two games in his career. But the Lions began platooning him at guard in 2019, and he could use a fresh start.
44. D.J. Humphries, OT
2019 team: Arizona Cardinals | Age: 26
Humphries is one of the most intriguing candidates for the open market. His age and position will attract plenty of NFL teams. But Humphries, a 2015 first-round draft pick, struggled to stay on the field until his contract year. Is he past those issues?
45. Cory Littleton, LB
2019 team: Los Angeles Rams | Age: 26
A former undrafted free agent, Littleton developed from a special-teams standout to the Rams’ leading tackler in 2019. He would get some looks based on his tackling skills and scheme versatility.
46. Javon Hargrave, DT
2019 team: Pittsburgh Steelers | Age: 27
Not many people outside of the Steelers’ fan base know of him, and he doesn’t show up on many stat sheets. But Hargrave has been a four-year starter.
47. Quinton Spain, G
2019 team: Buffalo Bills | Age: 29
Spain made a successful transition to Buffalo in 2019 after spending four years with the Titans, but it was only on a one-year deal.
48. Germain Ifedi, OT
2019 team: Seattle Seahawks | Age: 26
The Seahawks declined their fifth-year option on Ifedi, a first-round pick in 2016, putting him on track to test the market after this season. He started all 16 games at right tackle.
49. Leonard Williams, DT
2019 team: New York Giants | Age: 26
The Giants acquired Williams at the trade deadline for an unusual eight-game tryout before the expiration of his contract. The No. 6 overall pick of the 2015 draft, he was largely disappointing , but plenty of teams will take a look if the Giants don’t re-sign him.
50. Marcus Mariota, QB
2019 team: Tennessee Titans | Age: 26
It’s impossible to know what would have come of Mariota’s career if he had been drafted into a stable coaching environment, rather than playing for three head coaches and four offensive coordinators over five seasons. Mariota could have adjusted better, but he appeared mismatched from the start.
Next 10 (alphabetically listed)
Bryan Bulaga, OT
Phillip Dorsett II, WR
Carlos Hyde, RB
Brian Poole, CB
Damarious Randall, S
D.J. Reader, DT
Emmanuel Sanders, WR
Jimmie Ward, S
Daryl Williams, OT
Halapoulivaati Vaitai, OT