There is NFL free agency officially kicks off on March 18, and the sheer volume of veteran quarterbacks primed to be available should make this offseason one of the most entertaining in years. Dak Prescott. Tom Brady. Philip Rivers. Jameis Winston. Teddy Bridgewater. Ryan Tannehill. Those are just a few notable players scheduled to shop around for a football home at the start of the new league year, and that, of course, is just one crop of guys from one specific position.set to hit the open market when 2020
After the big names, however, who should fans be clamoring for? As many well-known QBs are on track to potentially switch teams this year, you don’t want to get your hopes up and expect your favorite team to go all out with splashy moves come mid-March, especially if your favorite team also.
So here are five other names to keep an eye on — five of the most underrated but important free agents of 2020:
You might think that someone like Breeland would be getting overrated after enjoying the Super Bowl spotlight, and maybe free agency will prove that to be the case, but the lead-up to March would have you believe he’s nowhere near a possibility for big, let alone top-tier, money at a premier position.
That’s partly fair, considering how he faded out of favor in Washington a few years back, but he’s also coming off one of the better stretches of his career, which just happened to be one of the most important stretches in Chiefs history. Kendall Fuller and Tyrann Mathieu obviously helped the cause in K.C.’s secondary, but Breeland was far from a slouch, racking up 15 tackles, three pass deflections, two tackles for loss and a pick in three playoff games. And that came after a regular season in which he allowed just 48.4 percent of passes thrown his way. He was active. He was confident. He just turned 28. He’s a very solid No. 2 CB, at worst.
Three years ago, Howard was coming off his second straight 1,000-yard season, having scored nine touchdowns as the centerpiece of the Chicago Bears‘ offense. A lot has changed since then, namely the former starter being dealt to Philly for just a sixth-round draft pick ahead of 2019, during which he started a career-low four games and missed another six with a shoulder/neck injury.
While his health deserves monitoring, Howard is probably among the most reliable offensive options set to be available. Veteran running backs obviously don’t matter as much as they once did, but anyone who watched Howard in 2019 saw a guy who almost never lost yards — someone who pushed the pile on an absurd percentage of his carries. After a full offseason of rest, he should be more than capable of returning to a Day One starter role or, at worst, a steady committee piece. And get this: He’s still just 25.
Golden hasn’t been nearly as steady as Howard, but he’s got a similar story in terms of durability and team swaps lowering his perceived value, going from promising pass-rushing prospect — complete with a 12.5-sack breakout in 2016 — to an Arizona Cardinals castoff, forced into a one-year prove-it deal with the 2019 New York Giants.
The Giants’ 2019 defense, of course, was nothing short of awful for much of the year, and Golden returning to double-digit sacks (10) as a full-time starter for Big Blue has been overshadowed by the fact he missed 17 games from 2017-2018. But if you’re looking for a high-upside edge presence, especially as part of an already-solid rotation, you could do a heck of a lot worse. The fact he looked a lot like his 2016 self in New York after all the injury woes should be reason alone to give him a look, and he went long stretches as arguably the most consistent piece of the Giants’ defense.
A refresher on how Quinn’s career began pretty much confirms how underrated he is right now. We’re talking about a guy who went 11th overall in the draft, went to two Pro Bowls in his first four years and once hit 19.5 sacks as a Defensive Player of the Year candidate. And yet somehow, even after a solid year with the Cowboys, of all teams, he seems nothing like a hot topic entering 2020.
That’s not to say anyone should be rushing to pay big bucks to a guy who will be 30 in May and has been traded twice in two years, but one look at the numbers will tell you he might end up being the best value. His 24 QB hits in 2019 were the most among 4-3 DEs set to hit free agency, he’s had seven straight years with at least two forced fumbles, and he’s totaled 26.5 sacks over his last three seasons despite playing in three different systems. Do you want proven production off the edge? There’s no good Earthly reason not to consider him.
Linebackers don’t always get the hype they deserve, even though 2018 free agency showed us that teams will still happily dish out big bucks for guys they like (see: Alexander, Kwon; Hicks, Jordan). But the lack of buzz surrounding Campbell entering the 2020 market is bordering on criminal considering the raw numbers he’s put up over the last four seasons as a starter in Atlanta.
Deion Jones and other bigger names have deserved credit for the highs of Dan Quinn’s defense, and, to be fair, the failings of that same defense early in 2019 may have contributed — rightly or not — to less praise for Campbell, as well as other regulars. But he graded out as the Falcons’ most efficient tackler, per Pro Football Focus, and he’s gone three straight seasons with at least 90 tackles and 1.5 sacks, logging a career-high 75 solo stops — not to mention five pass deflections, two picks, and three forced fumbles — in 2019 alone. Someone’s going to get themselves a play-making outside linebacker.