Most of the big-name activity of the 2020 NFL offseason has come and gone, with teams now gearing up for a potential return to facilities and a hopeful kickoff of in-person activities. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t still a handful of big names available on the open market. With the biggest waves of free agency in the rear view, we decided to play matchmaker for some of the top players who remain unsigned, pairing veterans with needy teams and projecting the kind of contracts said veterans might receive.
QB Cam Newton
Proposed team: Arizona Cardinals
Projected contract: 1 year, $3 million
Newton’s chances of landing either a starting job or lucrative backup money went out the window a while ago, but Arizona is among teams that could still stand to upgrade the No. 2 spot. Kyler Murray is unquestionably Kliff Kingsbury’s guy, but his size and style of play, coupled with a late-season injury as a rookie, suggest the Cardinals should consider a better insurance plan than Brett Hundley, especially after spending the offseason restocking for a playoff run. Newton’s dual-threat abilities would be a treat for Kingsbury, and Cam would get a chance to rest up and mentor Murray with an eye on returning to QB1 duties elsewhere in 2021.
Proposed team: San Francisco 49ers
Projected contract: 1 year, $2.3 million
Freeman reportedly turning down a $4 million offer from the Seattle Seahawks (and then threatening to sit out 2020) didn’t help his market at all. The former Atlanta Falcons standout has basically no leverage. So where could he turn? Why not a team that showed in 2019 it thrives when it’s got an overflowing stable of RBs? Coach Kyle Shanahan was Freeman’s offensive coordinator for his best years in Atlanta, and while the 49ers are hoping Jerick McKinnon will finally make gains as their No. 3, them trading away Matt Breida opened the door for another piece to the puzzle. The Philadelphia Eagles might offer a slightly bigger role, but Shanahan offers familiarity.
RB LeSean McCoy
Proposed team: Philadelphia Eagles
Projected contract: 1 year, $1 million
Shady should be even more affordable than Freeman after even old pal Andy Reid opted not to utilize him in the Super Bowl, and common sense says he’ll strongly consider a discount to return to Philadelphia, which he’s publicly called his true NFL home for years. The Eagles don’t really need him, with Miles Sanders set in stone as the lead back, but owner Jeffrey Lurie has long been a McCoy advocate, and Doug Pederson worked with him before. Howie Roseman also a.) has a penchant for nostalgic moves, and b.) is very clearly interested in veteran insurance at the position. The reunion continues to appear more inevitable.
OT Jason Peters
Proposed team: Denver Broncos
Projected contract: 1 year, $8.5 million
Peters has apparently been on the Eagles’ speed dial and still prefers to return to Philly, but Doug Pederson has also declared Andre Dillard ready to take over at left tackle. Peters is also looking for a guaranteed starting spot, and the clearest route to that lies in Denver, where Garett Bolles has struggled since the Broncos made him a first-round pick in 2017. John Elway made it a priority this offseason to build around Drew Lock, and even with his injury history, Peters represents a major upgrade on Lock’s blind side. Intent on playing into his 40s, Peters would also be betting on the chance to be a contender’s LT as Lock grows.
Proposed team: Cleveland Browns
Projected contract: 2 years, $25 million
With or without Olivier Vernon, the Browns are in need of some pass rushing help opposite Myles Garrett, and though they’ve reportedly been spurned by Jadeveon Clowney, Griffen represents arguably an even more logical fit. Familiar with new coach Kevin Stefanski, as well as longtime Vikings assistant Jeff Howard, from their time in Minnesota, Griffen is still a Pro Bowl-caliber end who can start from Day 1. There’s a reason Cleveland, which still has tons of money to spend, . Considering how well veteran pass rushers have aged, Griffen would probably end up being a bargain anyway.
DE Jadeveon Clowney
Proposed team: Tennessee Titans
Projected contract: 1 year, $16.5 million
Clowney’s injury history, compounded with the restrictions of this offseason, all but ensure he won’t land top dollar on a long-term deal until 2021, at the earliest. So then it comes down to which one-year offer he prefers: Having reportedly already balked at big money from the Browns and turned down offers to return to the Seattle Seahawks, Tennessee just makes the most sense. The Titans could stand to patch over their inexplicable decision to give Vic Beasley $9.5 million, their team is built on boasting a sterling defense, and they’re familiar with Clowney from his AFC South past. Clowney, who has experience in the 3-4, would also be closer to home in South Carolina.
Proposed team: Buffalo Bills
Projected contract: 1 year, $3.5 million
Since his three-year, $13.5 million deal with the Jacksonville Jaguars fell through, Dennard has had a quiet market. In Buffalo, Sean McDermott is already betting on Josh Norman to help shore up cornerback opposite Tre’Davious White, but with Kevin Johnson gone and Taron Johnson having missed nine games in the last two years, the Bills could still use proven depth, particularly in the slot — which just so happens to be where Dennard fared well in 2019 with the Cincinnati Bengals. Still just 28, the former first-rounder would probably be much happier under McDermott than in Jacksonville anyway.
CB Logan Ryan
Proposed team: Minnesota Vikings
Projected contract: 1 year, $10 million
Rick Spielman just got done shedding all kinds of cornerback salary by dumping Xavier Rhodes and replacing Trae Waynes and Mackensie Alexander with rookies, but the closer we get to the season, the more Mike Zimmer’s going to realize his defense is relying an awful lot on the instant development of some mid-round prospects. Jeff Gladney is a nice fit in the slot, but Ryan is the kind of proven starter who could fill an outside role opposite Mike Hughes. He’s had success on two different contenders, and the Vikings could offer just a little bit more money than their rival Chicago Bears, who also make a lot of sense as a plug-and-play destination.
Proposed team: Houston Texans
Projected contract: 2 years, $18 million
After Justin Reid. Coach/GM Bill O’Brien has reportedly already entertained the idea of uniting Justin with his brother, Eric, and considering everything else O’Brien has done during a frenetic Texans free agency period, why would giving Reid $9 million per year be out of the question? Coming off a productive year with the Carolina Panthers, the elder Reid brother would help bring some much-needed force to a defensive backfield that lacked it for much of 2019.just one year into a $22.5M deal this offseason, the Texans have only added a slew of veteran reserves to compete opposite