NFL News & Analysis

Early Free Agency Preview: Biggest names that could test the free agent market in 2020

Now through Week 8 of the 2019 NFL season, we at PFF have highlighted some big names on pace to become unrestricted free agents who could test the free agent market come March 2020.

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Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints

Among the 50 NFL quarterbacks with at least 400 dropbacks over the past four seasons (2016-19), Brees ranks second behind Tom Brady in PFF passing grade (93.5) with 98 big-time throws and 62 turnover-worthy plays. It’s unlikely Brees leaves New Orleans to suit up elsewhere, but he’s more than capable of contending for a Super Bowl regardless of who he suits up with in 2020.

Tom Brady, New England Patriots

A world where Brady throws footballs for any team but New England seems unfathomable, but rumors are stirring that he may indeed consider leaving Bill Belichick & Co. this offseason. Brady is the highest-graded quarterback in football over the past four years (2016-19); he makes any team that signs him an instant contender.

Marcus Mariota, Tennessee Titans

The Mariota experiment in Tennessee is likely coming to a close. After being benched in favor of veteran Ryan Tannehill just weeks ago, Mariota will surely be competing for a starting job elsewhere in 2020 with his contract expiring at season’s end. He never earned a PFF passing grade above 72.1 in his five years with the Titans and is no guarantee to start for any NFL team this upcoming season considering his poor production and injury history.

Jameis Winston, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The roller coaster that is Jameis Winston will likely ride out the rest of the 2019 season as the Bucs’ starter under center, but Tampa Bay’s brass has likely had enough of the up and downs from the Florida State alumnus. Winston has recorded a whopping 97 turnover-worthy plays over the past four years, three more than any other quarterback in said span. He has intriguing arm talent and is more than capable of the big play, but he’s proven that his big plays come at the price of recklessness and sloppy turnovers.

Dak Prescott, Dallas Cowboys

Prescott entered his contract year in Dallas with a ton of doubt surrounding his game, but he’s quieted a lot of the critics with his stellar start to the 2019 season, earning a career-high 88.2 overall grade through eight weeks. He’s also recorded a career-high 78.9% adjusted completion percentage while averaging a high 10.3 air yards per target. Jerry Jones is unlikely to let Prescott walk free considering how much he’s improved this season, but if he does test the market, he’ll have plenty of suitors throwing money at him.

Teddy Bridgewater, New Orleans Saints

Bridgewater did enough starting in Brees’ absence to have ample suitors on the open market this offseason. He enters Week 9 ranked 16th in PFF passing grade among the 28 signal-callers with 200 or more dropbacks on the year. If he does break away from New Orleans, he should see starter money and a multi-year contract come across his desk soon enough.


Melvin Gordon, Los Angeles Chargers

It’s hard to imagine a team willing to pay Gordon top dollar knowing just how replaceable the running back position is in today’s NFL, but we can’t count out one team falling into the trap. Among the 88 NFL backs with 300 or more offensive snaps over the past three seasons (2017-19), Gordon ranks 20th in overall grade (78.6) and 19th in rushing grade (80.4).

Derrick Henry, Tennessee Titans

Henry isn’t off to the start some had hoped for after he stiff-armed his way into stardom late last season, and he still offers little to no value as a pass-catcher. The 6-foot-3, 247-pound back offers value as a thumper to run on early downs on a cheap contract, but he’ll likely get overpaid on the open market. He’s earned the ninth-best rushing grade among qualifying backs over the past three seasons but ranks just 65th in receiving grade among the same group of qualifiers.


A.J. Green, Cincinnati Bengals

The A.J. Green era is expected to come to a close in Cincinnati sooner rather than later. Despite battling injuries late in his career, Green has earned an 80.0-plus receiving grade in every season but his rookie campaign since joining the league in 2011. If healthy, Green can still offer value as a pass-catcher even at 31 years old.

Robby Anderson, New York Jets

A 6-foot-3, 190-pound speedster, Anderson is one of the NFL’s better deep threats when targeted and can offer value in a high-volume role considering his high-end speed and athleticism. He totaled 267 receiving yards on just seven receptions of 20-plus air yards in 2018.

Josh Gordon, New England Patriots

Gordon never really panned out in New England, but the 28-year-old phenom is still chock full of potential. He just needs to find a way to stay on the field. His 81.0 receiving grade, 1,636 receiving yards and nine touchdowns in 2013 will have teams calling for his services if he becomes available.

Amari Cooper, Dallas Cowboys

It’s highly unlikely the Cowboys traded a first-round pick to Oakland just to watch Cooper explode in a Cowboys uniform for a little over a year. The 25-year-old wideout has been lights out since joining Dallas and enters Week 9 ranked second in yards per route run among qualifying wide receivers in 2019. If Cooper somehow slips Jerry Jones’ grasp, he’ll be paid the big money elsewhere early in free agency.


Eric Ebron, Indianapolis Colts

Ebron’s touchdown numbers were insane in 2018, but he’s come back to earth a bit with just three scores through eight weeks in 2019. The 26-year-old veteran has undoubtedly improved since leaving Detroit in 2017, but he’s still yet to prove he’s worth big money at the position, earning sub-72.0 overall grades every year of his career thus far.

Hunter Henry, Los Angeles Chargers

When healthy, Henry is one of the NFL’s top tight ends. He currently ranks fifth in overall grade among qualifiers through Week 8 and earned 85.0-plus receiving grades in each of his first two seasons in the NFL (2016-17).

Austin Hooper, Atlanta Falcons

Hooper has taken a significant step forward with Atlanta in 2019. After earning sub-70.0 receiving grades in each of his first three years in the NFL, Hooper enters Week 9 ranked sixth among qualifiers at his position in receiving grade at 85.2.


Anthony Castonzo, Indianapolis Colts

Castonzo ranks fourth at his position and seventh among all offensive linemen with 200 or more offensive snaps in overall grade through Week 8 at 83.1. The 31-year-old veteran has been a big reason why the Colts' offensive line has had so much success in 2019 and will likely draw a pretty penny to stay in Indianapolis.

Daryl Williams, Carolina Panthers

Playing a mix of left tackle and right guard in 2019, Williams has not fared well as a rotational piece along the Panthers' offensive line. He may be best suited at right tackle in the NFL. He earned an impressive 78.0 overall grade across more than 1,000 snaps at right tackle in 2017.

Brandon Scherff, Washington Redskins

Scherff ranks inside the top-10 among all qualifying offensive linemen in overall grade (80.9) and run-blocking grade (80.9). He is hands down the Redskins' best offensive lineman and would be a tough loss to overcome if he did leave via free agency in 2020.

Jack Conklin, Tennessee Titans

After earning an 80.6 overall grade as a rookie in 2016, Conklin has failed to build off his strong start in the NFL and underwhelmed in recent years. He still has earned respectable grades as a run-blocker and pass-blocker in the three years following, but he simply hasn't developed into the tackle he was expected to be when he was drafted in the top-10 of the 2016 NFL Draft.

Andrus Peat, New Orleans Saints

Peat has simply not been good in recent years. The 26-year-old guard earned a 39.2 overall grade with New Orleans in 2018 and already has just a 51.3 overall grade through eight weeks this season.

Joe Thuney, New England Patriots

Thuney is the Patriots' highest-graded offensive linemen with his 73.6 overall grade, 82.8 pass-blocking grade and 64.6 pass-blocking grade. The Pats may be confident Dante Scarnecchia can turn anyone into a star along the offensive line, but Thuney may be one Belichick tries to keep around to maintain some high-end talent along the offensive line in 2020.


Jadeveon Clowney, Seattle Seahawks

Clowney still isn't among the league's elite from a pass-rushing perspective, but he is still providing value for Seattle as a versatile piece along the defensive line with 74.0-plus run-defense and pass-rush grades. If Clowney does test the market, however, he may get overpaid a bit if teams buy into him as a marquee pass-rusher.

Jabaal Sheard, Indianapolis Colts

After earning an 86.3 pass-rush grade with the Colts in 2017, Sheard has struggled to live up to the high expectations that followed. He earned just a 63.3 pass-rush grade in 2018 and now owns a 56.5 pass-rush grade through eight weeks in 2019. The 30-year-old edge defender needs to right the ship in a hurry if he wants to sign somewhere for big money in the offseason.

Shaq Barrett, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Barrett is playing himself into quite the multi-year contract signing this offseason. The 26-year-old veteran edge defender an impressive 86.7 pass-rush grade through Week 8 of the 2019 NFL season, picking up more than 25 pressures and 10 sacks along the way.

Arik Armstead, San Francisco 49ers

Armstead still offers little value as a pass-rusher, but his run defense is among the best in the NFL. He's earned a 91.5 run-defense grade through Week 8 in 2019 and logged a 78.3 run-defense grade a year ago.

Chris Jones, Kansas City Chiefs

Jones has missed much of his contract year with an injury, but if he returns to the field and dominates like he did in 2018, all 32 NFL teams will push to throw their hat in the ring in March 2020. He earned an elite 91.5 pass-rush grade across 567 pass-rush snaps in the year prior to this season.

Yannick Ngakoue, Jacksonville Jaguars

Ngakoue earned an 88.2 pass-rush grade in his second NFL season (2017) but now owns just a 66.0 pass-rush grade through Week 8 in 2019. The 6-foot-2, 246-pound Maryland has proven capable of quick pass-rush wins off the edge in years past, but teams will need to see it regularly over the next few weeks to throw everything they've got at the 24-year-old edge defender in March.


Jamie Collins Sr., New England Patriots

Collins' best football has come in New England. He earned 85.0-plus single-season grades with the Pats in 2014 and 2015 before falling off a cliff from a production standpoint with the Browns in 2016, 2017 and 2018. He's now back in Foxborough and owns an 85.7 overall grade through Week 8 of the 2019 season.

Joe Schobert, Cleveland Browns

After earning an 87.7 coverage grade with the Browns a year ago, Schobert has just a 59.5 coverage grade 251 coverage snaps through Week 8 in 2019. The 6-foot-1, 245-pounder is athletic enough to start at off-ball linebacker in today’s NFL and very well could return to dominance in coverage before season’s end, but he’ll need much better production to see a lucrative offer come his way in March.

Blake Martinez, Green Bay Packers

Like Schobert, Martinez impressed in coverage a year ago but has taken a bit of a step back in that regard to start this season. He earned an 82.6 coverage grade across 544 coverage snaps for Green Bay in 2018 but has logged just a 64.9 coverage grade in 2019. He’s allowed 10 first downs and recorded zero forced incompletions in coverage.


Chris Harris Jr., Denver Broncos

A constant in the Broncos' secondary since 2011, Harris has earned a 72.0-plus coverage grade every year of his career. Though he will turn 31 this offseason, Harris still has plenty left in the tank to be a plus contributor for whichever team signs him to a new contract in 2020.

Aqib Talib, Los Angeles Rams

Now on the Injured Reserve (rib) and set to turn 34 years old in February, Talib may be on his way out of the NFL. He earned just a 51.0 coverage grade before going down with injury in 2019. He's likely seen his last multi-year contract.

Eli Apple, New Orleans Saints

It'd be a shame if Apple left New Orleans following the 2019 season considering just how well he's playing Dennis Allen's scheme right now. He's earned a 70.1 coverage grade through Week 8, which would be the highest-single-season mark of his career.

Marcus Peters, Baltimore Ravens

Odds are Baltimore finds a way to keep Peters after trading for him earlier in the season, but if he does part ways with the Ravens in the offseason, he'll be a hot commodity. The 26-year-old cornerback is on pace for career marks in 2019 and has played more than 1,000 defensive snaps every year of his career.

Byron Jones, Dallas Cowboys

Jones has been solid all throughout his career and turned a career-high 80.4 coverage grade a year ago with Dallas. He’s earned just a 68.7 coverage grade through the first eight weeks of the 2019 NFL season, but Jones is bound to bounce back in the coming weeks. The 6-foot, 205-pounder’s rare combination of size and athleticism will be too good for teams to pass up on the open market; he’ll get his due.

James Bradberry, Carolina Panthers

Bradberry has been fantastic to start his fourth year in the NFL. The 2016 second-round pick has forced more than five incompletions and earned a 74.6 coverage grade through the first eight weeks of the season, a mark that would be a single-season career-high for the Samford product if maintained. An improving cornerback with great size, Bradberry should draw significant interest if he isn’t re-signed by Carolina in the near future.

Kendall Fuller, Kansas City Chiefs

After earning a 91.2 coverage grade with the Redskins in 2017, Fuller earned a 70.8 coverage grade with Kansas City in 2018 and owns a 60.5 coverage grade through eight weeks this season. Just 24 years old, Fuller has flashed brilliance in man coverage at times, but consistency is still a concern for the young cornerback.


Devin McCourty, New England Patriots

Devin McCourty may turn 33 years old this offseason, but he’s proven he can still offer value late in his career. He finished Week 8 ranked fourth in overall grade (82.9) and second in coverage grade (89.7) among safeties with 200-plus defensive snaps played through the first eight weeks of the season.

Karl Joseph, Oakland Raiders

A first-round pick in the 2016 NFL Draft, Joseph has quite simply never lived up to the hype that followed him from West Virginia to the pros. The 5-foot-10, 200-pounder was coveted for his hard-hitting ability at the collegiate level, but he’s only flashed such ability in bursts throughout his career and has instead been a liability in coverage. He recorded just a 56.3 overall grade through the first eight weeks of the 2019 season and has yet to earn a coverage grade above 68.0 in any one season of his career.

Justin Simmons, Denver Broncos

Simmons leads all safeties with 200 or more defensive snaps played in overall grade (90.0) and coverage grade (90.3) entering Week 9. He should draw plenty of interest if the Broncos let him walk this offseason. He’s the do-it-all safety every NFL defense is chasing right now.

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