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Top 25 NFL Defensive Free Agent Predictions

Chris Harris Justin Simmons

It has been over three weeks since the last game of the 2019-20 NFL Season was played. This is the time of year where speculation and rumors start to shape what the offseason is going to look like for each of the 32 teams. After analyzing the rumors and breaking down every teams needs these are predictions on where the NFLs Top 25 Defensive Free Agents could play next season.

25-21

25. Josh Norman CB

It seems like ages ago back when Josh Norman was the shutdown corner that eliminated number one receivers in 2015. After being franchise tagged after a contract dispute with Panthers’ front office, they pulled the franchise tag making him a free agent. After that, he signed with the Redskins who made him play the wrong type of coverage for four years and are confused about why he is struggling. Norman is a zone corner, he doesn’t play man to man. Norman will sign with a team that has a similar scheme to what he ran in Carolina on a short term deal.

Prediction: Norman signs a two-year, $19 million with the Buffalo Bills

22. Tre Boston S

Tre Boston is one of the best ballhawks in the league. He is arguably the most consistent safety in the league when it comes to getting interceptions year by year. The issue is that no team will sign him long term. Boston seemingly always get signed late in the offseason or after the season begins. It is about time Boston got locked up long term.

Prediction: Boston signs a two-year, $6 million deal with Los Angeles Rams

23. Ndamukong Suh DT

Ndamukong Suh is no longer the pass-rushing defensive force in the middle of the defense who can get a team six-eight sacks a season, but he is a force to be reckoned with. Suh’s role with a team should be as a space-eater that should clear up double and triple teams on elite players playing with him. Look at Aaron Donald before and after Ndamukong Suh. Also, look at what the Buccaneers were able to do with Suh on their roster, they were the best run defense in football this year. Sun’s stats might not show it but he can be a very important piece to a defense.

Prediction: Suh signs a one-year, $6 million deal with the Denver Broncos

gerald mccoy
(Photo by Jacob Kupferman/Getty Images)

22. Gerald McCoy DT

Late after the draft last season, the Buccaneers cut Gerald McCoy. McCoy was a six-time Pro Bowler with the team and played there for nine years. The breakup was messy and seemed unprofessional by the organization to get rid of the leader of the team. They even gave their number away to his replacement. McCoy signed with in the in division Panthers and had a great season for them. His highlight was definitely sacking Jameis Winston 2.5 times during week 6. Since the Panthers are going in a younger direction McCoy will likely not get re-signed. McCoy should sign with a contender, he would be extremely valuable to a contender in need of a pass rusher.

Prediction: McCoy signs a two-year, $12 million deal with the Kansas City Chiefs

21. Everson Griffen EDGE

News just broke Thursday that Everson Griffen is going to opt-out of his deal and become a free agent. Griffen is hitting free agency at age 32, but can still efficiently get to the passer getting eight sacks last season. This looks to be the first domino to fall for Mike Zimmer and his defense that he is looking to revamp. With the strong need around the league for edge rushers there is no question Griffen should get signed to a nice contract in free agency. A return to the Vikings on a team-friendly deal should not be out of the question either for Griffen.

Prediction: Griffen signs a two-year, $16 million deal with the Seattle Seahawks

20-16

20. Ha Ha Clinton-Dix S

At this point in his career Ha Ha Clinton-Dix is what teams want in a safety. He isn’t one of the leagues elite like he was in 2016, but he makes big plays and is one of the better players at his position. Clinton-Dix signed a short-term, low money contract with the Chicago Bears last offseason to become a part of their defense that was elite a year ago. However, Clinton-Dix should explore signing for more money and to a long-term deal, because is one of the better players at his position and safeties are one of the most undervalued positions in the league.

Prediction: Clinton-Dix signs a two-year, $12 million deal with the Dallas Cowboys

19. Jarran Reed DT

Jarran Reed’s breakout season came in 2018-19, when he got 10.5 sacks, which is extremely impressive from the defensive tackle position. Reed was suspended for the first six games of 2019 and was only able to account for two sacks during those games. It’ll be interesting to see if a team signs him to a short-term “prove it” deal to see if that 10.5 sack season was a hoax or a long-term deal because of the upside that came from that season. Either way, Reed is a valuable piece to have because of his size and ability to stop the run. Reed is valued between $8-10 million a year, Reed feels like he is worth more than that. So he might have to go elsewhere to get more than that.

Prediction: Reed signs a one-year, $12.5 million deal with the Los Angeles Rams

Kendall Fuller
Courtesy of NBC Sports

18. Kendall Fuller CB

Kendall Fuller was going to get paid this offseason regardless, but now that he is a Super Bowl champion his price tag just went way up. Fuller is not even close to a shutdown corner. He is the number one corner in a secondary which is arguably the weakest unit on the team. When free agency starts the Chiefs will only have two cornerbacks on their roster. This could mean that Fuller becomes a priority for them or they could try to clean house and bring in veterans to improve the secondary. At age 25 he is still considered on the younger side and could develop into a Pro Bowl corner wherever he signs.

Prediction: Fuller signs a five-year, $70 million deal with the New York Giants

17. Dante Fowler Jr. EDGE

There was a point where one could call Dante Fowler a bust. In Jacksonville, he was caught in a rotation with Calais Campbell and Yannick Ngakoue and didn’t see the playing time he deserved. After getting traded to the Rams Fowler was the boost they needed to become Super Bowl contenders. Last offseason Fowler turned down a long term deal with the Jets to sign a one year prove-it deal with the Rams. Thanks to the double/triple teams on Aaron Donald, Fowler was able accumulate a career-high 11.5 sacks. It is time for Fowler to sign his long term extension after his career year. A Rams return is unlikely because of the cap situation they are under they cannot afford Fowler at his market price.

Prediction: Fowler Jr. signs a four-year, $68 million deal with the New York Jets

16. Devin McCourty S

Devin McCourty has a resume worthy of being considered for the Hall of Fame already. McCourty is a three-time Super Bowl Champion and two-time Pro Bowler. He is one of the leaders and longest-tenured players on the New England Patriots defense. Not to mention he is one of the better safeties in the league. At age 32 this might be the last time the defensive back can cash out in his career. But if McCourty still wants to be a part of the organization it entirely possible he takes a team friendly deal to stay in New England and try to win at least one more with Tom Brady and the pieces they have there already.

Prediction: McCourty signs a three-year, $27 million deal with the New England Patriots

15-11

15. Joe Schobert LB

Two years ago, the seemingly only bright spot on the Browns roster was Joe Schobert who lead the league in tackles in 2017. Since then Schobert has played at caliber to be considered one of the better linebackers in the league. He is very much deserving of his next contract having over 130 tackles and four interceptions in 2019-20. After drafting Sione Takitaki and Mack Wilson last year, there just isn’t room to re-sign a player like Schobert to a larger contract, when there are bigger needs on the roster to address.

Prediction: Schubert signs a three-year, $30 million deal with the New York Giants

14. Bud Dupree EDGE

Bud Dupree has been an interesting player to watch since he has entered the league, because until this season Dupree’s pass-rushing skills have been disappointing. Only accumulating 19.5 sacks in four years before this past season. It wasn’t until this past year when the Steelers defense dominated the field when opportunities for Dupree increased and he was able to accumulate 11.5 sacks this past year. The potential is there for Dupree, but under no means should he be a team’s top edge rusher. His ceiling is still high and if he could accumulate anywhere from nine sacks a year he will be worth the price tag he will likely get paid.

Prediction: Bud Dupree signs a three-year, $45 Million Deal with the Arizona Cardinals 

13. Cory Littleton LB

Cory Littleton has really developed extremely well since entering the league as an undrafted free agent in 2016. Once a special teams stud, Littleton got moved into the starting lineup and was a Pro-Bowler and All-Pro that same year. Littleton had a career year in 2019-20 with 134 tackles and warrants a payday. Littleton is a luxury the Rams cannot afford and will likely get paid once he hits the open market.

Prediction: Littleton signs a four-year,$56 million deal with the Denver Broncos

DJ Reader
(Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)

12. DJ Reader DT

DJ Reader will never have the flashy stats that show people why he should get paid among some of the league’s best at his position. People just have to watch him play and see for themselves. That is the life of a nose tackle to use their size to close gaps and stop the run. It’s fair to say that Reader is one the best in the league at that. He should get paid like the premier player he is from the Texans or any other team looking for a dominant nose tackle.

Prediction: Reader signs a five-year, $72.5 Million Deal with the Detroit Lions 

11. Anthony Harris S

After his first season as a full-time, starter Anthony Harris broke out in career highs in tackles and interceptions. Harris actually was a co-leader in the league for interceptions raking in six. Harris might not have a lot of film, but has shown capabilities to be a ballhawk and presence on defense in his short time playing. As a former undrafted free agent, it is Harris’ opportunity to cash out. Since the Minnesota Vikings are in some cap space trouble it might be difficult to re-sign the breakout safety. However, re-signing Harris should be one of their top priorities.

Prediction: Harris signs a four-year, $46 million deal with the Cleveland Browns

10-6

10. James Bradberry CB

James Bradberry was drafted a few weeks after the Panthers let go of shut down corner Josh Norman and was expected to be the number one corner on a team who had just gone 15-1 and replace arguably their best defensive player. On top of that, the Panthers even decided to give Bradberry Josh Norman’s old number 24. Since that point, Bradberry has developed into one of the best corners in the league. He is not playing up to the level Norman was in 2015, but he is a very good number one cornerback. Bradberry is going to get paid this offseason, no doubt about that. The question is whether the Panthers will spend big money retaining Bradberry even though they are trying to get younger. It is also a possibility that Bradberry signs with a team like the Bills or Redskins whose coaching staffs are made up of his former coaches.

Prediction: Bradberry signs a five-year, $70 million deal with the Carolina Panthers

9. Chris Harris Jr. CB

Chris Harris Jr. is one of the few elite shutdown corners in football. For a couple of seasons people have been writing off Harris as old and on a decline, but his slight drop-off is only that. He is still a top-10 cornerback in football and at the age of 30, this is likely Harris’ last time to cash out on a contract depending on how long he is extended for. Harris has a couple of seasons left where he can play at a high level. Unfortunately, it likely will not be with the Broncos, because they are in the middle of a youth movement and a rebuild through their younger players. At this point in Harris’ career, he cannot wait around for this team to reach their potential when he is at the peak of his career. It’ll be interesting to see who will be interested in the veteran’s services.

Prediction: Harris Jr. signs a three-year, $42 million Deal with the Houston Texans 

Matthew Judon
Tommy Gilligan/USA TODAY Sports

8. Matthew Judon EDGE

Matthew Judon was the third edge rusher selected in his Baltimore Ravens 2016 NFL Draft. He was also the one with the longest career with the Ravens and most dominant of the three. As a situational pass rusher along a rotation, Judon was able to have seven and eight sacks in back to back years. His first year as a starter, Judon had 9.5 sacks, still being involved in a rotation of players. The Ravens will likely franchise tag Judon to ensure they receive some type of compensation for his departure if he does leave or to just keep him in the building. His trade is likely because of the Ravens’ passion for drafting talented edge rushers early to rotate during games. Judon’s stats should boost once he becomes a full-time starter for whatever team he plays for.

Prediction:  Judon gets franchise-tagged for a little over $19 Million by the Baltimore Ravens and gets traded to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for a 2020 2nd round pick and 2021 3rd round pick. Then he signs a three-year, $52.5 million extension with the team. 

7. Arik Armstead DL

It could have been either the addition of Dee Ford and Nick Bosa or the fact that he was in a contract year but Arik Armstead had a career year in 2019-20. Once seen as strictly a 3-4 defensive end Amstead developed into a versatile defensive line piece that could play 3-4 defensive end, 4-3 defensive end, 4-3 defensive tackle and even could come around the edges to get after the quarterback. His versatility will increase the amount of suiters that go after Amstead this offseason. The only concern teams will have with Amsted is his injury history.

Prediction: Armstead signs a five-year, $95 million contract with the Miami Dolphins

6. Shaq Barrett EDGE

Shaquil Barrett’s season was just a feel-good story all around. People who know Barrett know he was Von Miller’s backup for years and was never given a fair opportunity to be the defensive end playing opposite of Miller. After the retirement of Demarcus Ware, the Broncos drafted Shane Ray in the first round to play opposite Miller who ended up flopping and is no longer in the league. Then with Barrett on the roster, they drafted Bradley Chubb, to replace Ray, who played great his first year. Barrett saw unrestricted free agency for the first time last offseason and signed a one-year, $5 million deal with the Buccaneers. Then Barrett shredded through opposing offenses this year leading the league with 19.5 sacks. Barrett was named to the Pro Bowl and was All-Pro for his position. Barrett deserves to get paid like one of the leagues elite this offseason. 

Prediction: Barrett signs a four-year, $74 million contract with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers

5. to 1.

5. Justin Simmons S

Justin Simmons has all the making of the next young great safety. He showed it this year being one of the best players on a defense including names like Von Miller and Chris Harris. Simmons didn’t get any love from the Pro Bowl voters, but was named All-Pro this past season. The Broncos are beginning this youth movement and the frontman on defense needs to be Justin Simmons. He cannot leave the building and sign elsewhere. 

Prediction: Simmons gets franchised tagged for over $12 million by the Denver Broncos. Then signs a five- year $75 million extension with the team. 

4. Jadeveon Clowney EDGE

The way Jadeveon Clowney’s offseason went last year was a roller coaster. He was franchise tagged in March and went through training camp with the Texans. Then come late August/early September the Texans moved him to the Seahawks for seemingly a bunch of rotational players and backups. People assumed that Clowney was going to be the piece to bring back the Seattle Seahawks to the years of the Legion of Boom. But actually Clowney had a disappointing year with only three sacks, but he did have four forced fumbles this year as well. Clowney may be an athletic freak, but doesn’t play well at defensive end. He needs to rush the passer standing up. He belongs in a 3-4 defense, but he will likely sign wherever the money is.

Prediction:  Clowney signs a five-year, $110 million deal with the New York Giants

3. Byron Jones CB

It took the Dallas Cowboys a while to figure out what Byron Jones was. He was originally drafted as a cornerback, however transitioned to free safety early in his career. Jones was drafted in the first round based on athleticism and potential, his athletic build helped him keep up with tight ends like Rob Gronkowski and wide receivers like Odell Beckham. He has a lack of interceptions, but he is one of the best cornerbacks in football. In 2018 Byron Jones led the league in lowest passer rating when thrown his direction. Due to the Cowboys impending offensive free agents it is very likely Jones will be the biggest free agent from Dallas moving on next season. Teams will be chomping at the bit to sign a premier corner like Jones to be their top cornerback next season.

Prediction: Jones signs a five-year, $70 million deal with the Philadelphia Eagles

2. Yannick Ngakoue EDGE

Yannick Ngakoue has been one of the most consistent young pass-rushing threats since entering the league. Ngakoue stole the starting defensive end job away from former third overall pick Dante Fowler. He has 37.5 sacks in four years and at age 24, Ngakoue has a long way to go till he reaches his prime. Jacksonville’s cap situation isn’t forgiving as they will likely have to cut veterans all around to make cap room and will likely have to end up letting Ngakoue sign elsewhere. His speed off the edge is almost unmatched across the league. Ngakoue should be the first domino to fall when free agency begins amongst edge rushers, because he is the best one available.

Prediction: Ngakoue gets franchise-tagged for a little over $19 million by the Jacksonville Jaguars and gets traded to the Buffalo Bills for a 2020 first-round pick (#22) and a 2021 third-round pick. Then signs five-year $100 million extension with the team with an opt-out after the three years.

1. Chris Jones DT

2020 Free Agents
(Photo by Jay Biggerstaff/USA TODAY Sports)

It might be recency bias because he just won the Super Bowl, but Chris Jones is going to get paid in a major way. His numbers from the defensive tackle position are insane. Defensive tackles should not be getting close to 15.5 sacks, which Jones had in 2018-19. Pressure like that just doesn’t naturally happen from the interior. This past year Jones had nine sacks, which is still outstanding from his position. There is a lot of buyer beware with spending big money on defensive tackles with sack production (Albert Haynesworth & Ndamukong Suh), but this man needs to get paid, no question. There shouldn’t be any doubt that the Chiefs will franchise tag Jones, but the real question is, do they trade him or try to work out a long term deal?

Prediction: Jones gets franchise tagged for $15.5 Million by the Kansas City Chiefs. Then after trying to negotiate a long term deal, he gets traded to the Seattle Seahawks for a 2020 first-round pick (#27). Then signs a five-year $90 million extension with the team

 

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