With the NFL offseason less than two weeks away, it is time to start looking at the ins and outs of the free agent market. Many teams have plenty of cap space to make moves in free agency, while others will have to see some of their players walk. Either way, it will be interesting, considering that 2019’s free agency class is stacked with talent. Here are the top five free agents heading into 2019’s offseason:
5. Earl Thomas
Team: Seattle Seahawks
Before the 2018-19 NFL season, there was a lot of rumors brewing that Earl Thomas would not be in Seattle heading into week one. Being in the final year of his contract, Thomas wanted an extension from the Seahawks organization, or to be traded. Neither of these things happened, thus Thomas played for the Seahawks in his final contract year this season.
Although Thomas suffered a season-ending injury in week 4, he still remains a top prospect in free agency. Before his injury, Thomas produced the highest Pro Football Focus grade among safeties. Despite his age (29), Thomas looked to have been playing the best football of his career. If he can return to his dominant self, after recovering from injury, Thomas will be a great pick up for a team in need of a safety.
4. Trey Flowers
Position: Defensive End
Team: New England Patriots
Throughout his career under a rookie contract, Trey Flowers has progressed with time. Improving in each year he has played, the fourth-round pick has proven to be more than just a pass rusher. Flowers’ unique ability to play in several positions along the defensive front seven might be his biggest asset.
In addition, Flowers gathered a total of 57 combined tackles, 7.5 sacks and three forced fumbles in his 2018 campaign. This projects him to be one of the best defensive ends on the open market for the 2019 offseason.
3. Jadeveon Clowney
Position: 3-4 Outside Linebacker
Team: Houston Texans
With J.J. Watt missing so much time due to injury in recent years, Jadeveon Clowney has been able to make a name for himself on the high-powered Texans defensive line. Finishing with nine sacks on the season and 29 total in his five years with the team, Clowney has shown his worth to the Texans front office.
If not re-signed by the Texans, there will be many teams in pursuit of the 25-year-old edge rusher.
2. Le’Veon Bell
Position: Running Back
Team: Pittsburgh Steelers
The drama between Le’Veon Bell and the Pittsburgh Steelers was headline news for the majority of the offseason. Playing the 2017 season on a franchise tag, Bell refused to let history repeat itself in 2018. Bell held out and did not sign the Steelers’ franchise tag for 2018, making him a free agent for the upcoming season.
Le’Veon Bell is arguably the best running back in the league when healthy and he has proved it many times. Averaging over 1,000 yards in seasons he has played and catching over 300 receptions in his career, Bell is one of the most dynamic running backs in NFL history. In addition, his unique running style makes it tough defenses to game plan for. Bell will be a huge addition for whichever team he signs with.
1. Demarcus Lawrence
Position: Defensive End
Team: Dallas Cowboys
Demarcus Lawrence takes the top spot due to his consistent production over the last two years. Racking up 64 tackles combined, along with 10.5 sacks, Lawrence has become a nightmare for quarterbacks. Lawrence played under the franchise tag in the 2018 season but has shown time after time he deserves a contract extension.
Only being 26 years old and with no major injury history, Lawrence shows signs of being a dominant force at his position for quite some time. If the Cowboys do not franchise tag the game-changing pass rusher or offer another contract, Lawrence will be the best defensive end entering the free agency market in 2019.