The first few days of NFL free agency always create a frenzy, but the smartest and most impactful deals of each offseason can often be made weeks later. There are still plenty of great players on the open market, particularly at quarterback, defensive tackle and cornerback.
Here are the 20 best remaining NFL free agents:
The three-time Pro Bowler was one of the best players entering free agency, so with him remaining unsigned, he certainly belongs on this list. Clowney's asking price is high, but he's a game-changing pass rusher, which remains a position in high demand. Having said that, there are other things not on Clowney's side in negotiations. He's never posted a double-digit sack season, and during his first year with the Seahawks (and away from J.J. Watt), he recorded only 3.0 sacks. Coming off that production, it's unlikely Clowney becomes the highest-paid defensive end in the NFL.
During the first week of NFL free agency, it sounded as though the Panthers were going to trade Newton, but unable to find any deals to their liking, they released the 2015 MVP. Newton played just two games last season and is 6-10 in his last 16 starts. Those numbers are worse when considering his last eight starts. During that stretch, Newton has more interceptions than touchdowns (nine vs. 10) and owns an 0-8 record.
The 32-year-old is leaving the Vikings after 10 years in Minnesota. In 147 career games, Griffen has 355 combined tackles and 74.5 sacks. He'll turn 33 during this coming season, but Griffen is still a formidable pass rushing force. Last year, he had 8.0 sacks and 41 combined tackles, which led to his fourth Pro Bowl appearance in the last five years.
The 2015 No. 1 overall pick is entering free agency at an interesting time of his career. While he led the NFL with 5,109 passing yards and posted a career-high 33 touchdowns last season, Winston also recorded a league-high 30 interceptions. The other thing working against Winston's favor is the fact head coach Bruce Arians has earned the reputation as a great quarterback coach in the league, and yet he couldn't fix Winston and gave up on him this offseason. More than likely, Winston's next job in the NFL will be in a backup role.
Ryan cashed in with a three-year, $30 million deal with the Titans in 2017, and he remained one of the better cornerbacks in the NFL while in Tennessee. Last season, he recorded four interceptions, 4.5 sacks and a career-high 113 combined tackles. Now 29, Ryan probably won't yield the same big contract during this postseason period, but he's definitely the best cornerback still available.
One of the more underappreciated players in the league, Golden posted his second double-digit sack season in 2019, and yet he still hasn't made the Pro Bowl. In one year with the Giants, he recorded a career-high 72 combined tackles and 10.0 sacks. Signing Golden won't bring a lot of attention, but he'll immediately make any pass rush better.
The 2019 season was a bit of an up-and-down year for Randall. He suffered an injury in September, missing a pair of games, and then he sat out almost a month in the middle of the year. But he ended the season on a high note with 21 tackles in his final three games. Overall, Randall had 61 combined tackles, 2.5 sacks and zero interceptions (for the first time in his career) during 11 games last season. Turning 28 in August, Randall has a few years left of his prime.
With nine Pro Bowls and two All-Pros, Peters has put together a Hall of Fame type resume. He hasn't made the Pro Bowl since 2016, but Peters continues to be a serviceable offensive tackle in the NFL. At 38 years old, Peters will probably have to sign a one-year deal, but any team will be lucky to have him either as its starter or a depth option along the offensive line.
He's controversial off the field, which won't make him the perfect fit for every team and could keep him on the free agent market for some time, but Reid proved over the last two seasons with the Panthers to still be a good safety. In 2019, he posted a career-high 130 combined tackles and 4.0 sacks. He also had six pass defenses, which was his most since 2015.
The 26-year-old has experienced a rough couple of seasons. Darby ended 2018 and 2019 on injured reserve and played only 20 of 32 possible regular-season games in the two years combined. Last season, he had 37 combined tackles and two interceptions in 11 games. Darby hasn't played more than 11 games in a season since 2016. He's a risky free-agency proposition, but he's also a high-reward option because of the talent he possesses when healthy.
Matthews rejuvenated his career with the Rams last season, posting 37 combined tackles and 8.0 sacks, which was his most since 2014. But Los Angeles surprisingly released him one season into a two-year deal. The soon-to-be 34-year-old might not have as many sacks on a defense without Aaron Donald, but he proved last year that he can still present teams a veteran pass rushing presence.
The 2011 first-round pick never managed to fulfill his hype with the Giants and then couldn't prove himself on a one-year deal with the Jaguars. However, Amukamara did find a home with the Bears the last three seasons, playing especially well in 2018 when he posted 66 combined tackles, three interceptions and 12 pass defenses. He's going to turn 31 before next season, but Amukamara can still provide reliable coverage to a team in need of an upgrade at cornerback.
Last offseason, Daniels signed a one-year, prove-it deal with the Lions, and then he spent a major portion of the season injured. Daniels has played only 19 games since his Pro Bowl 2017 season when he registered 5.0 sacks and a career-high 49 combined tackles, The question is whether he can stay healthy. The veteran defensive tackle might have to sign another one-year deal.
With the Titans over the last seven seasons, Walker became one of the most reliable tight ends in the NFL. From 2015-17, he made the Pro Bowl every season while averaging 78 receptions, about 900 receiving yards and five touchdowns per year. But over the last two seasons, Walker has played only eight games. Last year, he caught just 21 passes for 215 yards. Turning 36 in August, health is a major question for Walker, but when on the field, he can still be a reliable target, especially in the red zone.
Defensive tackle is one of the deepest positions this free agency period, but Harris is coming off a career season and deserves more than just a one-year contract. The 28-year-old posted 49 combined tackles, 6.0 sacks and nine pass defenses, all of which were career bests, in 2019. In five seasons, Harris has 136 combined tackles, 14.0 sacks and 16 pass defenses.
If there's another deep defensive position other than defensive tackle this free agency period, it's cornerback. Carr will turn 34 in May, but he's been incredibly durable, having made 192 straight regular-season starts in his 12-year career. The past three years, Carr covered half the field well for the elite Ravens defense, making six interceptions and recording 150 tackles. In 2019, he didn't have any picks and only six pass defenses, but Carr did far better as a pass rusher than any time previously in his career, registering a career-high 2.0 sacks and seven quarterback hits.
Hyde is the clear-cut best free agent option available at running back this year. Todd Gurley surprisingly hit the open market, but he didn't stay available for long, signing with the Falcons. Hyde has played for four different teams the last three years, but with the Texans in 2019, he arguably experienced his best season, rushing for 1,070 yards and six touchdowns. He averaged 4.4 yards per carry, which was his best average since 2016.
The five-time Pro Bowler's debut with the Titans in 2019 was incredible, as he sacked Baker Mayfield 2.5 times, including once for a safety in Week 1. But those were the only sacks he posted the entire season. Wake played eight more games, recording seven quarterback hits and no sacks. He ended the season on injured reserve after nine games. Wake is now 38, so his best days are certainly behind him, but he's been down and out before and bounced back to win NFL Comeback Player of the Year. In the right situation, Wake could still shine on a one-year contract.
In the typical offseason, Flacco would probably be the top or second-best quarterback available in free agency. That's where he was ranked a year ago. But the quarterback market is highly competitive this season, and it grew more crowded with the Panthers releasing Cam Newton. Flacco's stock has also dropped since last year, as he struggled mightily with the Broncos, throwing six touchdowns and five interceptions with only 227 passing yards per game in eight contests during 2019.
Harrison made the All-Pro team in 2016, but he's gone largely underappreciated throughout his career. He's never even been voted to the Pro Bowl. With the decline in demand for defensive tackles on the free agent market in recent years and many available this offseason, Harrison might have to settle for a one-year deal. But he's still a formidable force in the middle at 31 years old. Last year, he posted 49 combined tackles, 2.0 sacks and three pass defenses.
Dave Holcomb began working as a sports writer in 2013 after graduating from Syracuse University. Over the past six years, he has covered the NFL, NHL, MLB, fantasy sports, college football and basketball, and New Jersey high school sports for numerous print and online publications. Follow Holcomb on Twitter at @dmholcomb.
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