It’s been a pretty wild week for NFL free agency. After two days of tampering and one full day of free agency, we’ve seen the Dolphins go wild, we’ve seen the Browns try to win another offseason title and we also saw Bill O’Brien make possibly the worst trade in sports history.
Although a lot of big names have already been taken off the market, there are still plenty of questions to be answered about free agency, so let’s take a look at the seven biggest questions remaining as we head into the second and third days of free agency, and let’s start those questions with the Patriots.
1. What will the Patriots do at quarterback?
Unless you’ve been living under a rock — and I won’t judge you if you have, because that would actually be a good place to practice social distancing — you’ve probably heard that Tom Brady won’t be returning to the Patriots. Brady is taking his talents to Tampa, which means that for the first time in 20 years, the Patriots have a giant hole to fill at quarterback.
The one wild card here is that we don’t really know what the Patriots think about Jarrett Stidham. If Bill Belichick and Josh McDaniels feel that he’s good enough to be a starter, then they could just go after a veteran backup. On the other hand, if they feel that Stidham isn’t ready to be a starter, then they’re going to have to make a move to add a quarterback at some point. The advantage for New England is that time is on their side, which gives them some leverage. For instance, the Bengals and Panthers could end up being forced to cut Dalton and Newton if they can’t find a trading partner, and right now, that’s a very realistic scenario. If Belichick waits for that to happen, he could add either quarterback without giving up any compensation. The Patriots could also wait until after the draft to sign someone. Although that might sound crazy, it would make some sense. First, the Patriots could see if a quarterback they love falls to them in the draft, and if that happens, then they’re set. If it doesn’t happen, then you reach out to Dalton, Newton, Winston or Flacco, because there’s a good chance that one or all of them will still be available.
2. How will the QB carousel shake out?
As far as quarterbacks go, this one of the craziest years of free agency in NFL history. Not only have we seen Tom Brady switch teams, but we’ve also seen three former first-round picks sign with new teams this week in Philip Rivers, Marcus Mariota and Teddy Bridgewater.
As things currently stand, the quarterback carousel is currently down to Andy Dalton, Cam Newton, Jameis Winston and Joe Flacco. Newton is probably the most interesting name in that group, and that’s because, if he’s healthy, he’s an MVP-caliber quarterback. The only problem is that no one knows if he’s actually healthy. Dalton is probably the safest bet, but that’s only because we know he’s healthy and we also know that he’s not going to throw 30 interceptions.
So where will these guys end up? Besides the Patriots, the Chargers could also stand to add a quarterback. Even though they’re apparently content to go into the season with Tyrod Taylor, it wouldn’t hurt to add a veteran. The Redskins could also make some sense. Ron Rivera has been non-committal about starting Dwayne Haskins, so it wouldn’t be a total shock to see him go after a veteran quarterback, and Newton would make the most sense, since he played under Rivera in Carolina. The Jaguars could also end up in the market for a veteran backup after trading Nick Foles to the Bears.
3. Will Tom Brady recruit some of his former friends to play with him in Tampa?
Now that Tom Brady is headed to Tampa Bay, it wouldn’t be surprising at all if he tried to convince the Buccaneers to sign some of his former teammates, and by former teammates, I’m really only talking about Antonio Brown. Brady apparently made it clear during the free agency process that if a team were to sign him that he’d also want them to sign Brown. And as crazy as it sounds, Brown signing in Tampa isn’t that far-fetched. The receiver is actually very familiar with Bucs coach Bruce Arians, who was the Steelers offensive coordinator during Brown’s first two seasons in the NFL (2010-11). However, before the Bucs would be able to add Brown, he’d have to be cleared to return by the NFL.
Another name Brady could try to invite to Tampa is Josh Gordon. Although Gordon is suspended, he’ll be asking Roger Goodell to reinstate him in the near future, and if that happens, he’ll be free to sign with any team. In 17 total games with Brady over two seasons, Gordon caught 60 passes for 1,007 yards and four touchdowns.
4. Where will Jadeveon Clowney land?
Clowney went into free agency thinking he was going to land one of the largest contracts ever for a pass-rusher, but he apparently overestimated his market. According to ESPN.com, Clowney is looking for $20 million per year, which is a lot to pay for someone who has never had a double-digit sack season. Another knock on Clowney is that he struggles to stay healthy as the former No. 1 overall pick has only made it through all 16 games unscathed one time in six seasons. If Clowney’s willing to drop his price, the Seahawks probably become the favorites to land his services, but if his price does go down, it wouldn’t be surprising to see another team — like the Cowboys — swoop in and steal him.
5. Who will sign Melvin Gordon?
Less than 12 months after pulling off the worst holdout in NFL history, Gordon is now a free agent, but unfortunately for Gordon, this isn’t a good year to be a free agent if you’re a running back. The market for running backs has basically been at a standstill since Monday when the legal tampering period started. Although Gordon will eventually get signed, he most likely won’t be getting anywhere near $10 million per year, which is what the Chargers reportedly offered him last season. The good news for Gordon is that he’s arguably the best running back on the open market, which means he probably won’t be a free agent much longer. The teams that make the most sense are probably the Buccaneers, Bills, Dolphins, Lions and Eagles (in that order).
6. How will the Cowboys replace Byron Jones?
With Byron Jones headed for Miami, that means that Cowboys now have a gaping hole in their secondary, and it’s a hole that they could either end up filling in free agency or the draft. The reason it could happen in free agency is because we know that they’re at least looking. According to ESPN.com, the Cowboys were interested in adding Chris Harris before he signed with the Chargers. If the Cowboys DO decide to go the free agency route, there are still multiple players to choose from including Logan Ryan, Jimmy Smith, Trumaine Johnson, Xavier Rhodes, Ronald Darby, Brandon Carr, Prince Amukamara, Bashaud Breeland, Johnathan Joseph, Jalen Mills, and Nickell Robey-Coleman.
7. How many possible trades could still be made?
As you may or may not have noticed. the NFL has gone absolutely trade-crazy this week. From Bill O’Brien’s head-scratching decision to ship DeAndre Hopkins off to Arizona to the Bears trading for Nick Foles, it’s been a pretty wild week of trades, and the thing is, it might actually get even crazier before all is said and done. Before the week is over, we could see multiple key players get traded, including Trent Williams, Todd Gurley, Brandin Cooks, Yannick Ngakoue, and Joe Thuney.
The Rams are looking to unload salary, so it wouldn’t be surprising if Gurley and Cooks were to get dealt before Friday. Ngakoue has made it known that he doesn’t want to be in Jacksonville, and the Jaguars have proven they’ll trade anyone with an expensive contract, so a deal for Ngakoue seems like something that will eventually happen. As for Thuney, if Belichick wants to shave $14.78 million off the Patriots salary cap and pick up a few draft picks in the process, which is something Belichick always loves, then trading Thuney would make some sense.