This offseason has been a quiet one for the typical NFL fan. Due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the NFL Draft combine is not being held this year. In addition, the NFL Draft will likely be similar to last year’s draft and be a virtual experience again in some capacity. However, one cherished part of the NFL offseason still looming is NFL free agency.
This free agency looks to be star-studded with plenty of talent currently on the market or in trade rumors. Three of the NFL’s top-tier quarterbacks in Dak Prescott, Russel Wilson, and Deshaun Watson may be playing for different teams next year. Meanwhile, receivers such as Kenny Golladay and Allen Robinson will certainly receive big contracts. Going into NFL free agency, here are the predicted and best landing locations for some of the top players.
Aaron Jones, RB (Green Bay Packers)
Should go to: Green Bay
Will go to: Green Bay
Granted, this take wasn’t the most imaginative but it just doesn’t make sense for Jones to go elsewhere. One issue with Green Bay as a location for Aaron Jones is his usage. The scheme in Green Bay simply doesn’t allow for a workhorse role for running backs, however, this may actually fit Jones as he’s always been more of an opportunistic player. Jones has never averaged 15 or more carries per game in a season, however, has had over five yards per carry in three of them. In fact, Jones’ lowest yards per carry season was his season with the highest carry total. There’s no reason to leave an offense featuring one of the greatest quarterbacks in league history and the best wideout. Additionally, there’s no reason Green Bay would let him walk either, as the franchise tag value for running backs is quite affordable at just $11 million.
UPDATE: The Green Bay Packers have opted to not use the franchise tag on Jones. He is set to be an unrestricted free agent.
Allen Robinson, WR (Chicago Bears)
Should go to: Jacksonville Jaguars
Will go to: Baltimore Ravens
Allen Robinson returning to Jacksonville where his career started makes all the sense in the world. Jacksonville hasn’t been a respectable team since he’s been there and now, they’re aimed to turn things around big time. The Jaguars are loaded with young talent such as edge rusher Josh Allen, cornerback CJ Henderson, linebacker Myles Jack, running back James Robinson, and right tackle Jawaan Taylor. Additionally, the Jaguars have the number one pick in 2021 and are almost certainly selecting Trevor Lawrence who is the most highly regarded quarterback prospect since Peyton Manning. This team is trending up and also has the money to make Robinson one of the league’s highest-paid receivers due to their league-high $84 million in cap space. Furthermore, Robinson would be in a division where he would get to play against the porous Texans and Titans secondaries twice a year. A return to Jacksonville makes perfect sense.
However, while the Jaguars would be an extremely wise choice for Robinson, Baltimore seems like a more likely scenario. The Ravens desperately need skill at the receiver position as not a single receiver on the roster last season hit 800 yards. Also, Robinson recently stated he “wants to play meaningful games” and to “compete for a Super Bowl. Jacksonville while up-and-coming is not ready to compete quite yet, unlike Baltimore who had Super Bowl aspirations before a divisional round loss last season. Baltimore needs to make passing the ball downfield easier for Lamar Jackson and Robinson wants to win. While Jacksonville does make sense, Baltimore seems like the more likely destination.
UPDATE: The Bears have franchise tagged Allen Robinson, keeping him in Chicago to discuss a long term extension.
Shaquil Barrett, EDGE (Tampa Bay Buccaneers)
Should go to: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Will go to: New York Jets
The best situation for Barrett is the one where he stays in Tampa Bay. The Buccaneers just won a Super Bowl and Barrett has truly managed to shine across from Jason-Pierre Paul as part of one of the NFL’s most feared pass-rushing duos. Additionally, the NFC South features two of the league’s most suspect offensive lines in Atalanta and Carolina, while the Saints will have an inexperienced quarterback under center following the retirement of Drew Brees. The best situation for Barrett’s career going forward is a franchise tag in Tampa.
Despite Tampa being the most beneficial situation for Barrett, the Jets seems more likely. Tampa Bay also has their star receiver and Brady’s favorite target via Chris Godwin hitting free agency, and it’s justifiable to predict Tampa would rather place the franchise tag there. The Jets also recently hired Robert Saleh as their head coach and Saleh comes from the 49ers who have had a philosophy of investing aggressively in the defensive line. Barrett also recently was quoted saying “it’s time for me to break the bank now” and expressed his desire for a big contract. Tampa Bay doesn’t have the money to hand Barrett a large contract. On the contrary, the Jets and their $77 million in cap space do.
Trent Williams, LT (San Francisco 49ers)
Should go to: Los Angeles Chargers
Will go to: Jacksonville Jaguars
Trent Williams has long been in the discussion of the league’s best offensive tackles and this offseason he’s hitting free agency after San Francisco failed to franchise tag or re-sign him. Last season, the LA Chargers had the league’s worst offensive line according to Pro Football Focus and will be looking to give their young superstar quarterback Justin Herbert more protection. The Chargers have one of the league’s most electric receiving backs in Austin Ekeler, an elite defense filled with young talent, and stacked talent at all their skill positions. Williams could make all the difference in catapulting the Chargers into the playoffs next season. Additionally, Williams would be able to receive a big payday there as the Chargers have a respectable $29 million in cap space and years until they have to break the bank for Herbert.
Despite the Chargers being quite an enticing situation for Williams to play meaningful games and also receive a favorable contract, the Jaguars seem a more likely scenario. Jacksonville has $77 million in cap space and has much more room to be aggressive in free agency than the Chargers. Additionally, with them undoubtedly preparing to select their signal-caller of the future number one overall, they’d be keen to invest in an All-Pro left tackle to protect him. Williams going to Jacksonville seems more likely than not at this point.
Deshaun Watson, QB (Houston Texans)
Should go to: Denver Broncos
Will go to: Houston Texans
This situation is going to get ugly before it settles. Deshaun Watson has wanted out of Houston for a while now and has been extremely outspoken about it. Despite his demands, the Texans are reportedly turning away teams who are inquiring about Watson. This has all the makings of an ugly stalemate with the likes of the Le’Veon Bell situation and sit-out back in 2018. The Texans aren’t budging and you can’t blame them, as the franchise has had decades and decades of quarterback mediocrity and don’t want to accept losing a top-five signal-caller.
Nonetheless, in a situation in which Houston does wise up and take a historic trade package for Watson, Denver would be the best destination for Watson. Denver has rebuilt its offensive line with young pieces over the last few years (and it’s certainly better than Houston’s) and has plenty of young playmakers such as Jerry Jeudy, Courtland Sutton, and Noah Fant. Weapons in the receiving corps would be in no shortage for Watson in Denver and the defense has young pieces to build around in Bradley Chubb and Justin Simmons as well. It also wouldn’t hurt having an NFL legend such as John Elway around the facility all the time to mentor him a bit. Denver would provide Watson with a lot of hope for his future going forward and would provide an exciting new beginning.
While there are many other free agents worth noting in this free agency class filled with star talent, these were just some of the biggest names to watch going into the free agency frenzy. Leave your thoughts in the comments down below about our free agency forecast here at The Sports Wave! Thank you for joining us today and #ridethewave with us again soon!