Free agency for the NFL starts in just over six weeks, but all the fantasy hype is on the rookie class right now. There are many quality free agents in 2019 and plenty of teams who have the cap space to sign them. A bevy of talent is available via free agency and the draft also boasts some potentially elite prospects. Will it lead to a drop in what the lineman are paid, with teams knowing what is available in the draft? Pass rushers usually get paid and it will be interesting to see if that holds true with so many options also available via the draft.
Dante Fowler Jr. will turn 25 near the start of training camp and has flashed glimpses of being a pass rushing force. He has only missed one game in three years but 8 sacks in 2017 as his career-high isn’t what was expected of a man drafted third overall in 2015. Fowler is one of the more interesting names and should still fetch a large contract offer.
Frank Clark is my personal favorite in the free agent class, as he notched 13 sacks in 2018 and has potential to be a defensive line cornerstone for another 4-6 years. Clark turns 26 this summer and sacked quarterbacks 10 times in 2016 and 9 times in 2017. He’s an exciting pass rusher and his presence is felt far beyond the numbers - he’s a player that elevates the line around and never takes a play off.
Trey Flowers is probably the most well-rounded and underappreciated lineman amongst the free agents. Flowers has averaged 55 tackles and 7 sacks the past three years and going into his age 26 season seemingly getting better every year. He has a tremendous motor and is intelligent; it’s tough to see the Patriots pony up to keep him based on past precedent but he is a true difference maker.
Grady Jarrett will be sought after as one of the better defensive tackles in the NFL - a run-stopper who also provides pressure up the middle. Jarrett makes defensive lines better as a whole and has averaged 52 tackles and 5 sacks over the past three seasons. He will likely end up with one of the bigger contracts of the defensive linemen available.
DeMarcus Lawrence has put together two full seasons of injury free football and responding by dragging down opposing quarterbacks 14.5 times in 2017 and 10.5 times in 2018. Lawrence is one of the few nasty, relentless pass-rushers and will draw another big payday as he enters his sixth season in the league at age 27. This all becomes moot if the Cowboys franchise tag him a second straight year, as has been rumored.
Kwon Alexander will have just turned 25 when the 2019 season starts and has averaged over 8 tackles a game over 46 starts and 4 seasons. Alexander corralled 145 tackles in 2016 but was hampered by injuries in 2017 and 2018, staring only 18 games over the two seasons. When he is on the field his production has been amongst the best middle linebackers in the game and will draw strong interest in free agency.
Cory Littleton is a restricted free agency, meaning any offer he receives can be matched by the Rams and played himself into prominence in 2018. He notched 125 total tackles, 3 interceptions, and added 4 sacks. Littleton has great range and instincts, I don’t see him changing teams in 2019.
Jadeveon Clowney was the first overall pick in the 2014 draft and has struggled to reach the lofty expectations associated with that selection. Clowney has put it together in 2017 and 2018 - reining in 59 tackles in 2017 and 47 in 2018 while tacking on 9 sacks each season. Clowney turns 26 in a few days and is a solid run stopper and a pass rushing force, albeit it not the one many touted him to be.
C.J. Mosley has averaged 119 tackles a season in five years in the league and is entering into his age 27 season. He’s above average both as a tackler and pass defender, and while a name you don’t hear often amongst the elite linebackers, he isn’t far off. Mosley is an inside linebacker a team can plug in and not worry about, as he has only missed 3 games in his career.
Dee Ford put up a season in 2018 which many thought he was capable of but hadn’t done yet - 13 sacks and 55 tackles - and looked like a true pass-rushing force. The biggest issue has been the ability to stay on the field, he missed much of 2017 due to injury and played sparingly his first two seasons. Ford will turn 28 in March and will draw significant interest in free agency.
Cornerback Ronald Darby is only 25 years old and hasn’t been healthy the past two seasons, only playing a total of 16 games in two years. When healthy, he is an IDP asset as a corner, averaging more than five tackles a game and can also contribute via pass deflections and an occasional interception.
Cornerback Jason Verrett is a Pro Bowl caliber corner when he’s on the field - but had only played in five games between 2016 and 2017. A sound tackler and great in coverage, Verrett could be a sneaky cheap add in a league which requires cornerbacks to start.
Cornerback Steven Nelson is a far better IDP cornerback than an actual NFL corner, he was leaned on heavily in 2018 and responded with 68 tackles, 4 picks, and 15 deflections. Those numbers at cornerback are a top-five season and they are likely to repeat if Nelson starts again, especially if it’s in Kansas City.
Safety Landon Collins is one of my favorite players, a true hard hitting disruptive safety with an old-school smashmouth attitude. Collins just turned 25 and in a “down” season still tallied 96 tackles in 12 games. He’s one of the top IDP assets, the top safety for me, and should garner a huge contract this offseason.
Safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix is another young safety I really like, who turned 26 recently and was traded from the Packers to the Redskins midway through 2018. Since becoming a starter in 2014, he hasn’t missed a game and has averaged over 100 tackles the past three seasons. Clinton-Dix is a strong tackler and in the box safety capable of forcing turnovers, but hasn’t been the most consistent game-to-game.
Safety Tyrann Mathieu will be entering his age 27 season and has been a better NFL player than an IDP asset. He has been capable of the numbers that IDP owners covet - notching 89 tackles twice in six seasons - but has a few down seasons and been plagued by injuries. A fun player to watch, the “Honey Badger” will still find a home and has earned a bigger contract.
Safety Earl Thomas turns 30 in May and missed most of 2018 with a broken leg but is still one of the top safeties in the NFL. An ugly exit from Seattle soured me on him but it’s hard to deny what the six-time Pro Bowler brings to a team. Thomas is a menacing safety who has a knack for timely interceptions and big hits which can turn the tide of a game. He will seek the big contract he feels he has been denied.