2019 NFL Free Agents: Latest Buzz, Predictions for Earl Thomas, Dee Ford, More | Bleacher Report

Minnesota Vikings Harrison Smith (22) celebrates after returning a touchdown during the NFL Pro Bowl football game Sunday, Jan. 28, 2018, in Orlando, Fla. The AFC won 24-23. (Jeff Haynes/AP Images for Panini)

Jeff Haynes/Associated Press

While most NFL fans are going to be glued to the upcoming playoffs and the 12 teams involved, there are plenty already looking ahead to the offseason. Specifically, we’re talking about fans of the 20 teams who missed out on the postseason.

Those teams themselves are looking ahead and at the players they can add via free agency and the draft. Fortunately for these teams, free agency is shaping up to be full of potential game-changers. Others could soon join the free-agent pool. For example, Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver DeSean Jackson appears to desire his release, according to ESPN.com’s Josina Anderson.

Even if Jackson doesn’t hit the open market, there will be plenty of stars available. The question for fans, of course, is where will these players land?

We’re here to make our predictions on some of the top pending free agents, based on the latest buzz and rumors.

         

Ezekiel Ansah

Dallas Cowboys pass-rusher Demarcus Lawrence is going to be one of the most highly coveted players on the market. However, it seems unlikely that Dallas will be willing to let him walk. He played on the franchise tag in 2018. After another strong season, the Cowboys will probably try getting an extension done.

Detroit Lions pass-rusher Ezekiel Ansah also played under the franchise tag in 2018, but he wasn’t as productive. He had just four sacks and was eventually placed on injured reserve with a shoulder injury after playing only seven games.

According to Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press, it’s unlikely that the Lions bring Ansah back.

This means Ansah should be available, and teams looking for a pass-rusher will be interested. He had a 12.0-sack campaign just two years ago.

Our guess is that the Oakland Raiders take a stab at Ansah. Coach Jon Gruden hasn’t been shy about adding castoffs from other teams, and he’s talked about the need for pass-rushers in today’s NFL.

“It’s hard to find a great one,” Gruden said, per Scott Bair of NBC Sports Bay Area. “It’s hard to find a good one. It’s hard to find one.”

Armed with three first-round picks, the Raiders are primed to target a pass-rusher in the draft. However, that shouldn’t prevent them from pursuing Ansah. Oakland had a league-low 13 sacks in 2018 and is set to have more than $77 million in cap space, according to Spotrac.

2019 Prediction: Ansah leaves Lions, signs with Oakland.

Dee Ford

D. Ross Cameron/Associated Press

While Ansah appears likely to hit the open market, the same cannot be said for pending free agent Dee Ford. The Kansas City Chiefs linebacker has had a breakout season with 13.0 sacks and would be a hot target in free agency.

However, the Chiefs would be wise to secure Ford either to a long-term extension or with the franchise tag. Seeing as how Ford seems comfortable playing under the tag, it’s likely one of the two options will keep him in Kansas City.

“If someone offers you $20 million, would you take it? No-brainer right there,” Ford said, per Kirk Larrabee of 247Sports.com.

Le’Veon Bell might disagree that playing on the franchise tag is a no-brainer, and that’s why the Pittsburgh Steelers may have been wise to just cut him loose before the start of the season. Kansas City shouldn’t find itself in that position.

2019 Prediction: Ford plays for the Chiefs under the franchise tag.

       

Earl Thomas

Seattle Seahawks safety Earl Thomas didn’t want to play on his current contract in 2018. He certainly didn’t hide his displeasure with the franchise when a broken leg cut his season short. It’s difficult to envision him re-signing with Seattle in the offseason.

Instead, Thomas is likely to seek out a team that values him and is willing to pay for that value.

The San Francisco 49ers—expected to have nearly $57 million in cap space—are one such team. They could use a boost in the secondary, and they have the cash to meet Thomas’ contract desires.

The 49ers also have a big fan of the idea in Thomas’ former teammate, cornerback Richard Sherman.

“Would I love to play with Earl Thomas III? I would love to,” Sherman said, per Matt Maiocco of NBS Sports Bay Area. “I would love to have him back in the locker room. But I’m sure he#ll have a plethora of opportunities, and I’m sure we’re going to throw our hat in the ring.”

If the 49ers do pursue Thomas, it would make a ton of sense for the safety to join them—and not only because he’d be reunited with Sherman. Playing in San Francisco would give Thomas two yearly opportunities to stick it to Seattle.

2019 Prediction: Thomas joins Sherman in San Francisco



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