Before we begin, I’m sure a handful of these players won’t actually hit the market. For the sake of this article though, any player with an expiring contract is eligible. Now that that’s out of the way, we can talk about one of the most talent-heavy free agent classes in recent history. There are a ton of annual Pro Bowlers about to hit the market, but there are also a bunch of borderline Pro Bowlers on expiring contracts as well. Out of all the available players though, these guys stand above the rest.
Ezekiel Ansah DE
There are so many good pass rushers in the 2019 free agency class that the often injured Ansah doesn’t make the list. He had 12 sacks in 2017 and 14.5 back in 2015. 2016 and 2018 were marred by injuries.
Golden Tate WR
Tate has always been a hard worker. That’s one of the reasons why he’s so hard to tackle. However, he is going to be 31 next season and just had the worst year of his career since 2012. There aren’t many good free agent receivers, so Tate will get paid. His production will return as well, as long as he finds the right fit.
Lamarcus Joyner S
This is a safety heavy class which didn’t work out for a lot of guys last year when they waited almost the entire offseason to get undersized contracts. Joyner is a good safety, but he’s buried by others in this class.
Mark Ingram RB
Despite only playing 12 games and being featured behind Alvin Kamara, Ingram still racked up 815 yards from scrimmage, including 645 rushing yards on 4.7 yards per attempt. He also recorded six rushing touchdowns. There will be a lot of veteran running backs entering free agency, but Ingram is one of the best available.
Ronald Darby CB and Kareem Jackson CB
While the safety class is loaded, Darby and Jackson are the best cornerbacks on the market. It’s not a good year for cornerbacks, which could make them a lot of money.
Sheldon Richardson DT
I’m over the whole Richardson craze. He never fully delivers and can’t stick with a team.
The Top 15
15. Anthony Barr OLB
Barr has made the last four Pro Bowls and for the life of me I can’t figure out why. If not for recording three total sacks in Weeks 14 and 15 he would have been held sackless this season. He missed three games but still had the worst year of his career in 2018. He finished the season with 55 combined tackles and those three sacks. He’ll get his money in free agency, I just hope my team isn’t the one that pays him.
14. Ha Ha Clinton-Dix S
The former Pro Bowl safety switched teams in 2018 but kept his numbers up. He recorded 93 combined tackles and three interceptions. However, all three of those interceptions came in the first four weeks of the season. At this point, Clinton-Dix is entering Reshad Jones territory, good enough to make a Pro Bowl every now and then but never good enough to be one of the three best safeties in the league.
13. Kwon Alexander MLB and K.J. Wright OLB
I hate combining players, but I felt I had no choice in this instance. Both Alexander and Wright are coming off of injury-filled seasons but have played at Pro Bowl levels in the past. From his rookie year (2011) through 2017, Wright averaged exactly 100 combined tackles per season. Besides being a tackling machine, he’s also a plus in pass coverage. Wright only played in five games in 2018 but he was healthy down the stretch. The former Super Bowl champion will turn 30 next season.
As for Alexander, he tore his ACL six games into the 2018 season. That’s a more devastating injury than the ones Wright has dealt with, but Alexander is only 24 years old. I believe he can bounce back and return to his previous form. In the first three seasons of his career (2015-2017), Alexander averaged just over 111 combined tackles per season, including 145 in 2016. He could be a great, cheap signing for a team in need of a monster in the middle.
12. Ndamukong Suh DT
I always feel like I expect more out of Suh that he puts out. Then again, he is 32 years old and mostly a run stopper at this point. Suh didn’t put up the crazy numbers that Los Angeles fans were hoping for in 2018 but he still did record 4.5 sacks and 59 combined tackles, the latter of which is above his career average. Pro Football Reference also credits Suh with 19 quarterback hits, the most he’s had since 2015.
11. Tyrann Mathieu S
The fearless Honey Badger never quite got back to his 2015 All-Pro form, but that hasn’t stopped him from still being a beast in the secondary. While he was beaten on several deep shots in 2018, he’s still got incredible instincts and can ball hawk with the best defensive backs in the league. He set a personal best with three sacks and tied his 2015 tackle total (89) in 2018.
10. Grady Jarrett DT
Defensive tackles don’t have the most glamorous jobs and often don’t get the recognition they deserve. Jarrett has certainly flown under the radar for a lot of NFL fans, but someone is going to pay him a lot of money this summer. Jarrett recorded 52 combined tackles and a career-high six sacks in 2018.
9. Trey Flowers DE
Flowers’ numbers don’t jump off the page, but they demand attention. Over the last three seasons, he’s recorded 21 sacks and 164 combined tackles. Those numbers are pretty similar to a Houston outside linebacker you’ll see on this list at some point. Pro Football Reference also credits the Patriot with 59 quarterback hits over the last three years. Unfortunately, Flowers is buried in a pass rush heavy free agency class.
8. Frank Clark DE
Clark is another defensive end who had a career year in 2018. He finished the season with 13 sacks, 41 combined tackles, and three forced fumbles. Over the last three seasons, Clark has 32 sacks showing just how consistently he can produce. While he isn’t one of those top-tier pass rushers, he’s good enough to lead most defensive lines in the NFL.
7. C.J. Mosley MLB
Through his first five seasons in the league, Mosley has averaged just under 116 combined tackles, 1.7 sacks, seven passes defensed and almost two interceptions per season. As a result, he’s made the Pro Bowl four times. Mosley is THE guy teams in need of a middle linebacker will be targeting in free agency.
6. Landon Collins S
Aside from the defensive ends, the safety class is the strongest position in free agency. Collins Didn’t play in the final four games of the regular season but he still made his third Pro Bowl. He finished the season with zero interceptions, which is worrying, but he still recorded 96 combined tackles. Collins is more of a run-stopping safety that a coverage player. He did have a breakout All-Pro season in 2016, but he hasn’t come close to a repeat performance since.
5. Dee Ford OLB
Ford had the best year of his up and down career in 2018. After missing most of the 2017 season, Ford rebounded with 13 sacks and 55 combined tackles. Both are career highs. While his health might be worth questioning, Ford has an incredibly explosive first step that makes him hard to stop. Under ordinary circumstances, he’d easily be the best pass rusher in free agency, but this class is exceptional.
4. Jadeveon Clowney OLB
Speaking of having a slow start to a career, Clowney has taken off in his last three seasons. In those three seasons, he has 24.5 sacks and 158 combined tackles. Why Clowney is a physical specimen, 6-5 270 lbs., his numbers don’t exactly stand out. His run game defense could improve, and his pass rushing skills aren’t top tier. I just wished his abilities translated to more production on the field.
3. Earl Thomas S
Injury or not, Thomas was always going to be the top safety in this free agency class. He’s been the most consistent and best player at the position since Ed Reed and Troy Polamalu. In 2018, he recorded three interceptions in just four games. He was also on pace to record 88 tackles, the same number he had in 2017. Thomas is an X-factor capable of doing everything a team asks of him.
2. Demarcus Lawrence DE
Lawrence had a slow start to his career but has solidified his spot as a Pro Bowl-caliber pass rusher over the last two seasons. In 2017 he recorded 14.5 sacks and 58 combined tackles. The following year he had 10.5 sacks and 64 combined tackles. In this free agent class, Lawrence has the best combination of pass rush and run stopping skills.
1. Le’Veon Bell RB
This is definitely a controversial selection. Bell sat out all of 2018 because he was upset with being franchise tagged for a second consecutive season. That hurts his value and we can’t be sure what kind of player he’ll look like for the first few weeks of the 2019 season. However, analysts and former players rave about Bell. Some say he’s already put himself in the Hall of Fame discussion, which, admittedly, is a little over the top. At his peak, Bell is a top three running back in the league.