2019 NFL free-agency guide – Players to know, team needs and value signings

The 2019 NFL free-agency period is upon us.

With contract negotiations starting Monday and the signing period officially opening Wednesday at 4 p.m. ET, national NFL writers Kevin Seifert and Dan Graziano break down everything you need to know about the market — including players primed for big paydays, others looking for prove-it deals, and more.

Note: Age is listed based on how old each player will be at the start of the 2019 season.

Jump to:
Top free agents by category | Biggest spenders
Team-by-team needs and cap space


1. Le’Veon Bell, RB
2. Nick Foles, QB
3. Teddy Bridgewater, QB
4. Trent Brown, OT
5. Landon Collins, S
6. Trey Flowers, DE
7. Kwon Alexander, LB
8. Earl Thomas, S
9. Tyrann Mathieu, S
10. Tyrell Williams, WR
11. Matt Paradis, C
12. Sheldon Richardson, DT
13. Tyrod Taylor, QB
14. Ezekiel Ansah, DE
15. Anthony Barr, LB

See the full top-100 free agent ranking.


2018 team: Giants | Age: 25

There are a ton of veteran safeties on the market, but Collins is the youngest, and age is a key data point in free-agent negotiations. And while he might not have elite one-on-one coverage skills, he has plenty of other playmaking attributes that have propelled him to three Pro Bowl nods. — Seifert

2018 team: Patriots | Age: 26

Is Flowers one of the NFL’s top pass-rushers? Probably not. But is he the best on the market? Quite possibly. Teams always pay for that … and teams always need reliable pass-rushers. — Seifert

2018 team: Chargers | Age: 27

Since the start of the 2016 season, Williams has averaged more yards per reception (15.9) than all but six pass-catchers in the NFL (minimum 43 catches). He might be the best big deep threat available. — Seifert

2018 team: Patriots | Age: 26

You rarely find an available free agent capable of playing left tackle at a relatively high level. It isn’t any easier in the draft. Brown demonstrated he could do that last season for the Patriots. — Seifert

2018 team: Steelers | Age: 27

Bell held out all of last season to put himself in a position to get a precedent-setting contract that reflects his unique pass-catching skills. Even if he falls short, however, the expectation is that he will sign a deal that puts him in the upper echelon of running backs. — Seifert


2018 team: Bears | Age: 27

Slot cornerbacks are valuable to a defense, and Callahan was one of the NFL’s best last season. According to Pro Football Focus, opposing quarterbacks had a 78.9 passer rating when targeting Callahan in 2018, among the five lowest in the league. — Seifert

2018 team: Eagles | Age: 25

A torn ACL in November will drive down his price. But assuming he recovers fully, Darby can be a pretty decent cover corner and playmaker. — Seifert

2018 team: Chiefs | Age: 27

Injuries, most notably a concussion that cost him six games last season, will chip away Morse’s price. Still, teams looking to elevate their offensive line can get a bigger bang for their buck by trying to upgrade at center than, say, left tackle. — Seifert

2018 team: Packers | Age: 27

Last year at this time, Breeland was considered among the top cornerbacks on the market. A failed physical with the Panthers set him back and could continue to limit his price. If so, someone will get a good player at a key position without overstepping. — Seifert

2018 team: Washington | Age: 26

A series of poorly timed injuries scuttled his contract year. With the number of creative offensive minds around the league, someone will find a way to maximize his considerable playmaking skills. — Seifert


2018 team: Saints | Age: 26

With Joe Flacco headed to Denver and Nick Foles expected to land in Jacksonville, there just aren’t a lot of landing spots for Bridgewater. He might have to go back to New Orleans, back up Drew Brees for another season and try again in 2020. — Graziano

2018 team: Lions | Age: 30

Coming off a franchise-player season in which he missed nine games and collected just four sacks, Ansah will turn 30 next month and find it difficult to convince a team to invest in him long term. — Graziano

2018 team: Jaguars/Rams | Age: 25

Fowler doesn’t turn 25 until August, so he’s in a different boat than Ansah. His issue is that he hasn’t proved anything yet. The No. 3 pick in the 2015 draft missed his first season due to injury and has 16 total sacks in the three seasons since. — Graziano

2018 team: Panthers | Age: 25

He had a chance to become Carolina’s No. 1 receiver when the team traded Kelvin Benjamin in 2017, but he couldn’t sustain enough production and has since been surpassed by more recent draft picks. There’s still upside here. — Graziano

2018 team: Rams | Age: 32

He just pocketed $15 million for one season with the Rams and likely moves on. It’s not hard to imagine the still-productive Suh year-to-yearing it through the final portion of his career the way Darrelle Revis did and pocketing a boatload of money in the process. — Graziano



Marcus Spears breaks down the impact Antonio Brown will have on another team, as he is expected to be traded by Friday.


2018 team: Patriots | Age: 26

Brown was seen as a top right tackle when he was with San Francisco. The Patriots traded for him, moved him to left tackle and won a Super Bowl. Now he’ll get paid as a left tackle. But is he, really? — Graziano

2018 team: Patriots | Age: 26

The beneficiary of all those teams franchising all those edge rushers. Flowers is the cream of the remaining crop and could clear $17 million a year on his next deal. The Patriots’ former defensive coordinator is coaching the pass-rush-starved Lions — just sayin’. — Graziano

2018 team: Chargers | Age: 27

Went over Williams earlier, but he’s all potential right now. Someone is going to sign him to be their No. 1 receiver, which means he’ll get more than his production to date warrants. Will he live up to it? — Graziano

2018 team: Broncos | Age: 29

Coming off an injury, but he’s far and away the top center available. Any team with a need at the position will be interested, which will drive up his price. — Graziano

2018 team: Dolphins | Age: 27

James might be only a right tackle, but it’s a tackle-starved market and not a great draft for the position. James should clear eight figures on average in his next deal. — Graziano


2018 team: Vikings | Age: 27

Barr is a very good player who will make some team’s defense better. And it’s entirely possible he lands a deal worth close to $12 million per year. But linebackers who don’t rush the passer aren’t generally valued too highly, and Barr could end up having to wait. — Graziano

2018 team: Panthers | Age: 25

The receiver class isn’t loaded, but even so, this is a player with a very specific skill set who might not be in demand until teams have their rosters a little more set than they are now. — Graziano

2018 team: Rams | Age: 28

The flooded safety market could make life difficult for Joyner, whose 2017 season was better than his 2018 and who’s coming off a year in which he made $11.287 million as the Rams’ franchise player. — Graziano

2018 team: Saints | Age: 29

If Ingram wants to take himself out on the market and look for a job where he’s some team’s No. 1 running back, I fear he’ll be disappointed. If he wants to stay with the Saints for $4 million a year or so, he could sign sooner. That might be his top option. — Graziano

2018 team: Lions/Eagles | Age: 31

Tate is coming off a down year by his own lofty standards. He could bounce back and be a great value signing for someone. Feels like a guy the Patriots snatch up once the first wave passes him by. — Graziano


2018 team: Eagles | Age: 30

Foles learned in St. Louis how a career can spiral downward in the wrong environment. He is a good but not transcendent player who needs help to win. His reported destination in Jacksonville, where he is familiar with offensive coordinator John DeFilippo, seems like a good spot. — Seifert

2018 team: Lions | Age: 30

Size, age and injury history dictate that Ansah will have to be a part-time player moving forward. If a team with a 4-3 scheme has the personnel flexibility to cover for him on most downs, Ansah could make a big impact as a situational pass-rusher. — Seifert

2018 team: Cardinals | Age: 27

He isn’t a conventional linebacker or safety, but Bucannon has a unique skill set that could be utilized by a team willing to think outside the box. The mistake would be trying to shoehorn him into a classically defined role. — Seifert

2018 team: Patriots | Age: 28

Patterson is lights out when he gets the ball in space, as seen on kickoff returns in the earliest days of his career. But his success on offense needs creativity. You can throw him only so many bubble screens. The Patriots showed another alternative: traditional handoffs in the backfield. — Seifert

2018 team: Vikings | Age: 27

Barr has never been used as a traditional pass-rusher, in part because he is fast enough to provide decent coverage and tackling in space. But a team that signs him thinking he can produce double-digit sacks might be overprojecting. — Seifert


2018 team: Ravens | Age: 29

If a team needs a deep threat, it could do a lot worse than signing Brown. Even though he’s relatively older, he ranked fourth in the NFL last season with an average of 17 yards per catch. — Seifert

2018 team: Broncos | Age: 29

If you can’t find a new left tackle to upgrade your struggling offense, the next-best place to turn is center. And Paradis is the best available. — Seifert

2018 team: Buccaneers | Age: 26

Productive slot receivers make the world go ’round. Humphries is the kind of player you can pencil in for 70 receptions in just about every scheme NFL teams run. — Seifert

2018 team: Steelers | Age: 27

His fresh legs alone, after a season-long holdout, should put Bell in position for an early-season impact. It will be fascinating — in a good way — to see how, or if, his game has changed. — Seifert

2018 team: Texans | Age: 27

Of all the free-agent safeties available — and there are many — Mathieu and Earl Thomas have the best playmaking ability in the passing game. — Seifert


2018 team: Seahawks | Age: 30

Did we forget about this guy? He’s healthy, two months shy of 30 and was one of the best in the league at his position last season before he got hurt. There has been speculation around the league that Thomas will get more than $13 million a year on his new deal. Don’t be surprised if he’s patrolling the deep middle of the field for a Southern California contender. — Graziano

2018 team: Chargers | Age: 27

In a thin wide-receiver market, the speedy, 6-foot-4 Williams wants to sell himself as a No. 1 wideout after being stuck down the Chargers’ depth chart the past couple of years. He’s going to convince someone, and he could end up making $12 million or more with a team that sees him as a potential No. 1. — Graziano

2018 team: Eagles | Age: 25

He suffered a torn ACL in November, but he also just turned 25 and is expected to be ready for the start of the season. Multiple teams are prepared to pursue him, and Darby could end up with a price tag upward of $12 million per season. — Graziano

2018 team: Falcons | Age: 26

Coleman is likely gone from Atlanta after several productive seasons as part of a tandem with Devonta Freeman. Is he ready to be someone’s feature back? Is he the consolation prize for teams that don’t get Le’Veon Bell? — Graziano

2018 team: Rams | Age: 31

The Rams could end up needing to replace multiple players on an offensive line that has been a key factor in their success the past two seasons. Saffold looks bound for another team, and he should be the top guard on the market this offseason. — Graziano


Current team: Chiefs | Age: 28

The Chiefs franchised Ford, who played outside rush linebacker in their 3-4 defense. But they’re moving to a 4-3 front under new defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo, and it’s possible Ford won’t fit. If some team wants to take a shot on a pass-rusher who had 13 sacks last season, the Chiefs might be open for business. — Graziano

Current team: Buccaneers | Age: 32

The speedy veteran is scheduled to make $10 million this season. The Bucs are deep at receiver and would save that entire amount on their cap by cutting Jackson. But with receiver not a strong position in free agency this year, they could find a market for him. — Graziano

Current team: Buccaneers | Age: 31

It’s a new coaching staff and potentially a lot of change in Tampa. McCoy is a phenomenal player and a team leader, and Tampa Bay would have to be overwhelmed by an offer if it were going to move him. But he is signed for three more years at nearly $13 million a year, so who knows? — Graziano

Current team: Eagles | Age: 26

The former first-round pick has been a very useful player for a very successful Eagles team the past two seasons. But there’s a difference between “very useful player” and “$9.4 million player.” That’s what Agholor is scheduled to earn in his fifth-year-option season, and a 550 percent raise might be too much for the cap-strapped Eagles to handle. — Graziano

Current team: Bills | Age: 25

His fifth-year-option season isn’t until 2020, but that means an acquiring team could get a bargain in Year 1 and then decide later on Year 2. The talent is there, but the production hasn’t been consistent. Every teams needs pass-rushers, and maybe the Bills can get something for this one. — Graziano


The Jets have more than $100 million in cap space. But more important, they have a league-low $75.9 million in cash dedicated to 2019 contracts. That gives them maximum flexibility in the budgetary category that means the most to owners. — Seifert

With a league-leading $106 million in cap space, the Colts can do pretty much whatever they want. But it’s important to note that they have committed more than $115 million in 2019 contracts. They’re still likely to seek high-level help — safety Landon Collins is a rumored possibility — but there will be some budgetary limitations. — Seifert

While it has become cliché to project the Raiders to hit the maximum boundaries of silliness, the table is set for them to spend freely. They have plenty of holes and more than $70 million in cap space, among the top five figures in the league. — Seifert

With nearly $70 million in cap space, the Niners have the ability to make a number of big signings. They tried to gird themselves against that pressure by giving matching six-year contracts to general manager John Lynch and coach Kyle Shanahan, but the truth is, they have 4-12 and 6-10 seasons hanging over them and need to make a jump one way or the other. — Seifert

Although they don’t have much cap space at the moment, expected maneuverings will give the Eagles enough to make a handful of moves. History shows that general manager Howie Roseman isn’t afraid to wade into the market. — Seifert


Defensive line

You’ve heard all about the loaded defensive line class. Teams picking in the first half of the first round could play hardball with agents for guys like Trey Flowers and Dante Fowler Jr. by asserting that they can get a high-impact guy in the draft. And with players such as Nick Bosa, Quinnen Williams, Montez Sweat, Rashan Gary and others just having torn up the combine in Indianapolis, they could be right. — Graziano

Tight end

The free-agent tight end market is spotty. Jared Cook is coming off a big year. Always-injured Tyler Eifert is back again if you feel lucky. But the draft is stacked. Two Iowa tight ends — T.J. Hockenson and Noah Fant — could go in the first round, along with Alabama’s Irv Smith Jr. And guys such as San Jose State’s Josh Oliver, LSU’s Foster Moreau and UCLA’s Caleb Wilson starred in their combine workouts and could be strong Day 2 picks at the position. — Graziano

Running back

There’s no top-five, Saquon Barkley– or Ezekiel Elliott-style running back in this year’s class, but there’s intriguing depth and variety at the position. Teams always believe they can find starting running backs in the middle or late rounds, and they’re usually right. So why stretch for a Mark Ingram when you might be able to get Iowa State’s David Montgomery on Friday night? Or Washington’s Myles Gaskin on Friday or Saturday? Oklahoma State’s Justice Hill had the top 40-yard dash, vertical jump and broad jump of any back at the combine. The only other running back since 2003 with a 4.4-second 40 and a 40-inch vertical at the combine was Barkley. There’s running back talent throughout this draft. — Graziano

Defensive back

Conversely, evaluators don’t seem to think this is a particularly stellar year for defensive backs in the draft. This might be why young free agents such as Ronald Darby and Landon Collins have stronger markets than they might have found in other years. Teams are still getting prime seasons with those players. — Graziano

Offensive line

There might be a couple of tackles going early in the first round, but teams have some trepidation about the readiness of this year’s draft linemen to step in right away and perform as reliable starters. Which is why free agents such as Trent Brown and Ja’Wuan James get paid as starting tackles. If there were a Tyron Smith or a Trent Williams in this group, things might be different. — Graziano


Team needs are determined by research and analysis from ESPN Stats & Information. Cap-space figures are from Roster Management System databases as of March 6.

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