With two of the best quarterbacks of all-time heading up the list, free agency negotiations promise to be interesting this Spring.
Here’s a look at the top 10 free agents coming to the market.
1. Tom Brady, QB – New England Patriots (Age 43, just completed a 1-year, $23 million contract).
The most decorated quarterback to ever play the game finds himself at a crossroads this offseason.
It’s likey that the Patriots don’t negotiate a new contract to allow Brady to finish his career in New England.
If Brady wants to keep chasing records or rings outside of the only system he’s ever known, it will likely cost his new team upwards of $30 million per year to bring him in.
This might be a good investment for a playoff contender in need of a veteran QB (think Chargers, Titans).
But the Browns are still confident that Baker Mayfield is their franchise QB.
Well, this would be awkward. https://t.co/Ty2htVtXWK
— News 5 Cleveland (@WEWS) January 9, 2020
And with Kevin Stefanski getting the nod for the Browns’ next head coach over Patriots’ offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, there is little reason for Brady to want to come to Cleveland.
2. Drew Brees, QB – New Orleans Saints (Age 41, just completed a 2-year, $50 million contract).
The overwhelming sentiment is that the all-time passing yards and completion leader will finish his career in New Orleans.
Brees had a rough go of it this year with a thumb injury that kept him sidelined until midseason.
But there were moments where he seemed to hit his stride before the Saints faltered in the playoffs.
His motivation to bring another Lombardi Trophy to New Orleans will probably earn him a new deal worth as much as $35 million per year.
If Brees does leave New Orleans, don’t expect him to end up in a Browns’ jersey.
3. Jadeveon Clowney, DE – Seattle Seahawks (Age 27, just completed a 1-year, $15 million contract).
After a surprise deal that sent him from Houston to Seattle just before the season, Jadeveon Clowney now finds himself as one of the most coveted pass rushers in the 2020 free agency market.
Expect the Seahawks to do everything possible to keep him in Seattle for 2020.
Which might mean paying him at least $16 million per year.
Jadeveon Clowney, a free agent to be, had just three sacks this season, but his production and value can be assessed differently than most edge rushers. How highly do the Seahawks value him? We’re about to find out. (via @A_Jude) https://t.co/Jv8zRMmL15
— Seattle Times Sports (@SeaTimesSports) January 3, 2020
Clowney opposite Myles Garrett would potentially send NFL QBs into cardiac arrest, but it’s difficult to envision the Browns clearing cap room for this type of spend.
With all of the other needs for the Browns, don’t expect a serious move to woo Clowney to Cleveland.
4. Chris Jones, DT – Kansas City Chiefs (Age 26, just completed a 4-year, $6.23 million contract).
Chris Jones has quietly become one of the better defensive players in the NFL.
Jones earned a Pro Bowl spot this season after two straight years with nine sacks.
The Chiefs have side-stepped negotiations to re-up his rookie contract and must decide whether to ink a long-term deal or franchise tag him.
If Jones ends up on the free-agent market, his new team will probably pay $20 million per year for the hard-working defensive tackle.
The thought of Jones on the Browns’ defensive line is intriguing, but the more critical needs are at other positions.
5. Amari Cooper, WR – Dallas Cowboys (Age 26, just completed a 4-year, $22.66 million contract).
Fans have been optimistic about Cooper since coming over from the Raiders, but there is still hesitation to craft a deal to make him one of the highest-paid WRs in the NFL.
But that’s what Jerry Jones will have to do to keep Cooper in Dallas unless he chooses to franchise tag him next year.
Should Cooper leave the Cowboys, he probably isn’t a great fit in Cleveland in 2020.
His talents are probably better invested elsewhere.
6. Yannick Ngakoue, DE – Jacksonville Jaguars (Age 25, just completed a 4-year, $3.48 million contract).
The fourth-year defensive end out of the University of Maryland has earned the right to seek big-time money in free agency.
He didn’t disappoint in his contract year, recording eight sacks, four forced fumbles, and 13 tackles-for-loss.
It is unclear if the Jaguars come up with $15MM per year or more to keep Ngakoue, and a multitude of teams are showing interest.
What the Jaguars’ offseason shopping list could look like
Making a decision at QB, clearing out cap space and keeping Yannick Ngakoue should be top priorities for Doug Marrone and Dave Caldwell, writes @gregauman: https://t.co/8tvhXW5Tek pic.twitter.com/RmWjULITH6
— The Athletic Jacksonville (@TheAthleticJAX) January 9, 2020
Ngakoue might be a better bargain than Clowney, but the Browns can’t afford another expensive DE contract at this point.
7. Shaq Barrett, DE – Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Age 27, just completed a 1-year, $4 million contract).
Barrett is a workhorse that was picked up by the Broncos as an undrafted player out of Colorado State.
He emerged as a solid player in Denver but left for Tampa Bay when the Broncos drafted Bradley Chubb in 2018.
His one-year performance in Tampa Bay was insane, as he recorded 12.5 sacks and harassed opposing quarterbacks all season.
Expect the Bucs to bend over backward to strike a new deal with Barrett, even paying upwards of $13MM annually.
If not, the Browns might be wise to kick the tires on Barrett a little bit.
He might be one of the better values in the free agency market this year.
8. Byron Jones, CB – Dallas Cowboys (Age 27, just completed a 4-year, $8.6 million contract).
With the focus on deals for Dak Prescott and Amari Cooper, the Cowboys might have to let their 2015 first-round draft pick slide into free agency.
This is interesting for the Browns, as Jones started his career in Dallas as a safety before converting to CB in 2018.
A freak athlete with sub 4.5 speed and tremendous jumping ability, Jones has been a solid and consistent defensive back who rarely makes mistakes.
And the defensive backfield is one of the top priorities for the Browns to improve this offseason.
With the future of Damarious Randall unclear, Jones is a good candidate to work alongside Sheldrick Redwine as a safety.
9. Dak Prescott, QB – Dallas Cowboys (Age 27, just completed a 4-year, $2.72 million contract).
Even if the Cowboys can’t negotiate a new long-term deal with Prescott, it’s highly likely that he is staying in Dallas by virtue of a franchise tag.
The former Mississippi State QB might blossom under a new coaching staff and bring a Lombardi Trophy back to Dallas.
The Cowboys’ front office is prepared to do what it takes to give new head coach Mike McCarthy and Prescott the opportunity to figure it out.
Don’t look for any real interest from the Browns on this one.
10. Anthony Castonzo, OT – Indianapolis Colts (Age 31, just completed a 4-year, $43.8 million contract).
Anthony Castonzo has never been a free agent before this year.
The Colts signed Castonzo to a new contract just as his rookie contract expired in 2016.
Now, Castonzo is contemplating retirement instead of negotiating would could be an annual $15 million contract with the Colts, or potentially a new team.
Anthony Castonzo expected to make decision in ‘next two or three weeks’ https://t.co/APfuVU8Pq8
— TheColtsWire (@TheColtsWire) January 4, 2020
The 6’7″, 305-pound Castonzo made it to his first Pro Bowl this season and draws praise from future hall-of-famer Joe Thomas for his persistence.
The 2020 draft is chock full of talented OTs, but the Browns might want to consider a proven veteran opposite a promising rookie on the offensive line.