After the first wave of NFL free agency, a number of impact players remain available on the open market. Where could they be headed? Nick Shook reveals the best team fits for nine notable remaining free agents.
The Cowboys entered free agency with safety as their greatest weakness, and after re-signing Jayron Kearse, Dallas should look outside Texas to find its next impact defender. The Cowboys have cap space, thanks to parting ways with Amari Cooper and La'el Collins, and would be wise to add Mathieu, a unique player who can make a difference all over the field. Add in his leadership and passion to a promising group that also features Micah Parsons, Trevon Diggs and DeMarcus Lawrence, and you have an exciting defense that could be even better than it was in 2021.
Because of his ACL injury suffered in Super Bowl LVI, Beckham won't be available for a full season no matter where he signs. This lowers his value and the immediate interest in his services, making a return to the Rams at a friendly price the most ideal fit, even after Los Angeles added Allen Robinson. Half a season of Beckham already proved fruitful once for L.A., so why not run it back?
The Bengals list Chidobe Awuzie and Eli Apple as their current starting outside corners, but one (Apple) has attracted much more attention for his struggles (most notably in Super Bowl LVI) than the other. Why not use some of the estimated $23.6 million in available cap space to improve the position with Gilmore? The Bengals were arguably a better offensive line and a couple of lockdown snaps away from hoisting the Lombardi Trophy. Joe Burrow is on a rookie deal. Go all in before it's time to eat up a chunk of cap with a lucrative Burrow extension. If the Bengals aren't just a flash in the pan, Gilmore could seriously pursue a title on the other side of 30 years old.
The Colts have a clear need at left tackle and haven't brought back Eric Fisher, who is currently a free agent after playing in 15 games in his first season in Indianapolis. Brown has chased a title in Seattle and come up short since forcing his way out of Houston in 2017. A return to the AFC South would mean two revenge games per year against his former employer, and with Matt Ryan now in the fold, a chance to again pursue a ring once he turns 37 in August.
Instead of spending a chunk of cap on retaining Von Miller, the Rams watched him choose Buffalo then diverted some of those funds to pay Allen Robinson. Let's use the rest on Wagner, who is still playing at a Pro Bowl level and would immediately upgrade Los Angeles' linebacking corps, the thinnest position group on the roster. Sure, the entire $9 million in remaining cap might be needed to get Wagner to join the Rams, but playing for the defending champions with a chance to help them repeat sure sounds nice for a linebacker who turns 32 in June. General manager Les Snead seems to agree, admitting Tuesday he and the Rams' defensive staff have discussed Wagner and examined whether he'd fit in their defense. Make it happen, Les.
After spending a season in Cleveland, Clowney seemed destined for yet another prolonged free agency in which he attracted multiple suitors and weighed their offers. Then the Browns traded for Clowney's former Texans teammate Deshaun Watson and immediately positioned themselves as a legitimate contender once again. Clowney could be convinced to return to again team up with Myles Garrett, which made for quite a menacing edge-rushing duo when both were healthy in 2021. Now that the Browns have upgraded at quarterback, why not run it back and see if Clowney can help Cleveland return to the playoffs?
It seemed as if Campbell's time in Baltimore was coming to an end following the Ravens' agreement to bring back Za'Darius Smith, but after the edge rusher ultimately chose Minnesota, the Ravens have a clear need to bolster their defensive front. The 6-foot-8, 300-pound Campbell remains a difference-maker in the trenches and is already familiar with Baltimore, even if his defensive coordinator, Don "Wink" Martindale, has left the team. The Ravens don't have a ton of cap space and tend to reload through the draft in situations like this, but it would be easier for Campbell, who turns 36 in September, to stay in Baltimore -- if the price is right.
Tom Brady's retirement was shorter than a fiscal quarter, and the Buccaneers are clearly attempting to get another title with most of their key players still on the team. Gronkowski has only played with Brady in his career, and if he wants to continue playing, it would only make sense to do so with the G.O.A.T. This should be an easy decision for the Bucs, provided they can make the financial details work.
Landry is another Browns player who seemed destined to move on from Cleveland following the 2021 season, so much so that the Browns tweeted out a thank you to a player who was pivotal to the team's turnaround in recent years. But the acquisition of Deshaun Watson might change his mind, and the Browns know they'd be wise to explore bringing Landry back -- at the right price. The Browns won't rush to woo Landry, but if they can come to an agreement on money, it makes perfect sense to retain one of the toughest and most well-liked players on any team in the NFL.