2020 NFL Free Agent Team/Fantasy Preview Division-by-Division (AFC South)
The free agent period is percolating and will be in full swing in mid-March. Prior to free agency, we’re going to take a quick overview look at each team and some of the player/fantasy ramifications looming.
We’ll look division-by-division at the various team CAP and contract and free agent situations…
Overview: The Texans are top 10 in CAP space right now with approx. $56M of space. They have a few free agents to deal with, but nothing critical…except for one. Houston is in a decent spot here to add talent/fix that secondary with the space they have.
Big UFA names: Bradley Roby is the big free agent they have to deal with. I’m guessing they will sign him to a decent deal and bring him back.
Lamar Miller and Carlos Hyde are free agents, and they will probably bring one of them back…and my guess is Hyde, after his very effective 2019.
Houston also has its kicker Ka’imi Fairbairn to deal with…that could be an expensive-ish issue to deal with, and at-risk of losing him.
Shock CAP-reasoned Cuts: J.J. Watt could be cut for no hit to the CAP or pay him $15M to play in 2020. No way he’d ever play anywhere else. He’ll get a restructured deal, I’m sure.
Vernon Hargreaves will likely get ditched to add +$9M to the CAP space.
The Texans have money and space, but also have Watt-Hopkins-Tunsil-Watson-Fuller in deals that need attention now or else the team risks losing leverage in the 2021 offseason. We may see deals for every one of them except for Fuller being allowed to walk or play out his final contract year, and they wait on Watson until 2021 to do a mega-deal.
Overview: The Titans are middle of the pack with approx. $48M in current CAP space projected. Unfortunately, they have several critical players as unrestricted free agents that are peaking for payment. The Titans will either bring them all back, have little room otherwise and hope they can repeat 2019 in 2020…or they will lose the heart/soul of the team in free agency and be sent reeling/rebuilding.
Big UFA names: It’s a big list -- Derrick Henry, Ryan Tannehill, Jack Conklin, Logan Ryan.
Derrick Henry should ask for top RB in the league money, and probably get it or close…and thus put a dent in the available CAP space going forward. Henry is not going to take a franchise tag, no way. He’ll sit out before playing on a tag.
Ryan Tannehill is the interesting one, and the one they will probably franchise tag…Tannehill should ask for Nick Foles money, and a team like Las Vegas might give it to him. It could get contentious or Tannehill just takes the big guaranteed year via franchise tag.
Tannehill and Henry will take big money, but Jack Conklin will be way up there too…and I wonder if one of these three big free agents will have to go elsewhere because Tennessee is pinched for space? Which one do you sacrifice? That’s the question of the year for Tennessee.
Logan Ryan will be coveted in free agency and likely be an odd man out unless Tennessee loses a couple of the big three (doubtful).
Tennessee has an opportunity to cut some people and make this work for the big three or all four of these free agents, but it is not going to be easy.
Shock CAP-reasoned Cuts: The Titans do have some deals they can cut to get some CAP space to salvage this. Cutting Cameron Wake, Delanie Walker, Dion Lewis, and Jurrell Casey will create about $26M in extra space.
The shock cut, but I doubt it, could be Corey Davis -- $4.1M to cut and $8.1M to pay to play 2020. The Titans should move on, but teams have too much affinity for their #1 picks…or fear they will prosper elsewhere and make them look bad.
Overview: What a disaster…a team that is falling apart fast, that fell apart in 2019 – a dying team/roster that is over the CAP as of today…$5M over the CAP, and no real star power or success here to speak of with their big spends. This situation is a total mess, and the GM David Caldwell is somehow still employed. All signs point to a collapse in 2020 and need for all kinds of changes and roster purges in 2021-2022. Tough time to be a Jags fan.
The Jaguars do have contracts to ditch and create space, but it won’t be easy and if they don’t make the hard decisions and rather keep some expensive guys – it will kick the problem/can down the road another year.
Big UFA names: Yannick Ngakoue and Marcel Dareus are the only real issues. Dareus is well past his prime and Ngakoue is likely a decision of keeping him or Calais Campbell (who makes sense to cut/trade and save a good chunk of CAP space).
If I were the Jags, I’d let Ngakoue go because he’s a decent pass rusher but that’s all he does. He’s replaceable cheaper if they draft smart. I think Ngakoue would rather be elsewhere, so expect him to be gone.
Leonard Fournette is not a free agent yet, but he’s eligible to pull an Ezekiel Elliott or Melvin Gordon holdout. That might be an issue this offseason. It wouldn’t surprise me if they traded Fournette either, but likely he’ll stay on his current deal in 2020 and then leave.
Shock CAP-reasoned Cuts: By cutting Dareus, Marquise Lee, Jake Ryan, Abry Jones, Geoff Swaim, and Chris Conley, Jacksonville would create approx. $40M in CAP space…and that gets them back to a healthier place.
They could also ditch Calais Campbell and A.J. Bouye and add another approx. $26M, but they may keep both…but restructure their deals to create some new space.
Their biggest issue is – What to do with Nick Foles? $22M to pay this season, or $34M to cut and move on with Minshew. Likely, Jacksonville is stuck with Foles for 2020 and then they’ll move on in 2021. Foles could be a very, very expensive backup in 2020.
Overview: The Colts are in very good shape heading into 2020 free agency -- $81M+ projected CAP space right now, top 3 in the league. And no major crises with their own free agents. The Colts are ready to spend and need to spend…before the fans and owner’s patience run out. If the Colts don’t have a foundational offseason in 2020…this group may all get fired in 2022, if 2020 and 2021 are non-playoff years again.
Big UFA names: Left tackle Anthony Castonzo is their only real top player that’s a free agent, and I bet the Colts lock him up to a proper deal.
The Colts would be insane to even discuss a deal with Eric Ebron…just let him walk.
Shock CAP-reasoned Cuts: The Colts have a fork in the road…do they just scrap 2020 and build for 2021+, or try to have it both ways (rebuild and compete in 2020)?
The Colts have a ton of CAP space and they can add to it by dumping Jacoby Brissett ($9M approx. CAP space added if they do). I think that will happen. If it does, it will be because the Colts have signed or traded for an expensive QB (Rivers, Carr, etc.).
What the big team ‘direction’ setting issue is – what to do with T.Y. Hilton. $14.5M pay to play 2020 or they can cut him for no CAP hit, or trade him to a contender…which is what they SHOULD do, but they’ll likely do what most NFL teams do – get sentimental and retain the former star. I respect TYH, but man…the Colts gotta retool for the future now. By the time the Colts are turning upward, Hilton may be about shot. They need to act now, trade for picks, while he has value.
There are a lot of reasonable cuts the Colts can/will make to add even more CAP space…when it’s all said and done, the Colts may be sitting as the #1 most CAP space team when free agency turns on.
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