2020 NFL Free Agent Team/Fantasy Preview Division-by-Division (NFC North)
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…
GREEN BAY PACKERS
Overview: The Packers are sitting bottom 10 in the league in cap space right now ($21M approx.)…they are not flush with space due to the fact they were so active in 2019 free agency, spending up to try to cash in on the closing Aaron Rodgers’ window.
The Packers have a couple of key free agents to deal with and a few contracts to dump in order to try to keep this foundation in place.
Big UFA names: Brian Bulaga and Blake Martinez are free agents…and the Packers are likely to try and keep both for this final last run with Rodgers. If they do…they won’t have much space remaining until they drop some contracts/cut some players.
Shock CAP-reasoned Cuts: Jimmy Graham is as good as gone…$11.7M to keep/play and $3.7M hit to cut – the Packers would create $8M in space the day they dump him.
Kenny Clark getting cut could open up $7.6M in space, but I’m not sure the Packers want to go there. They are likely to just keep him for 2020 as-is.
The Pack will probably cut their way to another $15-20M in space and be able to re-sign their own key UFA guys, if they want, but then not be real active in free agency…more bargain hunters.
Overview: Less than $1M in cap space available, bottom 3 in the NFL…AND they have a good/solid team but don’t really have a great team/real Super Bowl threat roster – so, they are kinda caught in the middle…too good to blow up and rebuild, too cash strapped and too weak a group to build a title team for 2020 season.
The Vikings have a few defensive players hitting free agency that they’d like to keep a couple of but may not have the money/space. They could create cap space by ditching some players, but it would be foundational vets like Harrison Smith, Stefon Diggs, Xavier Rhodes, Kyle Rudolph.
Do they cut the nucleus and rebuild, or try to add pieces and go for it while there is a window? The Vikings management has been in some rumored trouble the past year…getting a wild card plugged that up, for now, but they cannot afford to rebuild and stay gainfully employed – they have to keep going for it to keep their jobs.
In another year or two this Vikings team is in real trouble with age/talent.
Big UFA names: Everson Griffen (already said he’s leaving), Trae Waynes, Anthony Harris, and Mackensie Alexander are free agents/guys who played a lot in 2019 and prior – they may let all but Harris walk.
The Vikings have had kicking issues, but Dan Bailey started to settle in…but he’s a free agent now too. The Vikings are losing some key pieces this offseason it looks like…and might not be able to for sure sign any of them back potentially. Some of it being the players want out.
Shock CAP-reasoned Cuts: The Vikings do have contracts they can dump, and likely will.
The ones they can and will, I think:
Xavier Rhodes (creates $8M in cap space).
They will trade Stefon Diggs to open up $5.5M.
Possibilities to cut but they probably keep:
Linval Joseph could open up $10M in space if they cut him.
Kyle Rudolph would open up $4M approx. (but I think they keep him for sure).
Harrison Smith would open $10M+ in space…my guess is they will restructure him.
The Vikings will cut players to open up space, but they’ll still have limited firepower in free agency and not a lot of guys who want to play for Mike Zimmer – this is where Zimmer’s downfall begins, and why he’s not a good head coach for this era – they cannot recruit free agents well, and they have limited money in 2020 to boot.
Overview: A fading team with a bottom 10 salary cap space number right now ($26M approx.). Questions at QB. A terrible lead RB. An O-Line falling apart with age, injury, retirements and a defense dying with the loss of Vic Fangio. The Bears are sinking, and not set up great, as a roster, to make a move in 2020.
If they botch 2020…all hell will break loose. Matt Nagy loses his ‘wizard’ label he never should have had. Mitch Trubisky gets his career torched. GM Ryan Pace would have to take the fall. The rebuild would begin under another GM in 2021 or 2022.
A lot at stake this offseason to try to patch the Bears into contenders in 2020.
Big UFA names: The good news here is no shocking names to have to deal with. They already cut Taylor Gabriel and Prince Amukamara (who will likely go to Denver now). Ha-Ha Clinton-Dix is the biggest name to deal with and whether they want to work with Danny Trevathan ahead.
Shock CAP-reasoned Cuts: Former 1st-round pick Leonard Floyd should be cut before 3/18 /20 when his $13.2M 5th-year option would fully guarantee. That’s a good chunk of change picked up.
Cordarrelle Patterson should/could be cut…$5.8M to keep, $1M to cut…$4.8M cap space created.
The interesting name here is Allen Robinson -- $15M to keep or a $2M hit to cut. I suspect the Bears will keep Robinson because he’s a real talent, a leader…and, more importantly, everyone is playing for their jobs and they’d be dead at WR without him.
After the Bears cut Floyd and maybe a few others, they will still enter free agency with bottom 10 level of cap space to work with. They go in with a weaker poker chip stack, home field weather players don’t want to play in, and a QB the media has made into the boogieman so free agents aren’t rushing to go play there with a lame duck everything. The Bears’ outlook is not good.
Overview: The Lions are sitting in the middle of the pack, lower middle with $44M approx. cap space available today.
The good news… The Lions have no major free agents to try to re-sign.
The bad news… The Lions are getting a Browns, Jets, Chargers, Bengals reputation for being a bad place to go play football. The Lions never win anything. Matt Patricia is not beloved. Detroit is not an attractive place to go to/live in for free agents. The Lions will have a hard time attracting free agents this year…and they need help for sure.
Big UFA names: There’s really no name of note to mention. The ditched Damon Harrison, so he’s free but they caused that not the player. The Lions have the flimsiest list of free agent names of any team…good that there are no issues, potentially bad meaning they have had so many suspect, overrated, overpaid players no one (not even them) wants in free agency that much.
Shock CAP-reasoned Cuts: CB Darius Slay is arguably the Lions best player and they are trying to move him…which makes me scratch my head, and is another sign the Lions organization is bordering on ‘buffoonery’ as seen by the players in the league. Slay either makes $13.4M this year or the Lions trade/cut for $3M cap hit. I guess he is going…that creates $10M in cap space.
Most of the big contracts are either upside down/can’t cut or are solid offensive linemen that they would be fools to cut. The Slay move is the biggest thing they can do to create cap space…which is not great news for the Lions for 2020.
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