Welcome to the final article of my 2019 NFL free agency prediction series! Today, I’ll be sharing my predictions for where the best linebackers and defensive backs end up signing. Where will Justin Houston, C.J. Mosley, LaMarcus Joyner and other top defensive free agents end up? Keep reading to find out what I think, and you check out my tentative schedule for the entire series below with links to previous articles.
2019 NFL Free Agency Predictions
Monday, March 4: NFL Free Agency Predictions: Part 1: Offensive Skill Positions
Sunday, March 10: NFL Free Agency Predictions: Part 2: Linemen
Monday, March 11: NFL Free Agency Predictions: Part 3: Linebackers and Defensive Backs
Note: Predictions as of March 10, 2019.
Top Tier OLB
Matthews may not be the best defender in the game anymore, but he is still a high tier talent at linebacker who will sign a multi-year deal. I have him going to Buffalo, who has a huge hole at outside linebacker. After being released by the Chiefs, Houston will head to another LB needy team – Detroit. Look for Suggs, Bucannon, and Barr to resign with their former teams, who will end up with similar holes without their star linebackers. McPhee will head to San Francisco, playing next to Malcolm Smith and providing experience to a young defense.
Cheaper OLB Options
Kendricks and Wright will leave a crowded Seahawks front seven, with Kendricks providing depth in Green Bay and Wright playing across from second year star Darius Leonard in Indy. Morgan will head to Miami to help out the pass rush in Wake’s absensce. DE Charles Harris and Morgan could lead their 2019 pass rush. Smith will serve as a veteran presence on a young Jets defense similar to McPhee in San Fran, while Worrilow returns to Philly for another year despite missing much of 2018. Ray will fill a lingering need at linebacker for the Pats.
Mosley and Alexander will wind up back with their 2018 teams despite interest from many others. But Barron, who was just released, and Williamson will leave their former teams – with Williamson replacing Barron in LA and Barron heading to Philly as additional LB depth. Te’o will also leave his 2018 team, heading to Arizona, close to his first NFL home in San Diego. Brown will return to the Bengals after maintaining a starting job there in 2018.
There aren’t any top tier corners on the open market, but there are a handful that will score 2-3 year deals. Claiborne will head to Cleveland after one year on the Jets for 3 years, and Scandrick will resign with Kansas City for 3 years after getting settled there in 2018. Verrett may have missed 2018 with a torn ACL, but prior to that, he was a star on the rise, and he may benefit from a fresh start with the Colts. Grimes will replace Jimmie Ward in San Fran on a 2-year deal. Roby has established himself as a trustworthy starter in Denver, so I see him returning. Darby, on the other hand, got hurt during his stint in Philly. He underperformed leading up to that, but he could thrive in Tennessee as an upgrade over some of their current CBs.
Johnson and the young Shaquill Griffin could make for a good CB duo in Seattle. I have J-Mac and Ward replacing him in Houston. Gaines will head to Miami and battle against Minkah Fitzpatrick for the #2 CB job, while Skrine and Lippett will return to their New York teams for the same purpose.
Top Tier S
Honey Badger will head to San Francisco, filling a hole the Niners have had at safety since Eric Reid’s departure. I originally thought Joyner would return to LA joining Mathieu on the west coast, but the Rams signed Eric Weddle recently. That probably implies that Joyner’s moving on. Hopefully, the young Packers secondary can follow by his example. Bethea is not what he used to be, but should still score a one year deal with a safety-needy team. Thomas may be injury prone, but the Cowboys have been linked to him and should give him a try in 2019. Iloka can replace Thomas in Seattle, even though they were fine with Thomas on the sidelines in 2018. Collins will return to New York after other teams don’t want to invest too much in him.
Cheaper S Options
Amos will return to Chicago, maintaining a dynamic safety duo alongside Eddie Jackson. Clinton-Dix will join J-Mac and Ward in a changing Houston secondary. Vaccaro will head to Jacksonville after a year in Tennessee, while an aging Corey Graham provides depth to a strong Ravens secondary. Exum will play alongside Eric Berry in Kansas City, and Nelson will return to Oakland as they give him one more chance to prove himself despite a decline during his time in Oakland.
That’s all for my NFL free agency predictions. Stay tuned for more NFL coverage after free agency settles down.