Top 101 NFL free agents of 2019: The original list

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  • By Gregg Rosenthal and Chris Wesseling NFL.com
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Here is the original Top 101 Free Agents list -- courtesy of Gregg Rosenthal and Chris Wesseling -- as it stood before players began to be signed, tagged and/or released:

1
DeMarcus Lawrence
Edge

Don't worry about his sack number dropping to 10.5. Lawrence backed up his breakout 2017 season (14.5 sacks) with another year as a top-five pass rusher, solidifying his place as one of the league's best players. He won't be on this list for long because the Cowboys will surely tag him.

2
Jadeveon Clowney
Edge

Using the franchise tag to retain Clowney makes too much sense for Houston, considering his nagging injuries, even if Clowney won't be thrilled about it.

3
Grady Jarrett
DT

Jarrett is a game-wrecker from the interior who has improved every year. With the Falcons needing more difference-making defensive linemen, there's little chance general manager Thomas Dimitroff will let the 25-year-old get away.

4
Le'Veon Bell
RB

This ranking isn't a prediction of how much guaranteed money Bell will earn. It's a reflection of his status as one of the transcendent players of this century at his position -- and the fact that he just turned 27 years old.

5
Dee Ford
Edge

At a position where speed kills, Ford's first step is among the best in football. The Chiefs will likely use the franchise tag on him rather than work out a long-term deal to make sure his monster breakout season is repeatable.

6
Earl Thomas
S

Thomas would be even higher on this list if not for two of his previous three seasons being marred by injury. He has maintained his high level of play as a potential future Hall of Famer and isn't yet 30 years old.

7
Trey Flowers
DL

While Flowers is more of an interior player or a 3-4 defensive end rather than a prototypical pass rusher, he can make noise from a variety of positions. He's the perfect Swiss Army Knife for a modern defense that changes fronts on a down-to-down basis, and he's already been the most disruptive presence on a Super Bowl championship team.

8
Frank Clark
Edge

In many years, Clark would be the best pass rusher available. He isn't as complete a player as the linemen above, but 32 sacks and 66 QB hits over the last three years speaks for itself.

9
Nick Foles
QB

Foles needs to find the right system to play in, but isn't that true of any quarterback? His play late in the 2018 season showed that his Super Bowl run was no fluke. This ranking reflects the premium placed on any starting quarterback who becomes available during his prime, because it happens so rarely. That position scarcity, however, doesn't necessarily mean the Eagles will be able to trade him if they use the tag.

10
Landon Collins
S

It's possible that Collins is ranked higher by us than NFL teams, who may think his name is bigger than his all-around game. He's at his best near the line of scrimmage, but to be a truly great safety, Collins must also excel in coverage.

11
Anthony Barr
LB

A four-time Pro Bowl selection in five NFL seasons, Barr is an excellent blitzer and one of the most well-rounded off-ball linebackers. His appeal will likely be limited to teams with a base 4-3 scheme.

12
C.J. Mosley
LB

Another member of the quadruple Pro Bowl club, Mosley has been the dependable backbone of Baltimore's redoubtable defense for the past half-decade. The Ravens want to keep him, and they might have to make him the league's highest-paid inside linebacker to do so.

13
K.J. Wright
LB

Perennially overlooked on a star-studded Seattle defense, Wright is now heading into his age-30 season after battling a lingering knee injury throughout 2018. Interested teams will have to wonder if he's past his prime.

14
Sheldon Richardson
DT

Rent-a-hulk. In large part due to character concerns, Richardson has been unable to land a long-term deal the past two offseasons. His value should be on the rise after a bounce-back year in Minnesota.

15
Tyrann Mathieu
S

Mathieu remains a deceptively hard hitter and a versatile ballhawk, even if he's no longer the game-changing playmaker that he was early in his Arizona tenure. Still just 26 years old, he shouldn't have to settle for another one-year contract.

16
Ndamukong Suh
DT

Still a three-down starter at age 32, but the three-time All-Pro seemed to coast through the 2018 regular season before flipping the switch in a dominant playoff run.

17
Preston Smith
Edge

Not as dynamic as the purest edge rushers, but Smith offers the size to stuff the run in addition to pressuring the passer. He was one of the most underrated outside linebackers in the league last season.

18
Lamarcus Joyner
S

Joyner offers versatility as a former cornerback who can cover deep center field and creep into the box on run downs. One of the highest-paid safeties in the league last year, the 28-year-old is unlikely to draw a second straight franchise tag after seeing a slight drop-off in effectiveness.

19
Brandon Graham
Edge

Pressure is paramount for pass rushers. Graham certainly checks that box, even if he rarely comes through with the impact plays that distinguish the great ones. Turning 31 in April, he's approaching the year-to-year stage of his career.

20
Ziggy Ansah
Edge

If he stays healthy, he's good for double-digit sacks. That's a Brobdingnagian "if" after injuries limited him to a combined six sacks in 2016 and '18. Ansah is already looking down the barrel of 30 after getting a late start to his football career.

21
Za'Darius Smith
Edge

PFF credited Smith with 10 sacks, 17 QB hits and 33 hurries in the regular season, which is monster production for someone with 690 snaps. He plays with laudable fury.

22
Tevin Coleman
RB

Even if he stays under 200 touches per season like he did in Atlanta, Coleman can add reliable juice to any zone-based running team looking for a boost in explosive plays.

23
Ronald Darby
CB

A torn ACL will hurt Darby's value, but the physical cornerback is still the class of a soft cornerback crop of free agents.

24
Daryl Williams
T

Good tackles are so hard to find in free agency that Williams, a second-team All-Pro in 2017, should still inspire plenty of interest despite missing nearly all of the 2018 campaign with a knee injury.

25
Bradley Roby
CB

Roby did not handle an increase in snaps well, following Aqib Talib's departure, but his sluggish contract-year showing shouldn't negate all of his excellent playmaking that preceded it.

26
Jared Cook
TE

The tight end market is absolutely barren behind Cook, who could add 800 yards of seam-stretching offense to just about any attack. The Packers should have kept him a few years back, because they could use a player like him now.

27
Rodger Saffold
G

He's the top guard available, with his dominant performance against Cowboys linebackers Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch in the playoffs fresh in the minds of decision makers. Don't be shocked if Saffold becomes the league's highest-paid guard, despite the fact that he'll turn 31 in June.

28
Jordan Hicks
LB

Hicks is a three-down, rock-solid linebacker who can steady the middle of a defense. He's the type of very good Pro Bowl sub who gets paid handsomely in free agency.

29
Kwon Alexander
LB

Alexander's torn ACL came at the worst time. The former fourth-rounder makes a few too many mistakes because of his aggressiveness, but that aggression also pays off with a tempo-setting attitude and game-changing plays.

30
Teddy Bridgewater
QB

Teddy's underwhelming Week 17 start was more about a rag-tag backup Saints offensive line that didn't protect Bridgewater than it was about anything else. He showed enough last preseason to compete for a starting job somewhere in 2019.

31
Trent Brown
T

Where have we heard this before? The Patriots took a flier on an unsung starter, maximized his role and turned him into a key cog on a Super Bowl champion. The behemoth Brown won't have the luxury of Tom Brady's pre-snap acumen and post-snap release in his next locale.

32
Golden Tate
WR

Tate gets a pass for his disappearing act in a new offense following his midseason trade to Philadelphia. A slot receiver with a running back's physicality, he's averaged roughly 90 catches and 1,000 yards over the past five years.

33
Mitch Morse
C

Morse has missed 14 games due to injuries over the past two years. When healthy, he's been the steady shot-caller for a consistently overlooked offensive line.

34
Bryce Callahan
CB

Football analytics have noted that slot-corner efficiency is aberrantly unpredictable from season to season. That said, Callahan was one of the position's premier playmakers prior to his season-ending foot injury in December.

35
Matt Paradis
C

Denver's best offensive lineman of the post-Peyton era, which isn't quite as damning as Case Keenum's status as the best quarterback of said three-year drought. A quality starter, Paradis is recovering from the foot surgery that ended his season in November.

36
Dante Fowler
Edge

Although he tallied a mere four sacks between Jacksonville and Los Angeles in the regular season, Fowler was a terror behind the line of scrimmage in December and January.

37
Ja'Wuan James
T

The Dolphins considered moving on from James last offseason but never could find an upgrade at right tackle. He's a prime candidate to get overpaid by a desperate organization.

38
Mark Ingram
RB

Mr. Inside to Alvin Kamara's Mr. Outside, Ingram is a hard-nosed runner who has worked hard to round out his game as a pass-catching threat. Who's willing to shell out big bucks for a 29-year-old running back?

39
Donovan Smith
T

The Bucs are reportedly weighing the franchise tag for Smith, which reflects the dire straits at offensive line in the modern NFL. The former Penn State star has struggled with speed rushers since entering the league.

40
Kareem Jackson
CB

Without question the hardest-hitting cornerback in the league -- and an egregious Pro Bowl snub -- last year. More of a safety-corner hybrid, Jackson's coverage skills aren't quite as consistent as his tackling prowess.

41
Adrian Amos
S

A Pro Football Focus darling ranked second among all safeties in 2017 and seventh in 2018, Amos completes his assignments with aplomb. His old coordinator, Vic Fangio, could try to bring him to Denver.

42
Jamison Crowder
WR

A younger, cheaper Golden Tate? Crowder creates separation quickly near the line of scrimmage and was often Kirk Cousins' favorite target. Just 25, he could be available at a bargain price coming off an injury-plagued season.

43
Tyrell Williams
WR

Deep speed is hard to find in free agency and Williams has it. He would make for an excellent addition as a role player in a spread-the-wealth offense.

44
Denzel Perryman
LB

One of the NFL's hardest tacklers, Perryman stuffs the run when he's healthy. Unfortunately, he's missed a total of 20 games over the last three seasons.

45
John Brown
WR

Brown rewarded the Ravens for taking a chance on him last season, and he shouldn't come as cheaply this time around. Perhaps his old coach, Bruce Arians, will try to reunite with "Smokey" if the Bucs don't keep DeSean Jackson.

46
Margus Hunt
DL

"The Eastern Block" has steadily improved his game throughout his six seasons, showing with the Colts he can create some pass rush to go along with devastating run-stopping ability.

47
Shaquil Barrett
LB

Stifled by playing behind Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware early in his career, Barrett was a consistent jolt of energy off the bench for the Broncos. He can win one-on-one pass-rushing matchups and could be a terrific bargain signing.

48
Terrell Suggs
Edge

Sure, Suggs is not a long-term solution. But anyone who watched Suggs consistently set the edge and create 59 total pressures in 2018 knows he's on the James Harrison career-arc plan -- still effective deep into his 30s.

49
Ha Ha Clinton-Dix
S

If Clinton-Dix hit free agency a year or two ago, he might have ranked in the top 15 of this list. But his occasional coverage lapses caused the Packers to give up on him in Year 5. Even an average starting safety, however, has plenty of value.

50
Devin Funchess
WR

There are games when Funchess can body opponents like a young Brandon Marshall. He hasn't been able to maintain that level on a consistent basis, but he's far from the draft mistake that he looked like after his first two seasons.

51
Pierre Desir
CB

Desir emerged as a solid starter in 2018, earning well-deserved praise for stifling DeAndre Hopkins in the Wild Card Round.

52
Adam Humphries
WR

Good football player alert: Humphries is a tough slot receiver with good hands, easy separation between the numbers and a punt returner's ability to make something out of nothing after the catch. Julian Edelman -- after taxes.

53
Henry Anderson
DL

Acquired in a draft-day trade with the Colts last offseason, Anderson proved to be a savvy pickup by Mike Maccagnan, tying for the team lead with seven sacks.

54
Darqueze Dennard
CB

A steady slot corner, Dennard surely took note of Tavon Young's market-setting three-year, $27 million deal with the division-rival Ravens.

55
Morris Claiborne
CB

Not quite as stingy in coverage as he was in his breakout 2017 season, Claiborne still shattered a career high with 14 passes defensed as the Jets' top corner last year.

56
Jason Verrett
CB

Verrett was a deserving Pro Bowl selection in his last healthy season -- when Peyton Manning was still reigning over the AFC West. He's played just five games in the last three years, undergoing two knee surgeries and an Achilles repair.

57
Adrian Phillips
DB

A former special teamer, Phillips earned his first Pro Bowl nod as a linebacker/safety hybrid in 2018. It's fair to wonder if he's best suited to Gus Bradley's defense, which makes heavy use of dime packages.

58
Cameron Wake
Edge

Although no longer a double-digit sack artist at 37, Wake still has enough life in his legs to help a Super Bowl contender as a rotational edge rusher.

59
Malcom Brown
DT

The final pick in the first round of the 2015 draft has started 62 games (including the playoffs) for a team that has appeared in three consecutive Super Bowls.

60
Deone Bucannon
LB

The undersized Bucannon struggled to make an impact under a new coach last year and might need a reunion with Bruce Arians (Buccaneers) or James Bettcher (Giants) to put his career back on track.

61
Clay Matthews
Edge

Matthews can't be blamed for thinking he's owed a couple of would-be sacks that made him the poster boy for mind-boggling penalties in September. He can, however, be blamed for being outplayed by backup Kyler Fackrell the rest of the way.

62
Jay Ajayi
RB

The skills are there. So are the injuries, however, and the whispers that Ajayi has never quite maximized all of his talent.

63
Justin Coleman
CB

Slot cornerbacks are starting cornerbacks. Slot cornerbacks are starting cornerbacks. Slot cornerbacks are starting cornerbacks. Justin Coleman is a good slot cornerback.

64
Ramon Foster
G

It will say a lot about the ridiculously thin offensive line market if Foster gets paid big bucks despite being 33 years old.

65
Bashaud Breeland
CB

It was a lost year for Breeland after he hurt his foot just before free agency last offseason, but it's not like he's a totally different player than he was at that time, when he cracked our top 25 players available.

66
Kenny Vaccaro
S

Largely ignored in free agency one year ago, Vaccaro joined the Titans in August and immediately solidified their secondary. He's averaged more than 800 snaps in his six seasons.

67
Clayton Geathers
S

There are games in which Geathers is all over the field, limiting yards after the catch everywhere he roams. He appeared to put his neck issues behind him during a solid 2018 campaign.

68
Robbie Gould
K

He's one of the best kickers in football, so it's fair if the Kickers Coalition for Respect has a problem with this ranking.

69
Jason McCourty
CB

Teams never appear particularly excited about acquiring McCourty, who then consistently puts up quality cornerback snaps at a bargain price. He's perfect for a team like the Patriots that only uses him in the right matchups.

70
Cordarrelle Patterson
WR

One of the NFL's best overall special teams players, Patterson has added value on end-arounds and limited routes as a wide receiver.

71
Randall Cobb
WR

How much has Cobb been slowed by injuries over the years and how much of his stagnation was Mike McCarthy's system? That's the question teams will have to decide when considering Cobb.

72
Tyrod Taylor
QB

A shaky starter on an irrelevant team; a high-end backup on a contender.

73
C.J. Anderson
RB

What to make of a rotund running back who was cut twice before breaking the century mark in each of his first three games as an emergency starter for the Rams? Anderson proved he has something to offer as a straight-ahead bulldozer.

74
Corey Liuget
DT

A 103-game starter over eight seasons with the Chargers, Liuget's free agency timing couldn't be worse. He's coming off late November surgery for a torn quadriceps muscle.

75
D.J. Fluker
OL

A first-round flameout in San Diego and New York, Fluker resurfaced as a mauler in Seattle, setting a physical tone for one of the league's fiercest ground attacks.

76
Darius Philon
DT

Entering the market at age 25, Philon might just hit the jackpot after emerging as a solid starter on last year's Chargers playoff squad.

77
Quinton Spain
G

Much like the Titans' rushing attack, Spain combined occasional outbursts of dominance with lengthy dry spells as a 42-game starter over the past three years.

78
Johnathan Hankins
DT

Have heft, will travel. The veteran run-plugger went unsigned through Week 1 of last season, but still came away as one of the few bright spots on Oakland's otherwise porous defense.

79
Markus Golden
Edge

Golden broke out with 12.5 sacks in 2016 only to miss the majority of 2017 with a torn ACL and manage just 2.5 takedowns last year while switching from outside linebacker to defensive end.

80
Stephen Gostkowski
K

Gostkowski hasn't been quite as reliable on field goals in recent years, but the six-time Super Bowl participant has remained steady overall in big moments. He's an asset on kickoffs.

81
Jimmie Ward
DB

Ward can't avoid the injury bug, but his ability to play safety as well as cornerback should attract plenty of interest in the heyday of nickel and dime defenses.

82
Jordan Phillips
DT

A disappointment in Miami, Phillips' strong end to last season after a trade to Buffalo showed that he could thrive in a different system.

83
Adrian Peterson
RB

Still running hard, after all these years. While his lack of passing-down skills is a major minus, Peterson's 2018 season proved he can still create extra yards if used in the right role.

84
Kelvin Benjamin
WR

The red flags are numerous, but we aren't ready to completely discount any receiver who gained nearly 2,000 yards combined in his first two seasons.

85
Steven Nelson
CB

Nelson, 26, started all 16 games for the Chiefs last season, but he was often the guy who opposing quarterbacks targeted.

86
Cole Beasley
WR

Perhaps it was the play-calling, but Beasley struggled to make plays over the last two seasons after his breakout 2016 campaign. It's fair to ask if Cowboys coordinator Scott Linehan served him well.

87
Tyler Eifert
TE

Ranked 40th on this list a year ago, Eifert has a proven Pro Bowl skill set and massive durability issues. He's been able to play in just 14 games combined during the last three years.

88
David Irving
DT

Irving is undeniably a playmaker when he's on the field, but his repeated suspensions and substance abuse issues will make him a tricky player to evaluate.

89
T.J. Yeldon
RB

Yeldon quietly has gained nearly 3,200 yards from scrimmage in his four seasons, barely less than fellow free agent Tevin Coleman. He's a solid third-down back in a league that values that skill set more than ever.

90
Thomas Davis
LB

Davis' release from the Panthers was surprising because he was still playing at a relatively high level. The former Walter Payton Man of the Year would immediately bring credibility to any locker room.

91
Alex Okafor
Edge

Okafor has been solid across the board as a 26-game starter the past two years in New Orleans. Unfortunately, he's an edge rusher who rarely lays his hands on the quarterback.

92
Donte Moncrief
WR

Although physically gifted, Moncrief simply hasn't caught the ball with any degree of consistency while seeing too many snaps on cratering offenses in Indianapolis and Jacksonville.

93
Muhammad Wilkerson
DL

Wilkerson has managed just eight sacks in three years since breaking his fibula at the end of a 12-sack campaign in 2015. He's more name than game at this point.

94
Brian Poole
CB

A versatile defensive back, Poole has played more than 70 percent of Atlanta's snaps since signing as an undrafted free agent in 2016.

95
Glover Quin
S

Quin played at a Pro Bowl level in 2017 but seemed to fall out of favor upon Matt Patricia's arrival in Detroit. If he commits to another season at age 33, the 10-year veteran should have no problem finding a taker for his services.

96
Shane Ray
Edge

Alternately injured and unproductive as Shaq Barrett's running buddy with the second-team defense for four years, Ray was a healthy scratch down the stretch last season.

97
James Carpenter
G

Carpenter has never lived up to his first-round pedigree, but that hasn't stopped teams from signing him as a starter.

98
Derrick Morgan
Edge

Morgan vanished last season while playing through knee and shoulder injuries. On a positive note, he tallied a healthy 16.5 sacks in 2016 and '17.

99
Jason Myers
K

Myers earned a trip to the Pro Bowl as one of the league's most reliable legs. Not bad for a streaky kicker who was jettisoned by Jacksonville and Seattle in the previous 12 months.

100
Benson Mayowa
Edge

Mayowa showed flashes last season, even outplaying former All-Pro Chandler Jones in September.

101
Sam Bradford
QB

Sure, no one is entirely sure whether Bradford can stay healthy for a season again. But some team will look back at his excellent 2016 season and give him a chance to keep his career going as a backup.

Follow Gregg Rosenthal on Twitter @GreggRosenthal.

Follow Chris Wesseling on Twitter @ChrisWesseling.

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