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Top 25 NFL free agents of 2020: No shortage of intriguing QBs

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This year's free agency crop is weirder, deeper, more star-studded and far tougher to rank than any in memory. How can you really assess the relative value of two all-time great quarterbacks winding down their respective careers versus, say, Broncos safety Justin Simmons?

Drew Brees and Tom Brady don't fit on every team -- or many at all. They certainly aren't long-term solutions. If they ever were to leave their current teams -- something that's far more feasible at this point with Brady -- it would have to be the right fit. Then again, that's true of all the intriguing free-agent quarterbacks like Ryan Tannehill, Jameis Winston and Philip Rivers. Every one of these quarterbacks will be paid well because even a league-average starting signal-caller is ultimately worth more than quality starters at any other position.

This initial list of the top 25 free agents of 2020 is a first draft and will surely change in February, when Chris Wesseling and I publish our annual Top 101 Free Agents. In the meantime, here goes nothing:

1
Dak Prescott
QB
Cowboys

Dak's 2019 performance confirmed your priors: Believers point to unassailable numbers; doubters point to the bumpy end. Jerry Jones isn't letting him leave regardless.

2
Chris Jones
DE
Chiefs

There isn't a more disruptive interior lineman this side of Aaron Donald.

3
Amari Cooper
WR
Cowboys

While the Cowboys could use the franchise tag on Prescott and the transition tag on Cooper because of unique rules governing the upcoming final season of the Collective Bargaining Agreement, the Cowboys don't want to be bidding against 31 teams for Cooper.

4
Jadeveon Clowney
DE
Seahawks

The Seahawks agreed not to use the franchise tag on Clowney when they traded for him, meaning he shouldn't have to accept anything less than being one of the highest-paid defenders in football, if not the highest.

5
Shaq Barrett
OLB
Buccaneers

Bruce Arians said of Barrett after his career year: "He ain't going anywhere." No player outside of Ryan Tannehill made himself more money with his performance this year.

6
Ryan Tannehill
QB
Titans

It feels so wrong to rank Tannehill here, above some of the legendary names below. Maybe it is wrong. But Tannehill's sensational stretch in Tennessee makes him look like an ascending starting quarterback rather than a very short-term solution (like the 40-somethings). The Titans are likely to keep him off the market.

7
Yannick Ngakoue
DE
Jaguars

Ngakoue's eight sacks and 50 total pressures in 2019, according to Pro Football Focus, were his lowest marks since his rookie season, which is incredible production for a down year.

8
Drew Brees
QB
Saints

Despite the fact that Brees led the Saints' offense to a sensational finish to the regular season, it's fair to wonder what his diminished arm strength would look like away from Sean Payton and outside the Superdome.

9
Tom Brady
QB
Patriots

PFF had Brady as the 11th-ranked quarterback in 2019, which feels about right, despite what some rougher conventional numbers might suggest. Does he really want to start in a new system, in a new city, at age 43?

10
Justin Simmons
S
Broncos

Simmons blossomed under Broncos coach Vic Fangio, who should be eager to retain the second-team All-Pro.

11
A.J. Green
WR
Bengals

One of the toughest players to price after he missed all of last season to injury, Green is a borderline Hall of Famer who should still have some high-level years left.

12
Byron Jones
CB
Cowboys

It was extremely impressive to see Jones back up his breakout 2018 campaign with another very good year, despite missing all of last offseason following hip surgery.

13
Joe Thuney
OG
Patriots

Starting left guards who have never missed a game and just earned second-team All-Pro honors will get paid huge money in the open market. He'll be tough for the Patriots to keep.

14
Brandon Scherff
OG
Redskins

One of the best run-blocking guards in football, Scherff would be ranked even higher if not for nagging injuries the last two seasons.

15
Hunter Henry
TE
Chargers

It still feels like the best is yet to come for Henry as a dynamic pass catcher. He'd bring an instant extra dimension to nearly any offense.

16
Philip Rivers
QB
Chargers

Give Rivers some pass protection and he'll still be able to move the ball. Considering his relative youth compared to Brady, some teams might prefer to give Rivers a spin.

17
Cory Littleton
LB
Rams

Smart linebackers who can cover and make their teammates better are rare and valuable commodities, even if they tend to get underpaid compared to pass rushers.

18
Leonard Williams
DE
Giants

Perhaps the former No. 6 overall pick hasn't lived up to his draft billing, but he's an above-average starting lineman who creates a lot of disruption. Guys like that don't come cheaply.

19
Jameis Winston
QB
Buccaneers

Winston could be an incredible test of how much a young free-agent quarterback would actually be worth if he hit the open market. I suspect he'd get better than Kirk Cousins money, but the Bucs probably won't allow that to happen because they'll use the franchise tag.

20
Derrick Henry
RB
Titans

The Titans appear to be going full DeMarco Murray in Henry's usage down the stretch, but he's shown no signs of slowing down.

21
Anthony Castonzo
OT
Colts

Teams looking for a free agent left tackle will be disappointed if Castonzo retires at age 31, as he mentioned was possible. Otherwise, he's the most consistent player available at the position.

22
Matthew Judon
OLB
Ravens

He's not quite Za'Darius Smith, but Judon absolutely fits the recent mold of the Ravens outside linebacker who parlays a career contract year into huge coin.

23
Bud Dupree
OLB
Steelers

He's like a poor man's Dee Ford in last year's free-agent crop. Teams will have to decide if Dupree's terrific 2019 was an anomaly or a sign of things to come.

24
Anthony Harris
S
Vikings

It wouldn't be crazy for the Vikings to consider moving on from Harrison Smith in order to save the money needed to sign Anthony Harris. That's how well he played in 2019.

25
Jack Conklin
OT
Titans

The Titans' rugged right tackle was back to his old form in 2019 after tearing his ACL two seasons before.

Just missed (in alphabetical order): Arik Armstead, DE, 49ers; Vonn Bell, S, Saints; Bryan Bulaga, OT, Packers; Dante Fowler Jr., OLB, Rams; Melvin Gordon, RB, Chargers; Chris Harris Jr., CB, Broncos; Austin Hooper, TE, Falcons; Devin McCourty, S, Patriots; D.J. Reader, NT, Texans; Emmanuel Sanders, WR, 49ers.

Follow Gregg Rosenthal on Twitter @greggrosenthal.

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