The new league year begins at 4 p.m. ET on Wednesday, March 13. This also marks the official opening of something you might care about a bit more ... 2019 NFL free agency! With the frenzy still a few weeks off, Marc Sessler perused the list of players set to hit the open market, reviewed team-by-team offseason needs and concocted one fun free-agent fit for each organization. Let's start with the AFC.
Baltimore's pound-the-rock-down-your-throat attack was exposed in January's playoff loss to the Chargers. With Lamar Jackson at the controls, though, the Ravens aren't about to ditch their devotion to the run. I like the idea of new play caller Greg Roman unleashing a hammer-dropping ball-carrier like Ingram alongside Gus Edwards and Kenneth Dixon.
The Bills were dragged down last season by one of the league's ugliest run-blocking units. The pass protection wasn't much sunnier, forcing rookie arm Josh Allen to run for his life inside a weapons-free offense. Assuming he bolts Kansas City, Morse would give Buffalo an anchoring presence at the pivot after finishing as the sixth-best pass-blocking center in football last season, per Pro Football Focus.
"Two linemen out of the gate? That's no fun," you moan. Also unfun: Watching your cowed quarterback get crunched to the godless turf. Bolstering Cincy's line remains a top priority for newbie coach Zac Taylor. James, despite some past injury issues, would give the Bengals a reliable presence at right tackle. He's ripe to be overpaid, but bookends are rare gems in today's NFL. It's a necessary expense.
The Browns could use a tackle, too, but equal need exists for a havoc-spinning pass rusher to pair across from quarterback destroyer Myles Garrett. A bull-rushing powerhouse, Clark boasts the speed and strength to cast off blockers and crumble the pocket. Seattle wants him back -- "I'm counting on it," said coach Pete Carroll -- but the Browns are flush with piles of cash.
After landing their quarterback in Joe Flacco, the Broncos still have plenty of work to do on offense. The line is a mess and the defense could use corner help, but I'm suggesting a buy-low add at wideout in Crowder, a unique physical talent coming off a campaign sideswiped by injuries. Redskins coach Jay Gruden insists Crowder remains in Washington's plans, but the lightning-quick pass catcher would fill a need in the slot for Denver.
After the Texans allowed a league-high 62 sacks, finding better protection for franchise quarterback Deshaun Watson is nothing short of a burning priority. Less-disastrous tackle play is a must, but issues extend to the interior line, where Nick Martin ranked as the AFC South's worst center, per PFF. Paradis was off to a strong start in Denver last season before a broken leg killed his campaign. He's expected to be all systems go for camp and would help this line become something more than a full-blown disaster.
If the Rams let him walk, Suh could help turn the middle of Indy's defense into a rough neighborhood. General manager Chris Ballard has built the roster off draft picks and economical free-agent adds, but why not use some of your league-high $108 million cap space on a blue-chip centerpiece? The idea of Suh and Defensive Rookie of the Year Darius Leonard operating as teammates is beyond juicy.
You've undoubtedly endured a flood of Foles-to-Jacksonville blurbs by now, so I won't linger. With whispers of "mutual interest" between the Jaguars and Philly's Super Bowl-winning backup, the bigger question is whether the Eagles will franchise Foles to control this process and keep the division rival Giants and Redskins out of play.
Bags of money will go toward retaining Dee Ford, but the defensive to-do list runs deeper, as the Chiefs shift to a 4-3 scheme under Steve Spagnuolo. Kansas City could use help at every position, but free agency is a good spot to find cover-man help in the form of Jackson, a reliable defender against the pass and a top-tier talent against the run for Houston in 2018. He turns 31 in April, but has plenty left for a win-now team like the Chiefs.
The Chargers' defense will continue to swirl around the nightmare tandem of Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram. The Bolts, though, could use a do-everything, versatile linebacker who plays all three downs. Barr's stock has fallen after a brilliant campaign in 2015, but he gives you a reliable tackler who can blitz the passer. Still squarely in his prime with his 27th birthday coming up in March, he's worth a look inside Gus Bradley's 4-3 scheme.
I'm throwing darts here, but this feels like a 2019 Dolphins move to me. Amid whispers the club plans to shy away from its history of dropping mega-millions in free agency, look for the Fins to pad both sides of the ball with more affordable talent. Turning 33 in May and coming off a 3.5-sack campaign, Matthews is no lock to return to Green Bay.
The Patriots are paper-thin at wideout. Beyond Julian Edelman and special teams ace Matthew Slater, the remaining pass catchers under contract are humans named Braxton Berrios, Cody Hollister and Darren Andrews. (Josh Gordon's a restricted free agent and he's currently suspended indefinitely by the NFL.) How about adding the wily and hyper-productive Tate to a Patriots squad just 12 months away from winning Super Bowl LIV?
Close your eyes and imagine the following: A watchable -- nay, intriguing -- Jets offense. Gang Green houses the requisite dough to make a run at the level of player who rarely reaches the open market. The cost will be massive -- "100 M's!" Bell told TMZ when asked what it would take to sign with New York -- but general manager Mike Maccagnan is running out of time to flip the switch on this still-in-progress roster.
Anyone fits the Raiders. After trading away homegrown stars in Khalil Mack and Amari Cooper, Jon Gruden and new general manager Mike Mayock oversee a franchise with a thousand needs. Part of the team's $71 million in cap space (according to Over The Cap) must go toward a pass rusher who can lift an Oakland outfit that notched a league-low 13 sacks last season -- 17 fewer than the closest competitor. Ansah comes with question marks, but it's not hard to imagine Gruden falling for the former Lion.
The Steelers require linebacking help and -- suddenly -- a reliable wideout, with Antonio Brown set to be shipped out of town. For this exercise, though, I'm choosing to pad the Steelers at cornerback. Former first-rounder Artie Burns has massively underwhelmed, while Joe Haden turns 30 in April. The 28-year-old Desir was Indy's top cover man in 2018 and would give Pittsburgh a solid presence against the run. After missing on countless corners in the draft, free agency feels right for the Steelers.
Smith generated plenty of rough-and-tumble tape for the Ravens last season. PFF credited him with 61 pressures, a breakout leap from his 40 in 2017. The Titans need help pressuring the quarterback -- just like every team in the NFL -- and would hope to grab Smith just as the 26-year-old hits his prime.