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. Here's the NFC rundown:
Have the Cardinals entirely dismissed trading Josh Rosen to draft Kyler Murray? I don't think so. Team brass stomped on that narrative -- they doth protest too much! -- but whoever plays quarterback is beyond doomed until this leaky line is fixed. Williams comes with questions after missing all but 56 snaps of last season with a knee injury. His stellar play in 2017, though, makes him a candidate to earn starting cash in 2019.
Free agency offers a less-than-juicy cast of receivers, but Williams would furnish the Panthers with a much-needed deep threat. A hopefully healthy Cam Newton could use a burner to draw cover men away from D.J. Moore and Curtis Samuel. Williams has shown a history of going dark for stretches around the occasional 100-yard gem, but the 27-year-old looms as a presumably affordable add for Carolina.
With safety Adrian Amos and promising slot corner Bryce Callahan set to hit the open market, the Bears have spots to fill in the secondary. Joyner would give Chicago a reliable defender with just one missed tackle over the past two seasons. Overall, he returned to the pack last autumn after a stellar 2017 campaign, but would fill an immediate need for this Super Bowl contender.
The romance is real, with Thomas most recently sharing an NFL Network segment on Instagram in which analyst Willie McGinest paired Dallas and the star safety as a free agency fit. The veteran backstop turns 30 in May, but Thomas remains a top talent.
As for the Cowboys, Jerry Jones -- newsflash -- likes to make a splash. Our world makes zero sense if this fails to happen.
The Lions vastly improved their run defense last season after trading for mammoth tackle Damon Harrison. They still require help rushing the passer, though, and desperately need a cornerback. Even coming off a torn ACL, Darby is the biggest FA prize at the position and would get Detroit's team-building process off to a promising start. Can you imagine the Lions generating some excitement for a change?
We're still learning what kind of front office the Packers are running under second-year general manager Brian Gutekunst. After a flurry of aggressive moves last offseason, how about padding out Mike Pettine's defense with one of free agency's hidden -- or not-so-hidden -- gems? The uber-consistent Smith spent last season as football's eighth-ranked 3-4 outside linebacker, per Pro Football Focus. With edge rusher arguably Green Bay's greatest need, Smith deserves a long look.
After inking a massive pact with Minnesota last offseason, Kirk Cousins was sold as the final puzzle piece for a club with Super Bowl aspirations. The veteran passer was better than most believe, but Minnesota's crumbling offensive line caused wire-to-wire chaos as Cousins spent too many games on the run. Saffold turns 31 in June and will definitely be overpaid, but the Vikings cannot sit still.
Creative Saints coach Sean Payton boasts a track record of maximizing athletic tight ends. The pairing of Drew Brees and Cook spinning tricks would serve as a deep nuisance to defensive coordinators everywhere. Cook spent last season as the most valuable player inside Oakland's offense and hits free agency as a talented and versatile producer. The Raiders want him back, but what's not to like about joining a Super Bowl contender?
The Giants house a top-heavy roster flush with a handful of stars and plenty of needs. Instead of creating another hole, why not re-sign the finest available safety not named Earl Thomas? General manager Dave Gettleman was averse to handing out big-money deals to defensive backs in Carolina, but a new approach is needed in New York.
Plugged-in Pats beat writer Mike Reiss believes the team will pass on franchising Flowers. The 25-year-old pass rusher won't lack for suitors after leading New England's defense during multiple Super Bowl runs. The Eagles are dangerously low on cap room, but I'm playing under the assumption every team in the NFL knows how to massage the books to make a signing like this a reality.
Just another team seeking someone to bum rush the quarterback. Fowler was a genuine help to the Rams down the stretch and sits squarely on the radar of coach Kyle Shanahan, who recently told reporters, per NBC Sports: "We're always interested in adding pass rushers, and he's a good pass rusher to add." Fowler plus another edge force with the No. 2 overall pick would transform San Francisco's defense in a hurry.
The merry-go-round continues, with Philly's Graham shifting west to help Seattle's refurbished defense. The Seahawks thrived with a younger cast of characters this past autumn, but coach Pete Carroll knows what the 30-year-old Graham brings: top-15 pass-rushing talent with a solid track record against the run.
Good luck finding a stauncher supporter of Mathieu than Bruce Arians. A champion of the "Honey Badger" in Arizona, the new Bucs coach has shown he can milk the most out of the versatile defensive back. With Tampa in need of safety help, Mathieu -- still just 26 years old -- would give this defense a dose of identity.
A prime candidate to snag a quarterback in the draft, the Redskins must address the void left by Alex Smith's grisly leg injury. The smart approach would mimic what the Browns pulled off last offseason, making a move for veteran Tyrod Taylor before swinging for the fences with Baker Mayfield. An affordable, short-range deal for Bridgewater fits the bill.