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Top 101 NFL free agents of 2020: The original list

Here is the original Top 101 Free Agents list of 2020 -- courtesy of Gregg Rosenthal and Chris Wesseling -- as it stood before players began to be signed, tagged and/or released:

He began his rookie contract as an incomparable bargain, earning Offensive Rookie of the Year honors and sending Tony Romo to the broadcast booth. He ended his rookie deal as an incomparable bargain, spending the 2019 season's first three months on the periphery of the MVP race while leading one of the league's most productive offenses. The free ride is over. The chickens have come home to roost. The bill has come due. It's time to pay the piper. The bag man cometh.

He's rarely singled out as the best player on the field because he shares the pitch with Patrick Mahomes. He's rarely touted as the best defensive lineman in football because he's outshined by Aaron Donald and J.J. Watt. But what do we call a Pro Bowler capable of swinging a Super Bowl while playing through a painful calf strain? Maybe the highest-paid defensive player in the game.

One of the league's premier route runners and boundary specialists, Cooper's presence in Dallas is one of the primary reasons for Prescott's place atop this list. Dak has played the best ball of his career since the former No. 4 overall pick arrived to fill the No. 1 receiver void left by Dez Bryant's decline and departure.

Clowney's production doesn't always match the hype, but he can still hijack an offense at peak moments -- often in the biggest games. Don't let the three-sack total fool you: He was a difference-maker in his Seattle debut, as the pass rush tended to vanish for quarters at a time whenever he missed stretches due to nagging injuries.

Hard to expect a repeat of his 19.5-sack coming-out party, but that's not to suggest Barrett is a one-year wonder. He busted out of the gate with nine sacks in September, closed strong with seven more in December and constantly battered quarterbacks throughout the 16-game race.

Ngakoue specializes in the blind-side speed rush, a style of QB hunting that tends to generate takeaways via strip sacks and forced mistakes. Not yet 25 years old, he understands players with his profile will break the bank once the bids start rolling in.

A rangy athlete with sensational leaping ability, Simmons plays safety like a frisbee-chasing dog, flagging down all flying objects in sprinting distance. Just entering his prime as a first-time All-Pro (second team), he's unlikely to escape the long arm of John Elway's franchise tag.

There is no question that the Comeback Player of the Year benefitted from the play-action windows created by Derrick Henry's threatening presence, but Tannehill transformed a franchise by escaping pressure and making throw after throw, week in and week out for three months. Tough, nimble and accurate with an arm strong enough to make all of the throws, Tannehill is more than just an intriguing reclamation project. He has a skill set suited to today's era of spread offenses and shifting pockets.

Jerry Jones isn't one to lose his stars, but he's in a bit of a bind with Jones as the talented third wheel, tagging along behind Dak Prescott and Amari Cooper in the contract line. A rare athlete, Jones started his career at safety before moving to his current cornerback role that calls for the weekly stifling of top receiving threats.

On one hand, it's fair to wonder why Armstead rarely reached the quarterback before Nick Bosa and Dee Ford arrived on the scene. On the other hand, the former first-round pick was a pass-rushing menace from the opening whistle of the 2019 season through the closing minutes of the Super Bowl, consistently generating pressure from the left end. At 6-foot-7 and 290 pounds with a giant wingspan and a polished all-around game, Armstead is a prime candidate for San Francisco's franchise tag.

One of the best run-blocking guards in football, Scherff hasn't topped 700 snaps in either of the last two years. If he were healthier, he'd be ranked even higher.

The Patriots already paid guard Shaq Mason big money, which means Thuney is likely gone. Some team is going to get one of the league's steadiest and headiest interior linemen, a second-team All-Pro who has missed 20 combined snaps in four years.

A borderline Hall of Fame candidate who missed all of last season, Green should still have some high-level years left. The Bengals are unlikely to let him get away.

After carrying the Titans during their late-season surge, Henry would be a fascinating test case for the running back market -- if he were to reach free agency. He finished with 386 carries last season, including 83 in the playoffs.

Based on Brees' Instagram post announcing his return and coach Sean Payton's public comments, both sides expect this Brees contract negotiation to go down more easily than the last few times at the bargaining table.

Three-down linebackers who can excel in coverage are an incredibly rare and valuable commodity in today's NFL. Four-down linebackers like Littleton, who also shine on special teams, are that much better.

Brady is a short-term solution who won't fit in most situations, hence this ranking. He also can still play at a league-average-starter level (or better) with protection, which has tremendous value. Hence this ranking.

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

Surrounded by high draft picks with big-money contracts, Harris overcame his undrafted pedigree to become Minnesota's best player in the secondary.

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

A mild disappointment through his first four NFL seasons, Dupree just posted career highs in tackles (68), sacks (11.5) and forced fumbles (four) in an impressive all-around contract push. Less of a pure pass rusher than bookend linebacker T.J. Watt, Dupree is nonetheless Pittsburgh's top priority of the offseason.

It's no surprise that the season's most unstoppable ground attack ran behind Conklin, one of the league's most accomplished and physical body movers. Back to full health after battling knee injuries throughout 2018, Conklin paved the way for the NFL rushing champion Derrick Henry as well as Comeback Player of the Year Ryan Tannehill. The Titans have some excruciating decisions to make.

Check La Brea for contagion. Like a horse fly stuck to rosin paper or a mastodon mired in the infamous tar pits, Rivers' furious flat-footed flailing only served to hasten the end of his storied Chargers career. No longer possessed of the quick jump-step or strong arm necessary to compensate for an overwhelmed offensive line, Rivers is reliant upon a deep moat to sharpshoot from the castle tower. Look for Frank Reich and Nick Sirianni to coax their old quarterback to Colts kingdom.

After drawing Pro Bowl buzz throughout one of his better seasons, Castonzo made it clear he has no appetite for a change of scenery. The Colts have plenty of cap space to bring the veteran back for a 10th season, perhaps as a bodyguard for Rivers.

Excelling in the slot or outside, Harris has been one of the game's most respected and effective covermen over the past half-decade. More of a shadow corner under Vic Fangio last season, the 30-year-old lost some one-on-one battles that seemed out of character for a perennial Pro Bowler. In which case, a change of scenery may put him in a better position to recapture peak form.

Winston never saw a sliver he couldn't exploit, clinging to a gunslinging style which gooses his receivers' counting numbers as well as his opponents' takeaway totals. Can that recklessness be coached out of him without forfeiting the fearlessness necessary for big plays? To this point in his career, he's thrown his team into more trouble than salvation.

A washout as the No. 3 overall pick in Jacksonville, Fowler rehabbed his market value with 11.5 sacks and 16 tackles for loss in his first full season with the Rams. Food for thought: Fowler's average of 1.4 impact plays (sacks, QB hits, tackles for loss and forced fumbles) per game with the Jaguars jumped to 2.4 once he joined forces with double-team magnet Aaron Donald in Los Angeles.

What's the going rate for nearly sacking quarterbacks? Williams' game isn't without a disruptive quality, but the guys who make the big bucks usually take down the opposing passer at a much higher rate.

Reader has made good on hype man J.J. Watt's boosterism, rounding out his run-stuffing skill set with the occasional pass-rush push. If not for Tampa Bay's immovable object in Vita Vea, Reader might just be " the best nose guard in the league."

Another magnificent McCourty performance was lost in the shadows of Stephon Gilmore's season-long Defensive Player of the Year campaign. At 32 years old with savvy ball skills, sticky coverage and a reputation for natural leadership, McCourty could be the final piece of the puzzle for a Super Bowl contender.

Hargrave is not just a run-stuffing nose tackle. He improved every season in Pittsburgh and creates a lot of disruption as a pass rusher for a man his size. He can also fit in any defense.

In just eight starts after returning from a serious neck injury, JPP produced 8.5 sacks and 44 pressures, per Pro Football Focus. He's a perfect pickup for a team looking for a short-term pass-rush injection.

Hooper's 75-catch, 787-yard fourth season would have been even more productive if not for a midseason knee injury. Tight ends this young, athletic and productive very rarely get to the free-agent market.

Bell has a reputation as a "box safety" because he can blitz and deliver hits in the running game, but the 25-year-old also covers opposing tight ends well enough. This is the type of skill set nearly every team is looking for.

The biggest red flag surrounding Gordon is how streaky his career has been. When he's rolling, there aren't 10 backs in football who possess his short-yardage power, explosiveness and receiving ability.

Deep speed gets paid and Anderson has plenty of it. He often disappointed his Jets coaches, however, and is too talented to have fewer than 800 yards in each of the last two seasons.

Last season was a huge comeback year for Griffen, who felt confident enough in his production to void a contract with the Vikings that would have paid him more than $10 million. He could still return to Minnesota.

Bradberry has often been trusted to track the opposing team's No. 1 receiver and already has 60 starts under his belt. The Panthers could franchise tag him to keep him away from Ron Rivera in Washington.

A theme of this year's free-agent crop: Aging pass rushers who can still get it done. Quinn's an injury risk, but his quick first step was back last season in Dallas.

Sanders' impact on the 49ers went beyond the numbers. His route-running opened up space for his younger receivers, whom he also mentored. Kyle Shanahan won't want to lose him.

Denver's most disruptive defensive lineman two years in a row, Harris has gradually grown from afterthought to super sub to semi-beast.

The most consistent blocker on one of the best offensive lines of Aaron Rodgers' career, the oft-injured Bulaga played all 16 games for just the third time in nine years. He will be in demand even if he's a year-to-year proposition in his early-30s.

Finally healthy after landing on injured reserve in four of his first five snakebitten NFL seasons, Ward was an unsung star for San Francisco's Super Bowl defense. With the versatility to slide over to nickel corner, Ward is the perfect safety to combat the spread offenses that proliferate today's NFL.

Hardly a household name, Glasgow will attract plenty of interest as a stout, crafty blocker with a clean injury history. A four-year starter in Detroit, he's just now coming into his own as a seasoned pro with few weaknesses in his game.

Van Noy has mastered the Rob Ninkovich role as a hybrid defensive end/linebacker tasked with setting the edge in the run game and rushing the passer in advantageous situations. With Bill Belichick disciples proliferating throughout the league, Van Noy is reaching free agency at an opportune time.

Football's version of a swing-from-the-heels guess hitter, Schobert tends to offset drive-killing stuffs and highlight-reel takeaways with missed tackles and overplays. Either way, it's hard to deny his nose for the football.

The Rams are in desperate need of an heir apparent with their left tackle coming off ankle surgery, entering his age-38 season and finally showing signs of a long-awaited decline. By all indications, though, Whitworth is leaning toward returning for one more year as Jared Goff's blind-side guardian.

Wasted behind a patchwork offensive line in Miami, Drake's elusiveness was on prominent display in Kliff Kingsbury's innovative rushing attack following a midseason trade. He's yet to prove capable of handling a featured back's workload for a full season, which may tip the scales against the franchise tag in Arizona's planning meetings.

Reed has a reputation as a burgeoning behemoth ready to take the league by storm, but it's one bolstered by a dominant two-month stretch in 2018, which has overshadowed an otherwise erratic performance across his four seasons.

Expect to hear Ryan floated as a Honey Badger type capable of transforming a secondary with his coach-like instincts and intelligence as a versatile back-end leader.

Fuller's terrific performance in the Super Bowl was a reminder that he's had stretches of Pro Bowl-quality play throughout his career. His ability to transition to safety showed his versatility.

Clinton-Dix has proven to be a plug-and-play starter who can patrol the back end.

Some mental errors late in Collins' terrific season with the Patriots could scare away teams wondering how he'll perform away from Bill Belichick.

Randall's range and speed will get him paid, although his reputation for being high maintenance could have him on his third team in as many years.

Jefferson was probably Seattle's most consistent pass rusher last season, able to make noise from inside and out. He's a strong candidate to be undervalued in a crowded D-line market.

Now 38 years old, Peters' health is a concern. He was still an asset when he played last year and has ultimately gutted out more than 900 snaps in each of the last two seasons.

Waynes, a former first-round pick, quietly improved after a rocky start to his career, evolving into a physical and reliable starter.

Collins has improved every NFL season, reaching his apex in a contract year with 48 pressures, according to PFF. He'd be a nice "second wave of free agency" signing.

There will be coaches who view Roby's peak play and see a potential star, even if his week-to-week performance the last two seasons has been closer to average.

Phillips' 2019 sack total (9.5) looks unsustainable, considering he had just 19 more total pressures, but he's versatile enough to play on the end and inside.

Joseph was finally living up to his bone-jarring billing as a former first-round pick after the Raiders declined his fifth-year option last offseason. A serious foot injury put a premature end to his breakout season in early November.

Even Aaron Donald's presence can't turn Brockers into a pass rusher, but he's as daunting as the Matterhorn when it comes to moving him from Point A to Point B against his will.

As shaky as his hands may be for the other 80 yards on the gridiron, Ebron is just the sort of red-zone box-out artist who has bedeviled the Patriots in their Ahab-like quest to capture Rob Gronkowski's successor at tight end.

Good at managing games, great at managing life. The building is better when Bridgewater is in your QB room, ideally in the lockdown-reliever role.

The tackle numbers that brighten Martinez's box score are impressive to behold. Too often, though, they occur 8 or 9 yards downfield with the linebacker absorbing -- rather than delivering -- the blow.

Entering his age-33 season, Suh is still reliable enough to play all 16 games as the sidekick to Vita Vea, spearheading the closest thing the NFL had to a shutdown run defense in 2019.

One of the most promising backup linebackers early in his Bears career, Kwiatkoski proved to be a playmaking upgrade opposite Roquan Smith when steady starter Danny Trevathan went down with an elbow injury in early November. He's an intriguing under-the-radar target in a buyer's linebacker market.

McCoy is hardly the primary culprit, but his new team saw its run-defense efficiency plummet while his old team surged to the top of the ranks. Entering his age-32 season, he still makes his presence known as an interior pass rusher.

The Bengals' pass defense tends to disintegrate when their savvy nickelback is sidelined, which has happened 10 out of 32 times in the last two seasons.

Known as the understated glue to the Eagles' championship secondary, McLeod can still provide quality snaps for a team needing a starter.

The former Giants top-10 pick resuscitated his career in New Orleans and is still just 24 years old with a ton of starting experience.

There aren't many pure run stuffers like Pierce left in the game, but he plays his role with aplomb.

The 2015 Defensive Rookie of the Year runner-up came back quickly from a torn ACL last season, perhaps too quickly. Interested teams would be buying low.

In Houston, Hyde fulfilled the promise that so many have long expected of him. Now he may have to back it up on a fifth team.

Wolfe was having a sneaky-strong season before dislocating his elbow in December. He's always been an impact player as long as he's been on the field, even if his peak years are in the rearview mirror.

It's a bad sign that the Falcons finally gave up on Beasley becoming a difference-making pass rusher.

One of 2019 free agency's best bargains, Golden is back on the market after a 10-sack season with the Giants.

Known for his All-Pro special teams work, Phillips can play a safety/linebacker hybrid spot with ferocious intensity.

In a market lacking depth, Perriman could benefit from being one of the only deep threats available.

Steve Young once compared the art of quarterbacking to tending a Japanese garden, pointing to the high level of care, time and intricacy of work that goes into a successful career. That elusive nature of the craft's mastery is the only explanation we have for the stark, Sphinx-like regression in Mariota's footwork, arm strength and pocket presence over the past few years. As he closed out the season behind Ryan Tannehill, he had only to gaze across the QB room for reclamation inspiration.

The Falcons once held high hopes for Campbell as an athletic, three-down sidekick to Deion Jones, but Robin never stepped out of the shadows to thwart potent offenses with cruel intentions when Batman wasn't around.

A key cog in two of the decade's top defenses (2015 Broncos, 2018 Bears), Trevathan is a solid starter and respected leader entering the decline phase of a fine career.

Dotson's pass protection has started to slip as he enters his mid-30s, but he's still sound enough to stand sentry for the league leader in passing yards -- and interceptions.

On the wrong end of 30, unseated by Marlon Humphrey as the No. 1 cornerback and unable to stay in the lineup for 16 games, Smith's free agency is born under a bad sign. That said, the Ravens' defense played its best ball of the season once Smith, Marcus Peters and Chuck Clark solidified the back end in the second half of the season.

All too often, McGovern was the calm in the middle of the trench storm as his Denver linemates disintegrated in a maelstrom of blown blocks and ill-timed penalties.

Greg the Leg! The nickname alone is worth a signing. Zuerlein could upgrade a number of shaky kicking situations around the league.

Plying his trade in the era of the NFL's great offensive line drought, Vaitai may just land a handsome monetary reward for his yeoman's work as a versatile swing tackle capable of keeping an offense afloat in Philadelphia.

A bit of a tease as the fourth or fifth option in Patrick Mahomes' aerial attack, Robinson tended to disappear outside of a truly promising showing as Tyreek Hill's September stand-in.

The slot receiver on the league's No. 2 offense by way of Football Outsiders' metrics, Cobb missed out on his second career 1,000-yard season due to a maddening combination of disheartening drops and poorly timed Cowboys penalties. With better luck, he could be pitched as a poor man's Julian Edelman.

Bennett is providing diminishing returns each season, but he still finds a way to get to the quarterback.

The Chiefs grabbed Breeland cheaply in free agency last year and he wound up playing 1,104 solid snaps, including 54 in a terrific Super Bowl outing.

Amukamara is back on the free agent market for a fifth time. That's a sign that he's good enough to be a starter year after year, but not quite good enough to always stick around.

Jim Schwartz seems to love Mills' feistiness, so don't be surprised if he returns to Philadelphia.

Despite operating within an otherwise-elite Saints offensive line, Peat still had his share of problems.

Before tearing his pectoral muscle, Ogbah was making a big impact for the Chiefs. It's not an injury interested teams should be worried about.

Geathers lost his starting job to rookie Khari Willis last season, but has played well enough when given the chance to warrant a starting spot elsewhere.

After a troubling arrest while with the Eagles, Worley helped his stock greatly with two workmanlike seasons with the Raiders, playing all over the field.

Signed to a one-year, $10 million deal by the Colts before fracturing his clavicle in Week 1, Funchess figures to come at a lesser price this time around.

Long an enigma in Buffalo, Lawson's production picked up just in time for free agency. It's a red flag that the Bills' excellent staff didn't get more out of him.

One of Carolina's leaders since 2013, Addison has at least nine sacks in each of the last four years. He can still play at age 32, probably just not as many snaps.

The latest in a long line of talented playmakers betrayed by a body unable to withstand the punishment inherent in the sport, Reed can't be blamed for holding out hope of one last swan song season before the bell tolls for his once-promising career.

Follow Gregg Rosenthal on Twitter @GreggRosenthal.

Follow Chris Wesseling on Twitter @ChrisWesseling.

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