The NFL's free agency window will open before we know it. With the Super Bowl less than a week away, the league’s calendar is coming to a close.
Shortly after the combine, teams will open for business; negotiating free-agent signings and working diligently to plug up holes on rosters in an effort to become the next team to hoist the Vince Lombardi Trophy.
The 2020 free-agent pool is unlike any we've seen in recent memory. The quarterback market is saturated with legends of the game while the surging salary cap continues to make navigating the spending frenzy almost impossible. Market values for pending 2020 free agents, according to Spotrac.com, can at least help set the expectation. Which players are worth their prospective price tag? And which talents are buyer beware?
We explore this week on Studs & Duds.
Stud: Yannick Ngakoue, DE
Just 24 years old, Yannick Ngakoue has logged impact plays on defense at an impressive rate over the course of his first four seasons with the Jacksonville Jaguars. Ngakoue's tenure with the Jaguars is almost sure to be at the end of the line. The team is strapped for cash after several missteps with the quarterback position and Ngakoue is going to command a handsome wad of cash.
Spotrac used Dee Ford’s contract as one of four watermark deals that could impact Ngakoue's deal. Ngakoue is cut from the same cloth as a speed rusher without elite size, but for my money, Ngakoue is the better player. Teams looking for a boost in the pass rush shouldn't be shy about offering up to $20 million for Ngakoue.
Dud: Jameis Winston, QB
More than $1 million for every interception — who says no?
About 32 teams would. Yes, Jameis Winston chucked the ball for 5,000 yards last season but his interception percentage was an ungodly 4.8 percent of pass attempts. That's more than a full percent worse than the career-high of Blake Bortles, for some added context. Paying starting quarterback money to a player with such significant issues with reading the field doesn't seem wise — any team that does would likely regret it.
Stud: A.J. Green, WR
The A.J. Green we used to know may not be here anymore. We haven't seen a healthy Green in several seasons and we may not see him hit the market either. But for what Green has been in the past, given he's still just 31 years old and the variables that will make him a relative bargain if he hits the market, he could be a stud proposition. Teams ready to compete and in need of a No. 2 wide receiver shouldn't bat an eye.
But again, he's got to hit the market first. Green has been vocal that he doesn't want to play this season on the franchise tag. The Cincinnati Bengals may opt to tag him anyway. And if they do, Green would go from a relative bargain to a bloated 2020 salary: the 2020 projections mark a receiver’s franchise tag value at over $18 million.
Dud: Melvin Gordon, RB
Melvin Gordon spent the start of the 2019 season holding out in hopes of finding a desirable outcome to his contract situation. He didn't find one.
Instead, Gordon caved and returned to the field in late September and followed suit by posting his fourth season in five years with under 4 yards per carry. Is Gordon somewhat at the mercy of his offensive line? Yes. But Gordon's production isn't in line with a top running back by nearly every measure. He deserves a nice deal and as a talent, he's certainly among the top-10 backs in the league, but a team signing up to give Gordon top-shelf running back dollars feels like a misallocation of resources.
Stud: Chris Jones, DT
It’s pretty simple: Chris Jones is an absolute game wrecker for the Kansas City Chiefs. With 31 sacks and 32 tackles for loss in the last three seasons combined, Jones lives in the opposing backfield. If the Chiefs get too backed up against the cap, Jones may be nothing more than a cap casualty. With a Patrick Mahomes extension looming on the horizon, it's understandable that the Chiefs wouldn't pick to give Jones a mega-deal.
But someone should.