By: Keegan Hartman
Welcome to the most wonderful time of the year, folks!! Because you can’t spell fantasize without “fan”, and it is this time of the year is when NFL die-hards, like myself, dream up of every potential scenario, Google our team’s cap space, as we put on our “make-believe” general manager thinking caps and contemplate the better of two given options in terms of the two best suitors for our respected team’s available position. Heck, some fans may even go to the extremes- Tweeting their team’s GM with a list, one that strategically maps out every single scenario possible in order to rebuild their supporting franchise, within the 244 character limit of course.
In all seriousness, this is a busy time of the offseason, and is one caviot to being glued to your phone, rapidly refreshing your Twitter, hoping NFL Insiders such as Ian Rapaport and/or Adam Schefter are breaking a acquistion your team has made. To help shed some light on this time of the year, Santa Keegan has decided to compile a wish list which consists of a few of the top free agents available and a potential new home, a new fit for their services:
Le’Veon Bell, Running Back
Love him or hate him, you have got to respect his abilities as an elite rusher. Although he missed the 2018-’19 season over contract disputes with his former team, the Pittsburgh Steelers, Bell still managed to have himself a career while in the black and yellow. Accounting for nearly 9,000 all purpose yards and accounting for 42 total touchdowns, the 3x Pro-Bowler and 2x first-team All Pro has cemented himself as one of the greatest rushers in the league. However, Bell needs a home in which will allow him to utilize his skills. Even while on the field in 2017, the Steelers resorted to a pass heavy offense with the addition of rookie Juju Smith-Schuster to add to veteran receiver Antonio Brown’s presence. Bell is a patient runner, and when given an opportunity, disrupts defenses in open field, as he averaged nearly 6 yards a carry in his 2017 campaign.
Best fit: San Francisco 49ers.
Although not the “sexiest” destination out there for Bell, he does want paid, and the 49ers do have the second largest cap space in the NFL. Likewise, they play in a run-heavy offense, a traditional run-block/zone blocking scheme made possible by head coach Kyle Shanahan. Shanahan, 39, has been around the league, and has been exposed to numerous talented backs, some in which he has made their career, like Davontae Freeman, Tevin Coleman, Clinton Portis, and Arian Foster. Shanahan’s offensive scheme is comparable to a family recipe, as his father, Mike Shanahan, and mentor, Gary Kubiak, both adapted the play style in their coaching careers and helped figures like Terrell Davis reach 2,000 yard rushing milestones. As the 49ers do have depth at the running back position in Jerick Mckinnon and Matt Breida, both are still very young backs, and Bell can be that leader who comes in to not only help mentor, but be the Niners playmaker in 2nd-and-medium, as well as third-down conversions.
Adrian Amos, Safety
He’s no Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, he’s no Earl Thomas, but in my opinion, Adrian Amos is one of the best current, if not the best current safety not only hitting the market.
Amos, 25, served a pivotal role in the secondary of No. 1 ranked defense in the Chicago Bears last season. Per Pro Football Focus, Amos ranked as the No.6 best defender on the Bears’ roster last season, and served as the No. 1 defender for the bears in 2017.
A great pass defender and run stopper, Amos posted the 2nd best overall grade among safeties according to PFF, having graded a 92.0. The great thing about Amos is that he is versatile, both in coverage and blitz packages. Icing on the cake, Amos will serve as the cheaper options for teams in dire need, compared to names like Collins, Clinton-Dix, and Thomas.
Fit: Denver Broncos.
With the departure of veteran safety Darian Stewart, Denver needs a safety who can cover the tight end and serve as an insurance over top for deep threat receivers, and Amos is that guy. Denver ranked bottom 10 over the past two seasons in tight end coverage. Well, it just so happens to be that the Chicago Bears ranked top 10 at tight end coverage. Oh, and guess who the defensive coordinator who served as the mastermind behind that vicious Bears defense last season? The same man that assumed the role of head coach in Denver this offseason, Vic Fangio. A man who likes to blitz from every single direction, even safety and corner blitz from time to time, but Amos, nonetheless, is a cheaper option and better suited of the candidates for Fangio’s scheme.
Trey Flowers, Defensive End
Where do I start? First and foremost, Trey Flowers is an absolute force to be reckoned with in terms of his play style. At 6-foot-2, 265 pounds, Flowers somehow always finds a way to disrupt the quarterback, be it pressuring the quarterback, or physically dismantling the quarterback. Even though he’s played just three seasons for the New England Patriots, enters free agency with a whopping 21 sacks to his career, 59 QB hits, and 164 tackles. According to PFF, Flowers landed a 89.7 grade, sixth among edge defenders, and ranked No. 21 as one of the best overall players in the league. Flowers is another versatile body for teams where he can play 5, 6, 7, and 9 technique, lining up on both the guard and the tackle, but still allowing pressure from both positions. In total, Flowers had the second most pressures in the league with 78 pressures.
Fit: Detroit Lions.
If Trey Flowers doesn’t scream Matt Patricia, then I don’t know what does. Patricia, head coach for the Detroit Lions, served as the Defensive Coordinator for Bill Belichick’s staff while with the Patriots for a solid 13 years before assuming the role as Lions’ Head Coach last January. While in New England, Patricia made sure the big bodies on the front line made an impact. In 2017, of the 43 sacks that the Patriots’ defense accounted for, 24 came from a four-man rush. The Patriots ranked 8th overall in terms of sacks in 2017. Oh, and before I forget to mention it, let us remember that Flowers is only 25 years old and has made 3 Pro Bowls… yeah, dude is no joke. You put him back into the scheme that practically bred his play-making ability, he would be a huge pickup for the Lions and that defense.
Earl Thomas, Safety
I know, I know, my list is compiled of more defensive players rather than that of offensive of players, but this year’s free agency class is particularly thick at the safeties position if you couldn’t tell. Earl Thomas is right up there as one of the best in this year’s free agent class. He was crucial and played a vital role to the success of the “Legion of Boom” the years in which we felt the Seattle Seahawks practically made it to every Super Bowl for the longest time, when it was only two trips (2013, 2014). Nonetheless, Thomas has ranked as a top 5 safety ever since he came into the league. However, he has been faced with an injury history in the past couple of years, which can make his play-making abilities within budget for any team in need for a safety.
Fit: Kansas City Chiefs:
Look, the Chiefs, unfortunately, need more than just a Safety to solidify their secondary, which is part of the reason why they ranked 29th in the NFL in overall defense. Moreover, a point of emphasis might be a cornerback, in which they could go after star Bears’ corner Bryce Callahan. Nonetheless, they need a veteran leader, and aside from Eric Berry’s unfortunate history with injury, on the gridiron he is consistent and always been a playmaker. It helps to know that Steve Spagnuolo, the new defensive coordinator for the Chiefs, has a history of working with great safeties, such as Landon Collins (another potential FA fit) and potential hall-of-famer Ed Reed.
In Spagnuolo’s history, he’s been around coaches such as Joe Vitt, who served as the Seattle Seahawks defensive backs/safeties coach for nearly a decade. Spagnuolo’s Giants secondary still ranked in 23rd last season in terms of passing, but has seen as high as top 10 in his tenure with New York. Thomas is just one of the major steps, key components needed to restructure a heavily depleted Chiefs secondary, but a much needed at that.
Edited by Garrett Jones | firstname.lastname@example.org