Free Agency

Five takeaways from NFL.com's top 101 free agents of 2019

NFL.com's dynamic duo of Gregg Rosenthal and Chris Wesseling have again teamed up to compile their list of the top 101 free agents of 2019, which was released Monday. We took a look at the collection and gathered five takeaways about what their list means for the Browns as they approach the start of the new league year and the beginning of free agency.

1. Defensive line talent is available

At the top of NFL.com's list is Cowboys edge rusher DeMarcus Lawrence, who is projected to receive the franchise tag. The same goes for Texans edge rusher Jadeveon Clowney (No. 2) and Chiefs edge rusher Dee Ford (No. 5), and Falcons defensive tackle Grady Jarrett likely is too valuable to Atlanta to make it to the open market, so we'll move past them to some more realistic candidates. Seahawks edge rusher Frank Clark (No. 8) seems poised to also receive the tag, but if he does make it to the open market, he'd be the ideal fit opposite of Myles Garrett. Defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson (No. 14) has bounced around the league in recent years due to character concerns but had what Rosenthal and Wesseling called "a bounce-back year" in Minnesota and could fetch decent money. Ndamukong Suh is another name, though he'd be on a shorter-term deal because he just turned 32 years old and played all the way through Super Bowl LIII.

Two more possibilities exist in the top 25 that are especially intriguing: edge rushers Ziggy Ansah (No. 20) and Za'Darius Smith (No. 21). Ansah is a name that might grab an average fan's attention, but he came up short of expectations set for him in Detroit, for whatever the reason (health, usually) and is approaching 30 years old. Smith, on the other hand, was a name that emerged from the league's top defense statistically, recording 10 sacks in 2018 and causing a ton of havoc for opposing passers. Baltimore has some tough contract decisions to make in that defense, and linebacker C.J. Mosley could make more sense to keep than Smith, potentially making him available for scooping up by a rival. But is Smith worth a hefty contract, or is he more a product of Baltimore's stifling defense? That remains to be seen.

2. Mid-level free agents fill secondary

There isn't a premier cornerback available in this class, but if Ronald Darby (No. 23) can recover from the torn ACL he suffered in 2018, he can be an exciting addition for a team. Bradley Roby is going to get a good look at free agency because he didn't quite meet expectations that came with a first-round selection, but that might also mean he could land a bloated offer. Free agents from No. 40 and beyond are promising for what the Browns need: Kareem Jackson (No. 40), Morris Claiborne (No. 55), Jason Verrett (No. 56) and Bashaud Breeland (No. 65). Cleveland could also explore a second tango with former draft pick Pierre Desir (No. 51), who had a career year in Matt Eberflus' zone-reliant scheme in Indianapolis. The Browns might be best suited to shed the stigma of slot corners -- Rosenthal and Wesseling emphasized this approach by repeating the same line of "slot cornerbacks are starting cornerbacks" three times in Justin Coleman's blurb at No. 63 -- and explore adding Darqueze Dennard (No. 54) or Justin Coleman (No. 63). See? There are plenty of choices in the middle of this group.

3. Veteran receivers loom

Michael Crabtree is 31 years old but was somewhat productive in his lone season in Baltimore, even while the Ravens' offensive identity changed drastically in the middle of the season. Wiser minds would turn their eyes to John Brown (No. 45) or Tyrell Williams (No. 43), and Cleveland is very familiar with the latter, seeing as Williams torched the Browns in their meeting with the Chargers last season. Folks who are a fan of UMass' Andy Isabella could find a similar player in Adam Humphries (No. 52), who was quietly a consistent option for the Buccaneers in recent years. Cordarrelle Patterson (No. 70) isn't the type of receiver to run the full route tree, but could offer additional value on special teams. And might big-bodied target Devin Funchess (No. 50) tickle an brown and orange fancy? There are options out there, though few feel like perfect fits.

4. Promising boots

Jason Myers went from being let go by the Jaguars and losing a kicking competition to Sebastian Janikowski, to making the Pro Bowl after making 90.9 percent of his field goals, including 10 of 11 attempts from 40-49 yards, and 6-of-7 from 50-plus yards out. He'll be a free agent, though the Jets would be wise to keep him. Longtime Patriots kicker Stephen Gostkowski (NFL.com rank: No. 81) will also be a free agent, as will 49ers kicker Robbie Gould (No. 68). It would be no surprise if all three of these kickers' teams found a way to retain them before free agency begins, but all three are quality players who could stabilize the kicking situation in Cleveland, which has been in flux ever since Phil Dawson left town.

5. Little to offer under center

Only four quarterbacks landed on the Top 101 list: Nick Foles (who is looking for starter money), Teddy Bridgewater, Tyrod Taylor and Sam Bradford. Bridgewater will be looking to sign with a team where he can compete for a starting job, while Bradford was quickly stowed away behind Josh Rosen in Arizona before landing on the inactive list in five straight games and ultimately being cut during the Cardinals' bye week. Neither seem to be fits with the Browns, at least not at the salary number Bradford landed in Arizona (one year, $20 million). Taylor just completed his first season in Cleveland, where he began as a starter but lost his job to Baker Mayfield after a concussion knocked him out of the Browns' Week 3 win over the Jets. He's seen as a viable backup on a contending team and NFL.com ranks him as the No. 72 free agent of the class.

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