By this point in the NFL offseason, most teams are fairly settled in terms of roster-building, with the 2019 NFL Draft and March's wave of big-money free agency squarely in the rear-view mirror.
Depth charts aren't actually finalized for a while, however, and some of the league's best will tell you that late-summer transactions can be some of the most important. Starting May 8, teams will also get fresh motivation to explore the top veterans still on the market, since signings after May 7 do not count against future compensatory draft picks -- increasing commodities in a younger, data-driven game.
With that being said, here's 10 of the top remaining free agents available, plus predictions for where each will land:
- RB Jay Ajayi
- WR Michael Crabtree
- DT Corey Liuget
- DT Ndamukong Suh
- DE Ezekiel Ansah
- DE Muhammad Wilkerson
- OLB Derrick Morgan
- LB Jamie Collins
- CB Morris Claiborne
- S Eric Berry
Predictions for the top 10 remaining free agents
RB Jay Ajayi, Atlanta Falcons
Adding a fifth-round power back in Qadree Ollison was nice, but it doesn't exactly read like a complement to the similarly physical Devonta Freeman. Ito Smith is also in the house, but Dan Quinn has yet to give his ringing endorsement of anyone as a Tevin Coleman replacement. Ajayi is the Falcons' best bet of bringing "lightning" into a room of "thunder," especially at a discounted rate. Yes, he's a bit repetitive in terms of being injury prone like Freeman, but he also brings a wealth of starting experience.
WR Michael Crabtree, Green Bay Packers
The Pack went heavy on defense early in the 2019 draft, adding only third-round tight end Jace Sternberger to Aaron Rodgers' arsenal of passing-game weapons. And while Green Bay's receiving corps probably has more upside than you think, another red-zone target wouldn't hurt, and who better to come in for a specialized role than Crabtree, who at the very least brings a reputation for over-the-top catches? On a one-year, low-risk deal, both sides win. Rodgers gets a proven target. Crabtree gets another shot with an elite QB.
DE Ezekiel Ansah, Buffalo Bills
The Bills aren't exactly desperate for a pass rusher, but there's a reason they've been sniffing around Ansah for almost two months. No. 1, adding a former All-Pro to a line that now includes first-rounder Ed Oliver could really ramp up their trench game. No. 2, they're flush with the cap space to make it happen. Ansah may want a one-year deal to get back on the market for one last shot at a big contract, but regardless, he seems like a guy who'd fit in Buffalo. It's not like he'd be playing with slouches, either.
DE Muhammad Wilkerson, Seattle Seahawks
Ansah makes some sense here, but let's just say he's a touch pricey for the Seahawks' blood. Besides, Wilkerson is the prototypical Seattle swing guy who can bounce in and outside a la Michael Bennett. Pete Carroll and Co. have gone through the motions with a big-name Jets castoff before, and they need someone as a legitimate L.J. Collier insurance plan in the wake of Frank Clark's exit. Injury concerns aside, he's exactly the type of plug-and-play veteran this team could use.
DT Corey Liuget, New England Patriots
Bill Belichick has a history with ex-Chargers defenders (see: Rodney Harrison, Junior Seau), and while Liuget doesn't carry the same weight (at least figuratively), he does fill a need for some interior help. New England is all about giving well-known veterans a shot, and although Michael Bennett should give them some DL flexibility in a post-Trey Flowers room, Liuget could easily find a prominent role. And from the DT's perspective, what's better than signing up for a run with the champs?
DT Ndamukong Suh, Indianapolis Colts
The Colts never really lived up to the hype as the big-money ballers of free agency, but with the draft in the rear view and their DT depth chart pretty forgettable outside of Margus Hunt, it's fair to wonder if Chris Ballard might break out a Rams-esque one-year payday to bring some extra juice to the interior. Indianapolis already went to the veteran well to satisfy an edge need with Justin Houston, so this wouldn't be out of character. Suh would also be joining a team that looks poised to seriously contend in 2019.
OLB Derrick Morgan, Pittsburgh Steelers
This one fits like a glove. The 2019 draft came and went without Pittsburgh addressing a decent need for pass rushing depth, and the Steelers haven't been shy to take fliers on veteran defenders in recent years. Morgan, meanwhile, is a proven stand-up edge guy, went to high school a few hours from Pittsburgh and played three years under Dick LeBeau in Tennessee. Is he past his prime? Sure, but you can do a whole lot worse at backup OLB. This guy has the makeup and resume to be a solid rotational addition.
LB Jamie Collins, Kansas City Chiefs
Unless the Patriots bring back their old friend or the Baltimore Ravens get creative to replace C.J. Mosley, Collins seems like the kind of luxury upgrade Andy Reid would love to give Steve Spagnuolo. Kansas City's LB situation isn't insanely bad, but with some money to spare, they can afford to find a place for Collins, especially since LB was the one position the Chiefs didn't address in the draft. They've already been aggressive to upgrade the defense, so why not finish it off? Collins got paid. Now he can contend.
CB Morris Claiborne, New York Jets
Among all the top remaining free agents, no one seems more likely to stick with their old team than Claiborne. Almost every team could use more CB depth, but this is a solid, if unspectacular, starter we're talking about, and future first-team jobs -- primarily in places like Arizona and New York (not the Jets!) -- were largely filled through the draft. Claiborne's played some of his better ball in green, so this is a win-win for both sides, regardless of how long the deal takes to figure out.
S Eric Berry, Cleveland Browns
You can make a case for the San Francisco 49ers here, but the Browns connections are too obvious to ignore. First, you've got John Dorsey, the man who employed Berry for years, running the show in Cleveland. Second, the Browns were after Earl Thomas earlier in the offseason and are still very clearly trying to upgrade the position. Third, they've got more than enough money to make it work. And fourth, does anyone really believe Morgan Burnett was brought in to be a true full-timer?