The Tennessee Titans have locked up DeAndre Hopkins, the top remaining NFL wide receiver on the free agent market, to a two-year deal. He joins a list of high-profile receivers to sign this offseason, including Odell Beckham Jr. and JuJu Smith-Schuster. This leaves many fans wondering who the best players still looking for NFL work are.
Here, we'll look at three players that NFL teams should lock down before the start of training camp, the preseason or even the regular season to help improve their rosters even further as they shoot for a Super Bowl title.
Let's check them out.
Dalvin Cook, Running Back
While Ezekiel Elliott is still on the market, he's not the same player Dalvin Cook is at this point in his career.
The Vikings moved on from Cook with Alexander Mattison, DeWayne McBride, Ty Chandler and Kene Nwangwu on the roster, leaving one lucky team out there the opportunity to sign a starting running back.
Playing in every regular season game for the first time in his career in 2022, Cook saw 264 carries for 1,173 yards, eight touchdowns, and 39 catches for 295 yards and another two scores.
He's about to turn 28, which is about when teams start to be hesitant on large running back contracts, but Cook has shown no signs of slowing down.
According to Spotrac, his value is approximately $17.5 million across two years, and that seems more than fair for a running back of his caliber who can play any down. There was talk of Cook heading to Miami before the NFL Draft, but those trade talks broke down. Still, Cook would be an excellent fit in Miami, his hometown. However, he has ample backs to contend with in Raheem Mostert, Jeff Wilson Jr., Salvon Ahmed, Myles Gaskin and the newly drafted Devon Achane.
Of course, Cook is more valuable than perhaps all of them combined. But that's a lengthy depth chart, meaning the Dolphins could be content.
In addition to the Dolphins, Cook would, ironically enough, be a solid target for the Dallas Cowboys to pair him with Tony Pollard. They just had Elliott, so they're likely not up for spending the cash, but it would be a dynamic pair. He'd also do nicely with Breece Hall and Michael Carter Jr., but the Jets are probably also content with their depth chart.
Prediction: Cook signs with the Dolphins.
Yannick Ngakoue, Edge Rusher
Yannick Ngakoue has been in the NFL since 2016 and has played for the Jacksonville Jaguars, Minnesota Vikings, Baltimore Ravens, Las Vegas Raiders and Indianapolis Colts. He's bounced around a lot despite having double-digit sacks in four of his seven seasons.
So why isn't he on a team?
Due to his sack numbers, Ngakoue is likely asking for a lot of money, perhaps around $15 million a year. But looking at the numbers more closely, it's hard to justify that kind of money. While he had 12 sacks last year, he had just 44 pressures, which ranked 41st among edge rushers last season, according to Pro Football Focus.
Also, Ngakoue is a liability in the run game; so you're really getting a guy who can get sack numbers, although he may be a bit luckier than others.
Still, getting after the quarterback is a luxury, and Ngakoue will eventually find work. As for cap space, just 11 teams even have more than $15 million available.
One team that struggled to rush the passer last year was the team he was on, the Colts. Of course, it doesn't look as if he'll be back there.
One team, though, hopes to take a step forward this year, and it also has the most cap space — the Chicago Bears. They desperately need a pass rush, and Ngakoue could be a nice one-year Band-Aid, which seems to be what his career will be until his sack production drops off.
Prediction: Ngakoue signs with the Bears.
Jadeveon Clowney, Edge Rusher
Like Ngakoue, Jadeveon Clowney has been on numerous teams throughout his career, spending time with the Houston Texans, Seattle Seahawks, Tennessee Titans and Cleveland Browns. Clowney, 30, now finds himself as a free agent yet again.
In 2022, Clowney played 494 snaps, missing time due to ankle injuries. Still, when he was on the field, he was competent. Across 305 pass rushing snaps, he had 29 pressures and three sacks. Looking at Ngakoue, he had 44 pressures across 434 pass rushing snaps and had 12 sacks.
What helps Clowney a bit more, arguably, is that he can hold up in run defense, playing about 20 snaps or so per game doing this.
The elephant in the room, though, is Clowney's injury history, and he's 30 now.
Clowney would also be a nice fit in Chicago. Still, his ability in run defense could also be something that could be coveted by the Baltimore Ravens. The Ravens have some youth in Odafe Oweh and David Ojabo, but Clowney's arguably better than Justin Madubuike.
There's still value with Clowney, but I'd be hard-pressed to suggest a team to sign him to a $10 million deal.
Prediction: Clowney signs with the Ravens.
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