2020 NFL free agency: Cowboys head teams with most at stake

The madness of March officially gets underway in a couple of weeks.

The NCAA tournament? No, I’m talkin’ NFL free agency.

And given the star-studded list of players on the verge of hitting the open market – including, by the way, the greatest player in league history – this March could be the wildest and most intense of them all.

So, which teams have the most at stake this offseason? Allow me to answer, Schein Nine style:

NOTE: All salary cap figures featured below were pulled from Over The Cap on Tuesday, March 3.

1) Dallas Cowboys

Cap space: $77.3 million

I’ve spent months explaining – across all media platforms – why the Cowboys simply need to lock up Dak Prescott on a long-term deal. The former fourth-round pick has earned a major payday. New head coach Mike McCarthy will make him truly great, consistently great. You can definitely win a Super Bowl with No. 4 under center. Just get it done, Joneses. After all, Dak isn’t the only high-profile pending free agent on this roster. And if you want to keep the rest of the house in order around Prescott, then you cannot franchise the quarterback.

The 'Boys must sign Dak to a multi-year contract so they can have the franchise tag available for Byron Jones or Amari Cooper. Personally, I would prioritize Jones over Cooper. Jones is a great player and teammate, and I think it’s harder to find studs at corner than receiver in today’s NFL. (Not to mention, this year’s draft is absolutely loaded with quality wideouts.) Both guys will have a ton of suitors if they reach the open market. Cowboys fans: Could you imagine losing your top corner or No. 1 receiver to rival Philly? It’s quite possible if they’re allowed to walk.

It’s all about making deep playoff runs. And for that to occur, you need to find a way to keep the better players, like Jones and Cooper, while giving Dak his due.

2) New England Patriots

Cap space: $41.7 million

Obviously, this is all about Tom Brady and his decision. And understand: The decision is indeed his . There is no doubt in my mind that the Patriots want Brady back. Never get it twisted: Brady might not be playing at the GOAT level anymore, but he is still great. The Patriots’ 2019 issues were more about the lack of talent around Brady. You don’t win more games with Andy Dalton or Marcus Mariota running the offense. You don’t win a division without Tom Brady.

So, what’s the outlook from Brady’s perspective? Well, there are a few places that can offer a better chance to win – like Tennessee, for example. And Brady has connections to head coach Mike Vrabel and general manager Jon Robinson. Thus, he wouldn’t have to guess how the football team would be run. So that could be enticing for a 42-year-old hitting free agency for the first time.

The Patriots, for their part, need to let Brady know that they have a detailed plan to make the offensive roster better. That is, if Tom Brady isn’t already going, going …

3) Chicago Bears

Cap space: $16.6 million

Last season was a waste. The Raiders own Chicago’s first- and third-round picks in April’s draft, thanks to the Khalil Mack trade back in 2018. When you make a deal of that magnitude, missing the playoffs is beyond unacceptable. And whether they want to admit it or not, the Bears have to start over at the game’s most important position.

Yes, Chicago needs a quarterback. Mitch Trubisky – who, I’m not sure if you heard, was drafted before Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson – is an absolute bust. Sure, the Bears need help along the offensive line and at tight end, too. But make Andy Dalton the priority. If it takes a trade, make it. Dalton played well in Cincinnati for Bill Lazor – the same Bill Lazor who just became Chicago’s offensive coordinator.

Sixth-year GM Ryan Pace is responsible for Mitch – and that’s not his only first-round miss. While Pace continues to string everyone along, talking up Trubisky as the team’s starter in 2020, the writing is on the wall: It’s time for a change. NOW. The urgency is at a fevered pitch.

4) Jacksonville Jaguars

Cap space: $21.4 million

Just one season into Nick Foles’ four-year, $88 million deal, could the former Super Bowl MVP be on the trading block? He should be. Regardless of what Doug Marrone and David Caldwell said last week at the NFL Scouting Combine about having “two quarterbacks we really feel good about,” Gardner Minshew should be under center. As a rookie, he outplayed Foles. And having a starting quarterback on a rookie contract – a sixth-round rookie contract, to boot – is one of the bigger competitive advantages in the league today.

One year ago at this time, the Jags were an en vogue playoff pick. Now, there’s an identity crisis. Jalen Ramsey is long gone. Tom Coughlin, too. Marrone and Caldwell are back, but hardly entrenched. Jacksonville will reportedly slap the franchise tag on Yannick Ngakoue. This is the right move, as the 24-year-old’s a stud pass rusher who’s just entering his prime. But Ngakoue took to Twitter on Monday and provided this dispatch:

The Jaguars are aware I no longer have interest in signing a long term contract in Jacksonville. Duval, I love you and gave you guys everything I got. I’m thankful for the journey and look forward to continuing my career elsewhere. -91

— Yannick Ngakoue (@YannickNgakoue) March 2, 2020

Well, that doesn’t seem ideal.

This is an absolutely crucial offseason for a franchise with question marks all over the place.

5) Indianapolis Colts

Cap space: $86.2 million

General manager Chris Ballard is a stellar team-builder. And at this time last year, Colts fans were understandably thinking about a Super Bowl run. But Andrew Luck’s abrupt retirement changed everything.

Let’s be honest: Jacoby Brissett isn’t the guy. I believe Philip Rivers is. And Indy certainly has the cash to land the 38-year-old signal-caller. Still, last month, Rivers told the Los Angeles Times’ Sam Farmer that he wants to play for two more years max . So, if the Colts nab Rivers for the present, they also need to start thinking about the plan for the future. Ballard has made magic in retooling the Colts, but finding Indy’s next two quarterbacks will be his biggest challenge yet. And it’s only everything for a roster that otherwise could be ready to make a serious run at the Lombardi Trophy.

6) Philadelphia Eagles

Cap space: $41.9 million

Philadelphia is still Eagles country, despite the 76ers’ headline-grabbing roller-coaster season. There’s always pressure on Philly’s No. 1 team. So, how do the Eagles get back in serious contention? Howie Roseman is a gem of a general manager, but suddenly, there are holes across the roster. The need areas include – but aren’t limited to – secondary, pass rush and receiver.

Still, the Eagles are a win-now team. Even though they were absolutely decimated by injuries last season, they still made the playoffs. History says Roseman will be active and pull a rabbit out of the free agency hat. A.J. Green? Amari Cooper? Jadeveon Clowney? Byron Jones? Two of them?? The Eagles are a good team, but Roseman and the Philly fan base demand greatness .

7) Green Bay Packers

Cap space: $20.5 million

At age 36, Aaron Rodgers is still playing at a high enough level to win a Super Bowl, but he needs help. That begins with the receiving corps. Beyond Davante Adams (and maybe Allen Lazard), there aren’t many reliable options to target in the passing game, tight end included. Could TE Austin Hooper, fresh off his second straight Pro Bowl campaign, be the target in free agency? Amari Cooper? A trade for receiver help? And Rodgers needs more than a few new pass catchers, too. What about pending free agent Bryan Bulaga – and the offensive line as a whole?

Third-year GM Brian Gutekunst is proactive, unlike his predecessor, Ted Thompson. But the Packers aren’t exactly flush with cap space, so they’ll have to proceed wisely.

8) Detroit Lions

Cap space: $47.7 million

I don’t think it’s hyperbole to say Bob Quinn is general managing for his job in 2020. In fact, that’s basically what ownership intimated in January. Quinn’s big decisions haven’t panned out, starting with Matt Patricia’s lackluster results in two years as Lions head coach. Detroit, possessing a roster dotted with soft spots, needs to get better this offseason via every component of roster building: free agency, draft and the trade market.

Now, one big thing the Lions have working in their favor: You can argue that they control the draft with the No. 3 overall pick. If Chase Young is still there, it’s an absolute steal and Quinn gets the best player in the draft. I am certainly of the belief that Tua Tagovailoa should be in consideration. And if Tua continues to get positive news on the recovery front, a number of teams will be interested in trading into Detroit’s draft slot. Given how much this roster needs – and it’s a lot – trading down and stockpiling picks would be a pretty delicious option. Oh, and keeping Matthew Stafford happy among trade rumors is kind of paramount.

Whichever path Quinn takes this offseason, it better be the right one. Or else …

9) Tennessee Titans

Cap space: $50.4 million

The Titans made the AFC title game last season – and they could do it again if they run it back. No, I don’t think the 2019 campaign was a fluke for Mike Vrabel’s team. That said, I believe the chase for Tom Brady is special, unique and worth going ALL IN on. And I think it is very much in play, as I explored in the Patriots section above.

But at the same time, Tennessee has three top offensive players set to hit free agency: QB Ryan Tannehill, RB Derrick Henry and RT Jack Conklin. Now, as I alluded to above, I’d chase Brady first and foremost. You have to. But can the Titans do that while keeping Tannehill in the mix as a fallback option should Brady sign elsewhere? Easier said than done. Henry should be a lock to bring back. He’s the engine of this offense. And Conklin is a really good player who clears the path for Henry in Tennessee’s power run game.

Jon Robinson has his work cut out for him over the next few months. But if he nails it, 2020 could be quite a football season in Nashville.

Follow Adam Schein on Twitter @AdamSchein.

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Good find OKI, however I don’t agree with Lions considering taking Tua at 3. I don’t even think he is apart of their plans. If BQ takes Tua, IMO I believe he knows his job is lost. (probably before the end of the season is over, if the Lions have a sub par season)

If Young is there, and they cannot get a TD, they take him. I really believe their sites are set on TD and hoping for Okudah, (who I hope they take) and another difference maker in round 1. BQ and MP both have been on record saying this in different ways. They know they have to make a splash this season, or it’s lights out.

But I also believe, if they bolster the DL in FA, they will take what they can (within reason) for a trade down with Young available. If no Dline help worth speaking about is not done, they probably take CY.

I get what he is saying about the Cboys, but they will resign Dak and get more to resign. Probably will take on Dez again if they can’t get A. Coopers agent to be reasonable on his contract.

Nice find and about the Lions. All what had to be said since day one is, “We are exploring all options”. And stick with it with every topic that gets brought up, media wise. BQ is almost as embarrassing as watching Radar O’Reilly play poker.

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I dunno, on the other hand, if Bob Quinn takes Tua at 3, perhaps that actually buys him another year or 2, as it would start looking almost like a true rebuild. Something I have been wanting since 2009, that has never happened.

If he is allowed to draft his next franchise QB, no doubt in my mind Martha gives him a longer leash. Not that I think he deserves another single day on the job.

Interesting. 2009 began a rebuild, yet because it was with Stafford, you didn’t see it? This team has already been rebuilt multiple times (poorly), yet because, what, Stafford, Slay, Martin, Prater and Muhl are here it’s not a rebuild?

You’re basically saying you haven’t liked Stafford since day 1 and are blinded to the parade of players they’ve brought in over the years.


No. It wasn’t a true rebuild, because even though they finished 0-16, they never really bottomed out.

What I’m saying, is teams that actually embrace a rebuild, trade off assets, accumulate draft picks and inevitably end up near the bottom of the league and therefore draft very high.

In 2009, the Lions just flat out sucked because of incompetence. They never intended to suck or it wasn’t a product of trading away all of their talent in exchange for a ton of picks.

Here’s how you know it was NOT a rebuild. We went 0-16 and drafted Stafford. Cool. The following 2 years we had a total of 11 draft picks!!! Only 6 total picks in 2010 and a inexcusable FIVE TOTAL picks in 2011. That is in no way, shape or form a rebuild. Not in any sense of the term.

But thanks for making it about Stafford again. Nothing to do with what I was saying. My point was, if Quinn drafted Tua, then I would assume he would be fielding calls regarding trading Stafford, whether that happens immediately after the draft or some time mid season. Trading Slay for picks would also signal a fire sale and a rebuild. I’m not opposed to it at this point.

Yo, they were 0-16. The asset they had was Roy Williams, who landed them a 1st and a 3rd. 0-16 does not scream “assets”.

Fast forward to 2018. New defense, let’s dump some assets. We did. Guess where they are now… XFL or unemployed altogether.

Good grief. Like Quinn, there are some bad GMs out there but even they aren’t giving up picks for what the Lions had.


You’re missing the point. 0-16 should be the result of trading off assets and starting over with a new QB. Instead, we went 0-16 because our GM was a moron.

For instance, we won 3 games last year. If we drafted Tua this year, then traded Stafford and Slay for say a 1st, two seconds and a 3rd, that would signal “rebuild”. That is not what happened in 2008-09. We lost because we had no talent. We drafted a QB and then spent the next 2 years with the least amount of draft picks in the league!!! How the hell do you rebuild when the best teams in the league have significantly more draft capitol than you do??? Hint, that was no where near a rebuild.

Now we are a decade removed from 0-16 and are coming off a 3 win season. We spend 90 million dollars on a DE who is allergic to hitting QBs, we blew a ton of money on a TE who is useless. We severely overspent on a niche nickel CB. How does any of this indicate rebuild? Not for 1 minute did we ever attempt a true rebuild. We have constantly chase the wild card dream, which happens every 4 or 5 years. A recipe for disaster. Not for a minute has this thing been attempted to be build to last. It’s a terrible philosophy.

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How do you rebuild a team? Draft only?
How do you trade for picks when your team assets produced a winless season? Getting a 1st and 3rd for Williams was magnificent and helped begin the 2009 rebuild. But Mayhew showed his real value in Free Agency. Year 3 they were in the playoffs with a rebuilt team.

Quinn has rebuilt Mayhew’s team. It went from 9 wins to 3. He has traded Mayhew’s assets in Tate and Diggs. It’s a new roster save 5 people. It’s rebuilt.

If the definition of a rebuild is trading assets, then they’ve both done it. If the definition is trading assets and achieving 100% turnover in 1 year, then I don’t know if anyone has ever done it.

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Nope. You’re way off on your assessment. Changing over the roster does not equal a rebuild. We never stockpiled draft picks. We were one of the oldest teams in the league.

Look, Cleveland did a true rebuild. They drafted like 35 players over a 3 year span. They drafted their rookie QB. They had the youngest team in the NFL. They had a TON of young cheap talent. Then they added some higher end free agents. Has it worked out? No, not really, but what they attempted, was actually a true rebuild. Not remotely similar in any way to what we have done here. We continually go all in to attempt to chase a wild card road game beat down.

Rebuilding is not taking a 6 win team and adding a 90 million dollar overrated DE, overspending for a useless TE or a decent CB. Rebuilding would be trading Slay LAST YEAR, NOT extending Snacks, trading Stafford LAST YEAR.

A true rebuild is stripping it down to it’s frame. Young, cheap talent. Older cheap veterans. Load up on picks. Maximize your draft capitol.

Even the Giants have attempted more of a rebuild than the Lions have. They: moved on from Eli, drafted their new young rookie QB, traded Snacks, moved OBJ for an additional 1st and 3rd round pick. They are already much, much further along in the process than the Lions. Ask yourself, would you rather have their draft picks for the next couple years to go along with Daniel Jones and perhaps the most dynamic RB int he NFL with Barkley? Or are you cool with our standard amount of picks and continuing to roll along with Stafford and KJ?

OK. I’m out.

Only if its rebuilt in my vision ;)……

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That’s fine. I don’t see why you don’t get that the way you change the roster is what really matters. Teams are constantly overhauling their rosters. Just because you change from Ziggy to Flowers or from Ebron to Jesse James, doesn’t make it a rebuild. It’s change, nothing more, nothing less.

The Detroit Tigers are rebuilding. They keep drafting high, they have no intention on winning many games. They trade away older commodities for younger prospects. They are cutting payroll. Several years into the rebuild.

The Red Wings are rebuilding. Same scenario as the Tigers. They are still trading off any assets for cheap, young talent. They are hoping to eventually build a nice young core for cheap and then be ready to spend, just like the Tigers.

The Pistons are ALSO starting to rebuild. Just traded Drummond, bought out Reggie and have added some young cheap talent. Once they get Blake off the books, they will be ready to spend. They are likely to draft in the top 3 this year, probably again next year, and then have a SHIT TON of cap space in the summer of 2021. That is also a rebuild.

What the Lions are doing is called purgatory. They have no plan. They have very little young cheap talent. They have a lot of highly paid “decent” veterans. They have not stockpiled draft picks. They don’t have an extreme amount of cap space compared to their competitors. They have no leaders, no face to the team, no direction. Sorry you can’t see that, but it’s clear as day to any sports fans that aren’t simply drinking the kool-aid.

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Wow. That’s some conclusion you’ve reached there. Impressive, but not in a good way.

The problem is the phrase ‘rebuild’ as there are many ways to do so. BTP is talking specifically of ‘bottoming out’, which is one way to do it, but there are others. The Ravens rebuilt without stockpiling picks, etc…, so did the Saints from all their years of going 7-9, 8-8 in the early part of the decade. The Seahawks rebuilt on the fly without ever missing the playoffs and with very low draft capital. There’s a bunch of ways to do it.

But no, we never truly bottomed out, and maybe we should have.

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Correct, and when you have the enigma of our history dragging along with us like a dirty diaper, bottoming out and going that route seems the most logical, because as we have seen, free agents tend to fleece us for a premium. We aren’t a destination city. We don’t have the history like the Steelers, Cowboys, 9ers to lure real talented free agents without severely overpaying them.

Hopefully, Chase Young is that first real piece to the new look Lions, but I think we need to load up on picks for the next 2-3 years and see if that concept works, since we have never tried that route.

Lions could have, and should have, traded down last season instead of taking Hockenson at No. 8 overall. That was simply a case of the GM and/or coaches falling in love with a player, rather than considering the TE position has historically not warranted a top 10 pick.

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One of so many mistakes by our incompetent GM. I know it’s not popular, but one of his first moves was to make Stafford the highest paid player in NFL history. He could have easily pulled the trigger on a rebuild at that time and we perhaps could be staring at a competitive football team here.

Now he is chasing his tail. Constantly trying to buy the next wild card team, while building no depth or identity. We now have more holes than the day he arrived

They have been rebuilding ever since I became a fan…

Quite frankly, I’m fine with trading down to No. 5 even if the Lions only get Nos. 39 and 70 overall. Why?

Because in looking at the players who will likely be available in the top 75, the Lions could come away with 1 star and 4 quality starters.

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