We are a couple of months away from 2020 NFL free agency, but for everyone except the four teams playing this weekend it is speculation season. Several sites are already out with lists of the top free agents who could be available when the market opens on March 18.
Some of those lists are below. After the links, we’ll highlight some players who could be of interest to the New York Giants as they enter a new era with a new coaching staff.
A few names of interest
This will hardly be a complete list. Remember, we also don’t know yet how many of these players will actually reach free agency. Also, as we always do in the weeks leading up to free agency we will profile specific players. Still, let’s highlight a few players who should have the attention of Dave Gettleman and Joe Judge.
Yannick Ngakoue, DE, Jacksonville Jaguars — This is a young pass rusher who has 37.5 sacks in four seasons, never with less than 8.0 in a season. NFL.com ranks him No. 7 on its list, and says:
Ngakoue’s eight sacks and 50 total pressures in 2019, according to Pro Football Focus, were his lowest marks since his rookie season, which is incredible production for a down year.
PFF ranks him No. 18, writing:
At just 25 years old, he looks like a strong presence off the edge for the foreseeable future, but his questionable run defense coupled with the fact that more valuable positions are hitting the open market has us lower on him than most.
ESPN has him ranked No. 4 on its top 25 free agents list.
Byron Jones, CB, Dallas Cowboys — Do the Giants want an experienced cornerback to add to their young group after moving on from Janoris Jenkins? If so, the 27-year-old Jones might be a candidate. PFF ranks him No. 4 among free agents, ESPN No. 22 and NFL.com No. 12.
Jones has intercepted only two passes in his career, but he is highly athletic and has knocked away 43 passes. During the past two seasons, he has the fourth-best forced incompletion rate, according to Pro Football Focus (PFF).
Jones brings youth and coverage ability to the open market, making him the top defensive free agent heading into the offseason.
Jack Conklin, OT, Tennessee Titans — Conklin is a talented right tackle and a guy then-GM Jerry Reese had apparently targeted for the Giants back in 2016 before the Titans swooped in and grabbed him. If the Giants want to upgrade their tackle spots in free agency, Conklin might be the guy to go after.
PFF ranks him No. 13, ESPN No. 33 and NFL.com No. 25.
Conklin is the best right tackle on the market, and he’s coming off a regular season which he finished 12th overall among tackles in PFF grade (78.3) and fifth in run-blocking grade (81.0). Conklin has some issues in pass protection, as his pass-blocking grade ranks just 49th on true pass sets over the last two seasons, and he’s on the higher end among offensive tackles receiving help (double teams, chip blocks, etc). Still, Conklin is a versatile run blocker who finished with the No. 6 grade on zone runs and the No. 14 mark on gap runs. He’s been one of the better right tackles in the league since being drafted in the first round in 2016.
Kyle Van Noy, LB, New England Patriots — You knew there had to be at least one Patriot mentioned, didn’t you? A six-year veteran, Van Noy has played the best football of his career since being traded to the Patriots in the middle of the 2016 season, with 14.5 sacks over the past three seasons. Head coach Joe Judge and defensive coordinator Patrick Graham know him well.
PFF ranks him No. 33, and says:
After a slow start to his career in Detroit, Van Noy found a home in New England, and his versatility was an asset to the team as they made multiple Super Bowl runs. Van Noy is a true hybrid linebacker with pass-rushing skills, a coveted skillset by the Patriots and one that has him hitting free agency with many potential suitors given the recent growth of the Bill Belichick coaching tree. The 2019 season was the first year that we saw Van Noy used almost exclusively as a pass-rusher, and he picked up 60 pressures (eight sacks, nine QB hits, 43 hurries) on 464 rushes.
Leonard Williams, DL, Giants — If we’re talking about the Giants and free agency, we have to talk about Williams. Don’t we?
We know all about how divisive the idea is that the Giants gave up two draft picks for a guy who can be a free agent, and who has not produced big numbers. Still, he’s a good players ranked No. 26 among free agents by PFF, No. 49 by ESPN and No. 18 by NFL.com.
Perhaps the former No. 6 overall pick hasn’t lived up to his draft billing, but he’s an above-average starting lineman who creates a lot of disruption. Guys like that don’t come cheaply.
The Giants can’t really afford NOT to sign him. Question is, how much will it cost to get that done?