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Perfect scheme fits for top 2020 NFL free agents: Landing spots for Tom Brady, Jadeveon Clowney, more

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Which free agents could benefit from market value? (1:25)

Victor Cruz and Field Yates pick the players they think will benefit from being overvalued by the NFL free-agency market. (1:25)

We're less than two weeks away from NFL free agency, and there's still no clarity on a deep class of quarterbacks. Proven veterans Tom Brady and Philip Rivers are available. Jameis Winston, Teddy Bridgewater and Ryan Tannehill are each looking for big deals on the open market. Quarterback-needy teams will have a chance to upgrade before April's 2020 draft.

But let's not forget about the edge defenders in this free-agent group, headlined by Jadeveon Clowney, Shaquil Barrett and Dante Fowler Jr.. And don't ignore the man-coverage traits of cornerbacks Byron Jones and Chris Harris Jr. Wide receiver Robby Anderson will bring big-time speed to a team looking for a boost on offense, and Derrick Henry's power will be coveted in NFL running games (if he doesn't get franchise tagged).

So where do the top players in this class fit best? That often goes under the radar, but it's a crucial part of the free-agent evaluation process. Teams can spend tens of millions of dollars to fill needs and create roster competition, but if those players don't fit in with how the coaching staff operates, the bust potential is much higher and their production won't match the contract.

So here are the best scheme fits for 28 of the top available free agents in 2020. These are realistic fits: I'm taking available salary cap into account. Let's start with a six-time Super Bowl champion and one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time.

Jump to:
QB | RB | WR | TE | OL
EDGE | LB | DB

Tom Brady, QB

Best scheme fit: New England Patriots

We can find multiple spots for Brady. Give me the Chargers, Raiders, Dolphins and Titans as offenses that Brady would make better. But when looking at scheme, Josh McDaniels' system is still the best fit for Brady, who will be 43 by the time the season starts. Think quick game, play-action and the inside verticals.

Brady can still be surgical given the route combinations in McDaniels' playbook, at least if the Patriots upgrade the pass-catching talent around him. That means addressing the tight end position to open up the seams and crossers, with more size and speed at wide receiver to complement Julian Edelman. Those are necessary moves that need to be made in order to maximize the ability of Brady at this stage of his career.


Philip Rivers, QB

Best scheme fit: Indianapolis Colts

The Chargers' inability to protect Rivers last season contributed to the 38-year-old tossing 20 interceptions. In Indianapolis, Rivers' lack of movement traits would be cushioned by the Colts' top-tier offensive line in pass protection. And the scheme fit works here with coach Frank Reich's system: throw the crossers, work Hi-Lo combinations, utilize the tight ends and script deep-ball shots off play-action.

Plus, with the Colts in a position to target a first-round wide receiver with pick No. 13 to mesh with veteran T.Y. Hilton and second-year man Parris Campbell, Rivers would have multiple targets with catch-and-run ability. I like a two-year deal here for Rivers with the Colts, with Jacoby Brissett heading to a backup role.


Jameis Winston, QB

Best scheme fit: Pittsburgh Steelers

Winston threw for an eye-opening 5,109 yards last season with 33 touchdown passes. He can fill up the stat sheet ... in bad ways, too. With 30 interceptions also on his 2019 résumé, and the inconsistent decision-making that continues to show up with his game, how has his scouting report really changed since he entered the league out of Florida State in 2015?

Considering the number of veteran quarterbacks on the market, Winston could have to take on a No. 2 role in 2020. That's why I'm looking at Pittsburgh on a one-year deal, where Winston would settle for a backup role to Ben Roethlisberger for Mike Tomlin's team. Given Roethlisberger's injury history, it would allow the Steelers to upgrade the depth chart with a backup quarterback carrying legit starting experience. And the 26-year-old Winston could restart his career and work on his game.