With NFL free agency just days away, Pro Football Network turned a longtime NFL evaluator to get his thoughts on the open market. The NFC scout, who was granted anonymity to speak freely, addressed a handful of players — including Zach Ertz and Derek Barnett — who could cash in during free agency.
Latest on the upcoming NFL free agency period
Here’s what one NFC scout had to say about what could happen when the NFL’s free agent market opens next week.
Zach Ertz is still a top-tier starting tight end
Arizona Cardinals tight end Zach Ertz is expected to hit the open market for the first time in his career on March 17. The veteran, who owns the NFL single-season record for catches by a tight end, is coming off a rebound season that was split by an October trade from the Philadelphia Eagles.
While Ertz’s production last season — 74 catches for 763 yards and 5 touchdowns — gave his value a boost heading into free agency, his buzz isn’t what it used to be when he was leading the Eagles in receptions and receiving yards on an annual basis.
Still, the scout believes Ertz should be an appealing option for teams looking to upgrade their tight end position this offseason.
“Ertz still has the ability to start and produce for a team as the pass-catching tight end,” the scout said. “He’s savvy, with [consistent] hands and just has a great feel for the game but definitely declining.”
Jaguars shouldn’t have tagged Cam Robinson again
The Jacksonville Jaguars decided to franchise tag left tackle Cam Robinson for a second consecutive offseason this week. Robinson, a 2017 second-round pick, has been the Jaguars’ starting left tackle for the past five seasons.
Still, Robinson isn’t near the top of most pundits’ notable free agent lists. The NFC scout thinks the Jaguars made the wrong move by placing the tag — worth $16.6 million — on the lineman.
“I was very surprised he got the tag,” the scout told PFN. “He didn’t take a step forward in his play this year — he arguably regressed and was a disappointment. He has everything in terms of measurables and traits, just hasn’t put it together.”
Eagles DE Derek Barnett’s days as a starter could be numbered
Eagles defensive end Derek Barnett is one of the few former first-round picks set to hit the open market this offseason. Barnett, who played on his fifth-year option last year, is coming off a 2-sack season.
While he might not profile as a true starting pass rusher, he could make some decent money as a rotational EDGE this offseason.
“Barnett is a solid rotational player,” the scout said. “He just doesn’t have the juice or high-end traits to be a starter and isn’t dynamic with any of his other skills. But he plays hard and gets enough production and disruption.”
49ers DE Jordan Willis could be a dark horse in free agency
Along with Barnett, there are several other rotational pass rushers set to hit the open market. San Francisco 49ers lineman Jordan Willis, 26, is among the young edge rushers who could get a surprisingly strong deal in the second wave of free agency.
Willis collected 15 tackles and 3 sacks this past season. Still in his mid-20s, Willis could have some untapped potential that a defensive coordinator might want to explore.
“Willis has been decent for [the 49ers] and still has some upside it seems,” the scout said. “He has gotten better each year and came on strong at the end of the year.”