8 NFL players still in flux after draft

The conclusion of the NFL draft marks an end to a hectic stretch of change throughout the league. But not everyone has found resolution.

Following a number of notable trades, free agency moves and draft selections, several players still find themselves without clarity. Some figures are awaiting a contract extension or a possible trade, while others are merely seeking a suitable contract offer to join a team. In many cases, though, restrictions to the NFL offseason in light of the novel coronavirus pandemic threaten to keep that sense of uncertainty in place indefinitely. 

Here are eight key NFL players who are still in flux after the draft:

Andy Dalton

He traded in one form of purgatory — remaining on the Bengals’ roster despite the arrival of No.1 overall pick Joe Burrow — for another, namely post-draft free agency. After being released by Cincinnati on Thursday, Dalton should have a better chance at piquing interest now that he no longer carries a $17.7 million cap number. Despite the NFL’s scarcity of quarterbacks openings, the 32-year-old carries value as a backup capable of starting and a potential mentor to a younger passer. The Jaguars stand out among potential suitors given that Jay Gruden, Dalton’s former offensive coordinator in Cincinnati, is guiding Jacksonville’s attack, but the Patriots and Steelers also make sense as landing spots.

Cam Newton

When he was released in late March, the former No. 1 overall pick and 2015 NFL MVP faced an uncertain outlook given restrictions on team-issued physicals. More than a month later, not much appears to have changed for Newton. Medical clearance is paramount in the former Panthers quarterback’s pursuit of a new setting, with foot and shoulder injuries leaving questions about his status. Newton, who turns 31 later in May, will have a hard time finding a chance to compete for a starting role. Even former coach Ron Rivera, now with the Redskins, remains apprehensive about bringing Newton on, citing the potential disruption to younger options in Dwayne Haskins and Kyle Allen.

Yannick Ngakoue

From declaring he’s ready to move on from the organization to lashing out Tony Khan, the Jaguars’  vice president of football administration and owner Shad Khan’s son, Ngakoue has tried multiple routes to force his way out of Jacksonville while saddled with the franchise tag. The front office isn’t inclined to oblige him, with GM Dave Caldwell saying last week the defensive end’s options “are very limited at this point in time.” Ngakoue, 25, has stated he refuses to sign a long-term deal. Yet even with Jacksonville selecting LSU defensive end K’Lavon Chaisson in the first round last week, Caldwell remained firm that the team expects the former Pro Bowl pass rusher to be on board for 2020. Absent a significant offer to sway the Jaguars’ minds before the July 15 multi-year deal deadline, the two sides look bound to continue their game of chicken well into the summer.

Leonard Fournette

Compared with its stance on Ngakoue, Jacksonville apparently is in a markedly different position on the trade market with Fournette. The Jaguars have spent more than a month discussing deals to send away the running back, according to NFL Network, but haven’t found a suitable offer. With a guaranteed salary of more than $4.16 million on the final year of his deal, Fournette will be difficult to move even at a discounted rate, though maybe a potential fit will emerge closer to the season or once the action begins.

Jadeveon Clowney

Hard as it is to believe, the premier defensive talent in NFL free agency remains unsigned a month and a half after the market opened. Clowney, 27, clearly didn’t field a multi-year offer to his liking. With the market mostly dried up, a one-year deal that allows him to try for a bigger payday in short order might be the most sensible route. Despite defensive tackle Jarran Reed taking Clowney’s old jersey number, the Seahawks have maintained they would be open to a return and remain in touch with the three-time Pro Bowl edge rusher. The Titans and Browns also could be in the picture.

Everson Griffen

Since voiding the remaining years of his contract with the Vikings, Griffen has been in somewhat of a free agency holding pattern. The four-time Pro Bowl defensive end recorded eight sacks last season to bounce back from a turbulent 2018 campaign in which the Vikings ordered him to undergo a mental health evaluation. Once able to meet with teams to answer organizations’ questions, Griffen could find renewed interest. A reunion with Minnesota could be possible. Vikings coach Mike Zimmer initially expected Griffen back before talks broke down, and the pass rusher told NFL Network to “never say never” on the chances for a return. He also could be attractive option for the Seahawks and Pete Carroll, who coached Griffen at USC.

Dak Prescott

Cowboys vice president Stephen Jones told ESPN’s Scott Van Pelt on Wednesday that he believes Prescott will be signed “at the right number that’s good for Dak, good for the Cowboys, good for this team.” A rate that would be satisfactory to all parties, however, did not materialize in talks that preceded Dallas’ implementation of the franchise tag on its star quarterback. Though the Cowboys have been unwavering in their remarks about the organization’s devotion to Prescott, the true mark of their commitment will be how the team approaches hammering out a long-term contract before the July 15 cutoff. Having the star signal-caller remain on the franchise tag would complicate the future for both the long and short term, as the quarterback will play a key role for a franchise that looks to be all-in on ramping up its top-ranked offense in Mike McCarthy’s first year as coach.

Jamal Adams

Will there be a second term in New York for the man nicknamed “The President”? GM Joe Douglas said he wants Adams to be a “Jet for life,” but the safety is skipping the voluntary offseason program while awaiting an extension. Given Adams’ public criticism of the team last fall amid trade speculation, the relationship could go into a tailspin again if both sides can’t come to an agreement.