Published On: Sun, Mar 11th, 2018

10 players who could be headed home in free agency

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Hometown discounts don’t really seem to exist in the NFL anymore, but that doesn’t mean no one wants to play at home.

With March 12 marking the first day in which pending free agents can speak with teams, and signings coming as soon as two days later, some of the best available players could be headed close to home to play for the team they may have grown up cheering for.

Andrew Norwell, guard

Team: Cincinnati Bengals | Hometown: Cincinnati, Ohio

The 26-year-old is the best offensive lineman on the free-agent market, with deep ties to his native state. Coming out of high school as a top prospect at his position, Norwell went to Ohio State before being signed as an undrafted free agent in 2014. The Bengals are loaded with about $40 million in cap space and have needs all across their offensive line, though they’ve often been quite stingy in free agency.

Paul Richardson and Marqise Lee, receivers

Team: Los Angeles Rams | Hometown: Los Angeles & Inglewood, California

Sammy Watkins looks to be out of the Rams offense after one year, leaving room to potentially acquire another Los Angeles native to catch passes alongside Robert Woods.

Richardson and Lee both present interesting options for Sean McVay after each having breakout seasons in 2017. Richardson’s threat as a deep receiver may be more of a fit to replace Watkins, but Lee had great success in college at USC playing with Woods, and he may want to be back in Hollywood. With over $36 million in cap space, the Rams might just sign both.

Dontari Poe, defensive tackle

Team: Tennessee Titans | Hometown: Memphis, Tennessee

Poe spurned the Titans last offseason, choosing to sign a one-year deal with the Falcons who were fresh off their Super Bowl loss. The 27-year-old didn’t wow his new team enough to earn an extension during the season and looks to be headed back to the market. Unlike last offseason, the Titans have a buzz surrounding their team thanks to a new coaching staff, which includes renowned defensive coordinator Dean Pees. Playing beside Pro Bowl tackle Jurrell Casey in Pees’ system could lure the Memphis native back to his home state.

Nate Solder, offensive tackle

Team: Denver Broncos | Hometown: Buena Vista, Colorado

Possibly just by default, Solder looks to be the top free-agent offensive tackle on the market. The 29-year-old was born in Denver, grew up in Buena Vista, and played his college ball at the University of Colorado. The Broncos haven’t been shy about adding former New England Patriots to their team as they look to get back in contention for the top spot in the AFC. With Garrett Bolles locked in at left tackle, Solder could be a formidable right tackle in Denver.

Trumaine Johnson, cornerback

Team: San Francisco 49ers or Oakland Raiders | Hometown: Stockton, California

Johnson’s hometown of Stockton is almost equal distances from both Oakland Coliseum and Levi’s Stadium, so he’s got options. The 28-year-old has made over $30 million over the last two seasons thanks to the franchise tag, and he is almost certainly done with the Rams with the arrivals of Aqib Talib and Marcus Peters. Johnson will be one of the top-paid free agents, making the 49ers and their $70 million in cap room a more likely destination than the Raiders, who are moving soon. Don’t expect Richard Sherman’s arrival in San Francisco to deter Johnson or the 49ers of pursuing a homecoming.

Tyler Eifert, tight end

Team: Indianapolis Colts | Hometown: Fort Wayne, Indiana

Eifert has been defined by his injuries the past few seasons, so going to a club that doesn’t need him to play every snap is probably for the best. And the last time the Colts were a playoff team, they had two tight ends catch a team-leading eight touchdowns. The 27-year-old, who played in Indiana all the way through college, could be the second member of a dynamic duo with the ever-reliable Jack Doyle and should be a cheap signing wherever he goes.

Morgan Burnett, safety

Team: Atlanta Falcons | Hometown: College Park, Georgia

The Packers look to be saving money at safety for Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, whose contract ends after 2018, so letting go of Burnett after eight seasons would, therefore, make sense. The 29-year-old was born in Tennessee, but was raised in the shadow of Atlanta and went to college at Georgia Tech. The Falcons don’t have dire needs at any particular position, but they have a talented young safety in Keanu Neal who could use a veteran partner to lean on.

Austin Seferian-Jenkins, tight end

Team: Seattle Seahawks | Hometown: Fox Island, Washington

Seferian-Jenkins’ recovery from alcohol addiction was one of the most inspiring stories of the 2017 season, and as he tries to rewrite his own legacy, the Seahawks are reshaping their identity. The 25-year-old put up career highs in yards (357) and catches (50) last season with the Jets, hinting that he could fill in for Jimmy Graham’s production (57 catches, 520 yards, 10 TDs in 2017) if he got to play with a talent like Russell Wilson.

Teddy Bridgewater, quarterback

Team: Miami Dolphins | Hometown: Miami, Florida

Who signs Bridgewater and for how much are two of the more prominent questions surrounding free-agent quarterbacks. His hometown Dolphins have reportedly shown interest in the 25-year-old, who has not completed a pass since 2015. Bringing in one quarterback with a knee issue to compete with another quarterback with a knee issue seems an odd move, but that’s never stopped the Dolphins in the past.

(Photos courtesy: Getty Images)

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