About a dozen Pro Bowl players are pending free agents, including the NFL’s all-time leading passer and the league’s top rusher and top pass-rusher in 2019. They’ve been politically correct all week, insisting they want to remain with their current teams. But the reality is some of them surely will be elsewhere next season, making the Pro Bowl their final game in these helmets.
Here’s a look at the most notable ones heading into Sunday’s Pro Bowl: Shaq Barrett, linebacker, Tampa Bay: After five pedestrian seasons in Denver, Barrett signed a one-year deal with the Buccaneers and led the NFL and broke the franchise’s single-season record with 19 ½ sacks.
“I don’t know where it’s going to end up at, but I’m confident that I’m going to be where I should be, which I think is Tampa,” Barrett said. Drew Brees, quarterback, New Orleans: The NFL’s leader in passing yards (77,416) and touchdowns (547) has been noncommittal about 2020, but he did say “it’s the Saints or nothing.”
“I don’t want to rush anything,” Brees added. “I have a process I’m going to go through. I’m going to separate myself from the game, spend some time with my family and see where I’m at.” Derrick Henry, running back, Tennessee: He led the NFL in rushing yards (1,540) and rushing touchdowns (16) and played a pivotal role in the Titans’ playoff victories at New England and Baltimore. He carried 64 times for 377 yards and a touchdown in those games.
Austin Hooper, tight end, Atlanta: After a career year with the Falcons in which he caught 75 passes for 787 yards and six touchdowns, Hooper will be one of the most coveted tight ends in free agency.
"My whole attitude is that it will end up the way it's supposed to," Hooper said. "I did my part, ended up here at the Pro Bowl. If the organization wants me, they'll offer me. … As of now, I'm just enjoying what could be my last game as a Falcon down here at the Pro Bowl."
Matt Judon, linebacker, Baltimore: After notching 54 tackles, 9 ½ sacks and four forced fumbles, Judon will be one of the top pass-rushers on the market. "It's a process that you can't stress over," said Judon, who has 28 ½ sacks in four seasons. “I don't think there’s going to be no negatives really out of this situation. Everything's going to be a positive, and however it plays out, it will. And I think I'm going to be happy on the other side."
Andrus Peat, guard, New Orleans: He played under the fifth-year option in 2019 and was a Pro Bowl substitute for the second consecutive season. But he’s yet to play a full season, missing 15 games over five years.
Matthew Slater, special teams ace, New England: The 34-year-old Slater made his eighth Pro Bowl this season and hopes to finish his career with the Patriots. He’s spent all 12 seasons with New England.
“I've expressed publicly and privately to remain a Patriot for the entirety of my career and certainly I still feel that way,” Slater said. “We’ll see how it goes.” Ryan Tannehill, quarterback, Tennessee: Replaced Marcus Mariota in October and helped the Titans make the AFC title game. He finished with 22 touchdown passes and six interceptions in 12 regular-season games. He added five TD passes and one pick in three postseason starts. Tennessee could use the franchise and transition tags to retain Tannehill and Henry.
"I'd like to be back," Tannehill said. "I love the organization and the team, but at the same time we've got to come to an agreement.” Marshal Yanda, guard, Baltimore: He’s not a free agent, but he’s considering retirement after 13 years with the Ravens. He has one year remaining on his contract, which would pay him $7 million in 2020.
“I’m still processing and doing all that stuff,” Yanda said. “I’m enjoying the time out here with my family and we’ll see what happens.” The Pro Bowl itself also is a free agent. The NFL kept the all-star event in Orlando for a fourth year, but there has been speculation that a new host city could be on the horizon.
Las Vegas' Allegiant Stadium and Los Angeles’ SoFi Stadium open this year. Both multi-billion-dollar venues should be able to handle the Pro Bowl's week-long needs. “Vegas? Wooooooo-weeee,” Ravens safety Earl Thomas said. “It would definitely work in Vegas. That would be great. That would a great incentive.”
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