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Hawks in the NFL: Looking Ahead to 2019 on Defense

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What does the immediate future hold for these Hawkeyes in the NFL?

NFL: New England Patriots at Buffalo Bills Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

The NFL offseason is in full swing with the combine underway, free agency just around the corner, and the 2019 Draft less than two months away. Let’s take a look at Hawkeyes around the league and what their futures might hold, starting with the defensive side of the ball.

Micah Hyde, Buffalo

Signed through 2021 and one of few bright spots in last year’s 6-10 season, Hyde figures to stick around in Buffalo for at least two more seasons. A $6 million cap hit for a player who is likely among the league’s top 10 safeties — if not better — is excellent value for the Bills.

Christian Kirksey, Cleveland

Kirksey should remain with the Browns for the 2019 season barring a trade. He’s signed for three more, but the cap hit for letting him go drops from $10.6 million this season to $2.4 before 2020.

Carl Davis, Cleveland

Davis is an unrestricted free agent and will almost certainly find himself elsewhere after playing shy of 3% of the defensive snaps for the Browns in 2018.

Josey Jewell, Denver

Jewell had a solid rookie year, but will get an even greater opportunity to prove himself in 2019. The Broncos told starting inside linebacker Brandon Marshall last month that they wouldn’t pick up his option for 2019, likely making Jewell a starter this upcoming season.

Mike Daniels, Green Bay

Daniels will look to bounce back from an injury-plagued 2018 as he enters the final year of his second contract with the Packers. NFL.com recently named Daniels the No. 1 most impactful compensatory draft pick of the last decade.

“One of the league’s best interior linemen absolutely deserves top billing on this list,” Jeremy Bergman wrote. “Not only did Daniels earn a $41 million extension in 2015, he lived up to the investment. The Packers defensive tackle made his only Pro Bowl in 2017 and has been a consistent run-stuffer on Green Bay’s defensive line since joining the club in 2012. Playing in the same league as Aaron Donald and the same division at one time as Ndamukong Suh, Daniels rarely gets the credit that those interior linemen do, but he has done what no other compensatory pick on this arbitrary ranking has: Performed at an above-average or elite level for the same team over an extended period of time. It’s a low bar, but he cleared it.”

Josh Jackson, Green Bay

Jackson’s 2018 was uneven, but there were bright spots for the 45th overall pick. He had 49 tackles, 10 passes defensed, and the the Packers’ lone special teams score of the season. 2019 will go a long way toward determining whether Jackson’s long-term future is in Green Bay or elsewhere.

Anthony Hitchens, Kansas City

Hitchens won’t be going anywhere for a while after the Chiefs made a splash signing last offseason by inking him to a five-year, $45 million deal.

Ben Niemann, Kansas City

Niemann’s future with the Chiefs is far from guaranteed, and such is often early-career life for undrafted free agents. However, he flashed enough promise as a rookie in 2018 that figures to factor in Kansas City’s immediate plans.

Desmond King, Los Angeles Chargers

King isn’t scheduled to be a free agent until 2021. He already seemed to be on the early track for a big future payday, but his emergence as a kick returner in 2018 means he could command even more value on the open market in a couple of years.

Jaleel Johnson, Minnesota

Johnson has two more years left on his rookie deal. Star defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson will likely be gone as a free agent that the Vikings can’t afford, but the Star Tribune’s Adam Krammer isn’t convinced that spells a full-time starting spot for Johnson quite yet.

Adrian Clayborn, New England

Clayborn has one more year remaining on his deal with the Super Bowl champions, but the odds may be 50-50 whether he sees it out. The Patriots could save $4 million by cutting him loose. Forbes’ Oliver Thomas made a compelling case for keeping Clayborn, however, pointing out that he hurried opposing quarterbacks 28 times in 2018.

Greg Mabin, San Francisco

Mabin is an exclusive rights free agent, meaning the 49ers must offer him a contract by the league’s March 13 deadline, or he will become an unrestricted free agent. While he was a solid spot contributor for San Francisco, we will likely see him head elsewhere.