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2021 NFL Free Agency Predictions

1. WR Kenny Golladay (27)

The top WR on the market finally hits free agency and is ready to cash in. Golladay endured an injury riddled 2020 season, producing 338 yards & 2 Touchdowns in only 5 games played. However, in the 2 seasons prior he averaged a healthy 1126 yards, 67 catches, & 8 TDs. Teams will be betting on him returning to form in 2021 and beyond. He is likely to command a contract nearing 100 million dollars in total ($20 mil APY)

Enter the Jacksonville Jaguars. Setting the pace in terms of available cap space in the NFL, the Jags currently sit at 73 million dollars in spending money. Urban Meyer and company are also flush with draft picks (5 picks in the top 65 picks), so they figure to be very active. Why not spend some money on a big play WR for the presumed #1 Draft pick — and franchise cornerstone — Trevor Lawrence?

PREDICTION – Jacksonville Jaguars: 4 years, $85 million (60 guaranteed)

2. EDGE Shaquil Barrett (28)

I’ll keep this one pretty short. The Buccaneers are the best at manipulating the cap to make contracts fit. Even after bringing back WR Chris Godwin (franchise tag) and long time LB Lavonte David (2/23 mil), the Bucs gained more financial freedom with Tom Brady restructuring his deal.

Odds are, Tampa Bay GM Jason Licht will turn his focus to locking up the best defender — not only on the free agent market — but their own team as well. It will be pricey, and take some cap space gymnastics, but I believe Shaq gets his best offer from the team that he helped propel to a Super Bowl. When your QB is in his mid-40s and named Thomas Patrick Brady.. money isn’t an issue.

PREDICTION – Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 5 years, $95 million (60 guaranteed)

3. LT Trent Williams (32)

I promise I have some top tier players moving to different locations, but I’m going chalk again here. John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan are going to do everything short of kidnapping Trent Williams in order to keep him in the Bay Area. He’s the perfect fit for the Shanahan offense, and the Shanahan offense is the perfect fit for Trent.

Health is a fair concern, as Williams hasn’t played a full season since 2013. The 9ers were aware of this when they initially traded for him, so this will not be a deal breaker. If they can get healthy this year, San Fran still has Super Bowl aspirations. It remains to be seen who will be the starting QB week 1, but bet on Trent Williams protecting whomever it is.

PREDICTION – San Francisco 49ers: 4 years, $85 million (60 guaranteed)

4. RB Aaron Jones (26)

Since taking over as the full time starter in Green Bay, Aaron Jones has been among the elite at the position. Eclipsing 1000 yards in each season, with 25 touchdowns on the ground over that 2 season span. It’s easy to watch Jones and view him as only a between the tackles runner, but he has impressed in the passing game under coach Matt LaFleur. Bringing in 3 catches per game out of the backfield adds another dimension to his game that teams will covet.

Newly hired New York Jets Offensive Coordinator Mike LaFleur (Matt’s brother) looks to bring his version of the Shanahan offense to the “City That Never Sleeps”. Aaron Jones’ familiarity with the scheme makes for a seamless transition and the Jets have more than enough money to spend. Whichever way the Jets decide to go at QB, look for them to have a great ground game to rely on.

PREDICTION – New York Jets: 4 years, $50 million (30 guaranteed)

5. TE Hunter Henry (26)

Arguably the top Tight End on the market, there will be a slew of teams lining up at Henry’s door when the free agency negotiation period kicks off March 15th.

While never producing an elite season with the Chargers, Henry possesses a lot of traits that teams look for in a TE in today’s game. Very strong hands, the ability to run routes from the slot (over 16 routes per game), and he is also a willing blocker. He consumed an impressive share of red zone targets (20%) from Rookie of the Year Justin Herbert in 2020.

AFC East rivals Patriots, Jets, and Bills are all in desperate need of a tight end. While all 3 will be heavily active, I’m going to go with a dark horse pick here. The Cincinnati Bengals need more versatility on the offense and to protect franchise QB Joe Burrow. Hunter Henry can check both of those boxes. Tyler Boyd occupies a lot of time in the slot, but with the red zone potential Henry provides, you can fit them on the field together for most snaps.

PREDICTION – Cincinnati Bengals: 4 years, $48 million (30 guaranteed)

6. EDGE Yannick Ngakoue (25)

After wearing 3 different jerseys in the last 2 seasons, Yannick will be looking for a place to plant his feet this offseason. He is an electric pass rusher that has never produced less than 8 sacks in any single season of his career.

The New York Jets have been searching endlessly for years for a consistent pass rusher. Head Coach Robert Saleh is going to make it a priority to land players that are capable of getting pressure on the QB. Yannick & his 45.5 career sacks fit the bill. The Jets get their long awaited EDGE at age 25 and Ngakoue gets a long term home.

PREDICTION – New York Jets: 4 years, $70 million (50 guaranteed)

7. OL Joe Thuney (28)

After being selected with the 78th overall pick in the 2016 draft, Thuney started every game for the Patriots. He played primarily at left guard, but has also shown the ability to play the tackle position at a high level while filling in for injured/departed players.

The Patriots would love to bring Thuney back, but now that he is hitting the open market, I suspect he will command a check that the Patriots are not willing to write. Every team could use an All-Pro lineman, but who can afford the contract?

The Bengals, Jaguars, Jets, and Chargers could all offer top dollar to the Patriots free agent. I’m going to go with the Los Angeles Chargers here. The flexibility to play on the outside, as well as inside, is a major selling point for a team that needs help everywhere on the offensive line. Expect the Chargers to add to this in the draft as well, with a deep offensive tackle class.

PREDICTION – Los Angeles Chargers: 4 years, $60 million (45 guaranteed)

8. CB William Jackson lll (28)

It was somewhat surprising to see the Bengals let WJ3 hit the market. Coming off one of the best seasons of his career, Jackson looks to be the top Cornerback available this offseason.

Profiling as a true #1, man to man CB.. there will be no shortage of suitors. The Raiders have long been thought to be the leader in the clubhouse if Jackson was made available. The need is there and the Raiders could clear the space for him. But I have something else in mind:

The Carolina Panthers have an up-and-coming defense. With young pieces such as EDGE rusher Brian Burns, DT Derrick Brown, and S Jeremy Chinn.. they could stand to use a veteran presence in the locker room. WJ3 not only provides that, but he becomes the best CB on the roster by a wide margin.

PREDICTION – Carolina Panthers: 3 years, $42 million (30 guaranteed)

9. S John Johnson lll (25)

Let’s stick in the secondary for a minute and transition from the top CB in the class, to the top Safety. An integral part of the secondary for the Los Angeles Rams, Johnson set the tone in the locker room and will be missed.

Budda Baker was 24 when the Cardinals presented him with a record-breaking contract extension (4 years, $59 million; 22 mil guaranteed) for the safety position. John Johnson ll looks to surpass that on the open market.

Few teams can afford such a high priced safety, but it wouldn’t take much for the Raiders to clear the necessary space. Gus Bradley’s defense needs a rangy safety that can cover the field. Great fit for player and for team.

PREDICTION – Las Vegas Raiders: 4 years, $60 million (30 guaranteed)

10. Center Corey Linsley (29)

After the Packers opted not to use the franchise tag, this 2020 1st Team All-Pro Center is likely to find a new home. Linsley allowed only 1 sack across 13 games this season and did not commit a single penalty.

The Baltimore Ravens seemingly have needs everywhere at this point. Pass rushing, wide receiver, and offensive line help should be at the forefront of that. With ~$20 million in cap space, the Ravens will be better off addressing most needs through the draft.

Linsley offers them an elite, proven option to plug one of those holes with.

PREDICTION – Baltimore Ravens: 3 years, $33 million (22 guaranteed)

11. EDGE Matthew Judon (29)

Speaking of the Ravens, this looks to be another key loss for them during the offseason. Approaching age 30 and likely to get a large pay day, the writing is on the wall.

Which team with money to burn, that needs a pass rushing threat, will make a move for the veteran? My guess is that Judon will take his talents to South Beach and join Brian Flores’ defense. There he will have the freedom to wreak havoc on opposing QBs while looking to add to his 34.5 career sack total.

PREDICTION – Miami Dolphins: 3 years, $45 million (30 guaranteed)

12. EDGE Leonard Floyd (28)

While most would argue that even *they* could get a few sacks on an Aaron Donald led defense, it’s hard to deny the flashes of brilliance that Floyd showed alongside the best DT in football.

After a mostly unimpressive start to his career in Chicago, the former top 10 pick started to put things together in LA. His 10.5 sacks were a new career high and also added 11 tackles for loss.

A long term deal is undoubtedly a risk, but some teams will be willing to bet on the upside. After coming over from the Rams, HC Brandon Staley is familiar with Floyd and would be able to vouch for him if he believes 2020 is repeatable. Look for the two to reunite in the same city they shared together last season.

PREDICTION – Los Angeles Chargers: 3 years, $42 million (28 guaranteed)

13. EDGE Carl Lawson (26)

My personal pick for “Sleeper of Free Agency”, this 26 year old Clemson product is only scratching the surface on what kind of player he can become.

Last season was the first of his career playing more than 50% of the snaps and he did not disappoint. Lawson posted a stat line of 5.5 sacks, 32 QB hits (2nd in the NFL), and 2 forced fumbles while playing 68% of the defensive snaps in the 2020 season. Thus, maximizing his value as he hits free agency.

The thought of a player like Carl Lawson opposite Myles Garrett should scare the hell out of the AFC North. The Browns lack a true presence to take advantage of the constant double teams, so I could very easily see Carl having a season similar to the one Leonard Floyd just had for the Rams.

PREDICTION – Cleveland Browns: 3 years, $40 million (25 guaranteed)

14. EDGE Bud Dupree (28)

Here is a prime example why players HATE the franchise tag. After producing at an elite clip in 2019 (11.5 sacks), the Steelers chose to slap the franchise tag on Bud Dupree. After a stellar start to his 2020 season (8 sacks in 11 games), he unfortunately suffered a torn ACL in a Week 12 game vs division rival Baltimore.

The timing + severity of the injury, along with the age factor, will likely see him fielding a bunch of 1 year, prove-it type offers. If he can get healthy and bounce back from injury, this will be the steal of free agency.

I like the idea of taking slightly less and going to a contender like Buffalo. The Bills need pass rushing badly and are not loaded with cap space. I see a perfect opportunity for Dupree to jumpstart his value for next offseason, all the while providing great production at a fraction of the cost.

PREDICTION – Buffalo Bills: 1 year, $10 million

15. TE Jonnu Smith (25)

Starting 53 games for the Tennessee Titans since being drafted, Jonnu’s talents were never truly utilized the way they could be. A capable blocker, the Titans used him a lot in their run heavy scheme.. never exceeding 65 targets in any year of his career.

However, many teams believe they will be able to unlock that hidden potential and see him as a key contributor through the air. Smith possesses elite athleticism for the position and catches nearly every pass thrown his way. At 25 years of age, his best days are still ahead.

The Indianapolis Colts are a team with deep pockets that I haven’t mentioned yet in the article. Chris Ballard has a philosophy and he sticks to it. Paying top dollar on a free agent is not something you’ll see him do often, if ever. While teams are busy vying for Hunter Henry, look for Ballard to sign Jonnu at a lower total salary. A perfect fit for new QB Carson Wentz.

PREDICTION – Indianapolis Colts: 3 years, $33 million (20 guaranteed)

16. WR Corey Davis (26)

The former top 5 pick failed to live up to those lofty expectations in Nashville, and will be looking for a fresh start elsewhere when free agency opens up.

He has never surpassed 1000 yards and doesn’t exactly have the most firm set of hands. Nevertheless, he is a young player with good traits and a lot of potential to get better moving forward. As with Jonnu Smith, it could be argued that the Titans offensive scheme held Davis back.

The New England Patriots are another team full of cash (~65 million dollars in available cap space) that I have yet to mention. They are usually shrewd with their moves but have shown a willingness to spend if they love a player. Josh McDaniels could get the most out of Corey Davis in Foxborough.

PREDICTION – New England Patriots: 4 years, $44 million (28 guaranteed)

17. WR JuJu Smith-Schuster (24)

Mr. Tik Tok will be dancing his way out of Pittsburgh this offseason. Putting an end to a very interesting stint with the Steelers.

A former 2nd round pick out of USC, the 4 year veteran started his career with a stat line of: 58/917/7 as a 21 year old rookie. His sophomore season is where he became a household name. Playing opposite WR Antonio Brown, JuJu WENT OFF for 111 receptions, 1426 yards, and 7 touchdowns in 2018. Following that season, Brown requested a trade from the Steelers.

The following two seasons saw JuJu take a step back, albeit with a still respectable average of: 65 catches, 690 yards, and 6 TDs.

A team where he doesn’t have to be *the guy* is the best fit. The Washington Football Team comes to mind. Terry McLaurin could use a viable running mate for the first time in his career. Whoever ends up at QB for Washington should have no shortage of weapons.

PREDICTION – Washington Football Team: 4 years, $52 million (30 guaranteed)

18. WR Will Fuller V (26)

The best ability is availability. That is why Will Fuller is going to have a tough time finding a contract that is worthy of his talent. Averaging 60 yards per game and 15 yards per reception when healthy, the talent has never been in question.

Fuller looks to be in a position where he could opt for a long term deal (at a significantly lower APY than he wants) and try to protect from future injury. Or, the Notre Dame alum could bet on himself by taking a prove it deal with a contender. Imagine a healthy Fuller on the Packers, Chiefs, or 49ers.

If he decides to go safe and a take a deal in the ballpark of 3 years, 30 million.. I like the fit for the Arizona Cardinals. However, I believe he tries to maximize his value for next offseason by signing with Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers.

PREDICTION – Green Bay Packers: 1 year, $9 million

19. EDGE Romeo Okwara (25)

Okwara has been phenomenal when given the opportunity. In 2018, he played in 14 games for the Lions and produced 7.5 sacks, 14 QB hits, & 8 tackles for loss. After falling off the map in 2019 (1 start in 14 games), he returned to a bigger piece of the pie in 2020. Collecting a career-high 10 sacks and 30 QB pressures, Okwara was arguably the best defensive player on the team in limited fashion.

The fact he’s never started more than 9 games in any given season, and has yet to prove he can produce consistently, drives down the overall number he can demand in free agency. A young, low-cost, low-risk, high-upside pass rusher has Chris Ballard’s name written all over it. At 6’4, 263 pounds, Okwara fits Matt Eberflus’ scheme.

PREDICTION – Indianapolis Colts: 3 years, $30 million (18 guaranteed)

20. DT Dalvin Tomlinson (27)

Essentially the only interior defensive lineman under 30 years old on the market. An absolute mammoth of a man, Tomlinson is great at establishing his presence on the line of scrimmage. He was a pillar of durability in the 4 years spent with the Giants, starting 64 out of a possible 64 games since being drafted.

Dalvin provides good pressure from the inside on the QB and was key to the Giants defense as a run stopper. This is the type of DT that brings double teams and opens up lanes for pass rushers on the outside.

After securing the top WR available, we will bookend the list with the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Jags need an infusion of talent on defense and locking up the 6’3, 320 pound Tomlinson is a great place to start. Josh Allen & K’Lavon Chaisson will find it much easier getting to the QB in 2021.

PREDICTION – Jacksonville Jaguars: 4 years, $54 million (36 guaranteed)


WR Curtis Samuel – New York Jets

LB Kyle Van Noy – Los Angeles Rams

LT Alejandro Villanueva – WFT

LT Riley Reiff – Indianapolis Colts

LT Russell Okung – Cincinnati Bengals

EDGE Jadaveon Clowney – Tennessee Titans

TE Gerald Everett – New England Patriots

EDGE Trey Hendrickson – New England Patriots

CB Patrick Peterson – San Francisco 49ers

CB Richard Sherman – New York Jets

WR AJ Green – Baltimore Ravens

WR TY Hilton – Arizona Cardinals

WR Sammy Watkins – Chicago Bears

CB Shaq Griffin – Jacksonville Jaguars

EDGE Melvin Ingram – Las Vegas Raiders

CB Xavier Rhodes – Denver Broncos

LB KJ Wright – Cleveland Browns

C Alex Mack – Seattle Seahawks

C Nick Martin – Kansas City Chiefs

EDGE Justin Houston – Baltimore Ravens

CB Desmond Trufant – Las Vegas Raiders

DT KaWann Short – Denver Broncos

CB Chidobe Awuzie – Indianapolis Colts

EDGE Carlos Dunlap – Atlanta Falcons

DT Jurrell Casey – Green Bay Packers

DT N’Damukong Suh – Tampa Bay Buccaneers

EDGE Everson Griffen – Kansas City Chiefs

QB Jameis Winston – New Orleans Saints

DB Desmond King – Denver Broncos

S Anthony Harris – Dallas Cowboys


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