US Sports Veteran
Publish Date: 01/25/2021
Fact checked by: Mike Goodpaster
Below is a list of the top 100 free agents available this spring. The 2021 NFL free agency pool features plenty of current and former Pro Bowlers. However, most of the class consists of reliable starters and rotational players with years of experience but inconsistent production. This offseason, free agency might be as chaotic and random as the NFL Draft.
The ranking system follows a few rules. Players received their spots based on recent performances and their value compared to other players at their positions. Positional bias sneaks in occasionally, but it doesn’t run rampant.
Several other notable names just missed the top 100. New York’s Wayne Gallman had some impressive performances in Saquon Barkley’s absence. Safety Damontae Kazee, who led the NFL with seven interceptions in 2018, is on the market. San Francisco’s Jordan Reed also deserves some attention for producing four touchdowns on limited snaps.
This list primarily consists of unrestricted free agents (UFAs) that any team can sign once free agency begins. However, restricted free agents (RFAs) also appear. RFAs can sign offer sheets with any organization, but the player’s team has the right to match the offer and keep their player. Teams can also place round tenders on RFAs, which means the free agent’s new team has to send a draft pick (depending on the round of the tender) to the original organization.
Exclusive rights free agents (ERFAs) do not appear in this article.
110. Josh Gordon, WR Seattle Seahawks
It’s unknown when and if Gordon will ever play in the NFL again. The 29-year-old’s ongoing issues with substance abuse make him one of the league’s greatest what-could-have-been stories. Gordon led the NFL in receiving yards in 2013, but he was a shell of his former self by the time he joined Seattle last year.
Before suffering an injury in Week 9 against Pittsburgh, Brissett had Indianapolis positioned to make the playoffs in 2019. However, the former Patriot wasn’t himself after exiting that game. Brissett has two seasons as a full-time starting quarterback under his belt, but that doesn’t mean the 28-year-old should have a starting job in 2021.
Bell never recovered from his 2018 holdout. He went from earning All-Pro selections to slugging it out with the New York Jets. Eventually, Bell’s relationship with New York deteriorated, and the Jets cut bait. Bell signed with Kansas City. He didn’t show anything in 2020 to hint that he could return to his superstar form, but someone should roll the dice on the 28-year-old.
Pouncey missed the entire 2020 season after undergoing hip surgery. The four-time Pro Bowler only played five games in 2019 as well. Injuries have always plagued the former first-round pick, but Pouncey might not fully recover this time. At 31 years old, he has a lengthy injury history that could scare off potential teams.
The only thing Gurley did well in 2020 was find the end zone. He punched in nine rushing touchdowns, bringing his career total to 67 in six seasons. Unfortunately, the former All-Pro averaged an abysmal 3.5 yards per attempt behind a struggling offensive line. At only 26 years old, Gurley’s days as a feature back are already over.
Green went from making seven Pro Bowls to start his career to barely playing a role in Cincinnati’s offense. After sitting out the entire 2019 season, Green didn’t look ready to play in 2020. He’s slower now and hasn’t adjusted to his new role as an aging possession receiver. At 32 years old, Green could play for another two or three years if he makes significant adjustments to his style.
Fournette struggled during the regular season, averaging only 3.8 yards per carry and 28.2 rushing yards per game. However, the former fourth overall pick flicked the switch in the playoffs, averaging almost 4.4 yards per carry while pounding in three total touchdowns in Tampa Bay’s first three games. Fournette isn’t a bell-cow back, but he’s a decent second option.
Alexander is an average slot corner that fills a position every team needs in the NFL. However, he’s not a high-end coverage specialist. Alexander offers decent value on a short-term, cheap deal, but that’s about it. Quarterbacks completed almost 70.0% of their passes when targeting Alexander this season.
While Taylor entered 2020 as Los Angeles’ quarterback, fans expected to see Justin Hebert at some point. The change came sooner than expected, with Taylor suffering a punctured lung at the hands of a team doctor before Week 2. The former Pro Bowler’s last season with even remotely good quarterback play was 2017. He’s slid into a career-backup role since leaving Buffalo.
The future Hall of Famer didn’t play a snap in 2020 after the Baltimore Ravens released him for conduct detrimental to the team. Thomas is only 31 years old. While he already began showing signs of regression in 2019, the former All-Pro was still an above-average safety. If Thomas can sell teams on his character and avoid being a distraction, he should get back into the NFL.
100. Ryan Kerrigan, OLB Washington Football Team
Washington’s all-time leader in sacks hadn’t missed a game in his career entering 2019. Injuries and inconsistent play limited him to 12 games, 5.5 sacks, and 25 pressures that year. Kerrigan saw his snap count decrease dramatically with Chase Young joining the team, limiting him to 5.5 sacks and 13 pressures. At 32 years old, Kerrigan is a good locker room leader and could serve as an exceptional rotational pass-rusher.
Newton’s lengthy free agency last offseason caught many fans and analysts by surprise. The former MVP finally found a home in New England, where he started 15 games. Unfortunately, the 31-year-old played poorly. Newton finished the season with 2,657 passing yards, eight passing touchdowns, ten interceptions, and 12 rushing touchdowns.
While Newton didn’t play as poorly as some analysts describe, he didn’t look like a starting quarterback either. The Patriots and Bill Belichick are the only team willing to scheme so much to Newton’s strengths. He probably won’t find a starting job in 2021 unless the Patriots re-sign him.
It’s no secret that Trubisky shouldn’t have gone second overall in 2017. He’s disappointed in the NFL, turning the ball over too often and whiffing on easy completions. Accuracy remains Trubisky’s downfall. He could get some starting time in 2021, but he’s headed for a long-term backup role.
In Chicago’s final six regular season games this year, the offense put in a lot of quick throws for Trubisky. The new plan resulted in three wins, Trubisky completing 70.14% of his attempts, and a 96.0 passer rating.
In a pass-happy league, every team needs more cornerback help. Breeland isn’t a star corner, and he might even serve as a backup on a team with excellent corner depth. However, plenty of organizations lack outside coverage. While Breeland’s up-and-down play lessens his value, the veteran should find a starting job in 2020.
Mike Hilton took most of Pittsburgh’s snaps in the slot, which prevented Sutton from seeing much playing time early in his career. This season, the 25-year-old played more than 25% of Pittsburgh’s defensive snaps for the first time. Steelers fans are high on Sutton and hope the organization brings him back on a cheap deal, especially if Hilton leaves in free agency.
Special teams are the forgotten third part of football, and Patterson excels at them. Since entering the NFL in 2013, he has received four First-Team All-Pro selections from the Associated Press (AP) for his role as a kick returner. Patterson earned Second-Team All-Pro nods in the same role in 2015 and 2018. The 29-year-old isn’t a consistent offensive weapon, but he’s capable of lining up as a wide receiver or running back on offense.
Cole still hasn’t matched his receiving yardage total from 2017, but the former undrafted free agent remains a bright light on an abysmal Jaguars team. This season, Cole finished second on the team in receptions (55), receiving yards (642), and tied for first with five receiving touchdowns.
The former fourth overall pick set a career-low with 421 receiving yards this year. Watkins only suited up for ten games during his third season with the Chiefs. The Clemson product’s consistent injuries and inconsistent play make him a tricky player to evaluate. When Watkins is on, he has games like the 198-yard, three-touchdown season opener from Week 1 of 2019. Unfortunately, he usually finishes games with only 40 to 50 yards.
White’s role began evaporating in 2020 as the Patriots adapted their offense around Newton. During the Tom Brady era, White served as a reliable outlet and go-to option out of the backfield. He peaked in 2018, registering 87 receptions for 751 yards and 94 carries for 425 yards. Plenty of offenses could use a specialized pass-catcher like White.
Poole found a home as a slot corner with New York over the past two seasons. According to Pro Football Reference, the former Florida Gator only allowed a 61.6 passer rating when targeted in 2020. That’s the best mark of Poole’s career, meaning he probably won’t match it in 2021. Still, the 28-year-old is one of the league’s best slot corners.
Feiler peaked as Pittsburgh’s starting right tackle in 2019 before the organization moved him inside to left guard. With experience playing across the offensive line, Feiler should succeed no matter where he lands. It might take a while for him to sign a contract considering the upcoming draft’s plethora of tackles. However, the former undrafted free agent has come a long way from his practice squad days.
After he started for most of 2018, Detroit demoted Okwara in 2019 for his subpar play. The former undrafted free agent came out of the gates hot in 2020, setting career-highs with three forced fumbles, 44 tackles, 11 tackles for loss, and ten sacks. If Okwara remains consistent, he’s a legitimate No. 2 pass-rusher. However, the 25-year-old hasn’t shown much consistency throughout his career.
In his six NFL seasons, Golden has two years with ten or more sacks. He destroyed opponents as a member of the Giants last season, generating 72 tackles, ten sacks, and 44 quarterback pressures. Those totals dipped to 33 tackles, 4.5 sacks, and 29 pressures this year. In the right system, Golden could regain his prime form.
This free agent class features plenty of centers. While Mike Pouncey comes with injury concerns, Reiter is a much safer investment. He’s a 29-year-old former seventh-round pick coming off his second season as a full-time starter. Between injuries, retirements, and free agency departures, Reiter should find a new starting gig in 2020.
Woods enters free agency at a very inopportune time. While the 25-year-old is still in the prime of his career, more than half a dozen safeties rank above him on the free agency market. That drives down Woods’ value at a position that is already historically undervalued. Woods is a quality starter, but it could take a while to sign a new contract.
Mack is a six-time Pro Bowler, but his last appearance came in 2018. A member of the 2010s All-Decade Team, Mack enters free agency as a recognizable name with declining value. He’s 35 years old and could retire if the right opportunity doesn’t present itself. At best, he’s a short-term answer for a blocking deficient team.
Davis made himself a lot of money filling in for Christian McCaffrey this year. The six-year veteran performed well with the Seahawks in 2018 before vanishing with Chicago the following season. Davis revived and possibly saved his career, along with a number of fantasy football seasons, by tallying 642 rushing yards, 373 receiving yards, and eight total touchdowns in 2020.
After appearing for less than 200 offensive snaps in 2019, Tonyan experienced a breakout season. He caught 52 of his 59 targets for 586 yards and 11 touchdowns. Aaron Rodgers hasn’t connected with a tight end that successfully since the Jermichael Finley days. Expect Green Bay to bring back Tonyan in 2021.
A former undrafted free agent from Utah, Patrick broke out in 2020. He topped his 2018 and 2019 stats combined by catching 51 passes for 742 yards and six touchdowns. Patrick led the Broncos in receiving touchdowns and finished second in yards. His improvement is a welcome development for a Broncos offense that can’t escape mediocrity.
Conner made the Pro Bowl in 2018, producing 1,470 yards from scrimmage and 13 touchdowns in only 13 games. Unfortunately, he’s never even come close to matching that production over the past two seasons. Injuries have always haunted Conner, and they forced him to miss three games this year. While Conner could work well in a two-man backfield, he can’t serve as the lone starter.
The 24-year-old Ohio State product tore his Achilles in Week 2, ending his career with the Colts. Hooker flashed potential during his first three seasons, intercepting seven passes in his 34 appearances. Injuries and inconsistent play led to Indianapolis declining Hooker’s fifth-year option. Under the right mentorship, Hooker could still develop into a borderline Pro Bowl safety.
Once one of the most feared cornerbacks in the NFL, Peterson has lost several steps. The 30-year-old future Hall of Famer had arguably the worst season of his career in 2020. He still played 99% of Arizona’s defensive snaps, intercepting three passes and deflecting eight more. Teams could target Peterson for his value as a No. 2 outside corner and use him as a mentor for less experienced defensive backs.
When healthy, Okung is still an above-average left tackle. The problem is, he’s never healthy. Durability was a concern for Okung dating back to his early days in Seattle. Now, he’s played in 13 games over the past two seasons. At 32 years old, he’s worth a shot for the right price on an incentive heavy deal.
Beachum lined up at right tackle for the Cardinals in 2020. The former seventh-round pick is approaching his 32nd birthday and has plenty of starting experience. With offensive line play slipping across the NFL, Beachum should sign a better contract than the one-year, $1,187,500 bargain deal he got from Arizona.
Dunbar had a terrific campaign in 2019. According to Pro Football Reference, he only allowed a 61.2 passer rating when targeted. Dunbar failed to match that production with Seattle. He only appeared in six games, recording an interception and five passes defensed. Quarterbacks torched Dunbar, posting a 111.0 passer rating when throwing his way.
Smith would win Comeback Player of the Year in a typical season, but that title belongs to another Smith in 2020. The former All-Pro linebacker went from budding All-Pro to disgraced superstar fast. After racking up 42 sacks in his first 43 games, Smith had 5.5 sacks in two years before a four-year absence.
Smith returned to the NFL this season. He started all 16 games, tallying five sacks, 20 pressures, and a defensive touchdown. Smith moved all over the place on Dallas defense, flashing surprising versatility and athleticism for a 31-year-old who missed four consecutive seasons.
Indianapolis found the perfect way to maximize Houston’s value. The Colts only played him for 65% of their defensive snaps in 2019 and 59% of the snaps this year. He played in all 32 games after not having a 16-game season since 2014. The low snap count kept Houston healthy while still allowing him to terrorize quarterbacks. The former All-Pro has 19 sacks and 52 quarterback hits since arriving in Indianapolis.
Awuzie is consistently average. That’s not an insult considering that consistently average makes him a starting outside corner on the verge of signing a multi-year million-dollar contract. Awuzie isn’t going to develop into a star over the next few years, but he’s a good enough player to land a three or four-year deal.
Few players did more to raise their market values in 2020 than Agholor. The former 20th overall pick from 2015, Agholor bombed out of Philadelphia before making a splash in Las Vegas. The 27-year-old set a career-high with 896 receiving yards and averaged 18.7 yards per reception. Agholor is extremely inconsistent, but he might have found a permanent path to success.
Hopes were high for Verrett when he made the Pro Bowl in his second NFL season. That was half a decade ago. Since the end of that season, Verrett has only appeared in 19 games. He finally strung together 13 healthy starts with above-average play for San Francisco this season, but injuries remain an unforgettable part of his legacy.
Fighting for his career, Darby played all 16 games for Washington in 2020. Despite not intercepting a pass, the 27-year-old defensive back made his presence felt. Darby only allowed an 81.0 passer rating when targeted (per Pro Football Reference), and quarterbacks only completed 54.1% of their throws that went his way. Injuries remain a red flag for Darby’s potential suitors.
Brown does his best work in coverage, which makes him well-suited for facing modern offenses. However, he’s a liability in the running game. A former fifth-round selection, Brown proved himself worthy of a future starting job over the past two seasons. The Titans can’t afford to lose many pieces of their already weak defense.
An under the radar free agent prospect, Hyder led the 49ers with 8.5 sacks in 2020. The former undrafted free agent also tallied 49 tackles and 31 quarterback pressures. Coming off a cheap one-year deal with San Francisco, Hyder wants a significant raise for his breakout season.
Milano won’t appeal to every team. He could fit well in defenses with strong defensive lines that protect the second level from opposing rushing attacks. However, Milano’s inconsistent play and disappointingly high missed tackle rate raise red flags. He’s a good coverage linebacker, but even the Bills weren’t sure if they wanted him as a full-time starter this year.
66. Mark Ingram, RB Free Agent
The Ravens saved a chunk of cap space by releasing Ingram after their playoff loss. The 31-year-old running back was a healthy scratch in the playoffs, and he only started nine games during the season. One year removed from a Pro Bowl selection, 1,018 rushing yards, and 15 total touchdowns, Ingram needs a job. Assuming he hasn’t completely hit a wall, the three-time Pro Bowler should find work in a two-headed backfield.
There’s no way the Ravens let Edwards walk. The team recently released Mark Ingram, leaving J.K. Dobbins and Edwards as its top running backs. Edwards is incredibly consistent, producing 718, 711, and 723 rushing yards during his time in Baltimore. He’s also averaged five or more yards per attempt each year.
Lindsay is one of the few RFAs on this list whose team might not match an offer sheet. After rushing for over 1,000 yards in each of his first two seasons, Lindsay battled injuries in 2020. He only ran for 502 yards and one touchdown in 11 games as the Broncos shifted most of their carries toward Melvin Gordon. With Royce Freeman also on the roster, Lindsay is expendable for the Broncos, but other teams might view him as an immediate starter.
Hill can move outside and cover an opposing team’s top receivers, but he thrived in the slot this year. After only playing 965 defensive snaps between 2018 and 2019 combined, Hill saw 972 defensive snaps in 2020. The results made the Rams one of the NFL’s best defenses. Hill intercepted three passes, returning two for touchdowns, and also returned a fumble for a score.
From 2015 through 2019, Ingram accumulated 43 sacks, ten forced fumbles, and 60 tackles for loss. Unfortunately, the 31-year-old hit a massive wall this season. Ingram played in only seven games, failing to register a sack for the first time in his career. The edge rusher enters free agency at the lowest point of his career, hoping potential employers look past his injury-shortened season.
Some team is going to make Hendrickson a rich man this spring. In 15 games with the Saints, the 26-year-old finished tied for second in the NFL with 13.5 sacks. However, Hendrickson only recorded 25 tackles, which fell short of his 32 quarterback pressures. Playing only 53% of New Orleans’ defensive snaps, Hendrickson is the result of a terrific defense creating openings for a developing player.
After trying to carve out a role in his first three years with the Panthers, Samuel finally began posting impressive numbers. In Carolina’s new offense, Samuel caught 77 passes for 851 yards. He also carried the ball 41 times for 200 yards. Samuel is a high-end hybrid playmaker that a creative offensive coordinator can turn into a significant weapon.
The 26-year-old tight end never got a chance to stand alone in Los Angeles, taking snaps behind Tyler Higbee. Everett is an athletic 6-3 tight end that plays the role of a larger wide receiver. He set career-highs this year with 41 receptions for 417 yards. While Everett shared the spotlight in Los Angeles, he could assume a full-time starting role in 2021.
Mack tore his Achilles in Indianapolis’ Week 1 loss to the Jaguars. Jonathan Taylor replaced the 24-year-old, meaning the Colts won’t put any effort into keeping Mack. He’s hitting the market. Between 2018 and 2019, Mack amassed 1,999 rushing yards (76.9 per game and 4.5 per attempt) and 17 touchdowns. The USF product could operate as the lead back for most offenses.
Dupree has excellent stats from the past two seasons. In 27 games, the former first-round pick recorded 19.5 sacks, 99 tackles, and 55 pressures. Unfortunately, Dupree tore his ACL in the midst of a career-year. While his numbers put him at a borderline Pro Bowl level, Dupree benefited from playing alongside Cameron Heyward and T.J. Watt.
Andrews took over as New England’s starting center in 2015. After missing the entire 2019 season, the 28-year-old veteran returned to his role. With guard Joe Thuney also hitting the market, the Patriots have to make decisions about their offensive line. No matter who starts at quarterback, they won’t succeed without a reliable line.
Teams must determine how much of Suh’s current production results from having Pro Bowlers around him. Playing on a defensive front with Shaquil Barrett and Jason Pierre-Paul makes life easier, especially when Lavonte David and Devin White are right behind you. However, Suh’s role in developing Vita Vea is undeniable. He’s added a lot of value for a 34-year-old signing one-year deals.
Suh hasn’t missed a start since 2011. He’s durable and consistently productive. The former second overall pick recorded six sacks, 44 tackles, and 28 pressures during the regular season. If the asking price is the same as last year (one-year, eight million dollars), most of the league should call Suh this offseason.
Bobby Wagner and Wright are the only defenders remaining in Seattle from the team’s two Super Bowl appearances. At 31 years old, Wright isn’t the Pro Bowl 4-3 outside linebacker he once was. However, he’s still a highly productive player. Wright is one year removed from a 132-tackle season, and he still tallied 86 tackles, two sacks, and ten passes defensed in 2020.
Cook made back-to-back Pro Bowls in 2018 and 2019. However, he’s already 33 years old and played a much smaller role in New Orleans’ offense this season. Cook only played 43% of the offense’s snaps, finishing the year with 37 receptions for 504 yards and seven touchdowns. With a healthy quarterback, Cook could still top 600 receiving yards.
Carson hits free agency following his worst season since 2017. Between 2018 and 2019, Carson amassed 2,381 rushing yards (82.1 per game and 4.5 per attempt) and 16 rushing touchdowns. However, injuries slowed the former seventh-round pick down in 2020. He still averaged 4.8 yards per attempt but didn’t have a 100-yard game all season.
When healthy, Carson is a legitimate top rushing threat. His injury history might scare some teams off or push them to include Carson in a tandem backfield.
Jones’ time in Detroit went as well as possible. Even at 30 years old, Jones is still a legitimate second option coming off a year with 76 receptions, 978 receiving yards, and nine touchdowns. Rebuilding teams probably won’t look at Jones because of his age and price tag, but the former fifth-round pick should have a sizable market this offseason.
Gronkowski would rather retire than play with a quarterback other than Brady, and Brady would likely orchestrate a coup if Tampa Bay didn’t re-sign his favorite tight end. At 31 years old, Gronkowski is a shell of his former All-Pro self. However, the future Hall of Famer still mustered 45 receptions, 623 yards, and seven touchdowns in 2020. At 6-6, 268 lbs., he’s also valuable as a blocker.
Five years ago, Hilton was a borderline top-ten receiver. He made four consecutive Pro Bowls between 2014 and 2017 and racked up 507 receptions for 8,097 yards in his first seven seasons. Things began going South in 2019. With injuries piling up and Andrew Luck suddenly retiring, Hilton set a career-low in receiving yards. He didn’t bounce back well in 2020, posting the second-lowest receiving total of his career.
At 31 years old, Hilton has plenty of gas left in the tank. He’s a good locker room presence and is willing to work with younger receivers. Hilton is a guaranteed 50 yards per game, making him an attractive asset even as he declines.
The former 13th overall pick from 2017, Reddick disappointed during his first three NFL seasons. With Chandler Jones landing on injured reserve, Reddick played a massive role at outside linebacker for Arizona. He finished 2020 with 12.5 sacks, which more than doubled his career total. Five of his sacks came in Week 14, and 7.5 of them came in a three-week span.
Reddick’s production this season is a clear outlier. The 26-year-old dominated several games down the stretch, but it’s hard to see his performance translating to future seasons. Betting on Reddick is a risky proposition.
Neal made the Pro Bowl in 2017 before injuries limited him to just four games over the next two seasons. He made 15 starts in 2020, recording 100 tackles, two passes defensed, and an interception. Neal fits the Landon Collins mold of the classic box safety. He’s an entirely different player than fellow free agent safeties Justin Simmons and Marcus Williams.
Smith played 69% of Tennessee’s offensive snaps this season. He produced career-highs across the board with 41 receptions, 448 yards, and eight touchdowns. The Titans didn’t make Smith a priority in their offense, meaning he could experience a significant statistical jump on a team willing to send more balls his way.
Somehow Rhodes made the Pro Bowl in 2019 despite having one of the worst years for a former star corner in recent history. Luckily, he returned to form this season with the Colts. Rhodes played a significant role on one of the NFL’s best defenses, generating two interceptions and 12 passes defensed.
Villanueva’s days as a Pro Bowler are behind him. The fan vote and above-average play alongside several All-Pros made the former undrafted free agent one of Pittsburgh’s most recognizable faces. However, with Maurkice Pouncey retiring and the team’s offense in shambles, it’s time for Villanueva to find work elsewhere. He’d serve as an upgrade for most teams at left tackle.
The Colts recently lost ten-year starter Anthony Castonzo to retirement. With loads of cap space, Indianapolis could send an offer Villanueva’s way.
A slot corner, Hilton saw significant playing time in each of his four seasons with the Steelers. The former undrafted free agent amassed seven interceptions, 32 passes defensed, 9.5 sacks, and 237 tackles playing a dynamic role on Keith Butler’s defense. Hilton makes plays when Pittsburgh needs them most, and he’s one of the NFL’s best slot corners.
After a well-documented falling out with three teams, confrontations off the field, and fits on social media, Brown joined Tom Brady in Tampa Bay. It took a while for the league’s former best receiver to adjust, but he eventually caught on. In his final four regular season games, Brown had 25 receptions for 315 yards and four touchdowns.
Even at 32 years old, Brown is still a viable threat at every level of the defense with an incredible work ethic. He’ll likely never emerge as a Pro Bowler again, but a 900-1,000-yard season isn’t unthinkable. However, there aren’t many teams willing to overlook Brown’s history or tolerate his antics.
It’s hard to quantify Fitzpatrick’s impact, especially late in games and during short stretches. This year, he was more electric than Tua Tagovailoa, leading the Dolphins to a 4-3 record as a starter and a comeback win against Las Vegas. Over a full 16-game season, Fitzpatrick’s value becomes muddled, but he’s the perfect backup and ideal bridge quarterback.
40. William Jackson III, CB Cincinnati Bengals
After missing his rookie season, Jackson flashed Pro Bowl potential on limited snaps in 2017. The tape turned into fool’s gold over the last three years as Jackson never even approached his previous level of play. However, Pro Football Reference claims Jackson hasn’t allowed a completion percentage above 59 in the past three years. The 28-year-old likely remains a second option at cornerback for most teams, but he’s an intriguing prospect.
Clowney bet on himself and lost bigtime. After three consecutive Pro Bowl seasons with the Texans, Houston traded Clowney to Seattle. The star edge rusher had a decent season but left in free agency seeking a gigantic payday. He never got a massive contract and signed a one-year deal late in the offseason with Tennessee. Clowney only started eight games. Injuries limited him to 19 tackles, 12 quarterback pressures, and zero sacks.
Assuming he stays healthy, Clowney is still an elite run defender and a good enough second option in the pass rush. However, durability is a massive concern for the 27-year-old.
Lawson peaked as a situational pass-rusher in his rookie season, recording 8.5 sacks. Over the past two seasons, the Auburn product has 10.5 sacks and 64 quarterback pressures. However, he’s never played more than 70% of Cincinnati’s defensive snaps in a single season. Lawson is a No. 2 defensive end. Don’t expect him to become a defensive anchor.
Williams made himself a lot of money this season, playing at an above-average level with Buffalo. The 28-year-old right tackle suffered injuries and setbacks during his five seasons with the Panthers, but Williams stayed healthy in 2020 and flashed enticing potential. He won’t develop into an All-Pro, but Williams is a plug-and-play starter worth eight to ten million dollars per year.
Sack numbers are notoriously misleading. While Floyd recorded 10.5 sacks and 28 quarterback pressures (both career-highs) in 2020, his value remains similar to its 2019 level. Floyd is a reliable second option as a pass-rusher that plays the run well and can put in some reps in coverage. A potential team is getting a four-to-seven-sack player, not a ten-sack Pro Bowler.
Which version of King will teams see in 2021? In 2018, the former fifth-round pick received First-Team All-Pro honors from the AP and Pro Football Focus (PFF) for his role as a slot corner. However, King couldn’t match that production in 2019, and the Chargers traded him to Tennessee last year. His last interception came in 2018.
At 26 years old, King can still return to form and become one of the NFL’s best slot corners. That’s a gamble some team will take this offseason.
The Saints deciding to start Taysom Hill over Winston caused an outcry amongst many NFL fans. Hill is a career backup, while Winston still possesses starting potential despite a controversial first season in Bruce Arians’ offense in 2019. Winston is the ultimate boom or bust quarterback week-to-week. With Arians, he threw for 5,109 yards, 33 touchdowns, and 30 interceptions.
When things go well for Winston, he leads offenses to 30-point performances with ease. When things go wrong, the 27-year-old commits two to four turnovers in one game. Winston should get serious looks as a starting quarterback this offseason, especially from teams with great offensive coaching staffs.
Smith-Schuster can move outside, but he did the most damage from the slot in 2020. The 24-year-old peaked in 2018, racking up 111 receptions for 1,426 yards and seven touchdowns. However, those numbers came while playing alongside Antonio Brown. In Pittsburgh’s short-passing offense, Smith-Schuster caught 97 passes for 831 yards and nine touchdowns this season. The USC product isn’t a No. 1 receiving option, but he offers high-volume potential as a No. 2.
Dalton entered 2020 as a backup and found himself thrust into Dallas’ starting role when Dak Prescott went down. Injuries and COVID-19 led to Dalton’s season getting off to a rocky start. Things finally stabilized in Week 11, and the Red Rifle won four of his final seven games. In those final appearances, he threw for 245 yards per game, 13 touchdowns, and five interceptions with a 95.1 passer rating.
At 33 years old, Dalton won’t turn back the clock and make another Pro Bowl. However, he’s the perfect option for teams looking for a bridge quarterback or a short-term solution. Dalton should get a starting job in 2020.
Judon heads for free agency after making the Pro Bowl in back-to-back seasons. While he’s posted over 30 quarterback pressures in each of the past three years, Judon has his shortcomings. The 28-year-old has never played more than 85% of Baltimore’s defensive snaps in a single season, and he only recorded six sacks in 2020. Judon thrives in Baltimore’s system, but his production as a pass-rusher could take a hit anywhere else.
The 30-year-old former Pro Bowler remains polarizing. He hasn’t started all 16 games in a single season since 2016. However, he just topped off a year with nine sacks and 27 quarterback pressures. If teams project for some decline when evaluating Vernon, they could land an essential No. 2 pass-rusher.
The fifth overall pick in 2017, Davis royally disappointed in his first three seasons. However, the 26-year-old found new life playing alongside A.J. Brown. After Tennessee declined his fifth-year option, Davis averaged 70.3 receiving yards and 4.6 receptions per game. Both numbers marked career-highs. Davis also caught five touchdowns to go along with his 65 receptions and 984 yards.
If a team buys into Davis’ breakout season, they could pay him high-ranking WR2 money. Plenty of offenses desperately need quality second options, meaning Davis is in for a significant payday.
Pete Carroll and John Schneider would be ludicrous to let Ford sign with another team. Seattle scooped the nose tackle up as an undrafted free agent in 2018. Ford established himself as a starter last season and raised his value in 2020, producing two sacks and 40 tackles. While the 25-year-old won’t chase down quarterbacks, he’s essential to shutting down rushing attacks.
After a breakout performance in eight games with Arizona last year, Drake had Pro Bowl expectations entering 2020. He fell short of those hopes by a mile, but the coaching staff deserves some blame. The Cardinals didn’t utilize Drake to his fullest potential. However, the former Dolphin still ran for 955 yards and ten touchdowns while averaging 4.0 yards per attempt.
Arizona placed the transition tag on Drake last offseason, essentially giving him a one-year, $8.483 million deal. The Cardinals don’t want to lose Drake, but the running back could raise his value on another team with a more clearly defined role for running backs.
Griffin made the Pro Bowl in 2019, peaking as a legitimate top cornerback. Unfortunately, the 25-year-old experienced some regression this season. He battled injuries and finished 2020 with three interceptions and 12 pass breakups in 12 games. While Griffin might be a CB2 on some teams with elite corner play, he’s good enough to serve as the primary option on most defenses.
Fuller had a career-year this season, setting career-highs with 54 receptions, 879 yards (79.9 per game), and eight touchdowns. However, he only appeared in 11 games because of a PED-suspension. Fuller hasn’t played in more than 11 games in a season since his rookie year (2016). The 26-year-old is a preferable second receiving option on and offense, and his speed creates mismatches across the board.
Ngakoue isn’t the elite edge rusher some fans hoped he was following an excellent 2017 campaign. Instead, the 25-year-old defensive end falls a tier down the spectrum along with the Olivier Vernons of the world. Ngakoue tallied eight sacks, four forced fumbles, and 26 quarterback pressures this year. He’s capable of being a team’s top pass-rusher but thrives in the secondary role.
Nose tackles generally aren’t in high demand, but Tomlinson should generate a fair amount of discussion this offseason. While he isn’t a reliable pass-rusher, Tomlinson is one of the best run-stopping interior linemen in the NFL. In his four seasons, the former second-round pick has eight sacks and 207 tackles. He’s never missed a start.
Only a handful of tight ends can match Henry’s production each season. The 26-year-old has a lengthy injury history. He missed all of 2018, four games in 2019, and two games in 2020. However, the value of a consistent 60-reception, 600-yard tight end makes Henry a hot commodity. Los Angeles franchise tagged Henry last year. Expect the Chargers to retain their tight end after investing so much time and money in him over the past five seasons.
21. Aaron Jones, RB Green Bay Packers
In a running back class loaded with depth, Jones stands out as the lone current Pro Bowler. In 14 games this season, he ran for 1,104 yards while averaging 5.5 yards per attempt. Jones finished the year with 1,459 yards from scrimmage and 11 total touchdowns. After two seasons of high-level production, he could crack the ten highest-paid running backs heading into 2021.
Injuries limited Sherman to five games this season. The 32-year-old future Hall of Fame corner is clearly past his prime. Although, he did receive All-Pro selections from the AP and PFF in 2019. Sherman’s age and lack of speed might scare some teams away, but the former fifth-round pick can still provide quality starting snaps for a contender.
Harris dominated in 2019, tying for the NFL-lead with six interceptions. According to Pro Football Reference, Harris only allowed a 44.2 passer rating when targeted. For his efforts, the former undrafted free agent earned a Second-Team All-Pro nod from PFF. Minnesota franchise tagged Harris, which worked against the safety’s favor because he struggled in 2020.
Despite his dip in productivity, Harris is still a top-ten safety worth a significant investment. However, in a loaded safety free agency class, Harris could see his value suffer and wait months before reaching a new deal.
Jackson entered the NFL as an undrafted free agent in 2018. He caught on with New England, intercepting eight passes in his first two seasons before captivating the nation in 2020. Making 11 starts in his 16 appearances, Jackson intercepted nine passes, swatted away 14 more, and recovered three fumbles. With Stephon Gilmore regressing, the Patriots won’t loosen their grip on Jackson this offseason.
Johnson didn’t receive enough credit this season for his role on Los Angeles’ dominant defense. PFF noticed the 25-year-old’s play and awarded him with a spot on their Second All-Pro Team. If the NFL wasn’t so stacked at safety, Johnson would be a household name. The Rams have plenty of high-profile names on their payroll, which could lead to Johnson finding a new home this offseason.
Williams burst onto the scene this season, intercepting four passes and defending 14 more. The rising star capped off his season with a pick-six on a wide receiver screen against Seattle in the Wild Card Round. Williams’ explosion allowed Los Angeles to move Troy Hill to the slot for large chunks of the season, making the Rams defense one of the NFL’s best. Los Angeles can’t let Williams walk in free agency.
Despite missing three games, Linsley played well enough in 2020 to earn First-Team All-Pro selections from the AP and PFF. The 29-year-old center has only missed three games since the start of the 2017 season. He’s durable, fantastic as a pass blocker, and above-average in the running game. Plenty of teams need a center this offseason.
Often overlooked on New Orleans’ talented defense, Williams fits the traditional mid-field free safety mold. He ranges around, making plays on easy targets and serving as New Orleans’ last line of defense. At only 24 years old, Williams could sign two big contracts before his prime ends. Any organization looking for a long-term solution in their secondary should give Williams an offer.
With Jamal Adams moving to Seattle, Maye took over most of his former teammate’s responsibilities. He moved all over the field, playing in the box and the slot. As a 27-year-old coming off a season where he set or matched career-highs in interceptions, passes defensed, forced fumbles, fumble recoveries, sacks, and tackles, Maye’s market value is at an all-time high.
While Williams is a borderline Pro Bowl safety, Maye’s versatility adds an extra layer of value.
The Patriots couldn’t lock Thuney up last offseason, which resulted in the team giving him the franchise tag. At 28 years old, Thuney is one of the few veteran players along a young offensive line. The left guard means a lot to New England, but the Patriots haven’t made a habit of signing veterans to lucrative extensions.
Sack production is often misleading, especially when it appears as an outlier in a player’s career. Williams set career-highs with 11.5 sacks and 41 quarterback pressures this season. Those totals dwarf his numbers from previous years, which should scare potential buyers. However, if the former sixth overall pick performs at this level annually, he could easily emerge as one of the ten best pass-rushers in the NFL.
The Giants traded for Williams in 2019 and applied their franchise tag to the former Pro Bowler last offseason. New York might feel compelled to tag Williams again if they can’t reach a long-term extension.
Barrett racked up 19.5 sacks in 2019. The breakout season caught opponents by surprise and earned the former undrafted free agent a Second-Team All-Pro selection. While the sack production was an anomaly (Barrett’s total dropped to eight in 2020), the 28-year-old still recorded 41 quarterback hits. He’s good enough to be a team’s top pass-rusher, but that doesn’t mean organizations want to pay him like one.
Right tackles don’t receive the same praise or paychecks as left tackles. However, that shouldn’t overshadow Moton’s development over the past year. While the 26-year-old was a quality starter from the moment he took over in 2018, Moton just wrapped up the best season of his career. He isn’t in the same class as All-Pro right tackles like Jack Conklin, Ryan Ramczyk, or Mitchell Schwartz, but Moton is a rising star.
Golladay only played in five games this past season, but that shouldn’t impact his value. The Pro Bowl receiver peaked in 2019, catching 65 passes for 1,190 yards and a league-leading 11 touchdowns. At 6-4, Golladay is a premier jump-ball target and excellent vertical threat. Golladay’s production is tied to explosive plays more than Chris Godwin or Allen Robinson, which is why he ranks third among the elite free agent receivers.
Godwin battled through injuries to appear in 12 games this season, averaging 70.0 yards per outing. However, the 24-year-old’s best showing came in 2019, when he averaged 95.2 yards per game and earned Second-Team All-Pro honors from the AP. Tom Brady’s arrival lowered Tampa Bay’s passing yardage output, but that shouldn’t take away from Godwin’s incredible potential.
Injuries remain the biggest concern with Scherff. The four-time Pro Bowl right guard hasn’t played in all 16 games since 2016. However, Scherff had a career-year this season, earning a First-Team All-Pro selection from the AP. Washington used its franchise tag on Scherff last offseason. Now, the team has to pay up. Only two guards make at least $14 million per year. Scherff could join that elite group this offseason.
C.J. Mosley and Bobby Wagner are the highest-earning off-ball linebackers in terms of annual salary, making $17 and $18 million per year, respectively. No other off-ball linebacker makes more than $14.5 million annually. At 31 years old, David won’t get a long-term contract matching Wagner’s mega-deal. However, the defensive captain is one of the best linebackers in the NFL.
During his esteemed career, David has three All-Pro selections from PFF and three from the AP. The latest from the AP came this season in the form of a Second-Team nomination. David does everything well. He can cover, stuff the run, and sees the game better than most of his respected colleagues.
While Simmons peaked in 2019, he put together a good enough campaign in 2020 to receive Second-Team All-Pro honors from PFF. A 27-year-old former third-round pick, Simmons is easily one of the league’s best safeties. He’s brilliant at diagnosing plays and is surprisingly active against the run. Over the past two years, Simmons has nine interceptions, 24 passes defensed, and 189 tackles.
Denver franchise tagged Simmons last offseason, and the deal worked out for both sides. Simmons proved 2019 wasn’t a fluke, and the Broncos get another chance to negotiate a long-term extension. Five safeties currently make at least $14 million per year. Expect Simmons’ deal to fall in that range.
Robinson hasn’t cracked into the same conversation as perennial superstars like Tyreek Hill, DeAndre Hopkins, and Julio Jones. However, the 27-year-old hasn’t played with an elite quarterback during his seven-year career. Despite catching passes from Blake Bortles, Nick Foles, and Mitchell Trubisky, Robinson has three 1,000-yard seasons. Over his last two years in Chicago, Robinson has 200 receptions, 2,397 yards, and 13 touchdowns.
As the top receiving threat in a legitimate offense, Robinson could see his production rise to All-Pro levels.
After taking a year off from football because of a dispute with Washington, Williams had arguably the best season of his career. The AP passed over the 32-year-old when selecting All-Pros, but PFF rewarded Williams. The analytics site gave Williams a 91.9 grade, which finished ahead of David Bakhtiari’s 91.8 and Garett Boles’ 90.3.
Williams is still at the peak of his powers. Considering that other former All-Pro left tackles like 35-year-old Duane Brown and 39-year-old Andrew Whitworth are still two of the best players at their positions, a massive deal for Williams isn’t out of the question.
When healthy, Prescott is a top-ten quarterback. In 69 career games, he’s 42-27 with 106 passing touchdowns, 40 interceptions, and a 97.3 passer rating. As a Pro Bowl 27-year-old quarterback, Prescott’s value on the free agent market is through the roof. The Cowboys can’t afford to let him leave their organization, so expect Prescott to get an extension or the franchise tag.
The fracture and dislocation Prescott suffered shouldn’t decrease his value.