NFL free agency begins next week, and it is bound to be one of the most interesting free agency periods in a long time. Pre-COVID cap estimates for 2021 were well over $200 million, but with the lost revenue from COVID the cap has been set all the way down at $182.5 million. This was not at all what teams had been preparing for, so some major cuts have taken place recently.
Along with cuts, premier players have been restructuring their contracts to clear more cap room for their teams. Some teams are still over or near the limit as of now, so fewer teams will be as active in free agency. However, it is an extremely robust market with no shortage of quality players. Despite no top QBs being available, there are still a ton of valuable players on the market, specifically edge rushers. The edge rusher market is extremely deep and it will be fascinating to see where they all land.
Let’s get right to my top 50 available free agents and predictions. Players who already reached extensions with their teams or received the franchise tag were excluded. With legal tampering beginning Monday and free agency officially opening on Wednesday, an absolute frenzy is looming. Predicting where all these players will land is a nearly impossible but fun exercise as it is all just making educated guesses on good fits. Well, without further ado, here is my go at predicting where my top 50 free agents will land.
*All ages are as of September 1, 2021 (just around the start of the season)*
Top 50 Free Agents With Predictions
1. Shaq Barrett, EDGE, Age: 28
In a stacked edge rusher market, Shaq Barrett is the cream of the crop. Barrett had 27.5 sacks and 159 pressures over the past two seasons in Tampa. He also has 105 QB hurries in that span, which leads the entire NFL. He has been a consensus top 3 pass rusher in all of football over the past two seasons and will get paid as such. With Tom Brady’s new extension freeing up $19 million in cap space for the Bucs, a reunion for Barrett in Tampa makes a ton of sense. I expect the Bucs to retain their premier pass rusher on a contract near the top of the market with their newfound cap space.
Prediction: Re-signs with the Bucs for 4-years, $74 million
2. Kenny Golladay, WR, Age: 27
True #1 receivers rarely hit the market, and while Golladay is not a household name, he is that. Golladay’s 2020 campaign was marred with injuries, however he was elite in 2019. Golladay put up 1190 receiving yards and a league-leading 11 receiving touchdowns. He did all of this while only playing half the games with his starting QB Matthew Stafford. With the Lions letting him free, Golladay is certain to find a new home in free agency. The Colts have been sitting on cap space for a long time, but this finally seems like the time for them to pounce with a Super Bowl caliber roster or close to it. They need a new target for new quarterback Carson Wentz, and Indianapolis has the cash to pursue Golladay.
Prediction: Signs with the Colts for 4-years, $72 million
3. Trent Williams, OT, Age: 33
An elite left tackle is extremely valuable and when Willams is healthy, there is no doubt he is among the best in the league. Williams was simply fantastic in 2020, meshing in Kyle Shanahan’s scheme in San Francisco beautifully. He was great as both a run and pass blocker. Age and injury concerns keep him from holding the top spot on this list. However, he should still get a fairly hefty contract. The Niners are desperate to keep the 8x Pro Bowler in the fold, and I think they will prioritize him and get it done on a big deal.
Prediction: Re-signs with the Niners for 3-years, $55 million
4. Joe Thuney, OG, Age: 28
Joe Thuney has never missed a game so far in his five-year career and has only missed a handful of snaps. Thuney is elite as both a pass and run blocker at offensive guard, but he also has versatility to play all along the line. Combine all of this and it is a recipe to get paid handsomely on the open market. The Jets need offensive line help and have the second-most cap space in the entire NFL, making this an obvious fit.
Prediction: Signs with the Jets for 4-years, $60 million
5. Yannick Ngakoue, EDGE, Age: 26
Ngakoue slots in as the second pass rusher on this list with many more to come. He is soon to turn just 26 and is a disruptive force. Ngakoue is not great at run defending but is elite at hunting opposing quarterbacks. Ngakoue is one of just seven players in NFL history to have at least 8.0 sacks in each of his first five seasons. The Ravens have a bare cupboard at pass rusher and keeping their young star makes sense.
Prediction: Re-signs with the Ravens for 4-years, $64 million
6. Aaron Jones, RB, Age: 26
Aaron Jones will be the latest running back to suffer from their decreased value in today’s NFL. Jones is elite however, putting up 3017 yards from scrimmage and 30 scrimmage touchdowns over the past two seasons. The Packers will be in play to keep their star running back but after drafting AJ Dillon in the second round last year, they might be ready to move on. The Dolphins are the other clear favorite and they make a ton of sense as they want to add explosive playmakers to their offense. Jones could be exactly that in Miami.
Prediction: Signs with the Dolphins for 3-years, $36 million
7. Carl Lawson, EDGE, Age: 26
Lawson is an extremely underrated edge rusher who is bound to find a nice deal on the market. It was a mild surprise to see the Bengals not put the franchise tag on him. Lawson is a natural hunter of the quarterback who had a monstrous 2020 with 64 total pressures. The Browns need an edge rusher to play opposite of Myles Garrett, and Lawson would make a ton of sense for them.
Prediction: Signs with the Browns for 4-years, $56 million
8. John Johnson III, S, Age: 25
John Johnson is not known by many but is one of the most underrated players in this free agent class. Johnson is an elite run defender as he flies around the field, racking up over 100 tackles in two of the last three seasons. He is also fantastic in coverage. 25-year old studs like him get paid in free agency. The Jaguars lead the league in cap space and have a gaping need at safety, making this a seamless fit.
Prediction: Signs with the Jaguars for 5-years, $55 million
9. Corey Linsley, C, Age: 30
Corey Linsley was an All-Pro for the Packers in 2020 and will garner lots of interest in NFL free agency. The 30-year old won’t get an extreme contract but will make some solid money. The Chiefs have a gutted offensive line and recently cleared some cap space by restructuring Patrick Mahomes’ contract. Linsley signing with Kansas City would provide them with the offensive line help they so desperately need.
Prediction: Signs with the Chiefs for 3-years, $33 million
10. Hunter Henry, TE, Age: 26
Hunter Henry is a very solid tight end who put up over 600 receiving yards in each of the last two seasons. He created good chemistry with rookie quarterback Justin Herbert in 2020. The Chargers have a solid amount of cap space and would love to bring back their quality receiving target.
Prediction: Re-signs with the Chargers for 4-years, $40 million
11. Matt Judon, EDGE, Age: 29
Matt Judon has been an extremely productive pass rusher and run defender in the Ravens defensive scheme that is friendly to outside linebackers like him. Judon, entering his age 29 season could be the type of player that is overpaid in free agency. However, I see him as the prototypical Patriots target that Bill Belichick craves. With plenty of cap space and a desperate need for a pass rusher, Judon to New England is a perfect fit.
Prediction: Signs with the Patriots for 3-years, $39 million
12. Will Fuller, WR, Age: 27
Will Fuller had a really good 2020 season, putting up 879 receiving yards and 8 touchdowns in 11 games. However, he was then suspended for PEDs and has struggled with injuries throughout his career. Green Bay has been in need of a #2 WR across from Davante Adams for quite a bit of time now. While quarterback Aaron Rodgers won’t be happy about losing Jones and Linsley, grabbing Fuller would make up for it. The Packers have long been interested in the explosive wideout, so grabbing Fuller would be a dream come true.
Prediction: Signs with the Packers for 4-years, $54 million
13. Anthony Harris, S, Age: 29
Anthony Harris had a fantastic 2019 season, with 6 interceptions and elite coverage stats across the board. Harris took a step back in 2020, but improved his run defense. Harris was franchise tagged by the Vikings last season, but will hit the open market this year. He can be a very good piece for someone. The Cowboys have been in need of secondary help for a long time, and Harris would be a nice fit for them.
Prediction: Signs with the Cowboys for 3-years, $31.5 million
14. Trey Hendrickson, EDGE, Age: 26
Trey Hendrickson was superb in 2020, putting up 13.5 sacks in a limited amount of snaps. He is only 26 and coming off his best year, he will be paid. Not having a track record of success though is a bit of a concern. The Lions head coach Dan Campbell and defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn both came from the Saints, where Hendrickson shined last season. This makes Detroit an obvious match for Hendrickson.
Prediction: Signs with the Lions for 4-years, $53 million
15. Curtis Samuel, WR, Age: 25
Curtis Samuel is a young and versatile playmaker who broke out in 2020, totaling over 1000 yards from scrimmage. His former head coach Ron Rivera and offensive coordinator Scott Turner from Carolina are both in Washington now. Washington needs playmakers, making this a nice fit.
Prediction: Signs with the WFT for 4-years, $48 million
16. Leonard Floyd, EDGE, Age: 28
Leonard Floyd took a one-year prove-it deal with the Rams last offseason, and it paid off. He put up 10.5 sacks and 45 pressures in a huge season. The Titans need a pass rusher desperately and Floyd would be a perfect scheme fit for them.
Prediction: Signs with the Titans for 3-years, $36 million
17. JuJu Smith-Schuster, WR, Age: 24
Smith-Schuster had a monster 2018 season, but then struggled without Antonio Brown in 2019. He seemed to find a nice role in the slot in 2020. Smith-Schuster is just 24 years old, one of the youngest unrestricted free agents on the market. The Dolphins want explosive playmakers, making Smith-Schuster a great potential pickup for them.
Prediction: Signs with the Dolphins for 4-years, $52 million
18. Bud Dupree, EDGE, Age: 28
Another former Steeler, Dupree has been great the past two seasons, but suffered a torn ACL late in 2020. If not for the injury, Dupree would be among the top 3 available pass rushers. He is still bound to get a solid contract and be a valuable player. The Giants make sense as a suitor to fill their massive void at edge rusher.
Prediction: Signs with the Giants for 3-years, $39 million
19. Jadeveon Clowney, EDGE, Age: 28
The former #1 overall draft pick, Clowney has settled for one-year deals the past two offseasons and disappointed. Clowney had no sacks in 8 games for the Titans in 2020, but he is still disruptive and a good run defender. The Seahawks need a pass rusher, so a reunion with Clowney makes a ton of sense after both sides were happy when he was there in 2019.
Prediction: Signs with the Seahawks for 2-years, $28 million
20. Corey Davis, WR, Age: 26
The former 5th overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, Corey Davis finally broke out in 2020. Davis had 984 receiving yards and 5 touchdowns. The Patriots need wide receiver help badly, making Davis a good fit with their cap space.
Predictions: Signs with the Patriots for 4-years, $46 million
21. Romeo Okwara, EDGE, Age: 26
One of my favorite players in this NFL free agency class, Romeo Okwara is severely underrated. Okwara had a huge 2020 season playing for the atrocious Lions defense. Okwara’s 10 sacks and 61 pressures were among the highest in the league. Entering just his age 26 season, Okwara is a perfect fit for the scheme and culture Robert Saleh is bringing to the Jets.
Prediction: Signs with the Jets for 3-years, $33 million
22. Jameis Winston, QB, Age: 27
Winston sat behind Drew Brees as the Saints backup quarterback last season. Brees has not yet announced retirement plans, but he is expected to retire. Winston is likely to be brought back by New Orleans to compete with Taysom Hill for the starting job.
Prediction: Re-signs with the Saints for 2-years, $20 million
23. Dalvin Tomlinson, DT, Age: 27
Another one of my favorite free agents, Dalvin Tomlinson is very underrated. Tomlinson is a great pass rusher for an interior lineman, totaling 28 pressures in 2020. He is also an absolutely elite run defender. Tomlinson is a great culture fit for new head coach Urban Meyer and just the type of player you want on your team. Jacksonville has a ton of cap space and is looking to build in the trenches where they have gaping needs, making Tomlinson a clear target.
Prediction: Signs with the Jaguars for 3-years, $30 million
24. Haason Reddick, EDGE, Age: 26
Haason Reddick is a fascinating free agent. Reddick had 12.5 sacks in 2020, but 5 of them came in one game. Reddick also had 56 pressures on the year, hinting that the one game was not a fluke. He struggled in previous seasons though. Reddick should still get paid at 26 years old, and the Bengals make sense with a hole at pass rusher after the projected loss of Carl Lawson.
Predictions: Signs with the Bengals for 3-years, $34.5 million
25. Jonnu Smith, TE, Age: 26
Jonnu Smith is a dynamic tight end who has slowly grown over the past two seasons, totaling 887 yards and 11 touchdowns over that span. Jacksonville has money to burn and a completely bare cupboard at tight end, which makes this a perfect match.
Prediction: Signs with the Jaguars for 4-years, $33 million
26. Alejandro Villanueva, OT, Age: 32
Alejandro Villanueva has given the Steelers above average tackle play for every game over the past five seasons. He has started 80 straight games in Pittsburgh. While he won’t break the bank in free agency, he is a very good pass and run blocker who is durable. The Colts have a need at left tackle after the retirement of Anthony Castonzo, making this a seamless fit for the veteran left tackle Villanueva.
Prediction: Signs with the Colts for 2-years, $23 million
27. William Jackson III, CB, Age: 28
William Jackson is a sneaky good cornerback who is capable of being a true #1 coverage guy at times. The Bengals want to bring him back, and have the cap room to keep their great corner in town.
Prediction: Re-signs with the Bengals for 3-years, $36 million
28. Justin Houston, EDGE, Age: 32
Justin Houston has been fantastic on the field for the Colts over the past two seasons, racking up 19 sacks in 2019-20. He has also been a great leader and fantastic locker room presence. Why not two more years for the guy they know fits?
Prediction: Re-signs with the Colts for 2-years, $18 million
29. Shaquill Griffin, CB, Age: 26
Shaquill Griffin has been extremely solid for Seattle over his four-year career. 2019 was his standout year, but he was good in 2020 as well. While a reunion with Seattle is possible, the Chargers have money and a need at corner after cutting Casey Hayward. Griffin to the Chargers would be a good match.
Prediction: Signs with the Chargers for 3-years, $39 million
30. Richard Sherman, CB, Age: 33
The future Hall of Famer has made it clear his time with San Francisco is done. Sherman was injured most of 2020, but was very good in 2019. The Raiders and Jon Gruden need a veteran corner and both sides have expressed interest. Sherman to Las Vegas is a perfect fit.
Prediction: Signs with the Raiders for 2-years, $18 million
31. Kevin Zeitler, OG, Age: 31
Zeitler was a bit of a surprise cut by the Giants. He is a very good starting guard. Zeitler was a Bengal from 2012-2016, and with their huge need at guard, a reunion makes obvious sense.
Prediction: Signs with the Bengals for 2-years, $21 million
33. Jayon Brown, LB, Age: 26
Jayon Brown is an athletic and underrated linebacker. He struggled with injuries in 2020 but was great in 2018 and 2019. The Panthers have some cap space and need a linebacker, and Brown would be a great fit as they look to continue to add elite level athletes to their defense.
Prediction: Signs with the Panthers for 3-years, $24 million
34. Casey Hayward, CB, Age: 31
Casey Hayward was an interesting cut by the Chargers after being very solid for them for five seasons. The Cardinals could use corner help badly, so Hayward could interest them.
Prediction: Signs with the Cardinals for 2-years, $18 million
35. Jacoby Brissett, QB, Age: 28
Jacoby Brissett wasn’t terrible as a starter for the Colts in 2019, tossing 18 touchdowns and 6 interceptions. He is a low-end starter, but a high-end backup. The Broncos are likely to sign a quarterback to push Drew Lock this offseason, and Brissett could fit that role perfectly.
Prediction: Signs with the Broncos for 1-year, $7 million
36. Melvin Ingram, EDGE, Age: 32
Melvin Ingram is still a really solid situational pass rusher. He would smoothly fit in the Raiders new defensive scheme with new defensive coordinator Gus Bradley, who was Ingram’s DC with the Chargers from 2017-2020. This is an obvious match.
Prediction: Signs with the Raiders for 2-years, $14 million
37. Shelby Harris, DT, Age: 30
Harris has been a disruptive force on the interior in Denver for years. An underrated player, it would be wise for the Broncos to retain him.
Prediction: Re-signs with the Broncos for 3-years, $27 million
38. Kyle Van Noy, LB, Age: 30
Van Noy was surprisingly cut by the Dolphins after signing a big deal last offseason. The Browns are looking for versatile playmakers on defense, and Van Noy is exactly that, while also being a fantastic leader.
Prediction: Signs with the Browns for 2-years, $20 million
39. Gabe Jackson, OG, Age: 30
Jackson was cut by the Raiders earlier this offseason but is still an above average guard. The Ravens need to rebuild their interior offensive line and Jackson can help with that.
Prediction: Signs with the Ravens for 2-years, $15 million
40. Chris Carson, RB, Age: 26
Carson has been a great running back for Seattle over the past three seasons. He won’t get paid handsomely because of the running back market, but Carson will likely wind up staying with the Seahawks for a mild chunk of change.
Prediction: Re-signs with the Seahawks for 2-years, $17 million
41. Trai Turner, OG, Age: 28
The 5x Pro Bowler struggled with injuries in 2020, but should rebound back to his old form at age 28. The Vikings don’t have much cap space but bringing in Turner would be a smart venture for them trying to strengthen their offensive line.
Prediction: Signs with the Vikings for 2-years, $16 million
42. Antonio Brown, WR, Age: 33
Brown certainly still has the talent, but at age 33 and still looming off the field concerns, staying with his pal Tom Brady in Tampa may be the only option.
Prediction: Re-signs with the Bucs for 1-year, $7 million
43. Austin Reiter, C, Age: 29
An underrated player, Reiter is a really good pass blocker. He would help the Chargers tremendously up front.
Prediction: Signs with the Chargers for 3-years, $24 million
44. Andy Dalton, QB, Age: 33
Dalton is probably a backup at this point of his career, but the Bears have an empty quarterback room and signing Dalton to maybe compete with a rookie would be logical.
Prediction: Signs with the Bears for 1-year, $7 million
45. Rob Gronkowski, TE, Age: 32
Gronk will only play for one quarterback at this point and it is the GOAT in Tampa. He actually was very good as a pass catcher and blocker in 2020. This move will likely happen once most of the free agency dust settles, but expect Gronk to sign back with the Bucs for at least another season.
Prediction: Re-signs with the Bucs for 1-year, $6 million
46. Mike Hilton, CB, Age: 27
Hilton is one of the best slot corners in football, but is likely gone from Pittsburgh with their sticky cap situation. Hilton would be a good pickup to help the Falcons defense.
Prediction: Signs with the Falcons for 3-years, $19.5 million
47. Ndamukong Suh, DT, Age: 34
The now Super Bowl champion would be a great veteran presence on the Dallas defensive line.
Prediction: Signs with the Cowboys for 1-year, $6 million
48. Tyrod Taylor, QB, Age: 32
Taylor would make a ton of sense for the Eagles as a mentor and competition for Jalen Hurts.
Prediction: Signs with the Eagles for 2-years, $11 million
49. Jason Verrett, CB, Age: 30
Verrett had a really good comeback season for the Niners in 2020, but age and injury concerns still loom. The Niners would love to bring him back.
Prediction: Re-signs with the Niners for 1-year, $8 million
50. Carlos Dunlap, EDGE, Age: 32
Dunlap is still a very effective situational pass rusher. He could help bring some veteran juice to the Buffalo defensive line.
Prediction: Signs with the Bills for 1-year, $7 million
Thanks for reading my article on NFL free agency and my top 50 available players with predictions!
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