NFL fans who are upset that Tom Brady won yet another Super Bowl will soon be able to finally turn the page when the start of free agency officially begins a new NFL year. With both Matthew Stafford and Carson Wentz being traded and several prominent players, including J.J. Watt being released and signing with a new team, the NFL offseason has already been crazy. With the fun just getting started, let’s take a closer look at NFL free agency in 2021.
Who’s Got Money
Naturally, some of the worst teams in the NFL during the 2020 season will have the most to spend this offseason. For instance, the Jacksonville Jaguars have roughly $70 million in cap space, not to mention the top overall pick in the NFL Draft, which will likely be used to draft Trevor Lawrence. The Indianapolis Colts, who just acquired Wentz, will still close to $50 million to spend on a proper supporting cast for their new quarterback.
Meanwhile, the AFC East will be a division to watch closely this offseason. The Jets have close to $70 million to spend to help rebuild a failing franchise. The kicker is they have to decide if they want to keep Sam Darnold or use the second overall pick on a quarterback. Likewise, the Patriots have roughly $70 million in cap space, and just agreed to a one-year deal with Cam Newton.
Who’s Pinching Pennies
On the opposite end of the spectrum, there are around 10 teams that need to free up salary space just to get under the cap. The Saints, Rams, Eagles, Bears, and Chiefs have the most work to do in this area. These teams, among others, will need to either trade players, cut players, or restructure deals before they can think about signing players in free agency. For teams like the Chiefs and Saints, it should be a little easier to lose players and still put together a strong roster. However, that could be a lot more challenging for the Eagles and Bears.
Of course, the biggest question is who will be available in free agency. On the quarterback front, the Cowboys have finally agreed to a new deal with Dak Prescott. That doesn’t leave much available on the free-agent market outside of Jameis Winston, Ryan Fitzpatrick, and Andy Dalton.
At running back, Aaron Jones is the big fish after not receiving the franchise tag from the Packers. Chris Carson is also hitting the open market and is very much in the prime of his career. At wide receiver, Allen Robinson and Chris Godwin both received the franchise tag. That means Kenny Golladay, Will Fuller, and JuJu Smith-Schuster are the big prizes at that position. Curtis Samuel, Corey Davis, and tight end Hunter Henry should receive plenty of interest as well. There is also a strong crop of offensive linemen this offseason. Trent Williams, Alejandro Villanueva, and Joe Thuney are all available.
On the defensive side of the ball, Shaquil Barrett is the best player available after helping the Bucs win the Super Bowl. Meanwhile, the likes of Justin Simmons and Leonard Williams received the franchise tag, keeping them off the open market. Teams in need of help on that side of the ball could also consider edge rushers Carl Lawson, Yannick Ngakoue, Matt Judon, Bud Depree, and Trey Hendrickson. Finally, teams looking for help in the secondary could consider Patrick Peterson and Malcolm Butler
What to Watch?
As we move into free agency, there are two teams to watch closely. First, there’s the Miami Dolphins. They have a decent amount of money and the no. 3 overall pick in the draft. Miami also has a young quarterback in Tua Tagavailoa who could be used as a trade chip if the Dolphins make a serious play for disgruntled Houston quarterback Deshaun Watson. Also, pay attention to the Seattle Seahawks amidst rumblings that Russell Wilson could be traded. The Seahawks have some money but could look to dump Wilson’s contract to free up cap space moving forward. While all eyes are on free agency, the quarterback shuffle that started with Stafford and Wentz may not be over yet.