Open Rants by NoHeroes94




NoHeroes94 2021 NFL Free Agency Tracker
Published at 3/10/2022
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Updates:

22 March 2021 - Acknowledgement that Patrick Peterson, Hassan Reddick and Kyle Fuller are missing off list

22 March 2021 – Kenny Golladay, David Andrews, Will Fuller, JuJu Smith-Schuster, Xavier Rhodes & Riley Reiff Grades

17 March 2021 – Free Agency Frenzy Grades (Several)

16 March 2021 – Free Agency Frenzy Grades (Several)

15 March 2021 – Aaron Jones, Cam Newton, Kyle Juszczyk & Kevin Zeitler Grades

12 March 2021 –Matt Milano Grade, Multiple Free Agent Additions (Cuts)

11 March 2021 – Multiple Free Agent Additions (Cuts), Re-Order

9 March 2021 – Lavonte David & Dak Prescott Grades, Franchise Tag Commentary

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I am an addict to mock drafts, free agency tracking and trade grades. This year, I thought I'd keep a tracker of top free agents updating it every few days.  I follow the league (and WF.com) very closely but am obviously not an expert; I’d appreciate any constructive comments as long as they are reasonable.

 

1 – Trent Williams (OT)  

2020 Team49ers
Projected 2021 TeamColts 
Other Fits             49ers, Jaguars, Bears, Bengals, Raiders, Eagles
Projected Contract3 Years, $63M
2021 Team49ers
Contract6 Years, $138M

 

Contract Update (18 March 2021)

I’m bringing this grade up significantly. Tom Pelissero just tweeted out that the contract is – in fact – a 3 year, $60.75M deal with a 3 year, $77M exclusive option in 2023. After 3 years, the 49ers can opt out virtually without penalty. This news basically matches the offer to the prediction, save for <$1M APY. This is a very good contingency whilst also allowing for security, so this is becoming an A-.

Updated Grade: A-

Signing Update (17 March 2021)

I have to stay balanced between being a 49ers fan, ecstatic at the prospect of retaining Trent Williams, and providing balanced commentary here. Overall, the 49ers will clearly be happy that the best OT in football – some may argue David Bakhtari – is going to be staying at San Francisco 49ers for the remainder of his career. It became pretty apparent that Trent Williams was going to be getting – at a minimum - $21M APY, so it isn’t shocking at all the 49ers had to go up to $23M APY to retain his services, and whilst its an overpay it isn’t egregious. However, this is a risky contract; as amazing as Williams is, he’s 32, so $23M APY is a bit too much. 6 years is also way longer than I thought he was going to sign for. The consensus feeling was that Williams would take a more expensive 3-4 year deal, but he wanted the extra security it would seem. Equally, the years on many deals largely hypothetical after year 4, though, as there is only $55M guaranteed, and the chances of Williams being elite for at least half of this deal are high. The cap will also boom after 2022 so this % of money this will eat will balance with what appears to be a back loaded deal. I think the contract is too long, and $1-2M APY too expensive, but the 49ers simply had to retain Williams. Allowing him to walk to the Chiefs – his most likely 2nd destination – would have been disastrous. Balancing all things out I would give this a B/B-.

Original Grade: B-

Pre-Free Agency

Williams is the best player available in free agency, in my opinion, and also in a position with little free agency depth so he gets the No. 1 spot. He’s 33 years old, sure, but is an 8-time Pro Bowler and a 1st ballot HOF lock. He is coming off an arguably career best year in San Francisco, despite barely playing in 2019 for non-injury related reasons. Franchise LT's usually don't hit the open market, but due to the circumstances with Williams in Washington, he entered with a no-tag clause. Williams has expressed an interest in returning to San Francisco as his 'preferred' destination but wants to see his worth in free agency, which is understandable. The Colts have a ton of cap space and will need to replace Anthony Castanzo, so they could very well outbid the 49ers (as a Niners fan, I sincerely hope this does not happen)! I believe a 3-year deal close to a positional record is possible, probably just under given his age, although a record-breaking deal wouldn't be unimaginable given his ability.

 

2 – Allen Robinson (WR)

2020 TeamBears
Projected 2021 TeamJaguars
Other Fits             Giants, Bears, Dolphins, Patriots, Colts, Washington
Projected ContractFranchise Tag (or 4 Years, $80M)
2021 TeamBears
ContractFranchise Tag ($18M)

 

Franchise Tag Update (9 March 2021)

The Chicago Bears have franchise tagged Allen Robinson. I wasn’t shocked, but I didn’t think the Bears were going to tag him as they hinted that retaining him might not be a guarantee.  It makes complete sense from their perspective, though it’ll be a shame if Robinson is never able to cash in on his potential. I wouldn’t rule out Robinson as a tag and trade candidate.

Pre-Free Agency

Allen Robinson is one of the most underrated players in the NFL. He has played at a perennial Pro Bowl level for both Jacksonville and Chicago, with his best QB for either team likely being Nick Foles. Had he received competent quarterbacking, Robinson would be considered a top-5 WR in all likelihood. Robinson entered free agency injury prone in 2018, but that isn’t the case after his 3 stellar years with the Bears. He could be franchise tagged – and if I was Chicago, that would be my course of action – but I feel a departure is more likely based on current dialogue. Let's hope he can actually have a competent quarterback throwing to him, for once.

 

3 – Chris Godwin (WR)

2020 TeamBuccaneers
Projected 2021 TeamBuccaneers
Other Fits             Giants, Bears, Dolphins, Patriots, Colts, Washington
Projected ContractFranchise Tag (or 4 Years, $72M)
2021 TeamBuccaneers
ContractFranchise Tag ($15.9M)

 

Franchise Tag Update (9 March 2021)

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have franchise tagged Chris Godwin. He was always the most likely to be tagged, as the Buccaneers need to re-sign Barrett and David, who are less expendable. Unfortunately for Godwin I don’t see him cashing in on a huge pay-day, but he is an outstanding wide receiver so he should be due a huge pay-day in 2022.

Pre-Free Agency

Godwin falls only just behind Robinson in my rankings, as he’s a superb receiver in his own right. I feel that this is far more likely to go down the route of a franchise tag, as the Buccaneers will want to keep the band together for 1-2 more years whilst Brady is still there. With Shaq Barrett due for a huge extension, little cap space, and a fortunate WR franchise tag figure I’d actually be shocked if it goes any other way. Godwin could play on the FT in 2021 and then sign an extension – or test FA – in 2022.

 

4 – Shaq Barrett (DE)

2020 TeamBuccaneers
Projected 2021 TeamBuccaneers
Other Fits             Jets, Titans, Cowboys, Ravens, Raiders, Seahawks, Ravens
Projected Contract4 Years, $84M
2021 TeamBuccaneers
Contract4 Years, $76M

 

Signing Update (15 March 2021)

This is a brilliant re-signing. Barrett isn't a top-5 DE in the NFL, but he's an outstanding player who deserved a huge pay-day. This qualifies as such, but Barrett definitely isn't breaking the bank here.  $19M APY seems very reasonable for a brilliant pass rusher, and the deal is truly more like $17M per year with $1-2M per year in incentives. Given Florida's lack of state tax, this would probably equate to a top-dollar deal elsewhere. With Godwin, Barrett and David staying in Tampa Bay, the Buccaneers' free agency is off to a great start.

Grade: A

Pre-Free Agency

Barrett could be a candidate for a repeat franchise tag, but as mentioned above, I think a huge extension is more likely. He should have won DFOTY in 2019 in my opinion, and whilst he wasn’t as productive in 2020 he was every bit as good in terms of tape. He was a monster in the Super Bowl, and a 2nd year of consistent, elite play will help him. He will probably resign in Tampa Bay, with Godwin going on the franchise tag instead. $25M is probably a bit too much, as he isn't quite as good as players such as Bosa or Garrett, but I think the Bucs will find it difficult to sign him for much less.

 

5 – Justin Simmons (S)

2020 TeamBroncos
Projected 2021 TeamBroncos
Other Fits             Dolphins, Jaguars, Colts, Vikings, Raiders, 49ers
Projected ContractFranchise Tag (or 4 Years, $62M)
2021 TeamBroncos
ContractFranchise Tag ($13.7M)

 

Franchise Tag Update (9 March 2021)

The Denver Broncos have franchise tagged Justin Simmons. Of all players tagged, I believe Simmons is the most likely to get a contract extension - although being tagged in consecutive years means he'll earn more in 2021. He is a highly valuable part of their defense and they will want to secure the long star long-term. I won’t be grading franchise tags, only providing commentary until/if a contract comes.

Pre-Free Agency

Justin Simmons has improved year on year for the Broncos, and for the past 2 years in particular, has been an elite safety. He played on the franchise tag last year, but this year, I expect him to sign a monster extension after an All-Pro, Pro Bowl season. He’s expressed a desire to return, so the ball is in George Paton’s court. With a very competitive and deep safety market it would make little sense for them to play the field when they already have a proven, All-Pro calibre player at the position.

 

6 – Marcus Maye (S)         

2020 TeamJets
Projected 2021 TeamJets
Other Fits             Dolphins, Jaguars, Colts, Vikings, Raiders, 49ers
Projected ContractFranchise Tag (or 4 Years, $60M)
2021 TeamJets
ContractFranchise Tag ($10.6M)

 

Franchise Tag Update (9 March 2021)

The New York Jets have franchise tagged Marcus Maye. This was always the most likely outcome, although I believe a deal will come. Maye deserves a big extension and players have recently forced their way out of New York, so he has some leverage. The Jets need to retain Maye given the amount of cap space they have. I won’t be grading franchise tags, only providing commentary until/if a contract comes.

Pre-Free Agency

Another candidate I feel could be destined for the franchise tag is Marcus Maye, although a long-term extension is plausible here. Maye had huge boots to fill after Jamal Adams got traded, but funnily enough, Maye actually played far better than Adams did in 2020, with the latter underperforming (likely due to injury). Maye should have gotten All-Pro recognitions last year, and deserves a big contract. His agent is applying pressure for an extension, and with tons of cap space, the Jets could make it happen. 

 

7 – Brandon Scherff (G)

2020 TeamWashington
Projected 2021 TeamWashington
Other Fits             Bengals, Chargers, 49ers, Cardinals, Broncos, Giants, Chiefs
Projected Contract5 Years, $80M
2021 TeamWashington
ContractFranchise Tag ($18M)

 

Franchise Tag Update (9 March 2021)

The Washington Football Team have franchise tagged Brandon Scherff. The jury is out on whether a long-term extension will come – it was supposed to come in both 2019 and 2020, after all – but Scherff won’t complain as he’ll make a whopping $18M on the repeat franchise tag.  In fact, this figure might impede Washington's ability to extend him this year - why would he sign an extension worth less than the franchise tag? Perhaps they can front load his deal, but they might also have to wait until next year now. Paying a guard - even a great one - more than $15M isn't that palatable, and Scherff isn’t the most reliable. I won’t be grading franchise tags, only providing commentary until/if a contract comes.

Pre-Free Agency

Scherff played on the franchise tag in 2020, and it’s not impossible he does so again although he would earn almost as much as a franchise LT would, so that wouldn't be the smartest move. Scherff has an injury history, but is the best guard in the NFL when healthy.  Should he hit the open market, Scherff could change the threshold for guard deals. Washington have the 5th most cap space pre-free agency to make an extension happen and its in their interest to do this.

 

8 – Corey Linsley (C)

2020 TeamPackers
Projected 2021 TeamChargers
Other Fits             Bengals, Chargers, 49ers, Cardinals, Broncos, Giants, Chiefs
Projected Contract4 Years, $50M
2021 TeamChargers
Contract5 Years, $62.5M

 

Signing Update (16 March 2021)

My prediction of the team and APY was correct. Instead of signing for 4 years, though, Linsley is signing for 5 years. The fit was obvious, as the Chargers desperately needed to upgrade their IOL. Linsley was the best interior offensive lineman in the NFL last year and he’s still young enough where Linsley should be elite for most – or all – of the deal. He’ll also be acutely familiar with team-mate Bryan Bulaga. Along with Matt Feiler, the Chargers’ offensive line is going to be so much stronger. This is a record breaking deal for a center, so this isn’t great monetary value, but the Chargers have secured the best center in the NFL for the duration of Herbert’s rookie deal, so this is a solid move.

Grade: A

Pre-Free Agency

Linsley was the best interior offensive lineman in the NFL last year. However, due to cap space issues – and a recent extension of David Bakhtari – I think a re-union is unlikely. Linsley will be able to get a huge contract in free agency, perhaps the biggest of any center in NFL history. A lot of teams have interior woes, so Linsley will be highly sought after.

 

9 –Yannick Ngakoue (DE)

2020 TeamRavens
Projected 2021 TeamRaiders
Other Fits             Jets, Titans, Cowboys, Ravens, Raiders, Seahawks, Ravens
Projected Contract3 Years, $60M
2021 TeamRaiders
Contract2 Years, $26M

 

Signing Update (16 March 2021)

Well…at least I got the team right… but I was way off on the contract, though. Way off. This is one of the best signings in free agency thus far. I can’t believe they secured Yannick Ngakoue for $13M APY. Sure, Ngakoue isn’t elite – at least not yet – but he is a terrific edge rusher and only behind Shaq Barrett in my ranking. I thought the Raiders would have to dig into the region of $20M APY for him given his talent. Even in a ‘down’ year for him last year, a season where he played for 2 different teams with completely different defensive schemes, he still notched 8 sacks. Ngakoue is still so young, so I don’t quite understand how the Raiders were able to pull off such a cheap and risk-free deal. What makes it even better is that – as reported by Charlie Campbell – the Raiders were extremely close to trading the No. 19 pick in the 2020 draft for Ngakoue. Instead, they waited a year and got him on a cheap deal without giving up a thing. I have no doubt much of this was luck rather than by design, as the Raiders have botched free agency and the draft under Mike Mayock, by and large, but credit where it’s due – this is an incredible signing.

Grade: A+

Pre-Free Agency

Ngaouke is supremely talented, and has shown some brilliant flashes in the NFL, playing at a Pro Bowl level at times. However, consistency has been a bit of an issue for him. Despite notching 8 sacks between the Vikings and Ravens in 2020, I don’t think he actually played that well with a lot of those sacks being “right place, right time”. However, given his talent – he’s still only 27 – and the consistent need for elite pass rushers in the NFL – I think Ngaouke could have a solid market as the 2nd most coveted edge rusher in this free agency period.

 

10 – Lavonte David (LB)

2020 TeamBuccaneers
Projected 2021 TeamBuccaneers
Other Fits             Bills, Dolphins, Browns, Washington, Jaguars, Raiders
Projected Contract3 Years, $33M
2021 TeamBuccaneers
Contract2 Years, $25M ($20M Guaranteed)

 

Signing Update (9 March 2021)

This extension makes complete sense, and the decision to franchise Godwin and pay David on a short-term deal is a great one. David is one of the most underrated players in the NFL, with him and Devin White – easily – being the best linebacker tandem in the NFL. I thought David may take less money than this due to his age – I had $11M APY rather than $12.5M – but this arguably just as smart, as it’s just for 2 years. This provides little risk even with 80% of the deal being fully guaranteed, as David is still only 31 and should be able to maintain a high quality of play for the duration of the contract. David would have been the best linebacker to hit free agency by some margin, so the Buccaneers did the right thing not letting that become a possibility.

Grade: A

Pre-Free Agency

I don’t expect David to leave. I think he will be able to sign a shorter-term deal that won’t break the bank due to both his age and the relative stagnant market for inside linebacker across the NFL. David is one of the most underrated players in the NFL, so this would be a vital piece to the puzzle in Tampa Bay. Due to his age and tenure with Tampa Bay, he may take a cheaper deal if he’s given security in a long-ish deal (especially since he plays in Florida). 

 

 11 – Matt Milano (LB)

2020 TeamBills
Projected 2021 TeamBrowns
Other Fits             Bills, Dolphins, Washington, Broncos, Jaguars, Raiders
Projected Contract4 Years, $56M
2021 TeamBills
Contract4 Years, $44M

 

Signing Update (12 March 2021)

I didn’t think the Bills were going to be able to retain Milano with an extension for Trumaine Edmunds likely coming next off-season. However, they weren’t only able to keep a cornerstone defensive talent but were able to do so for a lot cheaper than most were expecting. Milano is making around $11M per year, which is an absolute bargain. I feel he would have made more on the open market. This deal makes Milano’s APY value 10th amongst linebackers, which is really great value as Milano is probably a top-5 inside linebacker and has the upside to improve even further as he’s only 26. Retaining Milano will make the Bills far more likely to advance to the AFC Championship (possibly the favourites to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl, in the wake of the Chiefs’ OL releases) and they did so at a discount, so this deserves the maximum grade

Grade: A+

Pre-Free Agency

Milano is an excellent linebacker, and when he wasn’t available, Edmunds and the Bills’ front seven struggled. He is a difference maker and very underrated player. I don’t think he’ll reset the market, but as I think David is unlikely to leave the Buccaneers, Milano may become the de facto #1 linebacking option so should command a solid market of $13 – 15M per year. He could plausibly return to the Bills, but their cap space situation isn’t the most fortunate.

 

12 – Kenny Golladay (WR)

2020 TeamLions
Projected 2021 TeamGiants
Other Fits             Lions, Dolphins, Bears, Patriots, Colts, Washington
Projected Contract4 Years, $66M
2021 TeamGiants
Contract4 Years, $72M

 

Signing Update (2 March 2021)

Golladay was the last big free agency domino to fall. The Giants were so desperate for receiver help that they almost had to make a splash for a top free agent at the position, which made predicting Golladay to the Giants so easy. I’m not sure he’s truly worth $18M APY but it was obvious he was going to go close to that sort of value. Overall, this is a great move from the Giants. Aside from Godwin – who was always going to be tagged – Golladay is the best receiver in this free agency class, so the Giants must be happy. I would double down on receiver in the draft still if it were me, but this also gives them some flexibility at No. 11 if they wish to pursue other options.

Grade: A-

Pre-Free Agency

This ranking is lower than Kenny Golladay would usually be. However, he is both coming off an injury-riddled 2020 campaign and entering free agency in a year with elite WR draft prospect, neither of which helps him. As such, I don’t expect him to break the market – However, due to his high calibre #1 receiver play during his rookie contract, he could get a nice deal somewhere (if he isn’t franchise tagged).

 

13 – Joe Thuney (G)

2020 TeamPatriots
Projected 2021 TeamBengals
Other Fits             Chargers, 49ers, Cardinals, Broncos, Giants, Chiefs
Projected Contract4 Years, $60M
2021 TeamChiefs
Contract5 Years, $80M

 

Signing Update (16 March 2021)

$16M is a lot of money for a guard. Like, a lot of money. However, I= understand why the Chiefs made this signing. Thuney is arguably a top-5 guard in the NFL, and only behind Brandon Scherff in Free Agency (whom was realistically never likely to be available). I predicted a 5 Year $80M contract for Scherff if he wasn’t tagged, and Thuney – whilst slightly less talented – is probably more reliable, so this isn’t bad value. The Chiefs needed to make a move like this, I’m just not sure it needed to be for as much and for as long. They restructured their premium contracts because the offensive line will be starting from scratch. Aside from Laverney-Tardif, the Chiefs now only have rotational pieces on their offensive line. If they are able to re-sign Rieter, their interior 3 now looks very solid. This is also a good class for offensive tackles.

Grade: B

Pre-Free Agency

The Patriots seem destined to move on from Thuney after Michael Onwenu’s elite rookie season and their trade for Trent Brown. With David Andrews likely coming back into the fold, Onwenu seems a feasible replacement for Thuney – currently the most expensive guard in the NFL. However, Thuney is a very high-calibre player, and should be able to net a very good contract elsewhere

 

14 – Leonard Williams (DT/DE)

2020 TeamGiants
Projected 2021 TeamGiants
Other Fits             Panthers, Titans, Steelers
Projected Contract4 Years, $80M
2021 TeamGiants
Contract3 Years, $63M (After Franchise Tag)

 

Signing Update (17 March 2021)

We have our first franchise tag extension! This is about what most were expecting, a value just above the franchise tag. I like this signing, but don’t love it. Before 2020 Leonard Williams was a very solid defender, but not a star. He was mildly disappointing for a top-10 pick, playing more to the distinction of a low 1st/high 2nd rounder. That changed in 2020. He thrived for the Giants last season, notching 11.5 sacks and playing even better than that already impressive stat. Sacks aren’t everything, but Williams is coming off a career year. The Giants were in a tricky spot – either they let Williams play out the tag again, and risk losing him in 2022, or sign him to a slightly overpaid contract to ensure he doesn’t hit the open market. Similar to the other Williams – Trent Williams – the Giants’ hand was forced somewhat into a slight overpay. Overall, Williams is probably worthy of an $18M APY contract, so to retain him for $21M isn’t a crazy overpay, and he’s a very valuable player for them, so I’ll also give this a B-.

Grade: B-

Franchise Tag Update (9 March 2021)

The New York Giants are franchise tagging Leonard Williams. The belief is that the tag will buy them time to work on a long-term extension. I won’t be grading franchise tags, only providing commentary until/if a contract comes.

Pre-Free Agency

Leonard Williams had a good, not great career until 2020. However, he was a monster for the Giants in 2020, logging 11.5 sacks. Williams is a versatile mix between DT and DE, and his contract could likely fall in the $20M per year range as a result. He could have a solid market, and equally, the Giants could tag him for a second year. However, I see the Giants prioritising him over Dalvin Tomlinson to pair with Dexter Lawrence for the makings of a high-quality defensive line. Having the 2 of them bully offensive linemen for the next 3-4 years must be an appealing prospect.

 

15 – Dak Prescott (QB)

2020 TeamCowboys
Projected 2021 TeamCowboys
Other Fits             N/A
Projected ContractFranchise Tag (or 4 Years, $160M)
2021 TeamCowboys
Contract4 Years, $160M (No Trade Clause)

 

Signing Update (9 March 2021)

My extension prediction was right on the money. I think Prescott will technically get tagged so the deal can be officially sorted, but the deal is agreed, so this is a formality

This contract isn’t a complete failure, but I’m not a fan of it either. Prescott has been a decent starter, and by far the best QB in free agency, so the decision to keep him was the correct one. The issue is that the Cowboys caved at the wrong time after an injury-impacted year, giving Prescott the same money as Deshaun Watson. Watson is a far better player than Prescott, who is more a Kirk Cousins calibre player with better consistency, so this is an issue. I believe that the Cowboys’ hands were tied to a degree – either they move off Prescott with a far inferior veteran or draft a project like Trey Lance – but I don’t understand why they didn’t use the franchise tag again.

I agree with the site, though, that Prescott should have been tagged for another year. He would make very similar money and likely wouldn’t complain, as he was open to free agency by all accounts – it would also allow Dallas to ensure he heals from his injury. If he plays like he did in the first 5 games again for the whole of 2021, I would be more inclined to offer this sort of deal as cap would raise again in 2022. 

Grade: C

Pre-Free Agency

This will be a franchise tag, almost certainly. I think if they don’t agree a deal next year then a departure is more likely, as a 3rd franchise tag would be odd, but for now, expect a 2nd franchise tag – with the possibility of a huge extension. Prescott won’t complain, as he’ll benefit from a double tag boost to his salary for 2021 after an injury-impacted 2020.

 

16 – David Andrews (C)

2020 TeamPatriots
Projected 2021 TeamPatriots
Other Fits             Bengals, Chargers, 49ers, Cardinals, Giants, Chiefs
Projected Contract4 Years, $44M
2021 TeamPatriots
Contract4 Years, $19M

 

Signing Update (22 March 2021)

This is absurd. I know that Andrews has some health issues, but he’s largely been a top-5 center in the NFL and missed no time. Getting him at $4.75M APY is an absolute steal. I thought he’d be signed for double that! He is a tremendous and very underrated player. Perhaps my $11M APY projection was ambitious, but he’d have been approaching a $8-9M APY at the very worst. I’m not sure why Andrews took such a low deal for 4 years, but the Patriots just made one of the best free agency signings.

Grade: A+

Pre-Free Agency

I can’t believe I missed Andrews off my original top 50! David Andrews is an excellent player, and a top-5 NFL center when healthy. He has some health issues but was great again in 2020. I think the decision to let Thuney walk likely means that Andrews will be resigned. Alongside Trent Brown, Isaiah Wynn, Michael Onwenu and Marcus Cannon, Andrews will staple together an arguably league-best offensive line. If he does hit the open market, he won’t last for long.

 

17 – Will Fuller V (WR)

2020 TeamTexans
Projected 2021 TeamPackers
Other Fits             Lions, Bears, Dolphins, Patriots, Colts, Washington
Projected Contract4 Years, $66M
2021 TeamDolphins
Contract1 Year, $10M

 

Signing Update (22 March 2021)

Another ridiculously good signing. Whilst Golladay was paid fairly – perhaps the littlest fraction too much – this is another steal, this time, for Miami. I used to think Will Fuller was a disappointment, but he’s been getting better and better the past couple of years. He still hasn’t put together a 1,000-yard season but was on track to do so last year, before a suspension ended his season 5 games prematurely. He was on track to be a Pro Bowler/All-Pro before such suspension and very well in light of DeAndre Hopkins’ terrible trade. He deserved a 3-year $15M APY deal at the very least but will be getting much less than that on a ‘prove it’ deal. This is a brilliant low-risk contract for the Dolphins. $10M over a year is little risk for such a talented player and gives them some flexibility now as when to take a receiver in the draft.  

Grade: A+

Pre-Free Agency

Will Fuller didn’t have a 1,000+ yard season during his rookie deal in Houston, but he’s a much, much better player than that indicates. He possesses elite speed and was on course for a monster 1,200+ yard 2020 before a suspension. He looked like a No. 1 receiver in 2020 after Hopkins left in his shocking trade, but equally, there has been times where he hasn’t risen to this potential whilst having an elite quarterback for the grand majority of that time. This is a difficult one to grade, but Fuller feels like one of the better WR’s with the most upside

 

18 – Aaron Jones (RB)

2020 TeamPackers
Projected 2021 TeamDolphins
Other Fits             Jets, Bills, Cardinals, Seahawks, Cardinals
Projected Contract4 Years, $45M
2021 TeamPackers
Contract4 Years, $48M

 

Signing Update (15 March 2021)

This signing is pretty close to my predicted value – I went with $11.25M APY, and they gave up $12M APY. This is a fine re-signing. I’ll never give an A-range grade to a lucrative running back signing, as recent history has not been kind in this regard. Todd Gurley has gone from MVP candidate to medicore starter due to his mileage, and Ezekiel Elliott is coming off a career down year after his extension. However, I like this signing more for the Packers. Aaron Jones has a solid rotational behind him – albeit without Jamaal Williams now – and the Packers are devoid of weapons outside of him and Davante Adams. Keeping Jones felt like it was going to be an uphill battle, but to do so substantially below the top-dollar figure is a decent deal. Let’s just hope Jones holds up for the duration of the contract

Grade: B

Pre-Free Agency

Aaron Jones is a superb running back, notching two consecutive 1,000+ yard seasons and a Pro Bowl. I’m always cautious of running backs signing lucrative contracts – case in point Todd Gurley and Ezekiel Elliott – but Jones seems destined to be the next RB to cash in. Jones and the Dolphins reportedly have mutual interest, and that would be a very logical destination for him.

 

19 – Marcus Williams (S)

2020 TeamSaints
Projected 2021 TeamRavens
Other Fits             Saints, Dolphins, Jaguars, Colts, Falcons, Vikings, Raiders
Projected Contract4 Years, $46M
2021 TeamSaints
ContractFranchise Tag ($10.6M)

 

Franchise Tag Update (9 March 2021)

The New Orleans Saints are franchise tagging Marcus Williams. This is a surprise as I thought it would be a forgone conclusion that the Saints would allow Williams to walk for cap space. Williams is a great player, but the Saints have the 2nd worse cap situation in the entire NFL (3rd after Brees retires) and I don’t think he’s irreplaceable. Trevon Moehrig makes sense at No. 28, and if he’s gone, they could trade down into the 2nd round to take Paris Ford or Jevon Holland. They can make it work contractually, but this seems odd as New Orleans were already very much stacked against it in terms of retaining their talent. I won’t be grading franchise tags, only providing commentary until/if a contract comes.

Pre-Free Agency

Williams is unfortunately remembered for conceding the Minneapolis Miracle. However, despite that terrible play, Williams was terrific throughout his rookie contract and is a top-tier safety, who deserves a decent deal elsewhere. The Saints are apparently very keen, but they have a terrible cap situation that could lead to some tough cuts or departures, so I don’t expect Williams to stay. 

 

20. Taylor Moton (OT)

2020 TeamPanthers
Projected 2021 TeamPanthers
Other Fits             Bears, Titans, Jaguars, Cowboys, Bengals
Projected Contract4 Years, $60M
2021 TeamPanthers
ContractFranchise Tag ($13.7M)

 

Franchise Tag Update (9 March 2021)

The Carolina Panthers are franchise tagging Taylor Moton. This makes sense, as they need to hold onto him for sure. I would be surprised if they didn’t try and sign him to a long-term deal. I won’t be grading franchise tags, only providing commentary until/if a contract comes.

Pre-Free Agency

Taylor Moton has been a model of consistency as a well-above average Right Tackle in the NFL. He has never missed a game, and within that time, Moton has been one of the most consistent right tackles in the NFL. His pass and run protection is strong in equal measure, and with a new QB likely to come to Carolina – as well as, of course, Christian McCaffery as their feature back – his role will continue be critical. As such, I can see the Panthers prioritising him this off-season. Moton probably doesn’t deserve to usurp Lane Johnson or Jack Conklin as the highest paid RT in the NFL, but he’s due a huge pay-day either way. Wouldn’t rule out the franchise tag, either.

 

21 – JuJu Smith-Schuster (WR)

2020 TeamSteelers
Projected 2021 TeamColts
Other Fits             Jets, Lions, Bears, Dolphins, Washington, Steelers
Projected Contract4 Years, $52M
2021 TeamSteelers
Contract1 Year, $8M

 

Signing Update (22 March 2021)

What is it with receivers signing ridiculously undervalued contracts? Golladay was paid fairly, but both Fuller and Smith-Schuster have signed very team-friendly deals. This is insane. Smith-Schuster isn’t where Fuller is yet, but he’s just 24 years old. He’s ridiculously talented and his quarterbacking has been lacking in the past 2 seasons – 1 where Big Ben was out for the year, and another with him declining. I thought it was a forgone conclusion Smith-Schuster would be leaving Pittsburgh, but kudos to them for retaining him for another year. Apparently, he really wanted to stay in Pittsburgh – even at a pay cut. Easy A+.

Grade: A+

Pre-Free Agency

Smith-Schuster was unstoppable in 2018, but there has been some regression to the mean since. He is a very talented receiver, but I see him more as falling between an average #1 and premium #2 option. Still, he’s a big name, so I think someone will give him a big contract as the Steelers’ chances of retaining him are slim (although with Big Ben's restructure, at least a possibility now).

 

22 – Bud Dupree (DE/OLB)

2020 TeamSteelers
Projected 2021 TeamRavens
Other Fits             Jets, Titans, Cowboys, Dolphins, Seahawks, Steelers
Projected Contract3 Years, $45M
2021 TeamTitans
Contract5 Years, $82.5M

 

Signing Update (16 March 2021)

This signing makes sense. Until 2-3 years ago Dupree was an underwhelming former 1st round pick, but he’s blossomed into a premium edge rusher. The contract is slightly more per year that I expected – about $1.5M APY more – but this isn’t a huge deal as the Titans needed to address their woeful pass rush. 5 years is probably 1 year too much, but contract lengths are probably the least important detail as NFL contracts are more hypothetical than other sporting contracts. I’m slightly concerned, as Dupree is coming off a nasty injury, and it isn’t the first injury he’s suffered as a pro. He’s also only been a dominant player on the franchise tag, so perhaps he’ll settle now he’s rich. Still, this is a decent signing overall, and this was such a weakness I can’t grade this poorly. Only 1/3 is guaranteed, too, so they won’t be burned if by year 4 they need to shed his deal.

Grade: B-

Pre-Free Agency

Dupree is entering free agency on an injury, which is problematic. However, he has been rising year and year after has gone from being a mild disappointment to being a top-10 edge rusher linebacker in the NFL. He still has 19.5 sacks in the past 2 years and has been particularly electric in that time. The Steelers may struggle to keep him and extend T.J. Watt, the latter likely being their No. 1 priority this off-season.

 

23 – Hunter Henry (TE)

2020 TeamChargers
Projected 2021 TeamChargers
Other Fits             Seahawks, Eagles, Packers, Washington, Jaguars
Projected Contract4 Years, $48M
2020 TeamPatriots
Contract3 Years, $37.5M

 

Signing Update (17 March 2021)

This signing is horrendous, but not because of the player. I think great but not elite tight ends should be making around $10-11M APY. This is $12.5M APY, so a slight overpay, but I thought this would be the sort of value Henry might go for. Usually, this would be a B- sort of grade, similar to Williams/Dupree. My issue here, though, is the fit. The Patriots gave an equally monster contract to Jonnu Smith – in fact, with an extra year on top. I appreciate contracts aren’t paid precisely on the overall APY, but – on average – they have $25M APY tied up with Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith, one of whom is solid but injury prone, and another whom has been a disappointment thus far. That is absolutely crazy. Henry is a very good player when healthy. However, to sign both of the top-TE’s on the market to overpaid deals seems a very stupid decision.

Grade: F

Pre-Free Agency

If Henry’s injury history was not as concerning, Hunter Henry would be a top-10 free agent. He isn’t a Kittle or Kelce, but Henry a supremely talented tight end who, when on the field, has performed on a higher level than players like Austin Hooper and Blake Jarwin, who both signed long-term deals last off-season. I believe the Chargers value Henry, as they franchise tagged him in 2020, and with Justin Herbert performing at such a high level having a top-6 tight end will give him more options as he enters his sophomore campaign.

 

24 – Corey Davis (WR)

2020 TeamTitans
Projected 2021 TeamWashington
Other Fits             Lions, Jets, Bears, Dolphins, Patriots, Colts
Projected Contract3 Years, $42M
2021 TeamJets
Contract3 Years, $37M

 

Signing Update (16 March 2021)

This is the exact sort of contract you should offer for a player like Corey Davis. He was a disappointment until 2020, but he is now coming off a terrific year where he also had to deal with some personal issues. It would have been a huge mistake to give Davis a massive contract, as I’m not a fan of Davis being No. 1 receiver, but the Jets are paying him like a solid No. 2 which is exactly what he is. 3 years gives Davis some security without giving the Jets a massive risky contract to manage should the marriage not work out. Depending on their decision with Sam Darnold the Jets could even opt to draft Kyle Pitts or Ja’Marr Chase with their 1st round pick, which would give Darnold some very decent weapons to throw too. If not, Corey Davis + Denzel Mims is a decent receiving duo to come into the NFL throwing too. It’s not a world-beater, but I like this signing overall.

Grade: B+

Pre-Free Agency

Davis was a borderline bust until 2020. However, he played pretty well in 2020. He nearly cracked 1,000 yards, and also had some very difficult personal circumstances to deal with. Davis is definitely a candidate for a franchise tag, but as they already have some other very talented receiving threats – and a less than stellar cap situation – I can see them moving on from him. A ton of teams need a proven upgrade at receiver, so Davis – on the back of his career best year – should get a nice deal.

 

25 – Jayon Brown (LB)

2020 TeamTitans
Projected 2021 TeamJaguars
Other Fits             Bills, Washington, Broncos, Raiders, Lions
Projected Contract4 Years, $46M
2021 TeamTitans
Contract1 Year, $5.5M

 

Signing Update (17 March 2021)

This is a ridiculous bargain and incredible re-signing, and if I was to give out a ‘best signing’ award, this would probably be it. Brown had a lesser year in 2020 because of an injury, and missed some time, but Brown is an extremely good, talented young linebacker. I would understand a 2–3-year deal, perhaps, rather than a 4-year deal like I predicted, but still at Matt Milano’s sort of money. Brown is a similar calibre player. Instead, the Titans are retaining him for half of that value! I don’t understand why Brown accepted this deal, because I’m almost certain someone would have given him – at least - $10M APY to play elsewhere. The Titans won’t care. I would expect Brown to get a much better deal next off-season, but for now, this is an incredible re-signing.

Grade: A+

Pre-Free Agency

Jayon Brown is a supremely talented linebacker who has been a good player in the NFL. He’s shown some flashes and has elite upside. He is a very sure tackler, and stellar in coverage. Brown isn’t worth top-dollar money but is definitely worth something in the $11-12M per year range given his age.

 

26 – Mitchel Schwartz (OT)

2020 TeamChiefs
Projected 2021 TeamTitans
Other Fits             Bears, Titans, Jaguars, Cowboys, Bengals
Projected Contract3 Years, $27M

 

Pre-Free Agency

Schwartz is one of the better RTs in the NFL. He may have not reached a Pro Bowl, but of the two Chiefs OT’s released yesterday, Schwartz is the best by far. Unfortunately, he is coming off a back injury and a lot of missed time, but it’s also the first time he has ever missed time with injury in his 9 year career, showing he is usually very durable. Schwartz is 31 but could still have a good 2-3 years left in him. I don’t expect him to make top dollar, and my projection might actually be optimistic depending on his rehabilitation from injury.

 

27 – Shaquem Griffin (CB)

2020 TeamSeahawks
Projected 2021 TeamSeahawks
Other Fits             Jaguars, Colts, Patriots, Giants, 49ers, Lions
Projected Contract3 Years, $39M
2021 TeamJaguars
Contract3 Years, $44.5M

 

Signing Update (17 March 2021)

The Seahawks will be gutted, as they apparently pushed really hard to re-sign Griffin. However, the Jaguars beat them too it. The Jaguars were very quiet in the first day of free agency, but this is a very decent deal for them. As you can see, this is around $2M APY more expensive than I thought Griffin would sign for, but this isn’t a terrible deal by any means. The Jaguars have the most cap space, and Griffin is young. He’s coming off a down 2020, but he was playing hurt a lot of the time. Griffin is a Pro Bowl calibre player when healthy, and the need there alongside CJ Henderson was egregious. The Jaguars’ secondary is instantly so much stronger for this signing. The value is lacking for an A-range grade, but this is a good signing that makes a lot of sense.

Grade: B+

Pre-Free Agency

Griffin is a talented young cornerback who was electric in 2019. His play dipped off slightly in 2020 and was part of a generally very disappointing Seahawks secondary with Dunbar, himself and Jamal Adams all disappointing. However, I believe was also playing with an injury in 2020. Given how vital his position is, and his reasonably high floor – I would expect him to command something in the range of $12M per year. 

 

28 – William Jackson III (CB)        

2020 TeamBengals
Projected 2021 TeamChiefs
Other Fits             Falcons, Panthers, Jaguars, Washington, Chargers, 49ers
Projected Contract3 Years, $36M
2021 TeamWashington
Contract3 Years, $42M

 

Signing Update (17 March 2021)

I’ve seen a lot more Bengals games than most, as my partner is an avid fan of the team. Thus, I wasn’t surprised to see Jackson get a nice deal. With the Awuzie and Hilton signing, the writing was on the wall that the Bengals were doing over their CB room. Jackson is a very solid cornerback who played well on his rookie deal. He isn’t a turnover machine, but he’s a disruptive player. I think this is an overpay, but definitely not egregious at all. Washington will now have one of the best secondaries in the NFL, so I’ll give this the same grade as Shaquill Griffin.

Grade: B+

Pre-Free Agency

Jackson is not a true shutdown cornerback but is a solid starter who has been consistent throughout his rookie contract. The Bengals have a ton of cap space and some continuity in their secondary wouldn’t go amiss. I don’t expect a blockbuster deal, but re-signing Jackson to a nice deal from a competitor makes some sense.

 

29 – Xavier Rhodes (CB)

2020 TeamColts
Projected 2021 TeamColts
Other Fits             49ers, Chiefs, Falcons, Panthers, Jaguars, Lions
Projected Contract3 Years, $24M
2021 TeamColts
Contract1 Year, $6.5M

 

Signing Update (22 March 2021)

Great re-signing. Rhodes was terrific in 2020 after coming off a down-year with the Vikigns in 2019 through injury. Rhodes played at a Pro-Bowl level, so re-signing him for just $1.5M more than the ‘prove it’ deal he earned in 2020 is very good value. Rhodes is one of the better CBs in the NFL when healthy, yet the Colts are buying low on a player who could have earned more money on the open market.

Grade: A+

Pre-Free Agency

Rhodes was torched mercilessly in 2019, but before that he was a quality defensive back for the Vikings and Pro Bowler. It looks like he was playing some undisclosed injury in 2019, because he was terrific on a 1-year prove it deal for Indianapolis. Due to his age and injury issues in the past I don’t think he’ll make top dollar, but could take a $10M a year sort of deal as he can still play like a top-10 CB in the NFL.

 

30 – John Johnson (S)

2020 TeamRams
Projected 2021 TeamJaguars
Other Fits             Dolphins, Browns, Colts, Falcons, Vikings
Projected Contract3 Years, $35M
2021 TeamBrowns
Contract3 Years, $33.5M

 

Signing Update (16 March 2021)

This is a solid move at a fair and expected price-point. Johnson isn’t a household name, but he’s turned into a terrific safety for the Rams and is a player they will greatly miss. I thought the Browns may not rush to sign a safety in free agency, as Ronnie Harrison played very well with the Browns, and Grant Delpit will be coming back from missing his entire rookie year. However, this is a great deal and Johnson is a proven commodity, so I like this move a lot.

Grade: A-

Pre-Free Agency

John Johnson played very well during his rookie contract, but due to a very strong safety market in free agency, his market could be slower developing. I feel the chances of the Rams re-signing are slim to none, as they have the 2nd worst cap situation in the NFL.

 

31 – Matt Judon (OLB)

2020 TeamRavens
Projected 2021 TeamJets
Other Fits             Titans, Cowboys, Dolphins, Seahawks, Patriots, Steelers
Projected Contract3 Years, $45M
2021 TeamPatriots
Contract4 Years, $56M

 

Signing Update (16 March 2021)

The Patriots’ many signings yesterday yielded mixed results in my eyes, but this was one of the better ones. Judon has been slightly over-rated over the past 2 years, but he’s still a solid outside linebacker. This is a very good deal for him, considering what players like Bud Dupree got. I think Judon is only just behind Dupree, so I predicted he’d get $15M APY – to get him at $14M APY is very reasonable, as Judon was sought after. The Patriots’ defense was woeful in 2020 so Judon was a necessary improvement.

Grade: A-

Pre-Free Agency

Judon is another player I overlooked heading into free agency amidst all the candidates, so my apologies for that.  Judon is an undersized and overrated player. He reached his second consecutive Pro Bowl, but – like Jamal Adams – didn’t deserve the repeat nomination. Judon was a liability in run support at times last season, and the Ravens rightfully decided not to franchise tag him for a 2nd consecutive year. However, Judon has overall been a decent starter despite his down year, so he should be able to get a reasonable deal elsewhere.

 

32 – Trey Hendrickson (DE)

2020 TeamSaints
Projected 2021 TeamSeahawks
Other Fits             Texans, Jets, Titans, Seahawks, Bengals, Dolphins, Saints
Projected Contract3 Years, $42M
2021 TeamBengals
Contract4 Years, $60M

 

Signing Update (16 March 2021)

This is brilliant work from the Bengals. They lost Lawson to the Jets right before this move was made to practically the same deal, so they are essentially just upgrading Lawson with a slightly more talented alternative at the position. Whilst Lawson has been a consistent producer, but not a double-digit sack monster, Hendrickson is the reverse – a solid rotational player prior to last year who exploded when given the opportunity. The Bengals needed to improve their pass rush, and Hendrickson should be a solid franchise end for the Bengals. $15M for a high-quality starting defensive end is decent value, and given the need, this deserve a high grade.

Grade: A

Pre-Free Agency

Hendrickson is a very talented edge rusher, who didn’t produce much until 2020 due to limited playtime. It remains to be seen whether his 13.5 sacks in 2020 were the new norm, or whether he’ll regress, but he could very well end up being a late bloomer like Shaq Barrett. The Saints are in cap hell, so will struggle to re-sign him.

 

33 – Dalvin Tomlinson (DT)

2020 TeamGiants
Projected 2021 TeamBroncos
Other Fits             Patriots, Seahawks, Bengals, Texans, Dolphins, Jaguars, Giants
Projected Contract3 Years, $39M
2021 TeamVikings
Contract2 Years, $22M

 

Signing Update (16 March 2021)

This was another one of my favourite signings. Tomlinson isn’t a huge pass-rushing threat – although he isn’t inept in getting to the QB. However, he is one of the best run defenders in the NFL, an area the Vikings atypically lacked in last season. This is a brilliant deal for the Vikings, as $11M for a quality starting defensive tackle is good value. Like the Ngakoue deal, I can’t believe they managed to get Tomlinson to ink a 2-year deal given his talent. Alongside Michael Pierce and Danielle Hunter, the Vikings’ defensive line is due a massive re-bound in 2020.

Grade: A+

Pre-Free Agency

The NFL draft isn’t a strong defensive line class (especially on the interior) and the story is much and the same in free agency, so Tomlinson could be a coveted asset. Tomlinson probably qualifies as the best defensive tackle, and whilst he may return to New York, it’s most likely he’ll leave in free agency due to the Giants’ priority to re-sign Leonard Williams, Dexter Lawrence’s 2nd year improvements and weak cap position. He has limited potential in pass rush but is an extremely good and reliable run defender.

 

34 – Kyle Van Noy (LB)

2020 TeamDolphins
Projected 2021 TeamPatriots
Other Fits             Bills, Washington, Broncos, Raiders, Lions
Projected Contract2 Years, $20M
2021 TeamPatriots
Contract2 Years, $12.5M

 

Signing Update (17 March 2021)

It was definitely not surprising that Van Noy re-signed with the Patriots, as it was by far the most logical destination for him. This is a terrific signing. Van Noy was pretty decent in 2020, although not his usual self-due to injury. The Dolphins should have tried to re-structure his deal rather than just release him, as he’s a great player who is still young enough to warrant a high-paid deal. I actually think this is a bargain. Van Noy should be earning around $10M APY. To get him at this sort of value is really good work from the Patriots. You know he’ll be good, as he performed well there just a year ago under the same staff. This has to be a max grade.

Grade: A+

Pre-Free Agency

Kyle Van Noy was one of the more surprising releases. He had injuries last year, so his lower performance was understandable. He was probably over-paid at $12.75M a year, but not by tons. I could easily see him signing a shorter deal on a slight discount, but he should be earning 8 digits a year on average.

 

35– Jurrell Casey (DT)

2020 TeamBroncos
Projected 2021 TeamTexans
Other Fits             Seahawks, Bengals, Texans, Dolphins, Jaguars
Projected Contract2 Years, $20M

 

 Pre-Free Agency

Casey has consistently been one of the most undervalued defensive tackles in the NFL, and was an extremely consistent player who was named to 5 Pro Bowls for the Titans. They shockingly traded him to the Broncos for a 7th round selection, which is a complete insult, but Casey then went down for the majority of the year and was then cut. Casey only missed 5 games in 9 years before this for Tennessee, so Casey doesn’t have a concerning durability issue, and despite being a 10-year veteran is only 31. I can see teams with little at the position giving him a 2-3 year deal, as him and Dalvin Tomlinson are the only two sure things on the market.

 

36 – Anthony Harris (S)

2020 TeamVikings
Projected 2021 TeamDolphins
Other Fits             Browns, Jaguars, Colts, Falcons, Vikings
Projected Contract3 Years, $33M
2021 TeamEagles
Contract1 Year, $5M

 

Signing Update (22 March 2021)

It’s such a shame Harris didn’t play well on the franchise tag. Had he entered free agency in 2020, he’d have made huge money. However, he now has to settle for a prove-it deal. I thought Harris may still command $10M APY sort of money – at least – considering he was still solid enough, and very young still. This is a terrific deal for the Eagles. For this price, I don’t know why the Vikings didn’t retain him. If Harris improves, they could really turn to regret this move. It provides no risk at all for a Pro-Bowl calibre safety. I expect Harris to rebound, and if so, he’ll give an ailing secondary a huge boost.

Grade: A+

Pre-Free Agency

Anthony Harris would have been one of the most coveted free agents in the 2020 market, but he was franchised after a stellar season. Unfortunately for him, his stock this time isn’t so appealing, as he played poorly at times in 2020. He wasn’t awful, but he shouldn’t get super high-end money. Harris shouldn’t be a market setter, but also a safe bet to be a high-quality starting safety even with his down year, so a deal in the region of $11-12M per year feels about right.

 

37 – K’Waun Williams (CB)

2020 Team49ers
Projected 2021 TeamJets
Other Fits             Chiefs, Falcons, Panthers, Jaguars, Giants, Chargers, Lions
Projected Contract3 Years, $27M

 

Pre-Free Agency

K’Waun Williams has largely been an outstanding slot cornerback. He was one of the most underrated pieces of the 49ers’ Super Bowl run in 2019. Williams is coming off a poorer 2020, which may affect his free agency stock, although it wasn’t a lost season for him by any means. Given his age some team could get a brilliant buy-low return from him.

 

38 – Desmond King III (CB)            

2020 TeamTitans/Chargers
Projected 2021 TeamFalcons
Other Fits             Chiefs, 49ers, Panthers, Jaguars, Giants, Chargers, Lions
Projected Contract2 Years, $16M
2021 TeamTexans
Projected 2021 Team1 Year, $3.5M

 

Signing Update (22 March 2021)

The end of times must be coming, because I’m giving the Houston Texans an A+. However, this is a terrific deal for them. King was tremendous in the first two years of his rookie contract for the Chargers. He’s been less impactful since, but he’s still a very decent – and versatile – cornerback able to play safety and return kicks. This contract provides absolutely no risk for the Texans, and are getting one of the better available cornerbacks for absolutely nothing.

Grade: A+

Pre-Free Agency

King is an extremely talented cornerback who is also a proficient punt returner and still very young. However, after a break-out rookie and sophomore campaign, he hasn’t been the same player in the past 2 years. He’s also apparently a bit of a locker room lawyer. I don’t think a re-union is likely in Tennessee as they gave up virtually nothing for him – Adoree Jackson arguably is also a better version of what King is.

 

39 – Daryl Williams (OT)

2020 TeamBills
Projected 2021 TeamBills
Other Fits             Bears, Jaguars, Bengals, Raiders, Eagles, Washington
Projected Contract2 Years, $20M
2021 TeamBills
Contract3 Years, $28M

 

Signing Update (15 March 2021)

This is a bread and butter signing. Daryl Williams actually signed for a fraction less APY than I predicted, so this is a solid deal for the Bills. Williams has largely been a solid pro, short of his 2019 season, but after re-bounding in 2020 this deal feels about right. Continuity for the Bills was very important.

Grade: B+

Pre-Free Agency

Daryl Williams was a very consistent player for his first 4 years at the Panthers but was very poor in 2019. He rebounded last year and played well for the Bills. He was an upgrade at RT, with Cody Ford seemingly limited to guard in the NFL. I think Williams is a safe bet to sign a semi-discounted shorter-term deal, as he did enough to prove he is worthy of some money but likely not a franchise starter for them. 2 years averaging at $10M per year feels about right.

 

40 – Carl Lawson (DE)

2020 TeamBengals
Projected 2021 TeamBengals
Other Fits             Raiders, Jets, Seahawks, Browns, Eagles, Lions
Projected Contract3 Years, $33M
2021 TeamJets
Contract3 Years, $45M

 

Signing Update (16 March 2021)

This isn’t a terrible move or anything, as the Jets needed to improve their pass rush, and Lawson is definitely an above average starter. He has also played better than his 10.5 sacks  over 2 years would indicate. However, this is quite the over-pay. Lawson is a nice player, but he’s not dominant and shouldn’t be paid as such. I think the Bengals have come out of this well, as Hendrickson is a clear upgrade over Carl Lawson, and they managed to sign him for the exact same annual value. The fact Yannick Ngakoue makes $2M a year less than Lawson is ridiculous. The Jets could have done better for the value, signing Hendrickson themselves or going $1-2M a year more and making the move for Bud Dupree.

Grade: C+

Pre-Free Agency

Lawson has been a good find for the Bengals. He isn’t an elite player, but he’s been very consistent – when healthy – in getting to the quarterback. Unfortunately, this caveat isn’t a minor one – Lawson missed 13 games during his rookie contract due to injury. He was solid in 2020 and feels like a player the Bengals may want to retain, as this year isn’t stacked with great edge rushing talent.

 

41 – Jonnu Smith (TE)

2020 TeamTitans
Projected 2021 TeamPatriots
Other Fits             Seahawks, Eagles, Packers, Washington, Jaguars, Bengals
Projected Contract2 Years, $18M
2021 TeamPatriots
Contract4 Years, $50M

 

Signing Update (16 March 2021)

This is a shocker. What are the Patriots doing? Smith has largely been a disappointment for the Titans. Yet, he was apparently their ‘number 1 receiving target’. Why?! He’s only eclipsed 400+ yards once in his 4 year tenure, yet lines up on around 75% of offensive snaps. The Patriots had a ton of cash and could have signed Golladay, Fuller or even Corey Davis in a pinch. All of them would have actually helped their receiving corps substantially more than this, as they have two young tight ends, and they could have still signed someone like Kyle Rudolph. Smith has a lot upside, and is obviously their best tight end now, but paying him $12.5M APY is ridiculous. Easy F grade.

Grade: F

Pre-Free Agency

Jonnu Smith is a brilliant athlete, but he hasn’t been able to put it all together in the pros just yet. Smith has been a disappointment as a receiving tight end, and the Titans are doing the right thing by reportedly letting him walk. He’ll have a chance to blossom elsewhere, as he did look improved in 2020, but anyone signing him to a huge deal is making a huge mistake.

 

42 – Jadaveon Clowney (DE)

2020 TeamTitans
Projected 2021 TeamBrowns
Other Fits             Jets, Titans, Seahawks, Bengals, Dolphins, Saints
Projected Contract1 Years, $8M

 

Pre-Free Agency

Whilst O’Brien was an idiot for trading Clowney for pennies, it is also true that Clowney is one of the most overrated players in the NFL. His last 2 years in Houston were elite, but for both Seattle and Tennessee he has really disappointed. He has gotten just 3 sacks in his last 19 starts, and he has been solid but not elite in run defense. Clowney has also had severe injuries issues since leaving the Texans. He’s definitely a “buy low” option, but as a former No. 1 overall pick and 3-time Pro Bowler at only 28, he still has the chance to be a solid 3-down starter.

 

43 – Trai Turner (G)

2020 TeamChargers
Projected 2021 TeamCardinals
Other Fits             Bengals, 49ers, Panthers, Broncos, Giants, Chiefs
Projected Contract2 Years, $15M

 

Pre-Free Agency

Trai Turner didn’t play well at all in 2020 after being traded, but he was a terrific 5-time Pro Bowl guard for the Panthers who shouldn’t have been traded in the first place (in my opinion). He is still pretty young and is going to be a nice buy-low option for a team in need for a guard, as his upside is still pretty high at 27 years old.  

 

44 – Alex Mack (C)

2020 TeamFalcons
Projected 2021 Team49ers
Other Fits             Bengals, Chargers, Cardinals, Giants, Chiefs
Projected Contract2 Years, $16M
2021 Team49ers
Contract3 Years, $14.5M

 

Contract Update (18 March 2021)

Turns out this is a 3-year deal, not a 1-year deal. I won’t be changing the grade. Mack will be 38 when the contract concludes, but the 49ers actually get him for even less APY, so there is no risk if he declines if they want to opt-out of the contract early.

Updated Grade: A+

Signing Update (17 March 2021)

This is a superb signing. Mack isn’t young, but the 49ers were desperate for a center as Weston Richburg looks due to retire. Mack is past his prime, but they managed to get him for great value on a very low-risk deal. Mack is still arguably a top-10 center in the NFL and given the low risk – and great fit with Kyle Shanahan, with whom he’s worked twice. This signing works on all levels, so is an A+.

Grade: A+

Pre-Free Agency

Mack was the best center in the NFL for many years. He is 35 now, so this is no longer the case, but he’s still a great center. Offensive linemen can play well into their late 30’s, and Mack was a Pro Bowler just 2 years ago. He’s had a tremendous 6x Pro Bowl career for both Cleveland and Atlanta. Injuries are starting to become an issue, but he deserves a 2nd tier contract of a couple of years.

 

45 – Richard Sherman (CB)

2020 Team49ers
Projected 2021 TeamJets
Other Fits             Raiders, Falcons, Panthers, Giants, Chargers, Lions
Projected Contract2 Years, $18M

 

Pre-Free Agency

Sherman is a future hall of fame cornerback, but aside from a stellar 2019 campaign, he struggled through injuries and inconsistent play with San Francisco. Sherman has something still to give, but I don’t think he is the elite player he once was. Sherman has made it clear he wants to play for 2 more years, so I think he may as well re-unite with former defensive coordinator Robert Saleh. The Jets need a senior presence in their CB room, and Sherman is a leader if ever I’ve seen one. They have the cap space and the personnel to make this happen.

 

46 – Antonio Brown (WR)

2020 TeamBuccaneers
Projected 2021 TeamBuccaneers
Other Fits             Patriots, Lions, Bears, Dolphins, Colts, Browns, Eagles, Washington
Projected Contract1 Years, $5M

 

Pre-Free Agency

This is the wildest player to rank. Brown is one of the greatest receivers of my generational and is still a phenomenal player who should be on high contracts still. However, you really don’t know what version of Brown you’re going to get – the great player, or the individual with questionable judgement and character, which completely ruins the prospect of him signing monstrous deal. Brown seemed focused in 2020, so for his career to continue it’s slow but steady resurgence, I think he’ll sign with the Buccaneers cheap again. In all fairness to Brown, he doesn’t seem motivated purely by money. Unfortunately for him, he seems a year-to-year resign because of his antics.

 

47 – Curtis Samuel (WR)

2020 TeamPanthers
Projected 2021 TeamBrowns
Other Fits             Patriots, Lions, Bears, Dolphins, Colts, Washington
Projected Contract3 Years, $36M
2021 TeamWashington
Contract3 Years, $34.5M

 

Signing Update (17 March 2021)

Washington have been cautious but smart in free agency, and have been dark horses to be a real threat in the NFC next season. Samuel was a disappointment for his first year or two, but really came along in 2019. He was even better in 2020, and impressed when asked to become a bonafide No. 2 receiver for the Panthers after pass-catching superstar back McCaffery went down for the year. Samuel will play alongside former college team-mate Terry McLaurin next season, which should make for a fabulous duo. This is also pretty much smack on what Samuel should be paid. A very good signing, overall.

Grade: A-

Pre-Free Agency

Samuel hasn’t been the most productive receiver, thanks in part to being buried behind D.J. Moore, but he is one of the highest ceiling No. 2 receivers available in free agency. A strong draft class at the position may disadvantage him, but Samuel could thrive somewhere with a solid quarterback. The Browns have two very good receivers in Landry and Beckham Jr., but the latter could be traded either this off-season or at the deadline. Even if not, they could do with additional depth at the position.

 

48 – Russell Okung (OT)

2020 TeamPanthers
Projected 2021 TeamPanthers
Other Fits             Bears, 49ers, Jaguars, Bengals, Raiders, Washington, Panthers
Projected Contract2 Years, $25M

 

Pre-Free Agency

Okung has been a solid former 1st round pick in the NFL, perhaps playing his best football with the Chargers. His issue has been his poor durability and other health concerns. Okung deserves a well-paid, short term deal because he’s a rock-solid tackle. The Panthers may want a veteran line for their new QB in 2021, so I would expect both Moton and Okung to return. If Okung was younger, he would deserve perhaps a longer-term deal, but 2 years

 

49 – Emmanuel Sanders (WR)

2020 TeamSaints
Projected 2021 TeamRavens
Other Fits             Giants, 49ers, Lions, Bears, Dolphins, Patriots, Washington
Projected Contract2 Years, $16M
2021 TeamBills
Contract1 Years, $6M

 

Signing Update (17 March 2021)

This is a weird fit. I thought the Bills released John Brown because they were impressed by rookie Gabriel Davis. From Sanders’ perspective, I would have signed elsewhere. Beasley is a great, affordable slot receiver which is Sanders’ best fit at this point in his career, and Gabriel Davis was good as mentioned above last year. Diggs is clearly receiver No. 1. I’m just not sure where Sanders fits. This is definitely a good-value deal, as Sanders played fine last year, but the Bills would have been towards the bottom of where I expected him to end up.

Grade: B-

Pre-Free Agency

Sanders’ best days are behind him, and his age – 32 – is a concern. However, Sanders was still a very competent No. 2 receiver for both the 49ers and Saints. He has a role, likely in the slot, on a 2-year deal for an NFL team with the need of a veteran presence.

 

50 – Kyle Rudolph (TE)

2020 TeamVikings
Projected 2021 TeamPackers
Other Fits             Seahawks, Eagles, Patriots, Washington, Jaguars
Projected Contract2 Years, $12M

 

Signing Update (22 March 2021)

Kyle Rudolph is signing with the New York Giants. No financials have been confirmed yet.

Pre-Free Agency

Kyle Rudolph was rumoured to be a cap casualty ever since Irv Smith Jr. was drafted, and now, the day has finally come. Rudolph is the wrong side of 30 but definitely a quality starter. He won’t command a stellar deal as he’ll likely continue to decline, but a few teams need some help at tight end. The Patriots and Seahawks have both been connected, as has have the Browns, although such a union would make little sense.

 

51 – Jameis Winston (QB)

2020 TeamSaints
Projected 2021 TeamSaints
Other Fits             Broncos, Panthers, Jets, Texans, Eagles
Projected Contract2 Years, $10M
2021 TeamSaints
Contract1 Year, $5.5M

 

Signing Update (16 March 2021)

Re-grading this. My only issue with this grade was the price compared to their cap situation. This is substantially more palatable, so I will completely rescind my original F for a much better grade. The deal is actually closer to $5.5M with incentives and original reports of $12M were misleading. On that basis, it’s significantly better. With Taysom Hill in tow, I feel this is a fine signing. – Jameis Winston is a better, more talented option than Taysom Hill. For half the price (less, even) the Saints are paying the price of a premium backup, which is what Winston is –with development (he’s still only 27) – Winston could even possibly become a good starter. It’s unlikely, but if it’s going to happen, the Saints is as good as anywhere.

Grade: B+

Pre-Free Agency

Former No. 1 overall pick Winston didn’t quite pan out for the Buccaneers, but I wouldn’t call him a complete bust. Winston had some bright moments, as well as some devastating lows. Consistency and maternity issues marred his time in Tampa Bay, but with the Saints, Winston still has the elite upside – and is still the right side of 30 – to make something of himself in the NFL. It would be in his interest to sign a team-friendly deal with the Saints, who have severe cap issues, and compete to take over from Brees. I think Winston is significantly more talented and ready than Taysom Hill and could be in for a career resurgence. Winston, at worst, is one of the better backup or bridge QB’s you’d be able to get.

 

52 – Kyle Juszczyk (FB)

2020 Team49ers
Projected 2021 Team49ers
Other Fits             Vikings, Saints, Packers, Bills, Browns, Giants
Projected Contract4 Years, $24M
2021 Team49ers
Contract5 Years, $27M

 

Signing Update (15 March 2021)

This is a great deal for the 49ers. They retained Juszczyk for an almost identical APY as they signed him for in 2017 (4 Years, $21M). He is ‘only’ a fullback, but his blocking and pass-game versatility is a huge plus for the run-centric 49ers.

Grade: A

Pre-Free Agency

Juszczyk is a terrific player for the 49ers who is critical to their running success. He’s ranked so low because the FB position is largely redundant outside of 4-6 teams who still utilise fullbacks properly, so his position provides little value in an open market. However, Juszczyk is the best full back since Mike Alshott, so if the 49ers can reach a long-term deal in the region of $6M year (full backs usually bring in $4M) then they will be happy.

 

53 – Malik Hooker (S)

2020 TeamColts
Projected 2021 TeamRaiders
Other Fits             Saints, Dolphins, Jaguars, Colts, Falcons, Vikings
Projected Contract1 Years, $6M

 

Pre-Free Agency

Hooker still has elite potential, and when he’s been on the field he’s played very well. The problem is that, as a former No. 7 pick, he has missed more than half his starts within his rookie contract with the Colts due to these injuries. He missed all of 2020 with an Achilles injury, too, so he’s entering free agency at an inopportune time (especially given how good this safety FA class is). Hooker is likely done in Indianapolis with Julian Blackmon playing very well, so will likely need to sign a “prove it” deal elsewhere. The Raiders’ pick of Jonathan Abrams hasn’t panned out, to be kind, so they may want to a take a 1-year flier on his high level of talent.

 

54 – Janoris Jenkins (CB)

2020 TeamSaints
Projected 2021 TeamJaguars
Other Fits             Raiders, 49ers, Chiefs, Panthers, Jaguars, Giants, Chargers, Lions
Projected Contract1 Years, $7M

 

Signing Update (17 March 2021)

Janoris Jenkins is signing with the Tennessee Titans. No financials have been confirmed yet.

Pre-Free Agency

The exodus of the Saints’ roster continues, as this release came through as I was doing my 11 March update. Janoris Jenkins isn’t an exceptional player, but he’s a decent No. 2/3 cornerback for a team needing depth. A litany of teams qualifies as needing secondary help, so he’ll be able to sign a 1-year deal somewhere. Age is becoming a concern.

 

55 – Mike Hilton (CB)

2020 TeamSteelers
Projected 2021 TeamChiefs
Other Fits             Raiders, 49ers, Panthers, Jaguars, Giants, Bengals,
Projected Contract2 Years, $14M
2021 TeamBengals
Contract4 Years, $24M

 

Signing Update (17 March 2021)

Like Washington, the Bengals aren’t making many huge moves, but are having a solid free agency. This is a great pickup. Not only are they buying low on a starting calibre cornerback, but are stealing one from a divisional rival! I thought Hilton would go for about this money and am happy for him that he’s getting a longer deal than expected. This is a well-valued deal, and after losing Jackson, they needed this sort of contingency.

Grade: A

Pre-Free Agency

Hilton is coming off a down-year but was a solid player for the Steelers over his 5-year tenure. Their cap situation is dire, so I don’t think they’ll be able to retain to him. The Panthers and 49ers are two teams that could do with padding their secondary with veterans. Hilton is still the right side of 30, so there is some upside there.

 

56 – Jason Verrett (CB)

2020 Team49ers
Projected 2021 Team49ers
Other Fits             Raiders, Chiefs, Panthers, Jaguars, Giants, Chargers, Lions
Projected Contract1 Year, $5M
2021 Team49ers
Contract1 Years, $5.5M

 

Signing Grade (16 March 2021)

Pretty much as predicted, save $500K. This contract could elevate to $6.5M with a Pro Bowl appearance for Verrett, which if healthy, is plausible. Verrett is coming off a good year, yet the 49ers are paying mid-grade money. This is a short contract with very little risk, so it’s hard not like it given his talent. Verrett could very well get injured again, but if he remains healthy, he could command a bigger deal next off-season.

Grade: A

Pre-Free Agency

The 49ers made a good call giving Verrett another shot last year. Jason Verrett is coming off a terrific 2020, but was injured for 2-3 years in a row before that. In his two healthy years for the Chargers/49ers he’s been a terrific cornerback, a Pro Bowler in one, but he’s just so brittle (he’s been in the pros for 7 years). He’s one of the most injury prone players in the NFL, yet very talented, so he’s incredible difficult to assess. Anything more than a 1-year deal for the next couple of off-seasons would be too risky for teams. However, if he can put together a solid 2021 campaign like he did last year, his free agency stock will likely rocket up.

 

57 – Riley Reiff (OT)

2020 TeamVikings
Projected 2021 TeamBears
Other Fits             Lions, Jaguars, Bengals, Raiders, Washington, Panthers
Projected Contract1 Year, $8M
2021 TeamBengals
Contract1 Year, $7.5M

 

Signing Grade (16 March 2021)

Very logical signing at the correct value. The Bengals needed to improve their offensive line, and Reiff is a steady pair of hands. This makes the prospect of selecting Sewell interesting, but as Walter mentioned, this absolutely does not preclude them from taking him. In fact, I look at this as contingency if Miami takes him instead. Their entire OL – save Jonah Williams – needs an overhaul, so the dream scenario would be to draft Sewell, move Jonah Williams to RT and play Reiff at guard.

Grade: A-

Pre-Free Agency

Reiff has never been a great player; however, he is a steady pair of hands that will get you by if you have nothing better at the position. He might be a good fit for a team who is considering drafting a young rookie at the position as a mentor/immediate starter, or as a contingency option for a team like the 49ers/Steelers if they are unable to retain their impending free agents LT’s.

 

58 – Shelby Harris (DT)

2020 TeamBroncos
Projected 2021 TeamJets
Other Fits             Broncos, Titans, Seahawks, Bengals, Dolphins, Saints
Projected Contract2 Years, $12M
2021 TeamBroncos
Contract3 Years, $27M

 

Signing Update (16 March 2021)

This is too much money for Harris, at least on a 3-year deal. I’m happy for him, as he bounced around the league a bit before finding some continuity with the Broncos, but Harris is being paid a few million a year too much. He signed for $3M in 2020 on a one year deal, so he’ll be making triple the money in this contract. Harris will be playing this contract in his 30’s and whilst he’s a valuable defender, he shouldn’t be getting paid this much. Not a terrible signing, but similar to Carl Lawson, an over-pay given the market and options.

Grade: C

Pre-Free Agency

Harris is more of a rotational player, but he has decent pass rushing ability for an interior lineman, which is a coveted skill. Harris is also young enough to still be a quality starter and has come up from being a practise squad journeyman, so his work ethic has always been good.

 

59 – Marvin Jones (WR)

2020 TeamLions
Projected 2021 TeamColts
Other Fits             Lions, Bears, Dolphins, Colts, Browns, Eagles, Washington
Projected Contract2 Years, $16M

 

Signing Update (17 March 2021)

Marvin Jones is signing with the Jacksonville Jaguars. No financials have been confirmed yet.

Pre-Free Agency

Jones has been a superb No. 2 for both the Bengals and the Lions. His best his still behind him, but at 30, he could still have a few more decent years in the tank. I have him taking a cheap and short deal with a team like the Colts, who will miss T.Y. Hilton.

 

60 – Cam Newton (QB)

2020 TeamPatriots
Projected 2021 TeamPatriots
Other Fits             Bears, Broncos, Panthers, Jets, Texans, Eagles
Projected Contract1 Years, $5M
2021 TeamPatriots
Contract1 Year, $5M

 

Signing Update (15 March 2021)

Cam Newton is past his prime, but he’s signing a low-risk, cheap deal, so this is a middle-of-the-road continuity signing you can’t hate. The Patriots offensive line should be even better in 2021, and with some more weapons – and returning opt outs – Newton will be in a slightly better situation this season. At the very worst, Newton is an average starter for the Patriots

Grade: B+

Pre-Free Agency

Cam Newton was decent (if not great) to start the year, and then his performance nosedived after contracting COVID-19. Newton’s stats are somewhat misleading, as despite putting up putrid throwing stats (8 TD’s, 10 INT’s) he was joint 4th in rushing touchdowns, so all-purpose had 20 TD’s last season despite performing under average. Newton is worth another punt in NE if they can’t get anything better, although anything over a 1-year deal would be ludicrous.

 

61 – Cam Robinson (OT)

2020 TeamJaguars
Projected 2021 TeamJaguars
Other Fits             Bears, 49ers, Jaguars, Bengals, Washington, Panthers
Projected Contract1 Years, $7M
2021 TeamJaguars
ContractFranchise Tag ($13.7M)

 

Franchise Tag Update (9 March 2021)

The Jacksonville Jaguars have franchised tagged Cam Robinson. This is the worst franchise tag decision I’ve seen in years, although with Trent Baalke as GM, this is likely the first of many stupid decisions to come. I thought Robinson was going to be re-signed as he had a solid year, but on a 1-year discounted deal (or let him test free agency). Instead, he’ll make almost double on an unnecessary franchise tag. Whilst Robinson can be a good starter when healthy, durability is a big issue. He also had character issues entering the NFL and is a very inconsistent player with some concerning low-points. The Jaguars are buying high on Robinson and could have drafted a better replacement at either No. 25 or No. 33.

Pre-Free Agency

Cam Robinson is an adequate tackle who is inconsistent and never fully lived up to his potential. He’s shown great potential at times, but the problem is his health, as he’s rarely on the field. I think the Jaguars may re-sign him, as he is one of their more talented offensive linemen, but perhaps on a 1-year “prove it” deal as I don’t believe he’ll warrant a huge market. The media have over-hyped his market, probably because of Trevor Lawrence casting a stronger light on the Jaguars, but they could do better in the draft or kick the tyres with Jawaan Taylor.

 

62 – Ronald Darby (CB)

2020 TeamWashington
Projected 2021 TeamWashington
Other Fits             49ers, Chiefs, Panthers, Jaguars, Broncos, Chargers, Lions
Projected Contract2 Years, $14M
2021 TeamBroncos
Contract3 Years, $30M

 

Signing Update (15 March 2021)

The Broncos are having a mediocre start to free agency. The Harris signing wasn’t risky, it was just too much money. This is both too risky and too expensive. When Darby is playing his best football, and healthy, this is the sort of contract he would command. He is coming off a terrific 2020, but the Broncos are simply buying too high. If this was a 1-year deal, I wouldn’t hate it, as Darby could have a great season. However, Darby has been too inconsistent – ironically like previous cornerback Bradley Roby. Darby seems to go from good year to bad year in equal measure, which isn’t the sort of player you reward with a high-end contract. It wouldn’t shock me if Darby played just his first season on this deal before being cut.

Grade: D

Pre-Free Agency

Ronald Darby is such an unpredictable player. He tends to play well one year, poorly the next, then rebounds. He reminds me of Bradley Roby in that regard. Last year Darby was excellent in 2019, but history would suggest he is due a down year. I think a 2-year deal for continuity in their secondary alongside stud cornerback Kendall Fuller wouldn’t go a miss for Washington.

 

63 – Kevin Zeitler (G)

2020 TeamGiants
Projected 2021 TeamBengals
Other Fits             Cardinals, Ravens, Chargers, 49ers, Broncos, Giants, Chiefs
Projected Contract1 Year, $5M
2021 TeamRavens
Contract3 Years, $22M

 

Signing Grade (15 March 2021)

The Ravens really needed to improve their interior offensive-line, so the fit is clear. However, this move has been lauded by most, whereas I think this is a clear overpay. Zeitler was a quality guard for both Cincinatti and Cleveland, but he was mediocre for New York. That might be kind. He’s also in his 30's and has declined in consecutive years, so his regression is likely permanent. 3 years at $8.3M APY seems too high when this draft is incredibly deep with starting calibre offensive line talent. Even if they wanted proven veterans, they could have waited to see if someone like Trai Turner – who is younger but coming off a bad year – was available for cheaper. This isn’t a great move, but Zeitler has a high floor, and the need is egregious, so I’ll be generous.

Grade: C+

Pre-Free Agency

Zeitler has been a solid guard for the majority of his 9 years in the NFL. He is coming off a career worst year, however, and is the wrong side of 30 so will likely to continue to decline. There are a bunch of teams with poor interior line play, so Zeitler could be a reasonably cheap 1-year option to add depth or be an average starter.

 

64– Melvin Ingram III (DE)

2020 TeamChargers
Projected 2021 TeamRaiders
Other Fits             Seahawks, Broncos, Jets, Titans, Bengals, Dolphins, Saints
Projected Contract1 Year, $5M

 

Pre-Free Agency

Melvin Ingram played much better on his second contract that first and played very well from 2017 – 2019. However, he was virtually non-existent for the Chargers last year between injuries. He’s past his prime, but a team in desperate need for pass rush such as the Seahawks or Titans may wish to take a flier on him on a 1-year deal as his floor is pretty high (at least when healthy). Gus Bradley may also look to take on former Chargers as he tries to sort out Vegas' putrid defense. 

 

65 – John Brown (WR)

2020 TeamBills
Projected 2021 TeamColts
Other Fits             Bears, Dolphins, Lions, Browns, Washington
Projected Contract1 Years, $6M
2020 TeamRaiders
Contract1 Year, $35M

 

Signing Grade (17 March 2021)

Much like the Sanders signing, this isn’t a bad deal – in fact, it’s equally good value – but I don’t get the point. Receiver depth is always a good thing, but the Raiders have a good young group of receivers. They’ve trimmed the fat in recent weeks so I’m not sure why this move was necessary. However, it’s a very low risk signing so it’s pretty harmless, and John Brown is still productive when healthy.

Grade: B

Pre-Free Agency

Brown has been a decent receiver at times, including a solid 2019 campaign for the Bills. However, he has fallen to No. 4 on the depth chart and didn’t do much in 2020 – he also has injury issues. Brown might be able to help an ailing receiving corps, but won’t get a long-term deal anywhere.

 

66 – Eric Fisher (OT)

2020 TeamChiefs
Projected 2021 TeamRaiders
Other Fits             Bears, 49ers, Jaguars, Bengals, Washington, Panthers
Projected Contract1 Years, $8M

 

Pre-Free Agency

Eric Fisher is largely overrated as the former No. 1 pick in the 2013 draft but has played better during his 2nd contract and is a solid offensive lineman against moderate competition. Still, the 2 Pro Bowls are misleading, struggles against elite edge rushers, and he’s coming off a bad injury in the playoffs – as well as now being the wrong side of 30. Fisher will probably need to sign a “prove it deal” as a result of these factors. I feel the Raiders, in light of their recent bizarre OL moves, may look to sign Fisher – probably overpay him – and start him at RT (or shift Kolton Miller). A bunch of teams need veteran tackle help so Fisher will end up with a job somewhere.

 

67 – Desmond Trufant (CB)

2020 TeamLions
Projected 2021 TeamRaiders
Other Fits             49ers, Chiefs, Panthers, Jaguars, Giants, Chargers
Projected Contract1 Year, $5M

 

Signing Update (22 March 2021)

Desmond Trufant is signing with the Chicago Bears. No financials have been confirmed yet.

Pre-Free Agency

Trufant signed a $10.5M per year deal with Detroit in free agency after one of his best years for the Falcons but was very average in 2020. Trufant doesn’t have much upside any more at his age but is a reasonably consistent player with a high floor. A team with developing young players at the position could be interested.

 

68 – Quinton Dunbar (CB)

2020 TeamSeahawks
Projected 2021 TeamLions
Other Fits             Raiders, 49ers, Chiefs, Jaguars, Giants, Chargers, Lions
Projected Contract1 Year, $6M

 

Pre-Free Agency

Dunbar is another erratic cornerback. He had some great seasons in Washington, but after his trade to Seattle and subsequent off-field drama his play has fallen off a cliff. I would expect the Seahawks to let him test free agency. The Lions are desperate for a veteran presence in their secondary to replace Trufant, who they recently released, so could look to Dunbar as a cheaper alternative.

 

69 – Kenny Vaccaro (S)

2020 TeamTitans
Projected 2021 TeamLions
Other Fits             Dolphins, Jaguars, Colts, Vikings, Raiders, 49ers
Projected Contract1 Year, $5M

 

 Pre-Free Agency

Vaccaro is an average safety who was another cap casualty for the Titans. He would be an ideal 1-year “prove it” candidate to go to a team who have some talented young players but no proven stars at the position.

 

70 – Carlos Dunlap (DE)

2020 TeamSeahawks/Bengals
Projected 2021 TeamRavens
Other Fits             Jets, Titans, Cowboys, Raiders, Bengals
Projected Contract1 Year, $4M

 

Pre-Free Agency

Carlos Dunlap was a reliable and talented edge rusher for the Bengals. After 10.5 years, he was traded to next-to-nothing after underperforming post-Lewis. He did better for Seattle, notching 4.5 sacks, but didn’t light the world on fire. Dunlap is likely a year-to-year contract sort of veteran who could provide valuable depth to a weakened defensive line.

 

71 – Malcolm Butler (CB)

2020 TeamTitans
Projected 2021 TeamTexans
Other Fits             Falcons, Panthers, Jaguars, Giants, Chargers, Lions
Projected Contract1 Year, $7M

 

Pre-Free Agency

Butler was a superb cornerback for the Patriots. He was significantly poorer for Tennessee, and a very overrated player, but is equally a competent cornerback who is by no means a liability. Given the current market, I would be surprised if Butler got more than a 1-year ‘prove it’ deal. The Texans aren’t going to be big free agency players as their franchise is in disarray, but they need to do something at cornerback.

 

72 – Adrian Clayborn (DE)

2020 TeamBrowns
Projected 2021 TeamRaiders
Other Fits             Jets, Titans, Cowboys, Raiders, Seahawks, Bengals
Projected Contract1 Year, $2M

 

Pre-Free Agency

Adrian Clayborn never lived up to his first-round potential, but he’s been a very solid starter for multiple teams in the NFL. He’s near the end of the road now, but he might have a year or two left to help an ailing pass rush as edge rushers will always be in demand in the NFL.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 





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