Top landing spots for 5 best remaining NFL free agents

By Vincent Frank

Most of the top NFL free agents of this cycle are already off the board. The New England Patriots were among the most-active in heading to their talentless core after the team finished under .500 for the first time since 2000.

However, the NFL salary cap situation has made it difficult for other teams to add high-priced players through the first couple waves of free agency. This means that there’s still a ton of pretty good players remaining on the market.

Below, we look at the five-best remaining NFL free agents and where they might land moving forward on the offseason.

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Alex Smith to the Jacksonville Jaguars

NFL free agents: Alex Smith
Jan 3, 2021; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; Washington Football Team quarterback Alex Smith (11) warms up before a game against the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

New Jaguars head coach Urban Meyer had a ton of success with Smith dating back to their days together with the Utah Utes eons ago. Fast forward 17 years, and a reunion in Duval could be in the cards here. The idea would be for Smith to back up likely No. 1 pick Trevor Lawrence in 2021.

While the 36-year-old Smith would like to compete for a starting job, it appears that those hopes are now severely diminished. He’s played in all of eight games since the end of the 2018 season due to a highly-publicized leg injury. Last season with Washington, Smith threw six touchdowns against eight interceptions despite winning NFL Comeback Player of the Year honors. He’d be a perfect fit behind Lawrence with the Jaguars.

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Alejandro Villanueva to the Minnesota Vikings

NFL free agents: Alejandro Villanueva
Dec 18, 2016; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers tackle Alejandro Villanueva (78) against the Cincinnati Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium. The Steelers won 24-20. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

While Riley Reiff was pretty darn good during a four-year run with the Vikings, the veteran left tackle’s cap hit for the 2021 season made him an easy release. Minnesota definitely has trust in Brian O’Neill transitioning over to the left side in front of Kirk Cousins. However, it makes sense to find a cost-effective short-term option.

That’s where the highly-underrated Villanueva comes into play. The two-time Pro Bowler continued to prove recently that he can be a franchise blindside protector in front of the immobile Ben Roethlisberger in Pittsburgh. Despite entering his Age-33 season, he could fill that same role in Minnesota on a short-term basis. Villanueva would also come pretty cheap during the third wave of free agency.

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Jadeveon Clowney to the Cleveland Browns

2021 NFL free agents: Jadeveon Clowney
Oct 25, 2020; Nashville, Tennessee, USA; Tennessee Titans outside linebacker Jadeveon Clowney (99) takes the field before the game against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Nissan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Now 28, Clowney just has not lived up to the hype since he left the Houston Texans following the 2018 season. Over the past two years, the former No. 1 pick has tallied a combined 19 quarterback hits and three sacks in 21 games between the Seahawks and Titans. That’s one of the reasons he remains on the NFL free agent market.

With that said, we’re still talking about a guy who earned three consecutive Pro Bowl appearances from 2016-18. That span saw him record 59 quarterback hits and 24.5 sacks. Having already visited with the Browns, Clowney makes a ton of sense to play opposite Myles Garrett. He’s also a perfect fit in Cleveland’s 4-3 base defensive scheme. This almost makes too much sense.

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Richard Sherman to the Las Vegas Raiders

NFL free agents: Richard Sherman
Dec 13, 2020; Glendale, Arizona, USA; San Francisco 49ers cornerback Richard Sherman (25) looks on against the Washington Football Team during the first half at State Farm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

One of the top remaining NFL free agents, Sherman recently noted that he’s unlikely to sign with a team until after the upcoming draft. It makes sense. The market should be more fruitful as teams miss out on top-end cornerbacks at the top of the annual event. What we do know is that the five-time Pro Bowler is unlikely to return to the 49ers after spending three seasons in Northern California.

We couldn’t imagine a better fit for Sherman than in Vegas. First off, he has a built-in relationship with new Raiders defensive coordinator Gus Bradley dating back to their days together with the Seattle Seahawks. Jon Gruden and Co. also have a need for a veteran in the defensive backfield with Trayvon Mullen and Damon Arnette. One year removed from playing at a Pro Bowl level, Sherman would make sense.

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Antonio Brown to the Seattle Seahawks

Where might Antonio Brown land during NFL free agency?
Jan 3, 2021; Tampa, Florida, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Antonio Brown (81) flips into the end zone for a touchdown against the Atlanta Falcons during the second half at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

It’s already known that Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson has been campaigning for the team to sign Antonio Brown. It’s also unclear whether the seven-time Pro Bowler will return to the defending champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers after playing well and keeping his head on straight a season ago.

Seattle loves to take chances on troubled receivers. Josh Gordon is the latest example. Adding the 32-year-old Brown to the mix would make sense in this regard. He’s also one of the top NFL free agents remaining on the offensive side of the ball. Adding Brown to team up with Tyler Lockett and D.K. Metcalf would be ideal.