The top NFL free agents of 2021 are set to hit the open market in the matters of weeks. This includes some notable quarterbacks who could potentially change teams.
However, it seems like the wide receiver position is the most-stacked of the bunch. That includes the likes of Allen Robinson, JuJu Smith-Schuster and Chris Godwin set to become NFL free agents.
Below, we look at the top-50 NFL free agents of 2021 with a positional breakdown after that.
50. Russell Okung, offensive tackle, Carolina Panthers
A two-time Pro Bowl performer, the 32-year-old Okung continues to play at a high level when on the field. Unfortunately, he’s missed 16 of a possible 32 games over the past two seasons. Despite playing in just seven games this past season, Okung was one of the primary reasons Teddy Bridgewater was sacked just 31 times. He should land a decent, short-term contract in free agency.
49. James Conner, running back, Pittsburgh Steelers
To say it has been somewhat of a struggle for Conner over the past two seasons would be an understatement. After jumping on to the scene replacing Le’Veon Bell in 2018, the former mid-round pick has gained 1,651 total yards at a clip of 4.7 yards per touch since the start of the 2019 campaign. Even then, Conner is still only 25 years old and is averaging north of 1,000 total yards with 26 touchdowns over the past three seasons.
48. Jason Verrett, cornerback, San Francisco 49ers
If it weren’t for Alex Smith, Verrett likely would have won the NFL Comeback Player of the Year award in 2020. A Pro Bowler with the Chargers all the way back in 2015, he played a total of five games over the next four seasons due to numerous injuries. That changed in 2020 with Verrett acting as the 49ers’ best cover guy. He recorded seven passes defended and two interceptions while yielding a sub 60 passer rating when targeted.
47. Matt Milano, linebacker, Buffalo Bills
One of the most-underrated NFL free agents this cycle, Milano went from special teams player to starter in his four seasons with Buffalo after the team made him a late-round pick in 2017. Prior to missing six games this past season, Milano put up a heck of a 2019 campaign. That included the Boston College product tallying 101 tackles, nine passes defended and seven quarterback hits. Look for him to get play on a long-term deal once the market opens.
46. Kyle Juszczyk, fullback, San Francisco 49ers
The last in a lost breed of traditional fullbacks, the 29-year-old Juszczyk is coming off his fifth consecutive Pro Bowl appearance. He isn’t simply a lead blocker, either. The Ivy League grad tallied 1,212 total yards and nine touchdowns in four seasons with the 49ers. While his market might be limited due to teams not using a traditional fullback, Juszczyk is one of the most-underrated NFL free agents this year.
45. Chris Carson, running back, Seattle Seahawks
After racking up a combined 2,810 total yards and 18 touchdowns over the previous two years, Carson dealt with injuries in Seattle last season. He missed four games, tallying a mere 968 total yards. However, there’s a lot to like here. The former seventh-round pick averaged 5.4 yards per touch in 2020 while scoring nine touchdowns. He’ll have a strong market.
44. Leonard Floyd, defensive end, Los Angeles Rams
Seen by some as a first-round bust in his four years in Chicago, the 28-year-old Floyd is coming off a career-best performance with the Rams. He tallied 19 quarterback hits, 11 tackles for loss and 10.5 sacks. That’s the type of production Chicago figured it was going to get from the former top-10 pick. Now set to hit NFL free agency while still in his prime, expect a hefty contract for Floyd come March.
43. Andy Dalton, quarterback, Dallas Cowboys
A full-time starter with the Bengals for nine seasons, Dalton took on the Cowboys’ backup job in 2020. Once Dak Prescott went down five games in, he performed extremely well. The veteran completed 64.9% of his passes for 2,170 yards with 14 touchdowns against eight interceptions in nine starts. Sure Dalton is unlikely to be anything more than a backup moving forward, but he’s one of the best backups in the game.
42. T.Y. Hilton, wide receiver, Indianapolis Colts
After tallying 1,000 yards or more in five of his previous six seasons, this four-time Pro Bowler has fallen on hard times. In fact, Hilton has put up less than 1,300 receiving yards over the past two years. At 31 years old, there’s some concern about him being in full-scale regression mode. Even then, latching on with a contending team could help this veteran pass-catcher turn things around big time.
41. Jameis Winston, quarterback, New Orleans Saints
There’s a chance that Winston returns to the Saints in 2021 as the team’s starter with Drew Brees potentially headed for retirement. However, Taysom Hill will have something to say about that. Either way, Winston is one season removed from throwing 30 interceptions. He’s also just 27 years old and still boasts elite talent. Will it lead to a starting job for one of the top pending NFL free agents at quarterback? Time will tell on that front.
40. Shaquill Griffin, cornerback, Seattle Seahawks
A candidate to have the franchise tag placed on him, Griffin earned a Pro Bowl appearance with Seattle in 2019 after recording 13 passes defended and yielding a sub 70 passer rating when targeted. Whether it was due to the nagging injuries he suffered through in 2020 or something else, he did not play at that same level. Even then, Griffin was able to tally 12 passes defended and a career-high three interceptions.
39. Jonnu Smith, tight end, Tennessee Titans
Still only 25 years old, there’s a whole heck of a lot to like about Smith. The former third-round pick recorded career-highs in receptions (41), yards (448) and touchdowns (eight) this past season. He’s also improved in each of his first four NFL seasons and is catching an absurd 68% of his targets during that span. Some team will pay for upside once free agency opens. Whether that’s the Titans remains to be seen.
38. Antonio Brown, wide receiver, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Troubled. Enigmatic. Whatever term we want to use for the 32-year-old Brown, he provides a ton on the field. That was magnified during Tampa Bay’s Super Bowl run this past season. The seven-time Pro Bowler caught 73% of his targets from Tom Brady during the regular season. He also recorded a touchdown in the Buccaneers’ 31-9 win over Kansas City in Super Bowl LV. Look for Brown to remain with the Bucs after the pending NFL free agent had a nice amount of success with the team in 2020.
37. Corey Linsley, center, Green Bay Packers
Coming off his first career All-Pro performance, the 29-year-old Linsley is hitting NFL free agency at the best time. Center has taken on new importance in today’s pass-first league. After starting all 99 games in which he’s appeared since entering the league in 2014, Linsley is going to be a priority target of many teams. That’s for sure.
36. Alex Mack, center, Atlanta Falcons
Perhaps not the player he was earlier in his career with the Browns and Falcons, Mack still provides a wealth of experience and can play at a high level. We’re talking about a dude who has started all 179 games in which he’s appeared in 12 NFL seasons. A contending team will want that. Look for his former offensive coordinator, 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan, to target the future Hall of Famer come March.
35. Carl Lawson, defensive end, Cincinnati Bengals
One of the most-underrated pending NFL free agents, Lawson is coming off a 2020 campaign that saw him record an absurd 32 quarterback hits. While it translated to a mere 5.5 sacks, this is a clear indication that the 25-year-old former Auburn star is ready to take his game to the next level. Those targeting Lawson in free agency will more than likely bank on that with an average annual salary of $12 million or so.
34. John Johnson, safety, Los Angeles Rams
On a defense that includes Aaron Donald, others don’t necessarily get a ton of play. That includes this former mid-round pick from Boston College. Johnson, 25, recorded 105 tackles, eight passes defended and one interception in 2020. According to Pro Football Focus, he was also the fourth-highest graded safety in the NFL. That should lead to a huge payday for the still-young defensive back.
33. Desmond King, cornerback, Tennessee Titans
An All-Pro performer with the Chargers back in 2018, it was surprising to see King traded from Los Angeles to Tennessee at the deadline this past season. He had been one of the top slot corners in the NFL since the Chargers made him a fifth-round pick in 2017. Even then, some regression on King’s part over the past two seasons will likely lead to a team getting a steal once the market opens.
32. Richard Sherman, cornerback, San Francisco 49ers
At this point, it’s highly unlikely that the 32-year-old Sherman will return to the 49ers next season. They are in a less-than-stellar cap situation and have other priorities outside of re-signing a veteran who missed all but five games in 2020. Should Sherman leave the Bay, there’s going to be a market for him. The future Hall of Famer is one year removed from earning a Pro Bowl appearance in San Francisco and can act as a veteran leader on a contending team.
31. Ryan Fitzpatrick, quarterback, Miami Dolphins
The 38-year-old Fitzpatrick just isn’t going to go away. Splitting time with rookie Tua Tagovailoa last offseason, Fitzpatrick completed 68.5% of his passes for 2,091 yards with 13 touchdowns against eight interceptions. A backup earlier in his career, expect Fitzpatrick to once again fill that role in 2021. It just remains to be seen with whom.
30. Taylor Moton, offensive tackle, Carolina Panthers
A total of 48 games and 48 starts over the past three seasons. Continuing to excel at both right tackle and left tackle. Still only 26 years old. Yeah, Moton is among the most underrated NFL free agents of this cycle. He’s played at a Pro Bowl level since becoming a full-time starter in 2018. If the Panthers are unable to re-sign the former second-round pick, expect a huge market once March comes calling.
29. Melvin Ingram, defensive end, Los Angeles Chargers
After nine tremendous seasons with the Chargers, it looks more and more like the 31-year-old Ingram will be moving on to another team. He recorded exactly zero sacks in seven games this past season after tallying 43 quarterback take downs from 2015-19. Even at 31 and in decline, this three-time Pro Bowler will find a market once NFL free agency opens.
28. Cam Robinson, offensive tackle, Jacksonville Jaguars
Seen by some as a top-flight talent coming out of Alabama in 2017, Robinson fell to the second round due to some concerns about his conditioning. Boy, has he proven the skeptics wrong. Robinson, 25, has played at a Pro Bowl level the past two seasons. He can also line up at both right tackle and left tackle. That’s going to lead to a huge market for the young pass protector.
27. Rob Gronkowski, tight end, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
After scoring two touchdowns in the Buccaneers’ Super Bowl LV victory, there’s very little reason to believe Gronkowski will be leaving the team in free agency. He’s also not expected to retire. Taking on more of a blocking role with Tampa than we saw in New England, Gronk was still able to put up 623 yards and seven touchdowns. He remains a top-flight tight end.
26. Curtis Samuel, wide receiver, Carolina Panthers
After some struggles earlier in his career, this former first-round pick dominated under Matt Rhule for the Panthers in 2020. The electric Samuel caught 77 passes for 851 yards. He also hauled in an absurd 79% of his targets. For a 24-year-old receiver set to hit free agency, Samuel is going to get paid big time once free agency starts.
25. Hunter Henry, tight end, Los Angeles Chargers
After dealing with injuries in both 2018 and 2019, Henry returned to form for the Chargers this past season. He acted as a safety valve for rookie Justin Herbert, catching 60 passes for 613 yards in 14 games. Henry, 26, also hauled in 64.5% of his targets. He’s the top tight end in free agency this year.
24. Ryan Kerrigan, EDGE, Washington Football Team
Washington selected fellow edge pass rusher Chase Young No. 2 overall in the 2020 NFL Draft. It also picked Montez Sweat in the first round of the 2019 draft. Needless to say, the Skins are preparing for a future without this four-time Pro Bowler. That showed up this past season. Kerrigan played in 40% or less of Washington’s defensive snaps in 10 of 16 regular-season games. Despite this, the stud veteran recorded 5.5 sacks. He should be in line for a decent short-term contract.
23. Will Fuller, wide receiver, Houston Texans
Even though he’s injury prone and is serving a six-game suspension for PED use, this former first-round pick is still only 26 years old and provides a ton of upside in free agency. Prior to being suspended, Fuller caught 53 passes for 879 yards and eight touchdowns in 11 games. He has game-breaking ability. Some team will pay for it.
22. Corey Davis, wide receiver, Tennessee Titans
One of many top-end wide receivers set to hit the NFL free agent market in March, I bet the Titans rue the day they decided against picking up the fifth-year option on Davis’ rookie deal. The former No. 5 overall pick from Western Michigan is coming off a career-best regular-season performance that saw him catch 65 passes for 984 yards while hauling in 70.7% of his targets. Still only 25 years old, this kid is going to get paid big time on the open market.
Top 20 NFL free agents of 2021
21. Bud Dupree, EDGE, Pittsburgh Steelers
After struggling through his first four NFL seasons, this former first-round pick has picked it up big time recently. Dupree recorded 17 quarterback hits, 11.5 sacks and four forced fumbles in 2019. This past season, the Kentucky product had eight sacks in 11 games. In an unfortunate turn, Dupree suffered a torn ACL in Week 12 and missed the remainder of the season. Expect this to impact his free-agent market.
20. J.J. Watt, defensive end, Houston Texans
Houston’s decision to release Watt early in the offseason will likely lead to the future Hall of Famer finding a new city here soon. Watt wants to play for a contender. After 10 seasons with the Texans, they simply are not that right now. Unfortunately, Watt is now in the back end of his career and has dealt with multiple injuries over the past several seasons. The three-time Defensive Player of the Year has recorded nine sacks in 24 games over the past two seasons.
19. Patrick Peterson, cornerback, Arizona Cardinals
The subject of trade rumors in recent years, it seems that this future Hall of Fame corner will ultimately finish his career in the desert. Peterson, 30, has played all 10 NFL seasons with the Cardinals since they made him a top-five pick in 2011. He’s earned eight Pro Bowl appearances during that span, the only exception being the past two seasons. Should Peterson and the Cardinals head for a divorce, this could impact his open market.
Other top NFL free agent cornerbacks
- Logan Ryan, New York Giants
- Xavier Rhodes, Indianapolis Colts
- Quinton Dunbar, Seattle Seahawks
- Richard Sherman, San Francisco 49ers
18. Brandon Scherff, guard, Washington Football Team
Here’s a top-end 2021 free agent who might actually hit the market. Washington placed the franchise tag on this former top-five pick back in March, paying Scherff north of $15 million in 2020. That’s a lot of cash to pay out to an interior offensive lineman. It also suggests there would have been significant interest across the NFL if he could test free agency. The only issue here is that Scherff has missed 16 games since the start of the 2018 season to injury.
17. K.J. Wright, linebacker, Seattle Seahawks
One of the more consistent linebackers in the game, an argument can be made that Wright has performed at a higher clip than better-known fellow Seahawks linebacker Bobby Wagner in recent years. The nine-year veteran recorded 86 tackles to go with 10 passes defended, and an interception last season. That was a downtick in production from the 31-year-old former Pro Bowler, likely leading to a smaller payday in free agency.
16. Anthony Harris, safety, Minnesota Vikings
Yet another former undrafted free agent, this Virginia product came out of nowhere in 2019. Harris, 28, recorded 60 tackles and 11 passes defended while leading the league with six interceptions. He’s seen as a single-high safety with broad coverage ability. However, Harris saw a downtick in play-making ability in 2020, failing to record a single interception or takeaway. This could potentially have an impact on one of the top defensive NFL free agents in 2021.
15. JuJu Smith-Schuster, wide receiver, Pittsburgh Steelers
Smith-Schuster followed up a 1,400-yard performance back in 2018 by struggling big time with injuries in 2019 (552 yards in 12 games). There’s no excuses in terms of what we saw from the young receiver during the 2020 regular season, especially with Ben Roethlisberger back at 100%. JuJu recorded 97 catches but averaged a disastrous 8.6 yards per reception in 16 games. How might that impact him as one of the top NFL free agents at wide receiver?
14. Kenny Golladay, wide receiver, Detroit Lions
A third-round pick of the Lions back in 2017, most figured that Golladay would be among the top-five NFL free agents this coming March. Issues with injuries might impact that moving forward. The former Northern Illinois star dealt with a hip injury that limited him to 20 receptions in five games this past regular season. This came after Golladay tallied nearly 1,200 yards while leading the NFL with 11 touchdown receptions in 2019. At 27, he’s still going to have an extremely solid market.
13. Matt Judon, EDGE, Baltimore Ravens
Noticing a theme here? There’s a lot of late-round picks and undrafted selections slated to head the free-agent in March. None is more relevant than this former fifth-round selection of the Ravens. Judon, 28, recorded a ridiculous 33 quarterback hits and 9.5 sacks a season ago. He put up seven-plus sacks in each of the past three seasons before recording six sacks in 2020. Playing under the $15.83 million franchise tag tender, look for Judon to top $20 million annually if he’s able to hit free agency during the spring.
12. Shaq Barrett, EDGE, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Barrett came out of nowhere in his first season with Tampa Bay after moving on from the Denver Broncos. The former undrafted free agent recorded a league-high 19.5 sacks to go with 37 quarterback hits and a whopping six forced fumbles. This forced Tampa to place the franchise tag on the Colorado State product. Barrett, 28, was somewhat of a disappointment during the regular season, recording 16 quarterback hits and just eight sacks. However, he picked it up big time in the Buccaneers run to the Super Bowl — tallying four quarterback hits and three sacks in as many games. He then put up the most quarterback pressures in Tampa Bay’s Super Bowl LV win over Kansas City, tallying four hits and a sack.
11. Lavonte David, linebacker, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
A two-time Pro Bowl performer, David will likely end up moving on from the Buccaneers for one final big-market contract as one of the top NFL free agents on defense. He entered the 2020 campaign having recorded 100-plus tackles in seven of his first eight seasons. David, 31, then followed it up with the best single-season performance of his career. He recorded 117 tackles (16 for loss) and an interception in a brilliant all-around performance. David is one of the primary reasons Tampa earn its second Super Bowl title in franchise history.
Top 10 NFL free agents of 2021
10. Yannick Ngakoue, EDGE, Baltimore Ravens
Ngakoue wanted out of Duval before the 2020 season started. The former Maryland standout was promptly traded to the Minnesota Vikings. And after just a handful of games in Minnesota, the impending NFL free agent was dealt to the Baltimore Ravens. Through it all, Ngakoue has been able to keep up his production A third-round selection back in 2016, he recorded 71 quarterback hits and 29.5 sacks in the three seasons prior to 2020. During the 2020 regular season, Ngakoue had eight sacks in 15 combined games.
9. Leonard Williams, defensive tackle, New York Giants
A lot of skeptics gave embattled Giants general manager David Gettleman crap for trading for Williams during the 2019 season, only to place the franchise tag on the former Jets No. 6 overall pick. Those skeptics are quiet right now. Williams was absolutely dominant in his first (and perhaps only season) with the Giants. He racked up a resounding 30 quarterback hits and 11.5 sacks. Given how much teams value the interior pass rush, it would not be a shock if this former USC standout received $20-plus million annually as an NFL free agent.
Other top NFL free agent defensive tackles
- Ndamukong Suh, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
- Sheldon Rankins, New Orleans Saints
- Devlin Tomlinson, New York Giants
8. Chris Godwin, wide receiver, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Elite. That’s what we’ve seen from Godwin since he entered the NFL with Golladay back in 2017. The Penn State product recorded 86 receptions for 1,333 yards with nine touchdowns while catching north of 71% of his targets last season. Godwin remains productive with Tom Brady under center for the Buccaneers this year. He’s 24 years old and has not yet reached his ceiling. The Buccaneers are already thinking of signing him to a long-term extension after Godwin helped lead the team to the Super Bowl LV title.
7. Allen Robinson, wide receiver, Chicago Bears
Vastly underrated. Forced to catch passes from Mitchell Trubisky, among other horrible quarterbacks in recent years, Robinson continues to produce. The still-young 27-year-old pass catcher hauled in 98 receptions for 1,147 yards in 2019. This past regular season saw him record 102 receptions for 1,250 yards while catching 68% of his targets . Robinson is going to get paid big time once free agency starts. Just don’t expect a return to the Bears.
Other top NFL free agent wide receivers
- A.J. Green, Cincinnati Bengals
- T.Y. Hilton, Indianapolis Colts
- Antonio Brown, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
6. Aaron Jones, running back, Green Bay Packers
It’s looking more and more like the Packers have no plans to retain Jones in free agency. It’s a crying shame in that he’s the best running back Aaron Rodgers has ever had in Green Bay. Last season saw the 26-year-old Jones record 1,459 total yards and 11 touchdowns. Jones is going to be paid like a top-five running back in free agency.
Other top NFL free agent running backs
- Kenyan Drake, Arizona Cardinals
- Todd Gurley, Atlanta Falcons
- Leonard Fournette, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
- Adrian Peterson, Detroit Lions
- Le’Veon Bell, Kansas City Chiefs
The best NFL free agents 2021
5. Justin Simmons, safety, Denver Broncos
Denver’s decision to place the franchise tag on this 27-year-old safety will cost the team $11.44 million in 2020. It’s a bargain considering that four other players at his position are earning $14 million annually. This won’t be the case following the 2020 season. A third-round pick out of Boston College back in 2016, Simmons has recorded 19 passes defended and seven interceptions over the past two seasons. This past season saw Simmons record 96 tackles, nine passes defended and a whopping five interceptions. He’s as elite as they come.
4. Joe Thuney, guard, New England Patriots
New England surprisingly placed the franchise tag on the 28-year-old Thuney after a brilliant fourth year with the team. Said tag represents top-five money, a total of $14.78 million this season. Given that the Pats are apparently headed into rebuild mode, there was some talk about him being traded. Alas, that did not come to fruition. Expect Thuney to walk in free agency, becoming the highest-paid guard in NFL history.
3. Alejandro Villanueva, left tackle, Pittsburgh Steelers
A two-time Pro Bowler, this military veteran has quickly morphed into one of the best blindside protectors in the entire NFL. He’s earned two Pro Bowl appearances in four seasons as Pittsburgh’s starting left tackle. Now 32 years old, it’s not yet known whether Villanueva will get a long-term deal in free agency next March. What I do know is that he’ll get a significant raise from the $6 million he’s earning annually on his current deal.
2. Trent Williams, left tackle, San Francisco 49ers
Acquired by San Francisco during the 2020 NFL Draft, Williams replaced the recently-retired Joe Staley as Jimmy Garoppolo’s blindside protector. Despite sitting out all of the 2019 season with Washington due to a contract dispute, Williams remains one of the best left tackles in the game. In fact, the seven-time Pro Bowler graded out as the best overall left tackle in the NFL this past season despite the plethora of injuries San Francisco dealt with. Whether with the 49ers or another team, Williams will get that one final big paycheck in March. Take that to the bank (literally).
1. Dak Prescott, quarterback, Dallas Cowboys
The devastating ankle injury Prescott suffered back in Week 5 should not impact him in free agency. Heck, the Cowboys would be smart to double down with their most-recent offer of making him one of the highest-paid quarterbacks in NFL history. Prior to suffering said injury, Prescott had tallied over 7,100 total yards with 45 total touchdowns and 15 interceptions in his previous 21 starts. He’s a franchise quarterback. He will get paid like it.