NFL
March 5, 2021

The 25 Best NFL Free Agents in 2021, Ranked

Free agency is almost here. 

Despite the NFL’s salary cap potentially dropping tens of millions of dollars, there are plenty of young and talented veterans who will hit the free-agent market and get paid this offseason. 

Who are the 25 best football players available for your team to break the bank on? 

We’ve ranked them below. 

25. Jameis Winston, QB 

Fresh off a year learning under Drew Brees and Sean Payton in New Orleans, Jameis Winston is still just 27.  If Winston has learned to clean up his turnover problems, then he’ll be a steal if he’s given a chance to start in 2021. 

24. Jason Verrett, DB 

Jason Verrett had a resurgent season with the 49ers last year. With a clean bill of health, Verrett showed the shutdown corner skills that have recently eluded him. And it came at the perfect time as he’s a free agent this offseason. 

The 49ers will have to choose between him and Sherman. We’re guessing San Francisco goes with the former. 

23. Bud Dupree, Edge

Despite tearing his ACL, Dupree should still have a pretty sizeable market because of the need for quality pass rushers in the NFL. 

Dupree is an obvious risk, but he could be a bargain because he's in his late 20s and he's coming off an injury. Dupree came on strong his late two seasons, notching nearly 20 sacks. 

22. Marcus Williams, DB

Many remember Marcus Williams from the Minneapolis Miracle, but don’t let that blind you from the truth that the Saints safety is one of the top players at his position. 

He’ll be just 25 by the start of the 2021 season and he’s one of the better pass defenders at safety in the NFL. 

With the Saints in salary-cap hell, Williams could easily depart the Big Easy. 

21. Corey Davis, WR

The No. 5 pick in 2017 had a breakout campaign in 2020, but it’s a little concerning that it happened in his contract season.

Corey Davis is the ideal complementary pass catcher in an offense… if he’s not a one-year wonder. 

20. Curtis Samuel, WR

After being underutilized his entire career, Curtis Samuel was finally unleashed by new Panthers coach Matt Rhule last season. That resulted in the former Ohio State product becoming an offensive weapon who notched over 1,000 all-purpose yards last year. 

Samuel should be a great option for a team with a creative offensive playcaller. 

19. Juju Smith-Schuster, WR

Another team in salary-cap hell, the Steelers will have to bite the bullet and let some talented players leave in free agency.

JuJu Smith-Schuster makes a lot of sense to leave with Pittsburgh employing Diontae Johnson and Chase Claypool at wide out. 

18. Will Fuller, WR

Fuller might have one more game left on his suspension for PEDs, but he’ll still be a highly sought after pass catcher if the Texans don’t franchise tag him. 

Fuller has the speed teams lust for, which, even if his career has been riddled with injuries, means he’ll get paid. 

In just 11 games last season, Fuller turned 53 catches into 879 yards and eight touchdowns before being banned.  

17. Marcus Maye, DB

The safety position is becoming more and more essential in the NFL as teams feature bigger and faster weapons in the middle of the field which makes Marcus Maye a valuable commodity on the market. 

He was PFF’s fourth-highest-rated safety in 2020. 

UPDATE: The Jets placed the franchise tag on Maye, according to ESPN.

16. Corey Linsley, OL

The Packers center turns 30 this offseason, but he should still cash in as the top interior lineman on the market. 

15. Joe Thuney, OL

Coming off a franchise tag from the Patriots, Joe Thuney should be a pretty safe signing for teams in the NFL. 

Not only is the offensive guard supremely talented but he has yet to miss a game in five seasons.

14. Carl Lawson, Edge

Carl Lawson might be one of the most underrated players in the entire league. The unknown pass rusher, when healthy, is a force off the edge. He's played in 16 games twice in his career, and he should be a player teams take a bet on in free agency... if he doesn't get franchise tagged. 

13. Trey Hendrickson, Edge

A third-round pick in 2017, Hendrickson finally became a full-time starter after three seasons as a situational pass rusher with the Saints and he absolutely dominated in the Big Easy. 

Hendrickson tallied a career-high 13.5 sacks and he's just 26. 

12. Aaron Jones, RB

Aaron Jones is one of the most electric runners in the league, but the NFL continues to devalue running backs. At 26, Jones might not have a huge market. 

11. Hunter Henry, TE

Tight end is one of the hardest positions to find, but once a franchise lands one, it completely transforms their offense. 

While Hunter Henry won’t ever be mistaken for George Kittle or Travis Kelce, he’s still arguably a top-five tight end in the NFL and he’s just 26. 

Would the Chargers let him leave? 

10. Leonard Williams, DL

Leonard Williams is hitting the market at the right time. Everyone knew the interior defensive lineman was sturdy against the run, but after tallying a career-high 13 sacks this season, Williams should get paid pretty handsomely if the Giants don't franchise him again. 

UPDATE: The Giants have placed their franchise tag on Williams. 

9. Brandon Scherff, OL

A top-five pick in 2015, Scherff has lived up to his draft status as one of the premier guards in the NFL. Despite a lowered salary cap, the bruising guard should be able to cash in, if Washington doesn't franchise tag him. 

The one knock on Scherff is his availability. He hasn't played a full 16-game season since 2016. 

UPDATE: Scherff was franchise tagged by WFT. 

8. Shaquil Barrett, Edge

Shaquil Barrett hasn’t hit the heights that he did a year ago, but the 28-year-old pass rusher should still break the bank this offseason. That's just how it works with talented sack artists.

7. Taylor Moton, OL

Turning 27 this offseason, Moton will be one of the most attractive players on the market due to his age, skill and position. The Panthers would be smart to bring back their young, road-grading offensive tackle.

UPDATE: The Panthers are expected to franchise tag Moton, according to NFL Media. 

6. Kenny Golladay, WR

Kenny Golladay isn’t exactly hitting the market with a ton of momentum. The Lions top receiver missed 11 games last season due to multiple injuries. But guys with his production, athleticism and contested-catch ability seem to always get paid. 

He could be a franchise tag target for the Lions. 

5. Justin Simmons, DB

Like Harris, Simmons is one of the best safeties in the league. And like Harris, he’s coming off a slightly disappointing season. But that shouldn’t stop Simmons from securing the bag this offseason.

Safeties with Simmons' ball skills and range are a rare breed. 

UPDATE: The Broncos placed their franchise tag on Simmons.

4. Allen Robinson, WR

We’re hoping that if Allen Robinson does in fact avoid the franchise tag or a new contract in Chicago that he’ll finally team up with a non-terrible QB. 

Money certainly won’t be an issue for one of the savviest — and best — receivers in the league. 

UPDATE: The Bears placed their franchise tag on Robinson. 

3. Chris Godwin, WR

Turning just 25, Chris Godwin is already one of the best receivers in the league. And the scary thing is, he hasn’t even reached his potential. 

A brilliant route-runner and contested-catch master, Godwin is the top skill player on the market. The Buccaneers would be crazy not to at least franchise tag the former Penn State receiver. 

UPDATE: The Bucs have used their franchise tag on Godwin. 

2. Trent Williams, OL

After missing a season due to injuries with Washington, Trent Williams didn’t miss a beat with the 49ers this season. 

The incredibly athletic offensive tackle turns 33 this offseason, but he should still get at least $20 million per year from the Niners (or someone else) after earning PFF’s highest grade for an offensive tackle in 2020. 

1. Dak Prescott, QB

It’s not often a soon-to-be 28-year-old franchise quarterback hits the market, but there’s at least a slight possibility of that happening this offseason. 

The Cowboys could franchise tag Dak Prescott, sure, but if they decide that option is too pricey, then Prescott could cash in with almost any team he wants.

UPDATE: The Cowboys signed Prescott to a four-year, $164 million extension

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Photo: Getty Images / Lines Illustration