January 22, 2021
BY Lance Cartelli

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. 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. 

23. Corey Linsley, OL

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

22. 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. 

21. 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. 

20. 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. 

19. Richard Sherman, DB

Turning 33 in March, Richard Sherman’s lockdown corner days are over. But the former Legion of Boom star could make the switch to free safety and be a valuable locker room addition if he can stay healthy. 

18. William Jackson, DB

Jackson might not have the talent and knowledge of Sherman, but he’s on the right side of 30 and has shown the ability to be a top-tier corner, even if it was back in his second season. 

Expect the Bengals to re-sign their top cornerback. 

17. Lavonte David, LB

The 31-year-old linebacker should be a bargain in free agency due to his age and position, but Lavonte David is still the same playmaker he’s always been. 

The Bucs would be smart to re-sign him and pair him with Devin White for another campaign. 

16. 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. 

15. 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. 

14. 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.

13. 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. 

12. 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.  

11. 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.

10. Anthony Harris, DB

Another player who was franchised a year ago, Anthony Harris took a slight step back this season after having an incredible 2019 campaign. 

Teams will have to decide whether it was a blip on the radar or the start of Harris’ decline. 

9. 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.

8. 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? 

7. Brandon Scherff, OL

One of the best guards in the NFL today, Scherff is equally impressive in pass protection as he is in blocking the run, which adds even more value to the interior offensive lineman. 

He should get one more big pay day. 

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. 

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. 

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. 

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.

Follow Lance Cartelli on Twitter

Photo: Getty Images / Lines Illustration