NFL 2021 Free Agency Recap
With the draft right around the corner, teams are locking in which players they are going to take. Many teams have one or two needs to fill, while others have several needs to address. Free agency has shaped a lot of these decision and plays a big role into the draft than most people realize. Some teams pick up veterans to fill big or small voids felt from the previous season, while others will release veterans in the hopes a rookie will pan out to be more successful than who they are replacing. Today, we'll be taking a look at some of the best re-signings and pickups, some head-scratching moves, and the most improved teams during the past 2 months:
Photo: USA Today/Matthew Emmons
3. Allen Robinson
Bringing back Robinson was a must for the Bears. With questions around the QB position for the near future, re-signing one of the best receivers in football will keep some form of consistency within the Bears offense that couldn't seem to string solid games together in 2020.
2. Trent Williams
The best lineman in the league signs the biggest offensive tackle contract in NFL history. After holding out in 2019, Trent came to San Fran with a chip on his shoulder, and boy did he play like it. Pancake after pancake, Williams let everyone in the league know that he is still the best, and he got paid for it.
1. Dak Prescott
It's pretty rare that a former 4th round draft pick gets a huge deal like Dak did. He has been the focal point to the Cowboys success during his first five years in the league. With Dak and Zeke returning to the Cowboys offense in 2021, look for them to get back into the top 10 in offense and overall.
3. Phillip Lindsay
Denver did wrong by Lindsay when they brought in Melvin Gordon after Phillip put up over 1,000 yards in each of his first two seasons. The two backs never seemed to gel together and this ultimately led to the Broncos letting Lindsay walk. He was signed by Houston, who now has a 3-headed running back attack with Lindsay, Mark Ingram, and David Johnson. I love my running back committees, but this might be the most unorthodox one I've seen yet.
Photo: GettyImages/Billie Weiss
2. Trey Hendrickson
The Bengals replace Carl Lawson with Trey Hendrickson...why? Yes, Hendrickson had 8 more sacks than Lawson, but Lawson had the 5th most pressures with 44, while Hendrickson ranked 17th with 33. I know I ranked Hendrickson above Lawson in my Edge Defender PRR, but they could have kept Lawson for less money overall for more production in terms of pressures.
1. Andy Dalton
Ok Chicago, wtf? Do you want to have a good offense and get back to playoffs, or do you wanna flounder like you have been for the better part of the 2000s? Trubisky is a better QB than Dalton, and you let Mitch walk. This pickup makes no sense and is not going to help the Bears for next season.
Most Improved Teams:
3. Cleveland Browns
With most of their additions coming on the defensive side of the ball, Cleveland made all of the right moves to bolster their young defense. Jadeveon Clowney was a great pickup, as well as John Johnson, Andrew Billings, Anthony Walker, and Troy Hill. If the Browns can get a stud linebacker or defensive tackle in the draft, this defense could end up being one of the best in 2021.
2. New England Patriots
Some of the most surprising moves came from New England, let alone the shock that New England actually attacked a free agency. The addition of tight ends Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith, receivers Nelson Agholor and Kendrick Bourne, defensive studs Davon Godchaux and Matt Judon, and bringing back Trent Brown from the Raiders have improved this team greatly for 2021. Not to mention re-signing Cam Newton, who, I believe, will have a great season with brand new weapons and a full offseason to learn the Patriots offense.
Photo: USA Today/Paul Rutherford
1. New York Jets
Not only do the Jets have the 2nd overall pick in the draft, they picked up some great players and filled much needed holes. Some key names the Jets acquired were Carl Lawson, Sheldon Rankins, Lamarcus Joyner, Corey Davis, Greg Van Roten and Jarrad Davis. The best move, however, was picking up defensive mastermind Robert Saleh, the hottest commodity amongst head coaching candidates this season. After leading his defense to #1 and #4 spots over the past 2 seasons respectively, he brings his 4-3 scheme and aggressive mentality to New York.
3. Jadeveon Clowney
This might be one of the most underrated signings of the off-season, just because of Clowney's awful season in 2020. Let's not forget that Clowney has been a top run defender for the length of his career, averaging an 80.7 run defense grade per PFF over the past 7 seasons. He played some of his best football in Houston, where he lined up all over the defensive front, instead of always playing off the edge. With the departure of Larry Ogunjobi and Sheldon Richardson, Clowney fills both needs of rushing either up the middle or off the edge.
2. Kenny Golladay
After missing a gamebreaking receiver over the past 2 seasons, the Giants get their guy in Kenny Golladay, who has been very impressive to start his career. The former 3rd round pick will help out both Daniel Jones and Saquon Barkley, as more attention will be drawn out wide rather than in the backfield. If Daniel Jones can learn to read a defense and make proper progressions in the pocket, this offense could be dangerous in 2021.
1. Chiefs Rebuild O-Line
No surprise here. After an embarrassing Super Bowl performance by one of the best offenses in the league, the Chiefs went into rebuild mode with their offensive line. After releasing Eric Fisher and Mitchell Schwartz, the Chiefs brought in Joe Thuney, Austin Blythe, and Orlando Brown. In addition, Kyle Long came out of retirement, and Laurent Duvernay-Tardif may come back for the 2021 season. With Mike Remmers set to be the only returning starting offensive lineman, the Chiefs will have a new look and may try a new scheme on offense.
Photo: GettyImages/Timothy T Ludwig
Other Notable Moves:
Jets sign Carl Lawson
Pats sign Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith
Bucs re-sign Shaq Barrett
Eagles sign Anthony Harris
Browns sign John Johnson
Washington signs Will Jackson
Raiders sign Yannick Ngakoue
This was one of the slowest moving free agency periods in recent memory. Some studs didn't get signed til later in the offseason, while other teams dumped some of their best players in previous seasons. Whatever moves that were made, this offseason will end up shifting the course of the ship for many NFL teams in 2021.