NFL 2021 Outlook: Familiar Faces, Different Places
This NFL offseason was like no other. With one of the most competitive free agency pools we've seen in a long time, a reduction in cap space, and veterans looking to win, many players who have been household names for their franchises, are now on new teams in hopes of chasing a Super Bowl. With these changes in place, let's take a look at who are in the best situations and who could still be on the move:
Photo: Carolina Panthers/Brandon Todd
Best Situations for Veterans with New Teams
10. Sam Darnold - Carolina Panthers
A change of scenery for Darnold was necessary for any hope of a successful career. Fortunately, he lands on one of the youngest and most electric offenses in the NFL, comprised of Christian McCaffrey, Robby Anderson, and DJ Moore. Not to mention the massive upgrade at offensive line compared to the Jets.
9. Kyle Fuller - Denver Broncos
Fuller reunites with his defensive coordinator, Vic Fangio, from the menacing Bears defense of 2018, making the Broncos one of the most feared defense in the NFL for the first time since 2015. He joins Justin Simmons, Ronald Darby, Bryce Callahan, Kareem Jackson, and Patrick Surtain, forming one of the most lethal secondaries in the league.
8. Matthew Stafford - Los Angeles Rams
After carrying the Lions for over a decade, Stafford gets sent in a QB-swap trade to the Rams. With a similar offense still intact from their 2019 Super Bowl appearance, the Rams look to make a major push towards redemption, as Stafford joins Robert Woods, Cooper Kupp, DeSean Jackson, Tyler Higbee, and Cam Akers for form a threatening offense. Let's see if their defense can keep up after losing 5 starters from a year ago.
7. Carl Lawson - New York Jets
One of the most underrated signings of the year was Carl Lawson getting picked up by the Jets. In a fiery defense led by Robert Saleh, Lawson looks to be the poster boy on a nasty defensive line, where he will get help from Quinnen Williams, Sheldon Rankins, and Folorunso Fatukasi.
Photo: New York Jets/Dan Szpakowski
6. Kenny Golladay - New York Giants
It's a make or break year for Danny Dimes, and adding one of the most efficient receivers in the league will help him reach stardom. Not only was this a great move for Danny, this was just as good, if not better, for Kenny. After sharing a locker room with Marvin Jones to start his career, he now joins a stacked receiving core with Sterling Shepard, Darius Slayton, Kadarius Toney, John Ross, and Evan Engram. With Saquon Barkley coming out of the back field as well, it should be easy for Golladay to shine in this offense.
5. The Entire Offensive Line - Kansas City Chiefs
This one is pretty self explanatory. If you're confused, go check out the Super Bowl. After releasing two savvy veterans at offensive tackle, the Chiefs got younger, and arguably better, by signing Orlando Brown, and shifting Mike Remmers to the outside. They also added Joe Thuney, Austin Blythe, and Kyle Long to help solidify this nasty frontline.
4. JJ Watt - Arizona Cardinals
After one of the better defensive season for the Cardinals in recent years, they took a shot on 3-time DPOY, JJ Watt. With an injury history and decline in production, a change is all JJ may need to return to his dominant form. Even so, he played incredibly well besides what his stats say. He should light a fire under a young AZ defense, and help push them towards a solid playoff run.
Photo: Arizona Cardinals/Derrick Spencer
3. Julio Jones - Tennessee Titans
After the departure of Corey Davis and Jonnu Smith, the Titans needed some major offensive help. With things looking towards the future in Atlanta, they traded Julio, one of the best receivers when healthy, to a team with a top-5 QB in Ryan Tannehill, a top-5 WR in AJ Brown, and the best RB in Derrick Henry. Say less.
2. Jadeveon Clowney - Cleveland Browns
After seeming like a bust after his rookie year, to terrorizing defenses over the next 4 seasons, to falling off a cliff in 2020, Jadeveon joins the Browns and may find himself being a threat once again. With Myles Garrett, Andrew Billings, and Takk McKinnley along the defensive front, Clowney should get plenty of 1-on-1 opportunities to wreak havoc.
Photo: Cleveland Browns/Matt Starkey
1. Carson Wentz - Indianapolis Colts
After an MVP season cut short in 2017, to carrying the Eagles on his back in 2018 and 2019, to losing his starting job in 2020, Wentz reunites with Frank Reich, his offensive coordinator during his incredible 2017 campaign. He joins a loaded offense, featuring the best offensive line in the league, Jonathan Taylor, TY Hilton, Michael Pittman, Jack Doyle, and Zach Pascal. Wentz should get back to form in 2021, and may put his name back in the MVP conversation.
Photo: Indianapolis Colts/Matt Bowen
Players on the Move?
Aaron's future in Green Bay could be folding as front office management and their franchise QB continue to butt heads. The most logical landing spot is with the Broncos, as it gets him out of the NFC, he still has a loaded offense, and would be a great bridge for future QBs.
In a completely different scenario, Watson may or may not be allowed to even play this year. Depending on his investigation, if things go well for him, he may end up on a different team next year. There have been speculations he would go to the Broncos, but with his clouded situation, he seems to have lost a bid there. The next best spot for Watson is either with the Saints or Washington Football Team. Both have competent enough offenses for Watson to make a major impact for either organization.
After being made the highest paid cornerback during the 2019 offseason, Howard now ranks 6th out of all CBs. He wants a new contract, which would once again, make him the highest paid corner. Kind of silly in my opinion, but he was the best cornerback in 2020. A team like the Colts, who have a good amount of cap space and need a corner, could make a move and snag him in a trade.
Gilmore is in a unique situation. After being the best CB in 2019, he battled injuries through a good chunk of 2020, and is now looking for top tier CB money. The Patriots look like they won't budge, and may ship off Gilmore for more draft picks or players. This seems like a silly move, but with JC Jackson and Jonathan Jones playing as well as they did last season, it wouldn't be a surprise to see Gilmore move. Gilmore could get sent to a team like the Jaguars, who do need help in the secondary, and have some solid draft capital to send their way.
This one stings, but I don't think the Cardinals will be able to keep Chandler Jones. Out of all of the players on this list, I think Chandler is least likely to worry about money. If push comes to shove, however, I think he asks for a trade. Many teams need a solid edge rushing threat, and Jones is one of the best at it. I could see him going to a team like the Jets or the Bills.
Photo: Associated Press/Matt Hunger
All of these are speculation based on how I believe each player will perform and improve. Carson Wentz seems like a deadlock to take a giant step forward from his previous seasons, but he could end up being a bust. As for the questionable players who could be moving, there have been plenty of rumors circulating around those five, and those all may come true. Either way, we should see some more exciting moves made before the 2021 season begins.