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Ranking NFL’s top 30 free agents and predicting where they’ll sign


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https://nypost.com/2021/03/13/top-nfl-free-agents-2021-rankings-and-predictions/

We only get two out of the top 30 according to this article, Thuney and Ngakoue. 

If NFL free agents were items stuffed into a stadium vendor’s tray, here is what you would hear on loop: Receivers! Pass-rushers! Blockers! Get your difference-makers here!

The next few weeks won’t match the quarterback movement seen in 2020 free agency, when Tom Brady, Philip Rivers and Cam Newton changed teams — or in the recent trade market, when Carson Wentz, Jared Goff and Matthew Stafford moved around — but the NFL is a passing league, and there is a wealth of elite talent available to make a quarterback’s life easy. Or miserable.

A brutal week of veteran cuts is over, and free-agency negotiations begin Monday during what is considered by many NFL agents to be a bad year for clients to hit the open market, with many teams squeezed by the salary-cap reduction to $182.5 million and looking for bargains. Advantage to the Jaguars, Jets and Patriots, all of whom have $64 million or more in cap space to go on a spending spree.

Here is The Post’s list of the top 30 free agents. Suitors and predictions are based on background conversations with informed NFL personnel as well as an attempt to think along with clubs and players.

1. Trent Williams, LT, age 32

Returned from sitting out 2019 as dominant as ever after a trade from Washington to the 49ers. Future Hall of Famer could reset the market above $23 million per year as tackles continue to play into their late 30s.

Suitors: 49ers, Colts, Chargers, Bengals.

Prediction: 49ers.

2. Shaq Barrett, DE/OLB, age 28

Avoided a second straight franchise tag when the Buccaneers chose Chris Godwin. Notched 27.5 sacks in his past 31 games after an unremarkable first four seasons.

Suitors: Buccaneers, Jets, Bengals, Titans, Jaguars.

Prediction: Dolphins.

3. Kenny Golladay, WR, age 27

Price went up when Lions didn’t tag Golladay, like other top receivers Godwin and Allen Robinson. Back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons gave way to an injury-shortened five games in 2020.

Suitors: Giants, Jets, Patriots, Washington, Dolphins.

Prediction: Dolphins.

4. Joe Thuney, G, age 28

Surprisingly tagged in 2020 but not again, as the Patriots reshuffled parts along the line. Started all 80 games in his career.

Suitors: Jaguars, Jets, Chiefs, Bengals.

Prediction: Jets.

5. Bud Dupree, DE/OLB, age 28

Tagged in 2020, season-ending ACL injury, left for free agency. That’s the risk of contracts in the vicious NFL. Might not be high impact in 2021, but should be over a multi-year deal.

Suitors: Giants, Falcons, Colts, Panthers, Titans.

Prediction: Titans.

6. JuJu Smith-Schuster, WR, age 24

Me-first on- and off-field persona overshadows some of his production, including nine touchdowns last season. Blocks in the run game, runs routes in traffic and does all the dirty work.

Suitors: Jets, Jaguars, Washington, Cardinals, Lions.

Prediction: Washington.

JuJu Smith-Schuster Getty Images

7. Yannick Ngakoue, DE/OLB, age 25

Traded twice in the past six months, but has never had fewer than eight sacks in any of his first five seasons. Struggles to set the boundary against the run.

Suitors: Dolphins, Ravens Colts, Bengals, Jets.

Prediction: Jets.

8. Aaron Jones, RB, age 26

Melvin Gordon learned last season that accomplished running backs aren’t in high demand in free agency. Jones took his game to another level the past two seasons, especially as a receiver.

Suitors: Jets, Dolphins, 49ers, Cardinals, Jets.

Prediction: Dolphins.

9. Hunter Henry, TE, age 26

Injuries have lowered a once sky-high ceiling, but he is coming off a career-best 60 receptions. Stretches the middle of the field.

Suitors: Colts, Panthers, Patriots, Titans.

Prediction: Colts.

 

10. Carl Lawson, DE/OLB, age 25

Look beyond the 5.5 sacks to the 10.1 percent pressure rate, 24 quarterback hits and 64 pressures in his first year as a starter, according to Pro Football Focus.

Suitors: Vikings, Browns, Cowboys, Patriots, Bengals.

Prediction: Patriots.

11. Corey Linsley, C, age 29

Good time for the seven-year veteran to enter free agency — off his first career First-Team All-Pro season.

Suitors: Chargers, Seahawks, Dolphins, Bengals.

Prediction: Chargers.

12. Trey Hendrickson, DE/OLB, age 26

Cap-crunched Saints tagged Marcus Williams over Hendrickson, who had 13.5 sacks and defended the run, too. Not much wear on his tires, either.

Suitors: Giants, Vikings, Browns, Jaguars, Falcons.

Prediction: Jaguars.

13. Anthony Harris, S, age 29

Do-it-all safety who had nine interceptions combined in 2018-19 and 104 tackles in 2020.

Suitors: Raiders, Falcons, Cowboys, Browns.

Prediction: Cowboys.

14. Will Fuller, WR, age 26

Speedster averaged 16.6 yards per catch in his first season out of DeAndre Hopkins’ shadow. Suspended for the 2021 season-opener to complete his six-game PEDs ban.

Suitors: Jets, Washington, Colts, Texans.

Prediction: Colts.

15. Matthew Judon, DE/OLB, age 28

Faces same question as all great pass-rushers leaving the Ravens: Is he a product of the scheme? Denied report he is seeking $20 million per year.

Suitors: Ravens, Titans, Browns, Seahawks.

Prediction: Seahawks.

16. Shaquill Griffin, CB, age 25

Better corners were available last offseason, but that’s when Griffin was coming off a career-best 14 passes defended. Could benefit from a bidding war.

Suitors: Packers, Jets, Cowboys, Raiders, Cardinals.

Prediction: Raiders.

Shaquill Griffin Getty Images

17. Alejandro Villanueva, LT, age 32

Two Pro Bowl selections and 90 starts since serving three tours of duty in Afghanistan as an Army captain. Steelers likely can’t afford to keep their top three free agents.

Suitors: Steelers, Colts, Jaguars, Broncos.

Prediction: Colts.

18. Jonnu Smith, TE, age 25

Checks two important boxes for tight ends: red-zone weapon and a tackle-breaker. Requires some projection because he has never produced like an elite tight end.

Suitors: Bills, Patriots, Panthers

Prediction: Patriots.

19. Jadeveon Clowney, DE/OLB, age 28

If he didn’t like last year’s free-agent market, he’s going to hate his offers after a no-sack, eight-game season. Shouldn’t wait around until a late August offer this time.

Suitors: Browns, Raiders, Rams.

Prediction: Browns.

20. Jameis Winston, QB, age 27

Sacrificed money and playing time last year to learn from Drew Brees and Sean Payton. Is that the answer to limiting his turnovers? Caught between low-end starter and high-end backup.

Suitors: Saints, Washington, Panthers, Texans.

Prediction: Saints.

21. Dalvin Tomlinson, DT, age 27

Giants want to keep their homegrown, run-stuffing Walter Payton Man of the Year nominee, but likely will be outbid, especially with a weak draft class at defensive tackle.

Suitors: Giants, Vikings, Raiders, Jaguars, Lions, Texans.

Prediction: Raiders.

Dalvin Tomlinson Robert Sabo

22. Corey Davis, WR, age 26

Former No. 5-overall draft pick has never had 1,000 yards or more than five touchdowns in a season but offers tantalizing red-zone size (6-foot-3). Sentiment is he’s about to break out.

Suitors: Giants, Jets, Ravens, Eagles, Colts.

Prediction: Ravens.

23. John Johnson, S, age 25

Jalen Ramsey deservedly gets the bulk of attention in Rams’ secondary, but Johnson’s savvy as a four-year starter made the defense work.

Suitors: Chargers, Browns, Falcons, Raiders, Eagles.

Prediction: Falcons.

24. William Jackson, CB, age 28

SEE ALSO

 

 

Bengals proactively replaced him last offseason and have other pressing needs for their spending spree. Is he enough of a ball hawk?

Suitors: Steelers, Bengals, Cardinals, 49ers, Colts, Jets.

Prediction: Cardinals.

25. Trai Turner, G, 27

Five-time Pro Bowler at age 28 was cut for $11.5 million in savings after one injury-plagued season with Chargers and a failed trade market.

Suitors: Giants, Jets, Bengals, Chiefs, Ravens.

Prediction: Bengals.

26. Curtis Samuel, WR, age 24

Drafted by Giants GM Dave Gettleman while with the Panthers. One of Urban Meyer’s favorite players at Ohio State. More of a specialized weapon than a No. 1 receiver.

Suitors: Giants, Patriots, Jaguars, Washington.

Prediction: Jaguars.

27. Haason Reddick, DE/OLB, age 26

Former first-round pick finally broke through with 12.5 sacks (five in one game against the Giants) but also ranked No. 19 in pressures.

Suitors: Giants, Panthers, Falcons, Patriots.

Prediction: Giants.

28. Mitchell Schwartz, RT, age 31

Started 128 straight games from 2012-19 and became an All-Pro. Surprise cap casualty who probably will need to wait to sign until he can pass a physical after back surgery.

Suitors: Bengals, Ravens, Raiders, Seahawks.

Prediction: Seahawks.

29. Patrick Peterson, CB, age 30

Two of the best cornerbacks of the 2010s are available and could have similar markets. Peterson has stayed healthier and gets the edge over Richard Sherman.

Suitors: Chiefs, Raiders, Colts, Packers.

Prediction: Chiefs.

30. Leonard Floyd, DE/OLB, age 28

Former top-10 pick is in free agency for the second straight year, but with greater leverage off a career revival with 10.5 sacks for the Rams.

Suitors: Giants, Vikings, Chargers, Titans.

Prediction: Chargers.

 

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3 hours ago, Dunnie said:

4. Joe Thuney, G, age 28

Surprisingly tagged in 2020 but not again, as the Patriots reshuffled parts along the line. Started all 80 games in his career.

 

- Maybe his consistency rubs off on Mekhi ?

It’s more like Mekhi weights 370 is the issue.

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3 minutes ago, section314 said:

If we "only get" Thuney and Ngakoue, it's a HR. I think we'd all sign up for that right now.

Agreed. Top 2 FAs would be unheard of in Jets land. Because you can guarantee with the money and holes the Jets have JD will be bringing in lots of bargain basement FAs that fit Salehs system. Guys like R.Blair, Sherman/Kwan Williams, Bourne, maybe K.Neal, Jamaal Williams. So if we get Thuney and Ngakoue (who I'm not as sold on if the contract is huge) on top of that, this FA would be a success and JD can go into the draft. You can argue that whiffing on a WR is highly problematic but there are a lot of names not on this list that will become available and there's always the trade and/or draft route you can go. I know its a gamble but I would not be that upset if the Jets ended up with their replacement for Perriman or new X WR to play across from Mims to be a rookie they took at 23. Bateman, Toney, Marshall, Moore (assuming the top 3 will be out of range, but if we trade down, obviously one of the top 3). 

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2 minutes ago, PepPep said:

Agreed. Top 2 FAs would be unheard of in Jets land. Because you can guarantee with the money and holes the Jets have JD will be bringing in lots of bargain basement FAs that fit Salehs system. Guys like R.Blair, Sherman/Kwan Williams, Bourne, maybe K.Neal, Jamaal Williams. So if we get Thuney and Ngakoue (who I'm not as sold on if the contract is huge) on top of that, this FA would be a success and JD can go into the draft. You can argue that whiffing on a WR is highly problematic but there are a lot of names not on this list that will become available and there's always the trade and/or draft route you can go. I know its a gamble but I would not be that upset if the Jets ended up with their replacement for Perriman or new X WR to play across from Mims to be a rookie they took at 23. Bateman, Toney, Marshall, Moore (assuming the top 3 will be out of range, but if we trade down, obviously one of the top 3). 

Agreed. Plus, these guys are 28 and 25, respectively, I believe.

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11 minutes ago, Bronx said:

As a professional athlete, he should not have major hurdles with weight and nutritional training to achieve a leaner body.

He’s still a massive Human being, it’s more the pounding his joints take from the sheer size and momentum of movement, that could lead to injury. Hopefully he will be ok.

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5 minutes ago, BurnleyJet said:

He’s still a massive Human being, it’s more the pounding his joints take from the sheer size and momentum of movement, that could lead to injury. Hopefully he will be ok.

In contrast, you have skinny legged Mims busting hamstrings. Let's hope Becton's knees can handle it like many other mammoths. 

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3 hours ago, BornJetsFan1983 said:

Man the dolphins are going to have quite a good haul according tobthis

Yeah really. Other than roster fit independent of cost, I’d like the explanation how Miami is going to add an $20MM+ WR, a $20MM+ EDGE, and a $10-12MM RB.

Those 3 alone you’re talking $50-55MM/year, not counting the veteran QB insurance they’ll likely add at a cost of at least $5-10MM more for the year.

Plus just the #3 & #18 picks should hit about $10MM together as rookies.

Then the cumulative $10-20MM or more that even the biggest cheapskate teams add in non-splashy ancillary additions. 

So aside from this supposed FA splash, they’re looking at ~$30MM hitting 2021’s cap alone, which is about all they have where they stand today. To that they’re going to add another $50-55MM? Someone want to explain?

I get that a long-term deal can hit the cap far less in year 1 than the contract’s annual average, but it’s unlikely to say the least that they’d want to go with such an extreme route with 3 new signings, to barely squeeze them in for 2021 with the QB position so unsettled, and then have them hit their caps at some $70MM/year for 2022 and 2023 (and/or with loads of dead cap space if they want to part ways after only 2-3 seasons).

Not happening.

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And while Ngakoue’s a really good player who gets better than average pressure, he isn’t nearly worth the elite money he’s been seeking. A one-dimensional edge rusher like this should be getting at least in the 12-14 sack range annually, not falling short of double-digits in 4 of 5 seasons, coverage & garbage-time sacks included. Especially when his missed tackle rate has hovered in the 20-25% range, which is just brutal. 

I’d be happy the team is improving, but if Douglas is going to still go mostly-frugal, then with Ngakoue seeking a contract in the $20MM range I wouldn’t be nearly as enamored with this move over other similarly-sized splashes to be made.

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I’d like it to shape up sorta this way... 

Joe Thuney. 4-5 year contract. Make him a fixture of our team.

Patrick Peterson. 2-3 year deal. Great player. Great veteran presence. I think he’ll be worth the cost for a few years.

Curtis Samuel. 3-5 year contract. I believe in him, and prefer him to Juju.

Pass rush is where it gets tricky. There’s a lot of talent. One possible direction is a 1-year price it deal with Jadaveon Clowney. I also like Hendrickson and Barrett, about the same as Ngakoue.

Kyle Jus/whatever the FB in SF should be a target for us as well.

I think Jonnu Smith may end up getting over-paid, so I might look at Gerald Everett instead. Could be a nice quiet addition that yields a player who is about to put his best production in the field. Not all of FA has to be about paying guys for past accomplishments.

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22 minutes ago, Jetlife33 said:

Yannick is so high on my list. Fits the system perfectly. I’d jump for joy. At the same time, if the fins get Barrett and Golladay... jeez. 

Golladay has a huge catch radius, perfect for a team building around Ryan Fitzpatrick.

Eff the fins.

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6 minutes ago, BroadwayRay said:

The Dolphins have $32 million in cap space and he has them signing three of the top 10 free agents.

An their rookie pool will eat up around $11M of that. 

I think Barrett was a typo though.  They weren't even on the list of likely suitors.

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Two comments/questions...

1. How are the Jets not listed as one of the teams that would even pursue Corey Linsley?  IMO he should be targeted ahead of Thuney by the Jets because it would automatically upgrade two spots (Linsley at C, move McGovern to RG).  That's the IOL move with the most bang for the buck.  We can head into the Draft with Lewis, Linsley, McGovern penciled into those 3 interior spots and be very comfortable.

2. IF the Jets are hot out of the gates and making lots of high-end signings that would indicate to me that a trade for Watson is very possible.  That kind of trade would require lots of Draft capital (numerous 1st, 2nd round picks) meaning that filling the roster would have to be done through FA.  Conversely, if the Jets make only one or two Tier 1 free agent signings, and don't grab any elite playmakers at WR, TE or RB, then it's almost guaranteed they're looking to the Draft for those positions and will not be making a Watson trade.

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6 hours ago, FidelioJet said:

Need some type of offensive play maker.  Can’t come away without one.  

Samuel and either JuJu, Golladay or Fuller. We desperately need another 2 WR's. We can get another TE later in the draft to replace Griffin and go with Herndon who had a decent rebound this past year. 

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