NFL free agency is soon to be upon us and teams will be looking to emulate what Tampa Bay did last March, as they opened their wallets to acquire the necessary pieces needed to turn a 7-9 team into this year’s Super Bowl champions. While it is unusual for a team to instantly turn into contenders through free agent acquisitions, Tampa Bay acquired the G.O.A.T. and immediately
turned into Tom pa Bay. Remember, only two teams aggressively pursued Brady in free agency, so don’t always assume the most sought after names will automatically translate to the most on-field success. So with further ado, Questionable Lock presents the
Top 10 Free Agency Predictions of 2021. All Analysis Done By NFL Outsider Patrick Duncan.
- Dak Prescott, QB
a. It should be agreed upon by every football fan that Dak Prescott is the unanimous top free agent of this year’s class. And although all signs point towards contract disputation with ole’ Jerry, Dak will get paid and he will stay in Dallas. The Cowboys will obviously not let him walk, especially given the current frenzy for quarterbacks, highlighted by the fact that Carson Wentz – who had one of the single worst quarterback seasons in recent memory – got traded for more than a bag of chips. If they do not pay him, someone will, and I believe this is just Jerry being typical Jerry.
PREDICTION: DAL signs Dak Prescott to a 4-year, $155M, $80M guaranteed contract.
- Chris Godwin, WR
a. A 24-year old, All-Pro receiver with silky-smooth route running, incredible release speed, and the personality of Larry Fitzgerald? Sounds like a dream Bruce Arian had while falling asleep cradling the Lombardi trophy. Between how highly Brady speaks of him, to his chemistry with his head coach – who recently promised him “your ass ain’t going anywhere” – to the fact that he is perhaps the most talented of the 3-headed dragon that is the Tampa Bay receiving corps, one thing is crystal clear regarding Chris Godwin: the Bucs are going to do whatever it takes to retain their star receiver. As a 24 year old Pro-Bowler and Super Bowl champion, Godwin may see record-breaking contract offers that could make him the highest-paid wide receiver in NFL history. With Lavonte David and Shaquil Barrett also entering free agency, Tampa will not have the cap space to match mega-offers for Godwin. So instead, I see the Buccaneers using their franchise tag on Godwin to keep Brady’s arsenal fully-loaded. At the moment, Godwin’s contract value could not be any greater, so logically, the Buccaneers need to utilize the Franchise Tag instead of paying him what he’s worth ($90M over a 5-years) in order to keep this Super Bowl team together.
PREDICTION: TB franchise-tag Chris Godwin on a 1-year, $16,430,000, fully guaranteed contract.
- Trent Williams, LT
a. One of the most consistent lineman of the last decade, Trent Williams proved himself as a top 5 league tackle and the 49ers best overall lineman last season. Despite turning 33 in the coming months, Williams could arguably be second on this list if it wasn’t for Godwin’s versatility at such a young age. Entering into his 11th NFL season, Williams brings with him All-Pro ability and plenty of veteran experience. Williams will be one of the most sought after free agents given that teams will be looking to protect their new quarterbacks given this year’s signal-caller shake ups across the league. After playing under Dan Snyder and Jay Gruden for many years, I’m sure Williams will not be rushing to leave an organization under the rule of John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan. Furthermore, San Francisco would not have spent a 3rd and 5th-round pick on a one-year rental at LT, and I assume they are going to give Williams a much deserved payday.
PREDICTION: SF signs Trent Williams to a 4-year, $74M, $35M guaranteed contract.
- Allen Robinson II, WR
a. The 27-year old, 6’2” receiver has proven time and time again that he can play at an elite level regardless of who’s throwing him the ball. Robinson II stated recently that he is open to “anything” come free agency. While there have been rumors of a potential sign-and-trade, tag-and-trade, it would not be surprising if Chicago simply utilized the tag on the star playmaker. While the Bears could surely franchise tag him or give him the massive contract he so deserves, throwing money at a receiver with no suitable quarterback seems futile. I personally believe that Robinson II has played his last snap for the Bears. One of the most wide-receiver needy teams over the past couple of years, and a team with
a big-name trader in GM Eric DeCosta, Baltimore could be Robinson II’s best landing spot.
PREDICTION: CHI executes a tag-and-trade, signing Allen Robinson II to a 1-year, $16,430,000, fully guaranteed contract, to trade him to BAL for their 27th overall pick in the upcoming draft.
- Brandon Scherff, RG
a. The offensive guard market is about to change, and outside of Quenton Nelson, no player will benefit more from that than Brandon Scherff. The 2015 top-5 pick from the University of Iowa had his most prolific NFL season this year, and he’s about to be paid accordingly. At 29 years old, Scherff surely has a lot left in the tank. Washington’s issues at quarterback may ultimately not be solved with Taylor Heiniecke, but re-signing a stud offensive lineman gives the one-hit-wonder his best chance to prove himself. If Heinecke doesn’t end up panning out, a strong offensive lineman will make the life of whoever ends up under center easier for whoever is calling plays for Ron Rivera’s offense. Scherff could also help open up more holes for promising young RB Antonio Gibson. Washington has the fifth-most cap space in the NFL this offseason at $38,277,074 and they will use a decent chunk of that to lock down their franchise offensive lineman.
PREDICTION: WFT resigns Brandon Scherff to a 4-year, $60M, $40M guaranteed contract.
- Justin Simmons, FS
a. The best defensive player in this free agency class could perhaps be much higher on this list – but similar to the upcoming first round of this year’s draft – the focal point of talent seems to be on the offensive side of the ball. Elite coverage safeties are hard to come by in the NFL and this position comes at a premium in the league these days. Although the franchise has a lot on its plate this offseason, the Broncos will do whatever it takes to secure Simmons in the least labor-intensive way possible. Jason La Canfora, whose guess is as good as any NFL fans, reported that the Broncos are planning on franchise tagging Simmons for the second year in a row. This does make complete sense for the Broncos however, as potentially losing Von Miller and Justin Simmons will wipe this team of it’s defensive identity and create a glaring hole in the middle of the field.
PREDICTION: DEN franchise-tags Justin Simmons on a 1-year, $13,729,200, fully guaranteed contract.
- Kenny Golladay, WR
a. Multiple reports have come out that the Lions may franchise-tag Godwin, or even execute a tag-and-trade, which would make considerable sense given the position of where this franchise stands in terms of rebuilding. If you aren’t completely positive you’ll be able to sign him, why take the risk and lose your best player for nothing? Although trading for Green Bay’s 29th pick could make sense, I doubt Detroit would give up their best player to a team they have to face twice a year, let alone adding him to a rival team that already features arguably the best receiver in the league in Davante Adams. Miami, however, has deep draft capital and a dire need for wide receivers. I see Miami going out and getting Golladay, especially if Robinson II doesn’t become available to them.
PREDICTION: DET executes a tag-and-trade, signing Kenny Golladay 1-year, $16,430,000, fully guaranteed contract, to trade him to MIA for their 3rd round and 5th-round pick selections in the upcoming draft.
- Lavonte David, LB
a. Lavonte David is, essentially, a unicorn-level rare case of an NFL linebacker who, despite being elite his entire career, has gained more recognition and praise as his career has progressed. The 4-time All-Pro and Pro Bowl linebacker has been one of the quietest elite defenders over the past decade. After dominating alongside Devin White in the Super Bowl, this elite linebacker will be hotly pursued in free agency despite being in the twilight of his career. The Bucs aren’t letting David go anywhere, especially after franchise-tagging Godwin and securing enough cap space to return the team’s best defender to Tampa Bay. This is a no-brainer for Tampa.
PREDICTION: TB signs Lavonte David to a 3-year, $38M, $18M guaranteed deal.
- Shaquil Barrett, EDGE
a. This, in my opinion, is perhaps the most interesting free agent situation this offseason. What do the Bucs do with Shaq Barrett? The former UDFA had a prolific 2019 season, leading the league in sacks with 19.5 while earning Second-Team All-Pro honors. While Barrett’s 2020 season saw him record just 8 sacks, he played alongside the likes of premier defenders in Pro Bowlers Jason Pierre-Paul, Lavonte David, and elite defender Devin White. Instead of regressing, Barrett played his part in a defense that neutralized the league’s best offense in the Super Bowl. Expect NFL teams to fledge out absurd offers for one
of the league’s leading edge rushers in Barrett. Tampa’s cap situation will most likely not permit them to sign Barrett, so expect him to take his talents elsewhere this offseason. The Las Vegas Raiders’ have plenty of cap space and a dire need for an elite defender to join their dismal unit from a year ago. New defensive coordinator Gus Bradley could install Barrett perfectly into his 4-3 scheme and I believe this fit is a perfect match between the two parties.
PREDICTION: LV signs Shaquil Barrett to a 4-year, $76M, $42M guaranteed contract.
- Leonard Williams, DE
a. Leonard “Big Cat” Williams might be a bit of a polarizing free agent this offseason. The once-elite draft talent from USC has certainly not lived up to his potential in the NFL, that was however, until this season. The one-time Pro-Bowler went from back-to-back injury-riddled seasons to posting 11.5 sacks this year after making the transition from NT to LDE in Joe Judge’s 3-4 front 7 this year. It was perfect timing for the 26-year old defensive lineman, who is reportedly expected to receive a $20M APY contract this offseason. Coming off a $16M franchise tag from the Giants last season, it would now cost the franchise $19M in potential cap space. The Giants’ defense was a bright spot in a surprisingly successful season for the team, albeit only winning 6 games. Considering the demand for multi-positional defensive lineman, especially ones who post double-digit sack totals, I do not see Big Cat going anywhere.
PREDICTION: NYG signs Leonard Williams to a 4-year, $80M, $50M guaranteed contract.
- Joe Thuney, OG (CIN, 4-years, $55M, $28M guaranteed)
- Hunter Henry, TE (LAC, 4-years, $45M $22M guaranteed)
- Juju Smith-Schuster, WR (NYJ, 4-years, $68M, $32M guaranteed)
- Anthony Harris, S (OAK, 4-years, $52M, $24M guaranteed
- Will Fuller V, WR (GB, 5-years, $84M, $45M guaranteed)
- John Johnson III, S (LAC, 5-years, $68M, $40M guaranteed)
Analysis by Patrick Duncan