We’re breaking down some potential fits for our top pending 2021 NFL free agents with the start of the league year and free agency coming up soon on March 17. Using our Top 100 2021 NFL Free Agents list, we’re examining the possible landing spots for the top players who are expected to be available this offseason.
This is based both on reported interest by particular teams and by connecting the dots between team needs, coaching staff connections, scheme fits and available players. We’ve removed 10 players who signs are pointing to as likely candidates to be franchise tagged by their current teams.
Other free agent fits:
- Trent Williams, Will Fuller, Lavonte David, Joe Thuney, Marcus Williams
- Jadeveon Clowney, Yannick Ngakoue, Shaq Barrett, JuJu Smith-Schuster, Aaron Jones
- Cam Newton, Andy Dalton, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Gerald Everett, Chidobe Awuzie
- Troy Hill, Rob Gronkowski, Marvin Jones, Shelby Harris, Russell Okung
- Haason Reddick, Nelson Agholor, Xavier Rhodes, Patrick Peterson, Richard Sherman
Keep an eye out this week for the rest of our Free Agent Fits series!
Steelers OLB Bud Dupree
Reported Interest: Browns, Steelers
Best Fit: Browns
Dupree’s torn ACL in December complicated things for a player who otherwise would have been a lock to be a top-10 free agent, especially once franchise tags were accounted for. While ACLs aren’t career-killers as much anymore, the average 9-12 month timeline for a recovery puts the start of the season in question for Dupree. Many players even say they don’t feel completely back to normal until the season after their first year back.
With that in mind, does a team feel comfortable giving Dupree a multi-year deal? Or does he have to settle for another one-year contract to prove he’s healthy and effective and worth a major investment in 2022? Ordinarily the list of teams interested in Dupree would be in the double digits. As things stand now, the Steelers can’t even be ruled out as an option if the bottom really drops out of his market. I suspect the Browns have the familiarity, cap space and the need at pass rusher to give Dupree a decent one-year offer that lures him away.
Seahawks CB Quinton Dunbar
Best Fit: Seahawks
The Seahawks traded for Dunbar after he unsuccessfully lobbied for a new deal from Washington and was shipped out for being a malcontent. Dunbar had flashed a lot of promise for the type of defense the Seahawks run but injuries held him back from ever really finding a groove in 2020. Given Seattle is set to lose No. 1 corner Shaquill Griffin, it could make the most sense for both parties to try again on a prove-it contract in 2021, as Dunbar would already have scheme familiarity and perhaps his best chance to ball out and then subsequently cash in.
Ravens DE Matt Judon
Reported Interest: Jaguars, Jets, Ravens, Seahawks
Best Fit: Jets
Judon played out the 2020 season on the franchise tag and it would be prohibitive for the Ravens to tag him again, so he appears to be headed to the market as one of the top pass rushers available. Judon is hoping for more than former teammate Za’Darius Smith got from the Packers when he tested free agency, which was $16.5 million a year. Any team that signs him would be looking for a similar jump in production that Smith had after leaving Baltimore with 26 sacks the past two seasons.
The Jets and Jaguars are the teams to watch as landing spots. Both have oodles of cap space. Jacksonville was the destination for an exodus of Ravens defensive coaches this offseason, while Jets GM Joe Douglas cut his teeth in scouting with the Ravens. He left before Judon arrived, but he’s exactly the type of hard-nosed player Douglas is looking for to build the culture in New York. The Jets have the bigger need at edge rusher and that gives them the slight advantage over the Jaguars.
Chargers DE Melvin Ingram
Reported Interest: Chargers, Raiders
Best Fit: Raiders
There has been little buzz around Ingram as a free agent this year, which makes some sense given he’s about to turn 32, is coming off a zero-sack season and went on IR twice with a knee injury last year. He might not be a full-time player anymore but he could potentially still be productive as a designated pass rusher for a team in major need of pass rush help. That fits the Raiders’ situation, and Las Vegas just happened to add Ingram’s defensive coordinator for the past four seasons, Gus Bradley, to their staff.
Saints DE Trey Hendrickson
Reported Interest: Saints
Best Fit: Lions
Hendrickson was one of 2020’s breakout pass rushers, as he exploded for 13.5 sacks after having just 6.5 combined his first three seasons. He’s a classic 4-3 defensive end so he doesn’t have the same scheme fit questions as OLB Haason Reddick. But the lack of sustained production might cause teams to treat him warily.
The new Lions coaching staff has a lot of connections to the Saints and knows Hendrickson well, so that could assuage any fears about him being a flash in the pan. Detroit doesn’t have a ton of cap space but they have enough to give Hendrickson a handsome offer as a prime free agent who is young enough to grow along with their rebuild, assuming they don’t re-sign their own one-hit-wonder, DE Romeo Okwara.