2021 Free Agent Fits: Linsley, Villanueva, Brown, Winston, Floyd

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: 

Keep an eye out this week for the rest of our Free Agent Fits series!

Packers C Corey Linsley

Reported Interest: Chargers, Dolphins, Jaguars, Ravens

Best Fit: Dolphins

Incumbent Dolphins starting C Ted Karras was fine in 2020 and is interested in re-signing with Miami. But if the Dolphins are willing to trade 2020 first-round QB Tua Tagovailoa in the name of upgrading from good to great, they should be willing to pursue an upgrade at center with Linsley, who was first-team AP All-Pro this past season. It would also be a way for the Dolphins to address their offensive line without stunting the development of other, younger players they’ve made investments in.

Steelers OT Alejandro Villanueva

Reported Interest: 

Best Fit: Chargers

The Chargers will be involved with other potential options at tackle as they retool nearly their entire offensive line this offseason. Expect them to look hard at younger options like Ravens OT Orlando Brown or a prospect in this year’s draft class. But signing Villanueva would take some of the pressure off and allow Los Angeles to go with the best player available in the draft, as well as avoid having to entrust star QB Justin Herbert’s blindside to a rookie.

Villanueva has started every game for the past five seasons at left tackle for Pittsburgh but he is one of several players they just can’t afford to bring back. It probably won’t hurt the Chargers’ chances that Los Angeles hired former Steelers assistant line coach Shaun Surratt this offseason. 

Buccaneers WR Antonio Brown

Reported Interest: Buccaneers, Seahawks

Best Fit: Buccaneers

Seattle and possibly others were interested in Brown after his suspension was served this past season. But it should not be underestimated the role Tom Brady played in convincing Tampa Bay’s front office to take a chance on Brown, then subsequently ensuring Brown had the support he needed to be a positive contribution to the team. Perhaps another team offers Brown more money and a bigger role. Given that this past year with the Bucs was the first time Brown’s time with a team didn’t implode in spectacular fashion, though, I doubt many teams will want to risk much, and that could push Brown back to Tampa Bay.

Saints QB Jameis Winston

Reported Interest: Saints

Best Fit: Saints

Saints HC Sean Payton used his media tour during the week of the Super Bowl to recruit Winston hard to come back in 2021, presumably at a low salary. The chance to tutor under Drew Brees and audition as a replacement was a big part of New Orleans’ pitch to Winston last year and will be again this year. It’s unlikely that Winston will have a strong market from other teams, though it wouldn’t take much to outbid the Saints given their cap situation. Winston also would theoretically have to compete against Taysom Hill but I think Payton prefers Hill in his change-of-pace role than as his full-time starter.

Rams OLB Leonard Floyd

Reported Interest: Rams

Best Fit: Chargers                                                                                  

There aren’t many people who are bigger fans of Floyd than Chargers HC Brandon Staley. After working with him for two seasons as the Bears’ outside linebackers coach, Staley pounded the table for the Rams to go after Floyd last offseason when the Bears rescinded his fifth-year option. Staley was vindicated when Floyd put up a career-high 10.5 sacks in a contract year and it would only make sense for Floyd to follow Staley across town to the Chargers, especially if Staley is willing to offer more money than the Rams’ walk-away number to keep Floyd, which based on history is a decent bet.

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