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.
Keep an eye out this week for the rest of our 2021 Free Agent Fits series!
49ers LT Trent Williams
Reported Interest: 49ers
Best Fit: Colts
Unless the 49ers are willing to just blow him away, there’s no reason for Williams not to test free agency and see what the market holds given he has the no-tag clause. Though he’ll turn 33 this June, Williams is still an elite player and hasn’t shown any signs of decline. He’s a legitimate candidate to reset the market at tackle which currently stands at $23 million a year, perhaps by a lot. The Colts have the cap space to take on a deal like that, plus a gaping hole at left tackle. It’s a perfect match.
Texans WR Will Fuller
Reported Interest: Jets, Packers
Best Fit: Chiefs
How on earth are the Chiefs going to afford the top receiver potentially available when they’re currently $25 million over the cap, you ask? Great question. Kansas City can actually flip their current balance sheet pretty easily by restructuring QB Patrick Mahomes, DT Chris Jones and TE Travis Kelce and signing S Tyrann Mathieu to an extension that lowers his 2021 cap hit. All of those are foundational pieces who are relatively low-risk investments.
Finding a replacement for WR Sammy Watkins and keeping the supporting cast around Mahomes elite on offense will be one of Kansas City’s priorities this offseason and a one-year deal makes a ton of sense for both sides. Pitching Fuller on joining the NFL’s most potent offense on a prove-it deal before trying to hit it big in 2022 free agency should be an easy sell. Especially if he gets a Super Bowl ring out of it, too.
Buccaneers LB Lavonte David
Reported Interest: Browns, Buccaneers
Best Fit: Buccaneers
David has been one of the NFL’s most underrated linebackers for years now and finally got some much-deserved recognition as the Buccaneers won the Super Bowl. He’s poised to be recognized even more in free agency if he gets to the market but Tampa Bay has been clear they see David as an integral piece of their core and vital to their hopes of repeating as champions.
Conventional wisdom suggests a pass rusher like Buccaneers OLB Shaquil Barrett might be more important and the higher priority to retain, but a true sideline-to-sideline linebacker like David does so much for a defense. Keeping David next to Devin White feels like it needs to be a priority for the Buccaneers, even if it means making him the NFL’s highest-paid off-ball linebacker.
Patriots G Joe Thuney
Reported Interest: Bengals, Jets
Best Fit: Jets
There are a lot of connections between Thuney and the Bengals. He grew up in Ohio and the team has a major need to solidify its offensive line. But the Jets were linked as one of the teams that were planning a big run at Thuney before the Patriots surprisingly franchise-tagged him last year and they still have plenty of cap space and a big hole at guard. If the Bengals do prioritize signing a tackle over a guard, then it’s easy to see Thuney moving just a little bit further down the East Coast to put on the green.
Saints S Marcus Williams
Reported Interest: Lions, Saints
Best Fit: Jaguars
After a brief lull, the market for safeties has rebounded in a big way the past couple of years. Titans S Kevin Byard, Bears S Eddie Jackson and Cardinals S Budda Baker have all signed long-term deals for $14 million and change. Williams compares favorably statistically to all three, and as a 24-year-old entering the open market, he’s a realistic candidate to potentially crack $15 million per year. With $82 million in cap space and the potential to make more, the Jaguars have both the financial flexibility and the need at safety to blow Williams away with an offer.