NFL Free Agency 2021: Early Look at Players Expected to Hit Market Next Year

David KenyonFeatured ColumnistMay 14, 2020

Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott (4) celebrates a touchdown against the Washington Redskins during the second half of an NFL football game in Arlington, Texas, Sunday, Dec. 15, 2019. (AP Photo/Ron Jenkins)
Ron Jenkins/Associated Press

Free agency is one of the most exciting parts of the NFL offseason, and the 2021 class is loaded with recognizable names.

As always, there are qualifiers. Players may agree to extensions before hitting free agency, or the franchise tag may prevent a player from becoming available to the rest of the league. Those factors are important.

Based on the current outlook, though, stars such as Dak Prescott, Alvin Kamara, Chris Godwin, Joey Bosa and Jalen Ramsey are entering the final season of their contracts.

Organized by position, we're highlighting some of the biggest names who could be a part of the 2021 free-agent class.

Prescott may end up commanding the most attention.

Jon Machota @jonmachota

Cowboys VP Stephen Jones when asked by @ProFootballTalk about the possibility of Dak Prescott not showing up until right before the start of the regular season if a new contract isn’t finalized by the July 15 franchise tag deadline: https://t.co/ISKpsRfNWx

This offseason, the Dallas Cowboys used the franchise tag on their young quarterback. Discussions for an extension are ongoing, and it's likely the two parties will agree to a new contract before he's a free agent. Until a deal is reached, however, Prescott is the 2021 headliner both at his position and on the overall list.

Behind him, the group of quarterbacks is relatively thin. Impending free agents are Tyrod Taylor, Jameis Winston, Jacoby Brissett, Andy Dalton and Ryan Fitzpatrick. Current free agent Cam Newton may also be in the category, pending his next deal.

Philip Rivers has an expiring contract but recently lined up a post-retirement job as a high school football coach in Alabama.

The class of running backs is potentially exceptional. This group includes Kamara, Derrick Henry, Dalvin Cook, Aaron Jones and Todd Gurley. Also in a contract season are Joe Mixon, Kenyan Drake. Chris Carson and Phillip Lindsay, among many others.

So who's going to get paid?

Alvin Kamara
Alvin KamaraButch Dill/Associated Press

While the league is generally placing less value on the position, a few running backs still receive big-money deals. Kamara, Henry, Cook and Jones are most likely to garner huge offers.

But as the market for running backs decreases, it's rising for receivers. And the 2021 class has several well-known targets.

Godwin and Keenan Allen are the featured players, along with JuJu Smith-Schuster, Allen Robinson, Kenny Golladay, A.J. Green and T.Y. Hilton. Other notable options are Will Fuller, Marvin Jones, Curtis Samuel, Cooper Kupp and Sammy Watkins.

The top tight ends will be George Kittle and Hunter Henry, while Jared Cook, Gerald Everett and Jonnu Smith are among the possibilities for the position's second tier.

As for offensive linemen, there's a quality group of tackles in Ronnie Stanley, David Bakhtiari, Trent Williams and Taylor Decker. Brandon Scherff and Joe Thuney lead the guards, while Ryan Kelly and Matt Skura are the best centers.

And there are a few superstars on the defensive line.

Top interior players are Chris Jones, Cameron Heyward and Kenny Clark. The list of ends features Yannick Ngakoue, Joey Bosa, Leonard Williams and Vic Beasley, with Jadeveon Clowney a possibility.

Brady Henderson @BradyHenderson

On Jadeveon Clowney, my understanding is he would have to take significantly less money than what the Seahawks previously offered him in order for a reunion to happen. The team hasn't shut the door entirely on Clowney, but bringing him back isn't considered likely at this point.

Edge-rushers Matt Judon, Bud Dupree and Shaquil Barrett could wind up playing 2020 on the franchise tag and hit free agency in 2021. Pending extensions for those players, they would join Melvin Ingram on the open market.

Looking at traditional linebackers, the best options are Dont'a Hightower, Demario Davis, Avery Williamson and De'Vondre Campbell. Denzel Perryman and K.J. Wright are also notable players set to hit the free-agent market.

Defensive backs round out the class. Jalen Ramsey, Patrick Peterson, Desmond King and Richard Sherman are among the top cornerbacks. At safety, Justin Simmons, Anthony Harris and Budda Baker lead the way, with Marcus Williams and Malik Hooker next in line.


Follow Bleacher Report writer David Kenyon on Twitter @Kenyon19_BR.