Top NFL Free Agents Most Likely to Switch Teams in 2021

Chris Roling@@Chris_RolingFeatured ColumnistNovember 18, 2020

Top NFL Free Agents Most Likely to Switch Teams in 2021

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    Don Wright/Associated Press

    NFL player movement feels like it has peaked in recent years.

    It leads to some oddities, to say the least, such as Cam Newton suiting up for the New England Patriots while Tom Brady and Antonio Brown team up with Rob Gronkowski on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

    Free agency remains the biggest catalyst for new faces in new places, and this offseason should again provide an explosive amount of movement.

    The following high-profile players are most likely to switch teams in 2021. The departures may commence because their teams are rebuilding, set to go in a different direction financially or have replacements waiting in the wings.

Leonard Williams, DL, New York Giants

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    Adam Hunger/Associated Press

    The New York Giants traded for Leonard Williams last season and justified the move with the franchise tag this year, locking down the No. 6 pick from the 2015 draft for another year.

    Williams has responded with five sacks in 10 games, flirting with his career high of seven from 2016. He's also posted a 78.1 grade, per Pro Football Focus, seemingly adjusting well to his new surroundings and scheme.

    But Williams has played more than 80 percent of snaps just once this season. The Giants didn't seem like they were in a hurry to try to sign him to a long-term deal this offseason, and looking ahead to next year, they'll have only $19.1 million to spend before any leaguewide adjustments.

    Tagging Williams again would be too costly, and given their 3-7 record and questions about quarterback Daniel Jones, the Giants might opt to lean in to their rebuild and let Williams test the market.

Bud Dupree, LB, Pittsburgh Steelers

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    Keith Srakocic/Associated Press

    Another franchise tag recipient, Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Bud Dupree filed a grievance over his positional classification.

    A year ago, Dupree had a breakout season with 11.5 sacks in 16 games and a 77.7 PFF grade, finally realizing the potential the Steelers saw when they picked him in the first round of the 2015 draft.

    In nine games this year, Dupree has seven sacks, but he has regressed by at least one grading evaluation, earning a 57.2 PFF mark. He can drop into coverage and fit the scheme well, but the price of keeping him around might be too rich for a team with a cap balance that is $20.1 million in the red for 2021.

    Should Dupree near his sack total from 2019, he will likely have a hot market that leads to a team change.

Jadeveon Clowney, Edge, Tennessee Titans

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    Wade Payne/Associated Press

    Jadeveon Clowney featured in one of the most interesting storylines of free agency, and the show might get another season soon.

    Clowney joined the Tennessee Titans late in the process to much hype, which is understandable given his ability paired with the fact he joined a contender.

    But Clowney has underwhelmed, failing to post a sack in eight games. Not that he's a sack artist—which is why he was in market limbo for so long—but his PFF grade has taken a nosedive too: It's down to 74.9 from 87.3 the year prior. He's also generated just 11 pressures compared to 78 over the prior two seasons.

    It seems guaranteed that Clowney will test the market again and sign elsewhere, especially with the Titans sitting on only $11.3 million for 2021.

Ryan Kerrigan, Edge, Washington

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    Ron Schwane/Associated Press

    Ryan Kerrigan seemed like one of the most obvious trade deadline candidates this year because the Washington Football Team had spent back-to-back first-round picks on Montez Sweat and Chase Young.

    ESPN's Adam Schefter reported Kerrigan indeed asked for a trade, though he also added Washington told teams it wouldn't trade the 32-year-old.

    It seems clear Kerrigan would like to play for a contender, not 2-7 Washington, for which he's played since he was drafted in the first round in 2011. He's quietly amassed 94.5 sacks, including 4.5 this year in nine games, so he'll have massive appeal this offseason—perhaps mostly as a short-term answer for a contender.

    While Washington won't be hurting for cap space with $51.1 million available, it figures to embrace more youth as it continues to rebuild in Ron Rivera's second year.

A.J. Green, WR, Cincinnati Bengals

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    Jay LaPrete/Associated Press

    Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green was franchise-tagged this offseason as his team looked to give him one final chance to stay healthy.

    Green has done that, appearing in all nine games. But attendance doesn't equal production, and the veteran hasn't come close to earning the tag price of $18.2 million, catching just 31 of his 68 targets for a paltry 316 yards.

    Green has looked like a shell of his former self, though it's not shocking since he is 32, hadn't played since 2018 and even suffered a hamstring injury in training camp this year.

    The Bengals are in good hands with Joe Burrow, Tyler Boyd and Tee Higgins, so they aren't likely to match the market price if a contender looks to Green in the hopes he can revive his performance.

Andy Dalton, QB, Dallas Cowboys

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    Patrick Semansky/Associated Press

    The Dallas Cowboys' Andy Dalton is one of the most notable quarterbacks who figures to change teams this offseason in pursuit of a starting gig.

    Dalton split with the Bengals last offseason and seemingly viewed the Cowboys as a short-term solution during the coronavirus pandemic.

    Granted, Dalton's run with Dallas hasn't been great. He replaced the injured Dak Prescott, suffered a concussion on a hit that got Jon Bostic ejected and fined and then was placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list.

    In four games, he's attempted just 85 passes and has one touchdown and three interceptions.

    Teams in need of a veteran starter or quality competition aren't going to judge Dalton's Dallas tenure too harshly. He has a career 62 completion percentage with 205 touchdowns and 121 interceptions with four playoff appearances, making him one of the top veteran passers available.

    Dallas, franchise quarterback already in hand with Prescott, won't be able to convince him to stick around as a backup if and when other openings around the league emerge. 

Jacoby Brissett, QB, Indianapolis Colts

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    Brett Carlsen/Associated Press

    Andy Dalton and Jacoby Brissett don't make for the most interesting free-agent quarterback class compared to last year's heavy hitters, but Cam Newton doesn't figure to leave New England, and Philip Rivers should stay put if he keeps playing.

    Should Rivers ink another one-year deal, Brissett may look elsewhere for a place to compete. Rivers has his post-retirement job lined up, but with the Indianapolis Colts atop the AFC South, he might stick around for 2021.

    As for Brissett, he's a 27-year-old veteran with starting experience and since he was a third-round pick in 2016 has thrown 31 touchdowns against just 13 interceptions.

    If nothing else, in a market that included a Nick Foles trade this year, Brissett will have suitors that want him to compete for a job or mentor a high draft pick. And the Colts might not want to have too much money invested in the position.

Shaquil Barrett, DE, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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    Kevin Sabitus/Associated Press

    The Tampa Bay Buccaneers wanted proof Shaquil Barrett could come close to matching his amazing 19.5 sacks in 2019, when he played on a one-year, $4 million deal.

    Because of that uncertainty, the team hit him with the franchise tag. He's tallied just five sacks in 10 games, though his 28 pressures compare well to his 51 from last year. His 71.9 PFF grade is down from last year's 77.7, though.

    The Buccaneers might not be able to keep pace with the market for the 28-year-old pass-rusher, who has understandably regressed from his jaw-dropping season but is still consistent enough to earn big money.

    Tampa Bay, all-in on Tom Brady, will have to worry about other free agents such as inside linebacker Lavonte David, defensive lineman Ndamukong Suh and tight end Rob Gronkowski, making it probable Barrett could slip away.