Ranking Most Likely Landing Spots for Patrick Peterson in 2021 NFL Free Agency

Kristopher Knox@@kris_knoxFeatured ColumnistDecember 12, 2020

Ranking Most Likely Landing Spots for Patrick Peterson in 2021 NFL Free Agency

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    Josie Lepe/Associated Press

    While four weeks still remain in the 2020 NFL regular season, it's time for some franchises—and their fanbases—to start thinking about the coming offseason. Four teams—the New York Jets, Jacksonville Jaguars, Cincinnati Bengals and Los Angeles Chargers—have already been eliminated from playoff contention. Many more will follow in the coming days and weeks.

    Even teams with Super Bowl aspirations should have one eye on next year's edition of free agency, though. Several quality players will be available, and Arizona Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson could be among them.

    Peterson isn't quite playing at an elite level right now—he's allowed an opposing passer rating of 98.2—but he's still a starting-caliber cornerback. Those can be difficult to find on the open market, which is where Peterson—in the final year of his contract—may find himself in the spring.

    Here, we'll examine five prime landing spots based on factors such as need, projected cap space and playoff potential.

    While Peterson hasn't indicated he wants to chase a Super Bowl ring, it's often a priority for players entering the twilights of their careers. Peterson reportedly wanted out of Arizona during the Cardinals' 3-13 campaign of 2018, which incidentally marked the last of his eight straight Pro Bowl appearances.

5. New York Jets

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    Trevor Lawrence
    Trevor LawrenceDavid J. Phillip/Associated Press

    Last week, we examined some potential landing spots for Denver Broncos pass-rusher Von Miller. In that piece, we noted that the New York Jets could quickly become a prime free-agency destination for a couple of reasons.

    For one, the 0-12 Jets are in line to earn the No. 1 pick in the 2021 draft and a shot at Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence. He is perceived as a generational talent who can revitalize the franchise, and the allure of playing with him could draw in several veterans.

    Presumably, the Jets won't bring back head coach Adam Gase—they've already fired defensive coordinator Gregg Williams—and a new head coach could add to the attraction of New York. If, for example, the Jets can lure Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy, New York could become the destination for high-profile free agents.

    With more than $82 million in projected cap space, the Jets will also be in a position to offer Peterson one last massive payday.

    Of course, Peterson will turn 31 in July and may value playoff potential over raw dollars in the offseason. Adding an elite quarterback likely won't be enough to make the Jets instant contenders—the Cincinnati Bengals proved as much with Joe Burrow this season.

    Still, if the Jets make a few key moves and are willing to hand Peterson the bag, this could be a real possibility. New York doesn't have anything resembling a No. 1 corner on its roster, and adding Peterson could change that.

4. Indianapolis Colts

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    DeForest Buckner
    DeForest BucknerDavid J. Phillip/Associated Press

    Unlike the Jets, the Indianapolis Colts won't have a crack at a top quarterback prospect in next year's draft. In fact, with Philip Rivers playing on a one-year deal, they may not even have a clear plan at quarterback yet.

    However, the Colts are poised to be relevant in the AFC again in 2021 thanks to a defense that ranks fifth overall and 10th in points allowed. Adding a veteran corner like Peterson to the mix could take that defense from great to Super Bowl-caliber.

    Armed with a projected $77 million in cap space, the Colts can also be major players in free agency. It wouldn't be a shock to see them go after Peterson, as well as other premier veterans.

    Joining the Colts would give Peterson the opportunity to test his mettle in the AFC while playing for respected defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus. It would also give Peterson a chance to play alongside defensive standouts like defensive tackle DeForest Buckner, pass-rusher Justin Houston, cornerback Rock Ya-Sin and safety Julian Blackmon.

    In this defense, Peterson could continue thriving despite having lost a step—not unlike former NFC West rival Richard Sherman when he joined the San Francisco 49ers.

    On paper, Indianapolis could offer Peterson a better situation than the Jets while still providing plenty of financial security.

3. Miami Dolphins

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    Xavien Howard
    Xavien HowardDoug Murray/Associated Press

    Would Peterson consider leaving one up-and-coming team in the Cardinals for another in the Miami Dolphins? Perhaps, especially if he's looking to continue his playing career as a safety.

    "It depends on if I lose too many steps," Peterson said when former NFL wideout Brandon Marshall broached the topic on the All Things Covered podcast. "... I would be willing to move to safety."

    If Peterson is willing to move between safety and cornerback, he could provide the Dolphins with a ton of versatility in the secondary. This is an asset head coach Brian Flores enjoyed as the defensive play-caller of the New England Patriots with safety Duron Harmon.

    As would be the case in Indianapolis, Peterson could continue to thrive in Miami's defense. The Dolphins have premier defenders like cornerback Xavien Howard, cornerback Byron Jones, defensive lineman Christian Wilkins and linebacker Kyle Van Noy.

    The Dolphins could also give Peterson a chance to play in Miami, which could be huge for a couple of reasons. For one, Florida has no state tax, meaning Peterson could net more on any deal he signs. Perhaps more importantly, Peterson would get to play less than an hour from his high school, Blanche Ely in Pompano Beach.

    At 8-4, the Dolphins have a good chance of making the playoffs this season and being a relevant force in the AFC for the foreseeable future. One of Miami's wins came against Arizona, which gave Peterson a good look at rookie quarterback Tua Tagovailoa.

    "Very impressed on his ball placement," Peterson said on All Things Considered.. "The way he was able to sit in the pocket sometimes, where he was able to move around and also convert some very, very important third downs in some of those key drives for his offense."

    If the idea of playing with Tagovailoa and for his hometown Dolphins is intriguing, Miami's $35.8 million in projected cap space could help seal the deal for Peterson.

2. Arizona Cardinals

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    Patrick Peterson
    Patrick PetersonAssociated Press

    Talk about anticlimactic, right? Realistically, a return to Arizona would make a ton of sense for Peterson. He knows the system, he knows the roster, and with Kyler Murray and DeAndre Hopkins leading the offense, the Cardinals can be legitimate contenders in 2021.

    At 6-6, the Cardinals are close to being contenders now. If they can add a few more pieces and make a few positive strides, they might even become favorites in the NFC West next season. With more than $22 million in projected cap space, the Cardinals could also afford to give Peterson one last lucrative contract—especially if he's willing to accept a hometown discount.

    At his age, Peterson isn't going to reset the cornerback market, but he is still likely to command a fair bit of guaranteed cash in free agency. If he brings his price down just a bit, though, he would make a ton of sense for Arizona.

    The Cardinals could then use any cap savings to address their other cornerback spots and/or their pass rush. Arizona ranks a mediocre 16th in passing yards allowed and has registered just 29 sacks as a team. Star pass-rusher Chandler Jones—who is out for the season—will be entering the final year of his contract next season.

    Aside from his six-game suspension last year for violating the league's policy on performance-enhancing drugs, the Cardinals haven't known life without Peterson since he was drafted in 2011. There's little reason for them to get acquainted with it now.

1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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    Bruce Arians
    Bruce AriansMark LoMoglio/Associated Press

    There's one destination that makes even more sense for Peterson than Arizona, and in some respects, it makes almost too much sense not to happen. It's the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who could provide both familiarity and a shot at winning a Super Bowl.

    Assuming quarterback Tom Brady returns for one more go—and New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees does not—Tampa should be one of the favorites in the NFC next season. The Buccaneers could use a boost in their secondary, though, as they rank just 22nd in passing yards allowed.

    With more than $32 million in projected cap space, the Buccaneers could afford to make Peterson the newest addition to their star-studded roster. The team's position in Florida (again, no state tax!) could help it negotiate a more team-friendly contract, too.

    As for familiarity? There should be plenty. Peterson played under head coach Bruce Arians for five seasons in Arizona, and the two made it to the NFC title game following the 2015 season. That was the year in which Peterson made his last All-Pro appearance. His cornerbacks coach that year was Kevin Ross, who now holds the same position with the Buccaneers.

    In Arizona, Peterson also spent two seasons with Buccaneers defensive coordinator Todd Bowles, and he really seemed to enjoy his defensive style.

    "Coach Bowles is definitely one of the smarter defensive coordinators I’ve ever been around," Peterson said in a 2014 interview with Bleacher Report's Sean Tomlinson. "He’s a student of the game. He’s played the game so he understands his players, and he knows how to put us in the best position to be successful."

    Exactly no one should be shocked if Peterson lands in Tampa in the offseason.

                   

    Salary-cap and contract information via Spotrac.

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