The Best Player Every NFL Team Could Potentially Add in 2021
In a matter of days, the majority of the NFL's 32 teams will enter offseason mode. Within weeks, the rest of the league will follow.
And when that happens, one of the first thoughts that will cross the minds of fans, returning players, coaches, executives and local media surrounding each team will pertain to which difference-making players might be acquirable via free agency, the trade market or the draft.
But we have to be realistic, too. Everybody would jump at the chance to trade for Patrick Mahomes this offseason, but the Kansas City Chiefs aren't exactly likely to make the reigning Super Bowl MVP available.
Looking solely at players who qualify as potential trade candidates (not Mahomes and Co.), impending free agents who have a decent shot at hitting the market (disregard Dak Prescott) and the anticipated 2021 draft class—and with team needs, logical fits, draft capital and possible salary-cap constraints in mind—we've identified the best player every franchise could potentially add between now and the summer.
Arizona Cardinals: CB William Jackson III
The Arizona Cardinals will be forced to operate with extremely limited salary-cap space this offseason, especially if they decide to pay in-house impending free agents like Haason Reddick, Patrick Peterson and Larry Fitzgerald.
But Arizona can at least absorb Reddick's loss with the return of star pass-rusher Chandler Jones. Peterson, 30, is no longer the player he once was at cornerback, and the Cards' only young regular corner, sophomore Byron Murphy, has yet to live up to expectations.
Regardless of what happens with Peterson, they should prioritize investing in a strong cover man in his prime. Enter William Jackson III, who has flashed on and off as a 2016 first-round pick for the Cincinnati Bengals and has surrendered completions on just 51.4 percent of the passes thrown his way in a walk year.
We'll give him the edge over Dallas Cowboys corner Chidobe Awuzie, who doesn't have a track record on level with Jackson and thus could come a little cheaper.
Atlanta Falcons: LB Micah Parsons
Only two teams are projected to be in worse salary-cap shape to start the offseason than the Atlanta Falcons, who will likely have to ride or die with the expensive offensive core already in place but need more weapons on defense.
That should be the Falcons' focus when they're on the clock with what is likely to be a top-10 draft pick in April. And while there will be calls for Atlanta to take Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields as a successor to Matt Ryan if the opportunity presents itself, it would be hard to pass on linebacker Micah Parsons.
The Penn State star registered 109 tackles, five sacks, 14 tackles for loss and four forced fumbles as a sophomore consensus All-American in 2019 before opting out in 2020. Imagine him next to Deion Jones in the second level of Atlanta's defense.
He beats out Fields because of the presence of Ryan and top pass-rushing prospects Gregory Rousseau and Kwity Paye, neither of whom are expected by draft expert Matt Miller to be drafted close to as high as Parsons.
Baltimore Ravens: G Brandon Scherff
The Baltimore Ravens are expected to have some money to spend this offseason, and while a lot of that could be devoted to bringing back key veterans like Matt Judon, Yannick Ngakoue, Willie Snead IV and Matt Skura, the Ravens could address big contracts belonging to vets Calais Campbell and Brandon Williams in order to free up space for a shiny new guard.
That position hasn't been reliable since the team lost Marshal Yanda to retirement last offseason. Bradley Bozeman, Ben Powers and Tyre Phillips have failed to emerge in a run-oriented offense, which could explain why Baltimore has been less consistent and efficient on that side of the ball this season.
So the Ravens should consider splurging on impending free agent Brandon Scherff, who has again been one of the top interior offensive linemen in the game in his sixth season as a member of the Washington Football Team.
The four-time Pro Bowler is one of the top-graded guards in the league at Pro Football Focus in his age-29 campaign. He shows no signs of slowing down. And while he'd be expensive, he's the type of player who could finally help push the Ravens over the top.
Buffalo Bills: CB Richard Sherman
If the Buffalo Bills wind up competing with Arizona for William Jackson III's services to address their somewhat shallow state at the cornerback position, they will likely to have to settle for a consolation prize. After all, the Bills are expected to have little cap space ($2.8 million), and they might want to take care of impending in-house free agent Matt Milano.
The Bills should see if potential Hall of Famer Richard Sherman is willing to take a discount for the opportunity to join a prime contender in a low-pressure situation thanks to the presence of top dog Tre'Davious White.
Sherman (32) could be a slightly younger upgrade over impending free agent Josh Norman (33), or he and Norman could team up outside in support of White, enabling Buffalo to move on from the inconsistent Levi Wallace.
Jackson, Chidobe Awuzie and pass-rushing options like Yannick Ngakoue, Haason Reddick, Matt Judon, Bud Dupree of the Pittsburgh Steelers, Shaquil Barrett of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Melvin Ingram of the Los Angeles Chargers should also be on Buffalo's radar. But Sherman's age could make him more affordable, and Buffalo's pass rush isn't a major problem compared to corner.
Carolina Panthers: G Joe Thuney
It's possible the Carolina Panthers will use a top-10 draft pick on a potential game-changer like Micah Parsons and that nobody else they pick up on the veteran market tops that acquisition.
But after investing heavily in the defense in last year's draft, Carolina's focus now ought to be on supporting quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, running back Christian McCaffrey and wide receiver DJ Moore. The Panthers should have enough salary-cap space to make a splash in free agency as well.
That could mean a run at impending free-agent guard Joe Thuney, who hasn't missed a game in five seasons with the New England Patriots and is in his prime at age 28. He has the ability to slide into any system effectively, and with Trai Turner gone (traded to Los Angeles Chargers in March), he'd provide a huge upgrade over either Chris Reed or John Miller.
He's the pick over Brandon Scherff because he's a year younger and more durable, which might make him a better fit for the rebuilding Panthers. We matched the Ravens with Scherff above, and they have more projected cap space than the Panthers.
Chicago Bears: QB Zach Wilson
You're welcome to believe that 2017 No. 2 overall pick Mitchell Trubisky has figured it out at quarterback for the Chicago Bears, but his late-2020 hot streak might be too little, too late.
The Bears need another option at the sport's most important position, they're nearly in the red on projected salary-cap space, and they aren't likely to possess a primo draft pick in April. Therefore, they'll have to hope that either Zach Wilson or Trey Lance will fall to them in the middle of the first round.
Lance might be the more realistic target based on Matt Miller's projection that Wilson will go in the top five, but the quarterback cards could be shuffled a thousand different ways between now and draft time. Wilson also might be a better fit for the Bears' expensive, veteran roster. They have no choice but to be in win-now mode, and Lance might require more time than his counterpart from BYU.
In a perfect world, they'd land Matthew Stafford in a trade with the Detroit Lions or sign Dak Prescott away from Dallas, but neither of those scenarios seems realistic with Detroit in Chicago's division and Prescott likely to be too expensive even if he somehow became available. Wilson would be an exciting alternative.
Cincinnati Bengals: G Joe Thuney
It's no secret that the Cincinnati Bengals have to prioritize adding protection for young franchise quarterback Joe Burrow in his second season, and upgrading at either guard position should top the list.
A revolving door featuring Alex Redmond, Michael Jordan, Xavier Su'a-Filo and Quinton Spain has been hugely problematic, making both Joe Thuney and Brandon Scherff ideal targets on the open market.
Thuney, who hasn't missed a start in his five-year career with New England, is a little younger and a little more durable. He's also likely cheaper because his resume isn't as stacked, and we know the Bengals like to pinch pennies.
Maybe Cincinnati will land Penei Sewell early in the draft, and the highly touted Oregon star can team up with Jonah Williams to form a wicked young tackle duo, but that won't be easy now that the Bengals have won back-to-back games to slide in the projected draft order. They're expected to be loaded with salary-cap space, however, and Thuney should be within reach.
Cleveland Browns: LB Lavonte David
For the Cleveland Browns, it might essentially come down to this: Who's the best defensive player slated to hit the free-agent market? Yannick Ngakoue, Haason Reddick, Matt Judon, Bud Dupree, Shaquil Barrett, Melvin Ingram and Carl Lawson would all help Myles Garrett on the edge. Justin Simmons, Anthony Harris, William Jackson III, Chidobe Awuzie and Shaquill Griffin would all help Denzel Ward in the secondary.
But the Browns at least have Garrett and Ward leading the way in those spots. They're in much worse shape at the linebacker position, and Lavonte David is just as elite as all of the defenders listed above.
Only 11 teams are projected to possess more cap space than the Browns, who don't have a lot of in-house work to do. They can afford a veteran off-ball star like David, who is one of the most consistently effective and versatile linebackers in the sport and has shown no signs of decline at 30.
The 2015 Pro Bowler wouldn't come cheap, but he'd immediately provide a huge boost to a unit that ranks in the bottom 10 in DVOA (defense-adjusted value over average) at Football Outsiders. We'll call Simmons and Harris—who might be too expensive anyway if they reach the market—the runners-up.
Dallas Cowboys: CB William Jackson III
The Dallas Cowboys will also enter the offseason in desperate need of defensive additions, especially if they let Chidobe Awuzie and Jourdan Lewis walk at cornerback. After losing Byron Jones last offseason, they ideally keep at least one of those two on board.
But a defense that has surrendered the fourth-highest passing touchdown total in the league this season can't simply roll with the status quo in 2021. The Cowboys need to think about upgrades in coverage, which is where William Jackson III, Richard Sherman, Shaquill Griffin and potential draft picks Patrick Surtain II and Caleb Farley come in.
Those rookies might need time, and the Cowboys are in win-now mode. They ought to prefer Jackson to Sherman because of the age difference (28 versus 32), and Griffin has surrendered 15 passing touchdowns in the last three seasons.
We'll also throw Stephon Gilmore out there as an intriguing potential trade candidate for a team that can afford a $7.5 million hit in his walk year, but that seems far-fetched and shortsighted anyway.
So that brings us back to Jackson, who has Pro Bowl potential, is in his prime and has allowed a sub-90 passer rating in coverage with little support in 2020.
Denver Broncos: QB Justin Fields
The Denver Broncos can't have much faith remaining in second-year quarterback Drew Lock, who ranks 35th among 36 qualified signal-callers in passer rating and is the lowest-rated passer (among those with at least 40 attempts of 15-plus yards) on deep balls. That isn't great when your claim to fame is your cannon arm.
General manager John Elway has to be running out of both patience and rope, which is why he should make an offer to the Lions for Matthew Stafford and should also do everything he can to draft Justin Fields.
That seems unlikely but not impossible. The Broncos could still wind up picking within or close to the top five. The New York Jets could stick with Sam Darnold and/or draft Penei Sewell, and few other teams slated to pick between three and 10 are in obvious need of a quarterback.
Fields, who threw 41 touchdown passes to three interceptions as a sophomore at Ohio State, has the look of a franchise quarterback. That upside makes him the top potential 2021 priority for Elway and Co.
Detroit Lions: QB Justin Fields
The Detroit Lions could spoil the Justin Fields party for Denver. Detroit has a much better chance of landing a top-five pick and could decide to chase him as a long- or short-term replacement for Matthew Stafford.
Stafford will turn 33 in February, and the Lions have not won a single playoff game since they drafted him first overall in 2009. He isn't the main problem in Detroit, but he and the team might need fresh starts, and the Lions can save $14 million by releasing him in 2021 or $20 million by doing so in 2022.
Detroit is slated to find itself in a cap crunch and could have trouble re-signing impending free-agent wide receiver Kenny Golladay. Doubling down on this version of the team might be fruitless, but the Lions are unlikely to find a player with more potential than Fields via the trade or free-agent markets.
If they lose Golladay, their focus might shift to highly touted receiver prospect Ja'Marr Chase. But for now, Fields makes the most sense as their top offseason target.
Green Bay Packers: WR Rashod Bateman
This is not a sexy selection, but the Green Bay Packers are conservative in free agency even when they have money to spend. This offseason, they'll struggle to stay under the cap with their current roster. They also look primed to make a Super Bowl run next month, limiting their projected draft capital come April.
With that being the case, we'll focus on the wide receiver whom Matt Miller pegged the Pack to select late in the first round: Minnesota's Rashod Bateman.
Green Bay has an elite No. 1 wideout in Davante Adams, but quarterback Aaron Rodgers doesn't have a clear-cut No. 2 option. Bateman is a reliable, physical, complete target with a large catch radius.
He opted out and then back in this year, so his numbers don't tell a proper story, but he averaged 20.3 yards per catch and scored 11 touchdowns in 2019. If he drops to Green Bay, he'd have a chance to almost immediately jump ahead of Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Allen Lazard on the wide receiver depth chart.
After using a first-round pick on a backup quarterback last year, the Packers owe this to Rodgers.
Houston Texans: Edge Carl Lawson
This is even less sexy than the Packers' selection, but the Houston Texans could have been entirely excluded from this exercise. They're projected to be way over the cap heading into free agency, and they don't have a first- or second-round pick in this year's draft.
We had to reach deep for the Texans, who will likely try to find a deal on the potentially deep pass-rusher market. Houston struggled to rush the passer even with J.J. Watt healthy in 2020, and the only way to keep top receiver Will Fuller V might be to end the Watt era and pocket $17.5 million in cap space.
They still probably can't afford Shaquil Barrett, Haason Reddick or Yannick Ngakoue. Matt Judon's numbers were down this year, Bud Dupree is coming off a torn ACL, and Melvin Ingram might be cheaper because of his age and recent injuries.
That might give the Texans a shot at one of those guys, but Carl Lawson is a safer bet and a more appropriate fit. He's still only 25 and can be part of a short rebuild, and his modest sack numbers will cost him money, but he has quietly tallied 31 quarterback hits this year.
The 2017 fourth-round pick could explode in a new setting.
Indianapolis Colts: QB Carson Wentz
The Indianapolis Colts' dream scenario for the 2021 offseason involves dropping Philip Rivers, sending a first-round pick to the Lions for Matthew Stafford and then investing in his top weapon (Golladay) or another elite free-agent receiver like Will Fuller V, Allen Robinson II or Chris Godwin to work with T.Y. Hilton.
However, the Colts often take a conservative approach to the offseason, and other teams might have more ammunition for a Stafford trade (more on that to come). Instead, we'll focus on quarterback Carson Wentz as a potential replacement for Rivers.
Based on their respective play in 2020, Wentz would represent a downgrade from Rivers. But he was an MVP candidate in 2017 under Colts head coach Frank Reich when they were together on the Philadelphia Eagles, and he might be able to rediscover that magic and bounce back from a potentially aberrational down season at the age of 28.
It'd be worth a shot for a team with plenty of cap space that has to be in win-now mode, especially if Rivers pulls another Rivers and the Colts don't go anywhere in January.
Jacksonville Jaguars: QB Trevor Lawrence
The Jacksonville Jaguars are now locked into the top spot in the draft, and they're all but certain to take Trevor Lawrence, whom Matt Miller views as "the best prospect of the last decade (or longer)."
The Jags are also among the league leaders in projected salary-cap space and have the draft capital to make an impossible-to-refuse offer for someone like Matthew Stafford or Dak Prescott, but nobody who's up for grabs has as much potential as Lawrence.
Should the Jaguars also sign Chris Godwin, Kenny Golladay or Will Fuller V, Justin Simmons or Anthony Harris, Lavonte David or Shaquil Barrett and William Jackson III or Chidobe Awuzie? Sure. But if indeed they draft Lawrence, he'll be the headliner of their 2021 offseason.
Kansas City Chiefs: OL Wyatt Davis
Even if the Kansas City Chiefs get guard Laurent Duvernay-Tardif back from his pandemic-related opt-out in 2021, he will be 30 and will have played only 30 games in the last four seasons. He'll need support.
It isn't easy to find any glaring flaws on the Chiefs' roster, and they won't have the draft capital or the cap space to splurge this offseason. But they do need to address an interior offensive line that was flawed even before Duvernay-Tardif opted out.
Andrew Wylie and Nick Allegretti haven't panned out at guard, and 31-year-olds Kelechi Osemele and Stefen Wisniewski can't have much left in the tank.
Matt Miller has Kansas City taking USC interior offensive lineman Alijah Vera-Tucker late in Round 1, just a few spots after Ohio State's Wyatt Davis goes off the board. It's a toss-up between the two—Davis might have more room to grow under Chiefs head coach Andy Reid—but either way, you might be looking at Kansas City's most notable addition of the 2021 offseason.
Las Vegas Raiders: LB Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah
The silver lining associated with the cap-strapped Las Vegas Raiders again missing the playoffs is that they should at least have a shot at a difference-maker midway through the first round of the draft.
The Raiders likely won't have the ability to splurge on notable free agents, and that might not be their preference anyway after spending big on Cory Littleton, Nick Kwiatkoski and Carl Nassib last offseason. But a unit that ranks 31st in DVOA against the run is in desperate need of fresh young talent to complement that trio as well as youngsters Clelin Ferrell, Maxx Crosby, Johnathan Abram and Damon Arnette.
The one position that the Raiders haven't thoroughly addressed in the draft of late is linebacker. Micah Parsons would be the dream, but he'll likely be long gone by the time Las Vegas is on the clock. But Notre Dame's Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah might be within reach, and Matt Miller calls him "the best three-down linebacker in the draft" as well as "an instant-impact player."
The Raiders D could use that range in the second level, which is why he beats out top potential edge-rusher prospects such as Gregory Rousseau, Kwity Paye and Joseph Ossai.
Los Angeles Chargers: OT Taylor Moton
Could steady Panthers offensive tackle Taylor Moton hit the open market?
Strong tackles rarely reach free agency, but the Panthers are low on cap space and could opt to save money by rolling with Greg Little as their starter in 2021. The Los Angeles Chargers, who are projected to enter the offseason with nearly $30 million in cap space, could outbid the cap-strapped Panthers for Moton's services.
Young Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert needs more support from his line next year. Veteran right tackle Bryan Bulaga is solid but will turn 32 in the offseason, and Sam Tevi is a subpar starter on the left side.
"Dependability is the name of the game for Moton, who has quietly been one of the most valuable tackles in the league since 2018," PFF wrote earlier this month. The sixth-most-pressured quarterback in the NFL would benefit significantly from his addition.
Los Angeles Rams: LB Dont'a Hightower
The Los Angeles Rams will enter the 2021 offseason with no first-round pick and no money to spend, so we had to get a little creative here.
The Patriots may be on the verge of a rebuild. Coming off a COVID-19 opt-out, does soon-to-be 31-year-old linebacker Dont'a Hightower want anything to do with that? The Pats might figure they'll lose Hightower after his 2021 walk year, and they can save nearly $10 million by cutting ties with the two-time Pro Bowler.
For a Rams team trying to cling to Super Bowl hopes, $9.9 million wouldn't be a bad price for a one-year rental. Hightower would immediately be the best linebacker on the roster and could take some pressure off star defensive lineman Aaron Donald.
He'd likely cost the Rams a Day 2 pick while putting them in even worse cap shape, but it's time for them to go all-in before their Super Bowl window closes.
Miami Dolphins: WR Allen Robinson II
If the Texans lose to the Tennessee Titans on Sunday, the Miami Dolphins will possess the No. 3 overall pick in the draft. You could argue that if they use that selection on Penei Sewell, Micah Parsons or Ja'Marr Chase, they'll have made their biggest splash of the 2021 offseason.
But the Dolphins are also projected to have more than $30 million to spend, and they don't have any core players to take care of ahead of free agency. They should be able to land an elite weapon for Tua Tagovailoa, and veteran wide receiver Allen Robinson II has to top that list.
In a bad Chicago offense, Robinson is coming off his second consecutive season with at least 1,100 yards and six touchdowns. He's consistent, reliable and in his prime at age 27, and he and DeVante Parker would form a superb receiver duo for Tua.
The Dolphins might also chase a premier offensive lineman like Brandon Scherff or Joe Thuney, but they spent money on Ereck Flowers last year, and there's hope for rookie fourth-round pick Solomon Kindley at guard. Besides, they might be able to address both spots, and Robinson might be the top available player on the entire free-agent market.
Minnesota Vikings: Edge Kwity Paye
The Minnesota Vikings are again expected to be low on cap space this offseason, but they should at least possess a draft pick in the top half of the first round.
They might devote their focus toward keeping star safety Anthony Harris in free agency, which means they should try to address a weakened pass rush in Round 1 of the draft.
The Vikes rank in the bottom seven leaguewide in both sacks and pressure rate. They'll get Danielle Hunter back from injury, but they miss departed veteran Everson Griffen, and nobody currently on the roster has hit even the four-sack mark in 2020.
Enter Michigan's Kwity Paye or Miami's Gregory Rousseau. Both are enticing edge prospects who could be available when the Vikings are on the clock, but we're rolling with Paye because there's less mystery involved with him and he should be ready to make a more immediate impact coming off his senior season with the Wolverines.
New England Patriots: WR Chris Godwin
The New England Patriots could go in so many directions this offseason that it's difficult to peg one headliner for them to add in March or April.
They could use their first-round pick on a quarterback like Trey Lance, and they could have money to spend even if they bring back Joe Thuney—especially if they decide to part ways with Stephon Gilmore and/or Dont'a Hightower.
But regardless of the Patriots' offseason strategy, there's little doubt that they need more weapons in the passing game. Allen Robinson II should top anyone's list in that regard, but he might be out of New England's price range, and it might want to go younger if it's on the verge of at least a miniature rebuild.
Godwin is only 24, and he's one year removed from a 1,333-yard, nine-touchdown campaign. He wasn't as healthy in 2020, but that might help to lower his price if he happens to hit the market.
New Orleans Saints: LB Zaven Collins
The New Orleans Saints are so cap-strapped that whomever they draft late in Round 1 will almost certainly be their most notable offseason addition. The only question is which way they'll go with that selection.
The Saints should target a linebacker to help ease the burden on the soon-to-be 32-year-old Demario Davis. Micah Parsons and Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah will likely be beyond their reach, but Tulsa's Zaven Collins makes a lot of sense.
The big, versatile linebacker has four sacks and four interceptions this season. He's also forced two fumbles and scored two touchdowns, and it isn't hard to imagine how much the Saints could benefit from that play-making ability in support of top defensive weapons Cameron Jordan and Trey Hendrickson.
He beats out potential cornerback targets Jaycee Horn and Eric Stokes, mainly because the Saints are a little more shored up at that position of need.
New York Giants: WR Ja'Marr Chase
If the New York Giants decide to re-sign impending free-agent defensive lineman Leonard Williams, they likely won't have the cap space to go toe-to-toe with cap-rich counterparts for top-of-the-line receivers like Allen Robinson II, Chris Godwin and Kenny Golladay or elite pass-rushers like Yannick Ngakoue, Haason Reddick, Matt Judon, Bud Dupree and Shaquil Barrett.
All of those players would qualify as top additions and would address New York's most pressing needs, but we'll instead focus on LSU receiver Ja'Marr Chase.
Chase might also be out of New York's reach in Round 1, but the Giants could still wind up with a top-five pick depending on what happens in Week 17. His addition would be huge for young quarterback Daniel Jones, who hasn't gotten consistent production out of Golden Tate or Sterling Shepard.
Chase scored 20 touchdowns as a sophomore in the SEC in 2019. He and surprise sensation Darius Slayton would form a terrifying young duo.
New York Jets: OT Penei Sewell
The two most popular offseason routes for the New York Jets:
1. Go wild in free agency with a league-leading $82 million in cap space, keep all of your quarterback eggs in Sam Darnold's basket and draft Penei Sewell to be your blind-side protector of the future with the No. 2 pick.
2. Go wild in free agency, dump or demote Darnold and draft Justin Fields at No. 2.
Fields might be tough to pass on because of his tantalizing skill set at the game's most critical position, but Sewell might have the highest ceiling in the draft among those not named Trevor Lawrence. The Jets shouldn't shy away from spreading their wealth in pursuit of veterans like Allen Robinson II, Chris Godwin, Kenny Golladay, Shaquil Barrett, Yannick Ngakoue, Anthony Harris and Justin Simmons, but none might be as special as Sewell.
The Oregon star's combination of size, power and athleticism is borderline unprecedented. His potential is high enough to edge out Fields and those potential free agents.
Philadelphia Eagles: LB Micah Parsons
Only the Saints are projected to enter the offseason in worse cap shape than the Philadelphia Eagles, who will likely have to part ways with Zach Ertz, DeSean Jackson and Alshon Jeffery just to start to get out of the red.
Barring a financial miracle, they won't be able to afford anyone of significance in free agency.
However, they will have a top-10 draft pick that could even land in the top five depending on how Week 17 shakes out. They likely won't target a quarterback with Jalen Hurts and Carson Wentz already on the roster, which makes Micah Parsons the obvious top target for a team that severely lacks talent at linebacker.
The Penn State product produced 109 tackles, five sacks, 14 tackles for loss and four forced fumbles as a consensus All-American in 2019 before opting out of this season, and he's widely expected to go off the board within the top 10 of the draft.
Pittsburgh Steelers: OT Samuel Cosmi
The Pittsburgh Steelers also rank in the bottom five in projected salary-cap space (they're currently about $20 million above the anticipated cap). But unlike the Eagles and several other teams in similar situations, they have a lot of work to do in-house with Bud Dupree and JuJu Smith-Schuster headed toward free agency, and they won't have a top-20 draft pick.
That means the Steelers need to forget about Penei Sewell or potential Ben Roethlisberger successors such as Zach Wilson and Trey Lance. Perhaps they can land a quarterback from the next level down like Florida's Kyle Trask in that range, but there should be better overall prospects at other key positions who could do more to help them in 2021 as they look to squeeze in another Super Bowl run before their window closes.
Most pressingly, the Steelers could have a lot of trouble retaining impending free-agent offensive tackles Alejandro Villanueva, Zach Banner and Matt Feiler, which could leave them in dire straits at an already shaky position.
With that in mind, we'll give them Miller's second-ranked offensive tackle based on his latest mock draft, Texas product Samuel Cosmi.
San Francisco 49ers: QB Matthew Stafford
San Francisco 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan has publicly expressed tepid confidence that Jimmy Garoppolo will continue to be the team's starting quarterback in 2021. However, he left the door for San Francisco to consider potential upgrades over an injury-prone 29-year-old with one complete NFL season under his belt.
With limited projected cap space and without a top-10 pick, the Niners' best potential acquisition might be Matthew Stafford, who has started every game in nine of his last 10 seasons and is one of the most talented passers in the NFL.
The 32-year-old hasn't been able to get the Lions over the top, but a new setting with more support could be key. In the event of a trade, he'd save Detroit $14 million and cost the 49ers the same amount in 2021.
Would you rather have Stafford for $14 million (plus a $2.8 million dead-cap hit on Jimmy G) or Garoppolo for $26.2 million? If the Lions are looking to clean house with a new regime taking over, they might appreciate the cap savings enough to trade Stafford for a Day 2 pick.
Seattle Seahawks: Edge Haason Reddick
The Seattle Seahawks have a stacked core on offense, and their defense has turned a corner down the stretch this season, but they still lack productivity off the edge. Not a single edge-rusher on the roster has more than a handful of sacks this season.
The Seahawks have limited cap space, their two starting corners are slated to hit free agency, and they won't have a prime first-round pick. But they should still do everything they can to participate in a potentially busy free-agent market at that position.
Shaquil Barrett and Yannick Ngakoue might be too expensive, injuries could make Bud Dupree and/or Melvin Ingram more affordable than previously expected, a down year on paper from Matt Judon could have the same effect, and Haason Reddick might not fetch as much money as others because he emerged so late in his rookie contract. They should have a shot at somebody on that list.
Reddick has room to become special based on his recent production (he has 7.5 sacks and six forced fumbles in his last three games), so we'll side with him.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: LB Dont'a Hightower
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will be low on cap space once they address key in-house free agents such as Chris Godwin, Lavonte David and Shaquil Barrett. Since they'll also lack a prime first-round pick, a reunion between Dont'a Hightower and Tom Brady can't be ruled out as their top move of the 2021 offseason.
The two-time Pro Bowler would come a lot cheaper (less than $10 million in 2021) than David, who could reset the off-ball linebacker market. He could flourish in a complementary role alongside Barrett, Devin White, Jason Pierre-Paul and Ndamukong Suh in the Tampa Bay front seven.
He beats out the top free-agent pass-rushers, all of whom could be candidates to replace Barrett but will likely require a much larger commitment than the one the Bucs would have to make to Hightower.
Tennessee Titans: Edge Haason Reddick
The Tennessee Titans aren't likely to have much cap space after taking care of in-house work, and they'll have a low first-round pick after a playoff appearance. And like the Seahawks, they'll need help on the edge.
Nobody on the Tennessee roster has five sacks this season, and the Titans rank last in the league in both sacks and pressure rate. The Vic Beasley Jr. experiment didn't work out, and impending free agent Jadeveon Clowney hasn't panned out, either.
It's only appropriate that we set up a bidding war between the Titans and the Seahawks for Reddick, who was a top-15 pick in 2017 and was basically a bust before exploding late in his fourth season in Arizona.
Those dynamics could make the 26-year-old a little more affordable, but Tennessee should also take a swing at guys like Shaquil Barrett, Yannick Ngakoue, Matt Judon, Bud Dupree and Melvin Ingram.
Washington Football Team: QB Matthew Stafford
The Washington Football Team has already given up on sophomore first-round pick Dwayne Haskins Jr. at quarterback. And while Alex Smith's return from a career-threatening leg injury has been a great story, the 36-year-old isn't their long-term answer under center, either.
But because Washington still might make the playoffs and is likely to miss out on Justin Fields or Penei Sewell in the draft, a team that is otherwise in superb shape to contend soon needs to make a run at the best quarterback or left tackle on the trade or free-agent markets.
Those are clearly Washington's top needs. Unfortunately, the tackle market looks like it could be as dry as usual. Luckily, the quarterback carousel could spin wildly. And Washington has enough cap space to pay Stafford as well as the draft capital to compensate the Lions for him.
If Detroit decides to start fresh at quarterback with a new regime, the WFT should join San Francisco, New England and Denver in the race to land the 32-year-old.
Salary-cap information courtesy of Spotrac