2021 NFL Free Agents: Latest Rumors, Predictions After Wild Card Round

Kristopher Knox@@kris_knoxFeatured ColumnistJanuary 11, 2021

2021 NFL Free Agents: Latest Rumors, Predictions After Wild Card Round

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    Ron Jenkins/Associated Press

    The NFL's inaugural Super Wild Card Weekend has ended. There were a couple of upsets, a lot of raw emotion and six losing teams. Eight teams remain in the Super Bowl chase, and 24 are officially in the offseason.

    Free agency, which is slated to kick off March 17, will be a large part of the 2021 offseason. The fact that Over the Cap (h/t NFL Media's Scott Pioli) expects the salary cap to dip this season isn't going to change that. With players like Dak Prescott, Allen Robinson II, Shaquil Barrett, Justin Simmons and Aaron Jones slated to hit the open market, the teams that are projected to have cap space are likely to use it.

    Here we'll run down the latest free-agent buzz and make some predictions coming out of the Wild Card Round.

Trubisky's Status Uncertain

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    Brett Duke/Associated Press

    The Chicago Bears will likely be in the quarterback market this offseason. Their playoff run ended Sunday with a 21-9 loss to the New Orleans Saints. Mitchell Trubisky's time with the Bears may have concluded with it.

    During Chicago's run to the postseason, it seemed possible, perhaps even likely, that Trubisky would be back with the Bears in 2021.

    "In the eyes of some NFL executives, Trubisky recently has played some of the best football of his career, making a case as to why Chicago will need to consider re-signing him," ESPN's Adam Schefter wrote at the end of December.

    However, heading into the playoffs, NFL Media's Ian Rapoport reported that Chicago is "not set right now" on bringing back Trubisky.

    A strong postseason run might have changed Chicago's thinking, but Trubisky finished with just 199 passing yards and one touchdown in a lopsided playoff loss. He may now be viewed as a fallback option at best.

    Prediction: Trubisky does not return to Chicago in 2021.

Cowboys May Have No Choice but to Pay Prescott

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    Michael Ainsworth/Associated Press

    One quarterback the Bears—and several other franchises—could pursue in the offseason is Dak Prescott. The Dallas Cowboys signal-caller is recovering from an ankle injury that end his 2020 campaign in Week 5, but he could also be the most talented quarterback to hit free agency in many years.

    This is, of course, if the Cowboys don't re-sign or re-tag him. Dallas used the franchise tag on Prescott last season, and it could use it again if a long-term deal isn't reached. Unfortunately for the Cowboys, Prescott has the power when it comes to negotiations.

    According to ESPN's Todd Archer, Prescott turned down a lucrative contract the last time around.

    "The Cowboys offered Prescott a deal that sources said averaged $34.5 million a year, included a $50 million signing bonus and had $110 million in guarantees," Archer wrote.

    One issue was that Dallas wanted a longer contract than what Prescott was willing to accept. Giving him the shorter-term deal he wants may now be advisable, as using the tag for a second consecutive season would cost the Cowboys a little under $38 million for 2021.

    Prediction: Cowboys sign Prescott to a three-year contract.

Cam Newton Not Likely to Return to the Patriots

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    Elise Amendola/Associated Press

    Cam Newton is another quarterback Chicago and other quarterback-needy teams may consider bringing in this offseason. He wasn't particularly efficient as a passer in 2020—he threw for 2,657 yards with eight touchdowns and 10 interceptions—but he did play enough to get the New England Patriots to seven wins.

    With another year between Newton and his injury-plagued 2019 season—along with a better supporting cast than the one the Patriots offered in 2020—he might just be an above-average signal-caller once again.

    Newton probably isn't going to be the Patriots' signal-caller next term, though.

    "Both sides expect that it will take them to a different place and a different direction in 2021, with Cam Newton likely moving on and the Patriots in search of a new quarterback for next season," Schefter said on Sunday NFL Countdown (h/t Chris Mason of MassLive.com).

    One team to watch in the chatter around Newton is the Washington Football Team. From their time together with the Carolina Panthers, head coach Ron Rivera has an extensive history with the 2011 No. 1 pick, and the Football Team may not have veteran Alex Smith back for the 2021 campaign.

    Adding Newton likely wouldn't prevent Washington from targeting a quarterback in the draft, but it would give it an experienced placeholder for the season.

    Prediction: Newton signs a one-year deal with Washington.

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