Bold Free-Agent Predictions for Every NFL Team in 2021

Kristopher Knox@@kris_knoxFeatured ColumnistFebruary 1, 2021

Bold Free-Agent Predictions for Every NFL Team in 2021

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    Phelan M. Ebenhack/Associated Press

    There's still one game left to play in the 2020 NFL postseason, but the majority of the league has already turned its attention to the looming offseason. While the predraft process is already underway, the first stage of talent acquisition will begin with free agency on March 17.

    How will teams approach free agency this offseason? That's a great question, as the salary cap is expected to dip and leave multiple franchises over the limit. This means that several of them could be forced to part with highly paid veterans to financially navigate draft weekend.

    For the league's cap-rich teams, however, this could create a buyer's market. With fewer potential suitors at the table, many coveted free agents will have their market values held in check.

    In short, it's going to be an intriguing and unpredictable foray into free agency in 2021. Bleacher Report is in the business of making predictions, though, and here, you'll find some bold ones.

    You'll find one prediction for each team based on factors like roster needs, roster makeup and projected cap space. Since these are "bold" predictions, they'll either be outside the box or very specific in nature.

    Simply saying that the Cincinnati Bengals will sign an unnamed offensive lineman after Joe Burrow was sacked 32 times in 10 games isn't exactly bold. Picking the actual player they'll sign—a much tougher task given the many options—qualifies, though.

    Let's dig in.

Arizona Cardinals Franchise-Tag Haason Reddick

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    Ross D. Franklin/Associated Press

    Had the Arizona Cardinals exercised the fifth-year option of linebacker Haason Reddick last May, he would be entering the final year of his rookie contract this offseason. However, he largely underwhelmed during his first three seasons, and the Cardinals did not.

    So, naturally, Reddick broke out in 2020 after making the transition from more traditional linebacker to edge-rusher. He amassed 12.5 sacks and 35 quarterback pressures, making himself defensively invaluable in the process.

    26-year-old edge-rushers in their prime don't hit the open market often, so the Cardinals may have to be bold in their pursuit of retaining Reddick. They'll need to create some cap space to utilize the franchise tag—they're projected to have about $16.6 million available and last year's tag value for linebackers was roughly $15.8 million—but that's the prediction here.

Atlanta Falcons Allow Alex Mack to Walk

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    Danny Karnik/Associated Press

    The Atlanta Falcons are projected to be more than $33 million over the salary cap this offseason. Therefore, they're going to have to create some cap room. They're also going to struggle to retain pricey veterans like center Alex Mack.

    Mack is a six-time Pro Bowler, but he's also 35 years old and not what one would consider a budget option. He played the 2020 season while carrying a cap hit of $10.6 million.

    While new head coach Arthur Smith would likely love to have Mack in his offensive lineup next season, re-signing him may be a financial impossibility. Instead, expect Mack to hit the open market and the Falcons to give 2020 third-round draft pick Matt Hennessy a crack at a full-time starting role.

Baltimore Ravens Sign Kenny Golladay

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    Tony Ding/Associated Press

    The Detroit Lions traded quarterback Matthew Stafford to the Los Angeles Rams in a shocking blockbuster, and it sounds like Lions receiver Kenny Golladay is going to miss playing with him.

    "He's a true leader, so wherever he goes, they're going to get a true competitor. The dude is going to play through anything," Golladay told NFL Network's Good Morning Football (h/t John Maakaron of All Lions).

    Golladay is slated to become a free agent, and if he isn't interested in playing in Detroit without Stafford, he'll likely depart. This is where the Baltimore Ravens come in. Lamar Jackson lacks the type of No. 1 receiver Golladay can be, and the Ravens are projected to have close to $17 million in cap space—10th-most in the NFL.

    With Golladay on the perimeter, the Ravens may finally have the firepower to outduel the likes of the Kansas City Chiefs and Buffalo Bills in the AFC.

Buffalo Bills Release Jerry Hughes

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    John Munson/Associated Press

    Defensive end Jerry Hughes has been a defensive mainstay for the Bills ever since Buffalo traded for him in 2013. Even at 32 years old, he remained productive in 2020, finishing with 4.5 sacks and 25 quarterback pressures.

    However, Hughes' time with the Bills may be up. He's entering the final year of his contract and is set to carry a cap hit of $9.45 million in 2021. Perhaps more importantly, the Bills can save in excess of $7 million by parting with Hughes.

    Buffalo, coincidentally, is projected to be almost $7.5 million over the salary cap. While the Bills can and likely will take other avenues to get under the cap this offseason, expect them to part with one of the few remaining vets of the pre-Sean McDermott era.

Carolina Panthers Re-Sign Mike Davis

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    Brian Blanco/Associated Press

    With Christian McCaffrey sidelined for most of 2020, Carolina Panthers running back Mike Davis took the reigns and shined. The soon-to-be 28-year old ended up starting 12 games and finishing with 1,015 scrimmage yards, 59 receptions and eight total touchdowns.

    With McCaffrey expected to be back to 100 percent in 2021, it would make sense for Carolina to allow Davis to walk. Our guess, though, is that it won't.

    Davis proved to be an invaluable insurance policy this season and a natural fit for coordinator Joe Brady's offense. While the Panthers are projected to have nearly $7 million in cap space, it wouldn't be a surprise to see them free up a bit more and sign Davis to a team-friendly deal.

    The free-agent market for running backs shouldn't be particularly hot for a journeyman like Davis—now with his fourth NFL franchise—and a team-friendly deal would be justified if it means retaining the player who filled in admirably in an offense that revolves around the running back.

Chicago Bears Bring Back Mitchell Trubisky

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    Brett Duke/Associated Press

    The Chicago Bears were not thrilled with their first three years of Mitchell Trubisky. If they had been, they would have exercised his fifth-year option. However, Trubisky played well enough in one of those seasons to reach the playoffs—and Chicago doesn't have many viable external options.

    Chicago is slated to be more than $10 million over the salary cap. The Bears do have the 20th overall pick in the draft, but taking a quarterback that late would be a move best accompanied by a veteran placeholder.

    Nick Foles is still under contract, but he proved to be a downgrade from Trubisky during the 2020 season. It would still require the Bears to clear some cap space to re-sign Trubisky, but he should be one of the cheaper options on the open market.

    Teams are not likely to be tripping over themselves to sign Trubisky. The Bears should be able to land him with a team-friendly offer. Given their financial circumstances, it would make sense to do so.

Cincinnati Bengals Sign Joe Thuney

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    Reed Hoffmann/Associated Press

    As mentioned in the opening, the Bengals need to upgrade their offensive line. Our guess is they'll go hard after one of the best young linemen scheduled for free agency.

    28-year-old guard Joe Thuney was reliable enough for the New England Patriots during his first four NFL seasons that New England was willing to franchise-tag him in 2020. However, the tag didn't lead to a long-term deal, and the Patriots will likely find themselves competing with other teams to sign Thuney.

    The Bengals can and should be one of those teams, and with a projected $35.6 million in cap space, they can outbid most. New England is projected to have more cap room, but overpaying to retain an incumbent player isn't exactly Bill Belichick's M.O.

    Instead, expect Cincinnati to overpay to obtain Thuney, and for good reason. Burrow is the franchise's most important asset, and protecting him should be the team's No. 1 goal.

Cleveland Browns Allow Larry Ogunjobi to Leave

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    Bill Kostroun/Associated Press

    The Cleveland Browns are projected to have just under $12 million in cap space, which puts them in a better position than most but still not in an ideal spot. They're going to have to be somewhat picky with whom they choose to re-sign.

    This could lead to Larry Ogunjobi departing in free agency. The 26-year-old is a fine interior defender, but he's been more of a run-stuffer than an interior pressure man—he had just 12 quarterback pressures in 2020. For the Browns, who need to improve their 22nd-ranked pass defense, Ogunjobi's style of play may not justify his projected market value of $9.3 million annually.

    "The Browns would like to have Ogunjobi and many other players back at the right price, but they probably won't want to pay him what he can get on the open market," Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com wrote.

    Ogunjobi has been a great draft find for Cleveland, but with defensive tackles like Sheldon Richardson, Andrew Billings and Jordan Elliott on the roster, expect him to be gone.

Dallas Cowboys Franchise-Tag Dak Prescott Again

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    Ron Jenkins/Associated Press

    Last offseason, the Dallas Cowboys were forced to apply the franchise tag to quarterback Dak Prescott. They were unable to turn that into a long-term deal, though, and then Prescott was lost for the season to a broken ankle.

    This sets up both parties for a similar situation in 2021, and it shouldn't come as a surprise if Dallas again utilizes the franchise tag. Prescott has little reason to agree to a long-term deal before testing the free-agent market, as there would be a monumental demand for his services. If Prescott does reach the open market, Dallas—which is projected to have just over $10 million in cap space—could struggle to enter the bidding war.

    The Cowboys' best bet will be to keep Prescott away from free agency entirely. Naturally, this will require freeing up some cap space. Tagging Prescott a second time will cost 20 percent more than it did the first time around—or roughly $37.7 million.

    However, if Dallas wants to keep its franchise quarterback, it's going to have to get it done.

Denver Broncos Release Von Miller

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    David Zalubowski/Associated Press

    The Denver Broncos have a club option with star pass-rusher Von Miller in 2021. While Miller has been a longtime face of the franchise and has produced Hall of Fame numbers in Denver, the problems with exercising that option are twofold.

    For one, Miller is under criminal investigation in Colorado, though details haven't been released, according to Kieran Nicholson and Ryan O'Halloran of the Denver Post. Obviously, the Broncos won't be eager to bring Miller back without knowing if he'll face league discipline.

    Perhaps more relevant is the fact that Miller is set to carry a cap hit of more than $22 million if that option is exercised. Denver can save $17.5 million in base salary by letting him go. That potential savings could prove huge.

    While Denver is projected to have more than $12 million in cap space, it also needs to address the future of safety and impending free agent Justin Simmons. He should be the team's offseason priority—27-year-old Pro Bowl safeties aren't easy to find—and our guess is that Miller will be on his way out to make room for the young pass-defender.

Detroit Lions Release Desmond Trufant

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    Gerry Broome/Associated Press

    Like many other NFL teams, the Detroit Lions are going to be in a tough spot with the salary cap. With the recently acquired Jared Goff in the equation, Detroit is projected to be more than $10 million over the line.

    Detroit is going to have to cut salary somewhere, and 30-year-old cornerback Desmond Trufant is a prime candidate. He played in just six games in 2020 and allowed an opposing passer rating of 111.3. He's also scheduled to carry a cap hit of $12.19 million in 2021.

    Releasing Trufant would be a tough decision because it would force Detroit to eat $6 million in dead money. However, it would also save more than $6 million against the cap this season. The savings would be worth it, as the Lions ranked 30th in pass defense even with Trufant in the lineup for six games. They can't be much worse without him entirely.

Green Bay Packers Re-Sign Aaron Jones or Jamaal Williams

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    Mike Roemer/Associated Press

    Green Bay Packers running backs Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams are both set to hit free agency this offseason. In a different year, the Packers may be inclined to let both walk. The franchise is projected to be more than $39 million over the cap and just used a second-round pick on running back AJ Dillon.

    However, there's a reason why bringing back at least one of the two proven veterans makes sense. Green Bay is running out of time with and appears to be testing the patience of quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Now is the time for the Packers to go all-in on a Super Bowl run with the first-ballot Hall of Famer.

    Keeping some continuity in the backfield would be great for Rodgers and the Packers offense as a whole in 2021.

    While there is clearly work to be done as it relates to the salary cap, Rodgers himself could provide some relief there. According to Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk, the quarterback is seeking a new contract. If the Packers grant him one, they could do a Drew Brees-esque deal that reduces his $37.6 million cap hit in 2021 while moving much of his money to the future—when, hopefully, the salary cap will go back up.

Houston Texans Part with J.J. Watt

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    Matt Patterson/Associated Press

    Pass-rusher J.J. Watt has been a face of the Houston Texans ever since he was drafted in 2011. However, it may be time for the two parties to move on.

    "The belief with teammates and coaches I've spoken to is that Watt has played his last game as a Texan," NFL Network's James Palmer tweeted.

    While it would be jarring to see Watt suit up for a franchise other than Houston, it makes financial sense. The Texans are projected to be more than $17 million over the cap. Watt, meanwhile, is set to carry a cap hit of $17.5 million in 2021 with none of that in dead money.

    Parting with Watt would essentially bring the Texans level with the salary cap, and it's a move Houston is likely to make.

Indianapolis Colts Bring Back T.Y. Hilton

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    Zach Bolinger/Associated Press

    Wideout T.Y. Hilton has had some tremendous years with the Indianapolis Colts, including four Pro Bowl seasons and five 1,000-yard campaigns. However, he hasn't been quite the same playmaker over the past couple of seasons—he had 762 receiving yards in 15 games in 2020—and turned 31 in November.

    Hilton is scheduled to become a free agent, and while Colts owner Jim Irsay stated the market will play a factor, he has made it clear that he would be welcome back for another run.

    "You love to see someone like T.Y. be back because he is such a good man, he's such an outstanding football player and a selfless player that you are just hoping that it works out that way," Irsay said, per Kevin Hickey of Colts Wire. "But the market usually dictates that. That's the aspect of free agency."

    In other words, the Colts will want Hilton back at a team-friendly price. Our guess is that they're able to reach an agreement. With standout receivers like Kenny Golladay, JuJu Smith-Schuster and Allen Robinson II slated to hit the market, and with few teams dripping with cap space, Hilton's value should be relatively low.

Jacksonville Jaguars Sign Shaquil Barrett

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    Matt Ludtke/Associated Press

    The Jacksonville Jaguars are slated to have more cap space than any team in the NFL. With the team expected to address its quarterback need with the No. 1 overall pick in the draft, it would make sense for it to address its 31st-ranked defense in free agency.

    Adding 2019 NFL sack leader Shaquil Barrett would help do exactly that. While Barrett's sack total dipped from 19.5 to eight in 2020, he still managed an impressive 42 quarterback pressures. He could be a huge asset for a defense that produced just 18 sacks as a unit this season.

    At 28 years old, Barrett should be one of the most sought-after defenders on the open market and a potential long-term building block for a franchise. The Jaguars have the cap space to land him, and it shouldn't be a surprise if they do.

Kansas City Chiefs Release Mitchell Schwartz

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    Peter Joneleit/Associated Press

    The Kansas City Chiefs are projected to be more than $18 million over the cap, so clearing some salary will likely be an offseason goal. One way to help accomplish it would be to release right tackle Mitchell Schwartz.

    Schwartz has been a valuable starter since he was signed in 2016. However, he's entering the final year of his contract and will turn 32 in June. Perhaps more relevant is the fact that Schwartz has been out since Week 6 with a back injury, and the Chiefs have made a Super Bowl run without him.

    While it's never fair for a player to lose his job because of an injury, parting with Schwartz makes financial sense. Kansas City would save more than $6 million in cap room by doing so while still retaining the majority of its starting Super Bowl roster.

Las Vegas Raiders Sign Nelson Agholor to a Long-Term Deal

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    Jack Dempsey/Associated Press

    The Las Vegas Raiders' signing of wideout Nelson Agholor on a one-year, $1 million deal last offseason didn't garner a ton of national attention. However, Agholor proved to be a tremendous addition, on the field and as a locker-room leader.

    "Nelly doesn't talk a ton, but when he does everybody listens," defensive end Maxx Crosby told The Athletic's Vic Tafur of Agholor—who was reportedly furious after Las Vegas was officially eliminated from postseason contention.

    Agholor also caught 48 passes for 896 yards and eight touchdowns in 2020. It should surprise no one if he's rewarded with a new long-term deal this offseason. The Raiders will have to free up a fair bit of cap space to make it happen—they're projected to be more than $21 million over the cap—but our guess is that Agholor will be back in 2021.

Los Angeles Chargers Let Melvin Ingram III Walk

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    Doug Murray/Associated Press

    With nearly $24 million in projected cap space, the Los Angeles Chargers are one of the few franchises in a good spot financially. However, this doesn't mean that some difficult decisions aren't looming. Several notable players—including Hunter Henry, Melvin Ingram III, Mike Pouncey and Denzel Perryman—are scheduled to hit free agency.

    With Justin Herbert establishing himself as the quarterback of the future in 2020, the Chargers should be eager to build around him offensively. This means prioritizing players like Henry and Pouncey. This could also mean that longtime standout defender Ingram is out.

    The soon-to-be 32-year-old pass-rusher appeared in just seven games this season and failed to record a sack for the first time in his career. While he's been a defensive mainstay for Los Angeles—and a three-time Pro Bowler—it's time for the Chargers to look at younger options to be Joey Bosa's pass-rushing running mate.

Los Angeles Rams Part with Michael Brockers

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    Stephen Brashear/Associated Press

    The Los Angeles Rams were able to dump Jared Goff's contract, but they're still projected to be more than $43 million over the salary cap. This is going to lead to some veterans getting the proverbial axe this offseason.

    39-year-old tackle Andrew Whitworth is one potential cut candidate, as L.A. could save more than $5 million in cap space by releasing him. However, the Rams are looking at a limited window with quarterback Matthew Stafford—and no first-round draft picks for the foreseeable future—and they're not going to find many quality alternatives at the position.

    Instead, the Rams may opt to part with veteran defensive tackle Michael Brockers. Doing so would save nearly $6 million on the 2021 cap and more than $10 million in cap space in 2022. Brockers is a fantastic player and a Rams defensive staple, but Los Angeles is loaded on that side of the ball and could absorb the blow of his loss.

Miami Dolphins Re-Sign Ryan Fitzpatrick

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    David Becker/Associated Press

    The Miami Dolphins used the fifth overall pick on quarterback Tua Tagovailoa last April. While the former Alabama star exhibited some growing pains as a rookie, the Dolphins appear committed to him for 2021—despite owning the third overall pick in the draft and, potentially, a shot at a new quarterback.

    "I want to be clear: Tua is our starter," general manager Chris Grier told reporters. "We're very happy with his development so far."

    With Tagovailoa as the clear starter, it would make some sense to move on from veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick. However, it would make just as much sense for Miami to keep him for insurance and as a mentor for its young quarterback.

    Miami is projected to be more than $22 million under the cap, so signing Fitzpatrick to a high-end backup contract shouldn't be problematic. While the bearded wonder may look to pursue a starting job, being the backup in sunny (and state-tax-free) South Florida isn't exactly a bad gig. Don't be surprised if he's back in 2021.

Minnesota Vikings Don't Re-Sign Anthony Harris

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    Bruce Kluckhohn/Associated Press

    Last offseason, the Minnesota Vikings made sure safety Anthony Harris didn't get away by using the franchise tag. However, the tag didn't lead to a long-term contract, and now Harris is slated to enter free agency once again.

    This time, he may get away. The good news for Minnesota is that Harris is happy with the time he's spent with the franchise thus far.

    "I've been here my entire career," Harris said, per Andrew Krammer of the Star-Tribune. "It's been great from everything down to the locker room to the executives, the coaches, to the city itself and how it's treated me and my family."

    The bad news is that the Vikings are scheduled to be roughly $18 million over the salary cap. Not only would matching deals for Harris on the open market prove difficult, but Minnesota could also be facing an imminent rebuild. It's doubtful the Vikings will try tagging Harris again, so it feels likely that he'll play for a different team in 2021.

New England Patriots Sign Jacoby Brissett

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    Zach Bolinger/Associated Press

    The Cam Newton experiment didn't pan out for the New England Patriots, and thus, New England will be searching for a new starting quarterback this offseason. They may look to take one with the 15th pick in the draft, but there's no guarantee that a rookie will be prepared to start from day one.

    If New England is looking to bring in another experienced stopgap at quarterback, former Patriot Jacoby Brissett would make a ton of sense. New England is projected to have more than $54 million in cap space, and the franchise thought highly enough of Brissett to draft him in the third round in 2016.

    2019 fourth-round pick Jarrett Stidham could be in the equation as well, but the Patriots didn't start him once even when Newton was struggling—and he certainly doesn't have the experience to be a veteran mentor.

    By bringing back Brissett, the Patriots could get the best of both worlds. He could prove to be an upgrade over Newton as a passer while also bridging the gap to the franchise's quarterback of the future.

New Orleans Saints Re-Sign Jameis Winston

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    Gerry Broome/Associated Press

    The New Orleans Saints are projected to be more than $112 million over the cap this offseason. They're probably not the first franchise that springs to mind when it comes to investing in a future signal-caller. However, New Orleans has expressed interest in retaining backup Jameis Winston.

    According to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport, New Orleans likes what it has seen from Winston in practice and would like to bring him back in 2021.

    In New Orleans, Winston would likely compete with Taysom Hill to be the 2021 successor to Drew Brees. There's no guarantee that Winston would win the job, of course, and he would likely have to take a team-friendly offer for the opportunity.

    However, coming back could also revitalize Winston's value around the league. That's what it did for Teddy Bridgewater, who signed a three-year, $63 million deal with Carolina this past offseason. Obviously, New Orleans has a tremendous amount of work to do with its salary situation, but don't be surprised if a new deal for Winston is part of the process.

New York Giants Release Kevin Zeitler

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    Larry Maurer/Associated Press

    The New York Giants are in a tough spot financially. They're projected to be nearly $14 million over the salary cap and have some quality free agents—like Leonard Williams and Dalvin Tomlinson—slated to hit the open market.

    New York is going to have to cut salary somewhere, and veteran guard Kevin Zeitler could find himself on the chopping block.

    While Zeitler is a quality guard, he's also set to turn 31 in March and is entering the final year of his contract. He's scheduled to carry a cap hit of $14.5 million in 2021, but the Giants can save $12 million of that by releasing him.

    The Giants will be tempted to keep Zeitler and continue building the line in front of quarterback Daniel Jones. However, they're also going to want to lock up young defenders like Williams and Tomlinson and continue building on their ninth-ranked scoring defense. They can't do both, so Zeitler could be out.

New York Jets Sign Allen Robinson II

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    Jim Mone/Associated Press

    The New York Jets may decide to stick with quarterback Sam Darnold in 2021. They may use the second overall pick in the draft on his replacement. Whatever the Jets do at quarterback, though, they're going to need a legitimate No. 1 receiver.

    After amassing 1,250 receiving yards with the underwhelming tandem of Mitchell Trubisky and Nick Foles at quarterback, Allen Robinson II may be the most coveted No. 1 receiver in free agency this offseason. Fortunately, New York is projected to have more than $62 million in cap space—only Jacksonville is expected to have more.

    New York could target a receiver with the second overall pick, but signing Robinson would offer it maximum flexibility with the selection—options could include trading it to a quarterback-needy team for future selection. Expect the Jets to desire that flexibility and get their new No. 1 wideout in free agency.

Philadelphia Eagles Release Zach Ertz

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    Derik Hamilton/Associated Press

    The Philadelphia Eagles are projected to be more than $61 million over the cap. They can save nearly $5 million in salary by parting with tight end Zach Ertz, either via trade or by releasing him. With fellow pass-catching tight end Dallas Goedert replacing Ertz as a top option in the aerial attack, Ertz is almost certainly a goner.

    The Eagles will presumably try trading Ertz first. However, his $8.25 million salary and 2020 production—he had just 335 receiving yards in 11 games—may not be particularly appealing on the trade market. A restructuring could help alleviate salary concerns, but teams may also be hesitant to extend the 30-year-old.

    It's entirely possible that teams stand by, knowing that Ertz will likely be released if a trade isn't finalized before the start of the new league year. Either way, Ertz has probably played his last game in Philadelphia.

Pittsburgh Steelers Let Both Bud Dupree and JuJu Smith-Schuster Go

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    Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press

    The Pittsburgh Steelers have several key contributors scheduled to hit free agency, including wideout JuJu Smith-Schuster and pass-rusher Bud Dupree. Conventional wisdom suggests the Steelers would pick between a top receiver and a double-digit sack artist and find a way to keep him. However, Pittsburgh may be forced to lose both.

    The Steelers are projected to be nearly $30 million over the cap.

    Even if quarterback Ben Roethlisberger works to lower his cap number—something he has vowed to do—the Steelers are going to be in rough cap shape. Perhaps more importantly, they also have contingency plans in place at both positions.

    Rookie Alex Highsmith showed a lot of promise while filling in for Dupree down the stretch—he had two sacks in limited action—while young wideouts like James Washington, Diontae Johnson and Chase Claypool litter the receiving corps.

San Francisco 49ers Reward Jason Verrett with a Long-Term Deal

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    Alex Gallardo/Associated Press

    The San Francisco 49ers have several key contributors scheduled to hit the open market—including Trent Williams, Richard Sherman, Jason Verrett and Solomon Thomas. Among them, Williams would be the least-surprising player to receive a long-term extension—San Francisco traded for the left tackle during draft weekend last April.

    However, we're guessing he won't be the only player rewarded with a long-term deal. Verrett, the former Chargers cornerback who battled injuries for four seasons, was finally healthy in 2020. He was also fantastic on the field.

    Verrett allowed an opposing passer rating of just 76.2 this season.

    Given Verrett's injury history, it would be unwise to break the bank for him. However, San Francisco could use some of its $11-plus million in cap space to sign him to a fair deal with heavy incentives. This would both reward Verrett for his play in 2020 and ensure San Francisco has some continuity during what will likely be a defensive overhaul.

Seattle Seahawks Release Carlos Dunlap

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    Rick Scuteri/Associated Press

    During the season, the Seattle Seahawks traded a seventh-round pick and center B.J. Finney for pass-rusher Carlos Dunlap. The former Bengals standout wasted little time in making an impact and finished with five sacks in eight regular-season games.

    It would make sense for Seattle to keep Dunlap for the final year of his contract. However, there are problems. Dunlap is set to turn 32 in February and carries a cap hit of $14.1 million in 2021. Seattle is projected to have just $3.6 million in cap space. The Seahawks will have to cut salary somewhere, and given their limited investment in Dunlap, he could be the odd veteran out.

    Seattle could, of course, attempt to restructure Dunlap's contract, but he may prefer to try his luck on the open market. There's virtually no chance the Seahawks would bring him back at his current price tag.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers Lock Up Chris Godwin

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    Kevin Sabitus/Associated Press

    For a team about to play in the Super Bowl, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are in surprisingly good shape cap-wise. Tampa is projected to be more than $28 million under the cap, though it has key veterans like Lavonte David, Shaquil Barrett, Rob Gronkowski and Chris Godwin slated to hit the open market.

    Some of these veterans may be willing to sign a team-friendly deal to make another run with Tom Brady. Godwin is probably not one of them. He's one of the headliners of a prolific wide-receiver market, and he's likely to generate a lot of interest if he becomes available.

    With Godwin's projected market value at more than $17 million annually, the Buccaneers could find it difficult to lock him up for the long term. Given that Tampa may be in store for a rebuild once Brady calls it quits, the Buccaneers may not even be that interested in signing Godwin to a long-term deal.

    Instead, expect the Buccaneers to franchise-tag Godwin, run it back with their current offense and then decide on the wideout's future at a later date.

Tennessee Titans Release Adam Humphries

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    Bruce Kluckhohn/Associated Press

    Two offseasons ago, the Tennessee Titans signed wideout Adam Humphries to a four-year, $36 million deal. While Tennessee has made the postseason in each of the past two years, Humphries has not been a large piece of the equation.

    Humphries has appeared in 19 regular-season games for the Titans and produced 60 receptions for 602 yards and four touchdowns.

    With Tennessee projected to be more than $8 million over the salary cap, now may be the time to pull the plug on the experiment with Humphries. Doing so would save more than $4 million against the cap and open the door for a cheaper and potentially more productive pass-catcher.

Washington Football Team Signs Cam Newton

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    Elise Amendola/Associated Press

    Cam Newton didn't exactly shine with the Patriots this season, but he did show he can be a serviceable stopgap starter. In the right situation, he may even help a team reach the playoffs. The Washington Football Team might just provide that situation for him.

    Washington head coach Ron Rivera spent the bulk of Newton's pro career as his head coach with Panthers. If anyone knows how to get the most out of Newton, it's Rivera. Washington can also support Newton with a quality defense that ranked second overall—a luxury Newton didn't enjoy in New England.

    ESPN's Adam Schefter told The Greg Hill Show (h/t Ryan Hannable of WEEI) that Newton could command a contract "with incentives" worth up to $50 million over two years. Armed with nearly $23 million in projected cap space, Washington is one of the few teams that could afford to gamble on Newton.

    Washington has already parted with Dwayne Haskins Jr. and doesn't know if it will have Alex Smith or Taylor Heinicke back. Betting on Newton for the short term is a logical move.

          

    *Cap and contract information via Spotrac. Advanced statistics from Pro Football Reference.