The 1 Free Agent Every NFL Team Must Re-Sign This Offseason

Brad Gagnon@Brad_Gagnon NFL National ColumnistFebruary 16, 2021

The 1 Free Agent Every NFL Team Must Re-Sign This Offseason

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    Eric Christian Smith/Associated Press

    In a matter of weeks, hundreds of talented professional football players will become unemployed. Some will immediately find work with new teams, others will linger on the open market, and some will never play in the NFL again. 

    But many will stay put, and we're here to shine a light on some of those guys. 

    Here's one impending free agent every team has to retain this offseason.

Arizona Cardinals: Edge Haason Reddick

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    Jennifer Stewart/Associated Press

    Top Arizona Cardinals pass-rusher Chandler Jones is now on the other side of 30 and is coming off a significant biceps injury. The team's other two most prominent edge-defenders are Markus Golden and Hasson Reddick. But Golden is also approaching 30, and Reddick's ceiling makes him more critical to Arizona's future on defense. 

    The 2017 first-round pick was often a disappointment in his first three seasons, but he excelled with 12.5 sacks during a breakout 2020 campaign. It's somewhat concerning that 7.5 of those sacks came during one December hot streak, but the risk that said stretch was an aberration should also keep his price down on the open market.

    Arizona isn't loaded with salary-cap space, but Reddick should take priority over Golden and cornerback Patrick Peterson, who has shown signs of decline at age 30. 

Atlanta Falcons: S Keanu Neal

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    Danny Karnik/Associated Press

    The new-look Atlanta Falcons would probably prefer to keep the offensive line intact for quarterback Matt Ryan by bringing back veteran center Alex Mack. However, Mack is 35, and the cap-strapped Falcons will have to be selective when dealing with impending in-house free agents. 

    Instead, top priority should be given to safety Keanu Neal, who bounced back from two injury-ruined seasons and recorded 100 tackles as a strong all-around presence in the 2020 Atlanta secondary.

    The 2017 Pro Bowler has yet to fully return to the trajectory he was on early in his career, but he's somehow still just 25 years old, and an Atlanta defense that surrendered an atrocious 6.2 yards per play in 2020 cannot afford to take a step in the wrong direction.

    The Falcons need the versatile Neal manning the strong safety position in 2021. 

Baltimore Ravens: Edge Yannick Ngakoue

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    Terrance Williams/Associated Press

    Top edge-rushers Matt Judon, Pernell McPhee and Yannick Ngakoue are all slated to hit the open market for a Baltimore Ravens team that ranked in the middle of the pack in terms of sacks and sack rate in 2020. 

    They can't afford to lose all three, but they aren't loaded with cap space, and preference should be given to the youngest of the three: Ngakoue.

    McPhee is 32 and hasn't had a five-sack season since 2015, and Judon disappointed under the franchise tag during his age-28 campaign. But Ngakoue found a way to compile eight sacks and four forced fumbles despite jumping from the Jacksonville Jaguars to the Minnesota Vikings to Baltimore in 2020. 

    In the last five seasons, only Khalil Mack has forced more fumbles than the 25-year-old playmaker. The Ravens didn't utilize him enough, but the circumstances weren't ideal following a midseason trade, and they say it'll be different in 2021.

    "We had a unique situation here with all the outside 'backers we had," head coach John Harbaugh said, per Aaron Kasinitz of "So, going forward, if [Ngakoue] chooses, and we work it out and he's here, it'll be a little different, because he'll be here from the beginning, and he'll be starting, and he'll get a lot more snaps than he got this year."

Buffalo Bills: OT Daryl Williams

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    Stew Milne/Associated Press

    It's easy to understand why the Buffalo Bills and their fans want to see defensive leader Matt Milano back next season, and the team will likely do everything it can to keep veteran cornerback Josh Norman in the fray. But an organization with limited cap space would be smart to put those impending free agents on the backburner while negotiating with the even more crucial Daryl Williams at the right tackle spot. 

    The former Carolina Panther earned superb grades from Pro Football Focus as both a pass-protector and a run-blocker while starting all 19 regular-season and playoff games for an explosive Buffalo offense in 2020. 

    As Bills franchise quarterback Josh Allen continues to develop, continuity within his supporting cast is critical. If at all possible, the Bills should enter training camp with Williams, Dion Dawkins, Mitch Morse, Jon Feliciano and Cody Ford in starting roles along the offensive line. 

Carolina Panthers: OT Taylor Moton

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    Reed Hoffmann/Associated Press

    Meanwhile, the team that lost Williams in free agency last year can't afford to let another talented offensive lineman get away this offseason. 

    Carolina Panthers right tackle Taylor Moton surrendered just three sacks and took only two penalties all season, according to PFF.

    If the team decides to give quarterback Teddy Bridgewater another shot, it should surround him with some stability and continuity. Bringing back the best offensive lineman on the team would help with that even if it means having to move on from 33-year-old Russell Okung at left tackle or the talented Curtis Samuel in the receiving corps. 

    The 26-year-old Moton hasn't missed a start since moving into that spot as a sophomore in 2018. With Greg Little as a potential replacement for Okung and DJ Moore and Robby Anderson already on the roster at receiver, Moton has to be the focus. 

Chicago Bears: WR Allen Robinson II

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    David Berding/Associated Press

    It won't be easy for the cap-strapped Chicago Bears to bring back top receiver Allen Robinson II, but it'll be hard to let him go and somehow improve in 2021 after he caught 102 passes for 1,250 yards in a bad offense this past season. 

    So while Chicago has to prioritize its search for an answer at quarterback, the front office must also find a way to re-sign Robinson, who is coming off back-to-back 1,100-yard campaigns at age 27. 

    How does that happen for a team that is projected to enter the offseason over the cap? Cornerback Kyle Fuller, defensive lineman Akiem Hicks and offensive tackle Charles Leno are slated to count more than $43 million against the cap in walk years, so extensions for them would help free up space.

    The Bears could have some tough decisions to make beyond that, but Robinson is one of the most important players on the team. 

Cincinnati Bengals: Edge Carl Lawson

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    Emilee Chinn/Associated Press

    Re-signing top pass-rusher Carl Lawson shouldn't be an issue for a Cincinnati Bengals team that is expected to have plenty of cap space this offseason. But in case they were considering letting him walk because he had "only" 5.5 sacks in 2020, let's lay out the case. 

    T.J. Watt (41) was the only player in the entire league with more quarterback hits than Lawson (32) in 2020. It was his third season with more than 20 quarterback hits in four years, and he added two forced fumbles, as well. 

    "There is an argument to be made that Lawson is the best pure pass rusher to hit free agency this offseason," PFF's Ben Linsey wrote last month.

    Nobody else on the Cincinnati roster had more than two sacks or even a dozen quarterback hits, so the Bengals can't justify letting him go. 

Cleveland Browns: WR Rashard Higgins

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    Justin Berl/Associated Press

    The Cleveland Browns had loads of success without injured superstar Odell Beckham Jr. in 2020, which is why they should strongly consider saving $15.8 million by trading him. That could put them on the market for a new outside receiver to work with Jarvis Landry, but they should still try to bring back impending free agent Rashard Higgins anyway. 

    Higgins quietly averaged 11.5 yards per target, which ranked second to only Will Fuller V of the Houston Texans. The 2016 fifth-round pick didn't drop a single pass on 52 targets and established nice chemistry with quarterback Baker Mayfield. 

    Why mess with that if you're the Browns? Higgins should still slide under the radar on a receiver-happy free-agent market because he's never had a 600-yard season, but he means a lot to the Browns' current offensive trajectory.

Dallas Cowboys: CB Jourdan Lewis

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    Emilee Chinn/Associated Press

    We should start by addressing the elephant in this slide: The Dallas Cowboys shouldn't feel obligated to bring back quarterback Dak Prescott if the rate is exorbitant.

    A $37.7 million franchise tag would qualify as exorbitant for a team that has several key impending free agents and just over $20 million in projected cap space, and a lot of other quarterbacks could potentially become available to Dallas via free agency, the draft or the trade market. 

    Instead, let's focus on slot cornerback Jourdan Lewis, who doesn't make the same impact as Prescott but is a solid player at a critical position and would be hard to replace. 

    In 2020, the 25-year-old surrendered just 5.5 yards per target, which ranked third in the NFL among qualified corners who made more than 10 starts (behind only Jaire Alexander and Jalen Ramsey). The versatile 2017 third-round pick isn't a superstar, but he's got a strong skill set and room to grow.

    After losing top cover man Byron Jones last year, a bad defensive team should keep Lewis around this offseason.

Denver Broncos: S Justin Simmons

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    Justin Edmonds/Associated Press

    Sometimes, a team's best free agent is simply the free agent most worthy of being re-signed even if it'll cost an arm and a leg. That's the case with the Denver Broncos and star safety Justin Simmons, who was one of the league's best defensive playmakers while operating under the franchise tag in 2020.

    With five picks this past season, the 27-year-old now has nine interceptions in his last two campaigns. 

    "Simmons is an outstanding free safety who has shown he regularly impacts plays underneath in a way a lot of free safeties don't," PFF's Sam Monson wrote last month. 

    He won't come cheap, but the Broncos have the money to lock Simmons up. A rebuilding team with most of the key pieces in place would be silly to risk a step backward in the secondary right now. 

Detroit Lions: Edge Romeo Okwara

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    Leon Halip/Associated Press

    I'm sure the Detroit Lions would rather re-sign standout receiver Kenny Golladay over anybody else, including edge-defender Romeo Okwara. But we also have to be realistic here.

    After inheriting Jared Goff's contract, the Lions find themselves about $11 million over the projected cap. They could pocket some cash by cutting, extending or reworking deals belonging to veterans like Desmond Trufant, Justin Coleman, Jamie Collins Sr., Trey Flowers and Taylor Decker, but that might still make it almost impossible to compete with cap-rich counterparts for a tantalizing talent like Golladay. 

    Okwara at least remains somewhat under the radar after a quiet 10-sack season opposite Flowers. He also forced three fumbles and registered 18 quarterback hits, but the market will likely still favor guys like Shaquil Barrett, Carl Lawson, Yannick Ngakoue, Bud Dupree and Melvin Ingram III at that position. 

    That could enable the Lions to bring back a key defender to prevent losing ground as they attempt to build up the league's 32nd-ranked defense from 2020. 

Green Bay Packers: C Corey Linsley

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    Michael Conroy/Associated Press

    This exercise becomes pretty tricky when dealing with teams in win-now mode that are estimated to be upward of $20 million over the projected cap. The Green Bay Packers would certainly love to retain key offensive players Corey Linsley, Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams, but they'll likely have to settle for only one at best. 

    Even getting there would probably require them to release Preston Smith, extend Davante Adams and rework lucrative deals belonging to Aaron Rodgers, David Bakhtiari, Kenny Clark, Za'Darius Smith and Adrian Amos. 

    And while Jones and Williams might be more affordable than Linsley because they're running backs, the Packers have to keep Rodgers happy and comfortable. That likely means focusing on retaining the man who snaps him the ball.

    Backs are quite often replaceable, and the Packers used a second-round pick on AJ Dillon last year. Conversely, offensive line continuity is crucial, and good centers are tougher to replace quickly. 

    The Packers have to find a way.

Houston Texans: WR Will Fuller V

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    Duane Burleson/Associated Press

    It's difficult to read the Houston Texans, who may or may not have quarterback Deshaun Watson as a new regime settles into place in 2021. For now, we can only assume he will remain on the roster despite trade rumors as the Texans have insisted they plan on keeping him around. 

    If that's the case, it's important a team that traded away its best receiver in 2020 not let its top wideout walk in 2021. Late in the 2020 season, Watson said it's "very important" that the team re-sign Will Fuller V, who averaged a team-leading 79.9 receiving yards per game and scored eight touchdowns in 11 outings during a breakout age-26 season. 

    You can't leave Watson (or his replacement) with just Brandin Cooks, Keke Coutee and Randall Cobb manning the top of the depth chart at wide receiver, and maintaining chemistry is important. But the Texans are in a tight cap situation that might require them to choose between Fuller and defensive legend J.J. Watt. 

    At this point, it might be time to move on from the soon-to-be 32-year-old Watt in order to save $17.5 million in cap space.

Indianapolis Colts: CB Xavier Rhodes

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    Zach Bolinger/Associated Press

    For the Indianapolis Colts, this was a debate between the team's top outside cornerback, Xavier Rhodes, and its top wide receiver, T.Y. Hilton.

    Both are key cogs who should be easy re-sign decisions for a team that is projected to enter the offseason with more salary-cap space than every other organization in the NFL except the Jacksonville Jaguars. 

    But Hilton is a half-year older than Rhodes, he appears to be declining a little faster after a second consecutive down year that took place while Rhodes redeemed himself with a strong campaign, and the Colts might have more opportunities to upgrade at receiver with Kenny Golladay, Allen Robinson II, Will Fuller V, Chris Godwin and JuJu Smith-Schuster than they would at corner with William Jackson III and Shaquill Griffin. 

    Those dynamics move Rhodes to the top of the priority list.

Jacksonville Jaguars: CB Sidney Jones IV

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    Gary McCullough/Associated Press

    The aforementioned shallow nature of the cornerback market is also the reason we're going with cover man Sidney Jones IV for the Jacksonville Jaguars rather than left tackle Cam Robinson. 

    Robinson is more of a key cog, but he hasn't lived up to expectations in his four seasons with the Jags. Jacksonville has four picks in the first two rounds of April's draft and could instead opt to select a highly rated prospect at that position, where it also has Jawaan Taylor and Will Richardson Jr.

    Jones, selected in the second round of the 2017 draft just like Robinson, has also been a disappointment, but his struggles with the Philadelphia Eagles had a lot to do with injuries. That was again a factor as he dealt with an Achilles injury in his debut season with the Jags. But he did intercept two passes in nine games, and there's still plenty of room for the 24-year-old to grow if he can get and stay healthy. 

    The Jaguars have the money to easily bring back Robinson, Jones, receiver Keelan Cole Sr. and every other impending in-house free agent, but Jones is the player they're most likely to overlook and wind up missing.

Kansas City Chiefs: C Austin Reiter

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    Jeff Roberson/Associated Press

    This one's a no-brainer for the Kansas City Chiefs, who are coming off back-to-back Super Bowl seasons with Austin Reiter serving as the starting center for the league's most dangerous offense. 

    Veteran receiver Sammy Watkins, starting corner Bashaud Breeland and safety Daniel Sorensen also have expiring contracts for Kansas City, but the emergence of Mecole Hardman and L'Jarius Sneed and the presence of Tyrann Mathieu and Juan Thornhill make them more expendable. 

    Reiter would be a lot more difficult to replace, and the Chiefs will have to pick their spots as they approach free agency with an expected salary-cap crunch on their hands. 

    The 29-year-old Reiter gave up zero sacks and took zero penalties on 867 snaps in 2020, according to PFF. The Chiefs offensive line has been through a lot and can't afford to lose another critical cog. 

Las Vegas Raiders: LB Nicholas Morrow

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    Justin Edmonds/Associated Press

    The Las Vegas Raiders had the league's 30th-ranked scoring defense in 2020 and have to find a way to improve defensively despite a projected $9 million salary-cap deficit. That's why they need to keep any defender who could be on an upward trajectory, like 25-year-old linebacker Nicholas Morrow. 

    Morrow isn't a star, but he's coming off an encouraging breakout season in which he registered career highs in tackles (78), sacks (three) and passes defensed (nine). The Raiders have a nice trio at linebacker in Morrow, Cory Littleton and Nick Kwiatkoski, and Morrow could be more affordable than the more established but older Johnathan Hankins. 

    Still, both of those guys do more good than harm in the front seven and should take precedence over wide receiver Nelson Agholor, who excelled in 2020 but might not be worth a potentially inflated price with Tyrell Williams coming back from injury and Henry Ruggs III and Hunter Renfrow also on the roster.

Los Angeles Chargers: TE Hunter Henry

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    Peter Joneleit/Associated Press

    It's important that the Los Angeles Chargers maintain continuity and support for quarterback Justin Herbert in his sophomore season, which is why L.A.'s best free agent is also the player it must re-sign this offseason. 

    That's tight end Hunter Henry, who was the second-most-targeted player on the team behind Keenan Allen in 2020.

    Despite missing a pair of games while operating under the franchise tag this season, the talented 26-year-old went over 600 yards and four touchdowns for the second consecutive season. He dropped only two of the 93 passes thrown his way, and he was a steady blocker as well. 

    Accomplished veteran pass-rusher Melvin Ingram III is also slated to hit free agency for the Bolts, but he's approaching 32 following an injury-derailed season. There's reason to believe the younger Uchenna Nwosu could grow into a strong role in support of top edge presence Joey Bosa there. 

Los Angeles Rams: S John Johnson III

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    Kyusung Gong/Associated Press

    The cap-strapped Los Angeles Rams might have trouble keeping any of their starting-caliber impending free agents, but if one takes priority, it has to be safety John Johnson III. 

    Retaining Johnson won't be easy considering that a second franchise tag would likely be back-breakingly expensive for Los Angeles. But the Rams are clearly going all-in, and Johnson was one of the league's highest-graded safeties in 2020, per PFF.

    He's an elite player in run defense and in coverage, and he's a reliable tackler as well. With Lamarcus Joyner and Eric Weddle departing over the last two offseasons, the Rams don't have much talent left at that position beyond Johnson and fellow starter Taylor Rapp, who is coming off a significant knee injury. 

    Re-signing Johnson would probably cost the Rams a chance to bring back solid corner Troy Hill, but that's less pressing when you have Jalen Ramsey and Darious Williams at that position. 

Miami Dolphins: C Ted Karras

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    Brett Carlsen/Associated Press

    The Miami Dolphins have the freedom to operate however they want and to re-sign whomever they choose this offseason, but they don't have any key in-house free agents who are likely to make or break their fate in 2021. 

    Still, we'll go with a continuity-related re-signing by urging them to bring back center Ted Karras, who snapped every single ball to quarterback Tua Tagovailoa during the No. 5 overall pick's rookie campaign. The durable 27-year-old surrendered only two sacks and took three penalties in 16 starts in 2020, according to PFF

    He edges out veteran backup quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, whom the Dolphins should also bring back so he can impart more wisdom on a young roster.

Minnesota Vikings: LB Eric Wilson

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    Rick Osentoski/Associated Press

    There's no doubt that standout safety Anthony Harris is the best impending free agent on the Minnesota Vikings' roster, but a cap-strapped Vikings squad might regret paying what is expected to be a high price for a safety whose play declined as his interception total dropped from six in 2019 to zero in 2020. 

    Harris will also turn 30 in October, while underrated 26-year-old linebacker Eric Wilson is coming off an impressive three-sack, three-interception breakout campaign in which he recorded 122 tackles and eight passes defensed in 16 games (15 starts). 

    The Vikings can likely save a few million bucks per season by rolling with Wilson instead of Harris, who made $11.4 million under the franchise tag in 2020. Beyond that, they could part ways with the seemingly declining Anthony Barr to free up another $7.3 million and pair Wilson with Eric Kendricks in the linebacker corps. 

    Those savings would make it easier for a losing team to improve with new additions in 2021. 

New England Patriots: G Joe Thuney

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    Peter Joneleit/Associated Press

    I wouldn't blame the New England Patriots for moving on from their entire lot of impending unrestricted free agents as they embark on a much-needed rebuild. There isn't much upside among the group, but there's little doubt that guard Joe Thuney is the best player on the list, and he's still on the right side of 30. 

    The 28-year-old hasn't missed a start in his five-year NFL career. He wasn't at his best in 2020, but neither were most of the Patriots. He was still responsible for only five combined penalties and sacks and was solidly rated as both a pass- and run-blocker at PFF

    Because of that, and because there aren't a lot of intriguing alternatives, Thuney is the closest thing to a must-re-sign on the New England roster. He'll also likely be very expensive after playing under a $14.8 million franchise tag in 2020, but the Pats finally have some room to operate under the cap. 

New Orleans Saints: Edge Trey Hendrickson

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    Butch Dill/Associated Press

    Regardless of what quarterback Drew Brees does, the New Orleans Saints will be beggars, not choosers this offseason. They're projected to be in salary-cap hell, and there's a good chance that key impending in-house free agents Marcus Williams, Trey Hendrickson and Sheldon Rankins all get away. 

    Williams should absolutely take priority, but it might be impossible for them to afford a durable 24-year-old standout safety. And Rankins hasn't been as reliable, so the Saints might not miss him significantly.

    That leaves Hendrickson.

    They likely have a more realistic shot at retaining the 26-year-old because other teams may wonder if his sudden 13.5-sack campaign in 2020 was a fluke after he failed to become a consistent difference-maker in his first three seasons. 

    Based on their cap crunch, the Saints soon may also have to move on from expensive 31-year-old pass-rusher Cameron Jordan. Re-signing Hendrickson would give them a chance to make a smooth transition in that event. 

New York Giants: DL Leonard Williams

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    Adam Hunger/Associated Press

    With emerging 2019 first-round pick Dexter Lawrence already on the roster, the New York Giants will likely have to decide this offseason between keeping Dalvin Tomlinson or Leonard Williams up front.

    They might find a way to bring back both 26-year-olds. However, that's probably unrealistic considering that they aren't exactly loaded with projected cap space and have plenty of needs elsewhere. 

    Williams will probably be more expensive because he's a better-known interior defensive lineman coming off a double-digit-sack season. But with Lawrence and B.J. Hill already strong cogs in run defense, it makes sense to pay a premium for your top pass-rusher. 

    Williams had 11.5 sacks in 2020, while nobody else on the Giants roster had more than four. It would be hard for a six-win team to let a player like that walk and argue it is getting better. 

New York Jets: S Marcus Maye

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    Adam Hunger/Associated Press

    The cap-rich New York Jets can afford to keep anybody they want this offseason, but standout safety Marcus Maye should take priority. 

    In the last two seasons, Maye has intercepted three passes, recorded 18 passes defensed, forced two fumbles and registered two sacks and 153 tackles in 32 starts. He isn't a superstar, but he was one of PFF's highest-graded safeties last year, and his durability is a huge plus.

    He's simply a high-quality all-around player with Pro Bowl potential moving forward. 

    At 27, that gives him a clear advantage over slot cornerback Brian Poole in the Jets' free-agent hierarchy. However, they should also bring Poole back for his age-29 season after he surrendered a measly 61.6 passer rating in 2020.

Philadelphia Eagles: S Jalen Mills

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    Michael Ainsworth/Associated Press

    It won't be easy for the cap-strapped Philadelphia Eagles to keep impending free-agent safety Jalen Mills, who made plenty of progress in his first full season at that position. Mills is only 26 and has lots of room to grow after performing well in coverage, as an occasional pass-rusher and in run defense. 

    With that said, the Eagles don't have any difference-makers slated to hit free agency, and they likely won't be big players on the open market. If they're going to keep anyone around, it should be Mills. 

    Vinny Curry, Nickell Robey-Coleman and Jason Peters are bigger names, but all three are significantly longer in the tooth. The Eagles front office will have hard decisions to make regarding veterans like Fletcher Cox, Brandon Graham, Alshon Jeffery, Malik Jackson and Javon Hargrave just to position themselves to bring back a player like Mills. 

Pittsburgh Steelers: OT Matt Feiler

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    Justin Berl/Associated Press

    The Pittsburgh Steelers are also likely to be extremely short on cap space and will also have to make some tough calls with impending free agents like wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster, left tackle Alejandro Villanueva and edge-defender Bud Dupree. 

    They might want to consider letting all three walk while prioritizing younger starting tackle options Matt Feiler and Zach Banner. 

    Smith-Schuster's value in Pittsburgh is limited by the presence of Chase Claypool, Diontae Johnson and James Washington. Dupree is coming off a significant knee injury, and the Steelers' pass rush remained strong without him down the stretch in 2020. And Villanueva has begun to fade at age 32. 

    But the 28-year-old Feiler has excelled as a pass-blocker at both guard and tackle, while the 27-year-old Banner flashed in 2019 before missing nearly all of the 2020 campaign because of a torn ACL. Feiler is healthier right now, so we'll roll with him. 

San Francisco 49ers: OT Trent Williams

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    Brandon Wade/Associated Press

    Following a disappointing, injury-plagued 2020 season, the San Francisco 49ers are undoubtedly in win-now mode as they seek to get back to the Super Bowl for the second time in a three-year span. 

    Ideally, they won't be forced to throw fragile quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo (or any quarterback, for that matter) to the wolves by using their third left tackle in as many years. That's why it's important they re-sign perennial Pro Bowler Trent Williams ahead of his age-33 season. 

    Williams won't come cheap after posting the highest PFF grade at his position in 2020, but offensive line continuity is critical, and the 49ers can't afford to take steps backward right now. That's why Williams has to rank ahead of fellow impending free agents like safety Jaquiski Tartt, defensive lineman Solomon Thomas, fullback Kyle Juszczyk and practically every cornerback on the roster. 

Seattle Seahawks: CB Shaquill Griffin

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    Jennifer Stewart/Associated Press

    This is a case in which the process of elimination gets the job done.

    The Seattle Seahawks should want to re-sign veteran linebacker K.J. Wright, but they're heavily invested in Bobby Wagner and Jamal Adams off the ball, and Wright turns 32 in July. They'd probably like to bring back running back Chris Carson, but backs are almost never worth big bucks on second contracts. And starting-caliber cornerback Quinton Dunbar is likely high on the priority list, but he's turning 29 in July and is coming off an injury-derailed campaign. 

    That leaves fellow corner Shaquill Griffin, who is still 25 years old, was a Pro Bowler in 2019 and intercepted a career-high three passes in 2020. He might not be elite yet, but he has that type of potential, and the shaky Seattle defense can't afford to lose that. 

    And yes, quarterback Russell Wilson appears to be frustrated with his pass protection, but that probably means the Seahawks should get away from the status quo along the offensive line. 

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Edge Shaquil Barrett

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    Daniel Kucin Jr./Associated Press

    Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Bruce Arians believes his team can bring back all of its key impending free agents, but that's never easy when you're the defending champion. Who can the Bucs possibly afford to lose?

    Since they have Mike Evans and Scotty Miller at wide receiver, maybe Chris Godwin or Antonio Brown. Since they have Ronald Jones II in the backfield, maybe Leonard Fournette. And since they have Vita Vea up front, maybe the 34-year-old Ndamukong Suh.

    Meanwhile, linebacker Lavonte David is a star, but he'll soon turn 32. The Bucs also have the emerging Devin White at that position. 

    Edge defender Shaquil Barrett might be the priciest in-house free agent in Tampa, but the 28-year-old was such a dominant force down the stretch in 2020 that the Bucs can't afford to lose him. Jason Pierre-Paul is there, but he's 32. So even if they can't get a deal done soon, another franchise tag should be in order.

Tennessee Titans: CB Desmond King

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    Ben Margot/Associated Press

    The Tennessee Titans are projected to enter the new league year with practically no salary-cap space, so they'll likely have to decide between key impending in-house free agents like edge defender Jadeveon Clowney, off-ball linebacker Jayon Brown, wide receiver Corey Davis, tight end Jonnu Smith and cornerback Desmond King II. 

    Clowney might not be worth it considering he's recorded just three sacks in his last 22 NFL games, Brown is coming off an elbow injury and might not be enough of an impact player, and they have quality alternatives to Davis and Smith with Derrick Henry and A.J. Brown at the offensive skill positions. 

    King, though, has Pro Bowl-level potential as a slot cover man. And bringing him back along with Adoree Jackson and Kristian Fulton could enable Tennessee to more easily move on from soon-to-be 31-year-old Malcolm Butler's high-priced contract in order to save nearly $10 million. 

    Thus, re-signing King could actually make it easier to re-sign some of those other key free agents-to-be.

Washington Football Team: G Brandon Scherff

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    Daniel Kucin Jr./Associated Press

    The Washington Football Team is on track to hit the offseason with more cap space than any other team in the NFC, which should make it easy to bring back key free agents such as guard Brandon Scherff, cornerback Ronald Darby and edge-rusher Ryan Kerrigan.

    But Washington might also want to be active on the open market, so re-signing a 32-year-old Kerrigan when it already has so much other talent in the front seven may not be the best play. The WFT should try to bring back Darby after he had breakout season as a full-time starter, but he didn't intercept a single pass and has only eight career picks in six years.

    That leaves Scherff, who has become one of the NFL's most consistent offensive linemen over the last few years. The 29-year-old has given up only five sacks in the last three seasons combined, according to PFF, and have we mentioned how important it is to maintain offensive line continuity in this league? 

    He clearly has to be the top priority for the WFT. 


    Salary-cap and contract information courtesy of Spotrac.


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