Every NFL Team's Toughest Contract Decision in 2021 Offseason

Gary Davenport@@IDPSharksNFL AnalystFebruary 25, 2021

Every NFL Team's Toughest Contract Decision in 2021 Offseason

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    Jack Dempsey/Associated Press

    NFL players may be taking a quick post-Super Bowl break, but for coaching staffs and front offices, there's no rest for the weary.

    It's time to assemble the roster for 2021.

    The franchise-tag window opened Tuesday. The 2021 league year will begin in earnest March 17, and with it free agency. Hundreds of millions in contract dollars will be doled out. Dozens of players will change teams.

    And with the COVID-19 pandemic taking a fat chunk out of the NFL's revenue, for the first time in recent memory, the salary cap is expected to decrease.

    That doesn't make things any easier.

    On every team in the league, at least one contract situation is causing front-office types some sleepless nights. Many teams have more than one. Most of the time, it's an expiring deal for a player a franchise would like to have back—at the right price. For others, it's a restricted free agent or player heading into the final season of a deal. And for at least one NFL club, it's a massive cap hit that is making an already precarious salary-cap situation untenable.

    Here's a division-by-division breakdown of those dilemmas—every NFL team's toughest contract decision of the 2021 offseason.

AFC East

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    Charles Krupa/Associated Press

    Buffalo Bills: OLB Matt Milano

    Outside linebacker Matt Milano isn't a household name. The 26-year-old is also coming off a season in which he missed six games with a pectoral injury.

    But Milano is a key contributor for a team that has aspirations of a run at Super Bowl LVI. He is arguably the Bills' best linebacker in coverage.

    Yet Milano is expected to test the open market, per John Wawrow of the Associated Press, and if he does, he'll be one of the top off-ball linebackers available. Projections have Milano set to average $13.8 million per season.

    That's a lot of cheese for a team that's $1 million over the projected salary cap for 2021.


    Miami Dolphins: C Ted Karras

    Center Ted Karras isn't a great lineman. Or one of the top-five players at his position. But as Barry Jackson reported for the Miami Herald, the Dolphins have indicated to the 27-year-old that they would like him back.

    "The sense here," Jackson wrote, "is that if Karras is willing to take a deal along the lines of what he played for last season ($3 million), he has a very good chance of returning."

    However, Karras is also a durable interior lineman in his prime who has played over 1,000 snaps and allowed just two sacks in each of the past two seasons. As such, he should be both in demand and about to get a fat raise—so much so that his projected new contract averages over $10 million per season.

    That's a big difference.


    New England Patriots: CB J.C. Jackson

    The Patriots don't have to worry much about young cornerback J.C. Jackson leaving in 2021. The 25-year-old, who finished second in the NFL with nine picks in 2020, is a restricted free agent. If the Pats slap a first-round tender on him (as they did with Malcolm Butler in 2017), then Jackson will all but certainly be back in Foxborough in 2021.

    But as Mike Dussault noted for the team's website, tendering Butler didn't sit too well with the young corner, who bolted for Tennessee the following year. Jackson is two years younger than Butler was then and has averaged almost six interceptions per season. If he does hit unrestricted free agency in 2022, the market for his services will be robust and then some.

    The Pats need to think long and hard about locking up Jackson long term before they have to compete with 31 other teams to do so.


    New York Jets: S Marcus Maye

    The Jets might be the NFL's most talent-deficient team. With the second-most cap space in the league ($67.9 million), New York should make every effort to bring back the few quality free agents it has. And in 2021 at least, the cream of that crop is safety Marcus Maye.

    The four-year veteran was one of the few bright spots on a putrid Jets defense last season, amassing a career-best 88 tackles while adding two interceptions, two sacks and two forced fumbles. The 27-year-old can also play close to the line of scrimmage or in a "center field" deep-safety role.

    But as one of the top safeties available, Maye could command a hefty salary—north of $13 million per season.

    That's a big commitment for a team that's already saddled with more than a few bad contracts.

    Looking at you, C.J. Mosley.

NFC East

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    Ron Jenkins/Associated Press

    Dallas Cowboys: QB Dak Prescott

    Like it was going to be anyone else.

    To be clear, there's next to no chance that Dak Prescott plays anywhere but Dallas in 2021. Whether it's via the franchise tag or a long-term extension, the 27-year-old will almost certainly be the starting quarterback for the Cowboys this year.

    But how the Prescott saga plays out this spring could have massive ramifications. Using the tag for a second straight season is projected to cost $37.7 million and sets up the same soap opera next year—when a third tag could cost a staggering $54.3 million.

    An extension would offer the Cowboys some cap flexibility and security. But it would also likely come in at $40 million-plus per season, which is the going rate for top QBs. It means, for better or worse, hitching the franchise's fortunes to the two-time Pro Bowler.


    New York Giants: DE Leonard Williams

    Given that Leonard Williams is coming off easily his best season, this one might not seem to be that difficult of a decision. In his first full campaign with the G-Men, Williams racked up 57 total tackles and a career-high 11.5 sacks.

    Pay the man!

    However, this was also his only double-digit-sack effort. In fact, it marked just the second time (and first since his Pro Bowl season of 2016) that Williams amassed more than five sacks in a campaign.

    General manager Dave Gettleman has already gone out on a limb for Williams. First trading for 2015's sixth overall pick and then franchise-tagging him in 2020 despite just half a sack in 2019. With longtime Giants beat writer Patricia Traina estimating that a Williams extension could clear $18 million per season, breaking the bank off one big year could send Gettleman out farther on that limb than ever.


    Philadelphia Eagles: OLB Duke Riley

    The Eagles don't have many big-name free agents. This is a good thing, because after eating a $33.8 million dead-cap hit in the Carson Wentz trade, they are nearly $43 million over the projected cap.

    That makes every free-agent decision a tough one. Aging veterans like DeSean Jackson, 34, and Jason Peters, 39, will almost surely depart. Even role players could be tough to bring back if they receive real interest on the open market.

    By no stretch of the imagination is Duke Riley a difference-maker. But the 26-year-old had been a core special teamer for the Eagles these past few years, and in 2020 he made eight starts, amassing 55 total tackles in 569 snaps.

    The Eagles can't afford to lose what little linebacker talent they have. But they also don't have the cap space to pay a premium to keep Riley or batterymate Nate Gerry in town.


    Washington Football Team: CB Ronald Darby

    At first glance, the Washington Football Team doesn't appear to be in bad cap shape. Only four teams have more room under the cap than Washington's $38.3 million.

    However, a big chunk of that space is spoken for—whether it's via a long-term extension or a second straight franchise tag, there's little chance the team lets All-Pro guard Brandon Scherff sniff the open market.

    Scherff isn't Washington's only veteran starter about to hit free agency. But Ronald Darby's future is less certain. Darby played last season on a one-year prove-it deal and fared well, allowing 54.1 percent of the passes thrown his way to be completed, with a passer rating against of 81.0.

    Starting-caliber cornerbacks in their primes are annually in high demand. If Washington can't work out an extension with the 27-year-old before free agency opens, a bidding war could bump his salary upward of $10 million per season.

AFC North

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    Don Wright/Associated Press

    Baltimore Ravens: Edge Matthew Judon

    The Ravens have difficult defensive decisions ahead. Baltimore has a hair over $18 million in cap space and a pair of edge-rushers about to hit the open market, including the team's sack leader from 2020.

    That player is 28-year-old Matthew Judon, who piled up six sacks while playing under the franchise tag in 2020.

    That tag paid Judon $16.8 million last season—a lot of cabbage for a half-dozen sacks. Judon has never cracked the 10-sack plateau, and those six sacks were Judon's fewest since his rookie season in 2016.

    Judon's next contract is projected to check in at over $15 million per season. Again, that's a lot of money for a player who has averaged fewer than seven sacks per season—especially with batterymate Yannick Ngakoue (who is substantially younger at 25) also about to hit the open market.

    It's a sticky wicket.


    Cincinnati Bengals: CB Mackensie Alexander

    The Bengals put quite a bit of money into remaking the secondary last year. Trae Waynes' three-year, $42 million extension looks like a mess after one season. But Mackensie Alexander's one-year, $4 million deal was a different story.

    Mind you, Alexander wasn't great for the Bengals in 2020, as he gave up a career-high 69.6 completion percentage against. But the 27-year-old posted a respectable passer rating against of 82.0, so he wasn't terrible either.

    The question for the Bengals is whether to use some of their $37.7 million in cap space to bring back Alexander, who could see his average annual salary double if he hits the open market.

    That's $8 million the Bengals won't be able to put back into fixing the offensive line.


    Cleveland Browns: ILB B.J. Goodson

    The Browns enter the 2021 offseason with more optimism than they've had in quite a few years.

    But there's also work to be done defensively, as the linebacker corps needs an infusion of talent and athleticism.

    Fifth-year veteran B.J. Goodson was the leader of the team's linebackers in 2020, logging a career-high (and team-leading) 91 total tackles. Goodson isn't elite, and he's yet to play in all 16 games in a season.

    But with just over $20 million in cap space, the Browns can't afford to go hog wild in remodeling the linebackers via free agency, so bringing Goodson back at the right price would make sense.


    Pittsburgh Steelers: QB Ben Roethlisberger

    Ben Roethlisberger is an outlier in this piece, in that he's technically under contract for 2021. But Steelers president Art Rooney II has said Roethlisberger's cap hit of $41.3 million is untenable, and the quarterback told The Athletic's Ed Bouchette that he's not concerned about money in 2021.

    If only it were that simple.

    Thanks to prior salary-cap shenanigans, there's only so much space the Steelers can clear even if Roethlisberger is willing to play for the veteran's minimum. Pittsburgh's cap situation is a mess. The team is over $19.1 million in the red. The Steelers also have some big names about to hit the free-agent market, including edge-rusher Bud Dupree and tackle Alejandro Villanueva.

    Also, as the NFL Network's Aditi Kinkhabwala reported, some in the Steelers front office believe Pittsburgh's Super Bowl window is closed and it's time to move on from the 38-year-old signal-caller.

    "The Steelers are not in consensus on what to do, from what I've been told," Kinkhabwala said. "There's a very, very strong feeling in that building that it is time to move forward."

    This could get really interesting.

NFC North

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    Nam Y. Huh/Associated Press

    Chicago Bears: QB Mitchell Trubisky

    Whether it has been Watson, Wentz or even a guy like Derek Carr, the Bears have been linked to just about every veteran quarterback who might be available and isn't named Mitchell Trubisky.

    But Wentz wound up in Indianapolis, and the odds that Chicago will acquire Watson or Carr aren't good. Picking at No. 20, the Bears will all but certainly—barring a trade up—miss out on the top three or four rookie signal-callers.

    What isn't being talked about is the Bears bringing back Trubisky after four so-so years. And while Chicago fans might want no part of the idea, it can't be ruled out—especially if the team continues to whiff on upgrades.

    Trubisky hasn't lived up to his draft slot, but he was better than Nick Foles last year. Per Alex Shapiro of NBC Sports Chicago, Trubisky impressed teammates with his resilience in 2020.

    The Bears would be wise to keep their options open. Sometimes the devil you know...


    Detroit Lions: Edge Romeo Okwara

    This entry makes a presumption: that the Lions will do whatever is necessary to make sure new quarterback Jared Goff has a No. 1 receiver by retaining wideout Kenny Golladay.

    Once Golladay is squared away, Detroit's attention will turn to its best pass-rusher from a year ago.

    And that's where the problem kicks in.

    You see, Detroit's top sack man in 2020 wasn't Trey Flowers, who got $18 million per season from the Lions in March 2019. No, it was Romeo Okwara, who had as many sacks in his fifth campaign (10) as in the first four combined.

    That outlier season and Flowers' massive salary combine to make it tough to give Okwara the $10.1 million annually that he's projected to receive, especially when you factor in that Detroit is $8.4 million over the cap.


    Green Bay Packers: RB Aaron Jones

    There's no question the Packers' Super Bowl window is open. How wide and for how long is another story. Keeping the band together this offseason won't be easy, either—they are $11.5 million over the projected cap.

    Given that, prevailing wisdom seems to be that the Pack will turn the backfield over to second-year pro AJ Dillon, while star running back Aaron Jones will get a big payday somewhere else.

    It's a little more complicated than that, though. Sure, Dillon showed more than a few flashes as a rookie. But there's a difference between shining in spots and showing that you can be an elite lead back. Over the past couple of seasons, Jones has done that. In each of the last two campaigns, he has topped 1,400 total yards and scored double-digit touchdowns.

    Green Bay's cap situation makes bringing Jones back problematic—especially with veteran center Corey Linsley also set to become a free agent.

    But losing the 26-year-old could be a much bigger blow to the offense than some are predicting.


    Minnesota Vikings: OLB Eric Wilson

    The Vikings have a dilemma at linebacker.

    Between middle linebacker Eric Kendricks and strong-side linebacker Anthony Barr, the Vikings already have $23.5 million in average annual salary locked up at the position. But it wasn't Barr (who missed most of the 2020 season because of a torn pec) or Kendricks (who missed five games) who paced the team in tackles. That was four-year veteran Eric Wilson, who tallied 122 total stops after being thrust into a full-time role by the injuries to Barr and Kendricks.

    The Vikings aren't in position to spend big on any free agents, sitting $9.5 million over the projected cap. They certainly can't afford to get in a bidding war given the investment they have in Barr and Kendricks.

    But Wilson showed his value last season, so Vikings GM Rick Spielman needs to get creative or risk another defensive backslide.

AFC South

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    Eric Christian Smith/Associated Press

    Houston Texans: QB Deshaun Watson

    There's one contract looming above all others in Houston, and it doesn't expire until 2026.

    According to Peter King of NBC Sports, new Texans GM Nick Caserio wasn't kidding when he said the team isn't interested in dealing star quarterback Deshaun Watson. King wrote:

    "Over the weekend, two common themes emerged about Houston's near future. One: The Texans have one untouchable player, Watson, as of now. Two: Houston is not only not interested in trading Watson but also not interested in listening to offers for him. At least two teams have given offers to Houston and gotten zero feedback. Like, no reaction, no 'We'll get back to you.' Nothing."

    It's understandable that Houston is loath to trade Watson—even the ridiculous hauls (including multiple first-rounders) mentioned in connection to a Watson deal aren't really "value" for a top-five NFL quarterback.

    But if Watson is entrenched in his demand to play elsewhere in 2021, with each passing week, this situation has the potential to become a historically ugly distraction.


    Indianapolis Colts: Edge Justin Houston

    The Colts solved their quarterback dilemma with Wentz. But the team still has difficult decisions to make.

    The good news is Indianapolis remains in good cap shape, sitting on a war chest of $43.6 million.

    The bad news is that the Colts also have numerous prominent free agents, including wide receiver T.Y. Hilton and defensive linemen Denico Autry and Justin Houston.

    Over the past two years, there isn't a player on the team with more sacks than Houston, who piled up 25 tackles and eight sacks in 2020. And the youngsters at the position the team has drafted in recent years have yet to show they are ready for a full-time role.

    However, Houston is also 32 years old, and his production was down in 2020 relative to the season before.


    Jacksonville Jaguars: OT Cam Robinson

    With Jacksonville holding the first pick in the 2021 draft and the most cap space ($82 million) in the league, most of the offseason chatter surrounding the Jaguars has centered on the additions they might make. But they have a few prominent in-house free agents as well, spearheaded by offensive tackle Cam Robinson.

    Robinson wasn't great in 2020, allowing five sacks in 973 snaps, per Pro Football Focus. But the four-year veteran is also just entering his prime at a position where finding replacements can be tricky. And as Gus Logue wrote for Jaguar Report, that leaves Jacksonville with a tough call:

    "While the 25-year-old Robinson could theoretically make strides in his technique in his second season under (OL coach Todd) Warhop, benefit from a spread offense, and enjoy playing with a quarterback prospect in Trevor Lawrence who raises the level of play of those around him, it's fair to question whether the Jaguars would be settling at a position that has a massive role in protecting the future face of the franchise."


    Tennessee Titans: Edge Jadeveon Clowney

    The Titans are as desperate for a boost to the pass rush as any team. Said desperation led Tennessee to ink Jadeveon Clowney to a one-year, $12.7 million pact a year ago.

    While Tennessee was likely hoping for a boost to the front seven, what it got was the worst season of Clowney's career—eight missed games, just 19 total tackles and not a single sack.

    Given that miserable year, this might seem like an easy call. Let Clowney walk in free agency and look elsewhere to bump the team's lagging pass rush.

    But the Titans aren't in a position to go wild on the open market. The team is over the projected cap by about $2.2 million.

    Those financial realities may spur the Titans to at least explore the idea of bringing Clowney back on another short-term deal in the hopes that he can recover his Pro Bowl form of 2016, 2017 and 2018.

NFC South

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    Steve Luciano/Associated Press

    Atlanta Falcons: S Keanu Neal

    The five-year professional career of safety Keanu Neal has been an exercise in what could have been.

    In 2017, Neal appeared destined for stardom. In his second professional season, he amassed 116 total tackles, three forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries and an interception on the way to a spot in the Pro Bowl.

    But then the bottom fell out. In 2018, Neal tore his ACL in the season opener. The following year, Neal made it just three games into the season before tearing his Achilles.

    There's room for optimism, however. He played in 15 games last season, rebounding from those injuries to post his third 100-tackle season.

    Neal is still just 25 years old, and when he's healthy and on his game, he can be a difference-maker. At 100 percent, Neal is absolutely worth a long-term extension. But his amount of time spent at far less than that adds considerable risk to signing him to one.


    Carolina Panthers: OT Russell Okung

    There's been no shortage of articles written about Teddy Bridgewater's future in Carolina.

    But the Panthers also face decisions at both tackle spots. Right tackle Taylor Moton is a likely franchise tag candidate. But Russell Okung's future is less certain.

    One year ago, the Panthers sent guard Trai Turner to Los Angeles for Okung. The deal didn't exactly pay off—Okung made it through just seven games in his first season in Charlotte and has missed 19 games over the past two years.

    At first glance, this decision might not appear that difficult. Okung is 32 and hasn't played all 16 games in a season since 2016.

    But the Panthers have the cap space ($31.1 million) to retain Okung, and it's next to impossible to find even a capable starter at tackle in free agency. The lack of available options at the position also tends to drive up the price on the tackles who do hit the market.


    New Orleans Saints: QB Jameis Winston

    The Saints are in cap trouble. The worst trouble in the NFL, sitting a jaw-dropping $69.5 million over the salary cap.

    The cuts are coming. Lots of them. And some will hurt—especially when you consider that players who struggled in 2020, like veteran safety Malcolm Jenkins, have contracts that make releasing them equal parts difficult and (in some cases) counterproductive.

    Oh, and in the middle of this mess, the Saints have to re-sign the player who is ostensibly being tabbed to succeed Drew Brees as the team's starting quarterback.

    Getting Jameis Winston re-upped will be a tightrope walk. The Saints essentially have no money, and while the first overall pick in 2015 has been a disappointment, every chair on the QB carousel that gets filled could increase the demand for his services from the teams with an empty one.

    GM Mickey Loomis will have his hands full.


    Tampa Bay Buccaneers: EdgE Shaquil Barrett

    The Buccaneers are the kings of the NFL. But staying on top of the mountain can be just as hard as getting there.

    Now the work turns to trying to keep the Super Bowl champs together. And while the Buccaneers are $13.4 million under the projected salary cap, they have several big names about to hit free agency, including wide receiver Chris Godwin, linebacker Lavonte David and edge-rusher Shaquil Barrett.

    The latter is the more difficult call, for a few reasons. After Barrett led the league with 19.5 sacks in 2019, his production dropped to eight sacks in 2020. But even with that decrease, the 28-year-old will be one of this year's most coveted pass-rushers. His salary could be pushed close to $20 million per season.

    The argument can be made that losing either Godwin or David would have a more adverse effect for the team than the loss of Barrett, who should also be the most expensive of the lot. Tampa may look to fill that void with a less expensive option.

    Decisions, decisions.

AFC West

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    David Zalubowski/Associated Press

    Denver Broncos: Edge Von Miller

    Not that long ago, the notion of the Broncos' turning down the 2021 team option for edge-rusher Von Miller would have been laughable. Miller is one of the best defensive players in franchise history. The MVP of Super Bowl 50 has piled up 106 sacks over his decade in Denver.

    But Miller will be 32 years old when the season starts. He hasn't cracked double-digit sacks since tallying 14.5 in 2018. And Miller missed all of the 2020 season with an ankle injury.

    If the Broncos pick up the option, it will count $22.1 million against their cap. Denver has the wiggle room to absorb the hit, but it would chew through upward of two-thirds of its cap space.

    It can be incredibly difficult to bid goodbye to an all-time great. But if the balance between production and paycheck gets too far out of whack, it can set a franchise back considerably.

    Especially one that is trying to rebuild.


    Kansas City Chiefs: C Austin Reiter

    As the Chiefs try to rinse away the disappointment of losing Super Bowl LV, they face quite a few tough decisions over the next couple of years. Starting tackles Eric Fisher and Mitchell Schwartz are both set to hit free agency in 2022. And interior linemen Austin Reiter and Kelechi Osemele will become free agents in March.

    One problem at a time.

    Reiter was a rock in the middle of Kansas City's line last year. Per Charles Goldman of Chiefs Wire, the 29-year-old hasn't allowed a sack since Kansas City's win over the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl LIV.

    That level of play was great for the Chiefs in 2020. But on the rare occasions when an above-average starter along the offensive line does hit free agency, it's all but guaranteed that lineman will get paid.

    And with Kansas City $23.1 million the wrong side of this year's cap, the team isn't in a position to get in a bidding war.


    Las Vegas Raiders: Edge Vic Beasley Jr.

    Most of the headlines out of Vegas of late concern Carr's future. But a couple of interesting decisions face the team a little farther down the roster—both of which concern former first-round picks at a position where the Raiders need all the help they can get.

    There was a time when it appeared edge-rusher Vic Beasley Jr. was becoming a star. In his second season with the Atlanta Falcons, Beasley piled up a league-leading 15.5 sacks. But he has managed just 18 sacks in four years since, including none in a 2020 season split between Tennessee and Las Vegas in which he played 188 snaps.

    For all those struggles, Beasley is still just 28 years old. As recently as two years ago, he piled up eight sacks in Atlanta. And a Vegas team that accrued the fourth-fewest sacks in the league in 2020 can use every pass-rusher it can get.


    Los Angeles Chargers: Edge Melvin Ingram III

    The Chargers face two daunting decisions—one on each side of the ball. Both involve players who've been difference-makers. Both could command average salaries in excess of $10 million. And both have had their fair share of injury issues.

    With $23.8 million in cap space, the Chargers could bring back both tight end Hunter Henry and edge-rusher Melvin Ingram III. But that would eat up almost all of the team's cap space.

    Of the two, Ingram is the more difficult decision. The nine-year veteran will be 32 when the 2021 season begins. Ingram made the Pro Bowl three straight years from 2017 to 2019, but injuries limited him to seven games last year, and he failed to notch a sack for the first time.

    Add in the sizable chunk of cap resources that the Bolts have invested in Joey Bosa, and a big extension for Ingram won't be easy to squeeze in.

NFC West

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    Arizona Cardinals: Edge Haason Reddick

    When the Cardinals lost edge-rusher Chandler Jones to a season-ending biceps tear in Week 5 last year, it appeared to be a death knell for the team's pass rush. Over a four-year span from 2016 to 2019, Jones amassed a staggering 60 sacks for the Redbirds.

    But a surprise star saved the day—in the form of a player who had never come close to realizing his first-round draft status until 2020.

    After three mostly disappointing seasons, the Cardinals declined the fifth-year option on outside linebacker Haason Reddick last May. He spent most of his first three seasons in an off-ball role, but with Jones lost for the year, the Cardinals moved Reddick to more of an edge-rushing role. Reddick racked up 12.5 sacks—including a franchise-record five in a Week 14 tilt against the New York Giants.

    The question is whether a player who had just 7.5 sacks in three seasons heading into last year and just five entering December last season is worth a long-term extension averaging over $11 million per year.


    Los Angeles Rams: Edge Leonard Floyd

    After four mostly disappointing seasons in Chicago, Leonard Floyd lived up to his status as a 2016 top-10 pick, tallying 10.5 sacks in his lone season with the Rams. Per Gary Klein of the Los Angeles Times, the effort impressed head coach Sean McVay.

    "He was one of the more complete edge players in this league," McVay said. "Brandon (Staley) had an experience with him in Chicago that made him feel really comfortable and confident. ... I thought you saw his best this year."

    The question is whether that one big year merits a long-term extension that would take quite a bit of creative accounting given the Rams' cap situation. Staley, last year's defensive coordinator, is gone as well after taking the head coaching job with the Chargers.

    Floyd isn't the team's only free agent on defense. Cornerback Troy Hill and safety John Johnson are also about to hit the market. But slapping the franchise tag on Johnson would be much less expensive than Floyd or Hill, and edge-rushers coming off double-digit-sack seasons tend to be in demand.


    San Francisco 49ers: OT Trent Williams

    There isn't a team in the NFL that wants to forget 2020 more than the 49ers, who went from defending NFC champs to an injury-ravaged also-ran. But to spur a quick turnaround in Santa Clara, the team badly needs a successful offseason.

    Step 1 is figuring out a way to bring back veteran tackle Trent Williams.

    After missing 2019 in a contract dispute with the Washington Football Team, Williams was traded to San Francisco last April. He looked like he hadn't missed a beat, anchoring the Niners line while allowing four sacks over 957 snaps, per Pro Football Focus, on the way to a Pro Bowl nod.

    Keeping the 32-year-old won't be easy, though. San Francisco has $13.4 million in cap space, but as the top available tackle this year, Williams will see his salary will cruise past that number. The franchise tag isn't an option, either—the terms of Williams' contract forbid the 49ers from using it.


    Seattle Seahawks: CB Shaquill Griffin

    While sports talk radio hosts pontificate about Russell Wilson's future in the Pacific Northwest, Seahawks GM John Schneider has likely been centered a bit more in reality, focusing on the team's impending free agents. Schneider doesn't have a lot of room to work with, either. The NFC West champs are just $4.4 million under the cap.

    That won't be close to enough cash to bring back cornerback Shaquill Griffin.

    Griffin's numbers were down a bit last year relative to his Pro Bowl season of 2019. But he still allowed a completion percentage against of just 62.1 and had a reasonably respectable passer rating against of 93.3.

    Griffin might not be an elite cornerback. But he's a quality NFL starter who is still only 25 years old. His services will be in demand.

    Seattle's porous defense can't afford to spring more holes. But matching an offer for Griffin won't be easy.


    Salary-cap data and tag projections courtesy of Over the Cap. Contract projections via Spotrac unless otherwise noted. Stats courtesy of Pro Football Reference unless otherwise noted.