5 NFL Teams Most Likely to Improve Their Super Bowl Odds in 2021 Free Agency
While the confetti was still falling after the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' victory over the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LV, bookmakers were already looking ahead to next year's big game and scrambling to release odds for each team.
These opening odds are a helpful guideline for how Vegas feels each squad will perform during the 2021 NFL season, but they are bound to change significantly during the offseason.
This spring's draft will impact the betting lines, but some of the most significant line movement tends to occur during the free-agency period. Reeling in a marquee free agent can greatly boost a team's championship odds, while failing to retain a star can and will drop a club's perceived chances of contending.
There is no better example of this than last year, when the Bucs signed Tom Brady, instantly making them a real contender. His former team, the Patriots, saw their odds dip drastically. While there isn't a free agent as impactful as the veteran quarterback this year, there are plenty of players capable of improving a team's championship odds.
With that in mind, here is a look at the teams ready to bolster their Super Bowl odds via free agency.
San Francisco 49ers: 15-1
The San Francisco 49ers are coming off a disheartening 6-10 campaign. They suffered through the dreaded Super Bowl hangover, failing to even reach the postseason after coming up short against the Chiefs in Super Bowl LIV. The team should bounce back in a big way in 2021, though.
The biggest thing will be getting healthy. Last year, the team had talent worth over $80 million in cap space on injured reserve. The Niners also have $26.1 million to play with this offseason, and with that kind of dough, there could be some significant upgrades available to them in free agency.
The franchise started eight different cornerbacks last year, but none are under contract for the 2021 campaign.
Veteran corner Richard Sherman is likely on the way out after his contract expired, and the team could use the opportunity to get younger and more athletic at the position on the open market. Addressing both the offensive line and defensive line with the remaining cap space will go a long way toward improving San Francisco odds to 10-1 odds or better going into the next season.
Cleveland Browns: 20-1
The Cleveland Browns can't afford to lose momentum this offseason and must build on their first playoff appearance since 2002. A healthy Odell Beckham Jr. would bolster an offense that ranked around the league average in yardage and scoring.
The team has plenty of money to grow the rest of the roster around quarterback Baker Mayfield and running back Nick Chubb, with $24.4 million in cap space. Restructuring OBJ's and Jarvis Landry's deals could give the club even more to throw around, making Cleveland one of the bigger projected players on the market.
Addressing the defensive line should be a top priority, as the team struggled to get after the quarterback with just 38 sacks. Myles Garrett has been a revelation, but the team isn't likely to retain Olivier Vernon after his season-ending Achilles injury, making a defensive end a must-sign.
If the Browns can secure a top-tier pass-rusher like Yannick Ngakoue or Haason Reddick in free agency, their Super Bowl should improve. Also addressing the cornerback position and perhaps bringing another field-stretching wideout into the fold will round out a roster that has plenty of potential to contend in 2021.
The Browns are 20-1 to win the Super Bowl but could end up around 15-1 with some smart acquisitions.
Indianapolis Colts: 22-1
The Colts needed a quarterback after Philip Rivers decided to hang up his cleats following his lone campaign in Indianapolis. They traded with the Philadelphia Eagles for Carson Wentz, a move that helped to improve the team's odds from 28-1 to 22-1.
Now that Indianapolis has a starting-caliber talent at its biggest position of need, albeit one who still has to prove his value after an abysmal 2020 campaign, the organization can use its $48.1 million in cap space toward the rest of the roster.
The Colts have the fourth-most money to spend of any team and the most of any organization coming off a playoffs appearance. And the franchise that has some expensive holes to fill in free agency.
The most glaring need is Indy's lack of edge-rushing talent. Fortunately, the Colts can spend the big bucks to land one of the better options available.
After getting their big-name pass-rusher and doling out some extensions, the Colts can look for more affordable options to fill out the offensive line, tight end and cornerback positions. With a strong showing in free agency, the team could see its Super Bowl odds improve to the 17-1 range.
Dallas Cowboys: 28-1
The Dallas Cowboys just checked the biggest item off their to-do list when they signed quarterback Dak Prescott to a four-year, $160 million extension. Now they can start assembling a Super Bowl contender around him.
Dallas isn't exactly flush with money after dishing out the Prescott deal—which accounts for over 10 percent of the team's salary cap in 2021—but has $2 million before making any other moves.
The team will likely restructure the contracts of DeMarcus Lawrence, Amari Cooper and Zack Martin soon, which Marcus Mosher of the Raiders Wire noted would give the Cowboys an additional $36 million to utilize in free agency. With that kind of cash, the Cowboys can transform from a 6-10 team into a serious contender, especially with a healthy Prescott back in the mix.
The defense still needs attention after a rough campaign in which it conceded 386.4 yards and 29.6 points per game, both bottom-10 marks. Getting better at the defensive tackle, safety and corner spots will go far to improve those figures.
If the team can also find a deep-threat wideout and some offensive line depth, it will be in great shape for the 2021 campaign, likely jumping from 28-1 to the 22-1 range after free agency wraps up.
New England Patriots: 40-1
The New England Patriots may have missed the playoffs for just the second time since Bill Belichick took the reins of the organization at the turn of the millennium, but you shouldn't count them out in 2021 just yet.
New England has an estimated $70.1 million to throw around. That kind of cash can overhaul a roster and jump-start a playoff run for an organization that may not need to stay in a rebuild phase for long in the post-Brady era.
Remember, the Pats had an NFL-high eight players opt out for the 2020 campaign amid the COVID-19 pandemic and will get stronger by returning some of those in 2021. Filling out the rest of the roster with free agents at key positions of need like defensive tackle, tight end, wide receiver and even quarterback could see New England back in the hunt for at least a divisional crown.
While the Pats won't be Super Bowl favorites until they unearth a franchise quarterback, they could build a great roster that still manages to win plenty of games with good coaching, discipline and talent that can be acquired when free agency opens next week.
That alone will make New England at least a 30-1 long shot to win the Super Bowl next year, up significantly from 40-1 odds it currently has.
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