NFL Free Agents 2021: Top Rumors and Updated Predictions

Theo SalaunCorrespondent IMarch 17, 2021

NFL Free Agents 2021: Top Rumors and Updated Predictions

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    Tony Ding/Associated Press

    The NFL's 2021 free-agent period has already been among the wildest in league history. With franchise-defining cornerstones choosing new scenery and prestigious organizations dramatically changing strategy, no expectations can be trusted.

    J.J. Watt is an Arizona Cardinal after 10 seasons as the face of the Houston Texans. Bill Belichick's New England Patriots, known for frugality, have spent over $250 million in free agency already—more than any team in the past decade.

    It's an unpredictable, historic offseason and huge chips remain ready to fall. Among them, Kenny Golladay, Patrick Peterson and Leonard Fournette stand out as three impactful, un-signed candidates.

Miami Outduels New York in Bid for Kenny Golladay

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    Brynn Anderson/Associated Press

    In 2019, Kenny G was a Pro Bowler who piled up 1,190 yards and 11 touchdowns while playing all 16 games. In 2020, the 6'4" threat totaled just 338 yards and two touchdowns as he dealt with injuries. Now, he's the most intriguing free-agent receiver in the NFL.

    With news of big-name pass-catchers flying off the free-agency board, the hopes of New York Giants fans have only continued to escalate. The money is tight, but the fit is perfect—as Golladay could pose a similar boon to Daniel Jones' development as Stefon Diggs did for the Buffalo Bills' Josh Allen. 

    Unfortunately for G-Men enthusiasts, ESPN's Jordan Raanan reported that the team is not intending to go "all-out for Kenny Golladay at all costs." This has been corroborated, to a certain extent, by MMQB's Albert Breer. He suggested that the Giants and Patriots' closeness to the Lions front office (whose relationship with Golladay "went sideways") may make them less interested in breaking the bank on the star wideout.

    That leaves the Miami Dolphins as the top candidates to make a move for Golladay—a likelihood strengthened by ESPN's Cameron Wolfe, who already reported Miami's interest. Miami has more cap space than New York (and fewer ties with Detroit), so Golladay could easily become a weapon in Tua Tagovailoa's development.

    Prediction: Golladay severs all ties with Detroit by signing with Dolphins.

Patrick Peterson: Immediate Contention in Kansas City

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    Kyusung Gong/Associated Press

    A franchise cornerstone and eight-time Pro Bowler, Peterson's time with Arizona may be coming to an end as Watt's tenure begins. With money spent elsewhere and Peterson's effectiveness dropping, Arizona has yet to work out a new deal and the market awaits.

    As reported by ESPN's Josh Weinfuss, P2 has narrowed his ideal choices down to three: the Cardinals and two organizations who made the playoffs in each of the past two seasons. Seven teams meet that requirement: the Buffalo Bills, Tennessee Titans, New Orleans Saints, Seattle Seahawks, Baltimore Ravens, Green Bay Packers and the Kansas City Chiefs.

    Of those, Kansas City feels like the best bet. The Chiefs have cap space and a need for help in coverage, making Peterson a strong candidate. On Peterson's end, Kansas City can offer money, a chance at immediate contention and the opportunity to reunite with Tyrann Mathieu. Peterson and Mathieu played together at LSU, during which the Honey Badger even lived with P2's family. If a deal with Arizona isn't reached, Kansas City makes sense both on and off the field.

    Prediction: Peterson rejoins Mathieu in Kansas City as Cardinals spend elsewhere.

Leonard Fournette Stuck Between Belichick and Brady

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    David J. Phillip/Associated Press

    In 2020, Fournette took a one-year deal to complement Ronald Jones II and win a Super Bowl with Tom Brady's Tampa Bay Buccaneers. In 2021, he weighs a difficult decision: risk playing second-fiddle for a chance at contention or look for a primary role.

    As Breer reported, Fournette is being courted by the Buccaneers (again), Seahawks and Patriots. With Jones, the Bucs offer fewer carries, but a surer chance at contention. On the flip side, New England's running-back room is nebulous as Belichick has been reluctant to commit to Damien Harris or Sony Michel as the primary runner.

    If Fournette wants to win and doesn't mind being relegated to a smaller role as 23-year-old RoJo continues to develop, then re-signing in Tampa Bay would make sense. But Belichick is spending money and persuading people this offseason—meaning he could promise cash and carries to steal one of TB12's weapons.

    Prediction: Fournette signs with the Patriots for a chance at greater volume.