NFL Free Agents 2021: Predictions Based on Rumors Surrounding Available Veterans
The first official day of NFL free agency is in the rearview. The market opened at 4 p.m. on Wednesday, though the "legal tampering" window began on Monday. Unsurprisingly, the vast majority of big-name free agents are now spoken for.
However, some notable players are still out there on the open market, and there's no telling exactly where each of them will end up. We can make some educated guesses, though, based on recent rumors and good old-fashioned detective work.
That's exactly what you'll find here. We'll run down some of the latest rumors surrounding the market's remaining stars and try predicting where each will land.
WR Kenny Golladay
Detroit Lions wide receiver Kenny Golladay only appeared in five games last season, but he topped the 1,000-yard mark in each of the two years previous to that while leading the NFL in receiving touchdowns with 11 in 2019.
Golladay is unquestionably one of the top players still unsigned, but that's not entirely surprising. There hasn't been a ton of movement on offensive skill players, as teams have instead looked to shore up defenses and offensive lines around the league.
"One prominent NFL agent told me Tuesday that the markets at running back and receiver are 'non-existent' right now," Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press wrote.
This doesn't mean, however, that Golladay will remain on the market for long. According to Patrik Walker of CBS Sports, the New York Giants are "trying hard to close in on" Golladay. This too is unsurprising, as the Giants lack a legitimate No. 1 receiver.
The biggest issue is that the Giants are still over the salary cap and could struggle to match other teams' offers. According to ESPN's Dianna Russini, one is already on the table from the Cincinnati Bengals.
More offers are likely to come, and our best guess is that a more cap-rich team swoops in and lands Golladay.
Prediction: Golladay does not sign with the Giants.
WR JuJu Smith-Schuster
Like Golladay, JuJu Smith-Schuster is a prolific pass-catcher who has yet to generate a firm free-agent market. With one Pro Bowl season on his resume and nine touchdown receptions in 2020, Smith-Schuster should be considered one of the top wideouts still available.
Presumably, the Pittsburgh Steelers would enjoy having Smith-Schuster back. They've already lost pass-rusher Bud Dupree in free agency and could use all the help they can get to support for what will likely be Ben Roethlisberger's final season.
According to NFL Network's Mike Garafolo, however, Smith-Schuster does not foresee a reunion tour in 2021.
"The Steelers wanted him back. Ben Roethlisberger definitely wanted him back," Garafolo said on NFL Network. "... He is also telling teammates, I can tell you, that he is likely to head elsewhere for the next portion of his career. So, it doesn't look like JuJu Smith-Schuster will be back in Pittsburgh."
Financially, it would be tough for Pittsburgh to retain the wideout. The Steelers have less than $1 million in cap space and are not getting Smith-Schuster at a sub-$1 million price.
We may have to see how other receiver dominoes fall—Golladay and Will Fuller V are still available—before we have a clearer picture of Smith-Schuster's next home. However, it's highly unlikely that it'll be back in Pittsburgh.
Prediction: Smith-Schuster does not return to the Steelers.
S Anthony Harris
Minnesota Vikings safety Anthony Harris is another notable player who surprisingly hasn't been scooped up yet. After racking up six interceptions in 2019, Harris received the franchise tag from Minnesota. He remains one of the top defenders left on the open market.
According to Darren Wolfson of KSTP Radio, the Vikings are "making a push" to retain the 29-year-old safety.
The biggest obstacle for Minnesota is that the franchise has just $4.8 million in cap space. Making Harris a competitive offer will be difficult if other teams are heavily interested. However, the market for Harris doesn't exactly appear to be booming.
If a team out there was in love with Harris, he would have agreed to a deal already. The reality is that several potential suitors have already found their safeties for 2021. The Cleveland Browns signed John Johnson III early in the contact window, while Justin Simmons, Marcus Maye and Marcus Williams were all given the franchise tag.
It's unlikely that Harris will be blown away by an offer at this point, and if the Vikings can get a little creative with their remaining cap space, they should be able to get Harris back.
Prediction: Harris does re-sign with the Vikings.
Cap information via Spotrac.