NFL Free Agents 2021: Rumors, Predictions for Upcoming Weekend of Free Agency

Kristopher Knox@@kris_knoxFeatured ColumnistMarch 19, 2021

NFL Free Agents 2021: Rumors, Predictions for Upcoming Weekend of Free Agency

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    Tony Ding/Associated Press

    The first wave of NFL free agency is nearing its end. While the market didn't officially open until Wednesday, teams and players have been allowed to reach agreements since Monday, and many of the top names are now off the market.

    A second surge of activity is likely as we approach the weekend, however. Some teams will look to push for the remaining big names, while others will reset and begin chasing the market's second tier. As cap spaces narrow across the league, some players who have been biding their time are likely to gain a sense of urgency.

    While the drama has subsided some, there's still plenty of free-agency buzz to go around. We'll dig into some of the latest rumors here and make some predictions for the first weekend of 2021 NFL free agency.

Jets Having Discussions with JuJu Smith-Schuster

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    David Richard/Associated Press

    One of the bigger names remaining on the market is wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster. A 2018 Pro Bowler who had nine touchdown receptions in 2020, the Pittsburgh Steelers wideout was widely expected to be one of free agency's most coveted players.

    With the market open for four full days, however, Smith-Schuster remains unsigned.

    This could change over the weekend. According to NFL Media's Ian Rapoport, the New York Jets are engaged in conversations with Smith-Schuster. While New York did already sign wideout Corey Davis in free agency, it may not be done adding pass-catching talent.

    The Jets still have more than $32 million in cap space. Using a chunk of that on a speedy deep threat like Smith-Schuster could make sense, whether or not New York is considering a quarterback with the No. 2 pick in the draft.

    Sam Darnold has struggled to establish himself, in part, due to a lack of receiving talent. The Jets could be looking to remedy that situation or to ensure that their next quarterback doesn't suffer the same fate.

    Rapoport also reported on NFL Network that the Steelers have some interest in bringing back Smith-Schuster. Pittsburgh is over the cap, however, and may not be able to meet his asking price.

    Prediction: Smith-Schuster signs with New York

Giants, Bengals Interested in Kenny Golladay

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    Danny Karnik/Associated Press

    Smith-Schuster isn't the only notable wide receiver left unsigned. Detroit Lions wideout Kenny Golladay is still out there, though he may not remain available for long.

    Golladay met with the New York Giants on Thursday, and according to Paul Schwartz of the New York Post, he is expected to receive a contract offer.

    "If everything checks out, the Giants — who have already engaged in preliminary contract talks — are expected to put together an offer," Schwartz wrote.

    Golladay already has at least one offer on the table, though. According to Rapoport, Golladay has received  "a really strong offer" from the Cincinnati Bengals.

    On one hand, the Giants could offer Golladay the opportunity to be their No. 1 receiver. That may not happen in Cincinnati, where the Bengals already have a terrific tandem in Tyler Boyd and Tee Higgins. However, the Giants are over the salary cap, while Cincinnati has $12 million in cap space remaining.

    If Golladay is looking to be a clear No. 1 option and wants to maximize his market value, he may wind up steering clear of either franchise.

    Prediction: Golladay doesn't sign with Cincinnati or New York

Allen Robinson Signs Franchise Tender

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    Phelan M. Ebenhack/Associated Press

    There will be no holdout with Chicago Bears wide receiver Allen Robinson II. According to Rapoport, Robinson has officially signed his franchise-tag tender. The move comes not long after the Bears had their own visit with Golladay.

    According to ESPN's Adam Schefter, wideout Kenny Golladay "spent Wednesday night" meeting with Bears head coach Matt Nagy and general manager Ryan Pace. Perhaps this development caused Robinson to change his previous stance.

    ESPN's Jeremy Fowler had previously reported (h/t Bleacher Report's Tyler Conway) that Robinson had "zero plans" to sign his tender in the immediate future. He's reversed course quickly, however, which leaves Chicago with three options.

    The Bears could allow Robinson to play on the one-year tag, trade him to another team or work out a long-term contract. Given the fact that Robinson has been seeking a long-term deal since last season, the one-year tag feels like an unlikely option.

    There's a good chance that the Bears informed Robinson that they're willing to trade him or grant his long-term extension. Otherwise, he would have no real reason to jump on signing his tender. A trade is possible, but a long-term deal would be far more beneficial to the Bears and new quarterback Andy Dalton.

    Prediction: Robinson signs long-term extension with Chicago.