2021 NFL Free Agents Who Are Going to Blow Up on Their New TeamsMarch 22, 2021
2021 NFL Free Agents Who Are Going to Blow Up on Their New Teams
In free agency, NFL teams look to fill roster holes, and some front offices hit on ideal acquisitions.
Aside from financial gain, veterans sign with clubs because of their fit on the rosters and familiarity with one or more coaches on the staff. At times, a player sees an opportunity for a bigger role.
Whatever the case, we're going to see free-agent acquisitions reach another level of production in new places. Perhaps a borderline starter landed in a spot where he can establish himself in a specific role. A Pro Bowler could elevate his game to an All-Pro level.
We highlighted eight players who could see a significant spike in production with their new teams because of their projected workloads, fit within a system or supporting casts.
LB Jarrad Davis, New York Jets
At times, players just need a change of scenery. Jarrad Davis hopes that applies to him.
The Detroit Lions selected Davis in the first round of the 2017 draft. In his first three campaigns, he started in 41 games, but the Florida product only played 29 percent of the defensive snaps in primarily a backup role.
Davis hit his peak during the 2018 term, logging 100 tackles, 10 tackles for loss, six sacks and five pass breakups.
The New York Jets may have big plans for Davis. They agreed to sign him a few hours into the legal tampering period. As a second-level defender, he's reliable in run support and a capable pass-rusher in nickel situations.
According to NFL Network's Tom Pelissero, the Jets have received trade calls for linebacker C.J. Mosley, who's played just two games with the team.
In 2019, Mosley battled groin and core muscle injuries, and he opted out of the 2020 term. If the Jets trade Mosley, Davis would likely take on a heavy workload. If not, the 6'1", 238-pound linebacker should still see opportunities to play on all three downs because of his pass-rushing and run-stopping abilities.
TE Gerald Everett, Seattle Seahawks
Behind three-wide receiver sets and starting tight end Tyler Higbee, Gerald Everett took the field as the fourth or fifth option in the Los Angeles Rams' passing attack. Yet he's boosted his pass-catching numbers every year.
In 2020, Everett logged modest career highs in receptions (41) and yards (417). At his new destination, he could easily eclipse 50 and 500 in those respective categories.
For now, the Seattle Seahawks don't plan to trade quarterback Russell Wilson, per ESPN's Adam Schefter. Assuming Wilson is the starter through 2021, Everett would benefit from better quarterback play, going from Jared Goff to a seven-time Pro Bowler who threw for 4,212 yards and 40 touchdowns this past season.
Even if the Seahawks emphasize the ground game, Wilson should come close to or eclipse 4,000 passing yards and 30 touchdowns. He accomplished that feat with Seattle's run-heavy attack during the 2019 season.
Everett is joining a crowded tight end group that includes Will Dissly, Colby Parkinson, Luke Willson and Tyler Mabry, but he's arguably the best pass-catcher in the stable.
In 2020, Dissly started a majority of the games at tight end, but he logged just 24 receptions for 251 yards and two touchdowns. Expect Everett to play a huge role and reach new career highs with Wilson under center.
WR Will Fuller V, Miami Dolphins
Will Fuller V didn't quite perform up to his first-round draft pedigree with the Houston Texans, in large part because of injuries and a suspension. He missed 27 contests through five seasons.
Although Fuller comes with durability concerns, he's worth the gamble on a one-year deal for a team that desperately needs perimeter playmakers.
In order to help quarterback Tua Tagovailoa develop, the Miami Dolphins needed to upgrade his supporting cast. Last season, Jakeem Grant ranked second among the club's wideouts in catches (36) and yards (373). He only played 35 percent of the offensive snaps.
Over the last two terms, wide receiver Preston Williams has shown flashes of his playmaking ability, but he's suited up for just 16 games because of season-ending injuries in both campaigns.
Fuller will miss Week 1 because of a performance-enhancing drug suspension. Coming off his best year, he's going to see plenty of targets while in the lineup. The big-play receiver posted career highs in catches (53), yards (879) and touchdowns (eight) in 11 appearances last season.
Fuller will have a downgrade at quarterback, going from Deshaun Watson to Tagovailoa, but he's a candidate to finish the season in the top two in targets for the Dolphins, which may lead to high production.
CB William Jackson III, Washington Football Team
William Jackson III fits into the upper mid-tier of cornerbacks around the league. He's recorded 41 pass breakups and just three interceptions through four seasons with the Cincinnati Bengals. The 2016 first-rounder doesn't have a Pro Bowl nod on his resume, but that could change in the near future.
In recent years, Jackson has played behind one of the league's weakest pass-rushing units. The Bengals have ranked 25th or worse in quarterback pressures over the last two seasons. As a result, the defensive backs may have to cover their assignments for extended periods.
Despite the difficult circumstances in Cincinnati, Jackson allowed a 51.4 percent completion rate in coverage last season.
He will be joining a top-five defense equipped with a strong pass rush. In 2020, Washington ranked 11th in quarterback pressures (156) and sixth in sacks (47).
With Chase Young, Montez Sweat and Jonathan Allen generating consistent pressure up front, Jackson should have more opportunities to pick off hurried throws downfield. He'll replace Ronald Darby on the boundary of a top-level defense.
Edge Matt Judon, New England Patriots
As one of the best edge-rushers to test free agency, Matt Judon earned Pro Bowl nods for his previous two seasons with the Baltimore Ravens. He's already an established playmaker, but still in his prime, the 28-year-old could crank up his productivity.
Judon hasn't recorded 10 sacks in a single season. In 2020, he had a limited role, lining up for just 53 percent of the defensive snaps through 14 outings.
The New England Patriots need Judon's presence on the edge. This past season, the club ranked 17th in quarterback pressures (146) and tied for 26th in sacks (24). Rotational defensive lineman Chase Winovich played just 58 percent of the defensive snaps and led the team in both categories.
Judon isn't just a pass-rusher. He can also stop the run. The five-year veteran recorded 41 tackles for loss between the 2017 and 2019 campaigns. The Patriots should keep him on the field for at least 75 percent of the defensive snaps. If they do, we could see him reach an All-Pro level with his first double-digit sack season.
Edge Carl Lawson, New York Jets
Carl Lawson flashed early potential through his 2017 rookie term with the Cincinnati Bengals, tallying 8.5 sacks as a designated pass-rusher. Midway through the following campaign, he tore his ACL, which cost him nine games.
Lawson bounced back from the injury, logging 10.5 sacks and 10 tackles for loss over the last two seasons. For most of his career, he's served in a reserve role. In 2020, the Auburn product played a career-high 68 percent of the defensive snaps and had his best showing since his first year with the Bengals.
The New York Jets signed Lawson to a three-year, $45 million deal with $30 million in guarantees. With that contract, he's likely to play the majority of the snaps at his position.
With Lawson coming off his most active season with a lucrative deal, expect him to play on all three downs. He'll see a rise in tackles for loss and some one-on-one matchups in pass-rushing situations with defensive tackle Quinnen Williams commanding a lot of attention on the interior. The latter led the team in sacks (seven) this past season.
WR Curtis Samuel, Washington Football Team
Curtis Samuel likely maxed out his production in the Carolina Panthers offense.
In 2020, the Panthers signed wideout Robby Anderson, who started alongside DJ Moore, pushing Samuel into the slot receiver role on most downs. Still, the versatile wideout recorded career highs in receptions (77) and yards (851).
Samuel is headed to Washington, where he can line up as a starter on the perimeter opposite of Terry McLaurin or in the primary slot position. The Football Team needed another playmaker at wideout. Among the club's wide receivers, Cam Sims ranked second in catches (32) and receiving yards (477) in 2020.
Furthermore, Samuel will reunite with a staff that's familiar with his skill set. In Carolina, he played under head coach Ron Rivera (2017-19) and offensive coordinator Scott Turner, who called plays for the Panthers at the end of the 2019 term.
For now, Ryan Fitzpatrick projects as the starting quarterback for Washington. Despite his age (38), he's not afraid to push the ball downfield. In 2020, with the Dolphins, the journeyman signal-caller threw for 315-plus yards in three of his seven starts.
WR Tyrell Williams, Detroit Lions
Because of injuries, Tyrell Williams didn't have a full opportunity to showcase his big-play ability with the Las Vegas Raiders. He played through plantar fasciitis for most of the 2019 campaign and landed on injured reserve with a torn labrum before Week 1 of the 2020 term.
Despite Williams' injury-riddled tenure with the Silver and Black, he had some bright moments, logging a touchdown in his first five games with the team. The 6'4", 205-pound wideout averaged 15.5 yards per catch in 2019.
Perhaps Williams went through a period of bad luck. He didn't miss a game between the 2016 and 2018 seasons. If the 29-year-old avoids the injury bug, we could see him stretch the field again in 2021.
The Detroit Lions turned over their wide receiver group, allowing Kenny Golladay, Marvin Jones Jr. and Danny Amendola to test free agency. Williams will join Breshad Perriman as a new addition to the position unit, though the former has played a bigger role with his previous teams as a starter.
Even if the Lions select a wide receiver in the draft, expect Williams to hold on to a starting spot. In a new environment, quarterback Jared Goff can lean on the six-year pro's experience.
Player contracts courtesy of Over the Cap.