NFL Free Agents 2021: Predictions for Biggest Names Left on Market

Chris Roling@@Chris_RolingFeatured ColumnistAugust 25, 2021

NFL Free Agents 2021: Predictions for Biggest Names Left on Market

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    Joe Scarnici/Getty Images

    The NFL free-agent market continues to house some major names just before the regular season starts. 

    Most of those recognizable names are well-established veterans with plenty to offer teams, too. Whether it's a veteran coming back from injury, a player simply waiting for the right fit or something more involved, there are a few splash signings teams could make in late August to still improve rosters. 

    It's something to keep in mind while the spotlight otherwise shines on the cut-down process, as all teams must trim rosters to 53 players after the third and final preseason game. 

    Here's a look at the biggest names left on the market and a prediction for where each lands.

OT Mitchell Schwartz

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    Reed Hoffmann/Associated Press

    Protection against timing-disrupting pressure is at a premium in the NFL these days, so it's a little perplexing that Mitchell Schwartz remains available. 

    Schwartz, one of the league's better right tackles, had his last season with the Kansas City Chiefs derailed by injury. The team cut him loose in a purge and rebuild process in front of Patrick Mahomes. But even over 357 snaps last year, he posted a 74.7 Pro Football Focus grade (in the "starter" range)

    More telling about Schwartz's abilityif he's healthyis his 2019 season in which he had a strong 84.0 grade and didn't allow a sack over 1,000-plus snaps. 

    While he's 32 years old, last year was an anomaly from an attendance standpoint for Schwartz, and a team like the Miami Dolphins—desperate to improve a shaky line in front of Tua Tagovailoa after not making many big moves there—would be foolish to ignore his presence on the market. 

    Prediction: Schwartz signs with the Miami Dolphins

DL Jurrell Casey

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    AAron Ontiveroz/Getty Images

    Of the big-name defensive linemen left on the board, Jurrell Casey might be the most intriguing. 

    Casey joined the Denver Broncos last season and made just three appearances before suffering a season-ending torn biceps. Those Broncos didn't need long to make him a cap cut this offseason. 

    But that makes it somewhat easy to forget what Casey can do as a pressure-creator. He's tallied 51 sacks over 142 games since 2011, a strong mark considering he creates his pressure from the interior. He's posted five or more sacks in each year of the 2013-2019 stretch, and in 2019, he had five sacks and a starter-worthy 74.6 PFF grade over 14 games. 

    A team that wants to win now and had a bad pass-rush last year seems like the best fit for Casey. The Las Vegas Raiders qualify after mustering just 21 sacks last year and trying to revamp the defensive line this offseason. Maybe a healthy Casey is the piece that pushes it over the edge. 

    Prediction: Casey signs with the Las Vegas Raiders

Richard Sherman, CB

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    SAN FRANCISCO, CA - SEPTEMBER 13: San Francisco 49ers cornerback Richard Sherman (25) looks on during the NFL game between the San Francisco 49ers and the Arizona Cardinals on September 13, 2020, at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, California. (Photo by MSA
    Icon Sportswire/Getty Images

    No name on the market is bigger than Richard Sherman's, and one could argue the same about his potential impact on the field. 

    Sherman, 33, only made it in five games last year with the San Francisco 49ers because of injury. But his 2019 season presents more of what fans have come to expect from him—he posted an elite 88.9 PFF grade over 15 games, tallying three interceptions in the process. 

    Injuries that have prevented Sherman from playing in a full 16-game season since 2016, and a July 14 arrest on five misdemeanor charges hasn't helped the veteran's market. 

    Back in May, Chris Biderman of the Sacramento Bee reported Sherman and the 49ers were in talks to reunite. One might also consider the Seattle Seahawks, his former stomping grounds, a candidate. 

    But the 49ers still make the most sense. Sherman was a cap cut, the team hasn't done much to address the void left by his departure, and he's the type of veteran who won't need to undergo the rigors of training camp reps, anyway. 

    Prediction: Sherman signs with the San Francisco 49ers