Top 10 NFL Best Players for 2021
|Top 10 free players in NFL Agency 2021. Photo: Sporting News|
There are several splashy targets at wide receiver and plenty of depth for defense, especially at edge rusher and safety. Quarterbacks have one big headliner for now and not much else.
For teams looking to spend their available money under the upcoming salary cap, there are plenty of worthy signings to upgrade rosters, from high-priced commodities to bargain talents, according to Sporting News.
Here's an overall ranking of the best overall options and the best by position. Check back for updates as this also will serve as a tracker when players are re-signed, get the franchise tag or land on a new team. They are the top 10 free agents that are still available according to Pete Prisco's Top 100 list.
1. Anthony Harris
Logs another strong season
Harris completed his 2020 campaign with 104 tackles (58 solo) and seven passes defended through 16 games.
After six years with the Vikings, Harris has developed into a steady member of the secondary, reaching career highs in tackles and defensive snaps (1,075) this past season. His tackle tally also surpassed triple digits for the first time in his career. It remains to be seen if Minnesota will use the franchise tag on Harris for a second consecutive season, but the 29-year-old finally may have earned that lucrative contract he's been seeking, whether it's with the Vikings or another team, CBS Sports reported.
While he failed to record a single interception last season (a year after leading the league with six picks), Harris tallied a career-high 104 tackles. The Browns, a team that currently has questions at safety, should be considered a front-runner to land the seven-year veteran.
2. Kenny Golladay
Visit with Giants lined up
Golladay is expected to visit with the Giants this week to discuss a contract, Ian Rapoport of NFL Network reports.
According to Jordan Schultz of ESPN, the Giants view Golladay a true No. 1 wideout, but the team would still like to check in with the 27-year-old before extending him what's expected to a lucrative multi-year deal. New York presumably wants to get a feeling for where Golladay stands on the health front after he missed 11 games last season to a hip injury. Schultz notes that several other teams are still pursuing Golladay in free agency, so there's no guarantee his visit with the Giants results in a signing. The visit is, however, a clear confirmation that both sides share mutual interest.
After a breakout 2019 (he led the NFL in touchdown receptions that season), injuries hampered Golladay throughout the 2020 season. During his four seasons in Detroit, the 27-year-old Golladay caught 183 passes for 3,068 yards and 21 touchdowns. The Giants have been identified as a team that may acquire the 27-year-old receiver.
3. JuJu Smith-Schuster
|Photo: Behind the Steel Curtain|
Goes off in losing effort
Smith-Schuster hauled in a whopping 13 passes (19 targets) for 157 yards and a touchdown in Sunday's 48-37 playoff loss to the Browns.
The Steelers' offense as a whole looked like the team that was without its head coach and lacking a week of practice in the first quarter. Ben Roethlisberger and Smith-Schuster finally got things rolling over the next three periods, but the deficit had grown too large to catch up. Still, it was a big win for the Smith-Schuster from a fantasy perspective, as it was his first 100-plus yard game with a touchdown this season. Smith-Schuster finished the regular season with 97 receptions for 831 yards and nine touchdowns. The combination of receptions and scores kept him useful in PPR formats, but the veteran saw a drop in usage to make room for Pittsburgh's suddenly stacked receiver corps. Smith-Schuster will become an unrestricted free agent this offseason, and a change of scenery seems plausible given the contract he could command and the Steelers' depth at the position. If Smith-Schuster lands in a situation in which receiver help is needed, it could put the talented wideout back in the upper echelon of pass catchers.
The 28th player overall and third best available receiver on Prisco's list, Smith-Schuster is a complete WR who is still just 24 years old. While his 2020 numbers left something to be desired, Smith-Schuster put up big numbers as the Steelers' No. 2 receiver during his first two seasons. The Raiders have reportedly been interested in signing the 2018 Pro Bowler.
4. Melvin Ingram
|Photo: Chargers Wire - USA Today|
Done for year
Ingram (knee) will miss the remainder of the season, Jeff Miller of the Los Angeles Times reports.
Ingram last saw the field in Week 11. He was operating at less than 100 percent all season and failed to rack up a sack in seven appearances after totaling at least seven sacks in each of the previous five seasons.
Ingram is out to prove that he is still an elite player after injuries significantly impacted his 2020 season. After a slow start, Ingram tallied 43 sacks between 2015-19. The Ravens are "keeping tabs" on Ingram's market, according to CBS Sports NFL Insider Jason La Canfora.
5. Will Fuller
|Photo: Battle Red Blog|
Not likely to be franchise-tagged
The Texans don't plan to give Fuller a franchise tag, Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle reports.
The window to use the tag started Tuesday and ends March 9. Fuller is Houston's only realistic candidate, but the team may think the $16.54 million tender is an overpay for a guy averaging 5.4 missed games per season. Although he finally stayed healthy in 2020, the 26-year-old wideout missed the final five games after the NFL handed him a six-game PED suspension. He'll be eligible to return for Week 2 in 2021, be it with Houston or a different team.
Though he's still waiting for his first 1,000-yard season, Fuller was nonetheless a consistent and productive receiver during his first five NFL seasons in Houston. During that span, Fuller averaged 67 catches for 622 yards and five touchdowns per season. A deep threat, Fuller averaged nearly 15 yards per catch in Houston. The Dolphins and Bengals have been linked as possible teams for the 6-foot, 184-pound Fuller.
6. Alejandro Villanueva
|Photo: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette|
Playing every-down role
Villanueva played 100 percent of snaps on offense during Monday's 27-14 win over the Dolphins.
Villanueva's reliable play has been a bright spot for Pittsburgh's otherwise shaky offense this season. The starting left tackle is facing a tough upcoming slate of matchups, however, with the Colts, Rams and Browns -- three teams that boast formidable defensive fronts -- on deck.
The former Army Ranger has put together an impressive run as the Steelers' starting left tackle. In fact, Villanueva's 90-game regular season starting streak is the longest of any current Pittsburgh player. The Steelers have reportedly had conversations about signing the two-time Pro Bowler.
7. Xavier Rhodes
|Photo: USA Today FTW|
All clear Thursday
Rhodes (knee) was a full participant during Thursday's practice.
Rhodes was forced to leave last week's win over the Raiders early with the knee injury, but as evidenced by this news, it's not expected to keep him out any longer. Now apparently in the clear, expect Rhodes to handle his usual starting role at cornerback for Sunday's game against Houston.
A three-time Pro Bowler with the Vikings, Rhodes intercepted two passes and broke up 12 more during his lone season in Indianapolis. Bills safety Jordan Poyer recently said that he is trying to recruit Rhodes and defensive end Carlos Dunlap to Buffalo.
8. Sammy Watkins
|Photo: Bleacher Report|
Just one catch in Super Bowl loss
Watkins secured his only target for 13 yards during Kansas City's 31-9 loss to Tampa Bay in Super Bowl LV.
Watkins wasn't much of a factor in his first game action since Week 16, as seven players ranked ahead of him in terms of targets during Sunday's loss. The 27-year-old may realistically not have yet been back to 100 percent health from the calf strain that sidelined him during Kansas City's previous two postseason games. Watkins logged a career-low mark in terms of receiving yards (421) in 2020 while scoring just two touchdowns, and he was held to just 10 regular-season games for the second time in three years with the Chiefs. He's set to become an unrestricted free agent this offseason, and turning to the open market could realistically offer Watkins better salary prospects than attempting to re-sign with in Kansas City.
The former No. 4 overall pick was a key role player during the Chiefs' recent run of success. In 86 games, the 27-year-old wide out has caught 321 passes for 4,665 yards and 33 touchdowns while averaging 14.5 yards per catch. The Dolphins, Bears and Ravens are among the teams that are in need of a veteran receiver.
9. Jadeveon Clowney
|Photo: Sporting News|
Should be healthy next month
Clowney (knee) should be medically cleared at some point in April, Ian Rapoport of NFL Network reports.
Recovering from December meniscus surgery, the 28-year-old edge rusher is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agency for a second straight offseason. And, much like last year, he'll be rehabbing from winter surgery while he goes through the process. Clowney ultimately settled for a one-year, $13 million contract from Tennessee last year, signing in September and playing eight games before the meniscus injury ended his season. He finished with only 19 tackles, six QB hits and no sacks, so he might consider another one-year, prove-it deal this offseason.
One of last year's top free agents, Clowney did not join a new team until he inked a one-year, $12 million deal with the Titans on September 8. A knee injury limited Clowney to just eight games last year, as he failed to record a sack for the first time since his rookie season. The Ravens, who recently lost defensive end Yannick Ngakoue to the Raiders, have been linked as a possible landing spot for Clowney.
10. Eric Wilson
Numerous career highs in 2020
Wilson tallied 122 tackles (62 solo), three sacks, eight pass breakups and three interceptions through his 16 games this season.
In his fourth year with Minnesota, Wilson recorded career highs in tackles, interceptions, pass defenses and defensive snaps. It was all made possible by Anthony Barr's pectoral tear from Week 2, which sidelined him for the rest of the season. Wilson is heading into the offseason as an unrestricted free agent.
A former undrafted rookie, Wilson became a full-time starter during the 2020 season. Last season, the 6-foot-1, 230-pound linebacker racked up 122 tackles, three sacks, three interceptions and two fumble recoveries. Wilson has recently been linked to the Broncos, who are looking to upgrade their linebacker corps for the 2021 season.
There were plenty of fireworks during the NFL's first official day of free agency. After a slow start, a slew of marquee free agents -- most notably Curtis Samuel, Haason Reddick and Patrick Peterson -- came off the board. We had a few surprises that included Kyle Van Noy's return to New England and Kyle Long ending his one-year retirement to join the Chiefs.
While the market is thinning, there are still some big name players who are still waiting to come to terms on a new deal. Here are the top 10 free agents that are still available according to Pete Prisco's Top 100 list. Don't be surprised if many -- if not all -- of these players are off the market sometime during the next 24 hours of free agency. We've also included reports on where these players may be heading sometime in the very near future.
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