Team fits for the top 25 NFL free agents, including Bud Dupree to Atlanta and Trent Williams in Indianapolis

In an NFL offseason that has already produced plenty of fireworks, more are on the way as free agency looms large. Teams are working hard to create cap space after COVID-19 impacted league revenue streams and led to a sizable drop in the salary cap for the 2021 season. While the general buzz around the NFL is that top players will still see big-money deals, it is the next tier of players likely to get squeezed by the financial shortcomings for each franchise.

With the league’s legal tampering window opening Monday and free agency officially kicking off Wednesday, I decided to rank the top 25 free agents and work out a logical landing spot for each of them. Players who received the franchise tag were not included and this list is updated through Sunday night. There is still a possibility teams could announce a deal to bring back a player before they ever hit the open market, much like the Packers recently did with Aaron Jones.

Keep in mind, these are not necessarily predictions for where each player will land, rather a look at good fits for team and athlete to find success. I took into account each team’s cap space and the financial figures I reference throughout are pulled from Spotrac and updated through Sunday night. Without further ado, here are my top 25 free agents for the 2021 NFL offseason.

Barrett spent the first five years of his career in Denver.

1. Shaquil Barrett, EDGE, TB – Broncos
Shaq Barrett proved he was much more than a one-season wonder. He did not come anywhere close to replicating his outrageous 19.5-sack 2019 season, but he racked up eight sacks in the regular season and four more in the playoffs. While the Buccaneers seem determined to keep him, a return to Denver could be in the cards. With Von Miller in flux and the Broncos needing a pass rusher to play across from Bradley Chubb, Barrett could be a logical fit. He fits the prototypical build of a 3-4 outside linebacker for Vic Fangio. With an estimated $32.6 in projected cap space, the Broncos will be able to make Barrett one of the top-paid edge players in the league. Editor’s note: Barrett has re-signed with the Buccaneers.

2. Trent Williams, OT, SF – Colts
I expect San Francisco to make a big push to re-sign Trent Williams, but the Colts have $48 million in cap space after acquiring Carson Wentz and a major hole at left tackle with Anthony Costanzo’s retirement. Williams turns 33 in July, so he is not willing to wait around for a team to grow into a championship window. Indianapolis wants to run the ball and Williams is still one of the better run blocking tackles in the league. This would allow Chris Ballard to target an edge rusher or receiver in the draft while locking up a premier player at a huge position of need.

3. Yannick Ngakoue, EDGE, BAL – Bills
There was plenty of buzz about Buffalo being a logical landing spot for J.J. Watt, but with the former Texan headed for the desert, the Bills should be in play for another top edge defender. While Buffalo does not have a ton of cap space, it can move on from John Brown and Mario Addison to free up some space. After a run to the AFC Championship game, I expect Brandon Beane to be active in looking for ways to improve the roster. Yannick Ngakoue is still one of the best defensive ends in football. He could play across from Jerry Hughes and eventually A.J. Epenesa. He has had at least eight sacks in each of his five seasons so far. This would be a slam dunk move for Buffalo.

4. Bud Dupree, EDGE, PIT – Falcons
It took him a few years, but Bud Dupree is now the pass rusher the Steelers envisioned when they drafted him in the first round back in 2015. He has 19.5 sacks over his past 27 games, including eight in just 11 games in 2020. He was on pace for a monster season before suffering a season-ending ACL injury. Atlanta has been looking for an answer at pass rusher for years now. They have to resolve some cap issues, but Dupree could transform this defense. The Falcons also have the No. 4 pick to find a potential pass rusher to play across from him. New defensive coordinator Dean Pees is known for his ability to scheme pressure, which would only bode well for Dupree’s future success.

5. Kenny Golladay, WR, DET – Patriots
With Chris Godwin and Allen Robinson both receiving the franchise tag, the top of the wide receiver market took a major hit. Golladay is clearly the best option available now. His 2020 season was cut short by injury, but he showed in 2019 that he can be a team’s top target. He had nearly 1,200 yards and 11 touchdowns in a Pro Bowl season. There is no team in the league that has a greater need at receiver than the New England Patriots. It just so happens, the Pats have roughly $65 million in cap space. Spending a chunk of that to grab a reliable outside receiver for Cam Newton, and whoever the quarterback of the future is, would be a great move to rejuvenate the offense.

6. Joe Thuney, G, NE – Jets
Whether Sam Darnold is the quarterback in 2021 or not, the Jets need to improve the offensive line. New York finished in the top 10 in sacks allowed in 2020 and both of their starting guards, Alex Lewis and Greg Van Roten, can be released with little cap implications. It would actually open up more space for a franchise already projected to have just shy of $70 million in signing power. Targeting Joe Thuney would make a ton of sense to help bolster the interior of the line. He played the 2020 season on the franchise tag and Joe Douglas seems willing to spend money to build an offensive line. If Thuney is looking for a lucrative long-term deal, the Jets could be more than willing to give it to him.

7. Corey Linsley, C, GB – Ravens
The Packers would love to bring back Corey Linsley, but Green Bay lacks a ton of cap space and could have more pressing needs. Elgton Jenkins played center in college and spent some time there this season when injuries cropped up. As a result, I could see Linsley finding his way to Baltimore to protect Lamar Jackson. The Ravens had issues at center all season long and Linsley would bring some much needed stability to the position. It does not solve all of Baltimore’s problems, but it would be a smart move to bolster their interior offensive line.

8. Mitchell Schwartz, OT, KC – Seahawks
While there are certainly injury concerns here to monitor, Mitchell Schwartz is one of the best right tackles in football. He made All-Pro in 2018 and has been a large part of why the Chiefs have been so successful offensively in recent seasons. Just go back and rewatch the Super Bowl to understand the impact of not having him on the field. Meanwhile, in Seattle, Russell Wilson went public with his concerns over Seattle’s offensive line. With $21 million in cap space, and Schwartz possibly coming at a discount due to the injury, this could be a great move for the front office to show Wilson it is listening to him. Schwartz would be a massive upgrade over Brandon Shell.

9. Will Fuller, WR, HOU – Chargers
Justin Herbert had a stunning rookie season and the Chargers seem poised for a jump in 2020. In order to see Herbert’s success continue, L.A. needs to surround him with talent at receiver. Will Fuller had a phenomenal year in his own right, but did get tagged with a PED suspension, which carries over to Week 1 in 2021. With Deshaun Watson intent on forcing his way out of Houston, Fuller should consider linking up with another young quarterback. Herbert has a strong arm and Fuller would give him a consistent deep threat that the offense lacked for much of the year. Herbert’s average depth of target was 24th in the league among qualified passers. Fuller would be a perfect complement across from Keenan Allen.

10. Jadeveon Clowney, EDGE, TEN – Cowboys
Dallas’ defense was one of the worst in the NFL this past season. The Cowboys surrendered five yards per carry in 2020, the third-worst mark in the league. Tyrone Crawford is headed for free agency and the front office needs to devote some resources to reshaping the defense. A great move would be landing Jadeveon Clowney. He is not the elite pass rusher many hoped he would develop into, but the former No. 1 pick is an elite run defender. Playing across from DeMarcus Lawrence likely wouldn’t hurt either. Tennessee signed him to a one-year, $13 million deal in 2020. Another short-term, “prove it” deal could be in play for Clowney, especially after an injury-derailed season.

Lawson will be 26 at the start of the 2021 season and appears to have his best football ahead of him.

11. Carl Lawson, EDGE, CIN – Bengals
On the surface, Carl Lawson’s numbers might not jump off the page. He had 5.5 sacks in 2020, his most since his rookie season in 2017. Dive a little deeper and you will see that Lawson had 44 pressures this past season, which was the fourth most in the NFL. One fewer than Aaron Donald and Joey Bosa. That grabs your attention. How about him leading the league in quarterback knockdowns with 27? Lawson is clearly a top-tier pass rusher, even if his sack numbers don’t show it yet. With a solid amount of cap space, the Bengals would be wise to bring him back. If he does hit the open market, expect the Jets, Patriots, Titans and Raiders to all be interested in securing his services.

12. Dalvin Tomlinson, DL, NYG – Jaguars
I think the Giants will make a strong push to keep him, but without much cap space and other needs on the defense, there is a good chance they won’t be able to afford bringing Dalvin Tomlinson back. The former Alabama defensive tackle is the best interior run stopper in this free agent class. He has 15 tackles for loss over the past two seasons. Tomlinson chips in as a pass rusher as well, with 3.5 sacks in 2019 and 2020. Jacksonville’s run defense was horrendous this past season, allowing the third-most yards per game and sixth most yards per carry. Adding Tomlinson to plug up the middle would only increase the effectiveness of Josh Allen and K’Lavon Chaisson on the outside.

13. John Johnson, S, LAR – Raiders
Safety has been a sore spot for the Raiders in recent years. Johnathan Abrams and Erik Harris struggled as starters in 2020 and Las Vegas does not have much in the way of proven depth behind them. John Johnson could be a reliable long-term answer. Outside of an injury-shortened 2019 season, Johnson has been a fixture for the Rams. He is a willing tackler and can more than hold his own in coverage. He is not the flashiest player available, but there is no question he would be a major upgrade over what the Raiders have been working with in previous seasons. Los Angeles will be sad to see him go, but is currently a projected $32 million over the cap.

14. JuJu Smith-Schuster, WR, PIT – Giants
Is Daniel Jones a franchise quarterback? For now, the Giants are acting under the assumption that he is. In order to truly evaluate Jones, he needs more consistent talent around him. Sterling Shepard, Golden Tate and Evan Engram have all struggled with injuries over the past few seasons. Finding Jones a reliable target like JuJu Smith-Schuster could make a world of difference. While he has been able to repeat his incredible 2018 season, Smith-Schuster has become one of the best possession receivers in the NFL. Ben Roethlisberger actually had a slightly better passer rating this past season when targeting JuJu than he did in 2018. Finding a security blanket for Jones is a huge priority. Signing Smith-Schuster will be expensive, but probably not at the top of the receiver market.

15. Matt Judon, EDGE, BAL – Buccaneers
If Shaquil Barrett leaves in free agency, bringing in Matt Judon would be a really solid consolation prize. He excelled in Baltimore’s blitz-happy defensive scheme, which should translate well to Todd Bowles’ blitz-happy scheme in Tampa. Judon would give the Buccaneers another productive pass rusher to lineup across from Jason Pierre-Paul and will probably cost a little bit less to sign than Barrett. He might not be quite as prolific, but with at least six sacks in each of his past four seasons, he would be a great chess piece for Bowles to unleash.

16. Trey Hendrickson, EDGE, NO – Lions
Much like Leonard Floyd, Trey Hendrickson had a breakout 2020 season and had a position coach with his team take a head-coaching job elsewhere. Not only does Hendrickson have familiarity with Dan Campbell, he would fill a position of need for the Lions defense. Detroit has been desperately searching for an edge rusher for years. I don’t know that Hendrickson will be the answer to all their prayers, but he would represent a nice start to rebuilding Detroit’s defense.

Henry has struggled with injuries in his career, missing 25 of a possible 90 games since he entered the league in 2016.

17. Hunter Henry, TE, LAC – Chargers
This move would mostly be about keeping some continuity around Justin Herbert. It is clear the reigning Rookie of the Year has talent, but with a new head coach and new system being installed, finding some familiarity for him to fall back on is important. Plus, Henry has quietly been a very productive tight end over the past two seasons. He still struggles with injuries, but he has mostly been available, posting back-to-back 600-yard seasons. He is not as sexy or talented as Travis Kelce or Darren Waller, but Henry gets the job done. With $51 million in cap space, the Chargers should have the room necessary to bring him back on a reasonable deal. Something in line with Austin Hooper’s four-year, $42 million deal from last season feels like a good template.

18. Romeo Okwara, EDGE, DET – Browns
Cleveland desperately needs an edge rusher across from Myles Garrett. Romeo Okwara is coming off a 10-sack season and feels like a clean fit in the Browns’ 4-3 scheme. He would benefit from not being the center of attention as well, as he often had little help rushing the passer in Detroit. It is not as big a move as landing J.J. Watt or Shaquil Barrett, but Okwara would be a solid starter. This move would also free the front office up to target some help in the secondary or at linebacker in the NFL Draft.

19. Jonnu Smith, TE, TEN – Jaguars
The Jaguars have not had good production at the tight end position since Marcedes Lewis left town, and that was in 2018. The presumption is Trevor Lawrence will be the new quarterback in Jacksonville and the Titans need to build out his supporting cast. With plenty of money to spend, Jonnu Smith would be a logical target. The Jags are plenty familiar with him having played against him for the past four years. He is a dominant presence in the red zone. He and Collin Johnson could be a problem for opposing defenses close to the goal line.

20. William Jackson, CB, CIN – Bengals
Flying under the radar a bit, William Jackson is coming off a career year where he finally seemed to live up to his first-round pick status. He has steadily improved in coverage and should be one of the top corners available on the market. Quality cornerbacks are hard to come by as well. Cincinnati would be smart to bring him back before anyone else gets a chance to poach him. With over $44 million in cap space, the Bengals should have no problem finding the money to make a deal.

21. Anthony Harris, S, MIN – Browns
With the offense mostly set in Cleveland, the Browns feel very close to being a win-now team. With a couple of savvy free agent additions to the defense, this team should be well-positioned to build off its 2020 success. Safety was a weak spot for the Browns this past year. Andrew Sendejo failed miserably while Ronnie Harrison felt like a band-aid solution. Grant Delpit also missed the whole year due to injury. Anthony Harris would help stabilize things. He did not have quite as strong of a season as he did in 2019, but he is still difficult to beat in coverage and has a nose for the football. With experience at both safety spots, he could start alongside Delpit or another draft pick and turn the position into a strength for the defense.

22. Leonard Floyd, EDGE, LAR – Chargers
Sometimes, the NFL is very simple. Leonard Floyd had a breakout year in Los Angeles, racking up 10.5 sacks in his first year with the Rams. While Les Snead would undoubtedly love to bring him back, L.A. is a projected $32.1 million over the cap. So where will Floyd land? How about in the same city? His defensive coordinator just became the new head coach of the other team in town. The Chargers are in the market for someone to play across from Joey Bosa. Assuming that Brandon Staley brings his 3-4 system with him from the Rams, Floyd would be a logical fit in one of those outside linebacker spots.

23. Corey Davis, WR, TEN – Colts
T.Y. Hilton is headed for free agency, as is Zach Pascal. Even so, the Colts still would need wide receiver help. Indianapolis already acquired one top-five selection this offseason, why not add another? Corey Davis broke out in a big way in 2020. He still has not lived up to his original draft slot, but posting nearly 1,000 yards receiving in 14 games is bound to earn him another contract somewhere. At 6’3″, he would give the Colts some much-needed size at the position and a potential big-play threat.

24. David Andrews, C, NE – Patriots
New England seems set to let Joe Thuney walk after not franchise tagging him, but the Patriots must make some moves to keep its offensive line intact. They already brought back Trent Brown via trade on a restructured deal. After missing 2019 with blood clots in his lungs, David Andrews returned and played well in 2020. New England has plenty of other question marks on offense. Bringing back Andrews prevents one more from popping up.

Sherman might not be the lockdown corner he used to be anymore, but he can still hold his own as a starter in the NFL.

25. Richard Sherman, CB, SF – Raiders
While many predict Richard Sherman will follow Robert Saleh to New York, I think he could stay a little closer to home. Sherman is from Compton, went to Stanford and has spent his entire NFL career in Seattle or San Francisco. I’m not saying he couldn’t switch coasts, but I think he would be very happy to stick in the Pacific time zone. Las Vegas is also in desperate need of corner help. The Raiders have to make a few moves to open up some cap space, but signing Sherman to a modest deal should be feasible. Add in that Las Vegas’ new defensive coordinator is Gus Bradley, architect of the Legion of Boom, and I think this is a perfect fit.

Fantasy Football 2020 Waiver Wire Pickups: Injuries open up opportunities in Week 3

We were warned. Every expert, pundit and talking head around the NFL said there were going to be injuries this year. I just don’t think we were expecting them all to come at once.

Saquon Barkley, Christian McCaffrey, Davante Adams, Jimmy Garoppolo, Drew Lock, Courtland Sutton, Paris Campbell, Breshad Perriman, Tyrod Taylor, Raheem Mostert and Tevin Coleman all sat out or left their games with an injury on Sunday. Those are the offensive players. They joined the likes of Michael Thomas, Kenny Golladay, Chris Godwin and George Kittle on the injury report.

It sounds like a few of these guys should be back before too long. Godwin has already cleared concussion protocol. Golladay and Kittle could be back as soon as this week. The 49ers have also voiced optimism about Garoppolo’s ability to play in Week 3 as well.

With all the injuries, you are likely in need for some major reinforcements for your fantasy football team. Here are my top guys to add from the waiver wire heading into Week 3.

Tannehill has tossed six touchdowns in his first two games. (Wikimedia Commons)

Ryan Tannehill, QB, TEN
Through two weeks of the NFL season, Ryan Tannehill is currently tied with Lamar Jackson as the No. 9 quarterback in fantasy. He is also still available in roughly 60 percent of ESPN leagues. With teams loading the box to stop Derrick Henry, Tannehill is showing that he can get it done through the air. With another fantasy-friendly matchup coming up against the Vikings, he is in a great position for a spot start this week.

Gardner Minshew, QB, JAX
Just behind Tannehill is Minshew, who put up some big numbers against the Titans this past weekend. He has been fairly consistent in his scoring as well, with 19 points in Week 1 and 22 points in Week 2. He gets a Dolphins secondary that had no answer for Josh Allen on Sunday and could be without Byron Jones. Minshew might not throw the ball 45 times again like he did in Tennessee, but he is still a fringe starter if you are hurting for a quarterback.

Jerick McKinnon, RB, SF
If had a running back go down over the weekend, McKinnon is someone you should be targeting. He showed good burst in limited opportunities through the first two weeks. Both Raheem Mostert and Tevin Coleman are expected to be out for a few weeks though, which opens up the door for McKinnon to be the feature back. He is actually tied for 18th among running backs through two weeks despite only nine total touches. With an even larger workload coming his way against a suspect Giants defense, he is a RB2 option in Week 3.

Joshua Kelley, RB, LAC
In case you weren’t already aware, Los Angeles is going to run the ball a lot this year. After two weeks of play, the Chargers lead the league in rush attempts and rank sixth in yardage. Austin Ekeler is the leader in the backfield, but Kelley has carved out a meaningful role for himself. He earned an outrageous 23 carries in Week 2 against the Chiefs. Kelley was not overly efficient, but he faces a Panthers defense that is last in points allowed to fantasy running backs so far. He is a flex play at worse in Week 3.

Mike Davis, RB, CAR
Attention Christian McCaffrey fantasy managers. You need someone to fill in for McCaffrey for the next month while he is out for an ankle injury. Mike Davis is ready to do just that. He only has one carry this season, but he posted eight catches for 74 yards against Tampa on Sunday. Considering that McCaffrey played into the fourth quarter, that is a really good sign regarding his fantasy viability. I don’t know that I would recommend starting him against a solid Chargers defense in his first week as the starter, but he is certainly worth claiming from the waiver wire.

Dion Lewis/Wayne Gallman, RBs, NYG
The Giants backfield took a major hit following Saquon Barkley’s torn ACL. Really the whole offense did. While it is unclear exactly who will be in the lead role, Lewis and Gallman are in line for an increase in touches. I lumped the two together, because it is not overly clear who really will be the feature back. More likely, New York will go running back by committee. Lewis has more value in PPR formats, while Gallman could be a solid add to your bench in non-PPR leagues. However, it looks likely that the Giants sign Devonta Freeman, so I would not prioritize either of these backs over those listed above.

Russell Gage, WR, ATL
I will continue to bang the table for this guy. The Falcons have maybe the worst secondary in the NFL, which means they are going to throw a lot to stay in games. Gage has earned 21 targets over the first two weeks of the season and currently ranks tied for 10th among fantasy receivers. That ties him with the likes of Tyreek Hill, Tyler Lockett and Terry McLaurin. Gage is still available in 72 percent of ESPN leagues. Expect him to be a flex option for the foreseeable future.

Corey Davis, WR, TEN
He was not quite as spectacular in Week 2, only totaling three catches for 36 yards, but he found the end zone. He is currently the Titans’ top target with A.J. Brown out and he faces a terrible Vikings secondary in Week 3. Only the Seahawks have given up more fantasy points to receivers through the first two weeks of the season. His matchups get a bit tougher starting in Week 4, but he definitely has some value for this week.

Keelan Cole Sr., WR, JAX
Cole continues his surprising start to the season. He posted 15-plus fantasy points for the second straight week in PPR scoring and found the end zone again. His 12 targets n two weeks suggest that his upside is a little limited in this run-first Jaguars offense, but he should definitely be on more teams than he currently is. Cole is rostered in 3.2 percent of ESPN leagues right now and could be in for another big week as he faces a Dolphins team that gave up over 400 yards through the air to the Bills.

N’Keal Harry, WR, NE
I’m still a little tentative on this one, but Harry flashed a lot of the potential that made him a first-round selection in the 2019 NFL draft against the Seahawks. As I mentioned before though, no team has given up more fantasy points to receivers than Seattle. He seems to be a better option in PPR formats, picking up a ton of targets and catches, but not a tremendous amount of yards. The Patriots offense is still one of the most difficult to predict on a weekly basis, but Harry seems pretty well entrenched as Cam Newton’s No. 2 receiver behind Julian Edelman. A favorable matchup with the Raiders adds to his value for Week 3.

Dalton Schultz, TE, DAL
There are not a ton of great options available on the tight end market, but Schultz looked sharp in his first game as the starter. An early fumble was disappointing to see, but Schultz racked up nine catches for 88 yards and a touchdown on 10 targets. It is unlikely he see quite as many throws his direction in the future, but his position in this offense gives him at least decent fantasy value. If you are looking a backup tight end to stash, he is the best one available.

Logan Thomas, TE, WAS
The target share is there for Thomas. Dwayne Haskins has thrown 17 passes his way through just two weeks. That is tied for third with Dallas Goedert in the league among tight ends at this point, trailing only Darren Waller and Travis Kelce. It is clear that Haskins trusts Thomas as his security blanket. Unfortunately, those 17 targets have netted just eight catches for 63 yards and one touchdown. Only one of those passes has been a drop by Thomas, so the issue is really Haskins’ accuracy. If you trust that he can put it together against a banged up Browns defense, than Thomas has a ton of value in Week 3.

Jonnu Smith, TE, TEN
His production has been largely touchdown dependent so far, but that is pretty standard for tight ends in the NFL not named Kelce, Waller or Kittle. Smith has become Ryan Tannehill’s favorite red zone target early in the season. He is not as available as some of the other players on this list (rostered in just over 50 percent of ESPN leagues), but if he is sitting around in your league, go grab him. He has starting tight end potential going forward.

Mo Alie-Cox, TE, IND
His outlook is dependent on Jack Doyle’s health. If Doyle will be back in Week 3, it is unlikely that Alie-Cox is really worth a pick up. But if Doyle is out, Alie-Cox becomes an intriguing option. He reeled in five catches for 111 yards on Sunday vs. the Vikings. He might not eclipse the 100-yard mark again, but he faces a Jets defense that just gave up two touchdowns to Jordan Reed. If you are in a league that places a premium on tight end scoring, Alie-Cox should be on your roster.