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10 Best 2021 NFL Free Agents

Liam McKeone
Allen Robinson
Allen Robinson / Dylan Buell/Getty Images
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Super Bowl LV will feature Patrick Mahomes and Tom Brady as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers face off against the Kansas City Chiefs. For everybody else, the offseason has already begun.

NFL free agency begins on March 17, the first day of the new league year. Here are the most coveted names that will be on the market for any and all teams looking to improve.

1. Dak Prescott, QB, Dallas Cowboys

Prescott is coming off a lost season due to a nasty ankle injury, but if the Cowboys decide they want to go in another direction after franchise-tagging their quarterback last year, suitors will line up around the block. Prescott was on fire before his injury, throwing for 1,856 yards and nine touchdowns to four interceptions in about four and a half games. He was stellar the year before, throwing for 4,902 yards and 30 touchdowns with 11 interceptions. Prescott has yet to win a playoff game, but he also hasn't posted a losing record in a full season as a starter. He is a top-10 quarterback when he's healthy and approximately 24 teams would view Prescott as an indisputable upgrade from their current quarterback.

It's hard to imagine Dallas will let him walk after the team completely fell apart without him under center. But if they do, Prescott will be the most coveted man on the market.

2. Chris Godwin, WR, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

It is mildly surprising the Bucs haven't inked Godwin to an extension yet, but such machinations are put on hold when Tom Brady comes to town. Regardless, Godwin is one of the league's best receivers and is in the final year of his rookie deal. He caught 65 passes for 840 yards and seven touchdowns in only 12 games this year, following up a stellar 2019 stat line of 86 catches for 1,333 yards and nine touchdowns in 14 games. Godwin is big enough to outmuscle opposing corners on short routes and fast enough to run right by them on deep routes. He is a legit No. 1 wideout and will be paid as such, probably by Tampa Bay. But anybody could come in and blow him away with a huge offer that will be worth every penny, even with the mild case of the dropsies he's suffered from in the postseason.

3. Allen Robinson, WR, Chicago Bears

Robinson is highly unlikely to end up with the Bears again if his final press conference is any indication, and he recently liked a tweet suggesting he and Deshaun Watson go to the Jets together. Even if it isn't with Gang Green, Robinson is the first player on this list who will definitely be in a different uniform come fall. Robinson is a great jump-ball specialist who managed to eclipse 1,000 yards on the season with six touchdowns despite catching passes from the unholy duo of Mitchell Trubisky and Nick Foles. It's his second consecutive season with over 1,000 yards. Again, in Chicago. With Trubisky throwing him passes.

On top of all that, Robinson is only 28-years-old and still has a few good years left in him. He isn't as dominant a No. 1 receiver as his counterparts around the league, but he was still No. 7 in the NFL this year in receptions per game (6.4) and No. 13 in yards per game (78.1). A receiver with that kind of production doesn't hit the open market very often, and Robinson will get paid.

4. Kenny Golladay, WR, Detroit Lions

Golladay is a talented and extremely young wideout, hitting free agency at only 25 years old. His overall resume isn't extremely impressive due to injury, but when he's healthy, he has emerged as one of the best young receivers in the NFL. In only five games this season, Golladay caught 20 passes for 338 yards and two touchdowns, good for an absurd 16.9 yards per reception. That kind of average is for the Tyreek Hill speedsters of the world, not jump-ball players like Golladay. He's a classic "even if he's covered, he's open" guy with a lengthy highlight reel full of acrobatic catches. That comes despite only one full season as a starter back in 2019, when he led the NFL in touchdown catches. Golladay has hit the 1,000 yard mark in the two seasons he was more or less healthy.

The injury concerns are real, yet one cannot help but wonder what Golladay would look like outside of Detroit. Matthew Stafford is no scrub of a quarterback, but systemic incompetence takes a toll on everyone. You can bet your bottom dollar there are more than a few general managers wondering the same thing.

5. Trent Williams, LT, San Francisco 49ers

Williams took a year off in 2019 after a dispute with the Washington doctors and ended up in San Francisco in 2020. He was back to his old elite self, as he played 87 percent of the snaps this year while recording only eight penalties and was Pro Football Focus' highest-rated tackle. He is one of the game's best left tackles, and those kinds of players go at a premium in today's NFL.

6. Brandon Scherff, G, Washington Football Team

"Oh goody, another offensive lineman!" Yes, I know what you're thinking. Extremely fun. But Scherff is a very good guard who will likely earn another All-Pro nod this year. Washington clearly thinks he's valuable after franchise-tagging him last year for the not-so-low price for $15 million. Scherff is an absolute bulldozer in the run game who can pass protect as well as anybody. He won't be as flashy a signing as any of the aforementioned players, but Scherff will lock down the trenches for his team and could very well become the highest-paid guard in the league when it's all said and done.

7. Shaquil Barrett, DE, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Barrett has cooled off this season after a 20-sack performance in 2019 that led to the Bucs' decision to franchise-tag him. But he is still far and away the best pass-rusher on the market this year (operating under the assumption that an extension is imminent for Yannick Ngakoue). Barrett had eight sacks and forced two fumbles this season to go along with 11 tackles for loss. He was in the backfield nearly as often as he was last year, recording 41 quarterback pressures in 2020 vs. 51 in 2019. Barrett is not a late bloomer who will turn into Von Miller or something, but he's shown last year wasn't a complete fluke. Any team looking for pass-rushing help couldn't do better than pursuing Barrett this offseason.

8. Justin Simmons, S, Denver Broncos

Simmons has proven himself to be one of the best young safeties in the game and earned a franchise tag last offseason as a result. The key of the Broncos' secondary, Simmons can do anything and everything as a free safety and a run-stopper. He notched five picks and nine pass breakups this season, building off a stellar 2019 where he recorded similar numbers with four picks and 15 pass breakups. Simmons also played every single snap. At 27-years-old, Simmons is good enough to boost any secondary and is an all-around great player.

9. Joe Thuney, G, New England Patriots

You ever heard someone say "The best ability is availability?" Well, buddy, Thuney has that. The guard just finished up his fifth year in the NFL and has started every game since Day 1 of his rookie year. That is remarkable. On top of all that, he is actually good. Thuney was a part of the Patriots' crew that bulldozed its way to a Super Bowl in 2018 and gave New England one of the best run games in the league this past year -- fourth among all teams in rushing yards per game. He's so good Bill Belichick chose to franchise-tag him last year. And Belichick doesn't do that for anybody, really.

10. Hunter Henry, TE, Los Angeles Chargers

Good tight ends are in very short supply in the NFL right now. There's Travis Kelce and George Kittle, of course. Darren Waller is a step below those two but still great. Other than that ... who is there? Rob Gronkowski is no longer the Gronk we once knew and loved. Mark Andrews is rock-solid but not a gamebreaker. Zach Ertz fell off a cliff after a few seasons as one of the league's best at his position.

Henry probably belongs below the Waller tier, but he's still fairly young at 26 with the potential to become more. Henry isn't a dual-threat like the other best TEs but he's one of the better route-runners and receivers at the position. He wasn't terribly impressive in 2020, catching 60 passes for 613 yards and four touchdowns in 14 game, but the talent is there, and the demand for playmakers at tight end is far greater than the supply. Injury concerns are real here. Henry hasn't played a full season yet in his NFL career and seems to be constantly banged up. But as far as upside goes, there aren't any other tight ends available who match Henry. And that's why he'll be a wanted man come offseason.

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