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Top-25 NFL Defensive Free Agent Predictions for the 2021 Season

Yannick Ngakoue Matthew Judon

It’s been over a month since the Tampa Bay Buccaneers beat the Kansas City Chiefs in the Super Bowl. The offseason got started even before the Super Bowl was played with the Matthew Stafford/Jared Goff deal. A few elite-level free agents received the franchise tag last week but many more have been cut by their teams due to salary cap issues. Now there are already rumblings about what could happen when the league year starts in a week.

The 2021 NFL league year starts on March 17th at 4 pm ET. This is when teams can officially sign free agents and trades also become official. So all the trades and signings that have happened will not be official until the start of the league year.

There is a decent amount of time until the offseason begins. But it is never too early to speculate on where some of the biggest free agents could end up. After evaluating every team’s major needs and taking into consideration this year’s salary cap here is where the NFL’s Top-25 Defensive Free Agents could play next season.

25-21

25. Jason Verrett

Over the years Jason Verrett has faded from the NFL public. After making a Pro Bowl in his second season with the Chargers Verrett only played in six total games from 2016-19. But this past season Verrett started 13 games for the 49ers and on top of that was the team’s number one cornerback for most of the season due to an injury to Richard Sherman. Verrett played at a borderline Pro Bowl level last year. PFF gave Verrett a 77.6 grade. A team can look to pair Verrett with a young Pro Bowl-caliber cornerback.

The Cleveland Browns could attempt to pair Verrett with Denzel Ward. He’s got one of the starting cornerback positions set for Cleveland. But opposite Ward, Cleveland has struggled to find the answer. Greedy Williams was hurt all of last season and his replacements Terrance Mitchell, Kevin Johnson, and M.J. Stewart didn’t feel like a long-term answer for them in their secondary.

Verrett could start opposite of Ward to lockdown both outside cornerback positions. Then Cleveland can experiment with Greedy Williams and put him on the inside covering slot receivers in the nickel. If both Bouye and Williams play up to their potential Cleveland can have one of the best secondaries in the league next season. On top of that Verrett would reunite with his former defensive backs coach in San Fransisco who is the Browns, defensive coordinator.

Prediction: Jason Verrett signs a 2 year $15 Million Deal with the Cleveland Browns 

24. Larry Ogunjobi

One of the more underrated players on the Browns defense the last couple of seasons has been Larry Ogunjobi. The former third-round pick out of Charlotte has been able to create constant pressure from the interior of the Browns defensive line. He put up 14.5 sacks during his first four seasons. Ogunjobi had 5.5 sacks in both 2018-19 and 2019-20.

After drafting Jordan Elliot in the third round Cleveland reduced Ogunjobi’s snap percentage to 59.65% from the 72.8% from the year before. Ogunjobi could look to sign with a team that won’t rotate him as frequently as Cleveland did this past season. Also, Cleveland may not want to sign another defensive tackle to a large deal if he isn’t playing more than 70% of the snaps.

Ogunjobi’s best fit may be his hometown team the Carolina Panthers. Outside of Derrick Brown, the Panthers are lacking a true starter at defensive tackle. The Panthers cut Kawaan Short because his age and price tag did not match the direction of the team. Ogunjobi could fill that void on the talented young Panthers’ defensive front and be a consistent pass rusher on the interior on their defensive line.

Prediction: Larry Ogunjobi signs a 3 year 31.5 Million Deal with the Carolina Panthers

23. Haason Reddick

Haason Reddick
Haason Reddick broke out in 2020 and turned from first-round bust to Pro Bowl-caliber pass rusher (Photo by Ralph Freso/Getty Images)

Before this season started Haason Reddick was a candidate to get traded or cut. But this past season Reddick was able to remove the bust label that was placed on him after his first three seasons. Reddick has played all over the Cardinals defense over the years. He started his career playing inside linebacker in Arizona on their 3-4 defensive front under Bruce Arians. The following season Reddick played strong-side linebacker for Steve Wilks 4-3 defense. Then in 2019, he returned to an inside linebacker role for Kliff Kingsbury’s defense.

Reddick showed this season that the best way to utilize him is as an edge rusher in a 4-3 scheme. He had 12.5 sacks and 6 forced fumbles this season where for a majority of the season he was the Cardinal’s best pass rusher because Chandler Jones only played five games. However, five of those sacks came in one game against the New York Giants and all of his forced fumbles came in the last four games of the year. But if Reddick hits the market a team will try to see if they make his full-season gameplay similar to the late-season stretch he had.

Even after bringing in J.J. Watt, the Arizona Cardinals should still bring Reddick back. It is hard to imagine teams giving Reddick a long-term deal with all of the talented and proven edge rushers that are set to hit the market. The Cardinals should offer Reddick a one-year contract at a fair salary to see if he get replicate or build upon what he did the previous season. If he reaches the team’s expectations then they will extend him long-term. This would essentially mirror the fifth-year option the Cardinals declined to pick up on Reddick.

Prediction: Haason Reddick signs a 1 year $10.5 Million Deal with the Arizona Cardinals

22. Xavier Rhodes, Cornerback

Last offseason the Minnesota Vikings released former All-Pro cornerback Xavier Rhodes after a terrible season by his standards. Rhodes appeared unable to play anything like the shutdown cornerback he was the past couple of seasons. The Indianapolis Colts took a chance on Rhodes signing him to a cheap deal for the upside of him returning to the player he used to be. Rhodes did not play like a Pro Bowler or All-Pro last year, but he did look like a very good starting cornerback. He earned a 76.3 grade according to PFF and played a part in the Colts defense playing as well as it did last season.

The Dallas Cowboys could have a new group of starting cornerbacks next season. Chidobo Awuzie and Jourdan Lewis are expected to hit the free-agent market. Rhodes has a connection to the Cowboys coaching staff because his former defensive coordinator in Minnesota George Edwards is the Senior Defensive Assistant in Dallas.

Last offseason Jerry Jones tried to bring in a few defensive veterans like Everson Griffen, Gerald McCoy, and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix to boost their defense. Despite none of them finishing the season on the roster, Dallas should have a similar approach with how bad their defense played last season.

A starting cornerback group made up of Rhodes, Anthony Brown, and last year’s second-round pick Trevon Diggs could help Dallas avoid playing as bad as they did a season ago on that side of the ball.

Prediction: Xavier Rhodes signs a 1 year $6.5 Million Deal with the Dallas Cowboys

21. Jayon Brown, Linebacker

Jayon Brown was on his way to his third straight 95+ tackle season until he was lost for the season due to an elbow injury in November. He has been a fantastic pick-up for the Titans since they drafted him in the fifth round in 2017. He is already one of the best coverage linebackers in the NFL. Tennesee has a lot of large contracts already on their payroll that they really cannot afford to let go of. After how David Long played in Brown’s absence down the stretch they may have to make the tough decision of letting Brown walk.

The Cleveland Browns have $24.4 Million in salary cap space according to Spotrac. But if they trade/cut some expensive veterans who didn’t have a huge role in the team’s success this past season. that number can jump to $48.5 Million. The team can add multiple star players to fill the voids on their roster. One of their biggest needs is inside linebacker. Cleveland could be interested in signing Brown even though they let Joe Schobert leave last season because Brown is much better in coverage than Schobert. He immediately would become the best linebacker out of Cleveland’s current starters Mack Wilson, Sione Takitaki, and Jacob Philips.

Prediction: Jayon Brown signs a 4 year $42 Million Deal with the Cleveland Browns

20-16

20. John Johnson III, Safety

Aaron Donald and Jalen Ramsey aren’t the only reasons why the Rams defense was so dominant last year. They also have a couple of other key players which are vital to that side of the ball. John Johnson III has been one of the better safeties in the NFL since the Rams drafted him in the third round of 2017. Despite having two seasons with 100+ tackles and 2+ interceptions Johnson has never been named to a Pro Bowl.

The Rams have drafted well at safety over the last couple of seasons. They drafted Taylor Rapp in the second round in 2019, Terrell Burgess in the third round in 2020, and their sixth-round pick from this past year Jordan Fuller played his way into the starting lineup this past season. It feels like it would be a luxury to resign Johnson at market value and he could part ways with the Rams.

But it may not be out of the cards for Johnson to stay in Los Angeles and reunite with his defensive coordinator from this past season Brandon Staley who is the new head coach of the Los Angeles Chargers. When healthy Derwin James is one of the league’s elite defensive players. But Nasir Adderley has been extremely disappointing for the Chargers since they drafted him in the second round in 2019. The new coaching staff for the Chargers may want a sure thing at free safety next season rather than gamble on Adderley. A secondary composed of Casey Hayward, Chris Harris Jr., Derwin James, and John Johnson III could be what the Chargers need to slow down Patrick Mahomes.

Prediction: John Johnson III signs a 4 year $50 Million Deal with the Los Angeles Chargers

19. Trey Hendrickson, EDGE

After three seasons of being a situational pass rusher, Trey Hendrickson beat out Marcus Davenport and became the starting defensive end opposite Cameron Jordan in New Orleans. Hendrickson had 6.5 in his first three seasons combined. In 2020-21 Hendrickson was tied for second in the league in sacks with 13.5. He was an outstanding pass rusher and at times was the Saint’s best defensive player. However, it seems unlikely that New Orleans will be able to retain Hendrickson because of their insane salary cap situation.

The Cincinnati Bengals traded Carlos Dunlap before the Trade Deadline and Carl Lawson is expected to hit free agency. The Bengals could resign Lawson, but he hasn’t been great at getting after the quarterbacks since his rookie season. The Bengals could sign Hendrickson to a large deal to be their primary pass rusher opposite Sam Hubbard who disappointed last season with only two sacks. At age 26 Hendrickson is the perfect veteran for the Bengals to add to their defensive line.

Prediction: Trey Hendrickson signs a 5 year $90 Million Deal with the Cincinnati Bengals

18. K.J. Wright, Linebacker

K.J. Wright
Over the years the Seattle Seahawks haven’t had an issue parting ways with veteran players. K.J. Wright could be the next Seahawks veteran to move on. (Stephen Brashear/Associated Press)

Over the last couple of seasons, the once-great Legion of Boom defense of the Seattle Seahawks has deteriorated. K.J. Wright could become the latest member of that Super Bowl team to leave the team. At age 31 Wright is could slow down and be unable to be as impactful as he was in past years. After drafting Jordyn Brooks in the first round last year he can fill Wright’s position on Seattle’s defense. The Seahawks have over $24 Million cap space according to Spotrac but have too many needs across their offensive line and defense overall to pay K.J. Wright his market value. Now that Lavonte David and Matt Milano are off the market there is a case for Wright to be the best pure linebacker available in free agency.

New York Jets head coach Robert Saleh was the defensive quality control coach for the Seattle Seahawks when they won the Super Bowl in 2013-14. Wright was a major reason why the Seahawks defense played as well as it did that season and the Jets happen to have a need for another linebacker. C.J. Mosely has only played two games for the Jets in his two seasons with the team (opted out of last season). Blake Cashman did not play a snap for the New York last season and both starting linebackers Neville Hewitt and Bryce Hager are expected to hit the market.

Wright would be a fantastic veteran for this young Jets roster to add. He could fill the Kwon Alexander/Dre Greenlaw role and focus on coverage over the middle of the field.

Prediction: K.J. Wright signs a 2 year $19 Million Deal with the New York Jets

17. Dalvin Tomlinson, Defensive Tackle

This past season the New York Giants were carried by the play of their defense once Saquon Barkley was lost for the season. The best unit along the Giants’ defense was their defensive line. Two of the three starters along their defensive line are free agents. One of those free agents is Dalvin Tomlinson who is one of the best run defending defensive tackles in the league. Tomlinson also is a solid pass rusher too. He’s racked up 3.5 sacks in each of the past two seasons.

After cutting Golden Tate and David Mayo the Giants still do not have a lot of cap space. They can open up $24 Million in salary cap space by getting rid of a few more large contracts. Possibly even $33.7 Million if they cut Nate Solder after June 1st. But the Giants have a lot of needs on their roster and it may not make a lot of sense to sign their two free-agent defensive linemen with so many needs across their roster.

However, the Jacksonville Jaguars could afford to pay Tomlinson market value. The Jaguars are missing a force in the middle of their defensive line. Former first-round pick Taven Bryan has been disappointing, Abry Jones is a free agent, and 2020 third-round pick Davon Hamilton is just a prospect with potential. Tomlinson would give the Jaguars their third solid young stater along their defensive line with Josh Allen and K’Lavon Chaisson.

Prediction: Dalvin Tomlinson signs a 4 year $52 Million Deal with the Jacksonville Jaguars

16. Desmond King, Cornerback

Desmond King is one of the most underrated players in the NFL not because of his position but because of where he lines up on the field. Many believe that King is the best nickel-back (slot cornerback) in football. Surprisingly the Los Angeles Chargers traded King to the Tennesee Titans for a sixth-round pick. But after not fitting in great with the Titans defense King could look to sign elsewhere.

A location where King can succeed is within the same division where he spent his first three and a half seasons. The defensive coordinator who coached King in Los Angeles Gus Bradley now holds the same position with the Las Vegas Raiders. It just so happens that the Raiders need help at cornerback and released their starting nickel-back, Lamarcus Joyner, this offseason because he has been disappointing. King can fill the role that Joyner failed to play well in the past few seasons.

Prediction: Desmond King signs a 3 year $33 Million Deal with the Las Vegas Raiders

15-11

15. Earl Thomas, Safety

Two years ago Earl Thomas was considered one of the best safeties in the NFL. Now it is uncertain that a team would be willing to sign Thomas. He was released before last season after punching a teammate. Then reports came out about how much players around the league didn’t want to play with him. This past season Thomas didn’t play a single snap for any team.

However, the NFL has been known to give second chances to star players. Antonio Brown and Kareem Hunt are two examples of star players in recent years who have been given second chances and have done well with their opportunities. Thomas could be the latest to join that list. At his best Thomas is one of the league’s premier free safeties. If a locker room is comfortable bringing Thomas in he could be a real asset to a contending team.

A team with a stable enough locker room to handle a player like Thomas are the Kansas City Chiefs. The Cheifs had a need at safety with Daniel Sorenson hitting the market. Thomas could be a huge upgrade over Sorenson. The Cheifs secondary could feature both Thomas and Juan Thornhill as the team’s deep safeties and Tyrann Mathieu can continue playing his hybrid linebacker role.

Prediction: Earl Thomas signs a 1 year $2.5 Million Deal (No Money Guaranteed & incentives to raise his salary to $7 Million based on season stats and snap percentage) with the Kansas City Chiefs

14. Justin Houston, EDGE

For a decade Justin Houston has been one of the best sack artists in the NFL. He has 97.5 career sacks which is good for third amongst active players and tied for 37th all time. He led the team in sacks in 2019 and was second only to DeForest Buckner this past season. Houston is going to be expensive to retain and Indianapolis could potentially look at a younger edge rusher to fill his void. At 32 years old Houston only has a few seasons left of playing at a high level.

One of the few Super Bowl contenders that have a huge need for a pass rusher is the Baltimore Ravens. The Ravens are expected to possibly lose one or both of their starting edge rushers Matthew Judon and Yannick Ngakoue. On top of that former second-round pick, Tyus Bowser is expected to hit the market. Baltimore added veteran defensive lineman Calais Campbell last offseason. Houston is the same caliber of a veteran who can be a great leader in the locker room and fill their void for a pass rusher off the edge. This could help Baltimore reach their true potential.

Prediction: Justin Houston signs a 2 year $20 Million Deal with the Baltimore Ravens

13. A.J. Bouye, Cornerback

Last offseason it appeared the Denver Broncos got a steal when they traded a fifth-round pick to the Jacksonville Jaguars for A.J. Bouye. But last season Bouye and the Bronco’s defense was very disappointing. He only played seven games last season and had a 55.6 grade according to PFF. Denver decided to cut their losses and cut Bouye for $11.7 Million in the salary cap.

Before last season Bouye was one of the league’s shut down cornerbacks. His best seasons came when he was in Jacksonville paired up with Jalen Ramsey. Bouye could pair up with another All-Pro cornerback in Jaire Alexander if he was to sign with the Green Bay Packers.

The Green Bay Packers are still a little more than $4 Million over the cap. But if they can clear that space a free agent like Bouye could take a discount to sign with the Super Bowl contender. During the NFC Championship, the Packers cornerback was exposed. Besides Alexander, the Packers’ cornerbacks were awful, especially during the post-season. Kevin King is a free agent and hasn’t become the cornerback Green Bay took early in the second round in 2017.

The combination of Bouye and Alexander on the outside would push the Packers’ defense over the top. This could get the Packers over the hump and get them an NFC Championship victory and possibly more

Prediction: A.J. Boyue signs a 1 year $8.5 Million Deal with the Green Bay Packers

12. Keanu Neal, Safety

Keanu Neal
If Keanu Neal leaves the Atlanta Falcons he could be a game-changer for a team on the defensive side of the ball. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

When healthy Keanu Neal has been one of the best safeties in the NFL. But during the past three seasons, Neal has only played in 19 of 48 potential games. Neal has only been able to play in 39.6% of the Falcons games over the last three seasons. But when Neal plays at least 14 games in a season he is good for 100 tackles for a defense. Atlanta needs a lot of help on their defense, but may not want to pay big money to Neal with his inability to stay healthy.

A team who could afford the risk of signing a player like Neal is the Jacksonville Jaguars. Jacksonville has the most available salary cap in the league and most of their holes are on the defensive side of the ball. The Jaguars don’t have a long-term answer at both safety positions. Jacksonville will likely sign a free agent safety and draft a safety in the early rounds. Neal would immediately become one of the best players in Jacksonville’s secondary and along with their entire defense.

Prediction: Keanu Neal signs a 2 year $27 Million Deal with the Jacksonville Jaguars

11. Matthew Judon, EDGE

Last offseason Matthew Judon was considered one of the premier free agents available. This year there is a wider selection of free-agent pass rushers available. The Ravens franchise-tagged Judon and tried to get a long-term deal done. But after a down year with only six sacks, it seems unlikely the Ravens will be willing to pay Judon a contract making him one of the highest-paid edge rushers in the league.

Judon has shown over his career that he is very capable of getting sacks in a starting or rotational role. However, he has not been able to put up elite sack numbers. That won’t stop teams from signing Judon to a large contract.

The Miami Dolphins released Kyle Van Noy and traded Shaq Lawson making edge rusher a massive need for them. Miami will likely try to make splash free-agent signings this offseason to get into the playoffs and beyond next season. Judon fits the mold of a Brian Flores player and could lead the team in sacks next season.

Prediction: Matthew Judon signs a 3 year $51 Million Deal with the Miami Dolphins

10-6

10. Yannick Ngakoue, EDGE

Last year was a weird one for Yannick Ngakoue. He started the year on a franchise tag for the Jacksonville Jaguars. Before the start of the regular season, Jacksonville granted Ngakoue his trade request and sent him to the Minnesota Vikings for a second-round pick. But after Minnesota had a tough start after six games they traded Ngakoue to the Ravens for a third-round pick and 2022 fifth-round pick. He struggled in a 3-4 defense, but Ngakoue still finished the season with eight sacks and four forced fumbles.

If the Indianapolis Colts move on from Justin Houston, Yannick Ngakoue would be a great replacement for him in Indianapolis. Ngakoue could put up the same production as Houston and is seven years younger. The combination of DeForest Buckner and Yannick Ngakoue could be a major threat to AFC quarterbacks for the next half of a decade.

Prediction: Yannick Ngakoue signs a 4 year $68 Million Deal with the Indianapolis Colts

9. Ndamukong Suh, Defensive Tackle

Ndamukong Suh
After a great season, this may be Ndamukong Suh’s last opportunity to cash in on his talent and production given his age. (Courtesy of Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports)

The Super Bowl Champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers have multiple starters hitting the market in free agency. Based on the rumors that have come out already the most likely of those free agents to leave is starting defensive lineman Ndamukong Suh.

After starting his career as one of the best pass-rushing defensive tackles in the league, Suh has settled into a role as a gap filler along a 3-4 defensive line. Suh’s role in both Los Angeles and Tampa Bay has been to eat up space and open lanes for pass rushers to get after the quarterback. In two of the past three seasons, Suh was a major reason why his teammates Aaron Donald and Shaq Barrett have led the league in sacks. This past year Suh had six sacks during the regular season which is his highest since 2015.

A contender who needs a player with Suh’s skillset along their defensive front is the Tennesee Titans. This season the Titans edge rushers were exposed because they were lacking the interior pressure Jurrell Casey put on offensive fronts for the past nine seasons. The Titans shockingly traded Casey to the Broncos for a seventh-round selection and failed to replace him properly. Suh can create similar pressure and could be a huge boost for their run defense.

Prediction: Ndamukong Suh signs a 2 year $19 Million Deal with the Tennesee Titans

8. Bud Dupree, EDGE

Over the last two seasons, Bud Dupree has emerged as one of the league’s best edge rushers. Dupree and T.J. Watt have been the best pair of pass rushers in the league over that span as well. In 2019-20 Dupree had 11.5 sacks. This past season Dupree has 8 sacks in eleven games. Dupree missed the last five games of the regular season due to a torn ACL. Pittsburgh’s salary cap situation makes it virtually impossible for them to resign Dupree for what he is worth on the open market.

Dupree can easily become a team’s best pass rusher. But if he signed with the Los Angeles Chargers he could pair up with another great pass rusher in Joey Bosa. Melvin Ingram is an upcoming free agent this offseason. He is also 32 years old and had zero sacks during seven games last season. New head coach Brandon Staley could look to move off Ingram to a pass rusher like Dupree who is a better fit for his 3-4 defense.

Bosa’s versatility allows him to play inside and outside. and the Chargers could put Bosa and Dupree on opposite ends or on the same side of the line of scrimmage. The pairing of these to edge rushers could make Patrick Mahomes very uncomfortable and could give the Chargers a shot at the AFC West in the near future.

Prediction: Bud Dupree signs a 4 year $72 Million Deal with the Los Angeles Chargers

7. William Jackson III, Cornerback

William Jackson III would be regarded as one of the best cornerbacks in football if he played anywhere but Cincinnati. Despite never making a Pro Bowl Jackson has been near lockdown in Cincinnati for a couple of seasons. Last season PFF gave Jackson a 71.4 rating. He also only gave up 36 receptions last season (2.25 receptions per game).

After giving Trae Waynes a 3 year $42 million deal last offseason it would be shocking if Cincinnati got cold feet about paying Jackon. The Bengals have enough cap room to pay Jackson and fulfill their other needs. He should be a very important piece for Cincinnati over the next couple of seasons as they try to win with Joe Burrow as the team’s franchise quarterback.

Prediction: William Jackson III signs a 5 year $85 Million Deal with the Cincinnati Bengals 

6. Casey Hayward Jr.

One of the most shocking cuts of this offseason was former All-Pro cornerback Casey Hayward Jr. The move saved the Chargers almost $10 Million in salary cap space. But now the team has lost two cornerbacks from their elite secondary group in Hayward and Desmond King II (traded). This past year Hayward only had a single interception and had a 59.5 grade according to PFF.

There is another team in California that needs to retool its secondary this offseason. The San Fransisco 49ers were set to have their top four cornerbacks Richard Sherman, Jason Verrett, Dontae Johnson, and Emmanuel Moseley hit the market. Fortunately for them, they got an extension done with Moseley. But according to reports, it is likely that Sherman will leave the team. Hayward could take over the number one cornerback role for the 49ers. After Sherman, there aren’t many better options than Hayward on the market for the 49ers to sign.

Prediction: Casey Hayward Jr. signs a 2 year $22 Million Deal with the San Fransisco 49ers

5-1

5. Anthony Harris, Safety

In 2019-20 Anthony Harris was franchise tagged by the Minnesota Vikings after having being tied for the league lead in interceptions with six. This past year Harris was not near the ballhawk he was the season prior. Harris did not have a single interception during the 2020-21 season. But he did have a career-high 104 tackles.

The Vikings did not franchise tag Harris for the second year in a row and at the moment do not have enough cap space to pay Harris market value. There is a solid chance that Harris and the Vikings part ways this offseason.

The Las Vegas Raiders have cut a lot of starters to open up salary-cap space. Most of that open cap space will be used on the defensive side of the ball. Harris is one of the premier defensive free agents that could fill a void for the Raiders. Free safety is a major need for the Raiders after cutting Lamarcus Joyner and Erik Harris hitting the market as a free agent. Harris is a major upgrade over both of them and has the potential to be a Pro Bowl player for the Raiders.

Prediction: Anthony Harris signs a 4 year $56 Million Contract with the Las Vegas Raiders

4. Patrick Peterson, Cornerback

For a decade Patrick Peterson has been one of the league’s elite talents at corner. This year was the first time Peterson played a full season and did not make the Pro Bowl. The former All-Pro was given a 55.3 grade from PFF despite having three interceptions. Reports came out early this offseason that the Cardinals and Peterson would part ways. At this point of his career, Peterson would likely look to join a contender to potentially win a championship to boost him out of the borderline Hall of Fame conversation and into the definite “Future Hall of Famer” category.

The closest Peterson ever got to a Super Bowl was under current Buccaneer’s head coach Bruce Arians during his tenure coaching the Cardinals. Arians and defensive coordinator Todd Bowles have an infatuation with LSU defensive backs. Along with Peterson, Tyrann Mathieu, and Jamal Adams have excelled in Bowles defense. A reunion with Arians and Bowles could be something Peterson could be interested in doing especially after their Super Bowl victory.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers may have to continue moving money around, but it is possible for them to sign Patrick Peterson. According to Over the Cap’s salary cap calculator, the Buccaneers could free $17.297 Million if Mike Evans, Ali Marpet, and Cameron Brate restructure their contracts and turn a percentage of each of their contracts into a signing bonus.

Cornerback isn’t a massive need for the Buccaneers. Their secondary is a solid group of young players, but their front seven makes them look better than they really are. Carlton Davis, Sean Murphy-Bunting, and Jamel Dean had their ups and downs last year. But Tampa Bay should add a veteran defensive back that could be more reliable than this group has been in the past.

Prediction: Patrick Peterson signs 1 year $8 Million Deal with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers

3. Shaquil Barrett, EDGE

Shaquil Barrett
Two-time Super Bowl Champion Shaquil Barrett is going to get paid this offseason. (Courtesy of Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports)

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers franchise-tagged Shaquil Barrett after his breakout season in 2019-20. Barrett made his first Pro Bowl and was named All-Pro for the first time after leading the lead in sacks with 19.5. Barrett’s numbers dipped this past season. His sack number dropped to eight this season, but six of his teammates had more sacks than the year prior (Not including rookies like Antoine Winfield Jr. who had three sacks).

Barrett didn’t necessarily have a worse season, it appears that teams viewed Barrett as the team’s biggest threat in the front seven and did whatever they can to keep him away from the quarterback. The pressure Barrett created opened up rushing lanes for all of his teammates.

The Buccaneers have done a good job so far retaining free agents so far. Retaining Barrett won’t be easy with Tampa Bay’s current cap situation, but it may be the most important move they make. If a few more players restructure their contracts they should have more than enough money to sign Barrett to a long-term deal.

Prediction: Shaquil Barrett signs a 4 year $69 Million Deal with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers

2. Richard Sherman, Cornerback

Richard Sherman
It isn’t often that future Hall of Fame cornerback like Richard Sherman is available in free agency. (Roy K. Miller | Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

 

Even though Richard Sherman only played five games last season, he is still one of the top free agents to hit the market this offseason. Sherman signed with the 49ers after Seattle cut him in 2018 when they believed Sherman was washed up and injury-prone. The 49ers took a chance on Sherman and it paid off in a major way. Sherman became the leader of a 49ers defense who made it to the Super Bowl in 2019-20. He showed that he is still capable of playing at an elite level especially when he was a Pro Bowler and Second-Team All-Pro in 2019. PFF gave Sherman a 67.7 grade this past season.

It has been reported that it is likely that San Fransisco moves on from Sherman. It seems appropriate considering defensive coordinator Robert Saleh has left the team. Saleh was a major reason why Sherman signed in San Fransisco. It may be possible for Sherman to join Saleh on his new team in New York.

Sherman has gone on record endorsing Saleh as a leader and a coach (check out video at 2:00 mark). The Jets have a major need at cornerback and need a leader like Sherman to lead this team out of mediocrity. It will be interesting to see if a Sherman signing in New York would end the beef between him and future Hall of Famer Darrelle Revis. They got into it on Twitter early in 2020 picking out the flaws in each other’s games. Regardless of what happened on Twitter, the Jets should do everything they can to sign Sherman.

Prediction: Richard Sherman signs a 3 year $$46.5 Million Deal with the New York Jets

1. Von Miller, EDGE

The Denver Broncos have until the day before free agency to decide whether they will pick up Von Miller’s option or not. It has been hard to track what the Broncos are going to do with him. On one side Miller would cost around $18 Million which is well worth what he does on the field when he’s healthy. But on the other side, Miiller turns 32 this month, missed all of last season a dislocated peroneal tendon in his ankle, and was under criminal investigation earlier this year (Miller was eventually not charged with anything). That may be enough for the Broncos to part ways with Miller and go in a younger direction at pass rusher.

Despite playing a 4-3 defensive front a great fit for Miler would be the Cleveland Browns. Early in Miller’s career during a rough patch, the Broncos signed veteran Demarcus Ware to compliment and mentor Miller to become the pro he is today. Ware was 32 when Denver signed him which is the same age as Miller is now. Myles Garrett hasn’t dealt with much adversity early in his career but could benefit from playing opposite a future Hall of Famer like Miller.

A pass-rushing duo of Garrett and Miller seemed like a fantasy a few years ago, but it realistic for Cleveland to make happen. They have the salary space to sign Miller to a contract paying him what he is worth. On top of that Cleveland needs another defensive playmaker to propel their defense to a top-level. The Browns defense was about average last season and needs more from that unit to become a contender in the AFC.

Prediction: Von Miller signs a 2 year $36 Milion Deal with the Cleveland Browns

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