Updated: Jun 2
2021 Free Agents - Defense Edition
By: Keith Sheeran
Some big names will be looking for either a contract extension on their current team or a move to new surroundings. Let’s take a look at some of the big names on the defensive side of the ball who could be on the move in 2021.
Since coming into the league in 2014, Shaquil Barrett has been one of the best and most efficient pass rushers in the NFL. Barrett has won several accolades, including winning Super Bowl 50 with the Denver Broncos. Barrett has been a sacking machine and was the NFL sacks leader in
2019, totaling 20 sacks. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers should be trying to tie Barrett down to a long term deal. If not, he will be a top pick up for any other team.
Potential Landing Spots: Cleveland Browns, New York Giants, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Bud Dupree had a breakout season in 2019, but up until then, he was an average edge rusher at best. Dupree has had a high number of sacks (231) in his career so far, but he’s not the most efficient player, and most of these sacks are due to quarterbacks holding onto the ball too long. Dupree is a strong, high power player, but he does not always win his battles against offensive tackles. The Steelers have many free agents in 2021, so they might have to make some tough decisions, which means Dupree may not be on the Steelers come the start of the season.
Potential Landing Spots: Indianapolis Colts, Jacksonville Jaguars, Washington Football Team
Some other free agent Edge Rushers
Since coming into the NFL in 2016, Sheldon Rankings has been a good player when healthy for the New Orleans Saints. Rankings has been dealing with injuries since 2018, so he has not seen as much playing time as he would have liked. When healthy, he is an explosive player who is excellent against the run. The offseason will be interesting for rankings as most teams know how good he can be when healthy, but his injury history may concern teams too much.
Potential Landing Spots: Jacksonville Jaguars, Minnesota Vikings, Tennessee Titans
Ndamukong Suh has had a stellar career so far, making five Pro Bowl appearances, and was named rookie of the year in 2010. Suh has been a force for so many years, but as his age catches up with him, he is starting to slow down. Suh is a good player for any team to sign on a short term basis, but he usually commands a high paycheck due to his experience. Suh will most likely sign a one-year deal in the offseason, but who knows, maybe if he finally wins the Super Bowl this year, he might retire.
Potential Landing Spots: Tampa Bay Buccaneers, New England Patriots, Seattle Seahawks
Some other free agent Defensive Linemen
For almost ten years, K.J. Wright has been an ever-present in the Seahawks defense and has been one of the most consistent linebackers in the league. Wright was a part of the legion of boom, which helped lead the Seahawks to a Super Bowl win in 2014. Wright is still performing at a
high level, so he would be a top pick up for any team in 2021. I’m hoping the Seahawks can re-sign Wright so he can end his career in Seattle, but if they chose to let him go, he should have several teams looking to sign him.
Potential Landing Spots: Seattle Seahawks, New York Giants, Carolina Panthers
Like K.J. Wright, Lavonte David has been a consistent performer; since the Tampa Bay Buccaneers drafted him in 2012. Even though he is now 30, he is still playing at a high level. David has everything you want in a linebacker, speed, efficiency, and excellent coverage skills. Tampa Bay
has two of the best linebackers in the league, and I think they would like to keep it that way. I would imagine they will be re-signing David so he can play on in Tampa until he calls time on his career.
Potential Landing Spots: Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Los Angeles Chargers, Philadelphia Eagles,
Some other free agent Linebackers
For almost a decade, Richard Sherman has been one of the top corners in the league. He’s a 5-time Pro Bowler who won the Super Bowl in 2014 and was named the NFC defensive player of the year in the same year. Even though he’s getting on in age, Sherman is still playing at a high
level and would be a great asset to any defense. Like a lot of teams, the San Francisco 49ers have some big decisions to make in the offseason, so it’s not guaranteed that Sherman will be back in the red and gold uniform in 2021.
Potential Landing Spots: Seattle Seahawks, Cleveland Browns, New York Jets
Patrick Peterson was one of the most dominant cornerbacks for many years, but recently it looks like he has lost a slight edge. Peterson was one of the best cornerbacks until 2019 when he was hit with a 6-month suspension, and ever since, he hasn’t looked like the same player. With that being said, Peterson is still one of the better cornerbacks in the league, and I would imagine the Arizona Cardinals would like to keep hold of him for the next couple of years as they could find it hard to
replace Peterson if he does part ways with the team.
Potential Landing Spots: Arizona Cardinals, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, New York Jets
Some other free agent Cornerbacks
William Jackson III
One of the standout defensive players for the Atlanta Falcons is Keanu Neal. Neal was a first-round pick in 2016 and was an instant hit. His high energy and his capabilities to get around the field are some of his big attributes. The Falcons don’t have too many good defensive players, so
they may want to keep Neal to build their defense around him. It will be interesting to see what the new coaching staff in Atlanta do in the offseason, but re-signing Neal might not be a bad option.
Potential Landing Spots: Houston Texans, Washington Football Team, Minnesota Vikings
Over the last two seasons, Justin Simmons has been one of the most improved safety’s and has become one of the best players in his position. Simmons has developed into a great player and has all the attributes to be a top safety for years to come. The Denver Broncos would be foolish to
let him go as a talent like Simmons does not come around that often. The Broncos should give Simmons a big contract to make sure he sticks around in Denver for years to come.
Potential Landing Spots: Chicago Bears, Jacksonville Jaguars, Dallas Cowboys
Some other free agent Safety
John Johnson III