2021 Free Agency Outlook: Edge Rushers, Linebackers, and Secondary

-John Turner

In football you have to score more points than your opponents. One of the ways to do that is to not give up any. teams that make the defense a priority almost always find themselves in contention for the playoffs year in and year out. Most of us by now have heard the term “defense wins championships”. While that might not always be the cashew can look to several teams over the last 20 years alone and point to the D as to why certain teams were able to make deep runs and or take home the Lombardi.

Of the 14 teams to make playoffs this year, 8 of them are in the top 10 in yards given up per game. Let’s see if we can find a pattern, shall we?

YearTop 10sSuper Bowl AppearanceSuper Bowl Win
20208TBDTBD
201941N
201830N
201761Y
201640N
201562Y
201431N
201351Y
201251N
201150N

As you can see having a top 10 defense won’t automatically win you a Super Bowl but there’s a pretty good chance you’ll get into the post season and on any given Sunday, walk away with a W. With that said, let’s see who’s up for new deals.

Edge Rushers are among some of the highest paid positions in the league at times. The Ravens seem to find pass rushers year in and year out, but unfortunately they have some pretty good ones with expiring contracts. Matt Judon and Yannick Ngakoue are two men that are going to command big bucks. Yannick was acquired via trade with the Vikings earlier in the year so if I had to guess between the two assuming they choose one or the other, I’d put my money on him. At 26 I’ll assume Carl Lawson resigns with the Bengals. With 5.5 sacks, 2 forced fumbles, and 32hits on opposing quarterbacks, he seems like a guy you’d want to keep. Ryan Kerrigan has had a solid career in Washington and although his playing time and production has declined a bit, he can still provide some rotational help as seen this season with 5.5 sacks. He likely won’t resign with FT since he’s made it clear he wants to start. I’ll predict a homecoming with the Colts.

TeamFree AgentPositionAge2021 GradePosition RankingFA Type
ARIHaason ReddickOLB2672.823UFA
ARIDe’Vondre CampbellOLB28UFA
ARIMarkus GoldenOLB3060.080UFA
ARIIsaiah IrvingOLB27UFA
ARITanner VallejoOLB26UFA
ARIDennis GardeckOLB27RFA
ARIVontarrius DoraOLB28RFA
ATLCharles HarrisDE2655.494UFA
ATLSteven MeansDE3058.487UFA
BALMatt JudonOLB2959.482UFA
BALTyus BowserOLB2670.233UFA
BALPernell McPheeOLB3271.828UFA
BALYannick NgakoueDE2669.439UFA
BALJihad WardDE2766.751UFA
BUFTrent MurphyDE3066.056UFA
CAREfe ObadaDE29RFA
CARAustin LarkinDE26ERFA
CHIBarkevious MingoOLB3062.269UFA
CHIJames VaughtersDE28ERFA
CINCarl LawsonDE2676.316UFA
CLEGeorge ObinnaDE25ERFA
DALAldon SmithOLB3166.354UFA
DALTyrone CrawfordDE31UFA
DALRon’Dell CarterDE24ERFA
DENDeMarcus WalkerDE26UFA
DENDerrek TuszkaDE24ERFA
DETEverson GriffenDE3363.263UFA
DETRomeo OkwaraDE26UFA
GBBilly WinnDE32UFA
GBMontravius AdamsDE26UFA
HOUAndrew BrownDE25ERFA
INDJustin HoustonDE3262.966UFA
INDDenico AutryDE3163.762UFA
INDAl-Quadin MuhammadDE2661.273UFA
JACDawuane SmootDE2657.291UFA
JACAdam GotsisDE28UFA
KCAlex OkaforDE3057.689UFA
KCTanoh KpassagnonDE2755.494UFA
KCTaco CharltonDE26UFA
KCTim WardDE24ERFA
LACMelvin IngramOLB3272.324UFA
LARMorgan FoxDE26UFA
LVTakkarist McKinleyDE2569.8N/AUFA
LVVic BeasleyDE29UFA
MINIfeadi OdenigboDE2760.775RFA
NEJohn SimonDE3048.3111UFA
NEDeatrich WiseDE27UFA
NETashawn BowerDE26RFA
NONoah SpenceDE27UFA
NOTrey HendricksonDE2672.125UFA
NYGJabaal SheardDE3266.552UFA
PHIVinny CurryDE3368.641UFA
PITBud DupreeOLB2860.278UFA
PITJayrone ElliottOLB29UFA
PITTyson AlualuDE34UFA
PITCassius MarshDE29UFA
PITHenry MondeauxDE25ERFA
SEABruce IrvinDE33UFA
SEABenson MayowaDE3060.477UFA
SEAJonathan BullardDE27UFA
SEADamontre MooreDE28UFA
SEABranden JacksonDE28UFA
SFSolomon ThomasDE26UFA
SFRonald BlairDE28UFA
SFKerry HyderDE3068.641UFA
SFEzekiel AnsahDE32UFA
SFDion JordanDE3161.174UFA
SFJordan WillisDE26UFA
TBPat O’ConnorDE27ERFA
TENJadeveon ClowneyDE2874.919UFA
TENMatt DickersonDE25RFA
TENWyatt RayDE24ERFA
WASRyan KerriganDE3359.383UFA

Leonard Floyd came to LA this season from the Bears on a one year deal. If the one year deals are still known as “prove it” deals, he lived up to his end of the bargain. 10.5 sacks, a forced fumble, two fumble recoveries, and 19 hits on QBs is enough to get a fairly lucrative deal for a guy still in his prime for another couple of years. Shaquil Barrett and Lavonte David are two 4-3 linebackers that will be cashing in. The Buccaneers may have to choose between the two or simply allow them both to walk. Reuben Foster was supposed to be the next Derrick Thomas coming out of Alabama. Washington signed him after he was waived by the 49ers after off the field issues ensued midseason in 2018 and he hasn’t played a down of football since. with back to back injuries in camps he’s spent both season on injured reserve. For whatever reason he seems like the kind of story that would turn it all around and recapture old form after signing with the Patriots…

TeamFree AgentPositionAge2021 GradePosition RankingFA Type
ARIDe’Vondre CampbellOLB28UFA
ARIMarkus GoldenOLB30UFA
ARIIsaiah IrvingOLB27UFA
ARITanner VallejoOLB26UFA
ARIDennis GardeckOLB27RFA
ARIVontarrius DoraOLB28RFA
ARIEzekiel TurnerILB25RFA
ARIKylie FittsLB26RFA
ATLEdmond RobinsonOLB29UFA
ATLLaRoy ReynoldsILB30UFA
BALChris BoardLB26RFA
BALKristian WelchLB24ERFA
BUFMatt MilanoOLB2655.541UFA
BUFAndre SmithILB24RFA
CARJulian StanfordOLB30UFA
CARAdarius TaylorILB30UFA
CARTahir WhiteheadLB3131.986UFA
CHIJosh WoodsLB25ERFA
CINJordan EvansOLB26UFA
CINJosh BynesILB3252.653UFA
CLEOlivier VernonOLB30UFA
CLEMalcolm SmithOLB3270.810UFA
CLEElijah LeeOLB25UFA
CLEPorter GustinOLB24ERFA
CLEB.J. GoodsonILB2865.423UFA
CLETae DavisLB25UFA
DALSean LeeOLB35UFA
DALJustin MarchOLB28UFA
DALJoe ThomasILB3047.666UFA
DALFrancis BernardLB26ERFA
DENJeremiah AttaochuOLB28UFA
DENAnthony ChickilloOLB28UFA
DENJoe JonesOLB27UFA
DENVon MillerOLB32CO
DENAustin CalitroILB27RFA
DENA.J. JohnsonILB2965.423RFA
DETJalen Reeves-MaybinOLB26UFA
DETJarrad DavisILB2662.229UFA
DETReggie RaglandILB2748.064UFA
DETJason CabindaLB25RFA
GBRandy RamseyOLB25ERFA
GBJames BurgessILB27UFA
GBKrys BarnesLB2343.775ERFA
HOUBrennan ScarlettOLB28UFA
HOUTyrell AdamsOLB29UFA
HOUKyle EmanuelOLB30UFA
HOUDylan ColeILB27UFA
HOUNate HallLB25ERFA
INDAnthony Walker Jr.ILB2645.572UFA
JACAaron LynchOLB28UFA
JACKamalei CorreaILB27UFA
JACJoe Giles-HarrisLB24ERFA
JACDakota AllenLB25ERFA
KCDamien WilsonOLB2851.854UFA
KCDarius HarrisOLB25ERFA
KCBen NiemannLB2646.769RFA
LACNick VigilOLB2860.634UFA
LACMalik JeffersonOLB24RFA
LACDenzel PerrymanILB2883.33UFA
LARLeonard FloydOLB2869.635UFA
LARDerek RiversOLB27UFA
LARSamson EbukamOLB26UFA
LARTravin HowardOLB25ERFA
LARNatrez PatrickLB24RFA
LVNicholas MorrowOLB2663.727UFA
LVKyle WilberOLB32UFA
LVRaekwon McMillanILB25UFA
MIAKamu Grugier-HillOLB27UFA
MIAVince BiegelOLB28UFA
MIAElandon RobertsOLB2729.388UFA
MIACalvin MunsonILB26ERFA
MIASam EguavoenLB28ERFA
MINEric WilsonOLB2653.551UFA
MINJordan BrailfordOLB25ERFA
MINTodd DavisILB31UFA
MINHercules Mata’afaLB25RFA
MINBlake LynchLB22ERFA
NEShilique CalhounOLB29UFA
NEBrandon CopelandOLB30UFA
NETerez HallLB24ERFA
NOAlex AnzaloneOLB2660.833UFA
NOCraig RobertsonILB33UFA
NYGKyler FackrellOLB29UFA
NYJJordan JenkinsOLB27UFA
NYJTarell BashamOLB27UFA
NYJNeville HewittILB2859.437UFA
NYJPatrick OnwuasorILB29UFA
NYJBryce HagerILB29UFA
NYJHarvey LangiILB2834.984RFA
NYJFrankie LuvuLB24ERFA
PHIDuke RileyOLB2755.143UFA
PHINate GerryOLB2645.771UFA
PHIJoe BachieLB23ERFA
PHIAlex SingletonLB2758.938ERFA
PITAvery WilliamsonILB2951.755UFA
PITOlasunkanmi AdeniyiLB23RFA
PITRobert SpillaneLB2566.322ERFA
SEAK.J. WrightOLB3275.78UFA
SEAShaquem GriffinLB26RFA
SFJoe WalkerILB28UFA
TBShaquil BarrettOLB2871.129UFA
TBLavonte DavidOLB3181.85UFA
TBKevin MinterILB30UFA
TBChapelle RussellLB24ERFA
TENWill ComptonILB31UFA
TENNick DzubnarILB30UFA
TENDaren BatesILB30UFA
TENJayon BrownILB2666.421UFA
WASKevin Pierre-LouisOLB2967.817UFA
WASRyan AndersonOLB27UFA
WASMychal KendricksOLB30UFA
WASJared NorrisOLB28UFA
WASReuben FosterILB27UFA
WASJordan KunaszykLB24RFA

One of the most exciting playmakers of this era in Patrick Peterson may have his time with Arizona coming to a close. Starting his career with eight straight pro bowls and three all pro honors he’s missed both the last two seasons. If this is the end of the line for Larry Fitzgerald the Cardinals may want to keep Peterson around for fan moral considering he’s still fairly productive even entering the wrong side of 30. Jimmy Smith, Richard Sherman, Xavier Rhodes, and Josh Norman are some other aging corners that would likely be a fit on a team that believes they are a piece or two away from a title. J.C. Jackson is a very intriguing name to watch for. With nine interceptions, three forced fumbles, and 14 passed deflected the former Maryland Terrapin may have enough upside to go long on an offer as he is a restricted free agent and we all know Bill Belichick loves those compensation picks.

TeamFree AgentPositionAge2021 GradePosition RankingFA Type
ARIPatrick PetersonCB3155.284UFA
ARIDre KirkpatrickCB31UFA
ARIJohnathan JosephCB3765.449UFA
ARIKevin PetersonCB27RFA
ATLBlidi Wreh-WilsonCB31UFA
ATLDarqueze DennardCB2966.047UFA
ATLTyler HallCB22ERFA
BALJimmy SmithCB3374.614UFA
BALTramon WilliamsCB38UFA
BALDavontae HarrisCB26RFA
BALTerrell BondsCB25ERFA
BALKhalil DorseyCB23ERFA
BUFJosh NormanCB3370.427UFA
BUFLevi WallaceCB2664.254RFA
BUFCam LewisCB24ERFA
CARRasul DouglasCB2661.163UFA
CARNatrell JamersonCB25RFA
CARCorn ElderCB2668.534RFA
CHISherrick McManisCB33UFA
CHIArtie BurnsCB26UFA
CHIMichael JosephCB26ERFA
CINMackensie AlexanderCB2760.467UFA
CINWilliam JacksonCB2871.424UFA
CINLeShaun SimsCB2742.5116UFA
CINTony BrownCB25RFA
CINJalen DavisCB25ERFA
CLEKevin JohnsonCB2950.6103UFA
CLETerrance MitchellCB2967.441UFA
CLETavierre ThomasCB25RFA
CLERobert JacksonCB27ERFA
DALChidobe AwuzieCB2651.998UFA
DALC.J. GoodwinCB31UFA
DALJourdan LewisCB2648.1110UFA
DENDeVante BausbyCB2851.899UFA
DENKevin ToliverCB25RFA
DENParnell MotleyCB23ERFA
DETDarryl RobertsCB3052.593UFA
DETTony McRaeCB28UFA
DETMichael FordCB26RFA
GBKevin KingCB2655.779UFA
GBChandon SullivanCB2562.260RFA
GBParry NickersonCB26RFA
GBKabion EntoCB25ERFA
HOUGareon ConleyCB2664.557UFA
HOUVernon HargreavesCB2641.2119UFA
HOUPhillip GainesCB30UFA
HOUCornell ArmstrongCB25RFA
HOUMark FieldsCB24ERFA
INDXavier RhodesCB3177.310UFA
INDTravis CarrieCB3167.937UFA
INDTremon SmithCB25RFA
JACD.J. HaydenCB31UFA
JACSidney JonesCB2568.135UFA
JACGreg MabinCB27UFA
JACTre HerndonCB2552.692RFA
KCBashaud BreelandCB2967.738UFA
KCAntonio HamiltonCB28UFA
KCCharvarius WardCB2664.850RFA
KCAlex BrownCB25ERFA
LACMichael DavisCB2663.156UFA
LACBrandon FacysonCB26RFA
LACTevaughn CampbellCB2852.494ERFA
LARTroy HillCB3073.717UFA
LARDarious WilliamsCB2882.54RFA
LVNevin LawsonCB3055.681UFA
LVDaryl WorleyCB2644.8115UFA
MIAJamal PerryCB26ERFA
MIANik NeedhamCB2449.2107ERFA
MINChris JonesCB26RFA
MINDylan MabinCB23ERFA
NEJason McCourtyCB3455.779UFA
NEJustin BethelCB31UFA
NEJ.C. JacksonCB2569.532RFA
NEMyles BryantCB23ERFA
NOP.J. WilliamsCB28UFA
NOJustin HardeeCB27UFA
NOJohnson BademosiCB31UFA
NOKen CrawleyCB28UFA
NYGRyan LewisCB27RFA
NYGMadre HarperCB23ERFA
NYJBrian PooleCB2877.111UFA
NYJArthur MauletCB28UFA
NYJBennett JacksonCB29ERFA
NYJJavelin Guidry Jr.CB23ERFA
NYJLamar JacksonCB2350.4104ERFA
NYJKyron BrownCB25ERFA
PHINickell Robey-ColemanCB2951.1101UFA
PHICrevon LeBlancCB27UFA
PHIMichael JacquetCB24ERFA
PHIElijah RileyCB23ERFA
PITMike HiltonCB2768.036UFA
PITCameron SuttonCB2668.633UFA
SEAQuinton DunbarCB2947.7113UFA
SEANeiko ThorpeCB31UFA
SEAShaquill GriffinCB2664.652UFA
SEAJayson StanleyCB24UFA
SEARyan NealCB25ERFA
SFRichard ShermanCB3367.738UFA
SFK’Waun WilliamsCB3066.246UFA
SFJason VerrettCB3077.69UFA
SFAhkello WitherspoonCB2680.26UFA
SFDontae JohnsonCB29UFA
SFJamar TaylorCB30UFA
SFEmmanuel MoseleyCB2558.373ERFA
SFKen WebsterCB25ERFA
TBRyan SmithCB27UFA
TBRoss CockrellCB30UFA
TENChris MiltonCB28UFA
TENTye SmithCB28UFA
TENDesmond KingCB2665.548UFA
TENJoshua KaluCB26RFA
TENKareem OrrCB24ERFA
TENBreon BordersCB2671.125ERFA
WASRonald DarbyCB2769.831UFA
WASFabian MoreauCB27UFA
WASDanny JohnsonCB25RFA

last but not least are the Safeties. Previously we pointed out some of the corners that are getting up there in age and just something to think about… many corners that are in the latter portion of their careers often convert to safety. Justin Simmons has already expressed interest in staying in Denver and they’ll likely move on from Kareem Jackson, so it’s probable he sticks around. John Johnson is a stud and he’s going to want to be paid like one. At 24 years old Marcus Williams might be the biggest contract to come out of the safeties pool. He’s started every game he’s played in for four years. A wild card player not on this list is Tyrann Mathieu. He’s slated to make over $20 million in 2021and I think he’ll be let go before free agency starts.

TeamFree AgentPositionAge2021 GradePosition RankingFA Type
ARIChris BanjoS3164.247UFA
ARICharles WashingtonS28UFA
ATLKeanu NealSS2668.228UFA
ATLSharrod NeasmanS2963.451UFA
ATLDamontae KazeeS28UFA
BALAnthony LevineSS34UFA
BALJordan RichardsSS28UFA
BALGeno StoneS22ERFA
BUFDean MarloweSS29UFA
CARKenny RobinsonS22ERFA
CHITashaun GipsonFS3167.630UFA
CHIDeon BushS28UFA
CHIDeAndre Houston-CarsonS28UFA
CINShawn WilliamsSS30UFA
CINBrandon WilsonS27UFA
CLEKarl JosephSS2753.378UFA
CLEAndrew SendejoSS3342.988UFA
CLETedric ThompsonS26UFA
CLEJovante MoffattS24ERFA
DALXavier WoodsS2665.144UFA
DALSteven ParkerS25ERFA
DENJustin SimmonsFS2777.49UFA
DENKareem JacksonSS3380.46CO
DENWill ParksS27UFA
DENTrey MarshallS25RFA
DENP.J. LockeS24ERFA
DETDuron HarmonSS3066.634UFA
DETJayron KearseS27UFA
DETMiles KillebrewS28UFA
GBWill RedmondFS2757.868RFA
GBRaven GreeneS2661.158RFA
HOUMichael ThomasFS31UFA
HOUA.J. MooreS2550.484RFA
INDTavon WilsonSS31UFA
INDMalik HookerS2560.6UFA
INDGeorge OdumS27RFA
JACDoug MiddletonFS27UFA
JACJosh JonesS2644.087UFA
KCDaniel SorensenSS3150.185UFA
LACJahleel AddaeSS31UFA
LACRayshawn JenkinsS2768.029UFA
LARJohn JohnsonSS2587.43UFA
LARJuJu HughesS23ERFA
LVErik HarrisS3157.069UFA
LVDallin LeavittS27ERFA
MIAKavon FrazierS27UFA
MINAnthony HarrisFS2966.238UFA
MINGeorge IlokaFS31UFA
MINJosh MetellusS23ERFA
NETerrence BrooksFS29UFA
NECody DavisFS32UFA
NOMarcus WilliamsFS2479.38UFA
NOD.J. SwearingerFS30UFA
NOJ.T. GraySS25RFA
NYGNate EbnerFS32UFA
NYGAdrian ColbertFS27UFA
NYJMarcus MayeFS2782.85UFA
NYJBradley McDougaldSS3041.090UFA
NYJMatthias FarleySS29UFA
NYJJ.T. HassellS26RFA
PHIJalen MillsS2768.924UFA
PHIJohnathan FordS25UFA
PITSean DavisFS27UFA
PITJordan DangerfieldFS30UFA
PITMarcus AllenS25ERFA
SEADamarious RandallFS29UFA
SEADelano HillS25UFA
SEALinden StephensS26ERFA
SFJaquiski TarttFS2965.341UFA
SFMarcell HarrisS2740.691RFA
TBAndrew AdamsS28UFA
WASJeremy ReavesS2584.14ERFA

Who would you like to see your team retain? What guys out there would you like to see your team to go after? What guys do you think will be free agent bust? Who are some of the best value players available? So many questions!!! All I know is that between the salary cap going down and some teams seriously strapped for cap space free agency is going to be fun to follow this year.

Next up? We focus on draft prospects and my mastermind mock.

You know the game of choice for the Red White and Blue… It’s A Football World, we’re all just passing through.

Photo credit: Forbes