Connect with us

Hi, what are you looking for?

NFL

2021 NFL Free Agency: Rumors, verbal deals slowly rolling in

PFN Chief Draft Analyst and NFL Insider Tony Pauline offers the latest on the 2021 NFL free agency period and the rumors surrounding it.

2021 NFL Free Agency: Rumors, verbal deals slowly rolling in
Sep 27, 2020; Glendale, Arizona, USA; Detroit Lions wide receiver Kenny Golladay (19) pushes off against Arizona Cardinals cornerback Byron Murphy (33) in the fourth quarter at State Farm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Billy Hardiman-USA TODAY Sports

With the NFL new year set to kick off this week, 2021 free agency (and all of its rumors) is just around the corner. Fans are both excited and nervous; excited if their favorite team is under the cap and pensive if their franchise is in the red.

What is the feeling around the NFL with free agency set to open?

This is also the best way to explain the feeling among teams and player reps as free agency approaches — pensive. According to league insiders I’ve spoken with, the 2021 free-agent market will be unlike anything we’ve witnessed in recent NFL history.

Here’s why — top-tier free agents get the majority of the pie, then there’s a lull and the rest of the free agents fight for what’s left. Over the past half-dozen years, the trend in free agency has been consistent.

Featured: NFL Free Agency Preview 2021: Contending, rebuilding, drifting, or tanking

With the cap reduced almost $20 million from a year ago (Adam Schefter recently reported the 2021 salary cap will be $182.5 million) and uncertainty about where it will be a year from now, the top free agents who sign large contracts in 2021 will see less money than in the past.

Edge rushers will have tough decisions to make in free agency

For instance, let’s take a look at the group of edge rushers available in 2021 NFL free agency, one of the better positions this year. Shaq Barrett, Matthew Judon, and Carl Lawson are expected to sign large deals that will pay them at or above market value. The remaining free-agent edge rushers are likely to have tough decisions to make.

Expectations are that many free agents who usually fit into the top tier at a position may have to accept contracts that are less than their market value or sign a one-year deal with the hopes of a big-money, long-term deal in 2022.

Did Bills linebacker Matt Milano leave money on the table?

Matt Milano is an example of the former. The Buffalo Bills agreed to a four-year, $44 million contract with Milano last week. But one league capologist told me Milano would’ve commanded a deal closer to $13 million per year in an ordinary year where the cap did not take a hit. Milano took a potential 15% cut from market value in 2021 free agency for the security of a long-term contract.

Jadeveon Clowney not in the same boat as Milano

Jadeveon Clowney’s experience last year is an example of the latter. Clowney wanted a deal that would’ve paid him $18 to $22 million each season and turned down lesser offers. He ultimately chose to sign a one-year contract with the Titans with the hopes of a longer-term deal in the future. Obviously, that has not worked out.

The wide receiver position is unsettled heading into the new league year

The situation at receiver may be more pronounced than any other position in free agency.

Kenny Golladay will receive the payday he expects when he hits free agency. League insiders tell me the New York Jets and Miami Dolphins are expected to lead the charge for his services. But after Golladay, many of the top free-agent receivers could end up with below-market contracts.

Related | NFL Team-by-Team Salary Cap and Cap Space for 2021

This is not only because many teams are nervous about signing receivers to long-term deals, but also the fact that it’s another very strong class of wideouts in this year’s draft.

Will we hear of any verbal deals over the next few days?

One thing that’s also missing from this year’s free-agent period is the talk of verbal deals that have already been agreed to. Free agency usually begins at the Senior Bowl then kicks into high gear at the NFL Combine.

Last year from the combine, I reported on PFN that Philip Rivers to the Indianapolis Colts would happen. I also reported that the Jets liked offensive tackle Jack Conklin and were looking at George Fant as another option. As Meatloaf once said, two out of three ain’t bad.

Featured | NFL Draft Prospects 2021: Pauline’s updated big board, player rankings

Those verbal deals have been nonexistent to date. This is not only because the combine was canceled while the Senior Bowl was a good old-fashioned scouting event with little outside activity, but teams are waiting to see where the free-agent market will be set at each position.

A good source tells me those verbal deals will start this week. However, unlike previous years, don’t expect an insane amount of free-agent chatter like years past around the legal tampering period.

Want more NFL news and analysis beyond NFL free agency rumors?

Be sure to follow us on Twitter (@PFN365) to stay in the loop on all things around the NFL. Also, continue to visit Pro Football Network for NFL news, rumors, and in-depth analysis concerning the 2021 season, free agency, and beyond.

Advertisement

Trending Articles on PFN

NFL Draft

BYU quarterback Zach Wilson has taken the nation by storm as his NFL Draft stock continues to go up with each strong performance.

Arizona Cardinals

With the 2021 NFL free agency period underway, we take a look at the top available NFL free agents remaining as we near the...

NFL Draft

With fantastic natural tools, Michigan EDGE Kwity Paye is looking to soar his NFL Draft stock into a first-round draft pick.

Arizona Cardinals

The future is now! Find out if North Carolina quarterback Sam Howell goes first overall in our 2022 First Round NFL Mock Draft!