Heading into 2021, Tennessee Titans WR Corey Davis heads into free agency after the best season of his career. Selected in the top five picks in 2017, Davis’ free agency will be an intriguing situation to monitor. Could the Titans work out a deal, or did his recent success push Corey Davis outside their price range for 2021?
Corey Davis disappointed for his first three seasons as a top-5 pick
When you’re selected inside the top five picks in a draft, the expectations to succeed are as high as they come. Corey Davis was the first WR off the board in a 2017 class loaded with NFL success stories. Davis was a part of a rookie class that involved Mike Williams, JuJu Smith-Schuster, Cooper Kupp, Chris Godwin, Kenny Golladay, and Curtis Samuel.
While he has always shown flashes, he has never quite been able to put it all together. Prior to 2020, his best season was in 2018, catching 65 of his 112 targets for 891 yards and four touchdowns. All of those were career-highs coming into 2020. Not quite the return on investment the Titans had in mind when they drafted Davis. Even with the lack of production, Corey Davis could have returned to the Titans and avoided free agency altogether.
Will Corey Davis hit free agency in 2021?
When a player gets selected in the first round of the NFL Draft, teams can extend that player an additional season using a fifth-year option. It’s almost a de facto franchise tag to buy them one more season of control and time to work out a deal. However, before the 2020 season, the Titans passed on this opportunity.
Due to his up and down production, the Tennessee Titans declined Davis’s fifth-year option in May. It would have carried the steep price of $15.68 million in 2021.
Perhaps the pressure that came with the draft capital plus the play of Marcus Mariota for two and a half of those seasons got to Davis. However, the declining of his option and entering his contract year seemed to spark a fire under Corey Davis, with a trip to free agency in 2021 approaching.
Corey Davis had his best season as a professional in 2020
With Ryan Tannehill under center and his future in mind, Corey Davis took off. In 14 games played, Davis hauled in 65 of his 92 targets for 984 yards and five touchdowns. If not for missing two games due to testing positive, Davis would have joined teammate A.J. Brown as 1,000-yard receivers.
He ended the regular season with five games over 100 receiving yards, three more than he had in his career combined to that point. It was something Davis had not done since Week 9 of 2018.
Davis even admitted that he had something to prove this season.
“For me, I was going to come in this year and prove something to myself. No one else,” Davis said. “I have nothing to prove to nobody but to myself.”
Because of his success this season, Corey Davis has earned himself a sizeable payday once he hits free agency in 2021. The question is, who will he be playing for next season?
What are some teams that Corey Davis could sign with during the 2021 free agency period?
The Tennessee Titans could want him back
Yes, they declined his option. But after the season he had and going to the playoffs, the Titans might be kicking themselves for that decision.
Davis could command a deal worth somewhere in the neighborhood of $12 to $14 million per year based on other players in a similar tier. What happens to the salary cap could have an impact on whether this is possible for the team. Over The Cap has the Titans projected to have only $7.27 million in space due to the reduction of the salary cap to around $176 million for 2021.
Tennessee has a total of 30 players from their current 53-man roster set to become free agents in 2021 and have to make some difficult decisions. Those key players include tight end Jonnu Smith, inside linebacker Jayon Brown, defensive lineman DaQuan Jones, outside linebacker Jadeveon Clowney, and Davis.
Losing Corey Davis would expose a massive hole at the wide receiver position. Davis and Brown combined for 42% of the targets, with the next closest WR being Adam Humphries at 35 targets. Given the chemistry between Corey Davis, A.J. Brown, and Ryan Tannehill, doing everything they can to resign Davis for the 2021 season and beyond is a wise decision.
The Washington Football Team desperately need WR help
Outside of WR Terry Mclaurin, Washington does not have a second option at receiver. Logan Thomas was a revelation at TE, but he can’t stretch the field. Thomas and RB J.D. McKissic each had 110 targets in 2020. The trio combined for 354 of the 573 targets last year (62%).
Washington is unsure what WR Antonio Gandy-Golden will do as he enters his second season due to injuries. Whoever they bring in as the quarterback will need reliable pass catchers. Washington has plenty of cap space as well, at $47.16 million. Due to somehow getting into the playoffs, they will have at best the 19th overall selection. Adding Corey Davis in free agency ahead of the 2021 NFL Draft could give them flexibility with their first-round pick.
New England could take a shot at acquiring Corey Davis in free agency
Anytime you hear about a receiver in the 2021 free agency period, expect the New England Patriots to be in the conversation.
Few teams in the NFL lack talent at receiver as much as the Patriots. Julian Edelman is not getting any younger (34) or healthier. 2019 first-round pick N’Keal Harry only caught 33 passes. Jakobi Meyers, a UDFA from NC State, led the team with 59 receptions for 729 yards and no touchdowns.
The Buffalo Bills have taken over the AFC East. Now it is up to the Patriots to try to get back into the conversation. That’s if they can pass the Miami Dolphins, who are in a better spot as a franchise right now.