Top 100 NFL Free Agents of 2021 | 21-40
21. CB William Jackson III
Jackson was a first-round pick in the 2016 NFL Draft and has made several teams regret passing on him since. He suffered an unfortunate injury as a rookie but has stayed healthy since and has played at a high level. While he isn’t an elite-tier corner along the lines of Jalen Ramsey or some of the guys ahead of him on this list of the top NFL free agents in 2021, Jackson is in that next tier.
If Cincinnati can’t bring him back, a team will nab a talented corner in free agency.
22. WR Will Fuller
Will Fuller, much like Hunter Henry above, is hard to project. While he’s on the field, he’s an excellent speed threat who commands brackets by his presence. However, he’s not played a full season nor broken 1,000 yards once in his career. While DeAndre Hopkins’ presence can partially explain that, there’s likely going to be caution on Fuller’s deal that drops his value.
Still, when Fuller is on the field, he’s one of the game’s most dangerous threats, and that’ll be enough for teams to open up their wallets.
23. S John Johnson III
John Johnson has quietly become one of the game’s best safeties. Flourishing this year under Rams’ DC Brandon Staley, Johnson was a leader in the secondary for the Rams’ top defense.
Johnson is an elite coverage option at safety and will likely demand a hefty contract. The Rams are trying to clear cap space to bring him back, but can they outbid other teams?
24. CB Mike Hilton
Mike Hilton is a ball of fun as a nickel corner. He’s excellent in coverage, posting an impressive 60.2 QBR across 45 targets in 2020, forcing 7 pass breakups, intercepting 3 passes, and allowing just 6 yards per target to boot. Hilton is also a proven blitzer, as he posted 6 pressures, 3 sacks, and 8 tackles for loss this season.
He’s really only played in the slot but is a truly elite nickel corner.
25.TE Rob Gronkowski
I might catch some flack for putting Gronk this low (or high) on this list of the top NFL free agents in 2021, as it’s clear he isn’t quite the player he once was. Yet, Gronk is still playing at a high level and was a massive (quite literally) reason the Buccaneers won the Super Bowl.
I’d expect him back in Tampa Bay next season to continue playing with Brady, but you never know.
26. S Marcus Maye – Update: Franchise tagged by the New York Jets
Maye is a hybrid safety who has played a variety of roles with the Jets. When Jamal Adams was traded, Maye’s versatility only increased. Maye has flown somewhat under the radar playing for the Jets his whole career, but NFL teams reportedly covet him.
It’s hard to imagine the Jets let the 26-year-old Maye out of the building with their cap space. Nonetheless, Maye has earned his spot in the upper echelon of safeties in the NFL.
27. EDGE Carl Lawson
A draft darling by many analysts, Lawson fell to the fourth round of the 2017 NFL Draft. Lawson had an outstanding rookie season but suffered an ACL injury in 2018 and seemingly never got a full-time starter role after that. Puzzling, but more insane things have come out of Cincinnati.
Lawson is a dynamic and effective edge rusher who is at his best rushing the passer, with 4 high-quality sacks this season. Lawson might be had at a discount with his injuries, but the team that signs him will land a great pass rusher.
28. LB Matt Milano – Re-signed with the Buffalo Bills on a four-year $41.5 million contract
Matt Milano is an excellent do-it-all linebacker for the Bills. Milano has evolved into a great off-ball coverage linebacker but also registered 15 pressures on 46 snaps as a designated pass rusher last year.
While Milano has dealt with numerous injuries in the past, it was clear that Buffalo was better when he was on the field. Teams will take note of that. A creative defensive coach looking for that stud linebacker will circle Milano’s name frequently this offseason.
29. RB Aaron Jones
Yeah, it might be high for a running back going into his next contract according to plenty of people, but Aaron Jones is an outstanding weapon and player. Jones led the league in touchdowns in 2019 and has posted back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons.
He’s evolved into a better receiving threat as well. Green Bay seems ready to move on, but Jones has been a clear top-tier running back for the last two seasons and should continue that momentum going forward at just 26.
30. WR Corey Davis
The Corey Davis breakout season seemed like it was never going to happen — until 2020 with Ryan Tannehill at QB. Corey Davis posted career highs in every category but targets this season and seemed to flourish with the quarterback upgrade. However, this was his best season, in a contract year no less.
It’s tough to discount his performance in previous seasons, but he also didn’t have the newly reformed Tannehill throwing him the ball for most of those. A tricky proposition, but if Davis remains the 2020 Davis, he’ll be an excellent addition to the team that signs him.
31. EDGE Romeo Okwara
Perhaps this might be too high for a player who enjoyed a single breakout season. However, Okwara was the biggest surprise to me of this season. He put together some high-quality play this season, posting career highs in virtually every category. Okwara posted 6 high-quality sacks out of his 10 total.
Okwara’s run defense wasn’t stellar, but teams are all about rushing the passer these days, and Okwara proved he could do that. It’s risky, given that he is a one-year star, but he is only 25 years old.
32. WR Curtis Samuel
Perhaps the greatest credit about Joe Brady is that he finally figured out how to effectively use Curtis Samuel. Samuel’s explosiveness and ability as a hybrid weapon combined with the creativity that Brady had as a play designer was a big reason why Samuel finally had the breakout season fans had been begging for. Samuel was held back some by the quarterback play as well.
Now, he’s a big-time free agent. Will a team roll out the Brinks trucks for him?
33. EDGE Jadeveon Clowney
Don’t let the sack total fool you, Clowney is still an effective rusher.
Clowney has repeatedly been a menace, recording the 13th-most pressures from 2016 to 2019 (including 28 this season). Additionally, he’s an excellent run defender. Pure sacks tell a misleading story with Clowney. He’s still just as explosive as ever.
34. CB Ronald Darby
Darby has dealt with some injuries in the past, but 2020 was an excellent campaign by any right. Darby forced 16 incompletions last season and was 13th in completion percentage when targeted.
While he didn’t post any interceptions, Darby was still a force in the secondary and was a big reason why WFT was one of only four teams to force a negative dropback EPA this season.
35. EDGE Yannick Ngakoue
Ngakoue bounced around three different teams this season, but he was productive no matter where he played. He posted 26 pressures — 13 each on Minnesota and Baltimore. Additionally, he had 8 total sacks in 2020 as well.
Ngakoue seems like a franchise tag candidate by Baltimore this season, but he’ll fetch a hefty contract being an above-average pass rusher at just 26 years old.
36. EDGE Haason Reddick
Another breakout candidate, Reddick was a former first-round pick in the 2017 NFL Draft. Arizona played him out of position for most of his career, dropping him into coverage frequently, which was clearly not his strength. This year, Reddick got more opportunities as a pass rusher, and it paid off.
Reddick posted 1 sack per 67.2 snaps (per Brandon Thorn’s True Sack Rate metric) and 1 high-quality sack per 124.9 snaps. Both of those metrics were in the top seven among rushers with a minimum of 500 snaps this season. Reddick is still only 26 years old, with plenty of football ahead of him.
37. CB Jason Verrett
Jason Verrett has been a darling for many analysts for years. Yet, he’s suffered from several injuries in the past. However, 2020 was the year he finally broke out and stayed healthy. To no one’s surprise, Verrett’s talent shined through, and he looked the part of a shutdown corner.
Still only 29, Verrett’s better days could be ahead of him. It’s a gamble, but one that should pay off if Verrett plays to his 2020 standards.
38. EDGE Bud Dupree
Bud Dupree posted a career year in 2019 with 11.5 sacks and followed it up with another good outing in 2020 before an unfortunate ACL tear. He’s a recent breakout candidate, and detractors will point to him benefitting from Cam Heyward and T.J. Watt. Yet, Dupree posted several quality sacks in both years and registered 56 pressures the last two seasons.
Dupree will be 28, but he’ll command a nice paycheck for his play.
39. CB Richard Sherman
Richard Sherman may be heading towards the end of his career, but he’s still playing at a high level. Sherman’s never been an elite athlete, but his high IQ and length have given him an extensive career.
He’ll likely go on to play for a contender in the offseason. If a team is looking for a short-term bandage at their CB2 spot while going all-in on a Super Bowl run, Sherman would make a lot of sense.
40. CB Shaquill Griffin
Griffin endured an up-and-down 2020 with an injury mid-season, but his play following his return from injury was his best of the season. Griffin finished 2020 with a 93.3 passer rating when targeted but had 12 passes defended.
At just 25 years old, Griffin will have his fair share of suitors, but Seattle will push hard for him to return.