- ESPN.com national NFL writer
- ESPN.com NFC North reporter, 2008-2013
- Covered Vikings for Minneapolis Star Tribune, 1999-2008
The unique circumstances of 2021 NFL free agency have led to a more conventional spot. As the first week closes, many of the top players from our ranking of the 100 best free agents have been accounted for. Most of the available money, scant as it was given the first salary-cap drop in a decade, has been spent as well.
There remain dozens of players, of course, who could help elevate a team to the playoffs. At this point, many of them will be seeking one-year deals and a return trip to free agency in 2022. What follows are the highlights of the leftovers as we head into the first weekend of the new league year.
The ranking is weighted to reflect the approach we often see in free agency. Teams prefer younger players coming off their rookie contracts. Running backs usually are devalued, because of their shorter career peaks and the continuing shift toward the passing games. Potential pass-rushers are always sought, regardless of their past productivity. Here are the best remaining free agents still on the open market and looking for new deals.
1. Kenny Golladay, WR
2020 team: Detroit Lions | Age entering 2021 season: 27
Golladay’s contract year was a bust, as injuries forced him to miss 11 games. When healthy, however, Golladay showed that he can be a big-time downfield No. 1 receiver. He combined for 17 touchdown receptions in the 2018 and 2019 seasons, tied for the NFL’s seventh most over that span.
2. Mitchell Schwartz, OT
2020 team: Kansas City Chiefs | Age entering 2021 season: 32
Schwartz had never missed a start in his NFL career before last season and had proved himself to be one of the NFL’s best tackles by the time he suffered a back injury that cost him 10 games and the entire postseason in 2020.
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