Free Agent and Draft Needs For All 32 NFL Teams (2021)
I should just put a disclaimer at the top of this article stating that these are the team needs as of today. These needs can change this afternoon. They can change tomorrow. They can change whenever a move is made, and there are likely going to be a lot of them this offseason. Like… a lot more than usual.
I recently shared this in my free agent article, but in case you missed that, I’ll share it again. We’ve watched salaries escalate year over year, which made perfect sense because the salary cap continued to rise. Here’s a chart so you can see for yourself.
|YEAR||SALARY CAP NUMBER|
With the arrival of COVID-19, the NFL’s revenue sharing model has created a very unique situation. The salary cap in 2021 hasn’t officially been set yet, but it appears the number will be around $185.0 million, which is a 6.7 percent decrease. While it may not seem like much, it is when you have structured contracts around an escalating number.
When structuring a player’s contract, it typically escalates as the years go on, because they figure to have more money available down the road. It’s not always this way, but it gave players/teams flexibility to move money around and make things work in order to accomplish their goals. The 2021 offseason is likely to bring more players to free agency than ever before because teams cannot afford to pay them the salary they’d agreed upon in years past. This time last year, there were just two teams over the cap. Today, there are 11 teams over the projected cap.
We’re going to see more players cut than ever before, and there are going to be some names that might shock you. You know how the football world was shocked that J.J. Watt was granted his release and cut from the team? To those paying attention, it wasn’t a shock. It was always going to happen because Watt’s salary was far too expensive for them to carry, especially considering where he’s at in his career. They were going to cut him regardless, so in essence, Watt made himself look a bit better by “asking” to be released.
So again, team needs are going to change drastically throughout the offseason depending on who they release, the trades they make, and whoever they re-sign before free agency officially begins. It’s also important to remember that just because a team is listed with a “need” at a certain position, it doesn’t mean they’ll automatically address it. Why? Well, because some teams have glaring needs while others have what I’d call convenience needs. But as of today, here are the biggest needs for all 32 NFL teams.
Arizona Cardinals (Estimated Cap Space: $19.5 million, 16th-most)
Missing Chandler Jones for the majority of 2020 certainly hurt the pass rush for the Cardinals, but even with him back, they could use another playmaker, especially with Haason Reddick and Markus Golden slated to hit free agency. They’ve also agreed to cut ties with Pro Bowl cornerback Patrick Peterson while Dre Kirkpatrick is a free agent. This creates a massive void at cornerback. Mason Cole hasn’t been great at center, while Justin Pugh might be a cap casualty, so we could see them snag an interior lineman. Lastly, the interior of the defensive line could use a game-changer, as both Domata Peko and Corey Peters are unrestricted free agents.
Pre-Free Agency Needs: EDGE, CB, IOL
Atlanta Falcons (Estimated Cap Space: $-23.2 million, 29th-most)
This franchise has a lot of decisions to make, as Matt Ryan and Julio Jones make up $63.95 million of the $185 million cap, or 35 percent. They’re a team that’s clearly in need of a rebuild, but they have to keep fans in the stands, so Jones and Ryan seem likely to stay. Edge rushers have been extremely hard to come by for the Falcons and it’s No. 1 on their priority list. Running back is another clear need, but fortunately that won’t require a whole lot of draft capital, whereas edge rusher does. The team reportedly isn’t going to re-sign long-time starting center Alex Mack, creating a big void in the middle of the offensive line. And if you watched the Falcons at all last year, you know that cornerback is a massive need, though adding a solid player on the edge will help make them look a bit better. With all these needs while being well over the cap, the Falcons need to get creative in their rebuild, and that might mean entertaining trade offers for Julio Jones. *After writing this article, the Falcons cut a few players and now have severe issues at safety*
Pre-Free Agency Needs: EDGE, RB, CB, S
Baltimore Ravens (Estimated Cap Space: $29.0 million, 11th-most)
The Ravens have a lot of big names from their defense hitting the open market, as Matthew Judon, Yannick Ngakoue, Pernell McPhee, and Derek Wolfe are all available. That leaves them with a lot of needs on the edge. It’s no secret that the Ravens would like to add a wide receiver, as Marquise Brown isn’t your prototypical “X” receiver that you want seeing 120-plus targets per year. They’ll be adding a wide receiver, whether it be in the draft or free agency. It’s also possible they start looking to replace nose tackle Brandon Williams, who’s on the final year of his contract and would save them $7.5 million in cap space, though it’s not really necessary.
Pre-Free Agency Needs: OLB, WR, DE
Buffalo Bills (Estimated Cap Space: $3.9 million, 20th-most)
After making it deep into the playoffs, the Bills are clearly in prime position to make a title run. Because of that, they should be addressing their immediate needs. Starting right tackle Daryl Williams is slated to be a free agent, and while Cody Ford was supposed to be the long-term solution, he hasn’t really worked out just yet. They might need Ford on the interior of the line anyway, as both Jon Feliciano and Brian Winters are hitting free agency. While Josh Norman played admirably towards the end of last year, the Bills can use depth at cornerback behind Tre’Davious White. And if they’re looking to upgrade a particular unit, the linebacker position could use some upgrades.
Pre-Free Agency Needs: OT, CB, LB
Carolina Panthers (Estimated Cap Space: $27.5 million, 14th-most)
Three of the four offensive tackles the Panthers had on the roster in 2020 are slated to be free agents, including both starters. That’s an obvious issue they’ll need to address one way or another. Then you move to the interior of the line where both starting guards are free agents. All in all, they have 4-of-5 starting linemen hitting free agency. They’re also bracing to lose Curtis Samuel, who’s now a free agent after a career-year in 2020. The other glaring need is linebacker, as Jermaine Carter has been below average, while both Tahir Whitehead and Adarius Taylor are free agent.
Pre-Free Agency Needs: OT, IOL, LB
Chicago Bears (Estimated Cap Space: $-2.5 million, 23rd-most)
The Bears have a whole lot of issues and not a lot of money to fix them. If they don’t re-sign Allen Robinson, their starting receiver corps will be Darnell Mooney, Anthony Miller, and Javon Wims. Yikes. We can’t put that as a clear need just yet, as there are rumors of them using the franchise tag on him. On top of that, who’s throwing them the ball? Mitch Trubisky is a free agent, while Nick Foles clearly wasn’t the answer. They’ve needed help on the interior of their offensive line ever since they lost Kyle Long and they still haven’t figured it out. They also desperately need a safety to play alongside Eddie Jackson, as both Tashaun Gipson and Deon Bush are both free agents.
Pre-Free Agency Needs: QB, IOL, S
Cincinnati Bengals (Estimated Cap Space: $45.6 million, 5th-most)
When you have a quarterback like Joe Burrow on his rookie deal, you need to make the most of it, and the Bengals have plenty of cap room. It all starts in the trenches… they have to protect Burrow. They need multiple interior linemen to help both Burrow and the run game, which has struggled under Zac Taylor. Their top cornerback William Jackson is a free agent, and it wasn’t like they were a solid unit with him. Their linebacker group may be young, but they need a lot of improvement. There are other areas that could use improvement, but these are the primary ones that will make an impact immediately.
Pre-Free Agency Needs: IOL, CB, LB
Cleveland Browns (Estimated Cap Space: $29.7 million, 10th-most)
This team got better and better as the year went on and keep in mind they were missing last year’s high second-round pick Grant Delpit the whole season. It’s good they’ll get him on the field in 2021 because Karl Joseph, Andrew Sendejo, and Tedric Thompson are all free agents. Linebacker might be the biggest need for their squad, as they can use upgrades at all three spots. With Larry Ogunjobi slated to be a free agent, we should also expect them to add another impact interior lineman. They could use some depth at cornerback considering both Denzel Ward and Greedy Williams haven’t been exactly reliable, but overall, the Browns roster is in very solid shape.
Pre-Free Agency Needs: LB, DT, S/CB
Dallas Cowboys (Estimated Cap Space: $27.8 million, 13th-most)
We all know that Dak Prescott isn’t going anywhere, right? So, that $27.8 million in cap space doesn’t really exist. No one should be surprised to see the Cowboys start building up their offensive line again, as Tyron Smith isn’t getting any younger, and we saw their lack of depth rear its ugly head in 2020. Cornerback was an obvious issue in 2020, and now you have two starters (Chidobe Awuzie and Jourdan Lewis) hitting free agency, making it a top need for them. They drafted Neville Gallimore in the third round last year, and while he was a bit hit-or-miss, they could use someone else on the defensive line, too. The linebacker position is also losing some members, as Aldon Smith and Sean Lee are going to be unrestricted free agents. It’s going to be interesting to find out how Jerry Jones will get Prescott under contract while not letting go of a few big-name players.
Pre-Free Agency Needs: CB, OT, DT
Denver Broncos (Estimated Cap Space: $39.5 million, 7th-most)
It’s not a secret that the Broncos need cornerback help, right? Just one year after trading for A.J. Bouye, the Broncos released him just a few weeks back, and they needed cornerback help before that. While Drew Lock is still young, it should not be a forgone conclusion that he’s the quarterback of this team in 2021, as I’m sure they’d like to upgrade the position. Safety is another position you can consider a need, as both Justin Simmons and Will Parks are free agents, while cutting Kareem Jackson would save them $10 million against the cap. Lastly, the Broncos may want to upgrade their offensive line with a tackle, as there’s reportedly no guarantee that Ja’Waun James is back with the team in 2021.
Pre-Free Agency Needs: CB, QB, S
Detroit Lions (Estimated Cap Space: $-1.6 million, 22nd-most)
Once you hear that the Lions have just two wide receivers under contract for 2021, you know that’s a major need, especially when neither of those receivers are Kenny Golladay or Marvin Jones. We’ve heard rumblings about the Lions potentially moving on from inside linebacker Jarrad Davis for a few years, but now he’s actually a free agent, so it’s a clear need for them. With all of the injuries the Lions had in the secondary last year, it’s tough to say cornerback is atop their needs, but it’s also not one of their strengths. Safety is another position that can be upgraded. Heck, the defense as a whole doesn’t really have what I’d describe as a “strength,” so they should be looking at best available players in the draft. The good news is that the offensive line is in great shape.
Pre-Free Agency Needs: WR, LB, S
Green Bay Packers (Estimated Cap Space: $-13.5 million, 26th-most)
The defensive ends have not lived up to expectations, so they’re going to need to add some sort of difference maker there. We’ve been talking about wide receivers for a long time, but the Packers front office continually tells us they don’t feel the need to add one with any sort of draft equity. Still, it’s a need. Adding linebacker Christian Kirksey last offseason seemed like a good idea in theory, but he failed to elevate their defense and would save $5.6 million in cap space by releasing him. When Kevin King is actually on the field, you really never know what you’re going to get, and now he’s a free agent, giving the Packers the nudge they need to add a cornerback to play opposite Jaire Alexander. They have a very solid team but adding to the front seven on defense should be the primary concern.
Pre-Free Agency Needs: DE, WR, LB
Houston Texans (Estimated Cap Space: $10.3 million, 18th-most)
Where do we begin with this roster? Even with J.J. Watt off the books, they don’t have a whole lot of cap room. Cornerback has been a problem for years and it’s still a problem now. Heck, they’re set to lose Gareon Conley in free agency, who might be their best cornerback. They’re going to need to replace Watt on the defensive line, as they have no one that is considered even average at this point. Attacking the whole defense has to be the priority here, as the only position I’d consider to be average is safety. On the offensive side of the ball, they need interior linemen, though that’ll have to wait with all their other needs. And what’s even worse is that they don’t have first- or second-round draft picks. We haven’t even gotten into the fact that Will Fuller will need to be re-signed if you want any hope for Deshaun Watson to be happy. While trading away Watson may not make fans happy, it’s tough to see how this team rebuilds without a big influx of cash and/or draft picks. Them wanting three first-round picks is fair, though it appears no team is willing to pay that price.
Pre-Free Agency Needs: DE, OLB, CB
Indianapolis Colts (Estimated Cap Space: $53.9 million, 4th-most)
The trade for Carson Wentz ate up quite a bit of cap room, but the Colts had over $78 million available, which is why it always made the most sense. They still have the fourth-most cap space available, making them an attractive landing spot for free agents as a team that’s built to win now. The gaping hole left by Anthony Castonzo at left tackle with his sudden retirement has to be the top priority, as we saw what happens when Wentz is pressured non-stop in 2020. Defensive ends Justin Houston, Denico Autry, and Al-Quadin Muhammad are all slated to be free agents, so adding help in the pass rush department will also be crucial. Will they be able to sign Xavier Rhodes after he bounced back on a one-year prove-it deal in 2020? If they don’t, cornerback would be a position they need to improve. The Colts have a solid roster and cash to spend, so if Wentz can bounce back to his pre-2020 form, they’re a contender.
Pre-Free Agency Needs: OT, DE, CB
Jacksonville Jaguars (Estimated Cap Space: $79.6 million, Most in NFL)
This team is going to look a lot different in 2021, and it’s not just because of Trevor Lawrence. The new coaching staff under Urban Meyer, four draft picks inside the top-45, and nearly $80 million to spend in free agency all adds up to massive changes. They obviously need a quarterback, which will be addressed with the first pick in the draft. While they did add C.J. Henderson in last year’s draft, they should contemplate adding another cornerback this year, whether it be in free agency or the draft, as their depth is terrible, and they have two of their top four cornerbacks hitting the open market. Safety is another position where they need to address. I’d love to see an impact interior lineman added in the draft, as it would certainly help Josh Allen and K’Lavon Chaisson make an impact. What will they do at left tackle? Cam Robinson is a free agent and Jawaan Taylor has struggled a little bit on the right side of the offensive line, so sliding him over could be dangerous. The Jaguars have plenty of cash, so re-signing him would be the most logical thing, as starting left tackles rarely hit the open market, and it’s tough to see a can’t-miss prospect falling to them at 25th overall (their second pick).
Pre-Free Agency Needs: QB, CB, DT
Kansas City Chiefs (Estimated Cap Space: $-18.1 million, 28th-most)
The Chiefs offensive line didn’t play particularly well this year, but losing Eric Fisher at left tackle allowed the flood gates to open, highlighting a major need for them. It didn’t help that Lucas Niang and Laurent Duvernay-Tardif both opted out this season, but knowing Fisher’s injury took place near the end of the season (in January), there’s no guarantee he’ll be ready to play at the start of 2021. With Mike Remmers hitting free agency, they have to address the tackle position. And even if they get Fisher back by Week 1, they can use upgrades on the interior of the line. Anthony Hitchens has not lived up to his contract over the last few years, so adding a linebacker would make tons of sense. Cornerback might be an issue if they lose both Antonio Hamilton and Bashaud Breeland in free agency, though we haven’t seen the franchise place a lot of equity on that position. Another position to watch is wide receiver, as both Sammy Watkins and Demarcus Robinson are headed to the open market, and the Chiefs don’t have any depth at the position.
Pre-Free Agency Needs: OT, LB, WR
Las Vegas Raiders (Estimated Cap Space: $-9.7 million, 25th-most)
The Raiders brought in a bunch of linebackers last year, but just one of them worked out (Nick Kwiatkowski). They also have multiple linebackers hitting free agency, so you should expect them to address the position. Safety is another area of need, as Jeff Heath is just a stop-gap replacement/insurance for Johnathan Abram while Erik Harris and Daryl Worley are free agents. Some would argue that cornerback is a need, but the Raiders need to allow Trayvon Mullen and Damon Arnette time to develop. Adding competition wouldn’t be a bad thing but shouldn’t be a top priority. They should be looking at updating the interior of the defensive line, as it would make lives easier on the edge players. Getting a big body alongside Maurice Hurst would be a major upgrade to the defense. We could see them add a wide receiver with Nelson Agholor and Zay Jones hitting free agency while Tyrell Williams is expected to be released, but as of now, the starting trio is expected to be Henry Ruggs, Bryan Edwards, and Hunter Renfrow.
Pre-Free Agency Needs: LB, DT, S
Los Angeles Chargers (Estimated Cap Space: $34.0 million, 9th-most)
Their offensive line is laughable. Seriously, they could use 4-of-5 new offensive linemen right now, and the one who is solid (Bryan Bulaga) is going to be 32 years old next month. Three of the five offensive linemen who started for them this year are headed to free agency, too. Casey Hayward and Chris Harris Jr. combine to be a solid duo, but they’re getting older and watched their play slip a bit in 2020, so knowing that Michael Davis is a free agent, we could see them address the cornerback position. Both Nick Vigil and Denzel Perryman are free agents, so while they added Kenneth Murray last year, they need to find help at linebacker or re-sign one of them. It’s also important to note that Melvin Ingram and Hunter Henry are both pending free agents, and if they can’t retain them, they’ll need to add both an edge defender and a tight end.
Pre-Free Agency Needs: OT, IOL, EDGE
Los Angeles Rams (Estimated Cap Space: $-25.2 million, 30th-most)
It seems like every year, I say the Rams need help at linebacker, and though I still believe that, their defense was remarkable in 2020, and it all starts up front with Aaron Donald. But again, linebacker and edge are massive needs, especially when you consider the fact that Leonard Floyd and Samson Ebukam are unrestricted free agents. They need to upgrade Micah Kiser in the middle of the defense, as it would only make their front seven even more dangerous, and we know the back end of their defense is set (though they need to re-sign safety John Johnson and add depth at cornerback). While Andrew Whitworth played extremely well in 2020, he’s now 39 years old and has already contemplated retirement. They need to start figuring out their back-up plan at the tackle position.
Pre-Free Agency Needs: LB, EDGE, OT
Miami Dolphins (Estimated Cap Space: $35.6 million, 8th-most)
There are fewer and fewer holes on this roster, as Brian Flores and the front office have done a great job getting players who fit their scheme. One position they need to address is linebacker, as they have very little depth and no difference-makers. If they can’t re-sign Davon Godchaux, they’re going to need a nose tackle to put in between Raekwon Davis and Christian Wilkins. The Dolphins showed a major commitment to improving their offensive line last year, and while it certainly improved, it could be even better, as they don’t have any true difference makers up front. They’re one of the teams I can certainly see going after one of the top running backs, largely because they have three of the first 36 picks in this draft, and while Myles Gaskin and Salvon Ahmed were definitely serviceable, an upgrade to someone like Najee Harris is appealing. The Dolphins needs have been shrinking year after year, and if Tua Tagovailoa can take a step forward in 2021, they could make waves.
Pre-Free Agency Needs: LB, DT, OT
Minnesota Vikings (Estimated Cap Space: $-6.1 million, 24th-most)
The Vikings defense certainly missed the presence of Danielle Hunter last year, but the talent they once had has evaporated, as they’re all older and not quite the same players. The cornerback position was a major issue in 2020, though injuries certainly contributed to that. In the end, if they get pressure up front, it’ll make the back end of the defense look that much better. They need to add talent on the defensive line with both tackles and edge rushers. Outside of Eric Kendricks, they don’t have any linebacker talent that’ll make a difference. If there’s one thing we know, it’s that Kirk Cousins struggles a bit under pressure, right? Upgrading the interior of the offensive line certainly wouldn’t hurt, as the combination of Dakota Dozier and Ezra Cleveland were among the worst guard combinations in football last year when it came to pass blocking.
Pre-Free Agency Needs: DT, DE, OLB
New England Patriots (Estimated Cap Space: $68.7 million, 3rd-most)
We can start right at the top; the Patriots need a quarterback. Will they finally concede and spend some draft capital on one, will they attempt to make a trade, or will they wait and hope a quarterback gets released (someone like Jimmy Garoppolo)? Wide receiver is another position of need, as Julian Edelman is nearing the end, N’Keal Harry isn’t what they’d hoped, and Damiere Byrd is a free agent. The offensive line is set on the edges and has some strength on the inside, but they’ll need a center, as all three they have on the roster are slated to be free agents. The Patriots have always focused on their front seven and this offseason should be no different, as they have defensive linemen Adam Butler, Lawrence Guy, and Deatrich Wise hitting free agency. The Patriots appear to have tons of holes, but some of them will get covered up with the players returning from the COVID list. They also have tons of money available to use in free agency.
Pre-Free Agency Needs: QB, DT, DE
New Orleans Saints (Estimated Cap Space: $-65.6 million, 32nd-most)
The Saints are going to look like a different team next year, and it’s not solely because Drew Brees is likely gone. They’re in salary cap hell and are going to have to get creative in order to get underneath the new 2021 cap number. Linebacker Kwon Alexander tore his Achilles late in the season and would save them $13.4 million, so linebacker is going to be a need. They’re not going to be able to afford to re-sign Sheldon Rankins, so snagging a big defensive tackle will also be a priority. The Saints brought in Malcolm Jenkins to help out at safety last year, and it’s a good thing because the other three safeties on the roster are all free agents. The bottom line is that we’re going to see a lot more needs on this Saints team as we find out the players they need to release.
Pre-Free Agency Needs: LB, S, DT
New York Giants (Estimated Cap Space: $8.1 million, 19th-most)
The Giants have a sudden need on their defensive line, as Dalvin Tomlinson, Austin Johnson, and Leonard Williams are both slated to be unrestricted free agents. They can also use a bit more talent/depth on the edge, as Lorenzo Carter and Oshane Ximines are solid, but not game changers. The Giants made one of the best offseason signings last year when they snagged James Bradberry in free agency, but they desperately need another cornerback or two. Nobody really wants to talk about Daniel Jones being a problem, but I sure as heck can’t say he’s the solution. In today’s NFL, to throw 35 touchdowns and have 31 turnovers (what Jones has) is pretty tough to do, so yeah, I’d consider quarterback a potential need for the Giants. We’re likely to see Golden Tate get released, as he’s not worth the $10.9 million cap hit and the Giants would save over $6 million by releasing him, making wide receiver a need for them.
Pre-Free Agency Needs: DT, EDGE, CB
New York Jets (Estimated Cap Space: $75.5 million, 2nd-most in NFL)
It’s no surprise that the Jets have the most cap room, as they also might have the roster voided of the most talent. They’re going to be switching to a 4-3 defense under Robert Saleh, so you’re going to see a lot of movement in the front seven. They’re going to need both edge defenders and outside linebackers. Cornerback is a big issue for them, no matter the scheme. The Bryce Hall pick in the fifth round last year was one of my favorites, but they are lacking proven talent at the position, and Brian Poole (their best cornerback) is a free agent. Going further into their secondary, they have their top three safeties hitting the open market, so that’s a position they must address. On the offensive side of the ball, they’re one of the teams who desperately needs a three-down running back. The offensive line was improved last year but adding another lineman to the mix would make sense. This team has a lot of needs, but with Saleh in as the head coach, this team might attract some free agents, and they have the money to sign a bunch of them. Will they ride it out with Sam Darnold? If they do, it’ll allow them to trade out of the No. 2 pick and rebuild the roster. If not, expect Darnold to be traded.
Pre-Free Agency Needs: EDGE, CB, S
Philadelphia Eagles (Estimated Cap Space: $-41.5 million, 31st-most)
Well, they got Carson Wentz shipped out of town, which clears up cap space for the future. The question now is: Do they believe Jalen Hurts is their long-term solution? They have the sixth overall pick in the draft, which means they’ll likely have a shot at one of the top four quarterbacks. It’s a big choice to make. Linebacker is still one of the biggest needs on their roster, but will they draft one with a high pick? History would suggest no, but changes need to be made. Adding Darius Slay in free agency last year didn’t make the impact they’d hoped, but injuries were certainly a problem. Still, they need more cornerback help, especially with both Nickell Robey-Coleman and Cre’Von LeBlanc hitting free agency. The offensive line used to be a major strength of this team, but age/injuries caught up and we saw their lack of depth last year, so we should expect them to invest on the interior of the line this off-season. With DeSean Jackson cut they’ll save nearly $5 million against the cap, so wide receiver could be considered a need too.
Pre-Free Agency Needs: LB, IOL, CB, WR
Pittsburgh Steelers (Estimated Cap Space: $-14.2 million, 27th-most)
Recent comments suggest the Steelers may be moving on from Ben Roethlisberger, who counts a massive $41.3 million against the cap this year. The Steelers would save $19 million by releasing him, which seems unlikely unless they’re going to rebuild the roster, as Mason Rudolph isn’t the answer. They’re also not bringing back starting left tackle Alejandro Villenueva, which presents all sorts of questions, as Chuk Okorafor hasn’t done anything that suggests he’s ready to move to the left side of the line. Long-time center Maurkice Pouncey also decided to retire, so the offensive line has to be a big priority, especially considering they couldn’t run the ball in 2020. Speaking of running the ball, James Conner is a free agent, so you could say running back is a need for them, unless there’s a sudden change of heart on how they view Anthony McFarland. Both cornerbacks Mike Hilton and Cameron Sutton are free agents, while Joe Haden and/or Steven Nelson might be a cap casualty, so that should be considered a need. Depending on what they do with Roethlisberger, this team can go in two completely different directions.
Pre-Free Agency Needs: OT, IOL, CB
San Francisco 49ers (Estimated Cap Space: $20.4 million, 15th-most)
Is Jimmy Garoppolo worth nearly 15 percent of the salary cap? That’s a decision the 49ers will have to make this off-season, and it’s realistic they could cut him given it’d cost just $2.8 million in dead cap. They’d obviously need a direct line on another quarterback, which is something they don’t have right now. Cornerback is going to be a massive need for them, as four of their top five cornerbacks are hitting free agency, including Richard Sherman, Jason Verrett, and K’Waun Williams, all of which who are starters. They also have to find a way to re-sign starting left tackle Trent Williams. Otherwise, they’d move Mike McGlinchey over to left tackle and be forced to find a right tackle on the open market or in the draft. The 49ers may not be losing their top players on the defensive line, but they are losing four players who gave them a lot of depth, so adding talent/depth there would make sense.
Pre-Free Agency Needs: OT, CB, DT
Seattle Seahawks (Estimated Cap Space: $14.4 million, 17th-most)
We heard Russell Wilson complain about being hit far too often, so when you see three starting offensive linemen hitting free agency, you know that must be a priority. They can use help at both right tackle and on the interior of the line, which will help protect Wilson, as well as run the ball a bit more consistently. Their secondary had a rough start to the year, and though they ultimately came around, both Shaquill Griffin and Quinton Dunbar are free agents. The edge continues to be an issue for the Seahawks, as they’ve missed on some early-round picks, shooting for upside rather than stability. They should be willing to upgrade any position on the front-four. The bottom line is that Russell Wilson disguises a lot of problems with this roster, and when he’s not playing well (see: second half of the 2020 season), they’re not a very good football team.
Pre-Free Agency Needs: OT, IOL, DE
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Estimated Cap Space: $27.8 million, 12th-most)
A team coming off a Super Bowl win with the 12th-most cap room? That has to feel good, right? Well, it does until you realize they have a lot of big-name players coming up on free agency. They have Ndamukong Suh, Shaq Barrett, and Lavonte David all set to hit the open market, and that’s just on the front seven of the defense. Then you go over to the offensive side of the ball and see Chris Godwin, Rob Gronkowski, Leonard Fournette, and Antonio Brown are all free agents as well. While Sean Murphy-Bunting played well in the playoffs, what he’s done during the rest of his career suggests the Bucs can upgrade at cornerback. If Suh can’t be retained, they need another defensive end to take his place alongside Vita Vea. If Barrett can’t be retained, they desperately need an edge rusher to go along with Jason Pierre-Paul. While Ronald Jones is a solid running back, I’m expecting them to add another running back, and this time it’ll be one who can catch passes out of the backfield regularly. It’s going to be interesting to see who the Bucs will/won’t be able to re-sign and which players take priority.
Pre-Free Agency Needs: CB, DE, RB
Tennessee Titans (Estimated Cap Space: $1.3 million, 21st-most)
The Titans have three of the four tight ends on their roster hitting free agency, including starter Jonnu Smith, so you can say tight end is a big need for them. Pass catchers in general are a problem for the Titans and it’s only accentuated by the fact that Corey Davis is a free agent. I’d be surprised if they allowed both Smith and Davis to leave in free agency, as it’ll eliminate a lot of the chemistry/familiarity they’ve built with Ryan Tannehill. On the defensive side of the ball, they need help on the edge and that’s why they tried doing the whole Jadeveon Clowney signing last year. That need clearly hasn’t gone away. If they don’t re-sign DaQuan Jones, they’ll need someone to replace him at nose tackle, and they could also use another defensive end to pair with Jeffery Simmons. The Titans have plenty of areas to be concerned about this offseason.
Pre-Free Agency Needs: EDGE, WR, TE
Washington Football Team (Estimated Cap Space: $41.9 million, 6th-most)
They have one of the better front sevens in all of football, though there are a lot of names headed towards free agency, and that’s created a big need at linebacker. The cornerbacks played better than I thought they would in 2020, but they have Ronald Darby headed back to free agency, as he was on a one-year deal. If they can’t retain him, that’d be a need. On the offensive side of the ball, no one will deny that they need a quarterback. While Alex Smith‘s story is remarkable, they’ll save $19 million against the cap by releasing him after June 1st. The lack of receivers behind Terry McLaurin is glaring, so don’t be surprised to see them take a shot at some of the big-name free agents out there. And lastly, they need to land their long-term solution at left tackle. They made things work in 2020 the best they could, but it’s arguably the most important position behind quarterback, and depending on who’s under center in 2021, they don’t want to wreck a young quarterback’s confidence by continually watching him get pressured.
Pre-Free Agency Needs: QB, LB, OT