2021 NFL free agency: Elite wide receivers headline top 20 skill-position players

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Frank Schwab
·7 min read
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You might not find a difference-making quarterback in free agency, but there are a few receivers who can improve any team's passing game.

There are some intriguing options at receiver, running back and tight end for teams who want to upgrade on offense. Some of the top-end wide receivers who could be available when free agency officially starts on March 17 are particularly interesting.

Here are the top 20 skill position players who are set to hit free agency:

20. Tampa Bay Buccaneers WR Antonio Brown: His off-field past can't and shouldn't be overlooked. But teams will feel less guilty as they look into Brown after the Buccaneers took the initial hit after signing him. Brown played well late in the season. Now that another team took the plunge, and Brown was not disruptive in the locker room and didn't get into trouble off the field for a few months, other teams will look into him. That's not logical, but it's how the NFL operates.

Antonio Brown (81) and Chris Godwin (14) are among the Buccaneers who can hit free agency. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
Antonio Brown (81) and Chris Godwin (14) are among the Buccaneers who can hit free agency. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

19. Denver Broncos RB Phillip Lindsay: It's concerning that the Broncos always resisted giving the popular Lindsay, an undrafted free agent who went to the University of Colorado, a decent extension. Instead, they signed Melvin Gordon last offseason and limited Lindsay's role. Lindsay is expected to be tendered as a restricted free agent. Perhaps a team could put pressure on the Broncos with a reasonable offer sheet.

18. Cincinnati Bengals WR AJ Green: He looked like a Hall of Famer once upon a time. That's not the case anymore, and he won't be a big headline player in free agency this offseason. Green played all 16 games last season and put up an alarming 47-523-2 line. He got caught in the Bengals' malaise, and someone could end up being pleasantly surprised by a 32-year-old Green reenergized on a new team and having another good year or two.

17. Tampa Bay Buccaneers TE Rob Gronkowski: You're not getting prime Gronk, or even close. But after a slow start last season coming off a short retirement, Gronkowski was a good option at a desolate position. Jared Cook and Kyle Rudolph will be other reasonable veteran tight end options, but Gronkowski's Super Bowl performance alone will lead to another opportunity.

16. Indianapolis Colts WR T.Y. Hilton: Hilton's strong finish last season came at the right time. Hilton put up a 27-435-5 line in the Colts' final six games and that could lead to a team having renewed interest in the 32-year-old, who is a four-time Pro Bowler.

15. Tampa Bay Buccaneers RB Leonard Fournette: Fournette's 2020 season wasn't always smooth, but it ended with a nice postseason run and a Super Bowl ring. Fournette showed enough that a team can buy into him as part of its 2021 backfield, but not enough that he'll be overpriced as a free agent.

14. Detroit Lions WR Marvin Jones: He has been one of the most underrated receivers in the NFL for a while. He had 4,296 yards and 36 touchdowns in five Lions seasons. He's a risk at age 31 and he's not going to be a huge hit as a free agent, but there's no reason to believe he can't be productive for another season or two.

13. Las Vegas Raiders WR Nelson Agholor: Agholor saved his career on a one-year, $1.05 million deal with the Raiders, posting a career high in yards with a huge spike in yards per catch. Once a punch line in Philadelphia, Agholor was quite good with Las Vegas. It will be hard to trust that 2020 is Agholor's new level, but he'll get more free-agent attention than he received a year ago.

12. Arizona Cardinals RB Kenyan Drake: After being criminally underused by Adam Gase in Miami, Drake had a great finish to the 2019 season in Arizona after a trade. Then last season he was a disappointment, gaining just 955 yards rushing. Some team will overlook that and bet on Drake's talent reemerging in 2021.

11. Tennessee Titans TE Jonnu Smith: Smith has never gained more than 448 yards in a season, as the long-anticipated breakout never really happened for him. He's still talented at a thin position, and he should have no problem finding interest as a free agent. The Titans won't put the tag on him, ESPN's Adam Schefter reported. 

10. Seattle Seahawks RB Chris Carson: He has durability concerns, but he is a lead back. Carson has a pair of 1,000-yard seasons and he won't turn 27 until September. He could be a sneaky smart addition for some team if Seattle lets him hit the market.

9. Tennessee Titans WR Corey Davis: Ultimately, you'd have to call Davis a draft bust. A top-five pick, Davis never had a 1,000-yard season with the Titans. He had 984 yards last season and there will be a team that believes he's a late bloomer who will come alive in his second NFL stop.

8. Carolina Panthers WR Curtis Samuel: Samuel's anticipated breakout season has been a staple of fantasy football conversations for years. He didn't have a big breakout in 2020, but certainly took a step forward with 1,051 yards from scrimmage. Samuel's solid season, his second-round draft pedigree and his age (24) will lead to a big payday.

7. Houston Texans WR Will Fuller V: Fuller's career has been defined by big plays and a ton of injuries. Add a PED suspension, which will cost him Week 1 of the 2021 season, to the complicated puzzle. When Fuller is healthy he's very productive. It's just hard to rely on him.

6. Pittsburgh Steelers WR JuJu Smith-Schuster: A couple years ago, the thought of Smith-Schuster hitting free agency would have created a frenzy. Smith-Schuster's career stalled after a 1,426-yard season in 2018. Last season he had a shockingly low 8.6 yards per catch. He'll get paid, but he's no longer a surefire star.

5. Los Angeles Chargers TE Hunter Henry: Tight end is really thin around the NFL. Many teams are getting almost nothing out of the position. Henry never became a star but he's very good, still just 26 and would be a tight end upgrade for more than half of the league.

4. Green Bay Packers RB Aaron Jones: We can have endless debates over the value of signing running backs to huge extensions, but Jones is one of the best backs in football. Jones has a 5.2-yard average and 39 total touchdowns over the past three seasons, and he's a capable receiver who just turned 26.

3. Detroit Lions WR Kenny Golladay: Golladay's lost 2020 (he played just five games) is troublesome, but when Golladay has been healthy he has been fantastic. He is a big receiver who is also one of the NFL's best deep threats at the position. He'd be a legit No. 1 on many teams around the league.

2. Tampa Bay Buccaneers WR Chris Godwin: Godwin is a do-it-all threat, and he's just 25. The Bucs will use the franchise tag on him, as expected, per ESPN's Adam Schefter.

1. Chicago Bears WR Allen Robinson II: Robinson has never played with a great (or good?) quarterback. He has overcome that to be one of the most productive receivers in football. It's perfectly reasonable to have Godwin ranked ahead of Robinson, especially since Godwin is about three years younger, but the thought of Robinson with a real QB is pretty fun to think about. He reportedly received the franchise tag in Chicago.

Chicago Bears wide receiver Allen Robinson II will be a big name in free agency. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
Chicago Bears wide receiver Allen Robinson II will be a big name in free agency. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

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