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NFL free agency 2021: Top 21 free agents on the market

Nate Davis, USA TODAY
·8 min read
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The NFL's new league year – and 2021 free agency window – officially opens March 17 at 4 p.m. ET. However Monday, teams can begin negotiating with players from other teams who have expiring contracts – meaning numerous agreements are likely to be in place by Wednesday afternoon.

The following received franchise tags: Carolina Panthers OT Taylor Moton, Chicago Bears WR Allen Robinson, Denver Broncos S Justin Simmons, Jacksonville Jaguars OT Cam Robinson, New Orleans Saints S Marcus Williams, New York Giants DL Leonard Williams, New York Jets S Marcus Maye, Tampa Bay Buccaneers WR Chris Godwin and Washington Football Team G Brandon Scherff.

Given they are more likely to be traded than leave their current clubs via an offer sheet that would cost a courting team two first-round picks, we won't list them among our top 21 free agents of 2021:

1. LT Trent Williams: An eight-time Pro Bowler, the 32-year-old emerged as Pro Football Focus' top-rated tackle in 2020, when he allowed just four sacks, after sitting out 2019. Williams, who seems to have plenty of years left, is also a dominant run blocker. (UPDATE: Williams re-signed with the 49ers, becoming the richest O-lineman in league history)

2. OLB Shaquil Barrett: Franchised in 2020, his production regressed to the mean (8 sacks) after he exploded for a league-topping 19½ in 2019 ... until you consider he sacked Aaron Rodgers three times in the NFC championship game and got Patrick Mahomes once in the Super Bowl, posting a combined eight QB hits in those contests. Someone is going to pay Barrett handsomely. (UPDATE: Re-signed with Buccaneers for four years and $72 million)

WR Kenny Golladay had a league-high 11 TD grabs in 2019.
WR Kenny Golladay had a league-high 11 TD grabs in 2019.

3. WR Kenny Golladay: A hip injury limited the 27-year-old to five games in 2020. But he totaled 135 catches for 2,253 yards over the 2018 and 2019 seasons, hauling in a league-high 11 TD grabs in the latter campaign. Good fits: Dolphins, Jaguars, Jets, Washington

4. DE Carl Lawson: Only 25, Cincinnati's 2017 fourth-rounder comes off a strong 2020 season when he was finally afforded the opportunity to start. Lawson had a modest 5½ sacks but added a career-best 32 QB hits, ranking behind only T.J. Watt. (UPDATE: Lawson agreed to a three-year, $45 million deal with the Jets)

5. S John Johnson: He's not a noted blitzer and may not generate the takeaways you want to see from his position. But Johnson is only 25, equally reliable defending the run or pass and a leader who ran the Rams' top-ranked defense from the back line. (UPDATE: Johnson agreed to a three-year, $33.8 million deal with the Browns)

6. DE/OLB Jadeveon Clowney: The No. 1 overall pick in 2014 is just 28, though an assortment of injuries have slowed him down in recent seasons – meniscus surgery cutting short a 2020 campaign in Tennessee when he didn't collect a sack. Clowney has never been a dominant pass rusher, but he is a solid all-around edge defender who can handle any scheme. Good fits: Browns, Panthers, Ravens, Titans

7. C Corey Linsley: Pro Football Focus' No. 1 center in 2020, when the 29-year-old All-Pro didn't commit a single penalty while anchoring the O-line in front of MVP Aaron Rodgers. (UPDATE: Linsley agreed to a five-year, $62.5 million deal with the Chargers)

8. WR Will Fuller V: He commits some horrendous drops, hasn't played more than 11 games in any of the past four seasons and will miss Week 1 as he finishes serving a six-game performance-enhancing drug suspension. Beyond that? Well, Fuller does have game-breaking speed, and the 2016 first-rounder seemed to be putting it all together in 2020, averaging nearly 80 receiving yards per game, until the suspension cut his season short. He could be a solid Batman or an exceptional Robin. Good fits: Bills, Jaguars, Packers, Ravens

9. WR Curtis Samuel: The former second-round pick had a career-high 1,051 yards from scrimmage for the Panthers in 2020, when he caught 77 passes and ran the ball 41 times. That versatility should make the 24-year-old a coveted commodity. Good fits: Dolphins, Jaguars, Jets, Ravens

10. OLB Haason Reddick: Arizona's 2017 first-rounder looked like a bust heading into this season. But then the Cardinals seemingly unlocked Reddick's potential by moving him out of the box and letting him thrive on the edge, the result a career-best 12½ sacks and 16 quarterback hits. Only 26, Reddick suddenly appears deserving of a hefty second contract. Good fits: Dolphins, Ravens, Titans

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11. OL Joe Thuney: The Patriots weren't willing to franchise him a second time, but the 28-year-old seems bound to collect copious coin from someone else. A guard by trade, Thuney can also play center or tackle in a pinch. (UPDATE: Thuney agreed to a five-year, $80 million deal with the Chiefs)

12. DT Dalvin Tomlinson: A second-round pick of the Giants in 2017, he stands to cash in after the team franchised linemate Leonard Williams. Tomlinson may not play every down, but he's stout against the run and has gotten better at pushing the pocket. (UPDATE: Tomlinson agreed to a two-year, $22 million deal with the Vikings)

13. WR Corey Davis: The fifth overall pick in 2017, he played closer to that level in 2020, establishing personal bests with 65 catches for 984 yards (a 15.1-yard average) and five TDs. Davis, 26, is big (6-3, 209) and can move, but it must be noted that he benefited playing in a run-first offense where A.J. Brown emerged as the leading wideout. (UPDATE: Davis agreed to a three-year, $37.5 million deal with the Jets)

14. DE Trey Hendrickson: Given an opportunity to start in his fourth season, he responded with 13½ sacks, tied for second league-wide with Aaron Donald. Like Reddick, Hendrickson blew up at the most opportune time, but the 26-year-old will have to convince suitors he wasn't just a flash in the pan – especially since he won't be lining up opposite Cam Jordan at his next stop. (UPDATE: Hendrickson agreed to sign with Cincinnati for four years and $60 million)

15. LT Alejandro Villanueva: A two-time Pro Bowler, the 32-year-old West Pointer may not be the dominant force Trent Williams is, but there aren't many 6-9, 320-pounders lying around who can so capably protect a quarterback's blind side. Good fits: Chargers, Colts, Patriots, Steelers

16. OLB Leonard Floyd: A first-round pick of the Bears in 2016, he also blossomed in 2020 – collecting a career-best 10½ sacks, surely benefiting from the presence of Donald on the Rams' formidable defense. Still, Floyd, 28, is sure to get several good offers. (UPDATE: Floyd stays in L.A. for four years and $64 million)

17. TE Hunter Henry: His position is becoming increasingly prominent, which is why the Chargers franchised Henry, 26, last year. A solid player who should get a solid offer – especially since Jonnu Smith has already agreed to join the Patriots, leaving this year's tight end crop fairly thin. (UPDATE: Henry, like Smith, is joining the Patriots on a three-year deal)

18. DE Yannick Ngakoue: He may be a one-trick pony, but Ngakoue, who turns 26 at the end of the month, knows how to get to the passer (45½ sacks in five seasons) regardless of scheme. (UPDATE: Ngakoue agreed to a two-year, $26 million deal with the Raiders)

19. RB Leonard Fournette: "Playoff Lenny" served a reminder that, when the money's on the table, he's all in – averaging 112 yards from scrimmage while scoring four TDs in Tampa Bay's four-game postseason march. He obviously has to be in the right situation but – with Aaron Jones now off the market – he might be the best tailback option in a group that also includes Chris Carson, James Conner and Jamaal Williams. Good fits: Buccaneers, Dolphins, Jets, Seahawks

20. LT Eric Fisher: The two-time Pro Bowler and No. 1 overall pick in 2013, he was in the midst of another strong season for Kansas City until suffering an Achilles injury in the AFC title game. Though Fisher may not be ready for opening day, he could still be a short-term or below-market investment who provides a nice dividend. Good fits: Chargers, Chiefs, Colts, Panthers

21. QB Jameis Winston: The top pick of the 2015 draft is a year removed from pacing the NFL with 5,109 passing yards to go along with 33 TD passes ... and 30 interceptions while with the Bucs. Has a year with the Saints earned him a starting shot in New Orleans or elsewhere? He's part of a diverse quarterback pool that includes Andy Dalton, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Alex Smith and Mitchell Trubisky. (UPDATE: Winston re-signed with New Orleans for another year)

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Follow USA TODAY Sports' Nate Davis on Twitter @ByNateDavis.

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: NFL free agency 2021: Top 21 free agents include Trent Williams