Now that the 2021 NFL Draft has concluded, another wave of free agency will take place around the league leading up to the start of training camps during the summer.
This is magnified by the fact that the NFL Draft compensatory formula no longer figures in to the equation. In short, teams can sign free agents right now without it impacting their draft haul for next April. The Baltimore Ravens took advantage of that recently by signing Pro Bowl offensive tackle Alejandro Villanueva away from the division-rival Pittsburgh Steelers.
Below, we look at the 10 best remaining NFL free agents on the market and their ideal landing spots. That includes a future Hall of Fame cornerback in California and a former No. 1 pick looking to land in a new city.
Melvin Ingram signs with the Las Vegas Raiders
Fresh off signing Casey Hayward from the division-rival Los Angeles Chargers, there’s absolutely no reason why the Raiders shouldn’t double dip here. Ingram worked under current Las Vegas defensive coordinator Gus Bradley for the past four seasons with the Chargers — earning three Pro Bowl appearances in the process. Despite adding Pro Bowler Yannick Ngakoue to the mix in free agency pass rush is a need here. Remember, the Raiders recorded a grand total of 21 sacks a season ago — the second-lowest figure in the NFL. Ingram (49 career sacks) would help in this regard.
K.J. Wright lands with the Kansas City Chiefs
After landing a steal in Nick Bolton in the second-round of the 2021 NFL Draft, most figure that the Chiefs are not in need of inside linebacker help. That would be a foolish idea. Bolton is not ready to replace Damien Wilson inside for the two-time defending AFC champions. Despite seeing a downtick in production recently, Wright could be a tremendous fit for Kansas City. He recorded 86 tackles and 10 passes defended for the Seahawks a season ago. Add in the relatively low cost it would take to sign Wright, and this makes too much sense.
Richard Sherman re-signs with the San Francisco 49ers
Earlier in the offseason, it was almost a foregone conclusion that San Francisco was going to lose this future Hall of Famer during NFL free agency. That was primarily due to the 49ers’ lack of cap room and the numerous amount of impending free agents they had. Now that general manager John Lynch has retained most of San Francisco’s core free agents and filled other holes, a Sherman reunion could still be in the cards. San Francisco currently needs another starter-caliber cornerback and still has $18 million to spend under the cap.
Indianapolis Colts sign Eric Fisher to protect Carson Wentz’s blindside
Recent reports indicate that Fisher — a surprise release of the Chiefs earlier in the offseason — is set to take a visit with Indianapolis. This makes a ton of sense after the Colts avoided offensive tackle throughout the 2021 NFL Draft. They have a major need to protect recently-acquired quarterback Carson Wentz’s blindside. Despite suffering a torn Achilles’ during the NFL Playoffs, Fisher could be back early in the 2021 season. He’s a multi-time Pro Bowl performer and an immediate upgrade over what the Colts have in-house.
Denver Broncos land Mitchell Schwartz from division rival
In addition to moving off Fisher back earlier in the spring, the Chiefs surprisingly released this underrated veteran right tackle. While initial reports indicated that Schwartz might retire, he has not made that official. Perhaps, a move to the division-rival Denver Broncos could be in the cards after current starting right tackle Ja’Wuan James recently suffered a torn Achilles during a workout. Schwartz could line up immediately at right tackle in Denver, potentially protecting a future Hall of Fame quarterback in the process.
Read More: Takeaways from 2021 NFL Draft
Atlanta Falcons take a chance on Le’Veon Bell
It was a surprise to see the Falcons avoid running back in the 2021 NFL Draft. For now, they are set to rely on free-agent signing Mike Davis to replace Todd Gurley in the backfield. Boasting an elite trio of skill-position players after selecting Kyle Pitts No. 4 overall late last month, adding a running back to the mix makes sense. It’s in this that new Falcons general manager Terry Fontenot the Bell. A recent downtick in production from the 29-year-old three-time Pro Bowler would enable Atlanta to get him on the cheap. All the while, Bell looks to resurrect his career as the Falcons’ version of Alvin Kamara.
Baltimore Ravens add more pass-rush help with Ryan Kerrigan
The loss of Pro Bowl edge rushers Yannick Ngakoue and Matt Judon during NFL free agency was a sobering wake-up call for a Ravens team that continues to rely on players at that position in its 3-4 defensive scheme. Adding Odafe Oweh in the first round of the draft does little to change this. In Kerrigan, the Ravens would be acquiring a veteran pass rusher who has recorded north of eight sacks seven times in his career. Heck, he took down the quarterback 5.5 times in the nation’s capital last season despite seeing limited action.
New England Patriots take a chance on Alshon Jeffery
Even after signing wide receivers Nelson Agholor and Kendrick Bourne during free agency, it was a pretty big surprise to see Bill Belichick avoid that position during the NFL Draft. Julian Edelman just retired. Meanwhile, former first-round pick N’Keal Harry has been a complete bust and was involved in trade discussions recently. Whether it’s Cam Newton or rookie first-round pick Mac Jones under center in 2021, these Pats need more help. Why not take a chance on the 31-year-old Jeffery on a deal that would likely come in near the veteran minimum? New England is missing that big-bodied boundary receiver.
San Francisco 49ers add Golden Tate to the slot
For the first time in 18 years, the 49ers went an entire draft without selecting a wide receiver. It’s pretty surprising given that this team doesn’t have much outside of stars Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk. The 49ers also need help at the slot receiver position in Kyle Shanahan’s offense. Sources have indicated that San Francisco is interested in Tate after his release from the New York Giants. He’d be an ideal fit. The veteran slot guy is averaging nearly 900 yards since the start of the 2014 season. He might also have some incentive to sign with the 49ers. Say hello, Mr. Jalen Ramsey.
Read More: Top 20 NFL free agents of 2022
Earl Thomas finally lands with the Dallas Cowboys
For what seems like the past decade, these Cowboys have been linked to hometown boy Earl Thomas. It might now be the best time for owner Jerry Jones and Co. to kick the tires on this possibility with Dallas still in need of help at safety. Thomas, 31, would come in cheap after failing to latch on with an NFL team last season. He could also push current starter Reggie Robinson for the starting free safety spot in Big D. It almost makes too much sense.
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Author: Vincent Frank