2021-22 NFL Free Agency: Top 50 NFL Free Agent Rankings | NFL News, Rankings and Statistics | PFF

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2021-22 NFL Free Agency: Top 50 NFL Free Agent Rankings

Green Bay, Wisconsin, USA; Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) and wide receiver Davante Adams (17) against the Los Angeles Rams during the NFC Divisional Round at Lambeau Field. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

NFL free agency is a year-round process as teams scout opposing players in an effort to defeat them during the year and perhaps sign them in the offseason.

Now at the halfway point of the 2021 NFL season, the free agency picture is coming into focus and teams are beginning to identify potential targets to improve their roster weaknesses.

We'll have free agency rumors and predictions as the season goes on, plus updated projections as we add more players to the list. Finally, we'll examine team fits and share free agency grades as the moves roll in.

Editor's Note: All stats and PFF grades are through Week 8 of the 2021 NFL season

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1. WR Davante Adams, Green Bay Packers

Adams made it clear he wanted to become the highest-paid player at the wide receiver position, and it’s hard to argue against him deserving that distinction. Matters become more complicated when you try to determine who is technically the highest-paid wide receiver and what the true annual value of their contracts are. A franchise tag for Adams will be just shy of $20 million, making it less likely given Green Bay’s salary cap challenges ahead — but not impossible to work around.

Strengths:
– Route running
– Releases at the line
– Hands

Weaknesses:
– Durability

Scheme Fit/Role:
No. 1 WR: Davante Adams is an elite No. 1 receiver in any offense in the NFL. He has scheme versatility – able to carve up man or zone coverage – and has shown to be a star in multiple systems. Any receiver-needy team would be in the running for his services and he may even try and engineer a package deal with Aaron Rodgers. A reunion with college quarterback Derek Carr in Las Vegas is another obvious connection.

Recent Injury History:
Adams has had several minor injuries that have caused him to miss pockets of time over the last couple of years. An ankle, hamstring and toe injury have all slowed him, but no major concerns.

Contract Projection: Four years, $93 million ($23.25M per year, $52 million total guaranteed)

Bottom Line:
Adams is the best receiver in the game and one of the jewels of any free agency class. He won't come cheap, but he is a transformative player.


2. T Terron Armstead, New Orleans Saints

The New Orleans Saints rarely let a player they want to retain get away, but after making Ryan Ramczyk the highest-paid right tackle in NFL history by a decent margin with his five-year, $96 million extension signed before 2021, the decision with Armstead gets interesting. Armstead has consistently been one of the best tackles in football since he was drafted in 2013, earning an overall grade above 75.0 every year except for his rookie campaign. While he’s graded better as a pass-blocker over his career, he’s not a liability in the run game by any means. If Armstead does get to test the open market, a dozen teams should be lining up to make him an offer.

Strengths:
– Elite in pass protection
– Scheme-diverse run-blocker
– Explosive athlete

Weaknesses:
– Injury history

Scheme Fit/Role:
HIGH-END STARTING LEFT TACKLE: There aren't many weaknesses to Armstead's game. He's one of the position's best pass-protectors and rarely loses in the run game across both gap and zone run concepts. There are plenty of teams with cap space next offseason — such as Jacksonville, Miami and Washington — that could make use of Armstead's services if the Saints opt against bringing him back. Slotting in next to Quenton Nelson in Indianapolis would be the most intriguing potential landing spot for the 30-year old.

Recent Injury History:
Armstead has played over 750 offensive snaps just twice in the first six seasons of his career due to a litany of injuries, but he has been healthier of late. Armstead has missed five games since the start of the 2019 season, two of which have come this season (elbow).

Contract Projection: Three years, $57.75 million ($19.25M per year, $43.75 million total guaranteed)

Bottom Line:
We recently saw an elite tackle on the wrong side of 30 with injury concerns step into San Francisco's offense and become the most valuable tackle in football. Armstead may not quite be Trent Williams, but he's one of the best all-around tackles in the league and would make almost any offense better.


3. WR Chris Godwin, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Godwin and the Buccaneers were unable to come to an agreement on a multi-year deal after he was franchise-tagged last offseason, but that very well may work out in Godwin’s favor. A far more robust free-agent market is certain for the 2021 offseason, given the salary cap will resume growing instead of shrinking, and Godwin has been much healthier thus far in 2021.

Godwin is currently on pace for 100 receptions through sixteen games, and his previous career high is 86. The drop issues that plagued him during the Buccaneers' 2020 Super Bowl run appear to be no more, as his hand is now healthy and he’s once again operating as one of Tom Brady’s favorite targets in a high-powered passing attack.

Strengths:
-Hands
-Contested catches
-Versatility

Weaknesses:
-Consistency
-Press-Man Coverage
-Injuries

Scheme Fit/Role:
Z-Receiver: Godwin is at his best destroying zone coverages from any alignment. He struggles a little more (though only relatively) when he has to face press-man coverage, and that probably keeps him away from a true No. 1 role in an offense. He would be a perfect complement to an established elite wideout in a team like Arizona or Washington.

Recent Injury History:
Godwin fractured a finger in 2020 causing him to miss one game, but he's most notably suffered multiple hamstring strains in his career.

Contract Projection: Four years, $75 million ($18.75M per year, $42.5 million total guaranteed)

Bottom Line:
Godwin is an intriguing receiver who has shown the ability to dominate at times and had huge success in a variety of roles but may lack elite ability against good press-man coverage. He is the perfect complementary receiver to an offense that already has that star X-receiver, or he could be an elite starter in an offense that splits the receiver roles more evenly, but may not have the ceiling as an elite split end.

4. EDGE Chandler Jones, Arizona Cardinals

Chandler Jones missed three-quarters of the NFL season in 2020 with a biceps injury but didn’t miss a beat in his return with a seven-pressure, five-sack Week 1 outing in a resounding 38-13 win over the Tennessee Titans on the road. Halfway through the 2021 season, Jones’ 89.4 pass-rush grade ranks sixth among edge rushers and his eight quarterback hits are tied for fifth. He’ll be looking for a strong contract entering his age-32 season. 

Strengths:
-Length and hand usage as a pass-rusher
-Pass-rush repertoire
-Converting pressures to sacks

Weaknesses:
-Missed tackles
-Taking on blocks

Scheme Fit/Role:
THREE-DOWN EDGE: Jones has been an effective three-down player since entering the league in 2012, as he can hold up against the run and rush the passer at a high level. He has dabbled inside playing over the guard at times throughout his career, but Jones is at his best as a true edge in either a 4-3 or a 3-4 base system.

Recent Injury History:
Jones had been one of the most durable defensive linemen in the NFL until a biceps injury ended his 2020 season after only five games. Prior to that, Jones had played at least 750 snaps in every year of his career from 2012 to 2019 including three seasons of over 1,000 snaps.

Contract Projection: Two years, $33.5 million ($16.75M per year, $24 million total guaranteed)

Bottom Line:
The 2019 season saw Jones go from solid to elite as a pass-rusher, and he's maintained that status ever since. He attacks tackles with a full array of pass-rush moves and he's an effective run defender, though he's taken a step back in that department over the last two years.


5. EDGE Von Miller, Los Angeles Rams

The projection here is driven by something we’ve seen across almost a dozen recent trades — players signing strong contracts after being acquired via an expensive draft pick trade. Von Miller may not be what he was at his peak, but he’s not too far off, as his 85.6 overall grade halfway through the 2021 season ranks seventh among edge rushers.

The Rams sent the Broncos second- and third-round picks in the 2022 NFL Draft for half a season of Miller’s services, but there was more to it than that. Denver agreed to retain around $9 million in salary to facilitate the deal, and this boosted the required draft capital return as a result. Nevertheless, the Rams gave up a lot to add another future Hall-of-Famer to their defensive line and may be inclined to do what it takes to keep them together for a few more years.

Strengths:
– Elite athlete
– Variety of ways to win as a pass-rusher
– Disciplined run defender

Weaknesses:
– Recent injury history
– Age

Scheme Fit/Role:
3-DOWN EDGE: The last time Miller played a snap with his hand in the dirt was 2018, likely limiting the list of prospective teams to defenses that would allow him to rush out wide from a two-point stance. The Los Angeles Rams are the leaders in the clubhouse to extend him after the trade, but a cross-city move to the Chargers to join forces with Brandon Staley and Joey Bosa is another situation to monitor.

Recent Injury History:
Miller dislocated a peroneal tendon in his ankle last September that kept him off the field for the 2020 NFL season. He recently suffered another ankle injury that the Rams want to “ease him back in” from after missing Week 8.

Contract Projection: Two years, $35 million ($17.5M per year, $26 million total guaranteed)

Bottom Line:
There are some reasons to be concerned about decline from Miller, given his age and recent ankle injuries, but he's still performing at an extremely high level. There aren't many defensive fronts that wouldn't improve.


6. WR Allen Robinson II, Chicago Bears

The 2021 season is off to a disastrous start for Robinson as he once again tries to produce in a passing offense that ranks dead last in yards per game. Robinson has seen just 44 targets through Week 8 after commanding 76 targets through Week 8 of 2020. While the lion’s share of the blame can be placed on the Bears' offense in general, Robinson is sporting the worst overall grade of his career thus far (64.1). It’s entirely possible the focus is on staying healthy and getting ready for 2022 and beyond outside of Chicago. It’d be hard to blame him if that's the case.

Strengths:
-Contested catches
-Body control
-Hands

Weaknesses:
-His quarterbacks
-Speed

Scheme Fit/Role:
No. 1 WR: Allen Robinson has a history of balling out despite awful quarterbacks throwing him the football dating back to high school. He isn't the fastest receiver in the game, but he is good at everything else and can defeat press coverage and beat elite cover corners. He won't be coming off his best year but is still a No. 1 option. Teams such as Jacksonville, Philadelphia and Cleveland could all use him for that spot.

Recent Injury History:
Robinson has had several injuries in the NFL, with his most recent one of significance being December 2020. His most severe injury was a torn ACL in 2017.

Contract Projection: Three years, $55 million ($18.33M per year, $32 million total guaranteed)

Bottom Line:
Allen Robinson's true ceiling is still something of an unknown because he has literally never experienced elite quarterback play, and yet still consistently performed as a top-10 receiver.


7. TE Dallas Goedert, Philadelphia Eagles

Goedert was likely expecting to be the Eagles' primary tight end entering the 2021 season, with rumors swirling all offseason about the potential for a trade of veteran tight end Zach Ertz. Nevertheless, Ertz stuck around until Week 6 before ultimately heading off to the desert for a Super Bowl run with the Arizona Cardinals.

Goedert went for 70 receiving yards in each of his first two games without Ertz and earned overall grades of 86.7 and 90.6, respectively. He is the clear leader for the team at the position, and the Eagles are going to have to pay up to keep it that way. A franchise tag is also very much on the table.

Strengths:
-Hands/ball skills
-YAC ability
-Run blocking

Weaknesses:
-Separation vs. single coverage
-Pass blocking

Scheme Fit/Role:
3-DOWN TIGHT END: There are very few weaknesses to Goedert's game, making him scheme-diverse and capable of being a pass-game weapon all over the field. He's also one of the best run-blockers in the game, so he can play in-line or on the move as an asset to any rushing attack.

Recent Injury History:
Goedert missed one game in 2019 due to a calf injury before missing five games in 2020 due to multiple lower leg injuries.

Contract Projection: Four years, $60 million ($15M per year, $33.5 million total guaranteed)

Bottom Line:
Goedert is entering his prime and he has the three-down playmaking ability to make any offense better. He can win at any level in the passing game while doubling as one of the best run-blockers at the position.

PFF Greenline uses exclusive game and player data to make projections on NFL game spreads, moneyline, and over/under.

8. CB Carlton Davis, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Carlton Davis is one of very few good, young cornerbacks set to hit the free agent market and among an even shorter list of cornerbacks with the ability to play man coverage and battle head-to-head with an opposing team's No. 1 wide receiver. This more rare skill set always has a higher earning potential on the open market, but a franchise tag here for around $17-$17.5 million might be the most likely outcome.

Tampa Bay went the franchise tag route with wide receiver Chris Godwin this past offseason, and they may elect to go that route once more as Davis has missed some time to injury just like Godwin did in 2020.

Strengths:
-Reading routes and passing concepts
-Physicality
-Contesting targets

Weaknesses:
-Penalties (often too physical)
-Consistency

Scheme Fit/Role:
No. 1 CB: Carlton Davis has the size and physical profile of a cornerback who excels at man coverage, but he actually has pretty stark splits between man and zone in the NFL, with significantly worse production when playing man coverage. Davis has great physicality and the ability to break on the ball, and teams with weaknesses at corner should be all over him, putting the likes of the Cardinals, Seahawks, Jets and 49ers firmly in the mix.

Recent Injury History:
Davis suffered a quad injury that shut him down and landed him on IR in early October. He has otherwise been pretty injury-free.

Contract Projection: Franchise tag

Bottom Line:
Carlton Davis is a talented No. 1 corner in pretty much any scheme. He has the profile of a corner that should excel in man coverage, but he has actually been better in zone shells throughout his NFL career. He would be a fit for most cornerback needy teams.


9. S Marcus Williams, New Orleans Saints

Williams has been the one continuous thread in a secondary that has experienced some changes over the years, and perhaps we’re now at the point where we need to give him some more credit for keeping everything in front of him on the backend. The Saints have prioritized free-agent spending and drafting in the secondary, so we’re not suggesting Williams is playing in a weak group, but he has graded above 70.0 for five years in a row now as the free safety manning the deep third of the field. He’ll still be just 26 years old in Week 1 of 2022 after playing on the franchise tag and should have offers to become one of the highest-paid safeties in the NFL.

Strengths:
-Consistency
-Performs well in all facets

Weaknesses:
-Can struggle for physicality
-Inconsistent matched up in man coverage

Scheme Fit/Role:
VERSATILE FS: Marcus Williams has been a consistently impressive player for the Saints in his NFL career. He has been the team's free safety and is excellent in zones at all levels of the coverage. He would be a good starting safety in any scheme but fits best in a defense that plays with two high safeties, such as Atlanta's or Houston's.

Recent Injury History:
Williams has been remarkably injury-free in his NFL career and has little concern in that area.

Contract Projection: Four years, $66 million ($16.5M per year, $36.5 million total guaranteed)

Bottom Line:
Williams was excellent as a rookie before being the player embarrassed on the “Minneapolis Miracle” play by the Vikings. Since then, he has continued to excel and would be a good starting free safety for much of the NFL.


10. T Orlando Brown Jr., Kansas City Chiefs

Brown was traded for a first-round pick this year and now gets to exert that leverage over the acquiring club, the Kansas City Chiefs, for a very strong contract extension. Brown was granted his request to depart from the Baltimore Ravens so that he could start full-time at left tackle. He’s done just that so far in a polar opposite offensive system, protecting quarterback Patrick Mahomes as opposed to Lamar Jackson. Brown is grading above 70.0 as a pass-blocker and run-blocker while adjusting to a dropback passing attack and starting alongside an entirely new offensive line unit. The Chiefs probably feel comfortable about their trade decision and will now pay accordingly.

Strengths:
-Length
-Engulfs second-level defenders

Weaknesses:
-Rarely loses in the run game
-Speed rushers

Scheme Fit/Role:
STARTING TACKLE: Brown is one of the most dependable tackles in the NFL and he annually ranks among the best at avoiding missed blocks in the run game. He uses his length well as a pass-blocker, though he's not as dominant as you'd expect as a run-blocker, given his massive size.

Recent Injury History:
Since taking over as a starter in Week 7 of his rookie season in 2018, Brown has not missed a game, and he played over 1,100 snaps in each of the last two seasons.

Contract Projection: Five years, $105 million ($21M per year, $73.5 million total guaranteed)


11. WR Mike Williams, Los Angeles Chargers

Williams picked a great season to finally break out and become a consistent player, with his 35 receptions halfway through the season already close to breaking his full-season career-high of 49. After a blazing start during the first three weeks of the season — a span in which Williams ranked fifth in receptions (22), sixth in receiving yards (295) and second in explosive plays (eight) — he has fallen back down to earth a bit.

He has dropped five balls on the year and notched two or fewer receptions and under 30 receiving yards in three of his past four contests. Williams’ tantalizing physical abilities that led to him being drafted No. 7 overall will always keep teams interested, but how much they’re willing to invest long-term may be a tougher decision.

Strengths:
-The vertical route tree
-Size
-Contested catches

Weaknesses:
-Injury history
-Underneath pass patterns
-Quickness

Scheme Fit/Role:
Deep threat & red-zone target: Mike Williams has intimidating size and leaping ability that has made him a specialist deep down the field and in the red zone. He lacks the short-area quickness to be a complete receiver but is an excellent complementary piece when healthy. He could be a fit for a team like Philadelphia that doesn't currently have that skill set, or Washington who needs a legitimate No. 2 opposite Terry McLaurin.

Recent Injury History:
Williams has a fairly extensive injury history in the NFL, though they typically haven't caused him to miss much time. His playing style tends to be pretty attritional and may cause him to play banged up pretty consistently.

Contract Projection: Four years, $68 million ($17M per year, $38 million total guaranteed)

Bottom Line:
Williams is showing that he can be an elite big-play threat within an offense. A player who may not have a complete skill set, he nevertheless would feature well in most offenses in the league.

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12. WR Courtland Sutton, Denver Broncos

Sutton returned from a torn ACL suffered in 2020 and for the most part has picked up exactly where he left off. His 80.0 grade through Week 8 ranks 11th among wide receivers, and his 16.7-yard average depth of target ranks sixth among receivers with at least fifteen targets. Sutton has hauled in 95.2% of the catchable passes thrown his way, a top-10 mark among wideouts with at least 20 targets on the season. However you slice it, Sutton has quickly regained his status as one of the better young pass-catchers in the league.

Strengths:
-Size
-Vertical routes
-Physicality

Weaknesses:
-Short-area quickness and burst
-Diversity of route tree

Scheme Fit/Role:
No. 1 WR: Courtland Sutton has the kind of physically imposing style that makes him a prototypical X-receiver that can defeat press coverage and punish a defensive back down the field. He isn't as complete a player as Davante Adams but has shown elite playmaking ability. Teams like Jacksonville, Cleveland, or even Green Bay if they have to replace Adams would make a lot of sense.

Recent Injury History:
Sutton had a major knee injury that caused him to miss most of 2020, but outside of that has dealt with only minor sprains or niggles.

Contract Projection: Four years, $70 million ($17.5M per year, $39 million total guaranteed)

Bottom Line:
Courtland Sutton has a rare blend of size and long speed that makes him a problem for any defensive back. He is still developing nuance to his game after coming from a very basic route tree in college but has a No. 1 skill set in the NFL.


13. S Jessie Bates III, Cincinnati Bengals

Bates was looking for an extension this past offseason, and the Cincinnati Bengals instead chose to prioritize the player they drafted one round after Bates in 2018 — edge defender Sam Hubbard. The Cincinnati defense has taken a step forward in 2021, with recent free-agent additions such as edge defender Trey Hendrickson and interior defender D.J. Reader wreaking havoc on opposing quarterbacks and cornerback addition Chidobe Awuzie outperforming the man he replaced in Washington Football Team cornerback William Jackson III. Will Bates get his due from the Bengals, or will he be the latest homegrown player to depart?

Strengths:
-Range in coverage
-Ball skills
-Plays on the ball

Weaknesses:
-Inconsistency
-Tackling

Scheme Fit/Role:
SINGLE-HIGH FS/SPLIT SAFETY: Bates showed in 2020 that he can be an elite center field safety with the range to get to the sideline and make plays on the football. He is an ideal player for the Seattle Cover 1/Cover 3 style of defense, which is becoming increasingly less prevalent. He would also thrive in any system that runs with split safety shells, which makes him an ideal fit for most of the league in some shape or form.

Recent Injury History:
Bates has barely missed a snap in his NFL career and has little to no real injury concerns.

Contract Projection: Four years, $62 million ($15.5M per year, $36 million total guaranteed)

Bottom Line:
A year ago, Bates was coming off a career year and looked like the best safety in the game, but it represented a major outlier from the rest of his career and regression hit this season. He is still an impact coverage player at the position who fits in some way in pretty much every scheme in the league.


14. G Brandon ScherffWashington Football Team

Scherff is playing on his second consecutive franchise tag at a value of $18.036 million, rounding his three-year earnings to $45,591,000. He’s already top-15 among guards in career earnings, and he’s never signed a multi-year veteran contract. The veteran guard has been out since Week 4 with a sprained MCL but is in the middle of another season with an overall grade above 70.0, with solid grades in both run and pass blocking. Injuries have kept Scherff sidelined from time to time, but he has talent that cannot be taught.

Strengths:
– Reliable in pass protection
– Zone blocking

Weaknesses:
– Durability
– Hasn't been as dominant in gap schemes in recent years

Scheme Fit/Role:
STARTING GUARD: Scherff is one of the best all-around guards in football when healthy. He has graded out better the last several seasons in zone rushing schemes, where his ability on the move shines. He would be a nice addition to the Jets' young, rebuilding offensive line opposite Mekhi Becton and Alijah Vera-Tucker.

Recent Injury History:
The MCL sprain that sidelined Scherff for multiple weeks in 2021 is the latest in a growing list of injuries that have limited him throughout his career. Scherff has missed two games in each of the last five seasons.

Contract Projection: Three years, $50 million ($16.67 million per year, $30 million total guaranteed)

Bottom Line:
A healthy Scherff is the best interior offensive lineman scheduled to hit free agency this offseason, but it's difficult to bank on Scherff staying healthy through an entire NFL season.


15. EDGE Jadeveon Clowney, Cleveland Browns

At the halfway point of the NFL season, Jadeveon Clowney was ninth in total pressures among edge rushers with 32. His positive sack regression finally hit with his five sacks through Week 7 more than he had in 2019 and 2020 combined. Clowney’s five sacks this season came on 178 pass-rush snaps, after four sacks over 748 pass-rush snaps over the past two seasons. Perhaps if this continues a team will be more willing to give Clowney a strong multi-year deal. For now, he seems to be enjoying the eight-figure mercenary approach, and who can blame him?

Strengths:
-Explosiveness and powerful
-Equally effective rushing the passer on the edge or on the interior

Weaknesses:
-Never dominated as a pass-rusher
-Missed tackles/finishing plays

Scheme Fit/Role:
3-DOWN EDGE: Clowney is one of the better run defenders in the league and he has the speed and power to move around the defensive line to create mismatches in pass-rushing situations. He's a No.2 pass-rusher and should not be relied upon as a No. 1 option.

Recent Injury History:
Injuries have been an issue for Clowney for the majority of his career. He missed three games in 2019, played just 425 snaps due to season-ending knee surgery in 2020, and is battling several lower-body injuries in 2021.

Contract Projection: One year, $15 million, $12 million total guaranteed

Bottom Line:
Clowney's sack totals have fluctuated in recent years, but his snap-for-snap production has been very consistent. He's a good, not great pass-rusher and a block-destructing run defender who fits best as the No. 2 pass-rusher on a good defensive line.

Dive into PFF Premium Stats to explore Wyatt Teller's 2021 season and NFL career.

16. G Wyatt Teller, Cleveland Browns

Editor's note: Weller has since re-signed with the Cleveland Browns for 4 year, $56.8 million deal. Click here for more details.

Teller enjoyed a breakout 2020 campaign that has largely continued into 2021, though a trend has emerged. Since 2020, Teller’s pass-blocking grade of 64.8 ranks 41st among guards with at least 100 snaps, while his 94.3 run-blocking grade ranks second. Kevin Stefanski’s outside zone run scheme gets Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt running behind Teller as he clears the way, and this asset will be desirable for the bevy of teams that run a similar system across the league.

Strengths:
-Quick and powerful
-Excellent zone run blocker
-Makes difficult reach blocks and locks onto second-level defenders

Weaknesses:
-Bull-rushes
-Pass-block grades not matching his run block production

Scheme Fit/Role:
GUARD IN ZONE-HEAVY SCHEME: Teller can make any block, but he excels on zone runs, particularly outside zone. He's excellent at blocking on the move and he can lock onto second-level targets to help create chunk plays in the run game.

Recent Injury History:
Teller played in 13 out of the Browns' 18 games in 2020 due to ankle and calf injuries.

Contract Projection: Four years, $57 million ($14.25M per year, $32.75 million total guaranteed)

Bottom Line:
Teller had a classic Year 3 breakout as he was the league's highest-graded run blocker in 2020. He's a dominant zone blocker whose pass-protection grades are still lagging behind, but he's an asset in any run-heavy attack.


17. EDGE Randy Gregory, Dallas Cowboys

Gregory has finally reached unrestricted free agent status after getting drafted No. 60 overall in 2015 and making an impressive return to full-time football action over the last two seasons. His 90.7 pass-rush grade through Week 9 of the 2021 season ranks third among edge rushers, and his 17.3% pressure percentage ranks fifth among edge rushers with at least 100 pass-rush snaps. The big question may be whether Dallas is able to retain a player who has developed into a premier pass-rusher while also paying edge defender Demarcus Lawrence top-five money at the position. If Gregory does reach free agency, there may be a long line of teams vying for his services.

Contract Projection: Two years, $25 million ($12.5M per year, $15 million total guaranteed)

18. CB Stephon Gilmore, Carolina Panthers

After the contentious standoff between the New England Patriots and star cornerback Stephon Gilmore ultimately culminated in his placement on the physically unable to perform or “PUP” list to start the season, Gilmore was unceremoniously traded to the Panthers for a 2023 sixth-round pick. While the late future draft pick isn’t a substantial sunk cost that puts pressure on the Panthers to get an extension with the Carolina-native, they are paying Gilmore around $6 million for the remainder of the 2021 season. A player-friendly structure on a modest, short-term deal makes sense for both parties, and Gilmore can help Panthers No. 8 overall pick Jaycee Horn develop into the lockdown player Carolina foresaw when drafting him.

Strengths:
-Man coverage
-Ball skills
-Size/speed

Weaknesses:
-Off/zone coverage
-Age

Scheme Fit/Role:
OUTSIDE CB IN MAN-HEAVY SCHEME: Gilmore made the Patriots' offense tick from 2017 to 2019, as he played lockdown man coverage better than any corner in the league. He's at his best playing press man, where he can cover the league's best receivers, but he comes back down to Earth when asked to play more zone concepts.

Recent Injury History:
After playing every game in 2018 and 2019, Gilmore was limited to just 11 games and 632 snaps in 2020 due to knee and hand injuries. He missed the first seven weeks of the 2021 season due to a quad injury.

Contract Projection: Two years, $28 million ($14M per year, $20 million total guaranteed)

Bottom Line:
From 2017 to 2019, Gilmore was the premier cornerback in the league while matching up against the NFL's best receivers in New England's man-coverage system. Scheme fit and his age are the big question marks moving forward.


19. WR Michael Gallup, Dallas Cowboys

Gallup’s contract year got off to a bit of a shaky start, as he sustained an injury in Week 1 that has kept him sidelined through Week 9. He will have to make the most of the second half of the season to boost his value back up, but his durability shouldn’t be much of a question — this is the first time in his career he’s missed significant time.

The larger question may be if Gallup benefits from playing with quarterback Dak Prescott and alongside Amari Cooper in one of the league’s premier passing attacks, but Gallup is a productive outside wide receiver who will be coveted come March.

Strengths:
-Route running and pacing
-Footwork
-Separation

Weaknesses:
-Average drop rate
-Bouts of inconsistency
-Average physical gifts

Scheme Fit/Role:
SCHEME-DIVERSE NO. 2 RECEIVER: Gallup can actually play as an X receiver as well as the Z, defeating press coverage and aggressive man coverage from cornerbacks with his footwork, hands and route running. He is a good secondary option but can work in either of those spots on an offense. Teams like Washington or New England would make a lot of sense for his services. Jacksonville always needs receiver help but would need more than just Gallup.

Recent Injury History:
Gallup missed significant time with a calf strain this season that saw him land on IR and opened up the door for Cedrick Wilson to eat into his playing time even when he returns. He has had some minor injuries in the past.

Contract Projection: Four years, $60 million ($15M per year, $32.5 million total guaranteed)

Bottom Line:
Gallup is a really intriguing receiver that is capable of doing a lot and even generating yards and catches against elite corners like Jalen Ramsey. He may not have the ceiling, consistency or elite athleticism of the best receivers in the game, but he would make a fantastic complementary piece to an offense that already has one.


20. CB J.C. Jackson, New England Patriots

J.C. Jackson is playing in 2021 on the second-round restricted free agent tender at a value of $3.384 million. However, former Patriots cornerback and 2019 Defensive Player of the Year Stephon Gilmore, who has since been traded to the Carolina Panthers, was also looking for new money headed into 2021. If Carlton Davis does get franchise tagged, Jackson could become the top man coverage corner available after a full season serving as the No. 1 with Gilmore never playing for the Patriots.

Strengths:
– Receiver-like ball skills
– Experience traveling in man
– Very rarely gets beat deep

Weaknesses:
– Hasn't been nearly as effective in zone
– Closing on intermediate routes

Scheme Fit/Role:
OUTSIDE CB IN MAN-HEAVY SCHEME: Jackson has been the second fiddle to Stephon Gilmore in New England for much of his career, but he's still handled his fair share of tough, man-coverage assignments in Bill Belichick's defense. He's been one of the position's best playmakers in that role, rarely squandering an interception opportunity. Dallas and New Orleans stand out as potential non-Patriots landing spots if they're able to make things work financially.

Recent Injury History:
Jackson hasn't missed significant time with injury since being drafted in 2018. He drew several questionable tags in 2020 with knee and hip injuries, but those proved to be minor.

Contract Projection: Four years, $60 million ($15M per year, $33.5 million total guaranteed)

Bottom Line:
Throwing at Jackson has resulted in one of the lowest passer ratings in the league since 2018 due to a combination of rarely getting beat downfield and his ability to produce turnovers. He has the man-coverage skill set that teams covet at the position.

21. S Tyrann Mathieu, Kansas City Chiefs

When Minnesota Vikings safety Harrison Smith signed his four-year, $64 million extension shortly before the 2021 season, the deal had to have gotten the attention of veteran safeties league-wide. The Smith deal is one of the strongest contracts for a player in recent memory, with the signing keeping him under contract through his age-36 season. Mathieu is several years younger than Smith, and if he can lead the Kansas City Chiefs defense to a much stronger second half of the season than the first, the versatile defensive back may be able to cash in once more.

Strengths:
– Instincts in coverage
– Versatility

Weaknesses:
– Size
– Can get caught out of position looking to make a play

Scheme Fit/Role:
DO-IT-ALL SAFETY: Mathieu frequently finds himself on “most versatile” lists, and his snap distribution backs those claims up. Since joining Kansas City in 2019, Mathieu has played over 600 snaps in deep, box and slot alignments. The Ravens reportedly had an interest in Mathieu back in 2019 and could use his playmaking ability at safety.

Recent Injury History:
Mathieu had two ACL tears and a shoulder injury that led to missed time early in his career, but he has rarely left the field in recent years. Mathieu has logged over 1,000 defensive snaps in each of the past four seasons.

Contract Projection: Three years, $48.75 million ($16.25M per year, $30.75 million total guaranteed)

Bottom Line:
Mathieu brings leadership, energy and the ability to make plays from multiple positions to any defense he's on.


22. DI Akiem Hicks, Chicago Bears

Akiem Hicks was yet another established veteran seeking a well-deserved contract extension prior to the 2021 season, with his agent Drew Rosenhaus going so far as to spend a few days at Bears training camp in an effort to get something done. Nevertheless, no agreement was reached, and Hicks has now battled a nagging groin injury in his contract year. He’s still maintained his very high floor of play with grades above 60.0 in every facet, and any team looking for a veteran leader can look no further.

Strengths:
-Power. Incredible pop in his hands
-Bullrush
-Blowing up the downhill run game

Weaknesses:
-Pass-rush variety
-Playing against outside run game

Scheme Fit/Role:
POWER 3/5-TECHNIQUE: Hicks has been one of the better run defenders in the league over the last few years, especially when lined up over the guard or tackle. He has not been nearly as effective during his limited time playing nose tackle.

Recent Injury History:
Hicks was limited to just five games and 191 snaps in 2019 due to multiple arm injuries. He's battled injuries in 2021, though he played over 800 snaps in each season in 2016, 2017, 2018, and 2020.

Contract Projection: Two years, $17 million ($8.5M per year, $12.5 million total guaranteed)

Bottom Line:
We're a few years removed from Hicks' elite 2018 season that saw him rank fourth among interior defensive linemen in overall grade (91.7). Hicks has otherwise been an above-average run defender and pass-rusher, though we've seen some decline in his game as he gets into his 30s.


23. C Ryan Jensen, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The 2021 offseason was a big one for centers, with Los Angeles Chargers center Corey Linsley signing the biggest deal ever at the position. Linsley was quickly surpassed by Detroit Lions center Frank Ragnow’s extension as the market continued its upward trajectory. Jensen’s situation is pretty similar to Linsley: Stay with a future Hall of Fame quarterback or take the most money possible elsewhere?

Strengths:
– Finishing + maintaining blocks
– Blocking in space

Weaknesses:
– Can be overaggressive
– Snap accuracy

Scheme Fit/Role:
STARTING CENTER: Jensen's best fit is on a downhill rushing offense that takes advantage of his physicality, but he's graded above the 75th-percentile of all centers in gap and zone run schemes over the past three seasons. A return to Tampa Bay makes sense for both sides, given the team's Super Bowl aspirations and Jensen's fit in that scheme.

Recent Injury History:
Jensen has been one of the most durable centers in the league since he signed with Tampa Bay prior to the 2018 season. He hasn't missed a start for the Buccaneers, notching over 4,000 offensive snaps for the Buccaneers over that stretch.

Contract Projection: Three years, $30 million ($10M per year, $15 million total guaranteed)

Bottom Line:
Jensen has become a fan favorite in Baltimore and Tampa Bay because of his attitude and well-rounded game that can be plugged into most NFL offenses. The biggest concern for potential suitors would be that he's now on the other side of 30 at a position that takes a beating in the trenches, especially given the way that Jensen plays it.


24. WR Antonio Brown, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Even at 33 years old and after missing time here and there, Brown is still one of the best wide receivers in the NFL. Through five contests to start the season, he put together three outings with at least 90 receiving yards and a touchdown, and his 86.3 receiving grade ranked fourth among wide receivers. There will be a handful of suitors once again this offseason, as Brown represents one of the best values in the NFL each year.

Strengths:
-Route-running nuance
-Ball skills
-Setting up defenders

Weaknesses:
-History of behavioral issues
-Age

Scheme Fit/Role:
SCHEME-DIVERSE UTILITY RECEIVERS: Brown works in any scheme and in any position. He would be best suited to a scheme that taps into that versatility and already moves their receivers around and interchanges roles. Tampa Bay remains his best fit and perhaps most likely option to re-sign, but New Orleans would also be an intriguing option.

Recent Injury History:
Since arriving in Tampa Bay, Antonio Brown had been pretty healthy until an ankle injury put him out in Week 6 and continues to linger. Brown has been remarkably durable for a smaller receiver throughout his career.

Contract Projection: One year, $4 million fully guaranteed

Bottom Line:
At his peak, Antonio Brown was one of the best receivers the game has ever seen before forcing his way out of Pittsburgh and then blowing up subsequent opportunities. He has been a valuable part of the Bucs offense with Tom Brady since arriving and continues to be a receiver who can win at all levels and from all alignments even at 33 years old.

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25. CB Darious Williams, Los Angeles Rams

Darious Williams was the only restricted free agent to receive the first-round tender last offseason at a value of $4.766 million, signaling how much the Rams value Williams’ contributions. The move may also demonstrate their perception of how Williams is regarded league-wide if they thought a second-round tender would not have been enough to keep another club from signing Williams to an offer sheet. A very solid player opposite Jalen Ramsey, Williams has thrived in a heavy zone scheme and has physical limitations at just 5-foot-9. Nevertheless, opposing quarterbacks rarely fare well throwing into his coverage, and he deserves a payday.

Strengths:
-Ball Skills
-Quickness
-Ability to mirror and change of direction speed

Weaknesses:
-Size
-Protected role within Rams defense
-Run defense

Scheme Fit/Role:
NO. 2 CB: Dating back to college, Williams really doesn't have any bad tape to speak of. With the Rams, the only question is that Jalen Ramsey has enabled him to lead a sheltered life as a No. 2 corner that hasn't had the tough assignments that can cause problems to smaller corners. He is not scheme-specific and fits as a No. 2 in any defense.

Recent Injury History:
Williams suffered an ankle injury in Week 5 that landed him on IR.

Contract Projection: Three years, $40M ($13.33M per year, $22.5 million total guaranteed)

Bottom Line:
Darious Williams has elite quickness, movement skills and the ability to find and break up the football once it's in the air. He can play equally well in man or zone coverage but has always been protected by his role within the Rams defense.


26. TE Mike Gesicki, Miami Dolphins

Gesicki will have one of the more interesting free-agent situations of any player in the NFL this offseason as he attempts to make the infamous Jimmy Graham argument that he should be considered a wide receiver for franchise tag purposes and not a tight end. Gesicki has played 94% of his snaps lined up in the slot or out wide as a receiver and is rarely ever in-line as a tight end. The wide receiver franchise tag is projected to be around $19 million, while the tight end franchise tag projects to be almost half of that — around $10 million-$11 million. It’s no small distinction.

Strengths:
-Speed/athleticism
-Ball skills/contested catches
-Hands

Weaknesses:
-Blocking
-Separating vs. single coverage

Scheme Fit/Role:
TIGHT END IN PASS-HEAVY ATTACK: Gesicki doesn't have the blocking chops to play in-line all that often, but he's at his best using his athleticism to add value to the passing game all over the formation.

Recent Injury History:
Gesicki has missed just one game in his four-year career as he sat out Week 15 of 2020 due to a shoulder injury.

Contract Projection: Four years, $55 million ($13.75M per year, $30 million total guaranteed)

Bottom Line:
It was a slow start to Gesicki's career, but he's emerged as one of the better tight ends in the league. He's done most of his work in the slot or out wide, and that's where he's at his best, so teams looking for a true in-line tight end need not apply.


27. EDGE Harold Landry III, TennesseeTitans

Harold Landry has one ability that all 32 teams look for: availability. Landry’s 2,501 snaps since 2019 are over 250 more than the next-highest edge rusher, and he’s one of just seven edge rushers over the span to crack 2,000 snaps. Los Angeles Rams edge rusher Leonard Floyd is second to Landry with 2,246, and he signed a very respectable four-year, $64 million contract with the Rams this offseason. The two graded similarly over 2019-20, with Floyd slightly outpacing Landry in overall grade (71.0 to 67.3), run-defense grade (72.7 to 71.2) and pass-rush grade (64.1 to 61.8). Being an above-average to good ironman certainly carries value at a spot like edge rusher.

Strengths:
– Durability
– Bend
– Speed

Weaknesses:
– One-dimensional-pass rusher
– Winning one-on-ones

Scheme Fit/Role:
VERSATILE STARTER ON THE EDGE: Landry has a relatively even split of snaps as a defensive end and stand-up outside linebacker in 2021, but he is better suited as a 3-4 outside linebacker who is capable of dropping into coverage. A reunion with former defensive coordinator Dean Pees in Atlanta makes sense as a potential landing spot if Tennessee isn't able to retain Landry.

Recent Injury History:
Landry hasn't missed a start for Tennessee since breaking into a full-time starting role in 2019. It was reported that some teams had medical flags on Landry coming out of Boston College for potential knee and back issues, but those haven't led to missed time in the NFL.

Contract Projection:  Four years, $55 million ($13.75M per year, $30 million total guaranteed)

Bottom Line:
2021 has been a breakout season statistically for Landry as a pass rusher, but no player has benefitted more from cleanup and unblocked pressure opportunities than he has. Landry is a reliable every-down starter, but he's not going to single-handedly change the fortunes of a pass-rushing unit.


28. TE Rob Gronkowski, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Gronkowski looked even better to start off the 2021 campaign than he did in 2020, perhaps because his post-retirement rust was fully shaken off. He tallied 129 receiving yards and four touchdown receptions through Week 2, though injuries to his ribs and back have largely kept him sidelined since. Regardless, he is still capable of being “Gronk” when healthy, and as long as Tom Brady keeps thriving in Tampa Bay, we should expect Gronkowski to be right there alongside him.

Strengths:
-Size/catch radius
-Contested catch ability
-Red-zone weapon

Weaknesses:
-Run blocking tapering off in recent years
-Durability/age

Scheme Fit/Role:
STARTING TIGHT END: Gronkowski has been the quintessential all-around tight end during his Hall of Fame career, and he still has many of those same characteristics, albeit a step below where he once was. He's one of the few tight ends who can play on the line against defensive ends in the run game but also line up outside and create mismatches as a receiver.

Recent Injury History:
2020 was just the third time Gronkowski played all 16 games of the regular season, as he's been banged up with various injuries throughout his career. He has missed time in 2021 due to a rib injury.

Contract Projection: One year, $7 million fully guaranteed

Bottom Line:
Even at the tail end of his career, Gronkowski is a pass-game weapon who can add value as a run blocker. The one limitation for the other 31 teams is if he's only tied to Tom Brady and uninterested in other offers.

29. EDGE Haason Reddick, Carolina Panthers

Reddick has successfully transitioned from off-ball linebacker to edge rusher, so it’s now just a question of how high his ceiling can be. He is a bit undersized as a full-time outside linebacker at 6-foot-1, 235 pounds, but he has a knack for bringing the quarterback, and his 22 sacks since 2020 are the fourth-most among edge rushers. Reddick can also set the edge moderately well in run defense and has put up a 70.6 grade halfway through the 2021 season.

Strengths:
– Explosive first step + quickness
– Wins tend to result in big plays
– Speed in pursuit

Weaknesses:
– Size
– Counters after tackles engage

Scheme Fit/Role:
OUTSIDE LINEBACKER IN AGGRESSIVE DEFENSE: Reddick is at his best on blitz-heavy defenses like Carolina's and Arizona's that can create unblocked opportunities and pass-rushing reps against tight ends and running backs. Reddick hasn't matched his 2020 pass-rushing production this year for the Panthers, but he has earned positive grades against the run at one of the highest rates at the position.

Recent Injury History:
Reddick hasn't missed a game since he was drafted in the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft. He's on pace to play 600-plus defensive snaps for the fourth consecutive season.

Contract Projection: Three years, $30 million ($10M per year, $17 million total guaranteed)

Bottom Line:
Few edge rushers have sacked opposing quarterbacks at a higher rate than Reddick since the start of the 2020 season. His size limits what he can do schematically, but we've seen that a blitz-heavy defense can make use of his first step and quickness off the edge.


30. CB Donte Jackson, Carolina Panthers

The Carolina Panthers used the No. 8 overall pick on South Carolina standout Jaycee Horn and then traded for two cornerbacks in Jacksonville Jaguars 2020 No. 9 overall pick C.J. Henderson and Stephon Gilmore this season, but they remain steadfast that this doesn’t say anything about their plans for Donte Jackson. It would appear he will at least have a chance to test the open market as Carolina prioritizes signing Gilmore to an extension to mentor their young collection of cornerbacks.

Strengths:
-Speed and recovery speed
-Explosive vertical leap
-Zone coverage

Weaknesses:
-Man coverage
-Missed tackles
-In-breaking routes

Scheme Fit/Role:
NO 2 CB IN A ZONE SCHEME: Donte Jackson has the speed to burn, but is at his best in zone coverage where he can keep his eye on the quarterback and use his athleticism to break on the ball. His best plays come using that speed to attack out-breaking routes. The Steelers or Seahawks run perfect schemes for Jackson.

Recent Injury History:
Jackson battled a toe injury for much of 2020, but he has been healthy so far in 2021. He has yet to clear 1,000 snaps in a season.

Contract Projection: Four years, $50 million ($12.5M per year, $26.5 million total guaranteed)

Bottom Line:
Donte Jackson has exceptional speed and athleticism but doesn't have the man-cover skills to match them. He can be a playmaker in the right zone scheme, where he can key the quarterback and break on the football, but is limited to a No. 2 role.


31. G Laken Tomlinson, San Francisco 49ers

Tomlinson has picked up where he left off in 2020, earning a second consecutive grade above 75.0. However, this year features a much improved, career-best 79.2 pass-blocking grade halfway through the season. Tomlinson has allowed a quarterback pressure on just 2.5% of pass-rush snaps, the sixth-lowest mark among guards with at least 100 snaps on the season. The former first-round pick of the Detroit Lions in 2015 may be in for a bigger deal this time around than his early extension signed in 2018 for three years, $16.5 million.

Strengths:
-Value-add in run game, one of highest percentages of positively graded run blocks
-Zone blocking

Weaknesses:
-Pass blocking on true pass sets
-Locking onto targets on the move

Scheme Fit/Role:
STARTING GUARD: Tomlinson has developed into one of the best guards in the league under Kyle Shanahan, so a zone-heavy system is best for him to ensure continued high production. However, Tomlinson has done it all throughout his career and he can play in any scheme.

Recent Injury History:
Since 2017, Tomlinson has played at least 1,000 snaps in every season. He tore an MCL toward the end of 2018 but recovered in time to play every game in 2019.

Contract Projection: Three years, $27 million ($9M per year, $16.5 million total guaranteed)

Bottom Line:
After a slow start to his career, Tomlinson developed into a high-end starter and his most recent work ranks him among the league's best guards. He's a valuable asset in the run game and a strong pass protector who has plenty of good football left as a starting guard.


32. EDGE Emmanuel Ogbah, Miami Dolphins

Emmanuel Ogbah has finally blossomed into a solid defensive end after a few years of bouncing around rosters. The Cleveland Browns made Ogbah the first pick of the second round in the 2016 NFL Draft and subsequently traded him to the Kansas City Chiefs for a fourth-round pick and safety Eric Murray before the 2019 season. Now in his second season with the Dolphins, Ogbah has a career-best 84.8 overall grade at the halfway point with his 73.2 pass-rush grade — his first above 65.0.

Strengths:
-Block recognition in the run game
-Can rush the passer from inside and on the edge

Weaknesses:
-Taking on double teams when lined up inside
-Dominant wins on the edge

Scheme Fit/Role:
SOLID STARTER ON THE EDGE: Ogbah has never ranked higher than 40th among edge defenders, but he's on pace to have the best year of his career in 2021. He's a low-end starter who can win on the edge or on the interior as a pass-rusher.

Recent Injury History:
Ogbah's 2019 season was cut short after 410 snaps due to a pectoral injury, but he bounced back to play 792 snaps across all 16 games in 2020.

Contract Projection: Three years, $46.5 million ($15.5M per year, $30 million total guaranteed)

Bottom Line:
An average edge defender for the first five years of his career, Ogbah is trending in the right direction, and he's effective against the run and rushing the passer from multiple alignments. His career production projects him as a low-end starter or high-end rotational defensive lineman.

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33. DI Calais Campbell, Baltimore Ravens

The ageless wonder Calais Campbell is in the midst of another very strong season now at 35 years of age, with his 84.0 grade well above any of the other pending free agent interior defenders. He’s a better run defender at this stage in his career than he is a pass rusher, but he can still win his one-on-one matchup and get upfield in a hurry now and then. Much like Campbell’s longtime former teammate, wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, Campbell will likely continue to play on strong one-year deals until he decides to hang up the cleats.

Strengths:
-Wins on the interior and on the edge
-Length and quickness

Weaknesses:
-Gets moved by double teams in the run game
-Age

Scheme Fit/Role:
MULTIPLE-GAP INTERIOR DEFENSIVE LINEMAN: Campbell broke out in 2011 and he hasn't looked back, ranking as one of the best defensive linemen in the league. He is at his best playing over the guard, but he's been effective playing the run and rushing the passer from all alignments along the defensive line. Campbell is a scheme-versatile player who upgrades multiple positions in any system.

Recent Injury History:
After playing over 750 snaps in each season from 2009 to 2019, Campbell played just 469 snaps in 2020, as he missed five games due to a calf injury. Other than that, he's been one of the most durable players in the NFL.

Contract Projection: One year, $8 million fully guaranteed

Bottom Line:
While Campbell is going to be 36 at the start of the 2022 season, he has enough left in the tank to provide a three-down presence to any defensive front.


34. EDGE Jerry Hughes, Buffalo Bills

Hughes has become something of a pass-rush specialist to close out his career, with his 90.6 pass-rush grade since 2019 the fifth-best mark among edge rushers. But his 56.8 run-defense grade ranks 87th out of 130 edge rushers. Teams will always pay for someone who can get after the opposing quarterback, and Hughes shows no sign of losing that ability even at 33 years old.

Strengths:
– Consistently high pass-rush win rate
– Speed around edge and inside counter

Weaknesses:
– Finishing pressures with sacks
– Age

Scheme Fit/Role:
ROTATIONAL PASS RUSHER: Hughes has graded out in the 95th percentile or higher of edge defenders in pass-rush grade and pass-rush win rate over the past three seasons. Turning 34 years old in August means that ability is best used situationally at this point, but Hughes makes sense somewhere like Cincinnati on a defense in need of a pass-rushing specialist off the edge.

Recent Injury History:
Hughes entered camp this season with a calf injury, but he's reportedly gotten healthier as the season has progressed. Hughes tweeted that he played through torn ligaments in his wrist during the 2019 season that never appeared on the injury report.

Contract Projection: One year, $6.5 million fully guaranteed

Bottom Line:
Even at 33 years old, Hughes has been one of the NFL's most effective edge rushers this season. He can still bring value to a team as a pass-rushing specialist in the twilight of his career.


35. T Duane Brown, Seattle Seahawks

Brown was looking for an extension before the 2021 season but had to settle for a reworked contract that moved his cash payment schedule forward entering his age-36 season. Brown is still several years younger than Los Angeles Rams stalwart left tackle Andrew Whitworth, so he will surely point to his situation to continue making decent money well into his 30s. Brown deserves it, as he has earned 80.0-plus grades in every facet in 2020 and few signs of his play dramatically falling off in the near future.

Strengths:
-Avoiding negatively graded plays in the run game
-Pass protection
-Moves well in space

Weaknesses:
-Run blocking on gap runs
-Age

Scheme Fit/Role:
STARTING LEFT TACKLE: While he's at his best in a zone-heavy scheme, Brown has done it all during his 14-year career. He's been one of the most dependable tackles in the league since his rookie season and he's likely entering tackle-for-hire one-year deal status for teams that expect to be in playoff contention.

Recent Injury History:
After playing all 17 games in 2018, Brown missed four games in 2019 between biceps and knee injuries. He bounced back to play over 1,100 snaps once again in 2020.

Contract Projection: Two years, $20 million ($10M per year, $14.5 million total guaranteed)

Bottom Line:
We're getting toward the tail end of Brown's stellar career in which he's been one of the best pass protectors in the league. He's shown some signs of decline, but he can be an effective starting option for teams looking for a quick replacement at left tackle.


36. LB De'Vondre Campbell, Green Bay Packers

At the halfway point of the 2021 season, Campbell could well be the best value free-agent signing of the offseason. After long searching for a reliable off-ball linebacker, the Green Bay Packers brought Campbell aboard on a one-year, $2 million contract this offseason, and his 86.7 overall grade is second among linebackers through Week 8. Campbell’s 86.4 tackling grade is his fifth straight above 75.0, and that sure tackling goes a long way in Green Bay. He’s earned himself a nice raise — it's just a matter of how nice it will be.

Strengths:
– Durability
– Tackling
– Downhill play vs. run

Weaknesses:
– One-year wonder
– Can get caught out of position in coverage

Scheme Fit/Role:
THREE-DOWN LINEBACKER: Campbell has played at least 850 regular season defensive snaps in every season since his rookie year in 2016. He rarely comes off the field, and there's been no reason for Green Bay to take him off the field given his play in all phases in his first year with the Packers. Campbell could be another piece for the Rams' all-in approach on defense if the Packers opt not to bring him back.

Recent Injury History:
Campbell ranks among the top-10 off-ball linebackers in the league in defensive snaps played since he was drafted in 2016. He hasn't missed significant action in his six-year career.

Contract Projection: Two years, $13 million ($6.5M per year, $8 million total guaranteed) 

Bottom Line:
The hope for whatever teams sign Campbell is that he follows the Demario Davis career arc with his best football yet to come as he pushes towards 30 years old. He's a difficult evaluation with All-Pro caliber play in 2021 following five seasons with a PFF grade below 70.0 to start his career.

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37. T Eric Fisher, Indianapolis Colts

Fisher suffered an unfortunate Achilles injury in the 2020 AFC Championship Game and underwent injury on January 29, returning to football action just seven months later in mid-September. The mere fact Fisher was even ready to play by Week 2 of the 2021 season is remarkable, and he’s steadily improved each week protecting Carson Wentz’s blindside as he works his way back to 100% health. Fisher is a former No. 1 overall pick, and while he may not have lived up to those lofty expectations, he’s a very solid NFL left tackle. Fisher signed a one-year, $8.38 million deal at a time when questions remained about his recovery, which illustrates the kind of market he will have this offseason now back in top form.

Strengths:
– Very good athlete
– Blocking on the move
– Consistent in pass pro

Weaknesses:
– Struggles with power off the edge
– Run blocking in gap scheme

Scheme Fit/Role:
STARTING LEFT TACKLE: Fisher fits in the mold of average starting tackles that fanbases think they can upgrade over, but the reality of replacing an average tackle isn't always pleasant. Fisher fits best in a zone-blocking scheme. Chicago makes sense as a potential landing spot, assuming that Jason Peters retires and Teven Jenkins steps in at right tackle.

Recent Injury History:
Fisher got off to a slow start to the season as he made his way back from an Achilles injury that he suffered in the 2020 AFC Championship game. He also missed eight games during the 2019 season following core muscle surgery.

Contract Projection: Three years, $48 million ($16M per year, $31.25 million total guaranteed)

Bottom Line:
Fisher understandably had a slow start to the 2021 season as he worked his way back from an Achilles injury, but he's bounced back to his Kansas City form in recent weeks. He's an average starting tackle who will have lowlight moments against power rushers who can get into his chest.


38. T Charles Leno Jr.Washington Football Team

Leno Jr. was a cap casualty of the Chicago Bears this offseason, as they had to make a series of tough roster decisions. He latched on in Washington on a one-year, $4 million deal and has been a great value signing so far. His 75.9 overall grade and 82.8 pass-blocking grades both represent his best marks since 2017. The former seventh-rounder has carved out an impressive NFL career to date, and he’ll keep that journey rolling this offseason.

Strengths:
– Feet
– Solid in pass pro

Weaknesses:
– Undersized
– Handling power

Scheme Fit/Role:
STARTING LEFT TACKLE: Leno can be plugged into most NFL offenses and not stand out as the weak point on the offensive line. He's graded near the 50th percentile as a pass protector and run blocker in gap and zone schemes since entering the league in 2014. Leno will be an option for most tackle-needy teams next offseason.

Recent Injury History:
Leno has remained healthy throughout much of his eight-year career. He hasn't missed a start since taking over as the starter for Chicago in 2015.

Contract Projection: Two years, $15 million ($7.5M per year, $10 million total guaranteed)

Bottom Line:
Leno isn't an overly exciting free-agent target, but he can eliminate a weakness for teams with a clear need for a starting-caliber left tackle.


39. TE Dalton Schultz, Dallas Cowboys

Schultz has taken full advantage of the absence of Blake Jarwin‘s absence within the Cowboys' offense and has made a name for himself. Schultz has at least five receptions in five of his seven games thus far in 2021, with his 83.3 overall grade ranking third-best among tight ends — trailing only the Baltimore RavensMark Andrews and the Philadelphia EaglesDallas Goedert. The former fourth-round pick out of Stanford seemed like a limited athlete with all the intangibles that typically come with a Cardinal tight end, but he’s blossoming into a solid all-around player at the position.

Strengths:
-Run blocking
-Short/Intermediate routes

Weaknesses:
-One year of good production
-Deep routes

Scheme Fit/Role:
STARTING TIGHT END ON TEAM WITH GOOD WEAPONS: Schultz has produced in a Dallas system that has multiple playmakers who keep the defense honest and that's his best bet for future receiving production. He's a good blocker, so he can provide value in that area, and he can work the middle of the field at the short and intermediate levels.

Recent Injury History:
After playing a more limited role in 2018 and 2019, Schultz has played in every game for the Cowboys since the start of the 2020 season, including the third-most snaps by a tight end with 973 in 2020.

Contract Projection: Four years, $35 million ($8.75M per year, $17 million total guaranteed)

Bottom Line:
Schultz was a backup until 2020 and he didn't break out until 2021 where he's been one of the better all-around tight ends in the league. He's a mid-tier starter who has shown that he can be a dependable receiver and run-blockers.


40. G Connor Williams, Dallas Cowboys

Williams was a top-50 pick in the 2018 NFL Draft and a full-time starter at left guard right out of the gate in Week 1 of his rookie season. He’s gotten better each season, earning a career-high mark in pass-blocking (70.9) and run-blocking (77.4) grade halfway through the 2021 season. Williams understandably gets overlooked playing alongside an elite left tackle in Tyron Smith and with the Dallas Cowboys’ other guard Zack Martin leading the way in PFF grade among guards since 2020 at 94.5. Nevertheless, he’s a solid young player with more room to grow.

Strengths:
-Blocking on the move
-Combo blocks

Weaknesses:
-Blocking players with length/power
-Penalties

Scheme Fit/Role:
STARTING GUARD: While Williams has done most of his damage in a zone-heavy scheme, he's an effective puller and he's capable of executing any block required in a gap-heavy system as well. In pass protection, he could use help against longer players.

Recent Injury History:
After Williams' 2019 season was cut short due to an ACL, he's bounced back to play in every game in 2020 and 2021.

Contract Projection: Four years, $35 million ($8.75M per year, $19 million total guaranteed)

Bottom Line:
Another offensive lineman who took a couple of years to get going, Williams stepped up his game with a top-20 grade in 2020 and he's continued that success in 2021. He's a better run blocker than he is a pass-blocker and he's a mid-tier starting option with scheme diversity.

PFF’s WR/CB Matchup Chart is a fantasy football tool that you can use to help you set the best lineups. You can toggle between showing the Matchup Advantage column against all projected coverage, or the individual defenders.

41. WR Tim Patrick, Denver Broncos

Patrick is playing the 2021 season on a second-round restricted free agent tender and has already exceeded his contract halfway through the season. His 424 receiving yards through Week 8 are the second-most within the Denver Broncos' offense, and his 12 explosive receptions lead the way. With 2018 second-round pick Courtland Sutton looking for a big deal and fellow pass-catchers Noah Fant and Jerry Jeudy being due new deals in the not-too-distant future, perhaps Patrick gets to field some quality offers around the league.

Strengths:
-Size
-Hands
-Contested catches

Weaknesses:
-Short passes
-Separation vs. man

Scheme Fit/Role:
LOW-END NO. 2/HIGH-END NO. 3 RECEIVER: Patrick has a huge frame and excellent ball skills that make him one of the most productive threats at the deep and intermediate level of the field. He doesn't separate consistently enough to be more than a complementary weapon, but he's been a dependable option every time opportunity has presented itself.

Recent Injury History:
Patrick missed 10 weeks with a hand injury in 2019, he missed one game due to a hamstring injury and 2020, and he's battled through other various lower-body injuries since that time.

Contract Projection: Three years, $40 million ($13.33M per year, $23.5 million total guaranteed)

Bottom Line:
Every time Patrick has been given an opportunity he's produced as he moves well for 6-foot-5 and he knows how to use his frame to win down the field. He's a good complementary weapon in a downfield passing attack.


42. CB Casey Hayward Jr., Las Vegas Raiders

Casey Hayward Jr. was a cap casualty of the Los Angeles Chargers last offseason after earning the lowest grade of his career by a wide margin — 59.5 overall after zero prior grades below 70.0. Not much of a market developed for the 32-year-old, and he eventually signed a one-year, $2.5 million flier with the Raiders and former Chargers defensive coordinator Gus Bradley. All Hayward Jr. has done this year is regain his elite form, with his 83.3 coverage grade his best mark since 2017. He thrives playing zone coverage in a predominantly Cover 3 system, but there are a lot of defenses running such a scheme, so he should be playing his way into a better deal for next year.

Strengths:
– Instincts in zone
– Click and close

Weaknesses:
– Limited schematically
– Age

Scheme Fit/Role:
STARTING CORNERBACK IN ZONE-HEAVY SCHEME: Hayward has operated in the heaviest Cover 3 defense in the league under Gus Bradley since 2017. It makes sense for Hayward to remain in a similar defensive environment in 2021, whether that's Las Vegas again or another Cover 3-heavy scheme like Seattle or Pittsburgh.

Recent Injury History:
Hayward has only missed one game due to injury since he joined the Chargers back in 2016. That was the 2020 season finale after being placed on IR with a hamstring injury.

Contract Projection: One year, $6.5 million fully guaranteed

Bottom Line:
Hayward has shown that he still has something left in the tank this season for Las Vegas, grading out as one of the best cornerbacks in football. The cliff is nearing as Hayward pushes into his 30s, but he should still be able to provide quality starting play for a zone-heavy defense in 2022.


43. WR D.J. Chark Jr., Jacksonville Jaguars

Chark’s relationship with new head coach Urban Meyer didn’t get off to the best start, as Meyer said he was a “big guy that played little.” In a wide receiver room devoid of top-end talent, Chark was supposed to be that guy. Unfortunately, an ankle injury sustained in Week 4 knocked him out for the remainder of what has been quite the eventful season in Jacksonville. Chark may look to depart for greener pastures, and there should be a handful of teams interested in adding a 6-foot-4 wide receiver with 4.3-second speed. 

Strengths:
-Speed
-Size
-Ball skills and body control

Weaknesses:
-Physicality running routes
-Feel for zone coverage
-Contested catches

Scheme Fit/Role:
DEEP THREAT/NO. 3 RECEIVER: Chark has the speed to burn and an excellent frame to give defensive backs all kinds of problems at the catch point or if he can gain any separation in his route. He has the speed to run away from defenders after the catch but struggles to set up corners or win against physicality. His speed should always be valuable and a team like New Orleans could use that threat.

Recent Injury History:
Chark has had a pretty extensive injury history including missing almost all of the 2021 season with an ankle injury. He has a slight frame and has shown a concerning level of durability.

Contract Projection: Three years, $42 million ($14M per year, $24 million total guaranteed)

Bottom Line:
Injuries will scare teams off Chark as will the weaknesses in his game, but he has game-changing speed and is a little more than just a one-trick pony on the deep ball, and that always has a place in an NFL offense. He will be a luxury pick for a team that already has a solid receiving corps.


44. LB Foyesade Oluokun, Atlanta Falcons

Oluokun leads the way for a very underwhelming free-agent class at off-ball linebacker, though his timing of reaching unrestricted free agency could work out nicely in his favor. This past offseason, San Francisco 49ers linebacker Fred Warner and subsequently Indianapolis Colts linebacker Darius Leonard reset the market at the position at just under $20 million per year after years of stagnation. With Oluokun one of the few young players available, a market could develop for him that exceeds expectations.

Strengths:
-Filling against the run
-Identifying routes in his zone
-Speed

Weaknesses:
-Defeating blocks at the second level
-Missed tackles
-Size/bulk

Scheme Fit/Role:
STARTING MLB/WLB: Foyesade Oluokun has impressive speed and more strength than you might expect for a player of his size, and he can play multiple linebacker spots but is at his best when he can run freely to the ball. He would fit in a scheme like Indianapolis' and could be an option for a defense improving either side of the linebacker group like the Raiders.

Recent Injury History:
Oluokun dealt with several minor injuries in 2020 but has been healthy so far this season.

Contract Projection: Four years, $34 million ($8.5M per year, $20 million total guaranteed)

Bottom Line:
An undersized, speedy linebacker, Foyesade Oluokun flashes talent consistently but too often gets swallowed up by blockers the second level or doesn't quite make the play in coverage. He fits the profile of a linebacker that may eventually put it all together, but he hasn't got there yet.

PFF's 2022 NFL Draft Guide provides analysis, strengths/weaknesses, comparisons, grades and more for all of college football's top prospects. Subscribe today for access…

45. DI Folorunso Fatukasi, New York Jets

Fatukasi plays on the defensive line alongside recently extended defensive lineman John Franklin-Myers, and the Jets also have 2019 No. 3 overall pick Quinnen Williams’ next contract to think about in the not-so-distant future. Still, Fatukasi has been one of the league’s best, if unheralded, nose tackles over the last few years, with run defense grades of 87.6 in 2019 and 86.2 in 2020. He’s added to his repertoire as well, with 11 quarterback pressures on 164 pass-rush snaps so far in 2021 — his career-high for a season is 12 quarterback pressures on 239 pass-rush snaps. Fatukasi’s play the rest of the season may dictate how much he ultimately gets on the open market and whether the Jets or someone else will be paying.

Strengths:
-Run-game disruptor
-Power

Weaknesses:
-Pass-rushing
-Gets caught up field vs. run

Scheme Fit/Role:
EARLY-DOWN RUN DEFENDER: Fatukasi was one of the best run defenders in college football at UConn, and he's developed into one of the NFL's best over the last three years. He has never provided much as a pass-rusher, but he's among the league's best at disrupting the run game when lined up over guards and centers.

Recent Injury History:
Fatukasi has remained healthy during his time in the NFL while topping out with 507 snaps played in 2020.

Contract Projection: Three years, $30 million ($10 million per year, $18 million total guaranteed)

Bottom Line:
There are limitations to Fatukasi's game, and he'll likely never be a true three-down player, but his power and block shedding ability make him one of the best in the league against the run.

46. QB Jameis Winston, New Orleans Saints

Winston suffered an unfortunate ACL tear injury that knocked him out of the second half of the 2021 season after a relatively slow start but a start that featured few interceptions and a lot of wins. Winston may never become the gunslinger envisioned when he was selected No. 1 overall by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2015, but his time in New Orleans did illustrate that he can patiently manage an offense and take what’s given to him. Winston was also let down a number of times by the poor collection of wide receivers New Orleans was able to bring in with their disastrous salary cap situation, but the big question for teams will be his health.

Strengths:
– Arm strength and willingness to attack downfield
– Able to break the pocket and pick up first downs with legs

Weaknesses:
– Putting the ball in harm's way
– Passing under pressure

Scheme Fit/Role:
LOW-END STARTING QUARTERBACK: Trying to turn Winston into a game manager is a losing battle. He's been one of the worst quarterbacks in the NFL at avoiding negatively graded throws, including this season in New Orleans prior to his injury. But there should be a market out there for teams interested in his ability to pick up yardage in chunks downfield. Winston's style of play would be a refreshing change of pace for Pittsburgh after the low-ADOT approach of the last several seasons.

Recent Injury History:
Winston's knee injury, which included a torn ACL and MCL damage, is a tough blow for the 27-year-old quarterback as he enters free agency. The recovery will play a role in teams' interest next offseason.

Contract Projection: One year, $7 million, incentives can boost it to $12 million

Bottom Line:
Winston isn't an overly exciting starting option, but he could be toward the top of the list for several teams looking to make a change at the quarterback position in a weak free agent and draft class.


47. WR JuJu Smith-Schuster, Pittsburgh Steelers

Smith-Schuster turned down offers from the Baltimore Ravens and Kansas City Chiefs to stay with the Steelers, who selected him in the second round of the 2017 NFL Draft. Smith-Schuster was once believed to be supplanting Antonio Brown as the best wide receiver in Pittsburgh, but even with Brown no longer in town that still isn’t the case. However, Smith-Schuster plays a very valuable role as a sure-handed slot receiver that quarterbacks can rely on in critical situations. Smith-Schuster ranks top-15 in third-down receptions by a wide receiver since he was drafted in 2017 with 85. That said, he will once again likely be facing one-year flier offers after missing much of the 2021 season to injury. 

Strengths:
– Physicality
– Hands
– Still hasn't turned 25

Weaknesses:
– Explosiveness
– Separating downfield vs. single coverage

Scheme Fit/Role:
PHYSICAL SLOT RECEIVER: Smith-Schuster looked to be one of the NFL's best young receivers early in his career as a secondary option on an offense that featured Antonio Brown and Le'Veon Bell. Brown's departure highlighted that JuJu isn't a viable No. 1 option in the passing game, but this version of the Steelers' offense also hasn't done him any favors. He can provide quality play as a big slot with sure hands on a talented offense like Tennessee's.

Recent Injury History:
JuJu will enter free agency off a season-ending shoulder surgery that limited him to only five games in 2021. He missed time during the 2019 season with a knee injury and concussion.

Contract Projection: One year, $8 million

Bottom Line:
Smith-Schuster's career arc has largely been a function of the offenses that he's played on, putting up big numbers on the “Killer B” offenses early in his career before seeing his numbers take a nosedive on dysfunctional Steelers offenses since 2019. He won't transform an offense, but he can be a nice complementary piece on an offense that already has legitimate outside weapons.


48. EDGE Jason Pierre-Paul, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Jason Pierre-Paul is in the final year of a two-year, $25 million contract signed with the Buccaneers before their Super Bowl run in 2020. Pierre-Paul still shows flashes with at least three quarterback pressures in four of the six games he’s appeared in, but injuries have started to catch up a bit. Now in Year 12, Pierre-Paul hasn’t had a season-long grade of 70.0-plus since 2016, but he’s also never had a season-long grade below 60.0 in his career.

Strengths:
– Length
– Motor

Weaknesses:
– Tackling
– Age

Scheme Fit/Role:
STARTING EDGE IN DEEP ROTATION: The last two edge defenders in their 13th season or higher to play a single defensive snap were Terrell Suggs and Lorenzo Alexander in 2019. The days of Pierre-Paul logging over 1,000 snaps as he did in 2020 should be over, but he can still contribute as part of a rotation that keeps him fresh.

Recent Injury History:
The injuries are starting to pile up for Pierre-Paul in Tampa Bay. He suffered a fractured neck in a car accident prior to the 2019 season, played through a knee injury for much of last season and is currently playing through a finger that is “split into two pieces” and a torn rotator cuff in his shoulder.

Contract Projection: One year, $7 million, $5 million guaranteed

Bottom Line:
At his best, Pierre-Paul is an every-down edge defender who understands how to use his length to impact both the run and pass game. It just remains to be seen how much of his best remains as injuries continue to mount for the soon-to-be 33-year-old.

Dive into PFF Premium Stats to explore Marcus Maye's 2021 season and NFL career.

49. S Marcus Maye, New York Jets

An Achilles tear came at the absolute worst possible time for Marcus Maye, as he suffered the injury halfway through the season playing on a franchise tag in a Thursday Night Football showdown with the Indianapolis Colts. Odds are that Maye will be seeking a one-year flier to prove he’s back to 100% health before once again looking for the multi-year payday he desires.

Strengths:
-Versatility
-Zone coverage
-Run fits

Weaknesses:
-Missed tackles
-Major injury off a down year

Scheme Fit/Role:
VERSATILE S BEST SUITED TO FS ROLE: Marcus Maye spent his first seasons as a deep-lying free safety but then was able to play in a more expanded role once Jamal Adams left for the Seahawks. He is good in deep zones but always fits the run well, despite some missed tackles. He would fit well in any scheme but is best suited to a free safety role.

Recent Injury History:
Maye blew his Achilles in Week 9 on a non-contact injury, putting him out for the remainder of the 2021 season and casting an ugly cloud over his future contract as he was playing on the franchise tag.

Contract Projection: One-year, $6 million

Bottom Line:
Maye is versatile but now has age and a bad injury in the form of a ruptured Achilles may completely suppress his market. He wasn't playing well this season before the injury, and may not be at his best next year, so may be waiting a while for a deal.


50. CB Steven Nelson, Philadelphia Eagles

Steven Nelson was entering the final year of his three-year, $25 million contract signed with the Pittsburgh Steelers and wanted an extension before Week 1 of 2021. With Pittsburgh already exhausting a lot of resources to retain key players, and with edge defender T.J. Watt set to sign the biggest contract for a defensive player in the entire NFL just months later, they decided an outright release would be better for both parties. Nelson didn’t have to leave the state of Pennsylvania, latching on in Philadelphia on a one-year, $2.5 million flier. Operating as the No. 2 alongside Darius Slay, Nelson will look to cash in on a longer-term deal after the season, and he may finally be departing from the state of Pennsylvania.

Strengths:
-Zone coverage
-Rarely beaten deep
-Feisty and physical

Weaknesses:
-Average ball skills
-Gives up too many TDs in the red zone

Scheme Fit/Role:
NO. 2 CORNER: Steven Nelson is a classic overachiever at the cornerback position. A little undersized, he has been a consistently good player in the NFL, making up for some limitations with feisty physicality. He is better in zone coverage, but can hold up in man coverage too and would fit within most NFL defenses. He would be a good option to a team that needs several cornerback additions like the Cardinals or Vikings.

Recent Injury History:
Nelson has been durable in the NFL, suffering little but minor niggles lately.

Contract Projection: Two years, $14 million ($7M per year, $8.5 million total guaranteed)

Bottom Line:
Steven Nelson fits in any scheme as a No. 2 corner who will consistently make some plays and give up some yardage and touchdowns. He is at his best in zone coverage and would be even better with a team that has a legitimate No. 1.


 

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