What to watch for in 2021 free agency

Six NFL playoff video games down, seven to go. The offseason is sort of right here — and for twenty-four groups, it already is — bringing the chance for each crew to get higher and make adjustments as they put together for the 2021 season.

How will free agency shake out? Who will land playmakers within the 2021 draft? How will coaching shuffles alter the route of a handful of franchises? All 32 groups want one thing this spring. So we requested our NFL Nation reporters to determine the most important space of want for every crew as we enter the offseason.

Leap to:
NE | NO | NYG | NYJ | PHI | PIT | SF

end rule



Usher in a premier edge rusher.

Jerry Hughes and Mario Addison anchored a Payments move rush that ranked second in pass rush win rate this season, however they’re 32 and 33 years previous, respectively. Buffalo spent a 2020 second-round choose on A.J. Epenesa, who has turned in a powerful finish to the season after spending Week 1 as a wholesome scratch, however the crew may stand so as to add one other edge rusher because it appears to the longer term. This can be a crew with few, if any, evident wants, nonetheless, and even edge rusher doesn’t characterize a direct concern. — Marcel Louis-Jacques


Add playmaking offensive weapons.

The Dolphins had been one of many NFL’s worst groups in receiver separation and yards after contact in 2020, exhibiting they want extra speedy, elusive gamers who threaten defenses. Miami’s offense merely wasn’t adequate to compete with AFC elite. Enchancment from quarterback Tua Tagovailoa and a brand new offensive coordinator might assist, however upgrades at receiver and working again ought to each be high priorities this offseason in each free company and the draft because the Dolphins look to encompass their QB with the ample weapons to thrive. — Cameron Wolfe


Enhance the extensive receiver group.

Damiere Byrd was the crew’s No. 1 goal in 2020, taking part in a receiver-high 901 snaps — virtually double his earlier profession excessive. Whereas Byrd is deserving of reward for his effort, he was additionally taking part in above his stage. That displays why the Patriots, who even have a serious query to reply at quarterback, determine to make receiver a high precedence this offseason. — Mike Reiss


Nail the top coach choice.

The search is underway, and the Jets are speaking to all the precise candidates, together with high coordinators Eric Bieniemy (Chiefs) and Robert Saleh (49ers). Now it is a matter of discovering the precise match. The Jets want greater than an X’s-and-O’s man; they want a pacesetter who can provoke the group and alter the dropping tradition. Simpler stated than executed. — Wealthy Cimini




Get a No. 1 extensive receiver.

Quarterback Lamar Jackson has a Professional Bowl tight finish in Mark Andrews and a budding star in working again J.K. Dobbins. What Jackson and this offense want is a confirmed go-to extensive receiver. Baltimore banked on Marquise Brown creating into that, however he has not been constant, although he did have a 100-yard day within the crew’s wild-card win over Tennessee. The Ravens must repeat what Buffalo and Arizona did final season and purchase an upgraded goal on the surface for Jackson. — Jamison Hensley


Shore up the offensive line.

When quarterback Joe Burrow suffered his season-ending harm, it was clear that the Bengals wanted to revamp their line. Between the draft and free company, the Bengals ought to assault this unit within the offseason. As a rookie, Burrow confirmed he has the instruments to be a franchise quarterback — so long as he’s upright. — Ben Child


Add defensive assist — particularly within the secondary.

The Browns need assistance defensively, notably at defensive again, the place accidents and inconsistent play plagued them at instances. Second-round choose Grant Delpit making a wholesome return from the Achilles harm he suffered in coaching camp would assist. However Cleveland may use reinforcements at each stage of its protection. — Jake Trotter


Clear up their offensive points.

The Steelers have a mountain of wants after a stunning first-round playoff exit, starting with a brand new playcaller. The offensive system was damaged this season, most evident within the evaporated run sport. The repair goes past a brand new working again or an upgraded offensive line. The system itself wants an overhaul. Possibly that is a brand new offensive coordinator. Possibly that is giving extra obligations to Matt Canada. No matter it’s, the Steelers want to unravel it earlier than the 2021 season. — Brooke Pryor




Get on the identical web page as Deshaun Watson.

The Texans’ franchise quarterback is reportedly upset with the best way Houston CEO Cal McNair and the group dealt with hiring new common supervisor Nick Caserio. Watson reportedly wanted more input into the hiring process and didn’t really feel Houston thought-about the candidates he endorsed. McNair stated Friday that he had reached out to Watson on trip however had not heard again from the quarterback. Houston nonetheless has to rent a head coach, however earlier than doing that, it wants to verify it mends the connection with Watson. — Sarah Barshop



Pablo Torre and Israel Gutierrez talk about if Deshaun Watson ought to ask for a commerce, and if he does, ought to the Texans honor it and let him go?


Determine who the beginning quarterback can be subsequent season.

Philip Rivers and Jacoby Brissett are each free brokers, leaving rookie Jacob Eason as the one quarterback beneath contract for subsequent season. Rivers had the third-best completion proportion of his profession, and his interceptions dropped by 9, however the Colts have to find out if the 39-year-old can take them one other step or two in the event that they re-sign him. Buckle up as a result of the offseason can be filled with quarterback buzz, particularly the longer issues stay unsure in Philadelphia with Carson Wentz. — Mike Wells


Draft Trevor Lawrence. Quarterback is the crew’s largest want, simply because it has been for a lot of the previous 15 years. Fortunately, the Jaguars have the highest choose, and so they’ll take Clemson’s Lawrence, which can give them a franchise signal-caller for the primary time since Mark Brunell led them within the early days. — Mike DiRocco


Purchase extra pass-rushers.

Not with the ability to dominate up entrance actually harm Tennessee’s protection final season. The Titans swung and missed final season once they signed Jadeveon Clowney and Vic Beasley to one-year offers. After ending with solely 19 sacks and a 25% stress price, the Titans nonetheless want a game-wrecker so as to add to their entrance 4. — Turron Davenport




Rent a brand new common supervisor.

The Broncos are conducting interviews now. They’ve a younger roster — particularly on offense — and salary-cap flexibility. And whereas John Elway remains to be the crew’s president of soccer operations, the brand new GM will management the roster, the draft and free company. A giant offseason beneath a brand new GM may nudge Denver again into the playoff dialog. It’s simply the crew’s most necessary rent since former proprietor Pat Bowlen coaxed Elway again into the group in 2011. — Jeff Legwold


Determine a strategy to maintain Tyrann Mathieu.

The Chiefs have greater than $190 million of salary-cap obligations for 2021, and all of these salaries will not match beneath the league’s restrict. In order that they have some main work to do. They should lengthen the contract of Mathieu, who would in any other case be within the last 12 months of his deal, as a result of he is simply too necessary for them to lose. The protection is a chief goal for extension as a result of his cap quantity is nearly $20 million. — Adam Teicher


It is all concerning the defensive coordinator.

The Raiders will rebuild their protection after Paul Guenther was fired with three video games to go and Rod Marinelli took over on an interim foundation. Coach Jon Gruden needs to take care of a 4-3 entrance (and Marinelli as his line of defense coach), so any incoming coordinator must maintain that in thoughts. Amongst these already linked to the job: Gus Bradley (Gruden’s linebackers coach in Tampa Bay from 2006-08), Joe Barry (Gruden’s linebackers coach in Tampa Bay from 2002-06 and Marinelli’s son-in-law), Kris Richard (labored with Marinelli in Dallas) and Raheem Morris (a longtime staffer with Gruden in Tampa Bay). — Paul Gutierrez


Rent a head coach and fill out the workers.

The search has begun, though the Chargers will not say who they’ve interviewed. We all know Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy is within the combine and could possibly be match with quarterback Justin Herbert. However whomever they rent, it won’t occur till after the Tremendous Bowl. — Shelley Smith




Repair the protection.

When you’ve a unit that allowed a franchise-record 473 factors towards and was thirty first in run protection, you need to do something and every thing to get higher. Whereas adding new coordinator Dan Quinn was step one, the Cowboys have to assist most levels of their defense: defensive deal with, linebacker, cornerback and security. Final 12 months, they drafted the very best participant obtainable once they chosen extensive receiver CeeDee Lamb within the first spherical at No. 17 total. This 12 months, they must take the very best defensive participant obtainable at No. 10 total and possibly observe that rule for his or her whole draft class. — Todd Archer


Choose your poison: No. 1 WR or edge speeding.

Each are huge voids on the roster, and the Giants have neither in the intervening time. Each must be addressed, possible one in free company and the opposite within the draft. They can not go into subsequent season with Darius Slayton because the No. 1 receiver or Kyler Fackrell as the highest edge rusher. — Jordan Raanan


Discover a coach/quarterback combo.

The seek for a brand new chief begins after the Eagles fired Super Bowl-winning coach Doug Pederson on Monday. As soon as they decide on that entrance, consideration will shortly flip to the quarterback scenario, and whether or not to maneuver ahead with Carson Wentz, Jalen Hurts or each. The percentages Wentz remains in Philly have likely gone up, nonetheless, and the incoming coach will affect the way it performs out. — Tim McManus


Discover a quarterback of the longer term.

Whereas Washington had good tales this season — Alex Smith‘s return and Taylor Heinicke‘s playoff efficiency — it wants a strong long-term answer. Smith is 37; Heinicke has began two NFL video games and sturdiness can be a priority. The crew additionally has Kyle Allen, however with a protection able to win now, it is going to discover all choices — a veteran would make sense however they’re going to additionally discover draft choices. One word: Coach Ron Rivera likes cellular quarterbacks. — John Keim




Who’s the quarterback?

Cease me in case you have heard this earlier than: The Bears have one other huge choice to make at quarterback. Mitchell Trubisky‘s fifth-year choice was declined, and Nick Foles appeared ineffective this season. Do the Bears draft one other quarterback? Do they — gulp — re-sign Trubisky? Do they discover one other veteran? The story stays the identical in Chicago. — Jeff Dickerson


Determine how a lot of a rebuild is critical.

The Lions are going to have a brand new common supervisor and a brand new head coach. What these two individuals do — and the way they resolve to assemble the franchise of their imaginative and prescient — would be the main want of the offseason that every thing else goes to circulate via. Conversations concerning the futures of Matthew Stafford, Kenny Golladay, Romeo Okwara and full place teams will all be dictated by how these two individuals select to deal with issues. — Michael Rothstein


Create some salary-cap area.

The Packers are virtually by no means in poor cap positions due to contract negotiator Russ Ball’s prudent methods, however that is going to be a difficult offseason. They’re within the neighborhood of $26 million over their projected 2021 cap, making it troublesome to re-sign gamers equivalent to heart Corey Linsley and working again Aaron Jones. Basic supervisor Brian Gutekunst could have some troublesome selections to make, and Ball must discover methods to create cap room. Money ground is not an issue for the Packers, however cap area definitely is. — Rob Demovsky


Add assist in the trenches.

Some will argue that getting pass-rushers is precedence No. 1. Others will say the necessity for a high-quality guard is most necessary. Both manner, the Vikings must focus their efforts in free company (as soon as they make strikes to unlock cap area) and the draft in shoring up each their defensive and offensive traces. Minnesota generated a franchise-low 23 sacks this 12 months whereas members of the inside of the O-line had been liable for 20 of the 39 sacks that quarterback Kirk Cousins took in 2020. — Courtney Cronin




Decide a route for the franchise.

It could possibly be an awfully lengthy listing of wants for a crew that has to contemplate simply how excessive a makeover it needs to undertake this offseason. However clearly it has to begin with figuring out to proper common supervisor and coach to information this crew via huge selections. These selections will embody what to do with Matt Ryan, Julio Jones and the fourth choose within the NFL draft, amongst others. — Mike Triplett


Make a quarterback choice.

Teddy Bridgewater, regardless of not having high weapon Christian McCaffrey for 13 video games, didn’t show he might be the franchise quarterback this crew must be a playoff contender. An 0-8 document on game-winning drives magnifies this level. That he had 4 gamers with 1,000 yards of complete offense however had solely 15 landing passes to 11 interceptions is one other strike towards him. Bridgewater could be a sport supervisor and will mentor a younger participant, however long run, he’s not the reply. — David Newton


Determine the long-term quarterback.

There’s a robust likelihood that Drew Brees will retire after this season, leaving a void on the place for the primary time in 15 years. If he does, Saints coach Sean Payton has instructed a number of instances that the subsequent QB is “within the constructing,” referring to each Taysom Hill and Jameis Winston (who can be a free agent). However the Saints would additionally must strongly contemplate a developmental QB within the draft, as effectively. — Mike Triplett


Deliver again Chris Godwin — and different stars.

Tom Brady informed the Sunday Evening Soccer broadcast within the Bucs’ wild-card sport that Godwin has among the “finest arms he is ever seen.” In the event that they need to maintain continuity on offense, which Brady has been speaking about all season, they should re-sign Godwin. However he is not the one one. The Bucs have roughly $30 million in salary-cap area and must discover a strategy to get linebackers Shaq Barrett and Lavonte David again, too. — Jenna Laine




Add one other dependable extensive receiver.

Past DeAndre Hopkins, the Cardinals did not have a real risk of their extensive receivers room. Larry Fitzgerald confirmed indicators of being 37, Christian Kirk made performs however wasn’t as a lot of a risk as he may’ve been, though that will not have been completely on him, after which the remainder of the receiving corps wasn’t constant. For the Cardinals to take the subsequent step and make the playoffs, they want a WR2 who can complement Hopkins and make defenses listen to allow them to’t commit all their assets to Hopkins. As of now, Arizona would not have that. — Josh Weinfuss


Discover a backup quarterback to problem Jared Goff.

Possibly that’s present backup John Wolford. Maybe the Rams will signal an skilled veteran. They may additionally use a midround choose to usher in a expertise for coach Sean McVay to develop and contemplate inserting into sport motion if Goff stumbles. However the backside line is that competitors brings out the very best in every participant, and whereas Goff has the expertise to guide the Rams to the playoffs, he has carried out inconsistently over the previous two seasons. And the Rams should strive a brand new avenue to problem him. — Lindsey Thiry


Determine the quarterback scenario.

Sure, Niners coach Kyle Shanahan and common supervisor John Lynch have stated repeatedly that they count on Jimmy Garoppolo to be their starter in 2021. However they’ve additionally left a little bit wiggle room by declaring that they all the time have a look at attainable upgrades at each place yearly. Meaning they need to work out if any reliable upgrades to Garoppolo can be obtainable, if they’ll realistically purchase one and what it might value to take action. If no such improve is out there, they need to give you a greater plan behind Garoppolo, as backups Nick Mullens (restricted) and C.J. Beathard (unrestricted) are set to be free brokers. The roster is just too good to throw away one other season as a result of Garoppolo is injured, which implies upgrades are wanted on the place even when it is not within the beginning spot. — Nick Wagoner


A transparent reply to what occurred on offense, and a plan to verify it would not occur once more.

An improve at tight finish and to their offensive line would assist, however the group of gamers who struggled for a lot of the second half of the season and of their wild-card loss to the Rams was just about the identical because the one which led the NFL in scoring over the primary 9 weeks. That implies the offensive ineptitude that doomed the Seahawks was as a lot about their method and training because it was about personnel and execution. Apart from, splashy additions can be arduous to come back by with no first- or third-round picks and given all the cash they should put aside for key gamers who want new contracts, notably security Jamal Adams. — Brady Henderson

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