The official start to the 2021 NFL season is quickly approaching with the league year and free agency opening at 4 p.m. on March 17. Teams will be able to begin signing free agents and trades like the Matthew Stafford and Carson Wentz deals will become official starting on that date. There are a couple of other key dates to remember before the league year officially kicks off. Teams can use their franchise and transition tags on individual players from Feb. 23 through March 9. The NFL also has a legal negotiating window from March 15-17 when teams can start contacting and negotiating with the agents of unrestricted free agents.
With that said, it’s time to start breaking down the 2021 free agency class, which includes top wide receivers like Allen Robinson, Chris Godwin, and JuJu Smith-Schuster among others. Be sure to follow Fantasy Points throughout free agency for in-depth breakdowns of every major (and minor) move. We’ll be tracking every off-season transaction from a fantasy perspective through our “Off-season Tracker” articles and Graham Barfield’s “Fantasy Fallout” pieces. We’ll also be constantly updating our Best Ball rankings if you’re looking to get an early start to draft season.
NOTE: Players are loosely ranked based on talent, age, plus previous and expected future fantasy relevance.
Notable Players Removed since the Original Posting
Kenny Golladay (NYG, 28) — Signed by the Giants on March 20.
Allen Robinson (Chi, 28) — Franchise tag placed by the Bears on March 9.
Chris Godwin (TB, 25) — Franchise tag placed by the Buccaneers on March 9.
JuJu Smith-Schuster (Pit, 25) — Signed by Pittsburgh on March 19.
Will Fuller (Mia, 27) — Signed by Miami on March 18.
Curtis Samuel (Was, 25) — Signed by Washington on March 17.
Corey Davis (NYJ, 26) — Signed by the Jets on March 15.
Marvin Jones (Jax, 31) — Signed by the Jaguars on March 16.
John Brown (LV, 31) — Signed by the Raiders on March 17.
Nelson Agholor (NE, 28) — Signed by the Patriots on March 15.
Emmanuel Sanders (Buf, 34) — Signed by the Bills on March 16.
Tyrell Williams (Det, 29) — Signed by the Lions on March 3.
Kendrick Bourne (NE, 26) — Signed by the Patriots on March 15.
Unrestricted Free Agents
Free agency information courtesy of OverTheCap.com
Previously Fantasy Relevant
Antonio Brown (TB, 33) — Brown has been on an interesting journey since the Steelers traded AB in March 2019. He played just one game in two stops between the Raiders and Patriots last season, and he finally returned to the field on a full-time basis for the final eight regular season games with the Buccaneers, which culminated in a Super Bowl victory. Brown finished with 45/483/4 receiving on 62 targets for 117.1 FP while playing 62% of the snaps in eight games — he ranked as the WR25 with 14.6 FPG in Week 9-17. He posted 231 receiving yards in two games against the Falcons and just 333 yards in his other nine games last season (playoffs included). Brown became an underneath receiver playing with Tom Brady in 2020 as Mike Evans and Scotty Miller handled most of the deep passing work. AB averaged a 10-year low 10.7 YPR but, digging a little deeper, he averaged a healthy 2.07 yards per route run and he averaged a seven-year best 5.2 yards after the catch.
Potential landing spot: AB is fully expected to return to Tampa Bay to chase another ring with Brady and company next season. Brown didn’t have a long list of suitors last season with the Seahawks and Ravens also interested, and his arrangement with Tampa Bay worked out for both sides. AB managed to stay quiet and out of the headlines after joining the Buccaneers so they’ll likely run it back on another one-year deal. He’s still facing a lawsuit for alleged rape so he’s unlikely to see a multi-year deal until that case is resolved. Brown could get a boost for fantasy if Chris Godwin leaves in free agency, but he’ll be the #3 WR option once again if Godwin returns.
T.Y. Hilton (Ind, 32) — Hilton is on the downside of his career as he enters free agency, but he showed he has some gas left in the tank based on his strong finishing kick to last season after he developed some chemistry with Philip Rivers. Hilton ranked as the WR10 with 17.8 FPG in Weeks 12-16 after he averaged just 6.9 FPG in the first 11 weeks of the season. He finished with 56/762/5 receiving on 93 targets for 164.2 FP while playing 67% of the snaps in 15 games. Hilton was once a near lock to average around 16 yards per reception playing with Andre Luck to start his career, but he’s averaged just 12.5 YPR the last two seasons since entering his 30s while playing with Rivers and Jacoby Brissett. Hilton has become more of an intermediate receiver the last two seasons, but he could have more downfield juice than he’s shown because he’s been hamstrung at the quarterback position since Luck’s retirement.
Potential landing spot: Hilton is a South Florida guy through and through, and I could see him taking a bit of hometown discount to play for the Dolphins near the tail end of his career. He starred at Miami Springs High School before playing at the Greater Miami’s largest university, Florida International. The Dolphins had one of the worst receiving corps in the league last year, and Hilton would bring some much-needed speed and experience on the perimeter across from DeVante Parker for Tua Tagovailoa or whoever is at quarterback next season.
Sammy Watkins (KC, 28) — Watkins and the Chiefs restructured the final year of his contract with the Chiefs to try for another Super Bowl last season, and they fell one win short of doing it. Watkins never lived up to the three-year, $48 million deal he signed with the Chiefs in 2018 as the 2014 fourth overall pick turned into a complementary receiver in Kansas City. He finished with just 37/421/2 receiving on 55 targets for 89.4 FP while playing 72% of the snaps in 10 games. Watkins has struggled to stay available throughout his career after missing another six games last season (and two additional games in the playoffs). He missed 14 games during his three-year stay in Kansas City and his injuries could be affecting his play. Watkins averaged 15+ YPR in each of his first four seasons before failing to average more than 13.0 YPR in any season playing in the best offense in football with Patrick Mahomes the last three years.
Potential landing spot: The Packers had an interest in signing Watkins when he was last a free agent back in 2018 before he chose the Chiefs — the Packers settled for Jimmy Graham as their big move at receiver that off-season. I could see the Packers making a play for Watkins’ services once again on a short-term deal to be their #2 WR behind Davante Adams. Green Bay would be a good spot for him to try to reestablish his value playing with Aaron Rodgers while also chasing another Super Bowl.
Willie Snead (Bal, 29) — Snead is far from a special player but a team can’t go wrong handing the keys to their slot WR spot to the steady seven-year pro. He was stuck in the wrong offense to make much of a fantasy impact the last two seasons with the run-heavy Ravens, but he previously posted 141/1879/7 receiving in his second and third seasons playing with Drew Brees in 2015-16. Snead was the centerpiece of Baltimore’s passing attack for a three-week stretch in Weeks 8-10 when Lamar Jackson was really struggling last season. He finished with 33/432/3 receiving on 48 targets for 94.2 FP while playing 63% of the snaps in 13 games. Snead is a quarterback's best friend in the middle of the field as his quarterbacks own an NFL passer rating of 99.4 when targeting Snead during his career.
Potential landing spot: The Ravens drafted Devin Duvernay last spring to take over for Snead in the slot in 2021 so I’m expecting him to move on this off-season. Duvernay was primarily compared to Golden Tate in the draft process last season, and I could see Snead heading to New York to replace Tate, who got cut after an unproductive 2020 campaign and after getting suspended for calling out the Giants coaching staff.
Golden Tate (NYG, 33) — The Giants cut Tate’s stay in New York short by two years after he signed a four-year, $37.5 million deal during the 2019 off-season. He’s been a disappointment each of the last three seasons after he racked up 90+ catches in four straight seasons in 2014-17. He managed just 35/388/2 receiving on 52 targets for 86.5 FP while playing 56% of the snaps in 12 games. Tate missed three games because of calf and hamstring injury and he missed an additional game after the team suspended him for a fourth game for calling out the team on social media. He also missed four games in 2019 for a PED suspension so the Giants decided to cut their losses after a tumultuous two seasons in New York.
Potential landing spot: Tate isn’t for every team and every coach with his fiery personality, especially now that his play has begun to decline. I could see Tate fitting in well with Mike Vrabel’s own unique, fiery personality in Tennessee. The Titans certainly need some help at receiver with Corey Davis expected to leave in free agency. They also just cut slot receiver Adam Humphries and Tate has never been afraid to mix it up as a run blocker during, especially when he was blocking for Marshawn Lynch in Seattle.
Danny Amendola (Det, 36) — Amendola is an elder statesman in the league but he’s been a steady option as a slot receiver over the last four seasons. He’s posted between 575 and 678 yards in each of his last four seasons between the Lions (2019-20), Dolphins (2018), and Patriots (2017). Amendola played a much bigger role in Detroit’s offense than anticipated with Kenny Golladay playing just five games last season. He finished with 46/602 receiving without a touchdown on 69 targets for 106.4 FP in 14 games. Amendola hasn’t played a full 16-game season since 2014 and he’s done it twice in his 12-year career after missing two games to a hip injury last season.
Potential landing spot: It wouldn’t be surprising to see Amendola look for a one-year deal to try to win a third Super Bowl title with a contending team after spending the last two seasons with the lowly Lions. If Chris Godwin looks for a big contract outside of Tampa Bay, I’m sure Tom Brady would put in a good word for Amendola with Jason Licht and Bruce Arians.
Larry Fitzgerald (Ari, 38) — Fitz has yet to officially make a decision about his future plans, and he’s been mum about his decision other than to tell reporters he has no timeline for a decision as of early February. This is by far the longest he’s gone into the off-season before he’s announced his intentions for the upcoming season, and the Cardinals will likely give him until just before the start of free agency to make a decision. Fitz is coming off the worst season of his Hall-of-Fame career with a putrid 7.6 YPR. He finished with 54/409/1 receiving on 72 targets for 100.9 FP while playing 79% of the snaps in 13 games. The Cardinals desperately need to infuse more speed into receiving corps, which is something Fitz can’t provide at 38 years old.
Potential landing spot: There’s not much mystery here other than if Fitz will play another season with the Cardinals or if he’ll hang it up for good to get his five-year clock going before he’s inducted into the Hall of Fame. The Cardinals would be better off if Fitz retired already so they can get busy upgrading their awful receiving corps behind DeAndre Hopkins, but it would be a terrible look if they forced the face of the franchise into retirement that he’s not ready to commit to.
Kenny Stills (Buf, 29) — Stills had a lost 2020 campaign as he was stuck in the Texans’ orbit of chaos last season, which ended with both sides mutually parting ways at the end of November. He latched on with the Bills for the last month of the season and for the postseason but he never appeared in a game. He finished the season with 11/144/1 receiving on 19 targets for 30.1 FP in 10 games with the Texans. Stills posted 550+ receiving yards in four straight seasons from 2016-19 with 25 combined receiving TDs before he played on just 27% of the snaps last season. Stills is entering his ninth season but he’s still under 30 years old, and he could be a capable deep threat if he’s given the chance to play this season after being demoted in Houston last season.
Damiere Byrd (NE, 28) — Byrd can lift the top off of a defense with his blazing 4.32-speed, but he rarely got to show it last season playing with a struggling Cam Newton. He did at least get the chance to have a starting role after signing a one-year deal with the Patriots last off-season. Byrd finished with 47/604/1 receiving on 77 targets for 114.9 FPG while playing 88% of the snaps in his first 16-game season. He posted more production last season as a first-time starter than he did in his first five seasons combined (44/488/3 receiving) between the Panthers (2015-18) and Cardinals (2019). The Patriots desperately need to upgrade Byrd’s starting spot and he’ll likely go back to being a downfield specialist at his next stop.
Dede Westbrook (Jax, 28) — Westbrook fell off the face of the planet last season. The Jaguars made him a healthy scratch in five of his first six games before he tore his ACL on a kick return against the Chargers in Week 7. He ended up playing just 17 snaps over two games in 2020, catching his only target for four yards. Westbrook previously flashed as a fantasy asset in 2018-19 as the team’s primary slot receiver before falling out of favor with Doug Marrone and company last season. He caught 66 passes in both 2018 and 2019 with a combined 1317 yards and eight touchdowns. Last year showed that Westbrook is no longer in Jacksonville’s plans but he’ll likely have to settle for a short-term contract since he’ll have to prove his health in training camp.
Adam Humphries (Ten, 28) — Humphries’ stay in Tennessee didn’t go as planned with the Titans cutting the cord from Humphries just two years into their four-year, $36 million pact. An ankle injury derailed his 2019 campaign before a nasty collision against the Bengals in Week 8 ruined his 2020 season. It took him more than a month for him to get back on the field after his concussion against the Bengals, but his symptoms reappeared after his lone contest back. The Titans decided to shut him down for the season after his symptoms came back in Week 13, and they ended their relationship with him at the end of February when they released him to save $4.75 million in cap space. Humphries previously posted 600+ receiving yards and 55+ catches in three straight seasons in Tampa Bay in 2016-18. Humphries’ main concern this off-season will be to get completely healthy before he steps on the field again, and he’s unlikely to get anything more than a one- or two-year deal.
Alshon Jeffery (Phi, 31) — The Eagles will release Jeffery when the new league year opens on March 17 after an injury-riddled two-year stretch because of a Lisfranc injury. He initially earned his four-year contract extension during Philadelphia’s run to a Super Bowl victory in 2017, but the deal has been a burden the last two seasons. Jeffery appeared in just seven games last season, hauling in only six passes for 115 yards and a touchdown on 13 targets while playing on 41% of the snaps. Jeffery is unlikely to be an impact player going forward and he’ll likely have to settle for a short-term deal as an experienced backup receiver on the perimeter.
Demarcus Robinson (KC, 27) — Robinson didn’t have much of a market last season when he settled for a fully guaranteed one-year, $2.3 million from the Chiefs. He reached new career-highs in his fifth season thanks to the Chiefs resting their key players in Week 17. He finished the year with 45/466/3 receiving on 59 targets for 108.6 FP while playing 66% of the snaps in 16 games. Robinson averaged a measly .95 yards per route run last season despite playing with Patrick Mahomes in a big-play offense. It’s difficult to see Robinson’s market improving much from last season, but the Chiefs would likely bring him back on another short-term, team-friendly deal.
Cordarrelle Patterson (Chi, 30) — Patterson, a 2013 first-round pick, has never moved the needle for fantasy, but he’s one of the more valuable special teams players in the league. The Bears actually converted him to running back last season because of their thin depth at the position after primarily playing WR in his first seven seasons. He finished the year with 64/232/1 rushing and 21/132 receiving on 25 targets for 63.4 FP on 16 games. Patterson tied Leon Washington and Josh Cribbs for the NFL record for kickoff return touchdowns with his eighth career score last season. Patterson’s versatility is a plus, but he’ll be in demand in free agency mostly for kick return skills.
Trent Taylor (SF, 27) — Taylor has fallen out of favor in San Francisco after a promising start to his career in 2017 when 43/430/2 receiving as a fifth-round pick out of Louisiana Tech. He managed just 10/86 receiving on 21 targets for 18.6 FP in 12 games as Kyle Shanahan made him a healthy scratch toward the end of the season when San Francisco’s WR corps was mostly healthy. Taylor missed the entire 2019 season with a foot injury that required five different operations, and it’s fair to wonder if he has the same short-area explosiveness to get open. Taylor, who checks in at 5’8”, 180 pounds, will look to latch on with a team where he can compete for a slot WR job.
Isaiah Ford (Mia, 25)
Dez Bryant (Bal, 33)
Mohamed Sanu (Det, 32)
Marvin Hall (Det, 28)
Laquon Treadwell (Atl, 26)
Cody Core (NYG, 27)
DeAndre Carter (Chi, 28)
Dwayne Harris (Chi, 34)
Pharoh Cooper (Car, 26)
Bennie Fowler (NO, 30)
Taywan Taylor (Cle, 26)
Tavon Austin (GB, 30)
Justin Hardee (NO, 27)
DeAndrew White (Bal, 30)
Restricted Free Agents
Free agency information courtesy of OverTheCap.com
Previously Fantasy Relevant
Tim Patrick (Den, 28) — Patrick started last season buried down Denver’s depth chart after the team used draft picks on Jerry Jeudy and K.J. Hamler in the first two rounds of last spring’s draft. Cortland Sutton’s ACL injury in Week 2 opened the door for major playing time, and he quickly became the most reliable option for a struggling Drew Lock. Patrick finished with 51/742/6 receiving on 79 targets for 161.2 FP while 74% of the snaps in 15 games. He’s averaging 14.2 YPR through three seasons and he paced the Broncos as a red-zone threat last season with six scores on 18 red-zone targets. The Broncos are expected to place a second-round tender on Patrick and it wouldn’t be shocking if he draws some interest given how well he played last season considering Denver’s miserable quarterback play. Denver could also shop Patrick if he does return in restricted free agency since he’ll be viewed as the team’s #3 WR, at best, next season.
Zach Pascal (Ind, 27) — Pascal has been more of a fantasy pest than a fantasy asset the last two seasons. He’s been a fringe lineup option but he’s never a player you want to use and he took production away from the likes of T.Y. Hilton and Michael Pittman in 2020. Pascal posted 44/629/5 receiving on 71 targets for 136.9 FP in 16 games, which included a WR9 run with 40.3 FP in Weeks 15-16 for anybody who was brave enough to use him in the fantasy playoffs. GM Chris Ballard said in early February that the team is planning on bringing Pascal back, who ran 74.9% of his routes from the slot last season. There’s a chance he could have a bigger role next season if T.Y. Hilton leaves and the Colts can’t upgrade their receiving corps this off-season.
Cam Sims (Was, 25) — Sims worked his way into Washington’s #2 WR role by the end of the 2020 season, which culminated in a career-best game (7/104 receiving) in the Wild Card Round against the Super Bowl champion Buccaneers. Sims had just two catches for 27 yards in eight games in his first two seasons as an undrafted WR out of Alabama in 2018. Sims finished his third season with 32/47/1 receiving on 49 targets for 86.2 FP in 16 games, and 81.3% of his fantasy production (70.1 FP) came in the final nine games. Sims is a big (6’5”, 220 pounds) physical perimeter receiver who should be in Washington’s plans going forward after a strong run at the end of last season. The Football Team will be looking to upgrade their receiving corps behind Terry McLaurin, but Sims should be the top backup on the outside next season.
Byron Pringle (KC, 28)
KhaDarel Hodge (Cle, 26)
Robert Foster (Was, 27)
Brandon Powell (Atl, 26)
Malik Turner (Dal, 25)