The 2021 NFL offseason will be unlike any other offseason the league has seen before.
The salary cap will be decreasing instead of increasing for the first time ever.
Teams still need to maneuver the COVID-19 pandemic and there will be no NFL Combine.
Taking everything into consideration, teams may need to approach this offseason a little differently.
Instead of being able to drop $16M a season on a fancy new WR, you need to look for the diamonds in the rough.
That means focus on your draft and make sure you can find the superstars that you don’t need to really pay yet.
Then, enter free agency looking for the guys who had a down year, but have a high ceiling.
NFL free agency officially begins in one month pic.twitter.com/5MKOudLy0n
— Zac Stevens (@ZacStevensDNVR) February 17, 2021
You won’t have to pay them as much as they try to rebound from a bad season on a “prove it” deal.
Those are the players we want to really focus on.
Who can teams target that will cost them next to nothing, but can increase their chances of a Super Bowl title?
1: EDGE Aldon Smith
The Dallas Cowboys brought Smith in after a 5-year absence due to his ability to get in trouble.
Before then, he was an absolute monster!
Aldon Smith is 6th in 49ers history with 44 sacks in 50 games.
Arik Armstead has 22.5 in 78 games
Manny Lawson had 14.5 in 64 games
Justin Smith had 43.5 in 110 games
Maybe he should increase his 49ers numbers next season…
— Hugh Tomasello (@HughTomasello) February 16, 2021
Smith’s last season where he played all 16 games was in 2012 when he had 19.5 sacks.
Can we talk about how Aldon Smith had 19.5 sacks through 13 games in 2012 😳 pic.twitter.com/4Qeb8ye5tm
— 𝙏𝙧𝙤𝙮⁸⁸ ✭ (@DakZekeCooper) February 13, 2021
To show up 5 years later and still get through all 16 games is pretty impressive.
Unfortunately, just because he played doesn’t mean he was entirely effective.
Smith started the season on a tear with 4 sacks and 8 QB hits through 5 weeks.
Through the next 11 weeks, he accumulated 1 sack and 6 QB hits.
He tapered off and I am sure it was due to his tank running on fumes.
Now, he has a full season back under his belt and a full offseason ready to train properly.
He might be 31-years-old, but there are plenty of teams who need a seasoned pass rusher and with Smith’s upside, I would take the chance.
He only cost the Cowboys $2M this past season and with his lackluster performance down the stretch, he won’t cost more than that in 2021.
Cheap, high ceiling, and a veteran presence?
Checks all the boxes for me!
2: WR Nelson Agholor
You will have to tread lightly when you talk about bringing Agholor on board.
You better get him for the right price and most of his money coming from “don’t drop the ball” kind of incentives.
— Steely Tom (~);-} (@glanceatme1) February 14, 2021
This takes a different approach to what I said with taking a guy after a down season.
Agholor had a very good year with the Raiders, but after his many poor years with the Eagles, he comes with a warning label.
I don’t think he is going to cost you an arm and a leg just for catching a few deep balls in 2020.
His upside on the other hand, if you can keep stretching the field with him and he can hang onto a few of those balls, you got yourself a bargain.
Players with the highest Red Zone Target % in 2020 (min 20 targets):
1) Gabriel Davis – 42.6%
2) Mike Evans – 38.0%
3) Rob Gronkowski – 37.3%
4) Jared Cook – 35.6%
5) Nelson Agholor – 35.4%
Gabriel "DFS God" Davis
— Football Insightful (@fball_insights) February 16, 2021
He only cost the Raiders a mere $1.04M in cap space this past season, and I don’t expect teams to offer more than $3M for next season.
Everyone wants a speedy, stretch-the-field kind of WR these days.
Afgholor can give you that at a discount.
3: CB Quinton Dunbar
Dunbar used to be one of the CB’s in the league before his legal issues smacked him in the head.
He ended up in Seattle and after an entire offseason of distractions and court dates, he finally made it onto the field.
Naturally, in a new system he had no time to practice in, he struggled on gameday.
Good morning! Here is Brandon Aiyuk working Quinton Dunbar!pic.twitter.com/lhg8hxYyCc
— Jason Aponte (@JasonAponte2103) February 17, 2021
He couldn’t stay on the field much either, dealing with all kinds of injuries, and ended up starting in only 6 games.
Dunbar has the ability to be a CB1 and he is only 29 years old.
I am sure he knows his worth and will be asking for another contract around the $4-5M a season.
To get that contract on a one-year prove-it deal would be perfect for any team that just needs more security on one side of their backfield.
Let him come in for a full offseason, make sure he is healthy and let him get back to his 2018-2019 form.