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Phelan M. Ebenhack/Associated Press
The NFL postseason may still be underway, but so is the 2021 offseason. Right now, the coaching carousel is the hottest topic of conversation, as several franchises have made head-coaching moves in the past two days.
On Thursday, the Jacksonville Jaguars hired Urban Meyer for their vacancy, while the New York Jets landed Robert Saleh. According to ESPN’s Dianna Russini, the Atlanta Falcons have made an offer to Tennessee Titans offensive coordinator Arthur Smith.
While these franchises are busy getting their new front offices together, though, the rest of the league’s non-playoff teams are focused on the looming 2021 edition of free agency. Here, you’ll find some rumors and predictions for some of the top players expected to hit the open market when it opens on March 17.
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Phelan M. Ebenhack/Associated Press
Chicago Bears wideout Allen Robinson II will likely be one of the most coveted free agents on the market this spring. Despite playing in an inconsistent offense—and with some very up-and-down quarterback play—Robinson finished the regular season with 102 catches, 1,250 yards and six touchdowns.
Robinson is one of the few legitimate No. 1 receivers expected to reach free agency this offseason. However, Robinson doesn’t sound like he expects to be back in Chicago.
Indeed, Robinson’s contract status and lack of an extension hung over his 2020 campaign for much of the season. Now, Chicago is left with three choices: Extend him, use the franchise tag, or allow him to walk.
Unfortunately, the Bears are projected to be more than $8 million over the salary cap, which could prevent their use of the tag. Creatively opening up some cap room and re-signing Robinson to a new deal could be possible, but that might require putting a large chunk of his contract money into later years.
At this point, it feels unlikely that Robinson would be inclined to do any sort of team-friendly deal.
Prediction: Robinson plays elsewhere in 2021.
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Brett Duke/Associated Press
Robinson might not be the only familiar face set to leave the Bears this offseason. Quarterback Mitchell Trubisky may also be out after seeing Chicago’s playoff run end with a thud against the New Orleans Saints.
Heading into the playoffs, nfl Media’s Ian Rapoport reported that Chicago is “not set right now” on bringing back Trubisky. Presumably, a stellar postseason run by the quarterback would have made for an easier decision on his future.
Trubisky threw for just 199 yards and a touchdown in the loss to New Orleans.
However, the Bears will also have to consider their limited cap options, poor draft positioning and lack of viable quarterback alternatives. As Pro football Talk’s Chris Simms pointed out, the market may make Trubisky a relatively cheap option.
It might be worth bringing Trubisky back on a short-term deal while targeting a developmental quarterback in the draft. However, if the Bears only want Trubisky to be a bridge, they have Nick Foles under contract to serve the same purpose.
Prediction; Trubisky does not return to Chicago.
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Elise Amendola/Associated Press
Cam Newton‘s plan to reestablish himself as a high-end starter with the Patriots didn’t quite work out. Newton did indeed start the entire season—potentially putting an end to some health-related questions—but he wasn’t particularly effective.
Newton threw for 2,657 yards with eight touchdowns and 10 interceptions.
If Newton is eager to prove himself again in 2021, it’s not likely going to happen in New England, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
“Both sides expect that it will take them to a different place and a different direction in 2021, with Cam Newton likely moving on and the Patriots in search of a new quarterback for next season,” Schefter said on Sunday nfl Countdown (h/t Chris Mason of MassLive.com).
The problem for Newton is that other former starting quarterbacks—like Trubisky, Philip Rivers, Jameis Winston and Tyrod Taylor—are also expected to hit the open market. Additionally, several signal-callers are expected to be at the top of draft boards later in the offseason.
If Newton does sign with a new team, he probably isn’t going to be handed a starting role.
Prediction: Newton signs elsewhere as a backup for 2021.
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Jennifer Stewart/Associated Press
The San Francisco 49ers’ decision to trade for Trent Williams last offseason paid off handsomely. While the 49ers were ravaged by injuries and failed to make the postseason, Williams himself was fantastic.
According to Pro Football Focus, Williams was responsible for 10 penalties but only allowed four sacks all season.
The problem is that Williams is scheduled to become a free agent and will likely top the wish list of multiple teams. The Indianapolis Colts might be on the list following the retirement of longtime starting left tackle Anthony Castonzo.
The good news is that Williams appears eager to return to San Francisco and started with extension discussions before the end of the regular season.
“49ers and Pro Bowl LT Trent Williams had extensive discussions last week on a contract extension, per sources. Doing something before Week 17 would have helped SF’s salary cap. It didn’t happen, and an elite tackle could hit free agency, but SF is clearly prioritizing Williams,” ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler tweeted.
The bad news is that if Williams actually reaches free agency, his price tag will only go up.
Prediction: Williams re-signs with San Francisco.