Finding homes for biggest names still unsigned in NFL free agency
NFL teams will head into training camp in just over six weeks to begin preparations for the 2021 season.
While the majority of player movement is in the rear-view mirror, there are a handful of notable free agents still trying to find their next NFL home.
Here, we predict where the biggest names will sign:
Sherman is arguably the most surprising inclusion on this list. The veteran is admittedly past his prime and missed 11 games last season due to a calf injury, but he was a second-team All-Pro for the San Francisco 49ers in 2019. The 33-year-old cornerback should still be, at worst, a competent starter, as his game has always been based more on smarts rather than physical tools.
The New Orleans Saints, Las Vegas Raiders, and Dallas Cowboys have previously been rumored as landing spots for Sherman. However, Dallas loaded up on cornerbacks in the draft, and Las Vegas added several seasoned options recently. If a spot with a contender doesn't materialize, the next best bet for Sherman is reuniting with New York Jets head coach Robert Saleh.
Prediction: Signs with Jets
Gurley's fall from superstar to borderline starter has been historically dramatic, with the former Los Angeles Rams running back going from winning Offensive Player of the Year in 2017 to averaging 3.5 yards per carry with the Atlanta Falcons last season. But Gurley could still be a valuable asset to a team that can set its expectations based on who he is now rather than who he used to be.
The veteran back has reportedly met with the Detroit Lions and Baltimore Ravens recently, and the latter is a far more preferable landing spot. Baltimore's depth at the position would allow Gurley to take on a less taxing role, and while his receiving skills have waned, he would still be the best pass-catcher in the AFC North club's backfield.
Prediction: Signs with Ravens
Bell couldn't resurrect his career with the Kansas City Chiefs last season despite being part of the NFL's most prolific offense. While Bell is still blaming his surroundings for his declining production, his days as a star are almost certainly done. Moreover, Bell's unwillingness to acknowledge his shortcomings and desire to regain the type of workload he had with the Pittsburgh Steelers could limit his options.
The Falcons don't have much depth behind Mike Davis ahead of transitioning to head coach Arthur Smith's run-heavy scheme. The Miami Dolphins similarly could use more bodies behind Myles Gaskin after opting not to take a rusher with a high pick. And at 29 years old, Bell might realistically struggle to even find another job in the NFL.
Prediction: Signs with Dolphins
While Wright began to show signs of decline last season, with inconsistent tackling being the most glaring issue, he remains an above-average linebacker who excels in coverage. A few teams don't need better play against the pass from their linebackers, but it seems most are looking to go the younger, cheaper route at the position. Wright, meanwhile, will turn 32 in July.
The longtime Seattle Seahawks standout was intent on joining the Cowboys, but that door has seemingly closed after Dallas drafted Micah Parsons and Jabril Cox. While the Indianapolis Colts have reportedly shown interest after losing Anthony Walker in free agency, their offer likely wouldn't be significant ahead of Darius Leonard's major payday. Wright will ultimately realize his best option is to head home.
Prediction: Signs with Seahawks
Ingram's continued unemployment isn't a surprise. The South Carolina product's been a solid pass-rusher in the past, but clubs are likely concerned since he failed to register a single sack last season before an injury ended his year after just seven games. It will likely take a veteran lineman going down in training camp for Ingram's market to heat up.
The Dolphins and Chiefs both hosted the 32-year-old in May. A return to the Los Angeles Chargers could also make sense now that Ingram's price tag will likely be more palatable. However, Miami is also a logical fit - the options of rookie Jaelen Phillips and Emmanuel Ogbah are underwhelming.
Prediction: Signs with Dolphins
Peterson continues to fight back harder against Father Time than anyone in the NFL not named Tom Brady. After two solid seasons in Washington, the 36-year-old had 604 yards and seven touchdowns for the Lions in 2020. Peterson needs just 450 more to pass Barry Sanders for fourth on the all-time rushing list, so it's a given he will try and play at least one more campaign.
However, finding a landing spot for him is hard. Peterson's lack of receiving skills makes him an awkward fit as a No. 2, but he will almost certainly need to take on a backup role to an established starter, perhaps Saquon Barkley of the New York Giants or Austin Ekeler of the Chargers. But perhaps the Oklahoma product's best chance of earning a ring and getting enough work to pass Sanders could be with the run-happy Seahawks.
Prediction: Signs with Giants
The Steelers granted Nelson's request to be released in May. It was assumed the cornerback wouldn't be on the market for long, as he boasts significant starting experience across six seasons for Pittsburgh and Kansas City. But it seems Nelson, who was set to earn $8.25 million in 2021, is waiting for someone to meet his contract demands.
The Chicago Bears and Cincinnati Bengals are two teams that could benefit from a solid veteran addition at corner, but the Buffalo Bills will likely be in the mix for Nelson, as well. While Buffalo does already have a solid cornerback group led by Tre'Davious White, usurping the Chiefs is the priority, and that will require as strong a secondary as possible.
Prediction: Signs with Bills
Once one of the most feared pass-rushers in the NFL, Houston is now in the twilight of his career. But the 32-year-old, who has at least eight sacks in each of the last four seasons, should still be capable of making a significant impact as a secondary option for a contender.
The possibility of returning to his former squad ended after the Colts used a first-round pick on Kwity Paye. However, the Minnesota Vikings could use some insurance with Danielle Hunter coming off an injury. Houston's other likely options are joining the Ravens or returning to the Chiefs. Both AFC teams have plenty of defensive ends but should be intent on fielding the strongest defense possible to help their star quarterbacks.
Prediction: Signs with Ravens
Tate's production has steadily dropped off over the past three seasons. The 32-year-old had 795 yards while splitting time between the Lions and Philadelphia Eagles in 2018 before producing 676 and 388 yards in 2019 and 2020, respectively, for the New York Giants. With an influx of young talent at wide receiver across the league, Tate will likely have to wait until camps begin to find a new home.
A return to Detroit, which is severely lacking in weapons for Jared Goff after letting Kenny Golladay walk, could also make sense. If the Bears do trade Anthony Miller, Tate would be a decent replacement in the slot. But Atlanta needs another wide receiver behind Calvin Ridley after trading Julio Jones and now has the cap space to make some minor veteran moves.
Prediction: Signs with Falcons
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