Early look at a potentially loaded 2021 NFL free-agent class
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While the 2020 free-agent class was thin at most positions after quarterback, the opposite could be true in 2021.

Stars aplenty are entering the final year of their contracts, and not all of them will ink extensions or receive the franchise tag. Here is a positional breakdown of the 2021 crop of prospective unrestricted free agents:

This list does not include first-round picks from the 2017 draft whose fifth-round options are likely to be exercised (e.g. Myles Garrett, Christian McCaffrey, Patrick Mahomes).

Tagged players from 2020

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  • QB Dak Prescott
  • RB Derrick Henry
  • RB Kenyan Drake
  • WR A.J. Green
  • TE Hunter Henry
  • G Joe Thuney
  • G Brandon Scherff
  • DE Yannick Ngakoue
  • DE Leonard Williams
  • DT Chris Jones
  • LB Matthew Judon
  • LB Bud Dupree
  • LB Shaquil Barrett
  • S Justin Simmons
  • S Anthony Harris

Fifteen players received a franchise or transition tag this offseason. Unless they strike long-term agreements before July 15, they'll be scheduled to hit the market in March 2021. Drake, Thuney, and Scherff have already signed their tenders, meaning they'll play on fully guaranteed one-year contracts in 2020, barring an extension.

Quarterbacks

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  • Andy Dalton
  • Philip Rivers
  • Jacoby Brissett
  • Ryan Fitzpatrick
  • Tyrod Taylor
  • Brian Hoyer
  • Cam Newton* (current free agent)
  • Jameis Winston* (current free agent)

Dalton could become a free agent much sooner, as he'll be a cut candidate after the draft if the Cincinnati Bengals are unable to find a trade partner. In all likelihood, Newton will be the top signal-caller up for grabs in 2021, but his availability depends on what type of contract he signs this offseason following his release from the Carolina Panthers.

Running backs

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  • Alvin Kamara
  • Dalvin Cook
  • Aaron Jones
  • Chris Carson
  • Marlon Mack
  • James Conner
  • Joe Mixon
  • Todd Gurley
  • Kareem Hunt
  • Tevin Coleman
  • James White
  • Damien Williams
  • Tarik Cohen
  • Matt Breida
  • Rex Burkhead
  • Adrian Peterson
  • Jerick McKinnon
  • Dion Lewis

The highly touted running-back draft class of 2017 has more than lived up to the hype, setting the stage for a fascinating free agency. Teams have never valued running backs less, but some of these rushers are too good not to get paid handsomely. Excluded from this list is Phillip Lindsay of the Denver Broncos, who is on track to become a restricted free agent.

Wide receivers

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  • Keenan Allen
  • JuJu Smith-Schuster
  • Chris Godwin
  • Kenny Golladay
  • T.Y. Hilton
  • Allen Robinson
  • Cooper Kupp
  • Sammy Watkins
  • Will Fuller
  • Larry Fitzgerald
  • Marvin Jones
  • Curtis Samuel
  • Kenny Stills
  • Dede Westbrook
  • Mohamed Sanu
  • Breshad Perriman
  • Cordarrelle Patterson
  • Josh Reynolds
  • Danny Amendola

Allen is one of several notable potential free agents from the Los Angeles Chargers, who could struggle to keep their core intact beyond this season. Meanwhile, the Chicago Bears can't afford to lose Robinson, but they may not be able to afford to keep him - talk about a conundrum.

Tight ends

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  • George Kittle
  • Jared Cook
  • Greg Olsen
  • Jonnu Smith
  • Gerald Everett
  • Jason Witten
  • Tyler Kroft

The San Francisco 49ers intend to get an extension done with Kittle and can use the franchise tag if they're unsuccessful, so he's got almost no chance of hitting the market. The lack of depth at tight end could lead to bloated deals for Smith and Everett, who have flashed promise and are still young.

Offensive linemen

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  • Ronnie Stanley
  • David Bakhtiari
  • Laremy Tunsil
  • Trent Williams
  • Alejandro Villanueva
  • Dion Dawkins
  • Russell Okung
  • David Andrews
  • Ryan Kelly
  • Alex Mack
  • Mike Pouncey
  • Austin Reiter
  • Justin Britt
  • Larry Warford
  • Corey Linsley
  • Ethan Pocic
  • Russell Bodine
  • Matt Skura
  • Lane Taylor

The most interesting case here is Tunsil, who has ample leverage in extension talks with the Houston Texans because they traded two first-round picks for him. Andrews is also intriguing, as he was one of the league's top centers before blood clots forced him to sit out the 2019 season.

Defensive linemen

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  • Kenny Clark
  • Cameron Heyward
  • Ndamukong Suh
  • Lawrence Guy
  • Sheldon Rankins
  • Larry Ogunjobi
  • Jihad Ward
  • Sheldon Day

Clark hasn't quite managed to break into the top echelon of interior linemen, but he's still very good and is positioned to hit the market as a 25-year-old. Rankins could also be in line for a lucrative payday if he gets back to the form he showed in 2018 before rupturing his Achilles in the playoffs that season.

Edge defenders

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  • Joey Bosa
  • Melvin Ingram
  • Justin Houston
  • Olivier Vernon
  • Vic Beasley
  • Dont'a Hightower
  • Carl Lawson
  • Ryan Kerrigan
  • Leonard Floyd
  • Jadeveon Clowney* (current free agent)

The Chargers have decisions to make, as both Bosa and Ingram are entering their walk years. Ingram, who's six years older, is less likely to be retained. Whoever reaches free agency might be joined by Clowney, who may settle for a one-year contract if he's unable to land the multi-year deal for $20 million annually he's reportedly been chasing.

Linebackers

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  • Lavonte David
  • Zach Cunningham
  • Demario Davis
  • Matt Milano
  • K.J. Wright
  • Todd Davis
  • Kevin Minter
  • Sean Lee
  • Thomas Davis
  • Kyler Fackrell
  • Tahir Whitehead
  • Kiko Alonso

David is coming off one of his best years, but it remains to be seen how much the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will value an inside linebacker on the wrong side of 30 - especially after they used a top-five pick on Devin White. There is a chance he and Minter both exit Tampa's defense in 2021.

Cornerbacks

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  • Jalen Ramsey
  • Richard Sherman
  • Patrick Peterson
  • Joe Haden
  • Quinton Dunbar
  • Shaquill Griffin
  • Jourdan Lewis
  • Desmond King
  • Mackensie Alexander
  • Brian Poole
  • Jason McCourty
  • Troy Hill
  • Nickell Robey-Coleman
  • D.J. Hayden
  • Jimmy Smith
  • William Jackson
  • Sidney Jones
  • Xavier Rhodes

The Los Angeles Rams have made it clear they plan to lock up Ramsey, but the cornerback crop could be ripe even without him. Among the possible alternatives are Sherman, Peterson, and Haden. All three will be over 30 when their contracts expire, but they've each maintained a high level of play as they've aged.

Safeties

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  • Budda Baker
  • Jaquiski Tartt
  • Ha Ha Clinton-Dix
  • Keanu Neal
  • John Johnson III
  • Marcus Maye
  • Duron Harmon
  • Karl Joseph
  • Bradley McDougald
  • Andrew Sendejo
  • Shawn Williams

Baker leads what is shaping up to be a thin group of safeties. Though he doesn't have an interception in three seasons, the Arizona Cardinals standout is one of the most effective players against the run. Elsewhere, Clinton-Dix will play in 2020 on a one-year deal for the second straight season and figures to look for more security afterward.

Could have 5th-year option declined

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  • QB Mitchell Trubisky
  • WR John Ross
  • WR Corey Davis
  • TE David Njoku
  • OT Garett Bolles
  • DE Solomon Thomas
  • DE Takkarist McKinley
  • LB Reuben Foster
  • LB Jarrad Davis
  • LB Haason Reddick
  • CB Gareon Conley

Teams must decide by May 4 whether to exercise or decline the fifth-year option on 2017 first-round picks. It would be jarring to see the Bears not pick up Trubisky's option, but the fact that they traded for Nick Foles doesn't bode well for the former No. 2 overall pick.

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Early look at a potentially loaded 2021 NFL free-agent class
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