View the top 101 NFL free agents of 2021, according to NFL.com's Gregg Rosenthal. (Last updated Monday, March 15)
March is upon us, which means we turn our clocks forward, Spring is just around the corner, and the whirlwind that is NFL Free Agency is about to touch down.
Free agency brings a breath of fresh air, as fans and teams scheme how they can improve for the upcoming season, and the 2021 class is filled with several notable names. The NFL free-agency period will commence at 1 p.m. PT on March 17, but in preparation, let's take a look at the top 25 players according to NFL.com's list.
|J.J. Watt (Signed)||DE||32|
Now, as always, let me remind you that by no means do I have any idea of who General Manager Mike Mayock and Head Coach Jon Gruden are going to target once the window opens. With that said, we can highlight the areas the Raiders struggled in last season, and who could potentially be a good fit.
First, let's start by crossing out all the quarterbacks with a red pen — this is Derek Carr's team. The Silver and Black are fortunate to have No. 4 under center, and there's no one on this list that intrigues me as a potential replacement. Finding Carr more weapons should be the only priority on offense.
With Tyrell Williams gone and Nelson Agholor and Zay Jones set to hit the market as unrestricted free agents, Mayock and Gruden will look to add more speed and skill around Henry Ruggs III and Hunter Renfrow. Allen Robinson is one of the most underrated receivers in the NFL, topping more than 1,000 yards three times, while doing it with inept quarterbacks. Last year, there were rumblings that Robinson and Chicago were at odds, so it's not out of question to think the Raiders could lure him away, unless the Bears tag him.
Robinson would be a great addition, but so would fellow receivers Kenny Golladay, Will Fuller, and JuJu Smith-Schuster. Golladay was hit with the injury bug in 2020, but he's a talented pass-catcher with plenty of potential. Fuller's had a hard time playing a full season during his NFL career, which might turn teams away, but he showed in 2020 that he's capable of being a WR1 when healthy.
Snagging some big-time playmakers on offense is always exciting, but the real focus needs to be on defense. The Raiders' defensive woes in 2020 were across the board, but fortunately there's several edge rushers and safeties on the market this year.
Leonard Williams is the top defensive end ranked on NFL.com's list, followed by J.J. Watt (now a member of the Arizona Cardinals), Shaq Barrett, Bud Dupree, Matt Judon, and others. Shaq Barrett will likely return to the team he just won a Super Bowl with because… why wouldn't he? I've personally always been a fan of Judon, but I have a hard time believing he'd leave Baltimore. Dupree suffered a major injury toward the end of last season, and at 28 years old, one wonders if he'll get back to a premier level.
The one player not mentioned in the group above I could see joining the Silver and Black is Yannick Ngakoue. The former Jacksonville Jaguar was linked to the Raiders for a couple weeks last year, as trade rumors circled the former Pro Bowler. The Raiders obviously have Maxx Crosby and Clelin Ferrell on the edges, but a veteran presence could help defensive coordinator Gus Bradley's unit. Ngakoue has posted at least eight sacks in each of his five seasons, and could help the Raiders immensely.
Lastly, upgrading the secondary is 1B on the to-do list. Johnathan Abram experienced some growing pains in 2020, but he clearly has the potential to lead the secondary for years to come, but he needs some help. Justin Simmons is the only safety in the top 25 and if the Raiders could steal him from the division-rival Broncos that would be huge, but I'm not sure how likely that is. Simmons has 24 passes defensed over the last two years and his coverage skills would vastly improve the Raiders' protection against the deep ball.
It's all conjecture at this point, but I'd be pleased if the Raiders were able to upgrade the wide receivers, edge, and secondary in free agency. Turn on your Twitter notifications because I'm sure Ian Rapoport and Adam Schefter will be very busy in the coming weeks.