2021 Free Agent Positional Preview: Safety
I researched the available free agent lists in late-Feb./early March in order to get a feel for the marketplace and identify key players likely on the move; players that could shift teams fortunes under-the-radar if a team landed/grabbed a bunch of them. We have the obvious names, the under-the-radar, and the trap doors to look at.
Here’s my take on 2021 NFL free agency…the players I’m really watching for fantasy, handicapping, etc., on where they might land.
The Top 3 Available According To NFL Analysts:
1) Justin Simmons, DEN – Everyone’s top guy. There’s little reason to dispute it. He’s clearly the best SAF in the free agent class. I’d be shocked if Denver let him walk…the Broncos have the salary cap to retain him comfortably.
2) Anthony Harris, MIN – Had great metrics 2018 and 2019, but fell off in 2020…but analysts are still high on him as a top SAF. I think it’s up for debate. He may be getting on the other side of good-great and trending down. My guess is he stays with Zimmer.
3) John Johnson, LAR – He has been a solid starter for the Rams since his rookie season, but the Rams are strapped for cash and have invested draft picks in DBs of late…so, Johnson may be a casualty of the Rams’ terrible CAP mismanagement/decisions the past 2-3 years.
The Top 3 Talents Available/To Target If I Were an NFL GM:
1) Justin Simmons, DEN – Again, the clear-cut top guy. No sense debating it. Just 27 years old now, turns 28 in November. Best athlete, best producer of the FA SAF group.
2) John Johnson, LAR – If you can’t get to Simmons, Johnson is the clear #2 option considering his four years of success and his age (25+ this season).
3) Daniel Sorensen, KC – One of my favorite overlooked-for-years defenders. He’s going to be cheap due to age (31+ this season) and overlooked status. A perfect guy for a short-term signing for a team making a title run effort in 2021.
The Top 3 Values/Sleepers According to FFM:
1) Damontae Kazee, ATL – One of my favorite ‘underground’ players. Can play corner some if needed and is a wicked hitter as a safety. I’d take over Anthony Harris if rebuilding my defense for a longer-term/new coach rebuild.
2) Sean Davis, PIT – I have said since his day one: Sign him as an extra DB, but work on converting him to pure cornerback (at 6’1”/201) – he was a really talented, highly athletic corner at Virginia who became a top safety for a season in the NFL, then got hurt and has fallen down. Sign him cheap and see if you can manufacture a legit starting CB here. Why not?
3) Chris Banjo played some really good football for Arizona in 2020. If I were a contending team, I’d consider him as a backup/spot starter SAF for my secondary depth and special teams on a title contending team.
The Top 3 Problems According to FFM:
1) Karl Joseph, LV – Been a letdown his entire NFL career…a former 1st-round SAF the football people loved, and he busted. He carries a name, a memory and that’s it.
2) Marcus Maye, NYJ – Had a chance to be the Jets’ Jamal Adams and failed…and failed at being a regular safety when working with Adams for NYJ. Maye has been a total failure in the NFL, considering his draft stock.
3) Malik Hooker, IND – Injured in college, but was a top pick SAF in his draft because ‘Ohio State’…and he’s been either injured or lackluster in the NFL. He’s worth taking a shot on, low risk…but I have a feeling some Ohio State worshipping GM will bid him up and make him unreasonable to take a look at.
-- Josh Jones rehabbed his career a bit with Jacksonville in 2020, but he comes with so much baggage I’d be scared to waste time and money on him considering plenty of other SAF’s to look at.
-- Justin Simmons should very likely sign with the Broncos, but John Johnson is more likely gone from the Rams due to economics. It will be interesting to see if Johnson lands with the Chargers, following the Rams recent D-C now head coach to the other L.A.
If the Chargers pass, and the Rams walk…Johnson might be shocked at the lack of financial interest teams have him. Teams will want him, but he won’t command nearly the price he thinks if the Chargers aren’t chasing him some.
-- Keanu Neal is another SAF name kicking around of interest, but two ACLs in recent years…he’ll likely get a one-year ‘prove it’ type deal. I don’t think anyone will invest heavily in on him. He’ll get a one-year prove it deal, cheap...likely with Dallas.
-- Marcus Williams (NO) is a name that didn’t make any list above, but he’s like the #4-5 on any of the top 3 lists. He’s solid but the Saints aren’t likely to spend money to retain him due to a tight CAP situation. He and Xavier Woods (DAL) are young names who may sit out there available until a team gets desperate for a safety due to injury, and as their asking price drops.
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