A lot of teams will have a lot of trouble retaining in-house free agents in this salary cap-strapped NFL offseason, but certain guys just have to be prioritized over others. Here are nine impending free agents that teams should do everything in their power to keep on their rosters:
Chicago Bears WR Allen Robinson II
The Bears have to go for it, like, yesterday. Khalil Mack is 30, the rest of the defense is wildly expensive and established, and whoever they install at quarterback in 2021 is going to need as much help as he can get in order to finally bring these guys on a Super Bowl run.
That starts with Robinson, who has caught 200 passes for almost 2,400 yards and 13 touchdowns the last two seasons in a bad offense. At 27, he’s pretty close to being irreplaceable.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers edge Shaquil Barrett
It’s damn hard to repeat in this league. It hasn’t happened in more than a decade and a half. If the Bucs are going to end that drought, they’ll need their top pass-rusher and defensive playmaker. Barrett has put up 27.5 sacks the last two seasons, was an absolute force in this year’s playoffs, and is only entering his prime as a 28-year-old two-year starter.
The Buccaneers should prioritize him over Chris Godwin, Lavonte David, and the rest of their impending in-house free agents.
New York Giants DL Leonard Williams
The Giants are trying to establish upward momentum in a big season for offensive centerpieces Daniel Jones and Saquon Barkley, but they can’t afford to take a step backward on defense and Williams has emerged as an absolute game-changer.
The 26-year-old had 11.5 sacks as an interior rusher in 2020 and should at least be worth another franchise tag in 2021.
New York Jets S Marcus Maye
Same for the other rebuilding New Jersey-based team, which saw Maye experience a breakout season as the post-Jamal Adams era got underway in 2020. If the Jets are going to emerge as a contender soon, they need to gain, not lose.
They can afford to spend money on Maye and should do exactly that.
Green Bay Packers C Corey Linsley
This won’t be easy and actually looks unlikely considering Green Bay’s current salary-cap crunch, but Linsley’s loss would be a shame because he’s been the man snapping balls to Aaron Rodgers each of the last seven years.
Offensive line continuity is critical when you’re trying to remain in contention, and we’re talking about a first-team All-Pro in his prime.
Buffalo Bills OT Daryl Williams
Remember what we said about offensive line continuity? That applies to an extra degree when you’ve got a young, emerging quarterback like Josh Allen.
The 28-year-old Williams is a stellar pass-blocker on Allen’s right side, and if they want to take that next step, they should prioritize him.
Kansas City Chiefs C Austin Reiter
One more time re: offensive line continuity! We all saw the Chiefs’ banged-up offensive line potentially cost them a championship in February. It would be far from ideal for Patrick Mahomes to lose his center, especially considering questions about age and/or durability elsewhere with that unit.
The 29-year-old Reiter gave up zero sacks and took zero penalties on 867 snaps in 2020.