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Best Team Fits Top 50 2021 Free Agents

NFL: Buffalo Bills at Arizona Cardinals Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Jeremy Fowler of ESPN published an article yesterday in which he projected the best team fits for the Top 50 NFL free agents. If you have not read it, here is the link:

https://www.espn.com/nfl/insider/story/_/id/30828667/top-50-nfl-free-agents-2021-best-team-fits-dak-prescott-juju-smith-schuster-bud-dupree-more

OK —- now that you’ve read it, what were your takeaways?

Mine are pretty simple:

Fowler considers his top ranked Cardinal free agent, OLB Haason Reddick (#24), as a better fit for the Denver Broncos than the Arizona Cardinals. Here’s what he wrote:

24. Haason Reddick, EDGE

Best fit: Denver Broncos

Though Matt Rhule loves his Temple guys, Carolina’s 4-3 defense might not fit Reddick, who finally found a home as a 3-4 pass-rusher. Denver has a big decision to make on Von Miller’s $17.5 million option. Miller turns 32 in March, and even if Denver brings him back, it needs to plan for the future at pass-rusher opposite Bradley Chubb (though Malik Reedis a good in-house option).

  • Mr. Fowler, there is no better fit in the NFL for Haason Reddick as the Cardinals’ 34 SAM OLB position.

The only other Cardinal ranked in Fowler’s top 50 is CB Patrick Peterson (#31) .

31. Patrick Peterson, CB

Best fit: Las Vegas Raiders

The Raiders need leadership in the secondary in the worst way. Peterson turns 31 in July and has made $94 million, so maybe team fit and contention will be most important to him. Also watch for Tampa, where Peterson’s former coaches Bruce Arians and Todd Bowles are coming off a Super Bowl appearance.

  • It’s interesting that Fowler has Peterson ranked this high (PFF has him ranked as the #13 UFA CB) and that he views him as valuable leader and a possible panacea for a team desperate for leadership.. As Cardinals’ fans know, Peterson’s leadership over the past two seasons has been a moot point (6 game PED and coverup suspension in 2019, skipping all of OTAs with a new coaching staff in place, having a social media hissy-fit because the Cardinals’ “snakes in the grass” were not eager and willing to pay him while suspended, subsequently coming back for Week 7 in golf shape and not understanding the defense, and then in 2020, while continuing to be a liability versus the run and screens to his side, leading the NFL in holding/PI penalties —- a whole lot of red and yellow flags), which is why a change a scenery could be just what Peterson needs. It would be interesting to see what kind of leader Peterson becomes if his new team doesn’t red carpet him and enable him to play by the double standards that the owner, the GM and the coaches perpetuated for him in Arizona.

Fowler doesn’t consider any of the other 48 top free agents as a best fit for the Cardinals, which includes a number of players at WR, OL, DL, LB and CB whom many of us Birdgangers here at ROTB feel would be nifty fits for our Redbirds.

Here are three cases I would make for the Cardinals:

17. Corey Linsley, C

Best fit: New York Jets

Connor McGovern wasn’t great at center last season, and since his $8 million salary is guaranteed for 2021, the Jets can kick him to guard. Linsley, one of the league’s most consistent centers, gives New York a leader up front to help a young quarterback, whether Sam Darnold, a draft pick or a new option via trade..

  • Wouldn’t the better young QB for Corey Linsley to help be Kyler Murray?

40. William Jackson III, CB

Best fit: Pittsburgh Steelers

The Steelers wanted to draft Jackson 25th overall in 2017. He went 24th to Cincinnati, and the team chose Artie Burns, who fell out of favor and is now in Chicago. Corner doesn’t seem like a major need, but starters Joe Haden and Steven Nelson are 2022 free agents, and Mike Hilton and Cameron Sutton are free agents this March. Haden turns 32 in April. Getting Jackson covers Pittsburgh for any scenario. The Steelers face tough decisions at almost every position.

  • It’s hard to imagine why Fowler had Peterson ranked ahead of William Jackson III (or Richard Sherman for that matter, if one wants to talk about leadership and taking pride in all aspects of CB play). But, like Fowler notes, the Steelers already have two starting CBs signed for 2021 in Joe Haden and Steven Nelson. The Cardinals have a greater need and should have a greater sense of urgency. Jackson is heading into his prime and would be just that kind of baller the Cardinals need in order to make their defense more aggressive and efficient in all aspects of CB play.

42. Nelson Agholor, WR

Best fit: Las Vegas Raiders

Agholor turned a minimum one-year deal into an explosive 2020 campaign with 48 catches, 896 yards and eight touchdowns with the Raiders. Las Vegas should keep its own and reward a resurgent player. The Raiders had a top-10 offense with Darren Waller and Agholor as top options, and keeping Agholor helps Henry Ruggs III develop into a focal point without the pressure of having to carry the passing game. Agholor would fit the Jets’ new attack, as well. They will evaluate him.

  • Ironically, Nelson Agholor could have been a Cardinal for the last year and half had Steve Keim accepted the Eagles’ trade offer of their 2020 1st round pick (#21) and Agholor for Patrick Peterson. Think of what the Cardinals’ WR situation would have looked like this past season following the DeAndre Hopkins trade if Nelson Agholor was in the slot and if the Cardinals had picked Jerry Sullivan’s top rated WR, Justin Jefferson (whom Sullivan coached at LSU in 2018 )at pick #21. Jefferson was picked by the Vikings one pick later at #22. Well, the Jefferson ship has sailed, but the Cardinals could make a strong bid to acquire one of the top emerging slot WRs in the NFL in Agholor.

Honorable mention:

45. Gerald Everett, TE

Best fit: Seattle Seahawks

Seattle has seen Everett’s skill set twice a season and respects his ability. New offensive coordinator Shane Waldron was the Rams’ passing game coordinator and will be implementing the system Everett knows well. Market is key for Everett, who never played more than 40% of the snaps until this season (57%). Can he handle being a No. 1? He’s immensely talented.

  • Kudos, Mr. Fowler, because the Waldron connection to TE Gerald Everett is compelling, and it’s unclear whether the Cardinals will have the cap space and/or the urgency to sign a TE in free agency. But, if they do, Gerald Everett could be a dandy in the Cardinals’ passing game.