2021 NFL Free Agency Rankings: The 100 best free agents, from Dak Prescott to JuJu Smith-Schuster and more – CBS Sports

Mike Meredith / CBS Sports

The NFL salary cap is smaller than what was expected before the pandemic, which means when the final number comes in, it will spell trouble for a lot of high-priced veterans.

That, in turn, means the free-agent market will be robust — even if the star talent is limited. 

One problem: There won’t be a lot of teams that have money. Nearly half the league is up against or over the projected cap, which should be around $180-$185 million. That’s not good for the pending free agents or veterans who will be released.

It is good for teams like the Jacksonville Jaguars, New York Jets, New England Patriots and Indianapolis Colts, all flush with loads of cap room.

The top free agent on the market, and No. 1 on my list of the best 2021 Top 100 free agents, is Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott. He topped this list last year, and then was given the franchise tag by the Cowboys before suffering a season-ending ankle injury that limited him to five games.

The Cowboys would love to lock up Prescott before the open of free agency, but if not they will surely put the franchise tag on him again, which would mean his salary and cap figure would be 120% over the $31.4 million he made last season, giving him a salary of $37.8 million, a huge hit to the cap.

Because of that, Prescott has a lot of leverage. It doesn’t hurt that the Cowboys imploded without him last season.

He is the best of this class, one of the true stars in it. Even without star power, there are a lot of really good players who will hit the market. Smart teams will use free agency to supplement their roster, not make it. 

Remember, the best age for free agents is between 26- and 28-years old. Those are usually the ascending players. Getting players going up is a lot better than paying for players going down — even if they appear to be good players right now.

NFL careers can fall off a cliff quickly. That’s why age matters in free agency, or at least it should.

Games over names. 

Top 100 free agents

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