Best NFL free agents left on the market

Where will K.J. Wright sign?

By: Jeremy Trottier

The NFL offseason has primarily ended, at least in terms of the best players that were available on the market this year.  With that in mind, there are still quite a few capable players left to be signed that could bring a solid presence to the teams that sign them.  We should see some of these players being signed as the roster cuts get closer to 53, and as the first week looms closer, as injuries are bound to happen.  In this article, I will be going over the five most interesting free agents remaining, as well as what they bring to an NFL franchise.

Jurrell Casey – DT

First up we have the five-time pro bowl DT/DE in Jurrell Casey, who spent the greater part of a decade with the Tennessee Titans before a season in 2020-2021 with the Denver Broncos.  Casey’s main contribution to any team would be his capability to get into the backfield and bring down the QB and ball carrier with extreme force.  In his career, he has had 51 sacks and 85 tackles for loss, with 10.5 sacks in a season being his career-high and 13 TFL in another season.

K.J. Wright – OLB

This may be the most surprising remaining free agent to me, as K.J. Wright has performed at an extremely high level over the past few seasons.  In 2020, he had 11 TFL, 86 tackles, 2 sacks, 2 fumble recoveries, 10 passes deflected, and an interception, which by his standards is slightly low but for league standards is extremely high quality.  If signed, he will provide strength to get into the backfield and blow up running plays, as well as his ability to make plays in coverage, seen by his double-digit pass deflections in 2020 and in 2019 (10 and 11 respectively).

Russell Okung – LT

Moving to the other side of the ball, we have a veteran tackle in Russell Okung.  Okung has started a combined 13 games in the last two seasons, which is not the best, however, he started 15 games in 2018 and 15 in 2017, and has performed extremely well in the past few years.  He has not given up more than 3 sacks since 2016, when he gave up 4, as he started in almost every single play that season (99% of snaps).  He still has what it takes to be a competent offensive lineman, and would be a great addition to teams in need of an offensive lineman.

Steven Sims – WR

Onto the skill positions, we have a recent cut by the Washington Football Team in Steven Sims.  Some may look at his stats and say “why is he even on this list, he barely had 300 yards in a season?”.  This addition to the list is purely on the mindset of potential, as Sims has heaps of it, however, he has not been utilized much by Washington in his two seasons there.  At only 24 years of age entering this season, his versatility across the boards is phenomenal.  He can kick return and punt return at a high level, having the most kick returns in the league in 2019 and a 91-yard return touchdown.  He is also able to rush the ball when given the chance, averaging 9.4 YPA on 9 attempts.  Overall, he has potential to make a roster and compete for starting receiver snaps.

Geno Atkins – DT/DE

Finally, we have a player many have forgotten about after last season, in Geno Atkins.  Something to keep in mind is the lack of stats from Atkins last year is both due to his lack of games played (8 played, 0 started) as well as the Bengals moving him out of position.  If moved back to DT and played there normally, he should be a very good addition to any front seven.   In 2014-2019, he made the pro-bowl every year and was an all-pro in 2015.  He had double digit QB hits In every year since 2015, and often went into the 20s in that category, as well as between nine and eleven sacks every year from 2015-2019.  He has juice left in the tank, I have no doubt of this.  He just needs a chance to play at his natural position.

Why the Lions should sign pass rusher Justin Houston

Free agent Justin Houston to the Detroit Lions?

By: Ladarius Brown

If you are a football fan (or a Lions fan for that matter), the Lions organization has not been great for some time. Over the last two years, it has been the defensive side of the ball that has taken a major hit. In 2018, this Lions team was 10th in the league in total defense with players like DE’s Romeo Okwara, Da’Shawn Hand, and 3x Pro Bowler & All-Pro CB Darius Slay. However, in 2019 & 2020, the Lions finished 31st and 32nd respectively. As they are rebuilding their secondary, most notably with drafting Ohio State CB Jeff Okudah in the 1st round in 2020, the defensive line needs some depth.  

One option that is out there is 4x Pro Bowler and All-Pro DE Justin Houston. Houston played for the Colts in 2020 in which he had eight sacks and 19 total sacks in his two seasons in Indy. In 2014, he led the league with 22 sacks as a member of the Kansas City Chiefs, who finished 7th in total defense that year. Another reason that Houston is an ideal fit for the Lions is the flexibility he can provide. 

The Lions’ new defensive coordinator, former 15-year NFL veteran Aaron Glenn, will bring in a 3-4 defensive scheme. Here, DEs who are typically starting with their fingers in the field will have their stance be upward as an LB. Houston played LOLB in his 1st eight years in the league with the Chiefs and the transition will be seamless. Also, two of the current DE’s on the roster, the aforementioned Okwara, and Trey Flowers, will be making the move to outside LB.  

What also bodes well for Houston is that Lions general manager Brad Holmes drafted only one true DE in the 2021 Draft: Derrick Barnes in the 4th round out of Purdue. Glenn alluded to is, in nickel packages, he visualizes using a five-down front at times, with LB Jamie Collins as one edge rusher. Veteran Michael Brockers and rookie second-round pick Levi Onwuzurike are defensive ends who will play as inside rushers in sub-packages in the Lions’ new defense. This Glenn-led will have various looks, taking advantage of players who have played as DEs and LBs. Houston fits the bill in this respect and more.  

The biggest question is how much playing time Houston would see on the field. In the last two seasons for the Colts, he averaged 641 defensive snaps, or 62% of the Colts snaps on that side of the ball. Given the players currently on the roster, there is an opportunity for the 10-year vet to get a starting job. Because of his familiarity with playing in a 3-4 scheme, he has an edge on the younger players on the roster. 

Given that the Lions’ front seven are have experienced players such as Collins (8 years), Brockers (9 years), Houston would be great as added depth with the chance to compete. Regarding his price tag, he made $12 million a year in Indy when he signed in 2019. Now, at 32 years old, another question is he worth $12 million a year, even for one year. If he is willing to take a pay cut (1 year, $5-6 million), he would be well worth the risk in kickstarting this Lions defense.  

Top Fits for Geno Atkins

Will Atkins Reunite with a Former Coach or Teammate?

by: Ian Evans (@ianacevans)

NFL free agency is in full swing with many star free agents signing with new teams. From subtle moves to major acquisitions, free agency has seen many young stars and veterans on the move. Surprisingly, however, there are still many big-name free agents who have yet to be signed to an NFL.

From names such as Morgan Moses, Steven Nelson, Russell Okung, Melvin Ingram, and the savvy veteran cornerback Richard Sherman, there are still plenty of top free agents who are still teamless. However, there is one free agent that isn’t mentioned as much around the league who could contribute effectively in the pass rush: Geno Atkins.

Atkins, 33, is one of the older free agents that hasn’t been signed. This is partly because he was placed on injured reserve last season after he tore his labrum and rotator cuff. Despite the injury, Akins throughout his 11-year career still has proven that he can be useful on the defensive end. 

Despite missing the majority of the 2020-2021 season with the Cincinnati Bengals, Atkins numbers don’t live. In 2020, he recorded 47 combined tackles (tied career-best) and 29 assisted tackles (career-best). Just two years ago in 2019, he recorded 10 sacks (third career-best) and 24 solo tackles (fifth career-best). Even in his early 30s, it is safe to say that Atkins can still produce in the pass and rush defense.

However, he still has yet to call a team home. Although his age and injury are a factor, I would be thoroughly surprised if he remained unsigned going into the 2021-2022 NFL season. With this being said, here are some top fits for the veteran defensive tackle.

  1. Seattle Seahawks

The Seahawks had a subpar defense and was outstanding in the run game (fifth in rushing yards allowed per game) but struggled mightily when it came to pass defense (second-worst in passing yards allowed per game). Seattle needs more help defending the air attack than the ground game. So why is Geno Takins a top fit for the Seahawks?

At 33 years old, he’s close to retirement, meaning at this point in his career he’s most likely looking for a contender to join before he calls it on his career. Seattle is a perennial Super Bowl contender especially with Russell Wilson under center. They also could use a little more cushion on that defense front four. 

Pairing Atkins with his old Cincinnati Bengals teammate Carlos Dunlap could be an incentive to join Seatle. Additionally, pairing him with Poona Ford, L.J. Collier, Al Woods, and Robert Nkemdiche could be lethal. Especially in the loaded NFC West, Seattle could use a boost on both sides of the ball defensively. Geno Atkins could help contribute in the ground came and help contribute to a menacing front four. Seattle would fit him like a glove.

2. Minnesota Vikings

Minnesota needs help in a variety of areas, but their efforts should be focused more on the defense as opposing offenses had their way with this defense. The Vikings ranked 29th in team defense, as they allowed 134.4 rushing yards per game (ranked 27th in the league), 258.8 passing yards per game (25th in the league), and 29.7 points per game (29th in the league). It’s safe to say that the Vikings are in urgent need of defensive assistance. However, there is another reason why Atkins fits the Vikings mold.

Minnesota head coach Mike Zimmer was once the defensive coordinator for the Bengals, where he helped form a formidable defense. Throughout his tenure in Cincinnati, with Geno Atkins, Zimmer helped the Bengals reach the top ten in defensive rankings twice. In 2011 Zimmer’s defense ranked 7th in the entire league. The year after ranked 6th. With those numbers, reuniting the two could benefit both parties greatly. 

Geno Atkins could help patch the holes that the Vikings need fixing in their run game. A pairing with Danielle Hunter would be lethal as well. He could also add veteran leadership for rookies Patrick Jones II, Janarius Robinson, and Jalen Twyman. Adding a presence like Atkins to a team that desperately needs assistance would benefit them in the NFC North. Don’t be surprised if Atkins lands in Minnesota.

Note: The Minnesota Vikings ranked 28th in sacks.

3. Carolina Panthers

The Panthers could benefit from veteran leadership as their front four is relatively young. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a solid young core that consists of three 23-year-olds Brian Burns, Yetur Gross-Matos, and Derrick Brown. But after losing veteran Kawann Short, this core needs to replace that veteran leadership to catapult them to another level defensively and Atkins could help in that regard.

The Panthers finished 5-11 (third in the NFC South) as they had a disappointing year overall. Both their offense and defense were in the middle of the pack rankings-wise. However, they failed to score consistently as they ranked 24th in points per game (21.9). But defensively they held their own from time to time.

What’s surprising about this Panthers defense is that they actually were tied for first in fumble recovery touchdowns led the league in fumble recoveries. For a team that 20th in rushing yards per game (121.0) that’s rather astonishing. With these numbers, it seems as if they need some more consistency when it comes to Carolina’s pass defense. Enter Geno Atkins.

Adding a veteran like Geno Atkins could allow for more production from their young guys as an offensive line’s focus would be on stopping the six-foot-one, 300-pound defensive tackle. Atkins could prove useful in the Panther’s 4-3 defensive scheme that Matt Rhule has employed as well. In a division that should prioritize getting to a quarterback like Tom Brady and stopping running backs like Christian McCaffrey, a veteran could help significantly for a defense that needs to take a leap. The Panthers would be a solid fit for the currently unsigned veteran.

Top remaining fits for Melvin Ingram

Who should sign Melvin Ingram?

By: Reese Nasser

Nine-year veteran Melvin Ingram has had a successful NFL career but is still out to prove that he has more to give. He is still unsigned and is looking for a team. An injury-plagued season saw Ingram appear in just seven games for the Los Angeles Chargers in 2020. 

Kansas City Chiefs

The Kansas City Chiefs could be the perfect home for Ingram, specifically due to the gaps that they have on their defense. 

Third-year edge rusher Tim Ward currently had the starting spot on the left side of the defensive line. He has appeared in just one game in his career: the final regular season game of the 2020 season for the Chiefs. In that game he recorded five tackles and one sack. 

The other side of the line will be held down by longtime edge rusher Frank Clark. Outside of Clark, there is a clear lack of depth. The next man up will be Taco Charlton who played in seven games for the Chiefs last season but had zero starts. He recorded just four tackles but also added two sacks. 

Ingram could potentially thrive in Kansas City. They need another player that can get to the quarterback, which Ingram has proven he can do. He has 49 career sacks and could tack on even more in this scenario.

The risk of signing Ingram could greatly benefit both teams. The Chiefs need help on the defensive side of the ball and Ingram is looking to show that he can still be a high level player. 

Miami Dolphins

The Miami Dolphins have slowly built their defense with a combination of both younger and older players. In recent drafts, they have chosen to address the defensive line. 

2019 first round pick Christian Wilkins has played well in his two seasons with the team. He has racked up over 100 tackles and missed just two games. The rising edge defender has solidified his role as a starter on this defense but other positions are still up in the open.

Ingram could find himself at multiple spots along this defense. The other defensive end spot is currently occupied by Zach Sieler. Sieler appeared in all 16 games last season and tallied 48 tackles and added 3.5 sacks. 

Ingram, being in this defensive rotation, could help all players involved. Ingram has experience not only at defensive end but also at outside linebacker. Rookie linebacker Jaelen Phillips spent a majority of his time in college as an edge rusher. The Dolphins have stated that they would like for him to play linebacker. Ingram, who has played both sports, could not only help Phillips learn both positions at an NFL level, but could also play at whatever spot they choose to not play Phillips. 

Baltimore Ravens

This Baltimore Ravens defense will be relying heavily on veteran players. Many of the starters have at least four years of experience. With this veterean presence, the addition of Ingram could help this defense. 

As time progresses, some players may want to take a step back and have a solid rotation. Edge rusher Derek Wolfe will be entering year 10 just, like Ingram. Linebacker Pernell McPhee will be going into year 11. Ingram has spent time at both their positions and would be a solid rotation, either playing behind or in front of either of these players. None of these three were able to play a full 16 games last season and the addition of Ingram could help keep fresh legs on all three players. 

Los Angeles Chargers

A homecoming could be in Ingram’s future. Ingram has spent his entire career with the Chargers and is one the better edge players in the teams history. 

Los Angeles has not necessarily made any effort to replace Ingram either. The current options at edge are somewhat mediocre and the verdict is still not yet out on how they will perform for the Chargers. Ingram knows the defensive system and would be able to hold down the edge, opposite Joey Bosa.

Ingrams lack of production, even while playing with Bosa, can’t be ignored. The lack of production may be due to neither player appearing in all 16 games. It can be difficult to build a rhythm along the defensive front when the players aren’t on the field together. 

Even with a lackluster 2020 season for Ingram in Los Angeles, a return would just make sense. Ingram would be thrown back into a defense that he has helped create, except this time he will be healthy again. Injuries derailed last season but Ingram will be all systems go come kickoff for 2021. The deal could also be cheap. The Chargers signing him to a one-year deal could allow for Ingram to show that he can still perform. If the signing pays off, the Chargers are able to bring a high-caliber player back to their defense. 

3 Potential Landing Spots For Larry Fitzgerald: A Return to Arizona?

Where Will Fitzgerald Sign?

By: Drew Feinberg

Larry Fitzgerald is a living, breathing first-ballot Hall of Famer. Since being selected third overall by the Arizona Cardinals in the 2004 NFL Draft, he has amassed 17,492 career receiving yards, which ranks second in NFL history, behind the legend, Jerry Rice (22,895).

Among holding several other NFL records, Fitzgerald is regarded as one of the greatest wide receivers of all time. His consistent, technical play has led him to 11 Pro Bowls, and nine 1,000-yard seasons. Now at the age of 37, the future of Fitzgerald is being questioned.

If you were to ask Fitzgerald about the thought of retirement today, however, chances are you wouldn’t get the answer you were looking for; or any answer for that matter.

The thought of signing a soon-to-be 38 year old may not be on the top of some fans’ free agency wish lists, but the idea of having Fitzgerald in your locker room goes far beyond the hash marks. Known for being one of the hardest workers in the entire league, Fitzgerald would bring an immediate veteran presence to any team he is on. The two questions that remain, however, are: will Fitzgerald retire? And will a team be willing to take a chance on an aging superstar?

The answer to the retirement question can only be answered by one person: Fitzgerald himself. You can tell that he still has a passion for the game, and the guy can still hold his own in this league. However, the addition of star receiver DeAndre Hopkins in 2020 led to a down year for Fitzgerald, where he posted: 

  • 72 Targets
  • 54 Receptions
  • 409 Yards
  • 1 Touchdown

2020 was the first season in which Fitzgerald finished with less than 100+ targets. That being said, Fitzgerald is only three years removed from his last 1000-yard season, and I believe he can still contribute to a team in need of his services. Here are three teams that should look to sign Fitzgerald, barring a retirement announcement.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are in a bit of a cap space struggle going into the 2021 NFL offseason. With roughly $22 million to spend, and many key pieces to re-sign, including wide receiver Chris Godwin, the idea of Fitzgerald signing on to catch passes from Tom Brady seems far-fetched.

However, what I wouldn’t count out is the fact that the Bucs are Super Bowl favorites going into the 2021 NFL season, and Fitzgerald has never won the illustrious Lombardi Trophy.

I’m not saying that Fitzgerald needs to win the Super Bowl in order to cement his legacy, because that would just be false; the man would be a first ballot Hall of Famer even if he retired five years ago. However, the thought of finishing his career with a Super Bowl victory might just be what entices Buccaneers Head Coach Bruce Arians to bring Fitzgerald aboard (Arians coached Fitzgerald in Arizona from 2013-2017).

Currently, Mike Evans is the only wide receiver worth noting on the Buccaneers books, with Antonio Brown and Godwin entering 2021 as unrestricted free agents. My guess is that Godwin will be re-signed, leaving Brown’s role pretty much open. If Fitzgerald wants his chance at securing a Super Bowl ring, his best shot may just be down in Tampa Bay.

Minnesota Vikings

Having been born and raised in Minnesota, the Minnesota Vikings have always been a highly-rumored destination for “Larry Legend” to finish off his historic career. 

With the “Randy Moss-esk” emergence of rookie wide receiver Justin Jefferson during the 2020 season, the Minnesota Vikings will look to continue their strong receiver play with the pair of Jefferson and Adam Thielin in 2021.

However, this team could desperately use a number three receiver. Even in a run heavy offense, such as Minnesotas, wielding Olabisi Johnson and Chad Beebe to compliment your two star receivers is not a recipe for success. 

Minnesota doesn’t need a superstar to be their third receiver next season. The one thing that the Vikings complimentary receivers lack is consistency, and that one thing that you are sure to get out of Fitzgerald is consistency.

Even if his consistent production has taken a slight decline, Fitzgerald’s ability to break tackles and gain yards after the catch (YAC) cannot be understated. Oh, and he is one of, if not the most reliable third down receiver the game has ever seen. 

Due to his age and production in a contract year, I could imagine that Fitzgerald would be willing to sign a one year, one to two million dollar contract, which could help the cap-struggling franchise who just recently cut veteran tight end Kyle Rudolph. It would make for a nice ending to a legendary career.

Arizona Cardinals

If it were up to Fitzgerald, I believe he would want to finish his career exactly where it started. He is the greatest Arizona Cardinal to ever play in the uniform, and his impact on and off the field cannot be talked about enough. He is a Cardinals icon, and he knows it.

Unfortunately, the Cardinals are now in an extremely tough position going into the 2021 offseason. While I’m sure owner Michael Bidwill and general manager Steve Keim would love to bring the legend back, the Cardinals team has many other glaring weaknesses. Not to mention, the team just signed star defensive end J.J. Watt to a two-year, $31 million contract.

It was clear in 2020 that there was a new alpha in town (Hopkins), but Fitzgerald could still be that rock steady player for quarterback Kyler Murray to turn to on short yardage situations. If Fitz were to want to come back to Arizona, he would surely have to take a massive pay cut. Will he do that, however?

While a return to Arizona may be out of the cards for Fitzgerald as a player, this would be the storybook ending to the storied career of Fizgerald, and the way I think we all thought he would go out. One last ride in the red and white is the way the Larry Fitzgerald chapter deserves to end.

Top Destinations For Duke Johnson

Where Will the Miami Hurricanes Legend land?

By: Cody Molla

Do you know who the Miami Hurricanes all-time rushing leader is? The U has produced greats at the running back spot over its large history. True fans know the answer to this question and I’m sure it would come as a surprise to others that Duke Johnson holds this record with 3,519 rush yards while at Miami.

Running back Duke Johnson is a free agent following his release late last week from the Houston Texans. A former third-round pick in 2015 by the Cleveland Browns, has been a productive complementary back in his six years as a pro thus far.

However, Johnsons’ release comes off his worst season as a pro by the numbers. Only available for 11 games in 2020 as he dealt with neck and ankle injuries, Johnson totaled 235 rushing yards and a score and caught 28 passes for 249 yards and a score as well.

Duke Johnson’s NFL future is likely to take the same role he has filled as a complementary back, who has shown the ability to catch passes at an elite rate for a running back and bring efficiency to his touches. Since starting seven games as a rookie in 2015 he has only starter ten games since. The Texans traded a conditional third-round pick for Johnson.

“File:Duke Johnson Jr. (35942412764).jpg” by Erik Drost is licensed under CC BY 2.0

In his first season with the Texans, he averaged 6.5 yards per touch and scored five touchdowns on 127 touches. Johnson will look to bring that same efficiency to a new team in 2021.

The Texans traded a conditional third round pick for Johnson. In his first season with the Texans, he averaged 6.5 yards per touch and scored five touchdowns on 127 touches. Johnson will look to bring that same efficiency to a new team in 2021.

The former Miami Hurricane has shown the ability to be productive. There are plenty of teams that need a running back and Johnson can fill that role as a cheap option. His versatility will be intriguing as he is able to run, catch, and play special teams. The NFL salary cap floor has been recently set by the NFL.

Duke Johnson can be had at a cheaper price than some of the big-name running backs in the free agency class. A bonus for teams is Johnson would not count towards the compensatory pick formula either. Here are some teams that should sign the veteran running back to boost their offense.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The recent super bowl champs have been very quiet since winning the big game. However, they have monster decisions to make on some key players that will determine the cap space moving forward. Shaquil Barrett, Ndamukong Suh, Lavonte David, Chris Godwin, Leonard Fournette, Antonio Brown, and Rob Gronkowski are all key pieces from the super bowl run that need a new contract.

Leonard Fournette turned into the go to back in the playoffs. His departure would leave the running back room pretty empty. Besides Fournette, three other backs are set to be free agents including veteran LeSean McCoy. The team currently has Ronald Jones II, Ke’Shawn Vaughn, and CJ Prosise as the only backs under contract.

The Bucs will certainly add a running back to the roster via the draft or free agency. With RoJo’s struggles catching the ball and Vaughn still learning, the best pass-catcher on the team is Prosise for the moment. The addition of Duke Johnson would provide a reliable third-down back and one Brady can trust to make the catch and get yards after catch to extend drives.

With lots of money likely needed to retain the big names on defense, a cheap price for Johnson fits the Bucs needs an allowance at this time. A veteran pass-catching back, who can run the ball as well is needed, Johnson fits this role very well for the reigning champs. Signing with Tampa Bay would return Johnson to his home state as well as allow him to compete for a super bowl. This would also allow Tampa to spend elsewhere and retain the best possible roster to defend its title.  

Buffalo Bills

The Bills took a huge jump in 2020 as a team and are looking to get better. The offense was able to put points up and move down the field fueled by the Allen to Diggs connection. However, one place the offense can improve is at the running back position.

Johnson would bring the ability of an efficient and established pass-catcher to the young running back room and be the old veteran in the room as well. Singletary is entering his third year and Moss entering his second. The addition of Johnson could stabilize the position and bring a three-headed attack to a growing offense.

Sharing a backfield wouldn’t be anything new for Johnson in his pro career. Even while getting under 50% of the snaps he has proven to be efficient and effective. The Bills can certainly use his pass catching skills if they continue to be a heavy pass team offensively.

Johnson can play in the slot and lineup with other backs and be schemed open to play make. Johnson’s hands are reliable, he’s caught 77% of his passes for nearly 3000 yards in his career. In 2017, he caught a career-high 74 passes, 32 for first down. The ability to extend drives can boost any offense and the Bills will need those extra possessions to become champs in the AFC and bring home a super bowl win.

Pittsburgh Steelers

The worst rushing team in 2020 is set to let their lead running back in James Connor’s walk. The need for a running back is evident and prominent. In 2020 across the NFL, the average yards per game was 118.9, and per carry, it was 4.4, and total touchdowns were 16.6.

The black and yellow averaged a league-low 84.4 yards per game on the ground last season with 3.6 yards per carry and only 12 rush touchdowns. Despite an 11-0 start the season quickly turned into a disappointing effort.

The lack of rush ability offensively via offensive line injuries and running back inefficiency severely hindered the Steelers offensive promise. The inability to run forced an aging Ben to throw upwards of 50 times a game and forced the offense in tough down and distance situations down the stretch.

With Connor set to leave the other two running backs that the Steelers tried to get going were Benny Snell and Anthony McFarland.  Snell had a few efficient games including 115 yards in the season opener and a good outing in Week 15 with 84 yards and a score. McFarland a rookie in 2020 showed some burst but never got anything going and will continue developing as w head into 2021.

Adding Johnson to this group will provide a veteran back who can work in a committee, pass catch, and provide efficiency. All three are needed for this offense and one that will likely change again depending on the ability of an aging Ben Roethlisberger at quarterback.

New York Giants

The New York Giants do not need to acquire a feature back as Saquon Barkley is slated to return in 2021. They do however need depth. With Wayne Gallman likely to leave as a free agent and moving on from Dion Lewis the backup role is open.

Barkley is without doubt the best back and option for the Giants moving forward. However, the recent injury bug may bring a concern to Saquons ability to get maximum touches every game. Pairing Barkley with Johnson would provide a dynamic duo in the backfield for big blue.

The versatility of both backs would allow for an open playbook on every snap. Johnson could spell Barkley when needed as well as play on third down.

If the Giants only choose to use Johnson’s pass-catching ability it would be an upgrade over Dion Lewis who played that role last season.

Johnson can be signed for a cheap price and would be an excellent complement and spell for Saquon. I really like the fit for Johnson with the Giants. 

New England Patriots

Following a disappointing 2020 season in which the Patriots missed the playoffs, the six-time champs look to get back in 2021. The Patriots will likely be spenders this offseason, with over $60 million in cap space, the Patriots have the third most spending money across the league.

Duke Johnson fits the Patriots versatile running back need. With James White and Rex Burkhead being free agents there are no true pass catching backs left on the roster. Damien Harris and Sony Michel have a lock on the early down roles but the pass catching role is wide open right now.

The Patriots offense has relied heavily on pass-catching from the backfield historically. Since he entered the league in 2015, Duke Johnson ranks fourth in total receptions over the last six seasons while playing for the Cleveland Browns and Texans. The three other backs ahead include superstars, Christian McCaffrey and Alvin Kamara, while the leader in that span is James White. With White set to be a free agent that role has lots of touches available.

Burkhead, the other pass catching back for the Patriots is also a free agent coming off a major knee injury and will likely be out to start the 2021 season. Harris and Michel have a total of 31 career catches combined in 40 total games. They are unlikely to develop into the third down backs this offense needs.

Acquiring Johnson at a cheap price, allows the Patriots to fill the need on offense and allow them to spend for other players and positions they need to return to playoff contenders.

Honorable Mention

Miami Dolphins The Dolphins could use an efficient pass catcher out of the backfield. While they are linked to bigger names, Johnson would be a hometown kid who could fill a role and need for a discounted price.

Green Bay Packers Depending on what happens with Aaron Jones, a pairing with AJ Dillion would be a good complement.

Duke Johnson is a running back who will have a role for a team in 2021. His pass-catching ability is too valuable in today’s game and some teams will be thankful for the services Johnson brings in the future. Johnson is a solid complementary back moving forward.

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