Clutch Performers

2021 NFL free agency: One offensive free agent each NFC playoff team must keep

Last week, I discussed one free agent each AFC playoff team must keep this offseason. Now, we turn to the NFC.

Chicago Bears
Chicago Bears
Allen Robinson
Allen Robinson
WR

The Bears' top two priorities this offseason: 1) bring in a new (and better) quarterback; and 2) re-sign Allen Robinson. Unfortunately, I don't think No. 2 will happen if the Bears don't have a new signal-caller in the building. (Or if they don't talk to Robinson!) The veteran receiver has logged back-to-back 1,100-yard receiving seasons despite inconsistent and often poor quarterback play. He very well might be the best free agent in the league this offseason, so there will be other suitors if the Bears don't lock him up to a long-term deal. He's a great route runner with exceptional hands and body control, and the Bears need him if they intend to improve their No. 26-ranked offense.

Green Bay Packers
Green Bay Packers
Aaron Jones
Aaron Jones
RB

The Packers have some big decisions to make over the next month or so, with a number of key offensive pieces set to hit the market, including Jones, Jamaal Williams, Jared Veldheer and All-Pro center Corey Linsley (receiver Allen Lazard will be an exclusive rights free agent, and tight end Robert Tonyan will be a restricted free agent). While a lot of these guys performed well last season, the Packers would be wise to bring back Jones, one of the league's premier running backs in recent years. He amassed 3,017 scrimmage yards and 30 total touchdowns over the last two seasons, and the Packers will be hard-pressed to get that kind of production out of A.J. Dillon or any other available back. The Packers' offense is half as explosive when Jones isn't on the field, and he's a perfect fit in Matt LaFleur's scheme.

Los Angeles Rams
Los Angeles Rams
Gerald Everett
Gerald Everett
TE

Everett isn't the flashiest player on the field, but he's extremely good at what he does. The 26-year-old athletic tight end fits a necessary role in Sean McVay's system as a reliable target in the passing game and a willing blocker of defensive ends in the run game. Everett played more than 80 percent of the team's offensive snaps just once in 18 games (including the playoffs), so the 2017 second-round pick has stayed relatively fresh, and his production should increase with Matthew Stafford coming to town.

New Orleans Saints
New Orleans Saints
Jameis Winston
Jameis Winston
QB

This offense doesn't have many holes, but solidifying the quarterback position will be key, in light of Drew Brees' expected retirement. And while Taysom Hill fit the bill when filling in for an injured Brees in 2020, I don't believe he's the Saints' future at this crucial spot. Winston boasts experience and arm strength, and the humbled former No. 1 overall pick deserves a shot to be the starter. His ceiling is high orchestrating the Saints' offense, with this talented cast. Sean Payton will be able to cover up a lot of Winston's shortcomings and rein in his unpredictable play. Plus, Winston will likely be a less costly option than most.

Seattle Seahawks
Seattle Seahawks
Carlos Hyde
Carlos Hyde
RB

It may come as a surprise that I'm taking Hyde over Chris Carson here, but while the latter may be more explosive, Hyde has experience in the offensive system new offensive coordinator Shane Waldron runs. I know Russell Wilson wants to be involved in personnel decisions and desires a better offensive line, but Hyde's experience and knowledge could go a long way for a team that's on the cusp of making a Super Bowl run. Averaging 4.4 rushing yards per carry in limited touches last season, the 30-year-old could pair well with Rashaad Penny, who has one more year on his rookie contract, and give Pete Carroll the more efficient rushing attack he's looking for.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Leonard Fournette
Leonard Fournette
RB

Receiver Chris Godwin looms large on the list of free agents to be, but I believe the Bucs are going to have a hard time hanging on to him, based on what I think he'll command on the market, and would be best off focusing on retaining more affordable offensive cornerstones. If you need more proof of Fournette's value, just look at what the former No. 4 overall pick did for the Bucs in their run to becoming Super Bowl LV champions. Fournette logged 448 scrimmage yards in the postseason -- and 135 of those came against the Chiefs in the Super Bowl. He's a good fit in the Bucs' offense as a downhill, physical runner, and now that his confidence is back and he has a new ring, I imagine big things are ahead for the running back in 2021. Playoff Lenny belongs in Tampa.

Washington Football Team
Washington Football Team
Brandon Scherff
Brandon Scherff
OG

I originally had quarterback Taylor Heinicke in this spot, but Washington beat me to the punch, agreeing to terms on a two-year extension worth $8.75 million with Heinicke, who was head for restricted free agency. It was a great move by the Football Team after seeing the promise Heinicke showed in the NFC Wild Card Round, his lone start of the season. So, like quarterbacks often do, I pulled an audible, switching my pick to the four-time Pro Bowl right guard. Scherff is one of the best all-around interior offensive linemen in the league, earning Pro Football Focus' fourth-highest grade among guards in 2020. The 29-year-old has been a mainstay in the trenches as a powerful run-blocker and efficient pass-blocker.

Follow David Carr on Twitter.

Related Content

Gamepass_vert_web_r

See all the Action

Replay every game all season.