After weeks of waiting, the NFL free agency period is now knocking at the door. Fasten your seatbelts because things are about to get wild. With a bountiful crop of free agents set to hit the market, these dominoes will shape the 2021 NFL landscape.
After languishing in Carolina as a misused chess piece for the first three years of his career, Curtis Samuel broke out in 2020. Now with that productive season on his resume, he’s dipping his toe in the free-agent pool.
The Carolina Panthers had high hopes for Samuel after selecting him in the second round (40th overall) in the 2017 NFL Draft. Unfortunately for both Samuel and the Panthers, those plans were derailed in his rookie season. Samuel was limited to nine games played due to an ankle sprain and back strain. He was mixed in more during his sophomore season in the NFL, but Carolina struggled to find a consistent role for him. Coming out of Ohio State, Samuel was used as a Swiss army knife, with over 700 yards rushing and receiving in his final season. The 2019 season was much of the same as Samuel was utilized as a deep threat. The results were up and down, with lackluster quarterback play from an injured Cam Newton, Will Grier and Kyle Allen also factoring into the equation.
In stepped Joe Brady as offensive coordinator last season, and Samuel became the player that Carolina envisioned in 2017. Samuel was deployed not only in the passing game but as a rusher again. With a combination of 97 targets and 41 rushing attempts, Samuel finished as the WR24 in total PPR points and the WR27 in fantasy points per game. Now he hits the open market, and the question becomes whether this is the pinnacle for him or just a glimpse of things to come.
New York Jets: The Jets will be transitioning to a passing game with opportunities for yards after the catch aplenty. Samuel could be the Jets’ version of Deebo Samuel in this offense. New York has the cash to spend, with the third-most salary cap space ($69.8 million). Sam Darnold or a rookie passer (or, if the dream Jets scenario happens, Deshaun Watson) will benefit from an explosive underneath option that can create big plays.
Jacksonville Jaguars: Could Samuel reunite with his college coach in the NFL? It’s possible. Samuel had his standout season at Ohio State on Urban Meyer’s watch in 2017. Jaguars starting slot receiver from 2020, Keelan Cole, is a free agent, as are Dede Westbrook and Chris Conley. Jacksonville could also use a player that could factor in for a handful of rushing touches weekly to lighten James Robinson’s load.
Baltimore Ravens: Samuel has been deployed as a stretch Z previously, and the outcome was not great. Now granted, quarterback play was a factor there, but Baltimore does not need a player of Samuel’s talents. Marquise Brown is already on this roster and can function in many of the same roles. The Ravens need a true X receiver, and that is not Samuel.
New York Giants: Apply the above argument here as well for the Giants. New York doesn’t have a redundant asset on the roster, but they need a receiver with the size profile as a true alpha. Samuel can fill a lot of buckets, but that isn’t one of them.
Derek has written for Fantasy Data, 4for4, Player Profiler, and as a co-author of the best selling Fantasy Football Black Book Series. His DFS, redraft, and dynasty takes have been projected to the masses with recurring guest roles on Sirius XM and DK Sweat. Born in Louisiana, he is a diehard Saints fan (Whodat). Derek now resides in Fort Worth, Texas, with his beautiful, football-loving wife and three kids.