The 2020 season didn't even have to end before the 2021 offseason heated up. The Lions and Rams started off the festivities on Saturday night by agreeing to swap Matthew Stafford for three picks and Jared Goff, kicking off what is expected to be a wild few months of player movement with a rare quarterback-for-quarterback trade.
They won't be the last starting quarterbacks to end up in new places this offseason, and that isn't the only position set to undergo significant upheaval.
The 2021 wide receiver market is uniquely stacked for a number of reasons. On the player side, several of the veterans from the last great free-agent class of wideouts -- 2018 -- are again free agents. The 2017 draft class also had several star wide receivers develop after the first round, and those players are set to hit the open market. There are also a handful of well-known veterans who are hitting free agency after disappointing or inconsistent seasons.
Typically, those players would be locked up on new deals, but this is a unique offseason. Thirteen wideouts were picked in the first 60 picks of the 2020 NFL draft, flooding teams with promising young talent. ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay's first 2021 mock draft has seven more wide receivers coming off the board in the first round. Plenty of teams have access to cheap wide receivers with upside right now.
The other factor is the salary cap. Teams projecting the cap years out were expecting a number around $210 million in 2021. Instead, as a result of missing league revenue from 2020, the cap baseline will start at $175 million -- and that $35 million gap is going to impact free agency. We'll see more cap casualties, so the market should be flooded with veterans. As a result, while the players at the top of the market will still likely be paid like they're superstars, the guys below them might be available at lower prices than you might expect.
I started looking into what the wide receiver class might look like in free agency this year and came up with 43 names. Let's talk about what their situations look like heading into the open market, along with projections on where they might end up. We'll start with the top of the market: the three guys in this class who have a legitimate case as No. 1 wide receivers when healthy.