If Super Bowl LV taught us anything, football games at the highest level are won and lost in the trenches. Defensive end Trey Hendrickson has earned his payday as a free agent after a breakout season with the New Orleans Saints. Hendrickson had 13.5 sacks in 2020, tied with Aaron Donald for the second-most sacks in the league. His overall game in 2020 did not grade very highly with Pro Football Focus, Hendrickson ranked 28th out of 108 edge defenders, but sacks win football games.
Hendrickson earned himself more money than most projected 2021 fee agents. After three average seasons as a role player in New Orleans, in a contract year, Hendricksons’ play in 2020 made the rest of the league sit up and take notice. However, the lingering neck injury that forced Hendrickson to miss several games late in the season is something for potential suitors to take note of. That said, which teams are in the hunt for the man who matched defensive player of the year, Aaron Donald, for sacks in 2020?
2021 Free Agent Team Fits: Trey Hendrickson
The Buffalo Bills struggled to get after a limping Patrick Mahomes in the AFC Championship game. Hendrickson meanwhile, sacked Mahomes twice in a Week 14 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs. The defensive end also recorded another three quarterback hits in the game. Overall, Buffalos defense was a disappointment last season. In 2020, Sean Mcdermotts’ usually stout defensive unit ranked 17th in rushing yards, and 27th in red-zone touchdowns allowed. The Bills fell on the doorstep of the Super Bowl and were then given the blueprint to limit the Chiefs offense by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers dominant defensive performance against Kansas City. Bringing in pass rushers who can get to Mahomes in the big games is at the forefront of the Bills front office minds this offseason. Hendrickson has the track record, he is on Buffalos radar.
The Jacksonville Jaguars will throw money at the biggest free agents this off-season. They have the most projected cap space in the league for 2021, with over $83 million to play with. They have a young defensive line with 2020 first-round pick K’Lavon Chaisson failing to impress on a limited Jaguars defense in his rookie season. Hendrickson was born in Orlando, Florida. The defensive end played his college career at Florida Atlantic. If the money is right, Jacksonville is a natural fit for Hendrickson.
New Orleans Saints
Usually masters at manipulating the cap to keep key players, the New Orleans Saints front office will have to work their magic once again to stand a chance at keeping Hendrickson. Especially after the defensive ends breakout season. Additionally, New Orleans already has depth at the position in Cameron Jordan and Marcus Davenport. However, there is time to release veterans, re-work contracts, and trade expensive assets. If the Saints truly value Hendrickson, they will find a way to offer him a fair deal. The question is, will another team buy the hype and offer Hendrickson a contract he can’t refuse?
Las Vegas Raiders
Since trading Khalil Mack to the Chicago Bears prior to the 2018 season, the Las Vegas Raiders have ranked 32nd, 26th, and 24th in pressure rate. It seems like a Davis ownership move to simply bring in a high-priced free agent to fix a lingering team problem. However, with Jon Gruden and Mike Mayock seemingly in full control of football operations in the desert, a full briefing on what Hendrickson would bring to the Raiders will be presented to Mark Davies. They have the cap room, and Hendrickson is a tough, high motor pass rusher who loves football. He seems like the Gruden and Mayock type.
The Indianapolis Colts have one of the boldest front offices in the NFL. Last off-season, they flipped their 2020 first-round pick to the San Francisco 49ers for defensive tackle DeForest Buckner. Buckner brought toughness, a high-motor, and elite pass rush ability to the middle of their defensive line. The move paid off as Buckner became the leader of the Colts defense, racking up 9.5 sacks in 2020. However, defensive ends Justin Houston and Denico Autry are in their 30s and slated to be free agents. Colts could go with the younger option in Hendrickson, 26, and they have the cap room to make a play.
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