In a matter of weeks, hundreds of talented professional football players will become unemployed. Some will immediately find work with new teams, others will linger on the open market, and some will never play in the NFL again.
But many will stay put, and we're here to shine a light on some of those guys.
Here's one impending free agent every team has to retain this offseason.
Arizona Cardinals: Edge Haason Reddick
Top Arizona Cardinals pass-rusher Chandler Jones is now on the other side of 30 and is coming off a significant biceps injury. The team's other two most prominent edge-defenders are Markus Golden and Hasson Reddick. But Golden is also approaching 30, and Reddick's ceiling makes him more critical to Arizona's future on defense.
The 2017 first-round pick was often a disappointment in his first three seasons, but he excelled with 12.5 sacks during a breakout 2020 campaign. It's somewhat concerning that 7.5 of those sacks came during one December hot streak, but the risk that said stretch was an aberration should also keep his price down on the open market.
Arizona isn't loaded with salary-cap space, but Reddick should take priority over Golden and cornerback Patrick Peterson, who has shown signs of decline at age 30.
Atlanta Falcons: S Keanu Neal
The new-look Atlanta Falcons would probably prefer to keep the offensive line intact for quarterback Matt Ryan by bringing back veteran center Alex Mack. However, Mack is 35, and the cap-strapped Falcons will have to be selective when dealing with impending in-house free agents.
Instead, top priority should be given to safety Keanu Neal, who bounced back from two injury-ruined seasons and recorded 100 tackles as a strong all-around presence in the 2020 Atlanta secondary.
The 2017 Pro Bowler has yet to fully return to the trajectory he was on early in his career, but he's somehow still just 25 years old, and an Atlanta defense that surrendered an atrocious 6.2 yards per play in 2020 cannot afford to take a step in the wrong direction.
The Falcons need the versatile Neal manning the strong safety position in 2021.
Baltimore Ravens: Edge Yannick Ngakoue
Top edge-rushers Matt Judon, Pernell McPhee and Yannick Ngakoue are all slated to hit the open market for a Baltimore Ravens team that ranked in the middle of the pack in terms of sacks and sack rate in 2020.
They can't afford to lose all three, but they aren't loaded with cap space, and preference should be given to the youngest of the three: Ngakoue.
McPhee is 32 and hasn't had a five-sack season since 2015, and Judon disappointed under the franchise tag during his age-28 campaign. But Ngakoue found a way to compile eight sacks and four forced fumbles despite jumping from the Jacksonville Jaguars to the Minnesota Vikings to Baltimore in 2020.
In the last five seasons, only Khalil Mack has forced more fumbles than the 25-year-old playmaker. The Ravens didn't utilize him enough, but the circumstances weren't ideal following a midseason trade, and they say it'll be different in 2021.
"We had a unique situation here with all the outside 'backers we had," head coach John Harbaugh said, per Aaron Kasinitz of PennLive.com. "So, going forward, if [Ngakoue] chooses, and we work it out and he's here, it'll be a little different, because he'll be here from the beginning, and he'll be starting, and he'll get a lot more snaps than he got this year."
Buffalo Bills: OT Daryl Williams
It's easy to understand why the Buffalo Bills and their fans want to see defensive leader Matt Milano back next season, and the team will likely do everything it can to keep veteran cornerback Josh Norman in the fray. But an organization with limited cap space would be smart to put those impending free agents on the backburner while negotiating with the even more crucial Daryl Williams at the right tackle spot.
The former Carolina Panther earned superb grades from Pro Football Focus as both a pass-protector and a run-blocker while starting all 19 regular-season and playoff games for an explosive Buffalo offense in 2020.
As Bills franchise quarterback Josh Allen continues to develop, continuity within his supporting cast is critical. If at all possible, the Bills should enter training camp with Williams, Dion Dawkins, Mitch Morse, Jon Feliciano and Cody Ford in starting roles along the offensive line.