NFL free agency isn’t the frenzy it is made out to be. Teams usually don’t let their elite players hit free agency, locking them up to extensions before that happens or using the franchise tag.
But there are key players who are switching teams this month. Free agency officially starts Wednesday at 4 p.m. ET. There isn’t a superstar that wasn’t given a franchise tag in this free-agency class, but there are quality veterans who can fill needs.
In our ranking of the top 25 free agents we won’t include the franchise-tagged players — Ravens QB Lamar Jackson, Cowboys RB Tony Pollard, Jaguars TE Evan Engram, Commanders DT Daron Payne, Raiders RB Josh Jacobs, Giants RB Saquon Barkley — though Jackson would obviously be No. 1 on this year’s list and probably any other list over the past few decades.
Here are the top 25 free agents for this year, and updates as they sign:
1. OT Orlando Brown Jr.
Brown won’t get a second franchise tag in a row from the Chiefs. Brown is 26 and is a very good left tackle. It’s rare to see a good left tackle on the market at that age, so the bidding will be fierce.
Hargrave had three fantastic seasons with the Eagles after the Steelers didn’t retain him. Hargrave had 11.5 sacks last season, a great mark for an interior defender. He just turned 30 but that won’t dissuade teams from paying him.
Bates wasn’t happy to get the franchise tag last season from the Bengals, but he won’t get a second one and is free to sign elsewhere. He’s a versatile safety who just turned 26 and will be valued highly by multiple teams.
Bradberry became a household name for that holding call in the Super Bowl that will be debated forever. That’s unfortunate because he’s a heck of a player at a prime position. He took a one-year deal last year with the Eagles and will presumably get more than that this time around.
Allen was a good third-round pick for the Cardinals in 2019. He developed into a starter and a plus defender against the run and the pass. At just age 25, a team will spend big to land him.
Dean was a solid starting cornerback for the Buccaneers and is just 26 years old, and there’s value in that. He might never be a Pro Bowler but for teams looking for veteran help at cornerback, Dean will be a good fit.
McGlinchey has draft pedigree as the former 10th overall pick of the draft, and has been a good starter at right tackle for the 49ers for five seasons. He’s a solid investment.
If you need a receiver, there’s bad news. This is a shockingly weak free-agent class. Meyers is in the exact right spot at the right time. Teams with a need at receiver will know that Meyers, who has never had more than 866 yards in a season for the Patriots, is their best option. Christian Kirk’s contract surprised the NFL last offseason, and the same will happen when Meyers signs.
9. S Chauncey Gardner-Johnson
It was surprising how cheap the Eagles got Gardner-Johnson in a trade with the Saints (it was Gardner-Johnson and a seventh-round pick for a fifth and a sixth), and then he had a good season for the NFC champions. There are some injury concerns but he’s the type of playmaking, versatile safety that has a lot of value in the modern NFL.
10. DE Dre’Mont Jones
Jones was a good, solid player for the Broncos who will probably be overpaid because there aren’t a lot of stars available. Jones is 26 and can be an above-average starter for someone’s defensive line.
Poyer will turn 32 before the start of next season, so he’s not a long-term option. But he has had a fantastic six-season run with the Bills and should still have a good season or two left.
Edmunds is a two-time Pro Bowler who has picked up more than 100 tackles in each of his five NFL seasons with the Bills. The former first-round pick hasn’t made a ton of big plays, but he’s a good option as an off-ball linebacker.
Taylor is a former second-round pick who never missed a start for the Jaguars. He’s just 25 years old. Taylor isn’t a great right tackle, but he’ll still be an upgrade for plenty of teams and is at a prime age.
Tight end has become a thin position around the NFL. Schultz’s numbers dipped from an 808-yard, eight-touchdown 2021 campaign with the Cowboys, but he’s still a good pass-catcher and many teams need an upgrade at the position.
15. WR Odell Beckham Jr.
Beckham would be the top receiver on the market if there were no health questions. Beckham never signed last season after tearing his ACL in the Super Bowl 13 months ago. Beckham did enough with the Rams after a midseason trade to prove he’s still a top talent at the position. It just comes down to which team wants to gamble.
Clark and the Chiefs couldn’t come to an agreement on a new contract, so he was cut. He could return to Kansas City. If not, teams will be interested in a strong pass rusher with a great postseason résumé.
Wagner will be cut by the Rams after one season there, but he still played at a high level for a bad team last season. Wagner will be 33 years old before Week 1, but a short-term deal could work out nicely for a team looking to improve at linebacker.
Tomlinson won’t give you much interior pass rush, but if you need a quick fix to your run defense than the 325-pound tackle is your man. Tomlinson had two productive seasons for the Vikings.
Let’s play a game called “supply and demand.” There are more teams in need of a quarterback than there are available starting-level players. Garoppolo might not be great, but he was functional for the 49ers and has plenty of experience. Some team is going to realize the game of QB musical chairs is ending and they need to overpay for Garoppolo rather than wading into the unknown.
20. OT Kaleb McGary
McGary had a good season for the Falcons, ranking fourth in Pro Football Focus’ grades for offensive tackles, and the former first-round pick is just 28 years old. There are never a ton of great offensive line options available in free agency, and McGary will be a good addition at right tackle.
With Saquon Barkley, Josh Jacobs and Tony Pollard getting tagged, Sanders is probably the top running back available. A second contract for a running back is always risky, but a team that wants veteran help (Dolphins?) can talk themselves into Sanders’ versatility being an asset. Sanders had 1,347 total yards and 11 touchdowns from scrimmage last season for the Eagles.
Teams don’t value off-ball linebackers like they used to. And David is 33. But he’s also one of the elite players at his position, strong against the pass and run. David had a great 11-year-run for the Buccaneers and probably still has another good year or two left.
Gesicki was not a fit for Mike McDaniel’s offense with the Dolphins. Another team could see an athletic talent who was productive from 2019-2021 and is just 27 years old. For a team that knows Gesicki is basically a big receiver and not an in-line tight end, it could be a nice addition.
24. DE Marcus Davenport
Davenport is a former first-round pick of the Saints, is 26 years old and had nine sacks two seasons ago. Overall, Davenport has been a bit disappointing (21.5 sacks in five seasons) but some team will take a shot on his potential.
Sutton, who was a reserve for four seasons with the Steelers, became a starter two years ago. He had a fine season in 2022, putting himself in position for a nice payday from a team that can use a versatile cornerback.
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