NFL free agency isn’t a frenzy. Teams typically don’t let their elite players hit free agency, either locking them up for extensions or using the franchise tag before that happens.
But there are key players switching teams this month. Free agency officially begins next Wednesday at 4 p.m. ET. This free agency class doesn’t have a superstar who won’t be awarded the franchise tag, but there are quality players who could fill needs.
In our ranking of the top 25 free agents, we won’t include franchise-tagged players — Ravens QB Lamar Jackson, Cowboys RB Tony Pollard, Jaguars DE Evan Engram, Commanders TD Darren Payne, Raiders RB Josh Jacobs, Giants RB Saquon Barkley. However Jackson will be No. 1 on this year’s list and not on any other list in the last few decades.
Here are the top 25 free agents for this year:
1. OT Orlando Brown Jr.
Brown will not receive a second franchise tag in a row from the Chiefs. Brown is 26 years old and an excellent left tackle. It’s rare to see a good left tackle on the market at that age, so bidding will be fierce.
Hargrave had three spectacular seasons with the Eagles before the Steelers didn’t retain him. Hargrave had 11.5 sacks last season, an impressive mark for an interior defender. He’s turning 30, but that won’t stop teams from paying him.
3. S Jesse Bates III
Bates wasn’t happy about receiving the franchise tag from the Bengals last offseason, but he won’t be getting a second one and could sign elsewhere. He’s a versatile safety who just turned 26 and is highly regarded by many teams.
Bradberry became a household name for that holding call in the forever-debated Super Bowl. It’s unfortunate because he’s a player in his prime. He signed a one-year deal with the Eagles last year and will likely get more than that this time around.
Allen was a solid third-round pick for the Cardinals in 2019. He developed into a starter and plus defender against the run and pass. At just 25 years old, a team would spend big to land him.
Dean is a solid starting cornerback for the Buccaneers and he’s 26, and there’s value in that. He may not be a Pro Bowler, but for teams looking for veteran help at cornerback, Dean could be a great fit.
McGlinchey has draft pedigree as the 10th overall pick of the draft and has been a solid starter at right tackle for the 49ers for five seasons. He is a solid investment.
If you need a receiver, there’s bad news. This is a shockingly weak free-agent class. Meyers is in the right place at the right time. Teams know their best option at receiver is Meyers, who had no more than 866 yards in one season for the Patriots. Christian Kirk’s signing surprised the NFL last offseason, and the Meyers signing will likely do the same.
9. S Chauncey Gardner-Johnson
It was surprising how cheap the Eagles got Gardner-Johnson in the trade with the Saints (that was Gardner-Johnson and a seventh-round pick in the fifth and sixth), and then he had a good season for the NFC champions. There are some injury concerns but he’s the type of game, a versatile safety worthy of the modern NFL.
10. By Dre’Mont Jones
Jones was a good, solid player for the Broncos who will get paid a lot because there aren’t a lot of stars available. Jones is 26 and could be an above-average starter for one’s defensive line.
Bowyer will turn 32 before the start of next season, so he’s not a long-term option. But he’s had a fantastic six-season run with the Bills and should have a good season or two left.
Edmonds is a two-time Pro Bowler who has over 100 tackles in his five NFL seasons with the Bills. The former first-round pick doesn’t make a ton of big plays, but he’s a good option as an off-ball linebacker.
Taylor is a former second-round pick who hasn’t missed a start for the Jaguars. He is only 25 years old. Taylor isn’t a great right tackle, but he’ll still be an upgrade for many teams, and he’s at a great age.
Tight end has become a tenuous position around the NFL. Schultz’s numbers are down from an 808-yard, eight-touchdown 2021 campaign with the Cowboys, but he’s still a good pass-catcher and should be an upgrade at the position for many teams.
15. WR Odell Beckham Jr.
Beckham would be the best receiver on the market if there were no health questions. Beckham sat out 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 great talent at the position. It just comes down to which team wants to gamble.
Clarke and the Chiefs couldn’t come to an agreement on a new contract, so he was cut. He may return to Kansas City. Otherwise, teams will be interested in a strong pass rusher with a great postseason resume.
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 before 1 week, but a short-term deal could work well for a team looking to upgrade the linebacker.
Tomlinson won’t give you much of an interior pass rush, but if your run defense needs a quick fix than the 325-pound tackle is your guy. Tomlinson had two productive seasons for the Vikings.
Let’s play a game called “Supply and Demand”. More teams need quarterbacks than starters. Garoppolo may not be the best, but he has worked for the 49ers and has plenty of experience. Few teams are going to realize the game of QB musical chairs is over and they’d rather pay Garoppolo more than wade into the unknown.
20. OT Caleb McCurry
With McGary fourth, the Falcons had a good season Pro Football Focus’ grades as an offensive tackle, and the former first-round pick is just 28 years old. There aren’t a ton of great offensive line options in free agency, and McCurry would be a nice addition at right tackle.
With Saquon Barkley, Josh Jacobs and Tony Pollard all tagged, Saunders is the top pick. A second deal for a running back is always risky, but a team that wants veteran help (the Dolphins?) could talk Sanders’ versatility into an asset. Sanders had 1,347 total yards and 11 touchdowns last season for the Eagles.
Teams don’t value off-ball linebackers like they used to. And David is 33. But he’s one of the elite players at his position, strong against the pass and against the run. David had a great 11-year run for the Buccaneers and has a good year or two left.
Gesicki didn’t fit the offense Mike McDaniel did with the Dolphins. Another team could look for a 27-year-old athletic talent from 2019-2021. For a team that knows Gesicki is essentially a big receiver and not an in-line tight end, this would be a nice addition.
The former first-round pick of the Davenport Saints is 26 years old and had nine sacks two seasons ago. Overall, Davenport has been a bit disappointing (21.5 sacks over five seasons) but some teams will take a shot at his potential.
Sutton, a reserve for four seasons with the Steelers, became a starter two years ago. He had a great season in 2022 and would get a nice payday from a team that could use a versatile cornerback.
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