Last week’s franchise tag deadline provided us with plenty of offseason shenanigans already, thanks to the Ravens’ decision to use the nonexclusive tag on QB Lamar Jackson. But that was just a warmup. This week, we get the main event: free agency.
The NFL’s legal tampering period kicks off Monday, at which point players can agree to contracts with new teams; teams can officially sign players at 4 p.m. ET on Wednesday when the new league year begins. To get you prepped for what should be a busy month, we’ve put together this guide, which covers the top players available at every position. Which free agents will offer the most value? Which players should teams want to avoid? And which teams are in the market for which positions?
Some housekeeping before we get started: Projected contract values are courtesy of Pro Football Focus and are based on average annual salary. The dollar figure next to each team’s name represents its available cap space as of Sunday evening, rounded to the nearest million.
With that out of the way, let’s get started.
In the market: Raiders ($44M), Texans ($39M), Panthers ($23M), Lions ($18M), Commanders ($16M), Colts ($11M)
Top of the class: Lamar Jackson
Expected deal value (via PFF): $52 million average salary per year, five years (plus two first-round picks)
While it doesn’t appear that NFL owners are interested in getting in a bidding war for the 26-year-old former MVP, they should be—and probably would be if his reported contract demands didn’t include a fully guaranteed contract. I can’t blame NFL teams for being hesitant to commit all that money to a player who has failed to finish each of the last two seasons because of injuries, but Jackson is a talent worth risking it all for, even if his numbers have declined since he won the league’s highest individual honor three years ago. The reality is that Jackson’s individual performance has actually improved over that time; the supporting cast provided by the Ravens front office has devolved and has been responsible for the drop in production. (When Jackson won MVP in the 2019 season, at least he had first-round pick rookie Marquise Brown as his no. 1 receiver.) Remaining with the Ravens, either on the nonexclusive franchise tag with its one-year salary of $32.4 million or a new long-term deal, remains the most likely outcome for Jackson, but some team out there could (and should) be willing to give him enough money for his current employers to think twice about matching the offer.
Best value: Jameis Winston
Expected deal value (via PFF): Not available
Any team out there hoping to luck into a Geno Smith situation should consider Winston, who will reportedly be cut by Wednesday if he doesn’t accept an offer from the Saints to restructure his deal to stay in New Orleans as Derek Carr’s backup. There are plenty of parallels between Smith and Winston, starting with their skill sets as big-armed and daring quarterbacks who feel at home in the pocket and even extending to the shared experience of getting benched for Ryan Fitzpatrick. With a deep-ish class of quarterbacks available this offseason, Winston should be a cheap option for any team looking to skimp on the position in 2023.
Buyer beware: Baker Mayfield
Expected deal value (via PFF): $6.3 million APY, two years
Which GM is going to convince themselves that Mayfield, a former no. 1 pick, is salvageable after watching him complete passes to open receivers in Sean McVay’s play-action-heavy offense? I would put Carolina’s Scott Fitterer at the top of the list, but he already did that bit last year. In all seriousness, Mayfield is a solid backup option. Just don’t expect a lot more than that.
Other notable free agents: Jimmy Garoppolo, Jacoby Brissett, Carson Wentz, Andy Dalton
In the market: Cardinals ($33M), Giants ($16M), Cowboys ($15M), Dolphins ($12M), Eagles ($7M), Buccaneers ($2M), Rams (minus-$3M), Ravens (minus-$3M), Vikings (minus-$7M)
Top of the class: Miles Sanders
Expected deal value (via PFF): $7.5 million APY, three years
Teams will have to figure out whether Sanders’s career year in 2022 was a true representation of his talent or just a product of Philadelphia’s dominant offensive line and run scheme. It could be both! The run blocking in Philadelphia was everything a back could ask for, but the underlying metrics suggest Sanders did his part too. He finished with an average of 0.44 rushing yards over expectation per attempt, per Next Gen Stats, which weighs various factors, including how well a run play is blocked, to come up with the stat. Some context: the recently tagged Saquon Barkley and Josh Jacobs finished with averages of 0.6 and 0.52, respectively. That’s not a wide gap. Sanders has the production teams should be looking for, and he has only 795 career carries, including the postseason, so he’s a young 25. Even if spending money on a running back isn’t the best use of cap space, Sanders should offer a decent return on investment.
Best value: Rashad Penny
Expected deal value (via PFF): $3.3 million, one year
Penny is the most physically gifted runner in this class. Actually, let me rephrase that: He’s the best runner in this class, period. He’d be particularly effective in a zone running system—are you paying attention, Sean McVay?—but teams could be scared off by his injury history, which, admittedly, is awfully scary. He’s never played a full season, and was limited to just five games in 2022 because of a broken leg.
Buyer beware: Leonard Fournette
Expected deal value (via PFF): Not available
Tom Brady should have been given an award for extracting as much value as he did from Fournette, a plodding runner who doesn’t offer much in the passing game outside of some violent blitz pickups. And only two running backs lost more total EPA on rush attempts last season, per TruMedia, so it’s not like he was getting it done on the ground either.
Other notable free agents: David Montgomery, Jamaal Williams, Kareem Hunt, Devin Singletary, D’Onta Foreman, Damien Harris
In the market: Bears ($75M), Falcons ($63M), Texans ($39M), Cardinals ($33M), Patriots ($31M), Seahawks ($20M), Titans ($17M), Giants ($16M), Jets ($14M), Colts ($11M), 49ers ($7M), Ravens (minus-$3M), Vikings (minus-$7M)
Top of the class: Jakobi Meyers
Expected deal value (via PFF): $16 million APY, four years
I mean, really? Jakobi Meyers is the best we could do this year? Don’t get me wrong, he’s a good player. Just don’t expect him to elevate your receiving corps much. Meyers has good size (6-foot-2, 200 pounds) and a reliable pair of mitts, and he can get open for the most part. If he were a more precise route runner, he might be worth a Christian Kirk–level investment. I wouldn’t say the same about the 2022 version of Meyers.
Best value: D.J. Chark
Expected deal value (via PFF): $11.7 million APY, three years
Chark was undervalued last free agency cycle when Jacksonville (mistakenly) let him walk, and it appears the same will be true this year. He’s not a WR1 or WR2, but Chark wins on vertical routes and has no issue hauling in well-thrown passes. He’d be an excellent third option for any team.
Buyer beware: Michael Thomas
Expected deal value (via PFF): $12.5 million, one year
Maybe Thomas can reinvent himself as a power slot receiver who can win in contested catch situations. But based on last year’s film, it’s hard to envision him as the slick route runner and quick separator he was at his peak in New Orleans.
Other notable free agents: JuJu Smith-Schuster, Odell Beckham Jr., Adam Thielen, Allen Lazard, Parris Campbell, Julio Jones, Sterling Shepard
In the market: Texans ($39M), Bengals ($34M), Patriots ($31M), Packers ($24M), Panthers ($23M), Chargers ($19M), Lions ($18M), Titans ($17M), Giants ($16M), Commanders ($16M), Dolphins ($12M), Jaguars ($7M)
Top of the class: Dalton Schultz
Expected deal value (via PFF): $14.5 million APY, four years
I get the appeal of Schultz. He’s a traditional in-line tight end who can split out wide every now and then as the new-age receiving tight ends do regularly. There will be a bidding war for Schultz, and the contract figures are going to shock some people. And that markup pricing is exactly why I’d stay out of the bidding. If you’re giving a tight end nearly $15 million a season, he better be Travis Kelce. Shit, Kelce doesn’t even make that much. Smart teams don’t splurge on good-but-not-great players at positions of secondary importance.
Best value: Hayden Hurst
Expected deal value (via PFF): $8.5 million APY, three years
Hurst may not have the receiving chops to be a superstar tight end, but there aren’t many players at the position who are better with the ball in their hands. With a good play caller and/or a smart quarterback, Hurst can be a difference maker in a highly efficient passing game.
Buyer beware: Mike Gesicki
Expected deal value (via PFF): $11 million APY, three years
Gesicki is more a receiver cosplaying as a tight end, which kind of defeats the purpose of what’s supposed to be a multifaceted position. Gesicki’s blocking remains laughably bad—though it’s clear he’s made some effort to improve—and opposing defenses treat him as if he’s a receiver when deciding how to match personnel as a result.
Other notable free agents: Austin Hooper, Foster Moreau, Robert Tonyan
In the market: Bears ($75M), Falcons ($63M), Raiders ($44M), Bengals ($34M), Broncos ($33M), Cardinals ($33M), Patriots ($31M), Packers ($24M), Chargers ($19M), Colts ($11M), Jaguars ($7M), Rams (minus-$3M), Bills (minus-$19M)
Top of the class: Orlando Brown Jr.
Expected deal value (via PFF): $21 million APY, five years
Talent is scarce at left tackle, so Brown will get paid this offseason. But it’s never a good sign when smart teams like the Ravens and Chiefs both move on from a young player. It’s easy to understand why both teams didn’t want to pay him premium tackle money when you turn on his film. He doesn’t possess the requisite athleticism to be left on an island against athletic pass rushers, and that’s the box you have to check if you’re going to get that kind of money. A team looking to field a power run game could be interested in Brown’s services and would be the most likely to give him the nine-figure deal he’s seeking.
Best value: Kaleb McGary
Expected deal value (via PFF): $15 million APY, four years
McGary thrived in Arthur Smith’s offense last season—especially as a run blocker—but it was too little, too late for the Falcons, who declined to place the franchise tag on their former first-round pick. McGary is an improving pass blocker, and if that trend continues, a team could luck into a relatively cheap long-term starter at a premium position.
Buyer beware: Taylor Lewan
Expected deal value (via PFF): $7 million, one year
He’s a recognizable name at a reduced price, but it’s been a long time since Lewan has produced a full season of good tape. There are far better values available out there.
Other notable free agents: Donavan Smith, Mike McGlinchey, Jawaan Taylor, Isaiah Wynn, Kelvin Beachum, Jermaine Eluemunor, Cameron Fleming, George Fant, Eric Fisher
Interior Offensive Line
In the market: Bears ($75M), Raiders ($44M), Texans ($39M), Bengals ($34M), Broncos ($33M), Seahawks ($20M), Giants ($16M), Jets ($14M), Steelers ($10M), 49ers ($7M), Buccaneers ($2M), Rams (minus-$3M), Ravens (minus-$3M), Saints (minus-$26M)
Top of the class: Isaac Seumalo
Expected deal value (via PFF): $11 million APY, three years
If there was a supposed weak link on Philadelphia’s offensive line last season, it was Seumalo. Unsurprisingly, teams attacked him with stunts and pass-rush games aimed to make his life hell, and … it didn’t really work. Seumalo, who had been in and out of the lineup with injuries before the 2022 season, seemed to get stronger as the season went on and ended up playing a career-high 1,350 snaps. His long injury track record and a short history of playing good football may scare some teams off, but Seumalo produced some damn good tape in 2022.
Best value: Ethan Pocic
Expected deal value (via PFF): $7 million APY, three years
Pocic earned himself a nice payday by playing well for the Browns in 2022. But he’s not just a one-year wonder. The former Seahawks center had played well in Seattle the previous season, too. He’s a starting-level player at a good price. The catch? Pocic has never started more than 14 games in a season during his six-year career.
Buyer beware: Ben Powers
Expected deal value (via PFF): $10 million APY, four years
Powers put up good numbers as a pass blocker in 2022 but had mostly been an average player before then. Playing in Baltimore’s run-heavy system makes pass blocking a bit easier—seeing a lot of runs and play-action passes can take the teeth out of a pass rush—and I wouldn’t want to be the team that pays $10 million a year to find out whether Powers can keep it up outside of that environment.
Other notable free agents: Dalton Risner, Nate Davis, Ben Jones, Connor McGovern, Will Hernandez, Garrett Bradbury, Graham Glasgow, Rodger Saffold, Justin Pugh, Rodney Hudson, Jon Feliciano
In the market: Bears ($75M), Falcons ($63M), Raiders ($44M), Texans ($39M), Bengals ($34M), Broncos ($33M), Cardinals ($33M), Seahawks ($20M), Chiefs ($14M), Colts ($11M), Eagles ($7M), 49ers ($7M), Buccaneers ($2M), Vikings (minus-$7M), Browns (minus-$14M)
Top of the class: Marcus Davenport
Expected deal value (via PFF): $12 million, one year
If not for injuries, Davenport would be looking forward to a lucrative payday this offseason. Instead, the 2018 first-round pick will likely have to settle for a one-year prove-it deal. Davenport has been a disruptive pass rusher and run defender when healthy. And playing on the edge in New Orleans isn’t the easiest task, given how much Dennis Allen asks of his defensive line in the run game. That and the whole injury thing are big reasons why the talented Davenport hasn’t produced a 10-sack season in his career. That should change in a system that unleashes him as a pass rusher.
Best value: Melvin Ingram III
Expected deal value (via PFF): $4 million, one year
No team wants to commit to an aging pass rusher who likes to freelance and has a difficult time staying healthy, but Ingram, who will turn 34 in April, produces everywhere he goes and will not command top money. With NFL defenses getting more creative in how they rush the passer, you’d think a movable chess piece like Ingram would be in higher demand—even if he’s just a rotational piece at this point in his career. His six sacks in Miami last season show he can still get to the quarterback.
Buyer beware: Jadeveon Clowney
Expected deal value (via PFF): $8 million, one year
Clowney was underrated throughout the early part of his career, if that’s possible for a guy who was taken no. 1, but that’s no longer the case. He’s still a useful player who’s capable of dominating a game every now and then, but those instances are growing rarer by the season.
Other notable free agents: Charles Omenihu, Leonard Floyd, Arden Key, Samson Ebukam, Ogbonnia Okoronkwo, Yannick Ngakoue, Brandon Graham, Justin Houston, Robert Quinn, Bud Dupree, Frank Clark
Interior Defensive Line
In the market: Bears ($75M), Falcons ($63M), Raiders ($44M), Texans ($39M), Cardinals ($33M), Seahawks ($20M), Cowboys ($15M)
Top of the class: Javon Hargrave
Expected deal value (via PFF): $18.3 million APY, three years
Before coming to Philadelphia, Hargrave was mostly seen as a run defender who could give you some good reps in pass rush situations. It’s time to update that scouting report. Over the last few years, he’s been one of the more productive interior rushers in the league. Last season, only Kansas City’s Chris Jones had a higher pass-rush win rate among defensive tackles, per ESPN. Pro Football Focus says his pass rush grade is tied for second best at the position since 2020, behind only Jones and some guy named Aaron Donald. The price might be steep to sign him, but any team should be happy to pay it for a truly dominant talent like Hargrave, who is probably the best defensive player in this free-agency class.
Best value: Sheldon Rankins
Expected deal value (via PFF): $6 million APY, two years
After injuries sabotaged his Saints career, Rankins got healthy and played good football for the Jets in 2022. Even if Rankins isn’t the best bet to stay healthy, he’s a thrifty option at a position that won’t be very cheap if you’re looking at the top-shelf players in this year’s free-agency class.
Buyer beware: Zach Allen
Expected deal value (via PFF): $12.5 million APY, three years
Allen is coming off the dreaded contract-year jump and will almost certainly cash in. He has always been a decent run defender, but he added some pass-rush prowess to his game, logging a career high in sacks, hits, and hurries for Arizona last year, per Pro Football Focus. Allen may have the talent to keep that up, but it was the first season in his career when he looked like more than an average defensive lineman.
Other notable free agents: Fletcher Cox, Dalvin Tomlinson, Dre’Mont Jones, Zach Allen, David Onyemata, Larry Ogunjobi, Matt Ioannidis, Poona Ford, A’Shawn Robinson
In the market: Bears ($75M), Broncos ($33M), Patriots ($31M), Giants ($16M), Commanders ($16M), Cowboys ($15M), Eagles ($7M)
Top of the class: Tremaine Edmunds
Expected deal value (via PFF): $18.8 million APY, four years
Edmunds shored up his coverage and made more of an impact as a run defender during the 2022 season for the Bills, which has him in line for a big payday when free agency starts. But before last year, he looked like a bust after Buffalo had taken him in the first round of the 2018 draft. There is a short list of off-the-ball linebackers I would pay the kind of money that Edmunds will likely command on the free agent market this month, and he is not on it because he gets lost in coverage and washed away by run blockers too often.
Best value: David Long Jr.
Expected deal value (via PFF): $10 million APY, four years
Long isn’t a finished product and his 2022 season, which was cut short by injuries, was his first as a full-time starter. But he’s an instinctive linebacker who can defend the run, drop into coverage, and rush the passer when asked. And playing in Tennessee’s dynamic defense should have him prepared to play in any scheme.
Buyer beware: Bobby Wagner
Expected deal value (via PFF): $6.5 million, one year
If that contract projection ends up being accurate, it wouldn’t be a bad price to pay for Wagner. But with the former Seahawks star coming off an All-Pro season with the Rams, it’s difficult to imagine him settling for a deal like that. And if that is indeed the case, I’d stay away. Wagner was a liability in coverage last season—which is why L.A. had him blitz him so often—and Seattle let him go for similar reasons. Wagner would be a fine addition to any locker room. I just don’t know if he’ll improve a defense with his on-field contribution.
Other notable free agents: Eric Kendricks, Lavonte David, T.J. Edwards, Bobby Okereke, Leighton Vander Esch, Germaine Pratt, Zach Cunningham
In the market: Falcons ($63M), Raiders ($44M), Bengals ($34M), Broncos ($33M), Cardinals ($33M), Patriots ($31M), Seahawks ($20M), Lions ($18M), Commanders ($16M), Giants ($16M), Colts ($11M), Eagles ($7M), 49ers ($7M), Buccaneers ($2M), Ravens (minus-$3M)
Top of the market: Jamel Dean
Expected deal value (via PFF): $17 million APY, four years
NFL Media’s Tom Pelissero is predicting Dean could get a contract worth up to $16 million a year, which is close to PFF’s projection, and is slightly higher than what last year’s top free agent corner, J.C. Jackson, received from the Chargers. That’s a bit too rich for an inconsistent cornerback who has been targeted in coverage by opposing passing games. But Dean is highly athletic and has improved in coverage throughout his career. Signing him to a big-money deal is a bet on that improvement continuing to the point where Dean can hang as a CB1—a role he never had to play in Tampa Bay. Against bigger, stiffer receivers, Dean would do just fine in such a role, but the shiftier WR1s could be an issue.
Best value: James Bradberry
Expected deal value (via PFF): $12 million APY, two years
The defensive holding penalty that contributed to Philadelphia’s loss in the Super Bowl will be the lasting image of Bradberry’s Eagles career, which kind of stinks considering how well he played in 2022. He has limitations as a pure cover corner—including his tendency to get a little grabby—but Bradberry has held up just fine when teams have asked him to take on challenging assignments in man-to-man coverage. Early in his career, Carolina treated him like a prime Darrelle Revis, having him shadow the top receivers in the NFC South—which included Julio Jones, Mike Evans, and Michael Thomas—and it worked out just fine. The Giants didn’t ask that much of him, and Bradberry responded with a career-best season. The 29-year-old, who will turn 30 before the season, may not be a top-level CB1, but he can handle that role just fine if needed.
Buyer beware: Jonathan Jones
Expected deal value (via PFF): $5.5 million APY, two years
Nothing against Jones as a player—he is very fast—but it’s never a good sign when Bill Belichick lets a cornerback go for nothing in return. Jones isn’t quite a nickel corner, but he doesn’t have the size to hold up on the outside against bigger wideouts.
Other notable free agents: Cameron Sutton, Patrick Peterson, Rock Ya-Sin, Byron Murphy Jr., Marcus Peters, Byron Jones, Shaquill Griffin, Bryce Callahan, Sean Murphy-Bunting
In the market: Bengals ($34M), Patriots ($31M), Colts ($11M), Eagles ($7M), Jaguars ($7M), Rams (minus-$3M), Ravens (minus-$3M), Vikings (minus-$7M), Bills (minus-$19M)
Top of the class: Jessie Bates III
Expected deal value (via PFF): $16 million APY, five years
It feels like every year a Pro Bowl–level safety like Bates hits the open market. And while teams have certainly struck out giving some of those guys monster deals—Landon Collins in Washington, for instance—the hit rate isn’t all that bad. With the cap rising every year, a $16 million average salary isn’t a bad price for a player of Bates’s ability. He may lack top-end athleticism, but his instincts and technique should allow his game to age well as he gets closer to 30. Bates will instantly improve any secondary he joins.
Best value: Chauncey Gardner-Johnson
Expected deal value (via PFF): $11.5 million APY, three years
He isn’t just the league’s best instigator. Gardner-Johnson backs up his often hilarious talk with a well-rounded game that will be attractive to many defensive coordinators. His work as a slot defender has been particularly useful for his last two teams, New Orleans and Philadelphia. If you want to get a sense of the hard-hitting safety’s coverage ability, watch his games against Chris Godwin during his time with the Saints.
Buyer beware: Vonn Bell
Expected deal value (via PFF): $8 million APY, three years
Bell, 28, still has plenty of good football left in him, but we saw some signs of decline in 2022, and box safeties don’t always age well. On top of that, playing for two smart defensive coordinators in Dennis Allen and Lou Anarumo, who rarely asked Bell to stray too far out of his comfort zone, had a lot to do with the safety’s success over the past few seasons.