NFL free agency isn’t the craze it’s made out to be. Teams typically don’t let their elite players hit free agency, locking them up to extensions or using the franchise tag before that happens.
But there are some key players who will be swapping teams this month. Free agency officially begins next Wednesday at 4 p.m. ET. There aren’t any superstars who haven’t been handed the franchise tag in this free-agency class, but there are quality veterans who could fill the need.
We will not be including franchise-tagged players in our ranking of the top 25 free agents – Ravens QB Lamar Jackson, Cowboys RB Tony Pollard, Jaguars TE Evan Engram, Commander DT Daron Payne, Raiders RB Josh Jacobs, Giants RB Saccone Barkley – Although Jackson will 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 of the year:
1. OT Orlando Browns Jr.
Brown would not receive a second consecutive franchise tag from the Chiefs. Brown is 26 years old 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 great seasons with the Eagles after the Steelers did not retain him. Hargrave had 11.5 sacks last season, an impressive mark for an interior defender. He just turned 30 but that won’t stop teams from paying him.
3. S Jesse Bates III
Bates was not happy about receiving the franchise tag from the Bengals last season, but he will not get another and is free to sign elsewhere. He is a versatile safety who just turned 26 and will be highly prized by many teams.
Bradberry became a household name for that holding call in the Super Bowl that will forever be debated. It is unfortunate because he is a player in a key position. He signed a one-year deal with the Eagles last year and will likely get more this time around.
Allen was a decent third round pick for the Cardinals in 2019. He developed into a starter and plus defender against the run and the pass. At the age of just 25, a team will spend big to land him.
Dean was a solid starting cornerback for the Buccaneers and is just 26 years old now, and there is value in that. He may never be a Pro Bowler, but for teams looking for veteran help at cornerback, Dean would be a good fit.
McGlinchey has draft pedigree as the 10th overall pick prior to the draft, and has been a good starter at right tackle for the 49ers for five seasons. It’s a solid investment.
If you need a receiver, bad news. This is a shockingly weak free-agent class. Meyers is at the right place at the right time. Teams in need of a receiver will find 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 season, and so will Mayers’ signing.
9. S Chauncey Gardner-Johnson
It was surprising how cheap the Eagles got Gardner-Johnson in the trade with the Saints (it was Gardner-Johnson and a seventh-round pick for the fifth and sixth), and then he had a decent season for the NFC champions. . There are some injury concerns but he is the type of playmaking, versatile safety that is highly valued in the modern NFL.
10. DayDremont 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 could be an above average starter for anyone on the defensive line.
Poyer will be 32 before the start of next season, so he is not a long-term option. But he’s had a great six seasons with the Bills and should still have a good season or two.
Edmonds is a two-time Pro Bowler who recorded over 100 tackles in each of his five NFL seasons with the Bills. The former first-rounder hasn’t made a lot of plays, but he’s a good option as an off-ball linebacker.
Taylor is a former second round pick who didn’t give up a start for the Jaguars. He is just 25 years old. Taylor is not a great right tackle, but he would still be an upgrade for a lot of teams and is at a prime age.
The tight end has become a slim position around the NFL. Schultz’s numbers dropped from an 808-yard, eight-touchdown 2021 campaign with the Cowboys, but he is still a fine pass-catcher and many teams need an upgrade at the position.
15. WR Odell Beckham Jr.
Beckham would have been the top taker on the market if it weren’t for the health question. Beckham never signed last season after tearing his ACL in the Super Bowl 13 months earlier. Beckham did enough with the Rams after the mid-season trade to prove that he is still a top talent at the position. It just comes down to which team is willing to take the gamble.
Clarke and the Chiefs could not 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 resume after the season.
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 Week 1, but a short-term deal could work out well for a team looking to improve at linebacker.
Tomlinson won’t give you much interior pass rush, but if you need quick fixes for your run defense then 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 a quarterback than there are starting-level players available. Garoppolo may not be great, but he was functional for the 49ers and has plenty of experience. Some teams are going to realize that the game of QB musical chairs is coming to an end and they need to pay more for Garoppolo rather than go into the unknown.
20. OT Caleb McGarry
McGarry had a good season for the Falcons, finishing fourth Pro Football Focus’ Grades for offensive tackle, and the former first-round pick is just 28 years old. There are never a lot of offensive line options available in free agency, and McGarry will be a nice addition at right tackle.
With Saquon Barkley, Josh Jacobs and Tony Pollard tagged along, Sanders is probably the top running back available at the top. A second contract is always risky for a running back, but a team that wants veteran help (the Dolphins?) can let Sanders’ versatility speak for itself. 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 years old. But he is also one of the elite players at his position, strong against the pass and the run. David had a great 11 year run for the Buccaneers and probably still has a year or two left in him.
Gesicki was not a good fit for Mike McDaniel’s offense with the Dolphins. Another team could look to an athletic talent who was productive from 2019-2021 and is just 27 years old. For a team that knows Gecicki is basically a big receiver and not an in-line tight end, this could be a nice addition.
Davenport is the Saints’ first first-round pick, is 26 and had nine sacks two seasons ago. Overall, Davenport has been a bit disappointing (21.5 sacks over five seasons) but few teams will take a shot at his potential.
Sutton, who was a reserve for four seasons with the Steelers, became a starter two years ago. He had a great season in 2022, putting himself in position to have a good day with a team that could use a versatile cornerback.