2023 NFL Free Agency Big Board: Top 50 Available PlayersMarch 9, 2023
2023 NFL Free Agency Big Board: Top 50 Available Players
The start of 2023 NFL free agency is nearly here. The market is slated to open at 4 p.m. ET on Wednesday, March 15, and the legal tampering period begins on Monday.
Now that the franchise-tag deadline has come and gone, we have a good idea of how the free-agent class will look this offseason.
This year's player pool appears to be deep at several positions. We also have a few notable quarterbacks headed into free agency, though the biggest names have already been taken off the market.
What does this year's crop of available players look like? Here's a look at our initial top 50 rankings—based on factors like past production, player upside, age, positional value and player health—current as of Thursday (3/9) morning. We'll check back next week with updated lists as top players come off the board.
Before we dive in, let's examine how things unfolded at the tag deadline.
2023 Franchise Tag, Contract Tracker
Saquon Barkley, RB, New York Giants: Franchise tag
Derek Carr, QB, Free Agent: Signed four-year, $150 million deal with New Orleans Saints
Evan Engram, TE, Jacksonville Jaguars: Franchise tag
Lamar Jackson, QB, Baltimore Ravens: Franchise tag
Josh Jacobs, RB, Las Vegas Raiders: Franchise tag
Daniel Jones, New York Giants: Signed a four-year, $160 million extension
Daron Payne, DT, Washington Commanders: Franchise tag
Tony Pollard, RB, Dallas Cowboys: Franchise tag
Geno Smith, QB, Seattle Seahawks: Re-signed on three-year, $105 million contract
*All tagged players receiver the non-exclusive franchise tag, per NFL.com.
50. OT Donovan Smith
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have decided to release starting left tackle Donovan Smith, according to NFL Network's Tom Pelissero.
Smith was called for 12 penalties and allowed six sacks last season, according to Pro Football Focus, but he does play the most important position along the offensive line. He won't turn 30 until June and has 124 regular-season starts on his resume, so he should get an opportunity to rebound with a different franchise.
49. S Donovan Wilson
Dallas Cowboys defender Donovan Wilson is listed as a safety, but he often played more like an extra linebacker in 2022. His ability to diagnose plays and flow to the action is impressive, though it's fair to wonder how he'd fare outside of Dan Quinn's defense.
Wilson finished the 2022 season with a career-high 101 tackles, five sacks, 12 quarterback pressures and an interception. He allowed an opposing passer rating of only 69.0 in coverage.
48. QB Teddy Bridgewater
Teddy Bridgewater should garner some fairly significant interest from teams seeking a bridge starter in 2023. Although he made only two starts for the Miami Dolphins in 2022, he started 14 games for the Denver Broncos the previous year and posted a solid 94.9 passer rating that season.
With the Dolphins exploring multiple options at quarterback this offseason, according to CBS Sports' Josina Anderson, they could make a strong push to keep Bridgewater in-house.
47. DT David Onyemata
With a few top-tier defensive tackles headlining free agency this year, David Onyemata ranks a bit lower than he might in a different offseason. Still, the 30-year-old New Orleans Saints standout would be a big get for any team seeking help on the defensive interior.
Onyemata started all 17 games last season and finished with 43 tackles, five sacks and 13 quarterback pressures.
46. G Nate Davis
Tennessee Titans guard Nate Davis is an interior lineman who fits the description of a solid albeit unspectacular starter.
The 26-year-old is a strong run blocker who has steadily improved as a pass protector. In 2022, he was responsible for four penalties and three sacks allowed across 682 snaps, according to Pro Football Focus. The big question mark for Davis is health, as he has missed eight games over the past two seasons and missed five in 2022 with knee, foot and ankle injuries.
45. DE Ogbonnia Okoronkwo
If you haven't watched the Houston Texans often in recent years, you might be unfamiliar with defensive end Ogbonnia Okoronkwo. Despite playing on a terrible Houston defense last season (30th overall), Okoronkwo finished with a career-high 44 tackles, five sacks and 17 quarterback pressures.
A fifth-round pick of the Los Angeles Rams in 2018, Okoronkwo had a notable injury history before this season. He missed his entire rookie season following foot surgery and landed on injured reserve in both 2020 and 2021. He could be looking at a second straight one-year prove-it deal.
44. LB T.J. Edwards
Playing for the NFC champion Philadelphia Eagles certainly helped the stock of linebacker T.J. Edwards. So too does the fact that he was incredibly productive in a defense that featured a ton of talented playmakers.
Edwards started all 17 games this past season and finished with a team-high 159 tackles, two sacks and an opposing passer rating of 82.1 in coverage. While his 11 missed tackles last season are a bit concerning, Edwards should be able to step in as the centerpiece of a team's linebacker corps.
43. G Isaac Seumalo
After landing on injured reserve in both 2020 (knee) and 2021 (Lisfranc), guard Isaac Seumalo returned to start all 17 games for the Philadelphia Eagles in 2022. He was responsible for only one sack allowed and six penalties across 1,135 snaps, according to Pro Football Focus.
Two things keep Seumalo from being ranked higher here. His injuries prior to 2022 are a bit concerning, and it's fair to wonder if he can be as efficient on an offensive line that isn't as talented as Philadelphia's.
42. DB Jimmie Ward
Versatility is the key to valuing Jimmie Ward as a top-50 free agent. The San Francisco 49ers defensive back has primarily played safety, but he stepped into the nickel corner role this past season when Tashaun Gipson emerged as a bona fide playmaker.
Despite missing five games because of hamstring and hand injuries and playing a different role, Ward finished with 50 tackles, a career-high three interceptions and a forced fumble. He allowed an opposing passer rating of 87.4 in coverage.
41. RB Miles Sanders
In another era, a Pro Bowl running back like Miles Sanders would be a clear top-10 free agent. In a different offseason, he'd at least be ranked higher than he is here. However, the 2023 draft class is incredibly deep at running back and several solid veterans—like Jamaal Williams and D'Onta Foreman—are headed to free agency, which helps to devalue Sanders.
With that said, Sanders is a dangerous dual threat who logged a career-high 1,269 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns in 2022 and has 124 receptions in four seasons. He is a surefire starter and would be an upgrade for several teams. With Saquon Barkley, Tony Pollard and Josh Jacobs all getting the franchise tag, Sanders should be RB1 in free agency.
40. OT Jawaan Taylor
Jacksonville Jaguars right tackle Jawaan Taylor will be a coveted free agent due to his age—he just turned 25 in November—and his durability. He has not missed a start in his four seasons with the Jags.
However, Taylor shouldn't be viewed as an elite tackle. He was responsible for seven penalties and five sacks allowed this past season, according to Pro Football Focus.
Dependability at a premium position goes a long way, though, and Taylor should be eyeing a lucrative, long-term deal. According to ESPN's Jeremy Fowler, he could get $17 or $18 million per year.
39. CB Patrick Peterson
Minnesota Vikings cornerback Patrick Peterson will turn 33 in July, but he showed this past season that he's still capable of playing at a high level.
Peterson started all 17 games, snagged five interceptions and allowed an opposing passer rating of only 79.6 in coverage. He might not be the perennial Pro Bowler he was early in his career, but Peterson can be a big asset for a team on a one- or two-year deal.
38. Edge Arden Key
Pass-rushers are always valuable, and with no Von Miller in this year's free-agent class, several second-tier edge-defenders are going to generate buzz.
Arden Key of the Jacksonville Jaguars is one such defender. He logged 4.5 sacks and a career-high 20 quarterback pressures this past season despite playing only 41 percent of the Jaguars' defensive snaps.
37. LB Drue Tranquill
Teams are frequently looking for linebackers who can do a little bit of everything. Drue Tranquill of the Los Angeles Chargers is exactly that sort of player.
Tranquill appeared in all 17 games (16 starts) this past season and played 93 percent of the Chargers' defensive snaps. He recorded a career- and team-high 146 tackles, five sacks, an interception and a forced fumble.
If the 27-year-old was just a bit more dependable in coverage (101.2 opposing passer rating allowed), he'd rank much higher on our list. Expect him to still be a top choice for teams seeking a run-stopper at the second level, though.
36. QB Jacoby Brissett
Like Teddy Bridgewater, Jacoby Brissett projects as a stopgap quarterback for a team with uncertainty at the position or as a bridge for those looking to draft a signal-caller in April. He played the fill-in role for the Cleveland Browns for 11 games last season and fared surprisingly well.
Brissett threw for 2,608 yards with 12 touchdowns, six interceptions and an 88.9 passer rating. He also rushed for 243 yards, two touchdowns and 28 first downs. With 48 starts on his career resume and experience in a variety of systems, Brissett should be a fit for just about any team.
35. CB Jonathan Jones
New England Patriots cornerback Jonathan Jones was a full-time starter for the first time in his career in 2022. He did not disappoint.
The 29-year-old finished with 69 tackles, 11 passes defended and four interceptions while allowing an opposing passer rating of 73.0 in coverage. Jones can defend the slot and play on the perimeter, making him one of the more versatile corners slated to hit the free-agent market this offseason.
34. S Vonn Bell
Vonn Bell is one of two Cincinnati Bengals safeties making our list. In his third season with the Bengals, he finished with 77 tackles, a sack, two forced fumbles and a career-high four interceptions.
While coverage hasn't always been Bell's strong suit, he allowed an opposing passer rating of only 64.0 this past season, which was by far his best mark over the last five years. Still only 28 years old, the seven-year veteran should be a fit for potential contenders and rebuilding franchises alike.
33. Edge Jadeveon Clowney
Pass-rusher Jadeveon Clowney isn't a fit for every team. An incredibly inconsistent player from year to year—he had nine sacks in 2021 and only five sacks in 2019, 2020 and 2022 combined—Clowney should be in line for another one-year, prove-it deal. Teams should be cautious with Clowney, after he openly criticized Cleveland's coaching staff near the end of the season and was benched for the regular-season finale.
Clowney still cracks our top 50 because when he's motivated and playing well, he can be as disruptive as any defensive end in the league. He's a three-time Pro Bowler who notched nine sacks, 32 quarterback pressures and 11 tackles for loss just two years ago.
32. CB Byron Murphy
Arizona Cardinals cornerback Byron Murphy did not have a great year in 2022. He missed eight games with a back injury and was inconsistent in pass coverage, finishing without an interception and with a 103.1 opposing passer rating allowed.
However, Murphy will draw significant interest because he plays a premium position, is only 25 years old and has some playmaking ability. Murphy logged four interceptions and allowed an opposing passer rating of only 87.6 in 2021. He also had two fumble recoveries in 2022, one of which he returned for game-winning touchdown in Week 2 against the Las Vegas Raiders.
31. WR D.J. Chark
Detroit Lions wideout D.J. Chark is one of the more underrated players headed into free agency. He hasn't had a 1,000-yard season since 2019, and he didn't produce eye-popping numbers in Detroit this past year (502 yards, 3 TDs).
However, it's worth noting that Chark suffered a season-ending ankle injury in 2021 and spent time on injured reserve with an ankle injury this past season, which limited his production. When healthy, Chark is a speedy and dynamic perimeter threat who will stretch the field and help dictate coverages. He should be viewed as a high-end No. 2 receiver.
30. G Dalton Risner
Dalton Risner, a 2019 second-round pick by the Denver Broncos, is a four-year starter who played well this past season. He was responsible for only one penalty and three sacks allowed across 967 snaps, according to Pro Football Focus.
Risner isn't a mauler in the run game, but he's a steady pass protector and has missed only four games in four seasons. However, it's worth noting that all four absences came over the last two years.
Free agency features a strong crop of interior linemen, and Risner might be a second choice for a lot of teams. He should still be viewed as an above-average starter, tough.
29. OT Kaleb McGary
Kaleb McGary benefited from a strong campaign in his contract year.
A 2019 first-round pick of the Atlanta Falcons, the Washington product was inconsistent during his first three seasons, which led to Atlanta declining his fifth-year option. But in offensive coordinator Dave Ragone's run-heavy scheme this past season, McGary thrived.
McGary jumps out on tape as a people-mover, and he brought a physical edge to the Falcons' ground game. Pass protection is still a bit of an issue—he allowed six sacks last season, according to Pro Football Focus—but McGary is an ideal right-tackle target for teams looking to run the ball.
28. DT Poona Ford
Seattle Seahawks defensive tackle Poona Ford might be the most underrated defender headed into free agency. Though he doesn't possess ideal length, the 5'11", 310-pound Texas product is a space-eater who can clog running lanes and disrupt the backfield.
Over the past two seasons, Ford has compiled 88 tackles, 12 tackles for loss, three passes defended, five sacks and 22 quarterback pressures.
27. C Jason Kelce
Despite being 35 years old, Philadelphia Eagles center Jason Kelce remains one of the best centers in the game. In fact, age is the only real negative on his resume.
Kelce is remarkably durable and hasn't missed a start since the 2014 season. He was named to the Pro Bowl for the sixth time in his career this past season, and he was named a first-team All-Pro for the fifth time.
Talent-wise, Kelce is one of the best players headed to the free-agent market. However, he said in February that he's undecided about playing in 2023, and he cannot be considered a long-term answer for any franchise.
26. CB Rock Ya-Sin
If cornerback Rock Ya-Sin hadn't suffered a season-ending back injury in 2022, he'd rank higher on our list. Arguably the only truly reliable Las Vegas Raiders cornerback last season, Ya-Sin recorded 45 tackles and seven passes defended in 11 games. He also allowed an opposing passer rating of only 82.6 in coverage.
Ya-Sin's ability to be a dependable cover man in a Raiders defense that struggled to rush the passer (27 sacks) shouldn't be discounted. If the 26-year-old can prove that he's fully healthy, he should command a multi-year contract.
25. G Ben Powers
Baltimore Ravens guard Ben Powers should be looking at a lucrative, long-term contract in free agency. The 2022 season marked his second as a full-time starter, and Powers was exceptional.
A ferocious run blocker, Powers was perfect for Baltimore's run-heavy offense. However, he was also terrific in pass protection, finishing the year with only one penalty and no sacks allowed across 1,094 snaps, according to Pro Football Focus.
The 26-year-old Powers should cash in with a three-to-five-year contract.
24. Edge Yannick Ngakoue
Yannick Ngakoue continues to be one of the league's most underrated pass-rushers. Ngakoue, who will turn 28 at the end of the month, has played for five teams in seven years, most recently with the Indianapolis Colts.
While run defense isn't a strength—on film, he seems to take himself out of the action too frequently—Ngaouke is a solid pressure man. He's logged at least eight sacks in every one of his seven NFL seasons, and he finished 2022 with 9.5 sacks and 27 quarterback pressures. He'd be a terrific target for any team looking to bolster its pass rush.
23. QB Jimmy Garoppolo
San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo has a significant injury history and was sidelined by a foot injury for the back end of the 2022 campaign. He's an above-average starter at best, which is why San Francisco moved up to select Trey Lance in the 2021 NFL draft.
When he's healthy, though, Garoppolo is a capable game manager and a steady leader. He quarterbacked the 49ers to two NFC title games and one Super Bowl, and he tops the list of this year's potential bridge quarterbacks.
22. LB Tremaine Edmunds
Buffalo Bills linebacker Tremaine Edmunds' stock has slipped a bit since he posted back-to-back Pro Bowl campaigns in 2019 and 2020. Consistency is his biggest issue, as Edmunds will shine one game and often disappear the next.
With that said, Edmunds is one of the better all-around linebackers headed into free agency. He finished the 2022 season with 102 tackles and a sack, and he allowed an opposing passer rating of only 69.9 in coverage.
At only 24 years old, Edmunds should be in line for a lengthy second contract.
21. Edge Marcus Davenport
Davenport's ranking is largely based on his upside. The New Orleans Saints defender isn't an every-down player, and he struggled to finish plays in 2022—he had 14 quarterback pressures but only a half-sack.
Davenport's highs are incredible, though. In 2021, he logged nine sacks and 21 pressures despite suffering a shoulder injury and appearing in only 11 games.
Powerful and aggressive off the edge, Davenport has the tools to be a difference-maker if he can stay on the field in a prominent role.
20. Edge Frank Clark
The Kansas City Chiefs plan to part with pass-rusher Frank Clark, according to NFL Network's Tom Pelissero. Clark should immediately become one of the top pass-rushers on the market when he officially arrives there.
While Clark hasn't tallied double-digit sacks in a season since arriving in Kansas City in 2019, he's earned three Pro Bowl nods with the Chiefs and has stood out on the biggest stages. In 12 playoff games with the Chiefs, he logged 10.5 sacks.
19. LB David Long
The biggest question mark for Tennessee Titans linebacker David Long is his health. He landed on injured reserve with a hamstring injury in December and has played only 22 games over the past two seasons.
When Long is healthy, though, he's a quality three-down linebacker who can do a little bit of everything well. He finished this past season with 86 tackles, two interceptions, seven tackles for loss and an opposing passer rating of 74.1 in coverage.
18. Edge Brandon Graham
Like Jason Kelce, Brandon Graham is a longtime Philadelphia Eagles standout who is on the older side—he'll turn 35 next month. He's still performing at a high level, though, and he could be a wonderful defensive addition on a short-term deal.
This past season, Graham had a career-high 11 sacks and 21 quarterback pressures to go with 35 tackles, 11 tackles for loss and two forced fumbles. He's a true disruptor off the edge and would be a great pickup for any playoff contender.
17. TE Dalton Schultz
With Evan Engram getting the franchise tag from Jacksonville, Dallas' Dalton Schultz is the clear-cut best tight end heading to free agency. The 26-year-old caught 57 passes for 577 yards and five touchdowns this past season despite playing a chunk of the year without starting quarterback Dak Prescott.
Schultz was even more impressive in 2021, when he logged 78 catches, 808 yards and eight touchdowns while sharing targets with CeeDee Lamb, Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup. Tight-end-needy teams should be contacting Schultz as soon as it's permissible.
16. WR JuJu Smith-Schuster
An argument could be made that JuJu Smith-Schuster is the top wide receiver in free agency this year. He hasn't been a Pro Bowler since his 2018 campaign with the Pittsburgh Steelers, but he's one of the few free agents with the skill set needed to fill a No. 1 receiver role.
Smith-Schuster was a great addition to the Kansas City Chiefs this past season, finishing with 78 catches, 933 yards and three touchdowns. Given the relatively underwhelming free-agent receiver market, Smith-Schuster should parlay his 2022 campaign into a nice contract.
15. CB Cameron Sutton
Cornerback Cameron Sutton may not actually make it to free agency. The Pittsburgh Steelers have expressed interest in extending him, per Chris Adamski of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.
Sutton was one of the few reliable defenders in a Pittsburgh secondary that ranked 25th in yards per reception allowed this past season (6.5). He finished the year with 43 tackles and a career-high three interceptions, and he allowed an opposing passer rating of only 65.3 in coverage.
Sutton might not be a household name outside of Pittsburgh, but he should be heavily coveted by teams if he reaches free agency.
14. S Jordan Poyer
A seventh-round pick by the Eagles in 2013, safety Jordan Poyer has taken a winding path to stardom. He emerged as a quality player with the Cleveland Browns early in his career and then a full-time starter in Buffalo.
With the Bills, Poyer has been superb. He was a first-team All-Pro in 2021 and earned his first Pro Bowl nod in 2022—a season in which he logged 63 tackles, four interceptions and allowed an opposing passer rating of only 60.1.
Poyer should be considered a high-end starter even though he'll turn 32 in April. Teams shouldn't necessarily view him as a long-term answer, though.
13. WR Odell Beckham Jr.
This year's free-agent wide receiver class lacks high-end talent. That's why Odell Beckham Jr., who didn't even play this past season after suffering a torn ACL in Super Bowl LVI, ranks this highly on our list.
Can the three-time Pro Bowler return to form after two ACL injuries and sitting out a year? That's the big question. When we last saw him, though, he was helping the Rams win the Lombardi Trophy.
During Los Angeles' 2021 playoff run, Beckham caught 21 passes for 288 yards and two touchdowns in less than four complete games. That version of Beckham can be a difference-maker.
12. LB Lavonte David
Consistency, reliability and production are among the things that make Buccaneers linebacker Lavonte David a high-end 2023 free agent.
While David is 33 years old, he's still one of the top all-around linebackers in the league. He started all 17 games in 2022, played 96 percent of the Bucs' defensive snaps and finished with 124 tackles, three sacks, five passes defended and 10 tackles for loss.
Along with the next player on our list, David will be a top free-agent target for linebacker-needy contenders.
11. LB Bobby Wagner
The Rams and linebacker Bobby Wagner mutually agreed to part ways after only one season, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter. Their cap situation was the main motivating factor here, not Wager's performance.
Though the 32-year-old didn't earn Pro Bowl honors in 2022, Wagner was still a high-end contributor. He finished the year with a team-high 140 tackles, two interceptions, six sacks, 10 quarterback pressures and an opposing passer rating of 87.1 in coverage.
Though he probably isn't a fit for rebuilding teams, Wagner is one of the best defenders available in this year's free-agent class.
10. WR Jakobi Meyers
New England's Jakobi Meyers is the top-ranked receiver on our list, even though he doesn't fit the mold of a true No. 1 receiver. He filled that role for the Patriots this past season, finishing with a team-high 67 catches for 804 yards and six touchdowns—decent numbers in the league's 20th-ranked passing attack.
As a high-end No. 2 receiver in a more prolific offense, though, Meyers could be special. He's a fantastic route-runner who typically winds up in the right spot at the right time.
In 2022, Meyers provided a passer rating of 116.0 when targeted. Overall, Patriots quarterbacks had a cumulative passer rating of 87.7.
The 26-year-old's best seasons are likely ahead of him, which is why he cracks the top 10 here. He might not be an ideal target for a team in need of a go-to wideout, but there isn't a true No. 1 on the free-agent market this offseason.
Meyers' combination of reliability, route savvy and ability to play outside or in the slot makes him a fit for any offense that isn't already three-deep with top-tier pass-catchers.
9. CB Jamel Dean
Starting-caliber cornerbacks rarely last long on the open market, and they tend to get heavily compensated. Just look at the five-year, $82.5 million deal that J.C. Jackson signed with the Los Angeles Chargers early in 2022 free agency.
With Tampa Bay Buccaneers cornerback Jamel Dean might not get that hefty of a contract, it would be a surprise to see him linger in the free-agent pool. Although he's never been a Pro Bowler, Dean has been a full-time starter for a playoff team over the past two years and was a strong rotational player before that.
This past season, Dean logged 57 tackles, two interceptions and allowed an opposing passer rating of 86.0 in coverage. He was even better in 2021, allowing an opposing passer rating of just 50.0.
A 2019 third-round pick out of Auburn, Dean has gone from an under-the-radar selection to a reliable starter. At only 26 years old, he's set to cash in with a sizable second contract. Some teams might view him as the top cornerback on the free-agent market this offseason.
8. DE Zach Allen
Arizona Cardinals defensive end Zach Allen had a wonderful 2022 campaign that should set him up nicely in his pursuit of a second contract. Although he logged only 5.5 sacks, he had a career-high 25 quarterback pressures.
Teams viewing Allen as a pass-rusher will likely view the 25-year-old as an up-and-comer—in a manner similar to how Trey Hendrickson was perceived in 2021 free agency. Hendrickson was more productive in his contract year (13 sacks), but he also played in a much better defense.
While there's a lot to like about Allen as an edge-rusher, he's just as impressive against the run. On film, he rarely appears out of position, and he's a strong tackler with great angle instincts.
This past season, Allen logged 47 tackles and 10 tackles for loss in 13 games. He was credited with only two missed tackles across 660 defensive snaps. Even for teams with established pass-rushers, Allen would be a fine addition.
7. OT Mike McGlinchey
San Francisco 49ers right tackle Mike McGlinchey lands in our top 10 for a few reasons.
For one, he's a powerful run blocker with enough athleticism to pull and to thrive as a zone blocker. He's also only 28 years old and should have several strong seasons ahead of him.
However, McGlinchey is not a flawless player. His footwork in pass protection can get sloppy at times, and he occasionally struggles against more athletic defenders. That can cause him to overextend and to have mental miscues.
In 2022, McGlinchey was responsible for 10 penalties and six sacks allowed in 1,036 snaps, according to Pro Football Focus.
With that said, McGlinchey is the best pure right tackle headed to free agency this offseason. He's a notable name from one of the league's best teams, and a lot of franchises are running offensive concepts similar to what Kyle Shanahan is using in San Francisco, which means McGlinchy should be an easy fit for a lot of systems.
McGlinchey has a projected market value of $14.8 million annually, and he might wind up even exceeding that mark.
6. DT Dre'Mont Jones
Defensive tackle is a position that has seen a resurgence in importance in the NFL
While teams once valued interior defenders who can clog running lanes and stop ball-carriers, they now value those who can bring pressure up the middle. Athletic quarterbacks often climb the pocket and avoid pressure off the edge. That's a lot more difficult when the pass rush is coming from the interior.
With Daron Payne receiving the franchise tag from the Washington Commanders, Dre'Mont Jones of the Denver Broncos is now the best young defensive tackle on the market. The 26-year-old can do a little bit of everything well, including pressuring the quarterback.
Jones finished the 2022 season with 47 tackles, 6.5 sacks, 16 quarterback pressures and a forced fumble. He has logged 12 sacks, 37 quarterback pressures and two forced fumbles over the last two seasons.
With an ideal combination of youth, ability and proven production, Jones would be a fit for any team seeking help along its defensive line.
5. S Jessie Bates III
After getting franchise-tagged last year and failing to reach a long-term extension, Cincinnati Bengals safety Jessie Bates III is finally heading into free agency. The 26-year-old should draw more interest than teammate Vonn Bell because he can play in the back end of a secondary, both in single-high and two-deep looks.
Bates is adept at play recognition, which helps put him in position to make big plays. He recorded a career-high four interceptions in 2022, and he has logged 14 picks, three forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries in his five seasons with Cincinnati.
This past season, Bates added 71 tackles and eight passes defended while allowing an opposing passer rating of only 76.1 in coverage.
While Bates can get too aggressive at times and will blow the occasional coverage—he allowed an 80 percent completion rate and 538 receiving yards in 2021—he appeared to be much more disciplined in 2022.
Last offseason, the Bengals kept Bates in-house with the franchise tag. This offseason, he should secure a long-term deal.
4. CB James Bradberry
Philadelphia's James Bradberry is the best cornerback available this offseason, which should result in a hefty payday.
Bradberry joined the Eagles last May after the Giants cut him as a cap casualty. He proved to be a perfect fit for Jonathan Gannon's zone-heavy defense and played a huge role in helping the Eagles reach Super Bowl LVII.
The 29-year-old rarely came off the field this past season, starting all 17 games and playing 98 percent of the defensive snaps. Bradberry finished with 44 tackles, 17 passes defended, three interceptions and allowed an opposing passer rating of only 51.6 in coverage.
Bradberry won't be a great fit for every team. He'll turn 30 in August, and he's much more effective in zone than in a man-heavy scheme, although he's never a complete liability when he's on the field.
Bradberry is still one of the best 32 cornerbacks in the NFL, and he should have a few strong seasons ahead of him. Expect him to be some team's prized free-agent acquisition this offseason.
3. DB C.J. Gardner-Johnson
We're giving Eagles defensive back C.J. Gardner-Johnson the edge over James Bradberry for a few reasons. It starts with his versatility, as Gardner-Johnson is a skilled player who has thrived as both a slot corner and at safety.
Gardner-Johnson primarily played nickel with the New Orleans Saints, but he moved to safety after being traded to Philadelphia last year. He was great in both roles, allowing an opposing passer rating of 67.7 in 2021 and 78.4 this past season. He logged three interceptions in 2021 and a league-leading six interceptions (tied with Minkah Fitzpatrick and Justin Simmons) in 2022.
Occasionally, Gardner-Johnson can also creep toward the line of scrimmage and play more of a linebacker role, although tackling is not his strongest trait (11 missed tackles in 2022).
Gardner-Johnson just turned 25 in December. Whichever team signs him to a long-term deal will be getting a multi-positional defender for the bulk of his playing prime.
2. DT Javon Hargrave
Yes, we have another Eagles player in our top 10. That shows just how talented Philadelphia was this past season and how impressive Kansas City's Super Bowl win was.
Defensive tackle Javon Hargrave just turned 30 in February and doesn't have the quite same long-term value as a player like C.J. Gardner-Johnson. However, as we previously discussed, defensive tackle has become a premium position, and Hargrave is the best on the market.
Over the past two seasons, Hargrave has been remarkable. He logged 7.5 sacks and 63 tackles in 2021 while making the Pro Bowl. This past year, he was arguably even better, notching 60 tackles, a career-high 11 sacks and 18 quarterback pressures.
Hargrave is excellent at bringing interior pressure, and he's a consistent run defender as well (only three missed tackles over the past two years). He's also versatile, having played nose tackle in Pittsburgh and then thriving in Philadelphia's even front.
A fit for virtually any team and any scheme, Hargrave is our No. 1 defender in this year's free-agent class.
1. OT Orlando Brown
Offensive tackle Orlando Brown appeared destined for the franchise tag once again this offseason, but the Kansas City Chiefs reversed course and will try to reach an agreement without using the tag.
"The Chiefs would like to keep him long-term, certainly someone they view as a big-time part of their future," NFL Network's Ian Rapoport said.
If Brown does reach free agency, he'll be the top offensive lineman by a large margin. He's a four-time Pro Bowler who can play left or right tackle, and he'll only be 27 at the start of the 2023 season.
While Brown might not be a truly elite left tackle, he's fared well in that role for Kansas City. This past season, he was responsible for six penalties and only four sacks allowed across 1,133 snaps, according to Pro Football Focus. Brown made the Pro Bowl at both tackle spots during his time with the Baltimore Ravens.
Brown has also been durable, having missed only one game in his five NFL seasons. He's young, talented, reliable and plays a premium position, so Brown should have a massive long-term offer in hand before the official start of free agency on March 15.
Advanced statistics from Pro Football Reference unless otherwise noted.