One-stop NFL free agency guide: Top players, teams to know and sleepers who could break the bank

Free agency NFL is just a few days away and the class of 2023 is loaded. Who are the best free agents and where will they sign? Which teams should be closely monitored over the next few weeks? And what quarterbacks might find a new home? The legal negotiation period begins on Monday, and we will see plenty of agreed-upon deals by the time free agency officially opens on Wednesday.

To get you ready for all the action, our NFL team is here to break down everything you ever wanted to know about free agent frenzy. This includes a preview of what to expect, a quick look at the franchise tag window, a look at the top players available, a roundup of signalers who could sign in new locations, a breakdown of the ideal players on the team, and a quick look at the deepest position. We also pick free agents who are likely to get big contracts, sign lucrative deals, or have injury concerns, and then look at teams that are either willing to spend money or are more likely to remain silent due to salary cap issues. Finally, we wrap it all up with an assessment of how the deals could impact the April NFL Draft and next season’s fantasy football landscape.

All in all, a dozen of our NFL experts rated one of the craziest weeks of the offseason. All this is here, in a convenient universal cheat sheet. (Salary cap figures are from Over the Cap as of March 8.)

Jump to:
Preview | Top names | franchise tags
Watch Quarterbacks | Bank crackers
Sponsor teams | Team Cap Concern
Best suited | Deepest position | sleepers
Injury problems | Project forecast | fantasy spin

What can we expect from free will and when will it begin?

The NFL’s free agent negotiation period officially begins Monday, March 13 at noon ET, giving teams two days to legally talk to free agents and agree on deals before formally signing them when the league’s new year opens at 4:00 p.m.: 00 ET on Wednesday, March 15th.

The class of 2023 doesn’t feel as deep as last year’s class, which saw big deals with offensive tackle Terron Armstead and pass rusher Von Miller. The biggest names to look out for this time around include forward Orlando Brown Jr. and defenseman Javon Hargrave, and there are some top-notch defensive backs as well. Remember Odell Beckham Jr’s end-of-season pranks that didn’t happen? It has the potential to go high again as Beckham is sidelined from his second ACL surgery and still on the open market, right at the top of the lackluster recipient group. And while they’re not free agents, flirting with other organizations for quarterbacks Lamar Jackson and Aaron Rodgers should also build leeway.

With a $16 million increase from last year’s salary cap, NFL teams will now have $224.8 million to work in the 2023 season. The Chicago Bears are #1 overall in the draft and also have the most cap space with $94.7 million. They can be active when the action starts. — Brooke Pryor

Read more: Tracking every deal, trade and cut… Evaluating the biggest deals… The best and worst signings of the past five years… Internal recruitment of players

Who are the most popular free agents?

Our NFL free agent rankings have focused on premium positional value—that’s where the money goes. This means a pass-rush defender, a playable defender, and a powerful offensive tackle. The group of quarterbacks suffered a bit after Daniel Jones and Gino Smith re-signed with their clubs and Lamar Jackson got the franchise’s non-exclusive tag, but there’s still star power at the top here. Age and projected future production are important to our estimates. — Matt Bowen

1. Orlando Brown Jr., O.T.
2. Javon Hargrave, DT
3. Mike McGlinchey, O.T.
4. Jamel Dean, CB
5. Jesse Bates III, S
6. Dalton Schultz, TE
7. James Bradbury, CB
8. CJ Gardner-Johnson, S.
9. Javan Taylor, O.T.
10. Dre’Mont Jones, DT

Read more: Top 100 Free Agent Ranking… Players who need a change of scenery

Who got the franchise tag?

It’s never fun to be a free agent running back. Three of the six franchise tag recipients this year are running backs (Sakwon Barkley, Josh Jacobs and Tony Pollard) who will have to play with $10.091 million one-year tags if they can’t secure long-term contracts by July 15. Will Will a franchise of three of last year’s 1,000-yard rushers be good news for the likes of Miles Sanders and David Montgomery when free agency opens? Doubtful. It’s a fungible position that no one wants to pay for – and just wait for the likes of Ezekiel Elliott, Derrick Henry and Joe Mixon to potentially hit the market to flood it even more.

Franchising Daron Payne to the Washington Commanders makes sense, as defensemen are one position with well-known free agents and expansion candidates who could move to the top of the market. And the Jacksonville Jaguars were right to make Evan Angram show he can do it again.

As for the Baltimore Ravens giving a non-exclusive label to Lamar Jackson, we’ll see how things play out. Team scramble to tell everyone what they are will not chasing him for hours after he got the franchise doesn’t bode well for his chances of getting the fully guaranteed offer he’s looking for from anyone other than the Ravens, but it only takes one team to do so. Someone who ends the game of musical chairs without Aaron Rodgers or Jimmy Garoppolo may decide it’s worth making Jackson’s dreams come true, even if it costs them two picks in the first round. — Dan Graziano

Read more: Franchise Tag Tracking… Big Questions for Jackson… Rating Deal Fits for Jackson

Who are the best quarterbacks on the market?

Jimmy Garoppolo: During the three seasons beginning in 2019, the San Francisco 49ers featured in two NFC Championship games and the Super Bowl, with Garoppolo being their QB1. He has proven that he can help a good team make the playoffs and that sets him apart from almost every other passer in the market. The rest of the story, however, is that Garoppolo hasn’t proven he can get the team through the finish line. His career overall QBR drops from 60.2 in the regular season to 52.8 in the playoffs.

Baker Mayfield: It’s hard to remember now, but Mayfield was the first overall pick in the 2018 draft. Obviously, his career didn’t turn out the way he had hoped. But in the 2020 season, Mayfield led the Cleveland Browns to an 11-5 record and a wild win. He’s still young enough – Mayfield turns 28 in April – to make a difference and resurrect his career. For the right team, he could be useful.

Best of the rest: The 32-team QB-focused league simply lacks first-class players, so clubs are moving quickly to provide better-than-average options. The New Orleans Saints have already agreed to a four-year contract with Derek Carr, who was released by the Las Vegas Raiders on February 14. For many teams, Jeno Smith or Daniel Jones would be attractive options, but their teams apparently believed that too. . The Seattle Seahawks and Smith agreed to a three-year contract the day before the New York Giants decided to bring Daniel Jones back on a massive four-year deal.

Who is left? Other names to be aware of include Sam Darnold, Teddy Bridgewater, Jacoby Brissette, Andy Dalton, Taylor Heinicke, Drew Locke, Gardner Minshew, Carson Wentz, Marcus Mariota, Jarrett Stidham and Cooper Rush. — Jason Reed

Read more: Predicting each team’s starting quarterback in 2023

Which free agents will break the bank?

Orlando Brown Jr, OT: It’s not often that a 26-year-old left tackle who has been in the Pro Bowl for four straight seasons makes it to the open market, but Brown has a path to a solid paycheck. He plays in a premium position, and in 2022 he had a winning block percentage of 91.8% (18th among tackles).

Jamel Dean, CB: The best cornerback available, Dean ticks a lot. He will become a desirable player due to his high level qualities, good ball play and 6ft 1in height. He is only 26 years old and had 54 tackles, 2 interceptions and 8 assists last season.

Javon Hargrave, DT: While some of the best pass rushers in the NFL are extreme players, Hargrave is the elite in his inner worldview. He uses unique power and leverage to wreak havoc among opposing quarterbacks, and in 2022 he will hit a career-best 11.0 sacks. He is arguably the best free agent on defense.

Mike McGlinchey, OT: In a league lacking solid offensive linemen, McGlinche had an excellent record with the Photoniners during his five seasons with San Francisco. At 6-8, McGlinchey’s length and reach are useful qualities as a passing guard on the right flank. And his 81.2% winning blocks in runs was 11th among tackles last season.

Dalvin Tomlinson, DT: The Minnesota Vikings want to keep Tomlinson, but the tight cap makes that a problem. He personifies a player whose value goes far beyond points. Despite only having 13.0 sacks in six seasons, he constantly destroys the inside of the pocket and finds it difficult to move in a running game.

Jacobi Meyers, WR: A fiend of route runners, Meyers has solid evidence that he is the best wide receiver available in an admittedly weaker overall class. His footwork is impeccable and he is a reliable pass catcher. Meyers may be best suited as a WR2 or WR3 on the lineup, but he could be making a huge paycheck this year after catching 67 passes for 804 yards and six TDs in 2022.

Jesse Bates III, S: Free will is inherently risky for teams, but Bates is one of the safest bets. He’s a pillar of reliability as a center fielder – he won four picks last year – and you can count on him to be available for just about every shot in every game. He played his best football during the Cincinnati Bengals’ Super Bowl victory two seasons ago, showing his mettle. — Field Yates

What teams can be active under free agency?

Chicago Bears: Armed with nearly $100 million in caps (the most in the NFL), the Bears are expected to take on several positions, from the offensive line to the seventh defensive line.

Atlanta Falcons: Atlanta have a chance to replenish their talent pool with a series of free agents. It is predicted that the Falcons will have almost …


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