The Top 100 NFL Free Agents of 2023
The NFL offseason is here! The free agent frenzy officially kicks off on March 13th, when teams and players can negotiate deal terms before officially signing contracts on March 15th.
Below is an attempt to rank the top 100 players in this year’s free agent class. Factors to consider: performance, durability, age and positional value. The last two are important. Younger players are paid more than older players, even if older players have performed better. Quarterbacks get paid a lot of money, even mediocre ones. I don’t make the rules. The way it is.
Conclusion: If you don’t understand why I put one player over another, in most cases it has to do with how much I think the league is willing to pay each player.
The Washington Commanders used the franchise tag for defenseman Daron Payne, so he is not listed below. As of Thursday morning, no other teams have used this tag. This will obviously change in the coming days and the handful of players below will never enter the open market.
The age listed here for each player reflects how old they will be on September 1st. Statistics provided by TruMedia and Pro Football Focus unless otherwise noted. Contract information taken from Over the cap. Now let’s get started!
1. Lamar Jackson, QB, Baltimore Ravens (26)
We know that Jackson will not actually enjoy unlimited free will. There are four possible outcomes:
- Jackson and the Ravens agree to a long-term deal.
- Jackson plays for the Ravens in a franchise.
- Jackson refuses to play under the franchise’s banner and is willing to miss games.
- Jackson is tagged and then traded.
Jackson is 26 years old and has an MVP title under his belt. The Ravens led 45-16 in the regular season with him in the starting lineup. According to ESPN reportJackson wants a fully guaranteed deal similar to the one Deshawn Watson got from the Browns last year, but the Ravens don’t want to go for it.
There are statistics confirming that Jackson is, in fact, a crime committed by one person. When he was on the field for the Ravens for the past three seasons, they ranked sixth in the NFL in expected added points per game. Without Jackson, the Ravens performed as a 31st-place offense.
On the other hand, Jackson has missed 10 games in the past two seasons and the trade would require the team to be willing to give up several first-round picks. And be ready to fulfill the requirements of the contract. This could indeed go in several different directions in the coming weeks and months.
2. Derek Carr, QB, Las Vegas Raiders (32)
Among 40 quarterbacks with at least 500 shots in the last three seasons, Carr is ranked 12th in the EPA in passing. Here’s how he performed last year.
Derek Carr in 2022
|EPA per game||11th|
Carr isn’t going to hold a grudge against himself and can look bad when he’s under pressure. But with the right pieces around him, Carr can offer consistent above-average quarterback play. Last year, Kirk Cousins received an extension from the Vikings, who paid him $35 million last year (he should earn $36.2 million in salary and bonuses in 2023). This type of deal may be what Carr is looking at.
3. Daniel Jones, QB, New York Giants (26)
The Giants’ new regime, consisting of general manager Joe Sean and coach Brian Daball, turned down Jones’ offer for the fifth year they took over last offseason. Now they will have to decide whether to use the franchise label on Jones, sign a long-term extension with him, or let him go (unlikely). Here’s where Jones ranked in a number of statistical categories last year:
Daniel Jones in 2022
|EPA per game||12th|
The Giants’ passing game was limited, at least in part due to their lack of receiver talent. They didn’t ask Jones to do too much. His average pass passed only 6.3 yards, which was the shortest starting distance in the NFL. Instead, the Giants released Jones as a runner and he rushed for a career-high 708 yards.
Jones is young and has the physique to play above average in the starting XI. He has a chance to take it one step further with more help around him. Again, his performance from 2019 to 2021 (which was bad!), cannot be ignored. The best option for the Giants is probably to wait out the year, see how Jones performs in 2023, and then decide if it makes sense to invest in him long term.
4. Gino Smith, QB, Seattle Seahawks (32)
Here’s where Smith ranked in a number of statistical categories last year:
Gino Smith in 2022
|EPA per game||15th|
Smith exceeded all expectations and performed above average as a starter. Question: what does it cost? Finding the answer is not easy, given that Smith is 32 years old and has only had one good season as a starter.
There are currently 10 quarterbacks earning over $30 million a year. Given the way Smith performed last year, he can make a good case for being in this group. Another option for the Seahawks is to use the franchise tag and pay Smith $32.4 million for 2023. If he surrenders, they could discuss a long-term deal next offseason. If it regresses, they are not stuck. But the downside to the Seahawks is that the entire $32.4 million will count toward their 2023 ceiling.
5. Orlando Brown Jr., OT, Kansas City Chiefs (27)
The Chiefs acquired Brown from the Ravens in the 2021 off-season and prevented him from becoming a free agent last year using the franchise tag. They may have to go down this path for the second season in a row. Brown was an above-average left tackle and one of the toughest offensive linemen in the NFL. In his five-year career, he missed just one game due to injury. Given his age and stamina, Brown is likely looking at a deal worth more than $23 million a year, making him the highest paid left tackle in the NFL.
6. Javon Hargrave, DT, Philadelphia Eagles (30)
Hargrave was one of the best pass rushers in the NFL last year. According to Next Gen Stats, his 11 sacks due to defensive tackle alignment ranked third and his 53 pressing ranked second. Hargrave has been productive in 2021, throwing 7.5 sacks and 18 quarterback shots. The only thing that works against him is his age. But Hargrave is likely considering a $16 million to $18 million a year deal.
7. Jesse Bates III, S, Cincinnati Bengals (26)
The Bengals used the franchise tag on Bates last offseason, but may let him go this year. Playing mostly as a free-back, he has played the third-most snaps of any defenseman in the last five seasons and finished last year with a career-high four interceptions. The security market can be hard to predict, but Bates’ plan likely aligns with a five-year, $70 million ($14 million a year) deal that Marcus Williams got from the Ravens last year. And if the team falls in love with Bates, he could easily move into the $17 million a year range.
8. Jimmy Garoppolo, QB, San Francisco 49ers (31)
The numbers for Garoppolo are pretty crazy. Among 36 quarterbacks with at least 600 shots in the past three seasons, Garoppolo ranks fifth in the EPA for passing and 11th in success. We all have eyes and we know that Garoppolo is not in the top five quarterbacks. But placed in position to succeed, he can be the point guard for an effective offense. Garoppolo’s market is hard to predict given that the 49ers couldn’t find a trading partner for him last offseason and he’s injured yet again. Longevity has been an issue, but a year-long Garoppolo flight might make sense for teams in need of a short-term QB solution. Garoppolo is not the eighth best player on this list in terms of performance alone. But rookie quarterbacks almost always get paid more than expected in free agency.
9. Jamel Dean, CB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (26)
It will most likely be the first corner available to many teams. Originally a third-round pick in 2019, Dean has started 38 games on his rookie contract, including 15 last year. According to the PFF chart, he only missed one tackle last season. In 109 people shots, Dean allowed only 60 yards on 13 targets. Last…