But there are key players who are changing teams this month. Free agency officially starts Wednesday at 16 A.M. There isn’t a superstar who hasn’t received a franchise tag in this free-agency class, but there are quality veterans who can fill needs.
In our ranking of the top 25 free agents, we will not include the franchise-tagged players — Ravens QB Lamar Jackson, Cowboys RB Tony Pollard, Jaguars TE Evan Engram, Commanders DT Daron Payne, Raiders RB Josh Jacobs, Giants RB Saquon Barkley — although Jackson obviously would be #1 on this year’s list and probably every other list over the past few decades.
Here are the top 25 free agents for this year and updates as they sign:
Brown did not get a second straight franchise tag from the Chiefs. He is 26 and a very good left tackle. It’s rare to see a good left tackle on the market at that age.
Hargrave had three stellar seasons with the Eagles after the Steelers didn’t retain him. Hargrave had 11.5 sacks last season, which is a big mark for an interior linebacker. He just turned 30.
Bates wasn’t happy about getting the franchise tag last season from the Bengals, but he didn’t get another one and left Cincinnati. He is a versatile safety who just turned 26.
Bradberry became a household name for the holding call in the Super Bowl that will be debated forever. It’s unfortunate because he’s a hell of a player in a prime position. He took a one-year deal last year with the Eagles and will likely get more than that this time around.
Allen, 25, was a solid third-round draft pick for the Cardinals in 2019. He developed into a starter and a plus defender against the run and pass.
Dean was a solid starting cornerback for the Buccaneers and is only 26 years old, and there is value in that. He may never be a Pro Bowler, but the Bucs appreciated keeping the veteran cornerback.
McGlinchey has draft pedigree as the former 10th overall pick and has been a solid starter at right tackle for the 49ers for five seasons.
8. CB Darius Slay
Early reports that the Eagles intended to release Slay proved premature when it was reported on the first day of the new league year that the star cornerback was expected to remain in Philadelphia. The five-time Pro Bowler could have a deal in the works to return to the NFC champions.
If you need a receiver, there’s bad news. This is a shockingly weak free agent class. Meyers was in exactly the right place at the right time. Meyers never had more than 866 yards in a season for the Patriots.
10. S Chauncey Gardner-Johnson
It was surprising how cheaply the Eagles got Gardner-Johnson in a trade with the Saints (it was Gardner-Johnson and a seventh-round pick for a fifth and a sixth), and then he had a good season for the NFC champions. There are some injury issues, but he is the type of playmaking, versatile safety that has great value in the modern NFL.
Jones was a good, solid player for the Broncos, who were probably overpaid because there aren’t many stars available. Jones is 26 and could be an above-average starter for the Seahawks’ defensive line.
Poyer will turn 32 before the start of next season, so he’s not a long-term option. But he’s had a great six-season run with the Bills and should still have a good season or two left.
Edmunds is a two-time Pro Bowler who has racked up more than 100 tackles in each of his five NFL seasons with the Bills. The former first-round draft pick hasn’t made a ton of big plays, but he’s a good option at off-ball linebacker for the Bears, who are looking to fill Roquan Smith’s absence after trading him.
Taylor is a former second-round draft pick who never missed a start for the Jaguars. He is only 25 years old. Taylor is not a great right tackle, but he will still be an upgrade for KC and is in his prime.
Tight end has become a thin position around the NFL. Schultz’s numbers were down from an 808-yard, eight-touchdown campaign in 2021 with the Cowboys, but he’s still a good pass catcher and many teams need an upgrade at the position.
16. WR Odell Beckham Jr.
Beckham would be the best receiver on the market if there were no health issues. Beckham never signed last season after tearing his ACL in the Super Bowl 13 months ago. Beckham did enough with the Rams after a midseason trade to prove he’s still a top talent at the position. It’s just about which team will play.
Clark and the Chiefs couldn’t agree 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 stellar postseason resume.
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 turn 33 before Week 1, but a short-term deal could work out just fine for a team looking to improve at linebacker.
Tomlinson won’t give you much of an interior pass rush, but the Browns got a quick fix for their run defense with the 325-pound tackle. Tomlinson had two productive seasons for the Vikings.
Let’s play a game called “supply and demand”. There are more teams in need of a quarterback than there are entry-level players available. Garoppolo may not have been great, but he was functional for the 49ers and has plenty of experience. The Raiders realized that the game of QB musical chairs was over and they need to overpay for Garoppolo rather than wade into the unknown.
McGary had a solid season for the Falcons, ranking fourth in Pro Football Focus’ offensive tackle grades, and the former first-round pick is only 28 years old. There are never a ton of great offensive line options available in free agency, and McGary will be a nice addition at right tackle.
With Saquon Barkley, Josh Jacobs and Tony Pollard being tagged, Sanders is arguably the best running back out there. Another contract for a running back is always risky, but a team that wants veteran help (Dolphins?) can count on Sanders’ versatility to be an asset. Sanders totaled 1,347 yards and 11 touchdowns from scrimmage last season for the Eagles.
Teams don’t value off-ball linebackers like they used to. And David is 33. 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 good year or two left.
Gesicki wasn’t a good fit for Mike McDaniel’s offense with the Dolphins. Another team could see an athletic talent who was productive from 2019-2021 and is only 27 years old. For a team that knows Gesicki is basically a big receiver and not an in-line tight end, that could be a nice addition.
A former first-round draft pick of the Saints, Davenport is 26 years old and had nine sacks two seasons ago. Overall, Davenport has been disappointing (21.5 sacks in five seasons), but the Vikings will take a shot at his potential.