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2024 NFL free agency: Baker Mayfield, Derrick Henry among 15 boom-or-bust players on the market

There may not be any live football games gracing our televisions, but the NFL never sleeps and Free Agency Frenzy is on the horizon. Millions of dollars and several signatures over the next couple months could vastly change the landscape of the league for the 2024 season.

A few of the available free agents could bring just as much risk as they do reward. Advancing age, declining play, injury concerns and more could set low floors for these players, while the promise of a massive ceiling could still lead to significant paydays.

Here are 15 of the biggest boom-bust free agents of the 2024 offseason.

NOTE: Players are listed with the age they will be on Sept. 5, when the 2024 NFL season is set to kick off.

Baker Mayfield
QB · Age: 29

Mayfield is a bit of an enigma. He’s a former No. 1 overall pick, a runner-up for both Rookie of the Year (2018) and Comeback Player of the Year (2023), once set the rookie pass TD record in 14 games, won a playoff game as the underdog twice and was an absolute hoot in insurance commercials. He’s also been on four teams in his first six seasons and has a career losing record (40-46).

While Mayfield and the Bucs have mutually expressed interest in the QB returning to Tampa, that’s no guarantee for the soon-to-be 29-year-old, and the range of alternative outcomes is as wide as it gets. He could sign on as the final piece for a contender like the Steelers (with a contract that suggests he’s the starter out of the gate), or he could end up a high-tier backup somewhere like Indianapolis.

It really depends on what NFL teams think of the former Oklahoma star. If he goes to the right spot and plays like he did last season -- or better -- he could finally make that leap into the “star quarterback” category. But it’s also possible we never see him as a franchise QB again.

Fantasy spin: The best realistic landing spots for Mayfield from a fantasy perspective would likely be the Falcons, Seahawks or Commanders. If he goes to any of those spots on a starter deal, I think he’d be a fringe QB1 in 2024.

Gabe Davis
Buffalo Bills · WR · Age: 25

He’s been one of the most boom-or-bust players over the last few years, so it stands to reason Davis would make this list as a free agent. We all remember his 200-yard, four-TD performance in the 2021 Divisional Round, but in the two seasons since, he’s had just four games with 100-plus yards. His career 16.7 yards per reception is among the highest in the league, but he’s yet to eclipse 50 receptions in any single season.

It seems most likely that Davis ends up outside of Buffalo this year, so the question will be whether he finds a new identity with his new team. Kansas City could sign him to a prove-it deal as a legitimate deep threat, or Cincinnati could replace free agent Tyler Boyd to round out its WR trio alongside Ja’Marr Chase and newly tagged Tee Higgins. If he could find more consistency in such a situation -- where the drop-off in QB talent is little to none -- Davis could be a star. But if he snags $15 million per year and remains an erratic 800-yard receiver, it’ll be hard to avoid the bust label.

Fantasy spin: Davis has shown the upside to be a true fantasy WR2 if he could just find the consistency and the catch count. No signing would give me complete confidence in that outcome, but a good landing spot could catapult him from a late-round bench piece to top-30 WR consideration.

Calvin Ridley
Jacksonville Jaguars · WR · Age: 29

Talk about a roller-coaster ride. With the Atlanta Falcons, Ridley scored 10 touchdowns as a rookie in 2018 and broke out for nearly 1,400 yards in 2020. He then missed the last 12 games of the 2021 season to focus on his mental well-being and was suspended the entirety of the 2022 season for betting on NFL games. In his return to football last year, he had a solid, if inconsistent, season with Jacksonville that essentially boiled down to six or seven superb performances and a heap of forgettable ones.

So, which Ridley can teams expect in 2024 and beyond? And what are they willing to invest in that uncertain future? Given his talent on tape and overall record of production on the field, he’ll likely command a top-25 salary for the position. Obviously, that carries some risk given the 29-year-old’s unusual history. His upside is near the elite tier at the position, but he’s running short on time to realize it.

In the end, I think we see Ridley as a high-end WR1B option alongside someone like Amon-Ra St. Brown in Detroit, DeAndre Hopkins in Tennessee or even Christian Kirk back in Duval County.

Fantasy spin: Ridley could fall anywhere from a low-end WR3 to a borderline WR1 depending on where he ends up. Quarterback play and target expectations will be key: He was the WR18 with 136 targets and Trevor Lawrence last year.

Derrick Henry
Tennessee Titans · RB · Age: 30

King Henry needs little introduction. He’s been one of the best and most productive running backs of the last decade, arguably of all time. But Father Time is undefeated, and Henry is now 30 years old. He posted a career-low 4.2 yards per carry last season (which is still quite good for what it’s worth) and only managed five carries of 20-plus yards, his lowest total in a full season since 2018.

While he may not be as explosive, Henry is still an absolute wrecking ball capable of shouldering a true bell-cow workload. In a more productive offense, Henry has enough juice to be one of the league’s best backs. The obvious team to pair him with is Baltimore, though I could also see the Jets signing him as thunder to Breece Hall’s lightning or the rival Texans picking him up to take pressure off C.J. Stroud. But if he ends up in another plodding system where defenses can stack the box with impunity, we could finally see Henry hit a wall he can’t demolish.

Fantasy spin: In a situation like Baltimore or Houston, where Henry would be in line for 250-plus carries in a dynamic scheme, he’d be a top-10 RB worth drafting in the first two rounds. Otherwise, the dwindling explosivity could drop him into low RB2 territory or beyond.

J.K. Dobbins
Baltimore Ravens · RB · Age: 25

The question for any team looking to sign Dobbins is simple: Will he be healthy? Since Baltimore drafted him in 2020, Dobbins has missed an unfortunate 42 of 67 possible regular-season games, mostly due to a significant knee injury in 2021 and a torn Achilles last year. Based on past precedent, both injuries are likely to affect long-term productivity, especially for a running back, which raises the risk moving forward.

So where’s the “boom” with Dobbins? Consider this: The former Buckeye has averaged 5.8 yards per carry in his young career. That’s the most in the Super Bowl era by a running back with at least 200 carries, ahead of Bo Jackson and Jamaal Charles, among others. Yeah, BOOM!

When healthy, Dobbins is a stud. I could see a playoff contender like the Chargers (Austin Ekeler’s a free agent), Eagles (same for D’Andre Swift) or Chiefs taking a shot with a low-risk, short-term deal on the 25-year-old. If it pays off, he could be a superstar.

Fantasy spin: If Dobbins signs as a lead back and IF he's healthy heading into 2024, he’d have a good chance at top-12 upside. That said, with all the risk, he’s more likely to go somewhere in the middle rounds as a speculative sleeper.

Tony Pollard
Dallas Cowboys · RB · Age: 27

The Cowboys kept Tony Pollard from testing the market last offseason by hitting him with a $10.1 million franchise tag. The results were mixed. While Pollard did put up more than 1,300 scrimmage yards in 2023, he was far less efficient as the post-Zeke bell-cow, averaging a career-low 4.3 yards per touch and scoring just six touchdowns (after scoring 12 in 2022).

As such, it may be tough for front offices and coaches to pinpoint what Pollard actually provides. If he’s better suited as a complementary back seeking high starter money, Pollard will be on bust watch from the jump. But if he can rediscover his former efficiency while taking on 300 touches again, nearly any price point would be justified.

Given the potential range in value, it’s also hard to project where Pollard could sign. It’s quite possible he ends up back in Dallas, but if he leaves the nest, it could be to a team with room to spend -- like the Commanders or Bears -- or a team in need of backfield firepower – such as the Panthers or Raiders, assuming Josh Jacobs signs elsewhere.


Fantasy spin: The franchise that signs Pollard will be important for his fantasy value, but the number he signs for might matter more. If he signs for top-10 money at the top of a depth chart, he’ll be in the high-end RB2 discussion.

Mekhi Becton
New York Jets · OT · Age: 25

Around this time four years ago, Becton was one of the most highly touted prospects of the 2020 NFL Draft. He was Daniel Jeremiah’s No. 7 overall prospect before going 11th overall to the Jets thanks to his rare athleticism at his size (6-foot-7, 363 pounds) and potential through-the-roof upside.

Becton hasn’t had much chance to realize that upside, though, as he’s dealt with a slew of injuries and played in only one game in 2021 and 2022 combined. He was fully healthy in 2023, playing more snaps than he had in his first three seasons combined, but he still hasn’t become the elite tackle he was projected to be.

If someone is willing to take a chance Becton, that upside could still be on the table. And if he takes that next step, someone will get a hefty boom out of a borderline bust.

Trent Brown
New England Patriots · OT · Age: 31

In the vein of massive offensive tackles, Brown is one of the very few to actually outstrip Becton. Checking in at 6-8, 370 pounds, he’s been an absolute tank in pass protection and also earned PFF’s sixth-best run blocking grade (80.7) among tackles last season (minimum 100 run blocking snaps).

That said, Brown has not been the most consistent player over his career, earning only one Pro Bowl selection in nine seasons and missing at least five games in six of those seasons (mostly with a number of lower-body injuries). His versatility to play either tackle position helps boost his value, but it will likely need to be for a contender as he turns 31 in April.

If a team like the Chiefs, 49ers, Bengals or Browns shows interest, maybe Brown will take a discount for a chance at another Lombardi (he won one with the Patriots in 2018). That could make the risk baked into his age and injury history a little more palatable.

Chase Young
San Francisco 49ers · DE · Age: 25

The No. 2 overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft came sprinting out of the gate, winning Defensive Rookie of the Year and earning a Pro Bowl selection that season, on the back of 7.5 sacks and exceptional run defense. The encore was less inspiring, as Young tore his ACL and missed 22 games over the next two seasons, totaling 1.5 sacks in that span, and was summarily shipped off from Washington to San Francisco at the trade deadline last season.

Given his pedigree and the flashes we’ve seen, Young could sign a short-term prove-it deal with the intent of solidifying himself as a star edge rusher and securing the true bag in a year or two. The question will be whether he can do so, given what we’ve seen the last few seasons.

Some projections have Young signing for somewhere close to $15 million, which would put him just inside the top 20 at the position in average annual value, and the hottest target by far is the Baltimore Ravens -- whose top three sack leaders from 2023 are all pending free agents. Putting him on the edge of an already elite defense (as he was with the Niners the latter half of last year) is probably the best-case scenario to finally realize his potential.

Jadeveon Clowney
Baltimore Ravens · OLB · Age: 31

Speaking of Ravens edge rushers, Clowney just had arguably the best season of his 10-year career after signing in Baltimore on a one-year, $2.5 million contract. He matched his career high with 9.5 sacks and posted the most pressures (71) and highest pressure rate (16.0%) of his career -- or at least the portion of this career that Next Gen Stats has tracked such data (since 2016).

Clowney has averaged just five sacks per season since entering the league -- though, in fairness, his strength has always been in the run game -- and hasn’t made a Pro Bowl since 2018. He's earned a much bigger payday based on his 2023 play, but that also raises the bust bar heading into his age-31 season.

Once again, it makes the most sense for Clowney to sign with a contender in need -- perhaps with Buffalo or Miami. Incidentally, new Dolphins defensive coordinator Anthony Weaver has been Clowney’s defensive line coach for all four of the best seasons of his career, including three Pro Bowl years in Houston and last year with the Ravens.

D.J. Reader
Cincinnati Bengals · DE · Age: 30

Reader’s value is hard to gauge, as his role as anchor and core to the Bengals’ defensive line didn’t result in much box-score heroics. But over his four years in Cincinnati, Reader has earned an 88.7 PFF defensive grade, which ranks eighth among interior defensive linemen in that span. Even more telling, his pass rush and run defense grades are both 80+ in that window. The only interior linemen with a higher grade in both categories are Aaron Donald, Cameron Heyward, Quinnen Williams and Dexter Lawrence. That’s great company.

Unfortunately, Reader suffered a torn quadriceps in Week 15 that ended his 2023 season and could influence his market value and his 2024 impact. Reader turns 30 years old in July and also missed a significant number of games in both 2020 and 2022. When he’s healthy, he’s a top-tier defensive tackle and will likely be paid as such. But that means he’ll need to recover fully, stay healthy and produce to return value.

The Bengals have quite a lot of projected cap space, so it’s not impossible they bring Reader back. But if they prioritize elsewhere (aka offensive tackle) and let Reader walk, another franchise with room to spend and a need for stability on defense could be on the short list: Texans, Raiders or Colts are options.

Devin White
Tampa Bay Buccaneers · LB · Age: 26

After five seasons in Tampa Bay, White is headed to free agency with a somewhat unique résumé. The 2019 fifth overall pick’s 566 career tackles are ninth-most since he entered the league, but his 83 tackles in 2023 were a career low. He’s easily the most productive pass-rushing off-ball linebacker in the game, as his 112 career QB pressures from linebacker alignments aren’t just the most in that span but nearly double Patrick Queen’s 58 as the next-closest player (per NGS). Absurd.

He’s also highly suspect in run defense and in coverage, and he’s one of PFF’s least-favorite linebackers (grading near the bottom of the barrel on a yearly basis). If a team’s going to sign him, it will do so knowing White is a uniquely one-dimensional player (and maybe with the hope it can fix that).

How impactful White will be with his next team could depend heavily on the head coach and defensive coordinator, and how creative they’re willing to be with his usage and position. Some teams worth considering would be the Falcons or Patriots -- both of whom have significant cap space and new defensive-minded head coaches and had a poor pass rush last season.

Stephon Gilmore
Dallas Cowboys · CB · Age: 33

Once upon a time, Gilmore was the best cornerback in the NFL. That was back in 2019, when he won Defensive Player of the Year and a second straight All-Pro honor. Since then, Gilmore has played for four teams in four years and has been traded twice.

He’s still a strong starting corner and shows flashes of that shutdown savvy every now and then, but at 33 years old, it’s fair to acknowledge the fuel in Gilmore’s tank may be running low -- at a position that demands a whole lot of fuel. Gilmore will likely need to sign another short-term deal, and it figures he’ll aim to do so with a legitimate contender.

While he’s expressed interest in returning to Dallas, the Cowboys’ cap situation is less than ideal and the return of Trevon Diggs and breakout of DaRon Bland could make Gilmore a bit more expendable. That said, his role as a veteran stabilizer to a young corner core could be equally valuable elsewhere. Perhaps as a replacement for free agent L’Jarius Sneed in Kansas City or a fix for the secondary woes in Detroit or Philadelphia.

Kenny Moore
Indianapolis Colts · CB · Age: 29

Moore’s career has trended consistently upward since signing as an undrafted free agent with the Patriots back in 2017 -- then being waived by the team and signed by the Colts a few months later. He signed a four-year, $33 million extension in 2019, earned a Pro Bowl nod in 2021 and is now headed to the open market after a strong seventh season.

His 2023 featured a career-high 79.3 coverage grade from PFF, as well as the 18th-highest overall grade among cornerbacks. He’s also been extremely consistent in the run game and is as solid a slot corner as you could ask for. And of course, few games serve as a better free agency audition than Moore’s memorable Week 9 performance against the Panthers, in which he returned two interceptions for touchdowns.

If Moore re-signs with the Colts, or joins a team where he is similarly utilized, he could be a major value coming off perhaps his best year in the league. But if that was his production peak, anything more than a middling slot corner deal could end up being an overpay.

Eddie Jackson
Chicago Bears · DB · Age: 30

Chicago recently released their former All-Pro safety after seven years, which means Jackson will don a non-Bears uniform for the first time in his career. The question for potential suitors is which Jackson they can expect to get in 2024 and beyond.

Early in his career, the Alabama product was on track to be one of the best safeties in the NFL, earning All-Pro honors in 2018 and making back-to-back Pro Bowls in 2018 and ’19. That version of Jackson has mostly dwindled away, as he’s recorded fewer interceptions (five) and passes defensed (13) over the last three seasons combined than he did in 2018 alone (six and 15, respectively). He finished 2023 with a career-low 58.5 overall defensive grade from PFF and a sub-60 grade in both run defense and coverage, something he hadn’t done in six previous seasons.

Jackson’s price will do a lot to set the bar for a boom-type season or a bust. If he signs for All-Pro money, it will take a major resurgence to return value. But if a team gets the safety at a discount and unlocks his former talent, he could be a major steal. Perhaps the best move would be to sign alongside another solid safety like Jessie Bates in Atlanta, Tyrann Mathieu in New Orleans or Jordan Poyer in Buffalo (with Micah Hyde considering his football future).

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