Skip to main content
Advertising

Top 101 NFL Free Agents

Presented By

Top 101 NFL free agents of 2024 ranked by position: Which spots have most/least depth?

Below is a breakdown of Gregg Rosenthal's top 101 free agents of 2024 according to position.

NOTE: Each player's listed age represents how old he will be on Sept. 5, when the 2024 NFL season is expected to kick off.



QUARTERBACK

Rank
1
Kirk Cousins
Age: 36

It’s very Kirk Cousins that the four-time Pro Bowler was playing the best football of his career just before he tore his Achilles. Nothing is ever simple with him. For him to be dealing with an injury that serious at this age makes it tricky to establish his price tag, but he’ll still have plenty of suitors.


EDITOR'S UPDATE: Cousins signed with the Atlanta Falcons on a four-year, $180 million contract that includes $100 million guaranteed, NFL Network Insider Tom Pelissero reported on March 11.

I believe Brissett would be a league-average starting quarterback if given the chance. I believe that league-average starting quarterbacks are worth a lot. I know that Brissett easily outplayed the quarterback before him in Cleveland (Baker Mayfield) and the quarterback after him (Deshaun Watson), then dramatically supercharged the Commanders offense the minute he hit the field last year in place of Sam Howell.


EDITOR'S UPDATE: Brissett signed with the New England Patriots on a one-year, $8 million deal, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported on March 11.

Baker proved in 2023 that he can keep an offense afloat. He makes decisions more quickly now then when he was younger and doesn't lack for conviction when making throws with his excellent arm. I’d be wary of buying too high, however, depending on his price tag.


EDITOR'S UPDATE: Mayfield re-signed with the Buccaneers on a three-year, $100 million deal that includes $40 million fully guaranteed at signing and has a max value of $115 million, NFL Network Insiders Ian Rapoport and Tom Pelissero reported March 10.

Rank
4
Ryan Tannehill
Age: 36

I’ve always been a Tannehill fan, but he appeared to show his age in some spot starts last year. He would fit best as a backup.

This list is made independent of contract demands. But even if Wilson ends up being as inexpensive as a mid-tier backup, I worry about how he’ll transition into the life of a bridge/backup quarterback. That’s the role his level of play indicates he should have.


EDITOR'S UPDATE: Wilson signed a one-year deal with the Steelers, the team announced on March 15. NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport first reported Wilson's plan to sign with Pittsburgh on March 10.

His hilarious insubordination in the Saints' season finale notwithstanding, Winston has barely played since Sean Payton left town. Still just 30, he’s got more talent and experience than almost any backup option out there.


EDITOR'S UPDATE: Winston signed with the Cleveland Browns on a one-year deal with a base value of $4 million and a max value of $8.7 million, NFL Network Insider Tom Pelissero reported March 12.

Minshew is up to 37 starts in five NFL seasons, a remarkable run for a sixth-round pick. Who knew he could operate an RPO-heavy offense that well?


EDITOR'S UPDATE: Minshew signed with the Las Vegas Raiders on a two-year, $25 million deal that includes $15 million fully guaranteed, NFL Network Insiders Ian Rapoport and Tom Pelissero reported on March 11.

Rank
8
Tyrod Taylor
Age: 35

Tyrod was spinning it when he got the chance with the Giants, taking more shots and hitting more big-time throws than at any point since his arrival as a starter in Buffalo nearly a decade ago. He’s a perfect backup.


EDITOR'S UPDATE: Taylor signed with the New York Jets on a two-year deal worth up to $18 million, NFL Network Insider Tom Pelissero reported March 11.

Backup quarterbacks remain largely underpaid for how important they are. No matter what you think of Garoppolo and the two-game PED suspension he must serve to start the season, he’s ready to settle in as an above-average backup for the next couple of years.


EDITOR'S UPDATE: Garoppolo signed with the Los Angeles Rams on a one-year deal with a base value of $4.5 million and a max value of $12 million, NFL Network Insiders Mike Garafolo and Ian Rapoport and NFL Network's Peter Schrager reported on March 15.



RUNNING BACK

Barkley performed better last year than his numbers indicated, playing smarter than he did earlier in his career. He has a complete game that could put an offense over the top.


EDITOR'S UPDATE: Barkley signed with the Philadelphia Eagles on a three-year, $37.75 million contract with $25.5 million fully guaranteed at signing, NFL Network Insiders Ian Rapoport and Tom Pelissero reported on March 11.

Henry can be the running back version of Stephon Gilmore, a plus starter with a unique skill set who can take his side of the ball to another level on a short-term deal.


EDITOR'S UPDATE: Henry signed with the Baltimore Ravens on a two-year, $16 million deal that has a max value of $20 million and includes $9 million guaranteed, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported on March 12.

A step slow to start last year, Jacobs looked more like his 2022 form by the end of the season. He’s excellent at making defenders miss and is an underrated receiver, although his rollercoaster career arc is cause for concern.


EDITOR'S UPDATE: Jacobs signed a four-year, $48 million deal with the Green Bay Packers, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported on March 11.

Pollard would best be used with around 200 touches, with him serving as a pass catcher for a healthy chunk of those. In that role, he can be an explosive addition to any offense.


EDITOR'S UPDATE: Pollard signed a three-year, $24 million deal with the Tennessee Titans, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported on March 11.

Jones still has juice -- just watch him down the stretch last season. His challenge will be staying healthy, and he’s best used in a complementary role.


EDITOR'S UPDATE: Jones signed a one-year, $7 million deal with the Minnesota Vikings, NFL Network Insiders Ian Rapoport and Tom Pelissero reported on March 12.

Rank
6
D'Andre Swift
Age: 25

Swift showed with the Eagles in 2023 to be a tougher power runner with more durability than he ever was in Detroit. Can he do it again?


EDITOR'S UPDATE: Swift signed a three-year, $24 million deal with the Chicago Bears, NFL Network Insiders Mike Garafolo and Ian Rapoport reported on March 11.

One of the most complete backs of this era, Ekeler can still help a team on passing downs. His clearly diminished explosiveness, however, probably isn’t coming back.


EDITOR'S UPDATE: Ekeler signed with the Washington Commanders on a two-year deal worth up to $11.43 million, NFL Network Insider Tom Pelissero reported on March 11.

Dobbins tore his Achilles in Week 1 last season, the latest in a string of significant injuries for the 25-year-old. He still has top-10 back potential if he can stay healthy, but he may not be at his best until late in the season or in 2025.


EDITOR'S UPDATE: Dobbins signed with the Los Angeles Chargers on a one-year deal, NFL Network Insider Tom Pelissero reported on April 17.

The Texans offense improved the minute the team made Singletary the starter in 2023, with his slashing runs often overcoming bad blocks.


EDITOR'S UPDATE: Singletary signed with the New York Giants, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported on March 11.

SPECIAL TEAMS: Kicker



RECEIVER

Overextended when the Jaguars tried to feature him as a No. 1 receiver, Ridley still showed a penchant for getting open and making big plays. He’s just a little older and less consistent than you’d ideally like.


EDITOR'S UPDATE: Ridley signed a deal with the Tennessee Titans. On March 13, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported the contract is for four years and $92 million, including $50 million fully guaranteed.

Rank
2
Mike Williams
Age: 29

There aren't many true "X" receivers able to win physically down the field like Williams. Coming off a torn ACL, Williams' previous injuries only forced him to miss seven games in a five-season span. He's a fun boom-or-bust pickup.


EDITOR'S UPDATE: Williams signed a one-year deal worth up to $15 million with the New York Jets, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported on March 19.

I believe deep speed is hard to find, and Brown would fit well as the second or third option on a top-10 offense. If Christian Kirk was worth $18 million per year (on a deal that’s aged surprisingly well since Kirk signed it in 2022), Brown is worth more.


EDITOR'S UPDATE: Brown signed with the Kansas City Chiefs on a one-year deal worth up to $11 million, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported on March 14.

Gabe Davis Analytics Inc. putting together these numbers may have moved him up a few spots in my top 101 (No. 33 on the original list). There’s untapped potential here, and nearly every team could use a deep threat like him.


EDITOR'S UPDATE: Davis signed with the Jacksonville Jaguars on a three-year, $39 million deal that has a max value of $50 million, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported on March 11.

Rank
5
Curtis Samuel
Age: 28

I’m a sucker for Samuel, who always creates yards on his own while being used in a variety of ways.


EDITOR'S UPDATE: Samuel signed a three-year, $30 million deal with the Buffalo Bills, NFL Network Insiders Tom Pelissero and Ian Rapoport reported on March 14.

Just two seasons removed from an 81-catch, 1,055-yard campaign, Mooney has deep speed and the ability to get open. His inconsistency tracking the ball is why he ranks lower on the top 101 (No. 66 on the original list).


EDITOR'S UPDATE: Mooney has signed with the Atlanta Falcons. On March 12, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported that the deal is for three years and $39 million, with $26 million fully guaranteed.

The author of many clutch moments over the last two seasons, Osborn showed the ability to step up as a quality starter when necessary. He’s a good No. 3 option with room to grow. 


EDITOR'S UPDATE: Osborn signed with the New England Patriots, NFL Network Insiders Ian Rapoport and Tom Pelissero reported on March 17. The team announced he signed on March 19.

Rank
8
Odell Beckham
Age: 31

In hindsight, the Ravens might have some regrets about paying OBJ instead of DeAndre Hopkins last offseason, but Beckham proved in Baltimore he can get deep and stay healthy for a season. He just wasn’t always on the same page as Lamar Jackson and lost some playing time by the end of the year.


EDITOR'S UPADTE: Beckham is signing a one-year deal with the Miami Dolphins worth up to $8.25 million, NFL Network Insiders Tom Pelissero and Ian Rapoport reported on May 3.

Rank
9
Tyler Boyd
Age: 29

A nightmarish 2023 season likely ended Boyd’s great run with the Bengals. With a big slot skill set and a history of consistency before last year, he could be a fine buy-low candidate.


EDITOR'S UPDATE: Boyd and the Tennessee Titans have agreed to a one-year contract worth up to $4.5 million, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported on May 7.

The guy gets open and makes plays after the catch. A midseason ACL tear is the only thing preventing him from ranking higher on this season.


EDITOR'S UPDATE: Bourne re-signed with the Patriots on a three-year, $19.5 million deal that has a max value of $33 million, NFL Network Insider Tom Pelissero and NFL Network's Cameron Wolfe reported on March 10.

Rank
11
Michael Thomas
Age: 31

Thomas hasn’t been healthy enough to play a full season since 2019, but he showed flashes of his old form in 10 games last year. He’s worth a flier just for the social accounts.

SPECIAL TEAMS: Kicker



TIGHT END

At a position where young players historically develop slowly, Henry is a proven, complete tight end. A plus blocker and red-zone threat, he’ll upgrade some team as a starter.


EDITOR'S UPDATE: Henry re-signed with the Patriots on a three-year, $27 million contract that has a max value of $30 million, NFL Network Insiders Mike Garafolo and Ian Rapoport reported on March 8.

Rank
2
Noah Fant
Age: 26

Tight ends typically develop on a slow timeline; Fant has grown more reliable as a player without losing his incredible athleticism. 


EDITOR'S UPDATE: Fant re-signed with the Seattle Seahawks on a two-year, $21 million deal, NFL Network Insider Tom Pelissero reported on March 11.



OFFENSIVE TACKLE

Rank
1
Tyron Smith
Age: 33

One of the most underpaid players in the NFL last season, Smith is due a massive raise after a return to elite form. He played 942 snaps (including playoffs), which is his highest total since 2018, per Pro Football Focus.


EDITOR'S UPDATE: Smith signed a one-year deal worth up to $20 million, NFL Network Insiders Ian Rapoport and Tom Pelissero reported on March 15.

Brown was a difference-maker -- when he suited up in New England. Unfortunately, he’s only topped 600 snaps once in the last five seasons (per PFF), and he has a history of generating dramatic headlines at previous stops.


EDITOR'S UPDATE: Brown signed a one-year deal with the Cincinnati Bengals, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported on March 19.

Williams might not stand out, but he handled his switch to right tackle in 2023 without much drop-off. He can also go back to the left side if needed. League-average tackles are hard to find in free agency. 


EDITOR'S UPDATE: Williams signed a two-year, $30 million contract with the Arizona Cardinals, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported on March 13.

There are so few tackles available this year that anyone who's young and started the last few years without major problems got a bump in the rankings. Eluemunor, a flexible British-born player who has improved throughout his career, has settled in at right tackle (and placed 59th on my original top 101).


EDITOR'S UPDATE: Eluemunor signed with the N.Y. Giants on a two-year, $14 million contract, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported on March 11.

Nijman performed well when given the chance in Green Bay, but he lost out on playing time in 2023. He can play left or right tackle and has good experience for his age.


EDITOR'S UPDATE: Nijman signed with the Carolina Panthers on a two-year, $8 million deal that includes $5 million guaranteed and carries a maximum value of $15 million, NFL Network Insiders Tom Pelissero and Ian Rapoport reported on March 18.

Rank
6
Josh Jones
Age: 27

Left tackle is Jones' best position, but with Laremy Tunsil locked in at that spot in Houston, Jones saw limited snaps last year. Jones is a terrific high-ceiling target for a team looking for options.


EDITOR'S UPDATE: Jones signed a free-agent contract with the Baltimore Ravens, the team reported on March 21.

Peat looked better at left tackle last season than he did at guard, which is convenient for him, because left tackles are paid way better. 


EDITOR'S NOTE: Peat is signing a free-agent deal with the Las Vegas Raiders, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported on May 6.

Rank
8
Donovan Smith
Age: 31

Smith held up well enough for the Chiefs to win a Super Bowl, but it's clear he's in the decline phase of an otherwise consistent career.  

SPECIAL TEAMS: Kicker



INTERIOR OFFENSIVE LINE

The Patriots did Onwenu a huge favor by returning him to right tackle midway through last season. While he’s an excellent guard, he’s better as a bookend. That flexibility, his age and experience could make him one of this year's highest-paid players in free agency.


EDITOR'S UPDATE: Onwenu re-signed with the New England Patriots on a three-year, $57 million deal, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported on March 11.

A great fit for any zone-blocking offense looking for a difference-maker on the ground, Hunt’s experience as a tackle also shows he has pass-blocking chops.


EDITOR'S UPDATE: Hunt signed with the Carolina Panthers on a five-year, $100 million contract that includes a $26.5 million signing bonus, NFL Network Insider Mike Garafolo reported on March 11.

A vastly improved player from his first two seasons, Cushenberry earned a reputation as a leader and difference-maker on the Broncos' offensive line. Don’t be surprised if he gets a handsome deal in free agency.


EDITOR'S UPDATE: Cushenberry signed with the Tennessee Titans on a four-year, $50 million contract that includes $26 million fully guaranteed and a signing bonus worth more than $18 million, NFL Network Insider Tom Pelissero reported on March 11.

Rank
4
John Simpson
Age: 27

Seemingly coming out of nowhere in 2023, Simpson had the type of gasp-inducing blocks in the running game to make other front offices take notice.


EDITOR'S UPDATE: Simpson signed a two-year contract with the New York Jets for up to $18 million, NFL Network Insider Tom Pelissero reported on March 11.

James has played at least 950 snaps in three straight seasons, per PFF, improving in his all-around game along the way. Centers and guards will get paid in this market, because tackles aren’t available.


EDITOR'S UPDATE: James is re-signing with the Raiders on a three-year, $24 million deal that includes $16 million guaranteed, NFL Network Insiders Ian Rapoport and Tom Pelissero reported on March 10.

Dotson got a lot of credit for helping to turn around the Rams offensive line, and they’d love to keep him. Few players earned more money with a career rebound last year.


EDITOR'S UPDATE: Dotson re-signed with the Rams on a three-year, $48 million deal that includes $32 million guaranteed, NFL Network Insider Mike Garafolo reported on March 7.

Plenty of teams need a center, and Morse was still getting the job done in more than 1,200 snaps for the Bills last season. His release had more to do with his $8.5 million salary than poor play.


EDITOR'S UPDATE: Morse signed with the Jacksonville Jaguars on a two-year, $10.5 million deal with $7 million guaranteed, NFL Network Insiders Mike Garafolo and Ian Rapoport reported on March 11.

Rank
8
Connor Williams
Age: 27

Williams would have been one of the most highly sought-after interior-line free agents if not for a torn ACL late in the 2023 season.

Consistently better as a run-blocker than in pass coverage, Jackson has been reliable and mostly durable in four seasons as a starting left guard.


EDITOR'S UPDATE: Jackson signed with the Los Angeles Rams on a three-year, $51 million deal that includes $34 million guaranteed, NFL Network Insider Mike Garafolo reported on March 11.

Rank
10
Kevin Zeitler
Age: 34

The fact that he ranked seventh on this list seven years ago is a testament to Zeitler, who will be sought after for a fourth bite at the NFL-contract apple. That’s rarefied air.  


EDITOR'S UPDATE: Zeitler signed a one-year deal with the Detroit Lions, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported on March 18.

Rank
11
Jon Runyan
Age: 27

Runyan has quietly played more than 1,000 total snaps in each of the last three seasons, per PFF. He can line up at either guard spot. 


EDITOR'S UPDATE: Runyan signed with the New York Giants, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported on March 11.

Risner never found the market he wanted last offseason before joining the Vikings as a capable midseason replacement at guard.


EDITOR'S UPDATE: Risner is re-signing with the Minnesota Vikings on a one-year deal, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported May 29.

SPECIAL TEAMS: Kicker



EDGE RUSHER

Hunter’s productive holdout last summer led to a one-year deal worth up to $20 million with a guarantee the team could not tag him. He proceeded to rack up 16.5 sacks, proving again he can transcend any scheme.


EDITOR'S UPDATE: Hunter signed with the Houston Texans on a two-year, $49 million deal that includes $48 million fully guaranteed and is worth up to $51 million, NFL Network Insiders Tom Pelissero and Ian Rapoport reported on March 12.

Greenard tallied 12.5 sacks and finished sixth among edge rushers in pass-rush win rate in 2023. He often wins quickly. It would be a shame if the Texans couldn’t keep him and Will Anderson Jr. together. 


EDITOR'S UPDATE: Greenard signed a four-year, $76 million deal with the Minnesota Vikings, NFL Network Insiders Tom Pelissero and Ian Rapoport reported on March 11.

It’s hard to know where to rank Huff. His per-snap pass-rush numbers over the last two years make him look like a cross between Lawrence Taylor and God, but the Jets never trusted him to play every down. A pass-rush specialist with a first step as fast as Huff's should get paid, regardless.


EDITOR'S UPDATE: Huff signed a three-year, $51.1 million deal with the Philadelphia Eagles, NFL Network Insider Mike Garafolo reported on March 11.

If the 49ers couldn’t turn Young into a consistent force after acquiring him via midseason trade in 2023, what team can? In a best-case scenario, his power-without-a-plan approach could age the same way Jadeveon Clowney's game did. He looks more like a second or third rusher than a lead guy.


EDITOR'S UPDATE: Young signed a one-year, $13 million deal with the New Orleans Saints, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported on March 18.

His back problems were nowhere to be seen over the last two productive seasons, in Minnesota and Cleveland. Few outside rushers create as much havoc as Smith when they move inside on passing downs.


EDITOR'S UPDATE: Smith is re-signing with the Cleveland Browns on a two-year, $23.5 million deal that has a max value of $25 million, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported on March 11.

If Bill Belichick was still in New England, the easy joke would be to say Van Ginkel lands with the Patriots. But that’d be selling Van Ginkel short, because his versatile skill set should be sought after by a number of teams looking for a jack of all trades.


EDITOR'S UPDATE: Van Ginkel signed a two-year contract with the Minnesota Vikings, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported on March 11.

Clowney was at No. 42 on my original top 101 list -- which is, as it so happens, where I ranked him a year ago. He's in the neighborhood that features several veterans on one-year deals who will probably outperform all those first-round rookies we spend months dissecting before the draft.


EDITOR'S UPDATE: Clowney signed with the Carolina Panthers on a two-year, $20 million contract worth up to $24 million, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported on March 27.

Uche has played fewer total snaps in his four NFL seasons combined (1,124, including playoffs) than Aidan Hutchinson did last year (1,146). With that in mind, Uche’s career production (19 sacks, 17 QB hits, 116 pressures, per PFF, again including playoffs) is as astounding as his first step. But Bill Belichick usually keeps a guy on the bench for a reason.


EDITOR'S UPDATE: Uche re-signed with the New England Patriots on a one-year, $3 million deal that has a max value of $8 million, NFL Network Insiders Mike Garafolo, Ian Rapoport and Tom Pelissero reported on March 12.

The most overqualified third or fourth edge rusher in the NFL last season, Armstrong deserves a starting role. He’s the type of young player with production that is worth betting on in free agency.


EDITOR'S UPDATE: Armstrong signed with the Washington Commanders on a three-year deal worth up to $45 million, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported on March 11.

Davenport's a QB-pressure machine, but he just hasn’t been able to stay healthy. He’s worth a shot as a situational edge rusher.


EDITOR'S UPDATE: Davenport has agreed to a one-year deal with the Detroit Lions, NFL Network Insiders Mike Garafolo and Ian Rapoport reported on March 11.

Barrett hasn’t been as productive the last two seasons, but he still wins his reps plenty and could be more efficient as a situational pass rusher -- like he was early in his career with the Broncos.


EDITOR'S UPDATE: Barrett signed a one-year deal worth up to $9 million with the Miami Dolphins, NFL Network's Cameron Wolfe reported on March 12.

It was mystifying that it took most of last offseason for Floyd to land a job, and then he finished the 2023 campaign with 10.5 sacks as a rotational player. Same as he ever was. 


EDITOR'S UPDATE: Floyd signed with the San Francisco 49ers on a two-year, $20 million contract that's worth up to $24 million and includes $12 million guaranteed in Year 1, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported on March 11.

On a per-snap basis, Graham was still winning his matchups plenty in his age-35 season.


EDITOR'S NOTE: Graham re-signed on a one-year deal with the Philadelphia Eagles, the team announced on March 12.

Rank
14
Emmanuel Ogbah
Age: 30

Ogbah was of the most quietly productive players in football, and then he suddenly seemed to fall out of favor the last two seasons in Miami after the team changed schemes. 



DEFENSIVE LINE

It would have cost the Chiefs approximately $32 million to place the franchise tag on Jones, which is why that option always seemed so unlikely. Arguably the greatest playoff defensive player of his generation might actually change teams.


EDITOR'S UPDATE: Jones re-signed with the Chiefs on a five-year, $158.75 million deal with $101 million in guarantees, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported on March 9. 

Wilkins is able to play against the run at a high level and is coming off a career-high 61 pressures. The Dolphins did him a huge favor by choosing not to place the franchise tag on him, because he’s set to become one of the highest-paid interior defensive linemen in football.


EDITOR'S UPDATE: Wilkins signed with the Las Vegas Raiders on a four-year, $110 million deal that includes $84.75 million guaranteed, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported on March 11.

Here's a thing that happened: The Seahawks gave up a 2024 second-round pick and 2025 fifth-rounder for half a season of Williams, to add him to a team that did not make the playoffs. It says a lot about the veteran's value that he still costs that much. Entering Year 10, Williams has had one of the more underrated bag-generating careers of his generation.


EDITOR'S UPDATE: Williams re-signed with the Seattle Seahawks on a three-year, $64.5 million deal, NFL Network Insiders Tom Pelissero and Ian Rapoport reported on March 11.

Perhaps the most surprising release of the offseason, Armstead was the fifth highest-graded interior pass rusher in 2023, according to PFF. He’s missed 13 games combined over the last two years.


EDITOR'S UPDATE: Armstead signed a three-year deal with a max value of $51 million with the Jacksonville Jaguars, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported on March 14.

Stewart, who was suspended six games in 2023 for violating the league’s policy on performance-enhancing substances, has been one of the league’s better run stoppers for years.


EDITOR'S UPDATE: Stewart re-signed with the Indianapolis Colts on a three-year deal, NFL Network Insider Tom Pelissero reported on March 12.

Rank
6
D.J. Reader
Age: 30

Reader would be ranked 30 spots higher if not for the torn right quad injury he suffered in December, one of the most difficult to recover from as an older player. He also tore his left quad back in 2020.


EDITOR'S UPDATE: Reader signed a two-year deal with the Detroit Lions that has a max value of $27.25 million with $9 million guaranteed, NFL Network Insiders Tom Pelissero, Mike Garafolo and Ian Rapoport reported on March 14.

Rank
7
Denico Autry
Age: 34

Autry is still strong as hell, even if he started to look his age at times in 2023. Then again, I’ve thought that before.


EDITOR'S UPDATE: Autry signed with the Houston Texans on a two-year, $20 million deal that includes $10.5 million guaranteed, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport and Tom Pelissero reported on March 11.

Rank
8
Calais Campbell
Age: 38

If there was a Next Gen Stat combining height, versatility, longevity, leadership and low-octave range, Campbell would be confirmed as the greatest of all time.

Rank
9
Teair Tart
Age: 27

Based just off his tape, Tart is a monster who could be a steal in free agency. His midseason release from Tennessee won’t help his market value, though.


EDITOR'S UPDATE: Tart has signed with the Miami Dolphins, the team announced on April 8.

Rank
10
DaQuan Jones
Age: 32

As someone who always ranked Jones higher in my top 101 than he placed in other free-agent rankings, it’s been gratifying to see his career go for so long (he's entering his 11th NFL season) -- and to see him gain increasing respect during the DaQuanaissance.


EDITOR'S UPDATE: Jones re-signed with the Buffalo Bills on a two-year, $16 million deal with $10.5 million fully guaranteed and a max value of $18 million, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported on March 12.

Need 500 snaps from a former first-round pick who has stayed at the same steady level for eight straight seasons? Rankins is your man.


EDITOR'S UPDATE: Rankins signed a two-year, $26 million deal with the Cincinnati Bengals, NFL Network Insider Mike Garafolo reported March 13.



LINEBACKER

The league leader in inspiring others to yell “Who was THAT?” over the last two seasons. Luvu gets extra credit for doing it in Carolina.


EDITOR'S UPDATE: Luvu signed a three-year, $36 million deal with the Washington Commanders, per his agent.

Did the light bulb turn on for Queen when Mike Macdonald and Roquan Smith arrived in 2022, or was Queen just put in a better spot? He’s a high-risk, high-reward three-down linebacker who will command a big deal.


EDITOR'S UPDATE: Queen signed a three-year, $41 million contract with the Pittsburgh Steelers, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported on March 12.

Rank
3
Jordyn Brooks
Age: 26

Ask 10 Seahawks fans or reporters for their opinions on Brooks, and you might get 10 different answers. He’s shown he can do it all over four seasons, although he rarely has done it all well at the same time. As with most of the young off-ball linebackers on this list, who play a position where it takes time to develop, the best may be yet to come.


EDITOR'S UPDATE: Brooks signed a three-year, $30 million deal with the Miami Dolphins, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported on March 11.

David is the rare modern-day Hall of Fame candidate who could play his entire career with one team. He’s too good for the Bucs to let go.


EDITOR'S UPDATE: David re-signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on a one-year deal worth up to $10 million, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported on March 12.

It turns out that playing on a stacked 49ers defense for his first four pro seasons wasn't what made Al-Shaair a difference-maker against the run. After signing a one-year prove-it deal in Tennessee in 2023, Al-Shair was reliable amid a difficult situation with the Titans.


EDITOR'S UPDATE: Al-Shaair signed with the Houston Texans on a three-year, $34 million deal, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported on March 11.

Whenever the Chiefs needed a play in 2023, Tranquill was ready to make it as a blitzer or in coverage. That skill set is harder to find than a run-stop thumper, and Tranquill is worthy of a bigger role.


EDITOR'S NOTE: Tranquill is re-signing with the Chiefs on a three-year, $19 million contract that includes $13 million fully guaranteed, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported on March 7.

A second-team All-Pro when the Bucs won the Super Bowl, White is a physically gifted linebacker who often freelanced and missed assignments in coverage this past season -- which I'm sure didn't sit well with head coach Todd Bowles.


EDITOR'S UPDATE: White signed a one-year, $7.5 million deal with the Philadelphia Eagles, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported on March 14.

Wagner would add credibility, leadership and smarts to any linebacker room, but he was picked in the passing game a bit too often last season.


EDITOR'S UPDATE: Wagner signed a one-year deal worth up to $8.5 million with $6 million in guarantees, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported on March 13.

An explosive athlete, Gay was never quite trusted to play every snap as the Chiefs’ weak-side linebacker. He’s a great role player to have on the roster, capable of taking away opposing quarterbacks’ running threat.


EDITOR'S UPDATE: Gay signed a one-year deal worth up to $5 million with the New Orleans Saints, NFL Network Insider Mike Garafolo reported on March 12.

While Jewell could be hurt by this year's deep market at off-ball linebacker, he’s an intriguing three-down option for teams that don’t want to rely on the draft to address this position.


EDITOR'S UPDATE: Jewell signed a three-year deal, $22.75 million deal with the Carolina Panthers that includes a $7 million signing bonus and $10 million fully guaranteed, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported on March 12.

Focus on what your players can do well, they say. Well, there aren’t many players in the league that set a meaner edge than Jennings.


EDITOR'S UPDATE: Jennings re-signed with the New England Patriots on a three-year, $12 million deal with a max value of $24 million, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported on March 13.

DeMeco Ryans trusted Cashman to run his defense, and the veteran established himself as a worthy starter. 


EDITOR'S UPDATE: Cashman signed with the Minnesota Vikings on a three-year deal worth up to $25.5 million, NFL Network Insiders Tom Pelissero and Ian Rapoport reported on March 11.

Rank
13
Tyrel Dodson
Age: 26

The Bills are loaded at linebacker, but Dodson showed last season as an injury replacement that the best may be ahead of him.


EDITOR'S UPDATE: Dodson signed a free-agent deal with the Seattle Seahawks, the team announced on March 14.



CORNERBACK

Fuller is absolutely boosted by the dearth of quality cornerbacks available in this year's market. He can play inside and out and has the smarts to age well at a position that is often cruel to the over-30 set.


EDITOR'S UPDATE: Fuller signed with the Miami Dolphins on a two-year contract worth up to $16.5 million, NFL Network Insider Tom Pelissero reported on March 14.

Rank
2
Stephon Gilmore
Age: 33

The best free-agent pickups in recent years have been excellent veterans willing to take one-year deals. Gilmore, still a plus starter, figures to be one of those guys this season. An instant upgrade for virtually any team. 

Another cornerback who should benefit from the shortage of available players on the market, Moore’s market has a cap to it because he’s a slot-only option.  


EDITOR'S UPDATE: Moore re-signed with the Indianapolis Colts on a three-year, $30 million deal, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported on March 12.

Awuzie's ranking is mostly about the breadth of his career, not his concerning post-ACL-surgery play from 2023. The Bengals benched him for part of the season, but he’s been too good to give up on.


EDITOR'S UPDATE: Awuzie signed with the Tennessee Titans on a three-year, $36 million deal that includes $23 million guaranteed, NFL Network Insider Mike Garafolo reported on March 11.

Rank
5
Steven Nelson
Age: 31

Nelson has turned into that guy who signs a replacement-level short-term deal, stabilizes a starting cornerback spot and then has everyone wondering why he was so inexpensive in free agency in the first place. Can it last forever?

Ranked in my top 20 (!) on the free-agent list I put together in August, Fulton had a disastrous contract year, including poor play, a benching and an injury, and he landed at No. 68 on my original top 101 this year. But when a young cornerback has put quality tape out there in the past, it’s worth gambling on a return to form.


EDITOR'S UPDATE: Fulton signed a one-year deal with the Los Angeles Chargers, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported on March 22.

Rank
7
Adoree' Jackson
Age: 28

A walking example of how cornerback play isn’t consistent year to year, Jackson’s best seasons have been excellent. Just don’t leave him on an island all season like Wink Martindale did last year.

A competent slot cornerback with All-Pro-level return ability. Spicy!


EDITOR'S UPDATE: Nixon re-signed with the Green Bay Packers on a three-year, $18 million deal with a max value of $19.2 million, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported on March 12.

Rank
9
Ahkello Witherspoon

Witherspoon was the Rams' best cornerback last season at a (relatively) measly cost of just over $1 million. He's the type of veteran starter teams are hoping to hit on for cheap to plug a hole for a season or two.

White tore his ACL in 2021 and then his Achilles tendon in 2023 -- a string of terrible luck for the former All-Pro. Those injuries will depress his value, but he’s worth a prove-it deal.


EDITOR'S UPDATE: White is signing a one-year deal worth up to $10 million with the Los Angeles Rams, NFL Network Insider Mike Garafolo reported on March 26.

Williams’ up-and-down career included a surprising resurgence in Jacksonville last season. He was cut because his salary is so high, but he's a decent gamble as a low-cost starter.


EDITOR'S UPDATE: Williams signed with the L.A. Rams on a three-year, $22.5 million deal that has a max value of $30 million, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported on March 12.



SAFETY

I will never stop believing in Ceedy Duce as a multi-hyphenate difference-maker, just like I never stopped believing in Tyrann Mathieu when he hit free agency twice in a row during the middle of his career.


EDITOR'S UPDATE: Gardner-Johnson signed a three-year deal worth up to $33 million with the Philadelphia Eagles, NFL Network Insider Tom Pelissero reported on March 12.

The amount of quality safeties available shows the NFL’s unfortunate disregard for the position, but McKinney is the most well-rounded option out there, now that Antoine Winfield has received the franchise tag. McKinney can do it all.


EDITOR'S UPDATE: McKinney signed with the Green Bay Packers on a four-year deal worth $68 million, NFL Network Insiders Tom Pelissero and Ian Rapoport reported on March 11.

Rank
3
Kamren Curl
Age: 25

Curl tackles and covers equally well. Some on/off splits from four games that he missed in 2022 also show his value. If he was originally drafted higher than the seventh round, he’d probably get more hype.


EDITOR'S UPDATE: Curl signed a two-year deal worth up to $13 million with the Los Angeles Rams, NFL Network Insiders Ian Rapoport, Mike Garafolo and Tom Pelissero reported on March 14.

Blackmon was incredible as a rookie and had a career year as a playmaker in 2023, with an Achilles injury and a lost season in between. The upside is sneakily sky-high here.


EDITOR'S UPDATE: Blackmon is re-signing with the Indianapolis Colts on a one-year contract worth up to $7.7 million with $3.2 million guaranteed, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported on April 2.

Rank
5
Justin Simmons
Age: 30

Thirty-year-old safeties won’t break the bank in this market, but Simmons is a surefire upgrade to many rosters. His leadership, experience and playmaking ability (he's still got enough) should warrant a multi-year deal.

A secret key to the Rams’ 2021 title run, Fuller grew into a team captain and leader. He’s the prototypical heady last line of defense -- a skill set that often improves with a player's age.


EDITOR'S UPDATE: Fuller signed a one-year deal worth up to $5.25 million with the Carolina Panthers, NFL Network Insiders Tom Pelissero and Ian Rapoport reported on March 15.

If Chinn had been a free agent two years ago, he would've ranked in the top 30. Injuries and his linebacker-like skill set, which fell out of favor during his time under defensive coordinator Ejiro Evero, hurt Chinn's overall value, and he ended up at No. 76 in my top 101. But the talent is in there for the right coach to bring out.


EDITOR'S UPDATE: Chinn signed with the Washington Commanders on a one-year, $4.105 million deal with $3.495 million guaranteed, NFL Network Insiders Ian Rapoport and Tom Pelissero reported on March 12.

Stone’s seven-interception 2023 probably isn’t repeatable, but he’s shown enough in 1,500 snaps over the last two seasons for me to believe his center-field skills will travel outside of Baltimore.


EDITOR'S UPDATE: Stone signed with the Cincinnati Bengals on a two-year, $15 million deal that includes a $6 million signing bonus, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported on March 11.

The Jets signed Whitehead to a two-year, $14.5 million contract as a free agent in 2022, and he proved to be worth the money. He’s a big hitter with a nose for the ball.


EDITOR'S UPDATE: Whitehead signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on a two-year, $9 million deal that has a max value of $10.5 million, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported March 13.

Gilman did not look like a former sixth-round pick once he finally got the chance to start in 2023. He popped off the screen and read plays well.


EDITOR'S UPDATE: Gilman re-signed with the L.A. Chargers on a two-year, $11 million, NFL Network Insider Mike Garafolo reported on March 11.

Rank
11
Micah Hyde
Age: 33

Hyde, like Devin McCourty during his time in New England, has managed to quarterback a defense at a high level deep into his mid-30s. 

Rank
12
Quandre Diggs
Age: 31

Diggs can still play deep safety with smarts. He had some missed tackles last season, but it often felt like he was covering for other teammates’ mistakes.



SPECIAL TEAMS

Rank
1
Ka'imi Fairbairn
K · Age: 30

Kickers matter! Fairbairn has made all but three kicks over the last two seasons combined (56 of 59), including hitting 11 of 12 from 50-plus yards out. 


EDITOR'S UPDATE: Fairbairn re-signed with the Houston Texans on a three-year, $15.9 million extension, NFL Network Insiders Mike Garafolo and Ian Rapoport reported on March 6.

Related Content