The legal tempering period is underway in the NFL as teams are set to execute their offseason plans. The NFL world will wait to see where Lamar Jackson ends up on the non-exclusive franchise tag tender, while other teams that don’t need quarterbacks will engage in bidding wars for the top free agents available.
As free agency is set to begin, here’s a look at the top 10 free agents available based on Pete Prisco’s top 100 free agent rankings. The madness has begun.
1. Lamar Jackson
Jackson does have the non-exclusive franchise tag, meaning the Ravens can match any offer that comes his way from another team. Baltimore will have five days to match and if the Ravens decline, they will receive two first-round picks in return.
The Ravens are 45-16 in Jackson’s 61 starts since he entered the league in 2018. They average 28.0 points per game when Jackson is on the field compared to 20.0 when Jackson misses games. Jackson is one of six players in NFL history to reach 100-plus passing touchdowns and 4,000-plus rushing yards in a career, and the fastest to reach the mark by 31 games. The Ravens are averaging 184.8 rushing yards per game with Jackson as a starter in his career — the most by any starting quarterback since the 1970 merger.
Basically Jackson is the top free agent on the board. There should be a frenzy to sign him for quarterback-needy teams. Former MVPs at 26 years old don’t hit free agency everyday.
Don’t let the stats fool you when judging Davenport’s 2022 season. Davenport had only a half-sack and eight quarterback hits last year, but did finish with 34 pressures. He is getting to the quarterback, despite the lack of sacks at his disposal.
Teams will find excellent value from Davenport. Will they pay top dollar?
The Chiefs allowing Brown to test the free agent market has other teams salivating to get one of the league’s top tackles on their offensive line.
Brown has been one of the best tackles in the game over the past four seasons, the only offensive tackle to reach the Pro Bowl in each of the past four years. The Chiefs left tackle allowed four sacks and 39 pressures in the regular season while allowing 10 pressures in three postseason games. Brown didn’t allow a sack since Week 15 against the Texans and just two sacks since Week 9 against the Titans.
Good left tackles are hard to find in this league. Brown is one of those players.
The Jaguars would be wise to retain Taylor on their offensive line, given he had his best season in 2022. Taylor had the third-lowest pressure rate allowed (2.5%) among tackles last season (Tristan Wirfs, Lane Johnson were higher), allowing 16 pressures on the season. The pressure rate dipped from 8.0% in 2020 to 2.8% in 2022, showcasing how much better Taylor has gotten over the years.
Just 25 years old, Taylor will be a top target for may teams in free agency.
Dean is set to have plenty of suitors in free agency as one of the top cornerbacks on the market. While he allowed a career high in pass touchdowns (five), Dean is a very good starting cornerback in the league. Opposing quarterbacks have just a 66.2 passer rating targeting Dean this year.
Dean will get an opportunity to prove himself as a No. 1 cornerback after pairing with Carlton Davis on the Buccaneers the last several years.
Bradberry had a monster year in the Eagles’ defense, solidifying himself as one of the top cornerbacks in the league. Opposing quarterbacks targeting Bradberry completed just 32.5% of their passes and had a 44.5 passer rating this season, as Bradberry allowed just two pass touchdowns while having three interceptions.
Arguably the best cover corner on the market, teams will pay a premium to get Bradberry on their defense.
Edmunds is set to be the premier linebacker on the market as the 24-year-old linebacker has five straight seasons with 100 tackles. Always having a knack for finding the football, Edmunds was the first player in NFL history to have two 100-plus tackle seasons before the age of 21.
A playmaking linebacker, Edmunds already has two Pro Bowls under his belt. The Bills would like to keep him, but the market may dictate otherwise.
One of the top safeties on the market and a leader in the Bills locker room, Poyer will be a huge value for any team that signs him.
Poyer had a huge year at the age of 31, finishing with 63 tackles, eight passes defended and four interceptions. The Bills were 12-0 when Poyer played last season and is the only player with 20-plus interceptions and 10-plus sacks since 2017.
Poyer appears to be on his way out of Buffalo.
9. Jessie Bates
Another one of the top safeties in free agency, Bates had the same impact this year as he had in previous years with the Bengals. He finished with 71 tackles, eight passes defended and a career-high four interceptions.
Opposing quarterbacks had just a 49.8 passer rating targeting Bates, completing just 59% of their passes. Bates will be in high demand in free agency.
10. C.J. Gardner-Johnson
The list of good free agent safeties keeps on going with Gardner-Johnson, who was tied for the NFL lead with six interceptions last season despite playing in just 12 games. Only Trevon Diggs and Justin Simmons have more interceptions than Gardner-Johnson over the past two seasons.
The Eagles are making a push to keep Gardner-Johnson, but he has a strong market. Opposing quarterbacks had just a 63.8 passer rating targeting Gardner-Johnson last season, who can play both safety and cornerback.