Running backs, defensive backs and defensive linemen could be popular when free agency begins in March.
The top players scheduled to become free agents are likely to be heavily considered for the franchise tag this month, including Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson, before shopping can officially begin at 11:59:59 p.m. ET on March 15.
Teams face a March 7 deadline for the franchise tag.
Speculative free agents, such as players with looming contract negotiations that could lead to their release or a trade — Raiders quarterback Derek Carr or Titans offensive tackle Taylor Lewan — are not included.
Field Level Media’s top 50 unrestricted free agents for 2023:
1. Lamar Jackson, QB, Ravens
Former MVP isn’t going anywhere. Self-represented and negotiating without an agent, Jackson is using the fully guaranteed $230M deal Deshaun Watson signed with the Browns last year as his guidepost. Will the Ravens blink? Jackson is 26, but the Ravens might not have the salary cap room to use the exclusive franchise tag, which blocks other teams from negotiating with him, but runs $45 million compared to $32.5 million for the non-exclusive tag.
2. Orlando Brown Jr., OT, Chiefs
Jackson’s former teammate in Baltimore and a member of the same Ravens’ 2018 draft class, Brown has outperformed his draft slot (83rd overall) and contract. Unless general managers wait for the draft, the OT market is slim pickings. Brown has plenty of leverage. Tagged last spring at a value of $16.62 million for 2022, Brown declined a six-year, $139 million deal with a $30.25 million signing bonus last July.
3. Daron Payne, DT, Commanders
The 25-year-old might not make it out of Washington. If he does, a salary of $20 million is highly likely.
4. Josh Jacobs, RB, Raiders
Not going anywhere, the Raiders plan to keep Jacobs after his bounceback 2022 season.
5. Jessie Bates, S, Bengals
All too familiar with the franchise tag ($12.9M last year), Bates held out until Aug. 23 last summer when the two sides couldn’t reach a long-term agreement.
6. Javon Hargrave, DT, Eagles
The ideal fit in Philadelphia’s front after leaving a more restrictive role with the Steelers, Hargrave can command top dollar in free agency after posting a career-best 11 sacks last season.
7. Mike McGlinchey, OT, 49ers
With big contracts clogging the 49ers path to a huge raise for the 28-year-old, McGlinchey will not offer a home-town discount to stay.
8. Daniel Jones, QB, Giants
Jones is the priority for the Giants this offseason as stated by the head coach and GM, and could be a tag candidate. Last season, 14 quarterbacks were paid at least $29.7M in total outlay, making the $32.5 million tag rate for Jones look more palatable.
9. Geno Smith, QB, Seahawks
Maybe trust Seahawks GM John Schneider to balance the books, eh? Smith made a measly $3.5 million in 2022, a career year in which he outperformed expectations and Seattle’s ex-QB, Russell Wilson. By the way, Wilson signed a new five-year deal in 2022 that averages $48,517,647 per year.
10. CJ Gardner-Johnson, S, Eagles
A trade heist in 2022 brought Gardner-Johnson to the Eagles for mid-round draft picks. Keeping him won’t be quite as simple with the Jalen Hurts contract around the bend, but Philadelphia has a pair of first-round picks in 2023.
11. Jamel Dean, CB, Buccaneers
At 26, the former third-round pick can nearly name his price in a shallow pool of young free agent corners. Cap-strapped Tampa can’t afford to keep him.
12. Saquon Barkley, RB, Giants
Barkley likes his fit in the Brian Daboll system and the Giants are interested in retaining the former No. 2 overall pick if the price is right. He turned 26 on Feb. 9, but other first-rounders have seen relative or dramatic letdowns on their second NFL contracts. Todd Gurley is only 28 and flat-lined two seasons ago with 6,082 career rushing yards. Ezekiel Elliott turns 28 in July and is showing severe wear and tear.
13. Lavonte David, LB, Buccaneers
Limited capital likely renders the Buccaneers as non-players in the David Sweepstakes, unless he’s willing to go with a team-friendly deal at age 33.
14. Miles Sanders, RB, Eagles
Depth in the free agency class and upcoming draft takes some of the leverage out of Sanders’ hands. He turns 26 a week after the NFL draft and has low mileage for a four-year pro. In 94 total games over the past seven pro and college seasons since enrolling at Penn State, Sanders has only 975 regular-season carries. By comparison, his predecessor at Penn State — Saquon Barkley — has 954 in 60 NFL games the past five seasons and tore his ACL in 2020.
15. Dalton Schultz, TE, Cowboys
Critical without a steady No. 2 wide receiver, the Cowboys might be willing to look toward the draft for his replacement or let understudy Jake Ferguson (fourth round, 2022) step into the lead role.
16. Tremaine Edmunds, LB, Bills
Drafted at 20 years old, Edmunds might not reach the Roquan Smith stratosphere of $20M annually, but $15 million per season isn’t out of the question. That’s too rich for the Bills, who are over the cap and signed linebacker Matt Milano to a new deal.
17. Tony Pollard, RB, Cowboys
Pollard was in the lead role for the Cowboys for only part of his fourth season, which ended at San Francisco in the playoffs due to a broken leg. His calling card is speed, and even with the focus on his physical recovery, there will be teams ready to bet on Pollard being their big-play back next season.
18. Jakobi Meyers, WR, Patriots
An undrafted free agent who became a nightmare matchup in the slot, Meyers should benefit from the rising market value for good and sometimes-great wide receivers.
19. James Bradberry, CB, Eagles
Before the holding penalty in Super Bowl LVII, Bradberry had one of the best seasons in pass coverage in the NFL. He’ll be coveted, but too pricey for the Eagles to retain.
20. Jimmy Garoppolo, QB, 49ers
Proven starter but unproven finisher with an expanding history of injuries. Garoppolo is 44-19 as a starter and the 31-year-old fits as a short-term option for teams potentially in transition (Buccaneers, Jets, Packers).
21. Evan Engram, TE, Jaguars
22. Yannick Ngakoue, DE, Colts
23. Jason Kelce, C, Eagles
24. Ben Powers, OG, Ravens
25. Dre’Mont Jones, DT, Broncos
26. Kaleb McGary, OT, Falcons
27. Dalvin Tomlinson, DT, Vikings
28. Marcus Peters, CB, Ravens
29. Kareem Hunt, RB, Browns
30. David Montgomery, RB, Bears
31. Marcus Davenport, DE, Saints
32. JuJu Smith-Schuster, WR, Chiefs
33. Isaiah Wynn, OT, Patriots
34. Isaac Seumalo, OG, Eagles
35. Rodney Hudson, C, Cardinals
36. Jadeveon Clowney, DE-OLB, Browns
37. Brandon Graham, DE, Eagles
38. Fletcher Cox, DT, Eagles
39. Drue Tranquill, LB, Chargers
40. Allen Lazard, WR, Packers
41. Ethan Pocic, C, Browns
42. Dalton Risner, OG, Broncos
43. Cam Sutton, CB, Steelers
44. David Long, LB, Titans
45. Jordan Poyer, S, Bills
46. Mike Gesicki, TE, Dolphins
47. Devin Singletary, CB, Bills
48. Baker Mayfield, QB, Rams
49. Mecole Hardman, WR, Chiefs
50. Odell Beckham Jr., WR, N/A
–Field Level Media