NFL free agents 2023: Ranking the top 25 players available originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston
The 2023 NFL free-agent class is filled with talent on both sides of the ball.
All eyes will be on the quarterback position with Lamar Jackson scheduled to hit free agency along with Tom Brady, Geno Smith, Daniel Jones, and Jimmy Garoppolo. There will be no shortage of options at the running back position either with Saquon Barkley, Josh Jacobs, and Tony Pollard available.
2023 NFL free agents: QB | RB | WR | OL | DL | LB | DB
As for defensive standouts, linebacker Roquan Smith headlines the list along with Javon Hargrave. If teams are more focused on improving their secondary, James Bradberry or Jamel Dean could be the solution.
There are many more impact players where that came from. Here’s a look at the top 25 free agents set to hit the open market when the new league year begins on March 15.
2022 stats (Eagles): 259 carries, 1,269 yards, 11 TDs
Sanders enjoyed a bounce-back campaign as he earned his first Pro Bowl nod and averaged more than five yards per carry. He isn’t much of a threat in the passing game, but he still proved that he can boost any team’s backfield.
24. Yannick Ngakoue, EDGE
2022 stats (Colts): 9.5 sacks, 29 tackles, 1 forced fumble
Ngakoue’s ability to rush the passer has helped make up for his struggles against the run. Teams are always looking for game-changing pass-rushers, and that makes Ngakoue a top option at the defensive end position since he certainly fits that bill.
2022 stats (Buccaneers): 3 sacks, 124 tackles, 1 forced fumble, 5 passes defended
David’s age brings him down a few spots, but make no mistake, he’s still among the most productive linebackers in the game. As long as father time doesn’t hit him like a freight train, he’ll be well worth the price in free agency.
2022 stats (Jaguars): 73 catches, 766 yards, 4 TDs
Engram regained form as one of the top tight ends in the league during his first season in Jacksonville. The former Giant set the Jaguars record for catches (69) and receiving yards (739) by a tight end. Not a bad way to head into free agency.
UPDATE (March 6): The Jaguars have placed the franchise tag on Engram.
2022 stats (Chiefs): 78 catches, 933 yards, 3 TDs
Smith-Schuster isn’t the game-breaker we watched in Pittsburgh, but he showed in Kansas City that he’s still one of the better slot wideouts when healthy.
2022 stats (Patriots): 67 catches, 804 yards, 6 TDs
Meyers has gone from undrafted free agent to the top free agent in the 2023 wide receiver class. He was among the most reliable options in the Patriots offense over the last few seasons. It’ll be interesting to see how a change of scenery impacts his production if he lands outside New England.
19. Jimmy Garoppolo, QB
2022 stats (49ers): 2,437 passing yards, 16 TDs, 4 INTs; 2 rushing TDs
Garoppolo’s injury history is a serious concern and he doesn’t exactly blow anyone away with his talents. Still, his career record of 40-17 speaks for itself. The ex-New England Patriots quarterback just finds ways to win. That’s enough to warrant an opportunity to start fresh as a starting QB somewhere new.
2022 stats (Saints): 0.5 sacks, 29 tackles
The numbers above won’t excite anyone, but how about Davenport’s 32 pressures? He’s the top edge rusher in a weak free-agent class for the position and should be paid accordingly.
2022 stats (Bills): 4 INT, 8 passes defended, 63 tackles
Poyer is getting up there in age, but he isn’t showing it. The Pro Bowler is coming off one of his best seasons and has been an anchor on Buffalo’s defense for the last six years.
16. Daniel Jones, QB
2022 stats (Giants): 3,205 passing yards, 15 TDs, 5 INTs; 708 rushing yards, 7 TDs
Jones has slowly but surely improved in the turnover department while showcasing his talents as a dual-threat quarterback. Those qualities go a long way in today’s NFL and should earn him a solid contract as a free agent.
McGlinchey is a rock-solid right tackle who should get plenty of attention in free agency as the second-best lineman on the market. He allowed just 23 pressures and five sacks with the 49ers in 2022.
14. Tony Pollard, RB
2022 stats (Cowboys): 193 carries, 1,007 yards, 9 TDs; 39 catches, 371 yards, 3 TDs
Pollard has emerged as one of the top dual-threat running backs in the league. Even with Ezekiel Elliott stealing carries, Pollard managed to top 1,000 scrimmage yards for the second consecutive year. Having fresh legs only adds to his appeal in free agency.
UPDATE (March 6): The Cowboys have placed the franchise tag on Pollard.
13. Josh Jacobs, RB
2022 stats (Raiders): 340 carries, 1,653 yards, 12 TDs; 53 catches, 400 yards
Jacobs is the anti-Pollard as far as usage goes. He’s taken on a heavy workload since becoming the Raiders’ starting running back in 2019. But after a career season in 2022, teams will offer him a hefty sum of money to join their backfield.
UPDATE (March 6): The Raiders reportedly plan to place the franchise tag he Jacobs.
12. Jamel Dean, CB
2022 stats (Buccaneers): 2 INT, 8 passes defended, 57 tackles
Dean comes in as the second-best cornerback available this offseason after a solid season in Tampa Bay. A young, reliable starting CB like Dean should be popular on the open market.
2022 stats (Commanders): 11.5 sacks, 64 tackles
Payne enjoyed a career year with the Commanders to set himself up well in free agency. Even if his huge 2022 season was an anomaly, the 2018 first-rounder would be a fine addition to the middle of any defensive line.
UPDATE (Feb. 28): The Commanders have placed the franchise tag on Payne.
10. Jessie Bates, S
2022 stats (Bengals): 4 INT, 8 passes defended, 71 tackles
Bates balled out on the franchise tag and should be rewarded for it with a sizable deal in free agency. It probably won’t be in Cincinnati, however, as the Bengals took his potential replacement Daxton Hill in the first round of last year’s NFL Draft.
9. CJ Gardner-Johnson, S
2022 stats (Eagles): 6 INT, 8 passes defended, 67 tackles
Gardner-Johnson suffered a lacerated kidney in Week 12 that sidelined him for five games, yet he still finished near the top of the league in interceptions with six. The versatile, young safety would be a perfect addition to any NFL secondary.
8. Geno Smith, QB
2022 stats (Seahawks): 4,282 passing yards, 30 TDs, 11 INTs; 366 rushing yards, 1 TD
What a year it was for Geno Smith. After battling with Drew Lock in training camp, the former New York Jets draft bust turned into a legitimate starting quarterback in Seattle. He’ll be rewarded in free agency with a lucrative deal.
UPDATE (March 6): Smith and the Seahawks have agreed to a three-year, $105 million contract
7. James Bradberry, CB
2022 stats (Eagles): 3 INT (1 TD), 17 passes defended, 44 tackles
Bradberry spent with Philadelphia that he is one of the top cornerbacks in the league. His performance should earn him a pretty penny in free agency as the top cornerback available.
6. Orlando Brown, OT
2022 stats (Chiefs): 17 starts, four sacks allowed
Brown allowed four sacks and 38 pressures while playing on the franchise tag in 2022 and while he might not be best suited at left tackle, he’s a real difference-maker on the offensive line and the top option at the position.
5. Saquon Barkley, RB
2022 stats (Giants): 295 carries, 1,312 yards, 10 TDs; 57 catches, 338 yards
Barkley put the injury concerns in the rearview mirror and played all 17 games in 2022. He’s among the most dynamic, explosive running backs in the league and undoubtedly the top RB set to become a free agent.
4. Javon Hargrave, DT
2022 stats (Eagles): 11 sacks, 60 tackles, 1 forced fumble
Hargrave has continued to be a force on the interior defensive line since joining Philadelphia in 2020. He should command plenty of attention in free agency even as he enters his 30s.
3. Tom Brady, QB
2022 stats (Buccaneers): 4,694 passing yards, 25 TDs, 9 INTs
Is age finally starting to catch up to Tom Brady? Perhaps. But he’s still putting up solid numbers for the Bucs and has proven he can still be effective when surrounded by solid weapons. Teams with Super Bowl aspirations will salivate over the opportunity to sign him if he decides to put off retirement for another year.
UPDATE (Feb. 1): Brady is calling it a career — for good this time. He announced his retirement in an emotional Instagram video.
2. Roquan Smith, LB
2022 stats (Ravens): 4.5 sacks, 169 tackles, 3 INT, 6 passes defended
Smith didn’t miss a beat after being traded by the Chicago Bears to the Baltimore Ravens. He became the only player other than Patrick Willis to record 150-plus tackles, four-plus sacks and three-plus interceptions in a single season. He’s about to get a major payday as the best defensive player in this year’s free-agent class.
UPDATE (Jan. 10): Smith has agreed to a five-year, $100 million contract with the Ravens to stay in Baltimore, per multiple reports.
1. Lamar Jackson, QB
2022 stats (Ravens): 2,242 passing yards, 17 TDs, 7 INTs; 764 rushing yards, 3 TDs (12 games)
It seems unlikely that the Ravens will allow their franchise quarterback to hit free agency. As of now though, he’s set to hit the open market and he’ll be the most coveted player available if Baltimore decides to move on.