Not everybody can be a winner. However, decent players in the NFL free agency class that aren’t surrounded by great talent within their positional group could end up winners, even if the teams signing them are paying an extortionate amount of money for said players.
Weak groups mean supply doesn’t meet demand, and the most talented in the group get to line their pockets with gold coins because of it. However, going into April with glaring team needs is a poor way to attack the NFL draft. Filling gaps in the roster is what free agency is for.
With that, what position groups struggle to provide talent and depth in the free agency class?
5 Weakest Free Agency Positions
It’s a tough year for a few positions, both in NFL free agency and in the draft. Reloading or adding to those positions will be difficult for teams around the league.
It’s a tough year if your football team is in the market for a high-end No. 2 receiver to contribute in 2023. The NFL draft is filled with smaller receivers who would be outliers as target-rich options, and more traditionally-sized targets that need way more seasoning before they can command a huge target share.
The NFL trade market will be where teams find their receiver talent in 2023. While there are a few options in free agency, only a few are reliable.
Jakobi Meyers could be a solid No. 2 somewhere, but in this barren market, he’ll most likely be expensive. Odell Beckham Jr. could be a sneaky option, but he hasn’t played football in over a year and has now gone through several knee surgeries.
DJ Chark is a nice downfield threat that opens up the rest of the passing attack, but he’s struggled to stay on the field for much of his career early on. JuJu Smith-Schuster is fresh off being dragged by members of about 25 different NFL teams for lightheartedly trash-talking James Bradberry on Valentine’s Day.
A.J. Brown’s response was most prominent. “This is lame. You was on the way out the league before Mahomes resurrected your career on your 1 year deal Tik-Tok boy. He admitted that he grabbed you but don’t act like your like that or ever was.”
But Micah Parsons, Tyreek Hill, and many others spoke up in the waking hours after Smith-Schuster’s tweet.
Another Chief, Mecole Hardman, is best fit as a third option for a team. Parris Campbell might be one of the most intriguing names, but his injury struggles have kept him largely anonymous at the NFL level until 2022. Allen Lazard, Darius Slayton, and Mack Hollins can all be decent third options as well, with Lazard being one of the best blockers in the league, which run-heavy teams will drool over.
But which names among that group truly excite anybody in the crowd?
There is no better case for abolishing the franchise tag than what we went through with this running back class. Imagine how exciting it would be to see teams negotiating deals between Saquon Barkley, Josh Jacobs, and Tony Pollard! But we don’t get that because teams that can’t get the job done have this little fall-back plan to keep really good players off the market.
Instead, we get a group led by Miles Sanders, who is a good player but not the caliber of the top three guys. Jamaal Williams scored a billion touchdowns last season and again is a fine player, but is more of a star off the field than he is on it. David Montgomery, meanwhile, is a true three-down back, but he lacks the explosiveness and big-play ability teams covet.
Rashaad Penny has all the big-play ability but hasn’t been healthy or consistent at the NFL level. While the class isn’t awful, and the RB draft class looks outstanding, losing the truly elite talent at the top hurts the group immensely.
The tight end group being underwhelming is more a sign of just how few difference-making tight ends there are in the league than it is weak relative to the rest of the ecosystem. There are few elite TEs in the NFL, and none of them hit the market this offseason.
Dalton Schultz is a good football player. He’s surprisingly springy as a route runner and after the catch, and while he’s underwhelmed as a blocker relative to his expectations coming from Stanford, he’s almost become underrated in that area.
Mike Gesicki, in the right situation (away from the Shanahan tree) could be a real difference-maker in the passing game. He’s incredibly long and athletic, with some of the best hands in the entire NFL. The ball disappears when Gesicki gets his mitts on them. However, he’s not a blocker, and he couldn’t remain on the field in Miami because that’s what that scheme needs.
Foster Moreau is an underrated option. He was a good player in his time as a Raider but was stuck behind Darren Waller. Moreau can do a little bit of everything and should be a more inexpensive starting option.
Josh McDaniels had high praise for Moreau during the season. “Foster is tough. Foster is unselfish, he’s smart, he works really hard at it. Tight ends have to do a lot of things and some guys might have a little bit more of an area of strength.”
There may not be a more anonymous position in football than the offensive guard. Like wide receiver, the guard class in the NFL draft appears underwhelming, which could mean some large contracts for largely anonymous NFL players. Many of these interior blockers like it that way, including the top available player on the open market.
When told someone would be writing a story about Isaac Seumalo but didn’t want to bother him, his reply was, “Unfortunately, that’s all you guys do.”
But Seumalo was outstanding in 2022. He has experience on both sides of the offensive line and is a true hog molly on the interior. Injuries have been an issue for Seumalo in the past, but he remained healthy during the Eagles’ Super Bowl run this past season, maximizing his value along the way.
MORE: Best NFL Guards 2023
Ben Powers and Dalton Risner are intriguing options, as is Tennessee’s Nate Davis. They are all younger players who conceivably should still be improving their craft.
Aside from that, the group is pretty lackluster. However, it’s difficult to nail down whether the rest of the group is underwhelming or if they were stuck in a situation that ill-suited them. Some schemes and coaching styles don’t fit these players, and they move on and surprise us all at their next stop.
I’m a bit reluctant to put pass rushers on the list because there is actually quite a bit of value in this group. Several players are almost or already 30 and should be relatively inexpensive for the production they could provide a football team.
But there is no top-end talent among the group.
Frank Clark might be the most high-profile name, but he sometimes vacations during the NFL grind, preferring to turn things on when the playoffs roll around. Contending teams probably won’t care much, but bad football teams should steer clear.
Arden Key might be the “best” of the bunch, but he’s been nothing but a rotational rusher so far in his career. Although he’s improved as a run defender, Key’s never played a huge bulk of the defensive snaps for his team.
Samson Ebukam is another intriguing name, but it’s a far cry from a season ago when Chandler Jones and Von Miller were hitting the market. If someone actually uses Yannick Ngakoue as a pure pass rusher instead of an every-down player, he could also be valuable to a team.
But names like Robert Quinn, Justin Houston, Melvin Ingram, Brandon Graham, and Kyle Van Noy are truly interesting because they should be inexpensive and can still produce at a high rate.