Best Fits for Top Remaining Free Agents After NFL Draft: Landing Spots for Ryan Tannehill, Stephon Gilmore, Xavien Howard, Justin Simmons, and Others

Where are the best landing spots for the top remaining NFL free agents? We find new homes for Ryan Tannehill, Tyler Boyd, Xavien Howard, and others.

While the 2024 NFL Draft is in the rearview mirror, many teams around the league still have weaknesses on their roster. Fortunately, the NFL free agent market is still full of players ready to make an impact next season.

Meanwhile, the NFL’s free agent compensatory pick window closed at 4 p.m. ET on Monday. Any FA who signs a contract over the summer will no longer count against his new team’s compensatory formula. Clubs no longer have to worry that inking a free agent from our list will cost them a draft pick in 2025.

Let’s run through the top free agents remaining on the open market and identify their best roster fit.

QB Ryan Tannehill | Detroit Lions

Almost every NFL team has its quarterback room in order following the NFL Draft. Ryan Tannehill won’t be a starter in 2024, but he might have difficulty even landing a backup gig.

The Detroit Lions, who lost veteran QB2 Teddy Bridgewater to retirement this offseason, stand out as a possible fit for the 35-year-old Tannehill. While Detroit used a 2023 third-round pick on Hendon Hooker, the Tennessee product spent most of his rookie campaign recovering from a torn ACL and didn’t play a single snap.

If the Lions don’t feel comfortable with Hooker being one Jared Goff injury from leading their Super Bowl-caliber roster, Tannehill could be their agenda. The Baltimore Ravens and Chicago Bears might be the only other teams that could consider Tannehill without a quarterback injury.

TE Logan Thomas | Minnesota Vikings

Vikings TE T.J. Hockenson isn’t expected to be ready for the start of the 2024 season after tearing his ACL in December. While the Minnesota Vikings still have fellow TE Josh Oliver and re-signed Johnny Mundt, those veterans are blocking specialists.

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Logan Thomas is 32 years old and probably won’t ever match his standout 2020 campaign (72-670-6). But he put up 55 catches for 496 yards and four TDs last season and could be a valuable temporary Hockenson replacement, especially in the red zone.

OT Donovan Smith | Washington Commanders

Although the Washington Commanders filled many of their needs in the draft, they missed out on a Round 1 or 2 offensive tackle. Third-rounder Brandon Coleman will get a shot at protecting Jayden Daniels‘ blindside, but some draft analysts viewed the TCU product as an NFL guard.

While Donovan Smith isn’t a world-beater, he’s made 136 career starts. He battled injuries with the Kansas City Chiefs in 2023 but still appeared in 12 regular-season games before starting four playoff games on the way to a Super Bowl title.

If the Commanders don’t sign Smith, other LT-needy clubs like the New England Patriots could be interested.

G Dalton Risner | Baltimore Ravens

Few teams needed more offensive line help heading into the draft than the Ravens, who lost guards John Simpson and Kevin Zeitler and right tackle Morgan Moses over the offseason.

Baltimore added a potential starting right tackle in second-rounder Roger Rosengarten, but there are still voids on either side of center Tyler Linderbaum.

Dalton Risner had to wait until September to find a contract with the Vikings in 2023. The Ravens could use him immediately after failing to draft an interior lineman until Round 7. Risner should be able to beat out Andrew Vorhees, Ben Cleveland, and other Baltimore guard options for a starting job.

DT Calais Campbell | Chicago Bears

Montez Sweat bolstered the Bears’ pass rush after joining the club last October, posting six sacks in nine games. Chicago rarely blitzes, so it needs another edge rusher capable of winning 1-on-1 matchups. While GM Ryan Poles landed Kansas EDGE Austin Booker in the fifth round, the Bears could stand to add a veteran presence.

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Calais Campbell is 37 years old but still managed 6.5 sacks and 17 QB hits for the Atlanta Falcons in 2023, his best totals since 2019. The on-field production is there, while Campbell would also be a beneficial mentor for Booker, who slipped in the draft due to character concerns.

CB Stephon Gilmore | Carolina Panthers

The Carolina Panthers have been discussing a reunion with Stephon Gilmore since March. It wouldn’t be surprising to see Carolina sign the former Defensive Player of the Year after emerging from the draft with just fifth-round CB Chau Smith-Wade. However, a recent report indicated that the two sides are far apart in their contract talks.

Gilmore, who spent the 2021 campaign with the Panthers, proved he was still a CB1 after being traded from the Indianapolis Colts to the Dallas Cowboys in 2023. He’d start over Carolina free agent addition Dane Jackson if signed.

CB Xavien Howard | Indianapolis Colts

Surprisingly, the Colts failed to draft a cornerback until the sixth round, when they landed Marshall’s Micah Abraham with pick No. 201. Indy CBs Jaylon Jones, JuJu Brents, and Darrell Baker each allowed a passer rating of at least 99.1 in 2023, so a veteran addition isn’t out of the question.

Although Xavien Howard is no longer the same player who picked off 10 passes and earned first-team All-Pro honors in 2020, his wealth of NFL experience could be invaluable for the Colts’ relatively green secondary. Howard hasn’t generated any known free agent interest since being cut by the Miami Dolphins in March, so he should be affordable.

S Justin Simmons | New York Jets

Justin Simmons is probably the most talented player on our free-agent list. The 30-year-old was named a second-team All-Pro in four of the past five seasons and will offer 108 games worth of starting experience to his next club.

KEEP READING: NFC Offseason Grades: Ranking All 16 Teams

That team could be the New York Jets, who would deploy Tony Adams and Chuck Clark as starting safeties if the season began today. Adams has only started for one year, while Clark missed last season with a torn ACL. Gang Green is all-in on 2024 — why not add a playmaker like Simmons to tie a bow on the roster?

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