After two days of legal tampering, 2023 NFL free agency officially got underway Wednesday at 4 p.m. ET. While the frenetic pace of signings had slowed to a crawl by yesterday, the Cincinnati Bengals landed a top-10 free agent on Pro Football Network’s board by signing offensive tackle Orlando Brown Jr. to a four-year contract on Wednesday night.
Who are the best players remaining on the open market? Let’s run through the top available free agents who are still without a contract as of Thursday afternoon.
Who Are the Best Remaining Players Available in NFL Free Agency?
1) Lamar Jackson, QB
Lamar Jackson isn’t a typical free agent. Because he’s on the non-exclusive franchise tag, Jackson can negotiate a contract with another team — if the Ravens decline to match, they will receive two first-round picks as compensation.
Lamar serves as his own agent, so he couldn’t speak with interested clubs until the market officially opened on Wednesday. But there hasn’t been a peep of news surrounding his status aside from a social media squabble about his contract offers from Baltimore.
Yesterday, the Ravens tendered restricted free agent signal-caller Tyler Huntley at the original-round level.
They’ve also “been involved in the free agent quarterback market,” according to ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler, who reported Baltimore looked into Baker Mayfield and Jacoby Brissett before they signed with the Buccaneers and Commanders, respectively. The Ravens may be looking for options just in case Jackson gets an offer sheet from a rival team.
2) C.J. Gardner-Johnson, S
Aside from Jackson, Eagles safety C.J. Gardner-Johnson is the best free agent still available. As of mid-February, Gardner-Johnson looked like a priority for Philadelphia, which was poised to lose several key defensive contributors. But now that the Eagles managed to re-sign James Bradberry and retain Darius Slay, the chances of Gardner-Johnson sticking on the roster might be slim.
On Thursday, Gardner-Johnson’s frustration from the lack of a new deal seemed to boil over, as he tweeted, “The disrespect real!” before eventually deleting the message.
However, the versatile defensive back’s market might be heating up, as the Broncos reportedly have interest in adding Gardner-Johnson. Denver has already spent more free agent dollars ($227+ million) than any other NFL team, but they could still use help in the secondary.
3) Isaac Seumalo, G
Two free agent guards — Ben Powers and Nate Davis — have already signed for $10+ million per year, but both players are two years younger than Isaac Seumalo, who has yet to draw any known interest on the free agent market.
Given that competent guards like Graham Glasgow and Will Hernandez have been signed for less than $5 million, teams could be balking at Seumalo’s asking price if it’s close to the eight-figure range.
Seumalo also comes with injury concerns. While he played in all 17 games last season, a knee issue and a Lisfranc injury cost him 21 games from 2021-22. Still, there are plenty of teams with a need at guard, including the Colts and Cardinals, both of whose head coaches are former Eagles coordinators familiar with Seumalo’s work.
4) Terence Steele, OT
Terence Steele is a restricted free agent who will make $4.304 million in 2023 after the Cowboys tendered him at the second-round level. Other teams are free to sign Steele to an offer sheet, but they’d have to give Dallas a second-round pick if the Cowboys declined to match.
Given that the there premier unrestricted free agent right tackles — Jawaan Taylor, Mike McGlinchey, and Kaleb McGary — are already off the board, it’s possible a team could be willing to sacrifice a second-rounder for the right to sign Steele.
But his status is complicated by late-season ACL and MCL tears. While Cowboys executive Stephen Jones said in February that Steele is “ahead of schedule,” other clubs could be wary of targeting an injured player.
5) Dalton Schultz, TE
The tight end market has been slow in the opening days of free agency. The Jaguars franchised Evan Engram, the Giants acquired Darren Waller via trade, and Hayden Hurst received a three-year deal from the Panthers, but the position group hasn’t seen much movement overall.
Dalton Schultz joins Mike Gesicki, Foster Moreau, and Austin Hooper as unsigned TE options. Schultz never looked likely to return to Dallas, especially after the Cowboys used their franchise tag on running back Tony Pollard.
But as a solid two-way tight end who can flash in the passing game and block when called upon, Schultz should have plenty of suitors. That could include the Chargers, who would reunite Schultz with former Cowboys play-caller Kellen Moore.
6) Odell Beckham Jr., WR
Odell Beckham Jr. held a workout for interested teams last week and is reportedly back to 100% after tearing his ACL in Super Bowl 56. While OBJ may be looking for a $20 million yearly salary, that’s not anywhere close to a realistic asking price.
Still, teams like the Giants and Cowboys seem likely to pursue Beckham, albeit at a drastically more affordable rate. Meanwhile, Aaron Rodgers reportedly wants the Jets to consider adding OBJ before he officially joins Gang Green. Beckham probably isn’t a WR1 anymore, but he’s an excellent route runner who can be a valuable second or third option.
7) Mike Gesicki, TE
There may not be a more interesting free agent case in 2023 than Gesicki, who was essentially eliminated from the Dolphins’ offense last season. Failing to find a fit in Mike McDaniels’ scheme, Gesicki posted just 32 receptions for 362 yards, his worst numbers since his rookie campaign.
But Gesicki topped 700 yards in both 2020 and 2021. That’s production that teams should be willing to pay for — he’ll just have to find the right club. Gesicki rarely blocks or plays in line, so teams will have to be open-minded about viewing him as an outsized slot or wide receiver.
8) Jadeveon Clowney, EDGE
The final three free agents on our list are all veteran edge defenders who could end up settling for one-year deals. Let’s start with Jadeveon Clowney, who has played on single-season pacts in each of the last four years.
Clowney’s contract with the Browns contained a de facto void year, putting him back on the open market. A return to Cleveland is all but out of the question after he ripped the team in a January interview, but other squads should be interested in the mercenary defensive end.
Clowney will seemingly always have injury problems and missed at least three games in each of the last three seasons, but he’s a stout run defender and posted nine sacks as recently as 2021.
9) Yannick Ngakoue, EDGE
Yannick Ngakoue is still only 27 years old and has put up 19.5 sacks over the past two seasons. Sounds like he should be in line for $15+ million annually, right?
Ngakoue probably won’t come anywhere near that value because he’s stretched as a full-time player. He’s always struggled against the run, but teams like the Colts and Raiders keep handing him a full complement of snaps. Indy has seemingly already moved on by signing former 49ers edge rusher Samson Ebukam to a three-year contract.
10) Robert Quinn, EDGE
At this point in his career, Robert Quinn is essentially a five-years-older version of Ngakoue. He can still get after the passer, but he probably doesn’t need to be playing in obvious run situations.
The Eagles probably envisioned Quinn as a designated pass rusher when they acquired him from the Bears at last year’s trade deadline, but he ended up playing just 88 snaps for Philadelphia. There will always be a market for a player one season removed from an 18.5-sack campaign — Quinn might just have to wait a while to land a new deal.