Three days of NFL free agency have passed with little to show for it. Deals were done during the league’s legal tampering period, but little has happened since among the top players in the NFL. Orlando Brown Jr. signed, but the rest of the top 10 from the PFN Top 100 Free Agents had already been signed. Only C.J. Gardner-Johnson remains… and Lamar Jackson, kind of.
Who Are the Best Remaining Players Available in NFL Free Agency?
1) Lamar Jackson, QB
Jackson is technically a free agent because with the non-exclusive franchise tag, another NFL team could offer him a long-term deal that the Baltimore Ravens would have to match, should they want to keep him around. If not, they’d receive two first-round picks in the trade and would be in the market for a new quarterback, which looks more likely each day.
The 26-year-old has yet to reach his potential as a quarterback and already has an MVP in his bio, but has avoided a long-term deal because of play style and injury concerns. However, the biggest snag in a potential long-term contract is a fully guaranteed deal, which the NFL absolutely does not want. Jimmy Haslam set the precedent with Deshaun Watson, and every other franchise will fight to reverse that precedent.
2) C.J. Gardner-Johnson, S
With nearly the entire safety class currently under contract, it’s peculiar to see C.J. Gardner-Johnson remain. The Saints cornerback and Eagles safety wears every hat he’s given at a high level. He can play in the slot as a third or fourth CB or sit on the back end and play as a split-field or single-high safety.
Gardner-Johnson’s ball-hawking tendencies weren’t fully realized until he was afforded the opportunity to play as a traditional half-field safety in Philadelphia’s defensive scheme. He tied the lead league with six interceptions in only 12 regular-season games.
His versatility should be fought over, but here we are effectively a week into free agency, and he’s still available.
3) Isaac Seumalo, G
Isaac Seumalo has struggled to stay on the field because of injuries throughout his seven-year career. The former third-round pick in the 2016 NFL Draft has experience at both guard spots during his time with Philadelphia but had a career year blocking on the right side between Lane Johnson and Jason Kelce.
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While on the surface it may seem like anyone could accomplish that task, Seumalo isn’t a scrub set between two Hall of Fame players. He’s a strong, consistent blocker who has only been held back because of injuries in 2020 and 2021.
4) Terence Steele, OT
Terence Steele should be far more coveted than he currently is, but so is the nature of tearing two separate knee ligaments in a contract year. Steele shined for Dallas in 2022 after flashing enough ability the year before for the team to be comfortable moving on from La’el Collins. Steele was an undrafted free agent with outstanding potential but a ton of mechanical flaws as a blocker.
Yet, he’s become a professional right tackle. The Cowboys are professionals at getting long-term deals done with injury-compromised players. It would be no surprise to see Dallas lock him up over a long-term deal in July or August. However, a team can offer Steele, and Dallas would have to match if they want to keep him. If not, a team only has to part with the contractual demands and a second-round pick.
5) Dalton Schultz, TE
Dalton Schultz is a shifty route runner and post-catch player. He was billed as a blocking tight end out of Stanford, but he wasn’t much of that when he entered the pro ranks, and he’s developed into a decent receiving weapon.
Schultz also continues to improve as a run blocker at the NFL level, despite being on the slimmer side of the spectrum for tight ends. With the TE market appearing dry, it will be fascinating to see exactly how much money Schultz secures in guaranteed dollars.
“He’s a guy that I feel very comfortable with, have a lot of trust with,” Dak said during OTAs last season. He knows that. The team knows that. So I’m confident in that situation.”
6) Odell Beckham Jr., WR
Speaking of guaranteed dollars in poor markets, Odell Beckham Jr. is still unemployed. The 30-year-old is coming off an injury in Super Bowl 56 and hasn’t played football since, missing the entire 2022 NFL season.
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When we last saw Beckham, he was a good receiver who no longer had his outrageous athleticism and separation quickness, but he made up for it with outstanding route running and ability to find holes in zones. Beckham’s no longer a No. 1 receiver, but for the right price, could be a decent No. 2 option or high-end No. 3 receiver for good teams.
7) Jadeveon Clowney, EDGE
Jadeveon Clowney still provides value as an outstanding natural run defender who can create pressure through sheer will, determination, and athleticism. He’s never become the sack artist we all dreamed of him being when he was at South Carolina, but that hasn’t stopped him from being a productive NFL player.
The Browns sent him home with time left on the clock a season ago. Even for a non-playoff team, that’s a bad sign.
“I just feel like I need to be around somebody that believes in me and my ability,” Clowney said to warrant such actions. He said he was 95% sure he wouldn’t be back with the team.
Clowney has never been the most emphatic practice player and has often signed with teams late in the process to avoid all the unnecessary camp work. It’s not that he dislikes working to better his craft, it’s just that he’d rather do all the work on his own terms.
8) Yannick Ngakoue, EDGE
Yannick Ngakoue has never been used to his full potential. Team personnel believe a player must start to provide maximum value, but the outside linebacker — who will likely be on his fifth team in four seasons — is a born and bred pass rusher. Yet, teams still want to use Ngakoue as an every-down player.
He’s a poor run defender, and that’s fine. Teams must be okay with him playing 450-500 defensive snaps. He’ll get them eight or so sacks and a good handful of pressures, but Ngakoue won’t make a positive impact in the run game if his life depended on it. So whoever signs him must put him in positions to succeed as a part-time player.
9) Robert Quinn, EDGE
The same could be said for Robert Quinn, who has always been a boom-or-bust player on the defensive line. Even at his advanced age, few are able to bend on the edge and run under a tabletop like Quinn. Few possess the burst and flexibility to threaten offensive tackles consistently.
However, like Ngakoue, Quinn is not and has never been a plus-run defender. On top of that, he’s hardly even a consistent presence as a pass rusher, either. With his game, he either wins and sacks the QB, or he doesn’t pressure them at all. Quinn can still be a productive part-time player, but he should not be counted on to consistently produce high-pressure rates.
10) Greg Gaines, DT
Greg Gaines shouldn’t be counted on as a pass rusher either, but unlike Ngakoue and Quinn, he’s a fantastic run defender. Things weren’t always pretty for the Rams’ defense this past season, but Gaines was still a fantastic presence on the defensive interior.
He provides outstanding natural leverage as a nose, but being a good defender takes far more than that at the NFL level. Gaines’ understanding of opposing blocking concepts allows him to consistently put himself in good positional leverage, which in turn allows him to make plays at and around the line of scrimmage.