At noon ET on Monday, NFL players whose contracts are expiring can begin negotiating new deals with other teams before the official opening of the free agent market, which takes place on Wednesday at 4:00 p.m.
This week’s excerpt from the term of the franchise tagwhich actually (maybe?) took six* players off the market – including Dallas Cowboys RB Tony PollardJacksonville Jaguars TE Evan Engram, Las Vegas Raiders RB Josh Jacobs, New York Giants RB Saquon Barkley and Washington Commanders DT Daron Payne – further shaped the league’s upcoming spending options as no one will surrender two first-round picks to sign the above.
BEARS AND PANTHERS WINNERS, LOSERS: Who is most affected by the number one draft pick from hand to hand?
NFL FRANCHISE WINNERS, LOSER: Which players, teams were the best in the deadline?
But that may not be the case for another superstar* as we look ahead to free agency in 2023 and what we believe are the top 23 players available:
1. QB Lamar Jackson*
Why all those stars? Because the Baltimore Ravens superstar and 2019 league MVP should be teams of rare talent should vie for a signature no matter what non-exclusive franchise mark of $32.41 million attached to him. He’s giving up two first-round picks for a young – Jackson is 26 – proven, multi-dimensional threat like Jackson is the real deal given how much it costs to release a franchise quarterback in the modern NFL. For whatever reason — the inability of Jackson, who serves as his own agent, to work out a deal with the Ravens, the massive (guaranteed?) contract he’s seeking or the need to completely rebuild your program around him — reports quickly surfaced Tuesday that several QB-starved organizations wouldn’t work with Jackson. But let’s give it time. As usual, it definitely seems like there are more teams in need of a quarterback, whether a veteran or a highly touted draft prospect, than there are high-quality options available.
2. OT Orlando Brown Jr.
The four-time Pro Bowler can play right tackle, but has proven to be a reliable performer on MVP Patrick Mahomes’ blind side the past two years for the Kansas City Chiefs. And, make no mistake, Brown, 26, considers himself a left fielder and will demand compensation accordingly. It’s little surprise that KC didn’t franchise him for the second straight year — and Brown told USA TODAY Sports after Super Bowl 57 that he expects to return to the team — but he should have a few lucrative offers to check out.
3. QB Jimmy Garoppolo
Are there any restrictions? Of course … like almost every other quarterback. Was he named to the Pro Bowl? No … although Garoppolo has also had his fair share of injury-interrupted seasons. But it’s also unfair to separate his success from San Francisco 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan, who struggled to win without Garoppolo on the field before rookie Brock Purdy arrived in 2022. Still, Jimmy G. will (usually) make good decisions, get the ball out quickly, make plays efficient – his 103.0 passer rating in 2022 was the best of his career as a starter – he earns the respect of the locker room – and wins, his professional record is now 44-19, including the playoffs . Oh, and he’s only 31 years old.
4. With Jessie Bates III
Another 26-year-old, he has been one of the league’s most reliable safeties since entering the league in 2018, though the Cincinnati Bengals also opted not to give Bates another franchise tag. Bates is a solid defensive player and plays nice center field with 14 career interceptions, including a career-best four in 2022. He also played consistently in the postseason during the Bengals’ run to Super Bowl 56. Bates is sure to be a reliable last line of defense wherever he goes.
5. LB Bobby Wagner
Even at age 32, the guy who could be the first Hall of Famer when he’s done has continued to play at that level — Pro Football Focus named him the league’s No. 1 tight end. his only season with the Los Angeles Rams. Even if he only lands a two- or three-year deal, there’s little reason the six-time All-Pro — and current defensive captain — shouldn’t cash in again in the coming days.
6. DT Javon Hargrave
He showed up in a big way during his 2022 contract year, recording a career-best 11 sacks for one of the most productive defensive lines in league history and a major reason the Philadelphia Eagles reached Super Bowl 57. This much Interior Passing (6 -2, 305) are a rarity in the NFL, and Hargrave – a 2021 Pro Bowler – had 23 sacks and 42 QB hits during his three seasons in Philly. But he’s benefited from playing on such a deep and talented front and recently turned 30, factors that could lower his final price … if only slightly.
7. OT Kaleb McGary
The 2019 first-round pick of the Atlanta Falcons had a breakout 2022 campaign, rated by PFF as the league’s best right tackle, ahead of established peers like Lane Johnson and Tristan Wirfs. McGary is a better run blocker than pass protector, but that’s not a minor trait given the steady return of reliance on the ground game elsewhere in the NFL. Although he is 28 years old, he should have a few stellar years ahead of him if he can connect with the right team.
8. LB Tremaine Edmunds
The two-time Pro Bowler has been the backbone of a Buffalo Bills defense that has finished first or second in points allowed in three of the last four seasons. An athletic 6-5, 250-pound freak with a 4.5-second 40-yard dash, he also won’t turn 25 until May. You could also get some bonus players by signing Edmunds because his brothers, Trey (running back) and former first-round pick Terrell (safety), are no longer under contract with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
9. CB James Bradberry
Another member of the NFC champion Eagles, Bradberry hasn’t been exactly consistent from year to year, but is coming off a strong season in 2022. Again, it didn’t hurt to play in front of Philly’s fleet of pass rushers or opposite perennial Pro Bowl CB Darius Slay. But even though Bradberry will turn 30 before next season and maybe he pulls the receiver’s jersey at the most inopportune momentplays a top position and is a quality defender – especially in the CB2 role.
10. WR Odell Beckham Jr.
OBJ’s cost-benefit analysis was never better summed up than in Super Bowl 56, where he started an MVP-worthy performance before suffering another torn ACL in the second quarter. It was probably never realistic to expect him to play in 2022, but he should be ready next season. He hasn’t been a pro bowler since 2016, but he’s very capable of being a dominant WR2 with the right team. He is now 30 years old and ready to sign immediately power get a little more money in a year when there doesn’t appear to be a dominant receiver available in the draft. And he wants you to know that the knee is fine.
11. RB Jamaal Williams
He replaced D’Andre Swift as the Detroit Lions’ starter in 2022, and the fiery Williams responded with his first 1,000-yard rushing season and led the league with 17 touchdown runs. Williams turns 28 next month, but has just 1,075 touches in six NFL seasons and should have plenty of juice left in his legs.
12. CB Jamel Dean
His age (26) and durability could make him more attractive to some teams than Bradberry. Dean’s 6-1, 206-pound frame is another plus, and he’s allowed just over half of the 243 times he’s been targeted in his four-year career.
13. TE Mike Gesicki
He was a terrible fit in the new look Miami Dolphins offense in 2022, making you wonder why they franchised him in the first place. But for teams looking for an athletic, knockdown tight end — Gesicki, 27, had more than 700 receiving yards in 2020 and 2021 — this could be their guy. Just don’t expect a lot of blocking and be prepared to endure the dreaded Griddy when he gets to the end zone (OK, that’s a plus).
14. RB Miles Sanders
First time pro bowler in 2022, when he set career highs with 1,347 scrimmage yards and 11 TDs. Sanders is also only 26 years old and hasn’t even been used much at Penn State, except for one season, when he served as Saquon Barkley’s backup. Still — and we mean no kidding to the Eagles players — Sanders benefited greatly from operating behind Philly’s offensive line and alongside QB Jalen Hurts, a frequent runner who brought him extra attention on defense.
15. ZACH Allen
Playing opposite JJ Watt the last two seasons for the Arizona Cardinals, Allen, 25, has developed into a plug-and-play tight end for teams that prefer oddball fronts. He improved as a pass rusher, posted career highs with 5½ sacks and 20 QB hits in 2022 and should be a stabilizing force for years to come.
16. WR Allen Lazard
Another who could benefit from a weak receiver market and draft class, he posted career highs with 60 receptions and 788 yards for the Green Bay Packers in 2022, Lazard’s first season without Davante Adams. His athleticism and frame (6-5, 227 pounds) make Lazard, 27, a matchup nightmare, especially for a team that can put him opposite an established WR1.
17. DB CJ Gardner-Johnson
He’s fiery. He is versatile, able to position himself at safety, in or out of the slot. He tied for the league lead with six interceptions in 2022 despite missing five games. And he’s only 25. He’ll be a valuable piece somewhere, like he was for the Eagles in 2022.
18. OT Mike McGlinchey
The 28-year-old cousin of Matt Ryan has started 69 games over the past five seasons for the San Francisco 49ers. He could enjoy playing right tackle somewhere where pass rushers won’t readily line up opposite him to avoid against Trent Williams.
19. LB Bobby Okereke
He had an exceptional season in 2022 despite the absence of rival Shaquille Leonard or a passable offense that took the pressure off an otherwise stout Indianapolis Colts defense. And there’s usually a market for athletic players without the ball who can run and tackle, and Okereke, 26, certainly did plenty of that in 2022 — ranking 10th in the NFL with 151 stops.
20. WR Jakobi Meyers
For that matter, he led the New England Patriots with 804 yards and six TD catches among 67 receptions in 2022. Meyers can play in the slot or wide receiver, and his running back background adds another dimension to his versatility – he’s done. all four of his NFL passes, two went for scores.
21. With Jordan Poyer
Yes, he is almost 32 years old. But he’s long been one of the league’s most reliable safeties, even if wider recognition has only come in the last two years when he was finally recognized as a Pro Bowler (2022) and All-Pro (2021) for the first time. It sounds like his time may be up with the Buffalo Bills, but Poyer should be a boon to other teams on the cusp of the Super Bowl.
22. TE Dalton Schultz
He parlayed a career year in 2021 (78 catches for 808 yards and 8 TDs) into the franchise with the Dallas Cowboys. Unfortunately for Schultz, he couldn’t get a longer deal with Jerry Jones or replicate his production in 2022. He’ll be a good pick somewhere, though a tight end draft class could hurt his market.
23. Mr. Nate Davis
With apologies to LB TJ Edwards, DT Dalvin Tomlinson, CB Marcus Peters, All-Pro KR Keisean Nixon and others, there’s no way this stud was left off the roster. Say what you will about the value of right guard, but Nate D., 26, has been reliably consistent over his four-year career and is one of the main reasons for RB Derrick Henry’s unfailing production at Tennessee. Pay the man.
Follow USA TODAY Sports’ Nate Davis on Twitter @ByNateDavis.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: 2023 NFL free agency: Lamar Jackson, Jimmy Garoppolo among top players