Ranking the best remaining free agents still available on the market

Even after all the NFL free agency moves we’ve seen so far, there is a pretty substantial list of talented players still available.

What follows is the remnant of ESPN’s original top 100 free agents. The list includes players whose contracts expired or voided, or whose deals were terminated early because of salary-cap or performance issues. It does not cover restricted or exclusive free agents, for whom the original teams have the right of first refusal. Players who have received the franchise tag are also excluded, even though they technically could be acquired in exchange for two first-round draft choices and the consent of the original team.

As always, our ranking is skewed toward players coming off their first contracts — at the free-agent sweet spot of about 26 years old — and takes into consideration that some positions are much more valued on the open market than others. Pass-rushers and quarterbacks are more sought after on the market than running backs and off-ball linebackers, at least for most teams, and we’ve tried to keep that in mind in establishing the rankings.

Let’s jump in, with the best available players still unsigned. Who’s next to join a new team?

 

1. Tyrann Mathieu, S

Mathieu has been named to the Pro Bowl in all three of his seasons with the Chiefs and was named an All-Pro as recently as 2020. He has played out his $42 million deal and is young enough to get another payday, even if his best years are behind him. His 13 interceptions over those three years are tied for the fifth most in the NFL over that period.

 

2. Jadeveon Clowney, DE

An annual addition to this list, Clowney has changed teams three times in the past three seasons. His nine-sack performance for the Browns in 2021 was his best since 2018 and ensured that he will be in demand this spring, as well. Going year to year in the NFL isn’t for everyone, but Clowney has earned nearly $36 million in his path from Houston to Seattle to Tennessee to Cleveland — with more to come.

 

3. Stephon Gilmore, CB

When the Patriots decided against signing him to a significant contract extension, Gilmore got himself traded to the Panthers. He was largely buried in the Panthers’ second-half swoon, but in the right environment, he would provide a veteran anchor who can still play press-man coverage for a defensive backfield.

 

4. Landon Collins, S

Collins’ tenure in Washington was a huge disappointment for a variety of reasons, including a torn Achilles tendon that cost him nine games in 2020. While he has always taken pride in playing safety, you wonder if his future is with a team that can create a hybrid position that uses him more as a tackler and pass-rusher than in coverage.

 

5. Jarvis Landry, WR

Landry had the least productive season of his career in 2021, but it was still a testament to the extraordinary numbers he had put up previously. In 12 games, some of which he played through with significant injuries, he caught 52 passes for 570 yards and two touchdowns. It’s not outrageous to wonder whether his physical style of play will shorten the peak of his career, but Landry at 75 percent would still be a valuable player.

 

6. Duane Brown, OT

It’s certainly unusual to include on this list a player who will be 37 when the season begins, but Brown remains a very good player at a position where the NFL experiences an annual shortage. He has missed only four starts in four seasons since the Seahawks acquired him in 2018, all of which came in 2019, and he would be a strong option for a team seeking a short-term fill-in at left tackle.

 

7. Odell Beckham Jr., WR

Beckham’s torn ACL in the Super Bowl will complicate his expected trip into free agency. You’re not going to see too many teams rush to pursue a player who not only has a history of multiple ACL tears but has also forced his way out of two NFL teams before the age of 30.

Author: Lucy Green