Top 10 NFL Free Agents
By Liam McKeone
NFL free agency is upon us. It will begin on March 16, but the window unofficially opens today at noon ET as the legal tampering period begins. Monday is the day where the big deals will be struck in theory, then signed on Wednesday.
In honor of this monumental occasion, here are the 10 best players available heading into free agency.
10. Christian Kirk, WR
Kirk is a great buy-low candidate for a WR-needy team out there. He's only 25 years-old and caught 77 passes from Kyler Murray last season, averaging over 12 yards per reception. Kirk is a burner out of the slot who ran a 4.46 40-yard dash and knows how to weaponize that speed. It's unclear how much more upside Kirk has, and Kliff Kingsbury's fast-paced offense can inflate numbers. But the WR class is weak this free agency period and Kirk has proven he's, at worst, a reliable No. 3 receiver with the ability to put up sizable numbers.
9. Von Miller, LB
Miller reminded everybody why he's so dangerous during the Rams' Super Bowl run and will now hit the open market at an ideal time. He's sent out many signals that he'd like to rejoin the Broncos, especially after the Russell Wilson trade, but someone might be tempted to blow him away with a big contract and ruin any homecoming plans. Some teams would be justified to do so. Miller isn't the guy who will make a run for league sack leader on an annual basis anymore, but if he lines up next to other talented pass-rushers, Miller can still make a fool out of any offensive lineman in one-on-one matchups and his skillset is invaluable when the postseason arrives. Miller doesn't have many years left and there is a short list of teams willing to dole out a big salary in hopes of having him deliver in the playoffs, though.
8. Brandon Schreff, G
Schreff has developed into a quality guard in Washington and the Commanders do not seem intent on keeping him around, making him the best player available on the market at his position. Schreff has made five Pro Bowls in six seasons and earned an All-Pro spot in 2020. Health is a legitimate concern; the former first-round pick hasn't played a full season since 2016. But he's an above-average starter when healthy and somebody with offensive line woes will give him a big deal betting on his availability.
7. Allen Robinson, WR
Robinson's stock has fallen significantly over the last few seasons. He didn't seem to like Chicago very much during the Mitch Trubisky days and was forced to stick around for the Andy Dalton-Justin Fields mess after getting franchise-tagged this time last year. Robinson caught only 38 passes for 410 yards and exactly one touchdown last year. After he recorded 102 catches for 1,250 yards in 2020, he feels like a prime candidate to bounce back in a better environment and perhaps a better QB throwing him the ball.
6. Randy Gregory, DE
Gregory has a lot of red flags but the upside is clear. If he can stay on the field, he's a good-to-great pass rusher who can make life miserable for opposing signal-callers. He had six sacks and three forced fumbles in 12 games last year and absolutely took over the Cowboys' win over the Patriots. Gregory can be a game-changing force at times. But injuries and off-field issues have made it difficult to rely on Gregory to suit up every week. Big risk, big reward.
5. Carlton Davis, CB
The Bucs seem likely to do whatever they can to keep Davis now that Tom Brady is back in the fold. If they don't, Davis is one of the best secondary players available this year. In 10 games in 2021, Davis recorded 11 passes defended and one interception. Health is an issue since Davis hasn't played a full season in his career to date, but he's only 25 years-old and usually played his best football when it mattered most. Lots of upside here.
4. Marcus Williams, FS
Williams has developed into one of the best back-end cover safeties in the league in New Orleans and is set to cash in this free agency period. Williams notched eight passes defended and two picks last year to go along with 74 combined tackles, demonstrating the kind of versatility needed as the last line of the defense. Like a few other guys on this list, he's also young and will be 26 years-old when the 2022 season begins. Nobody knows his value better than Dennis Allen, the new head coach of the Saints, so he might be staying put. But Williams is a good player already with room to grow.
3. Chandler Jones, DE
Jones has been one of the most statistically proficient pass-rushers in the NFL over the last few years. He's coming off a 2021 campaign where he had 10.5 sacks and six forced fumbles in 15 games. Those 10.5 sacks were the fewest Jones has recorded since 2014. That's how consistently good he's been. Jones will be entering his 11th season in 2022 and there's a good amount of wear-and-tear that will give teams pause. But he is consistently good at getting to the quarterback and making things happen once he gets there. He'll be highly-coveted.
2. J.C. Jackson, CB
Jackson is both the best and most prolific cornerback on the market this year, in line to get an absolutely massive contract. The man they call Mr. INT has earned that nickname with 25 career picks in only four seasons, with 17 in the last two years as a starter in New England. Jackson isn't a classic lockdown corner. He won't smother opposing wideouts to the point the QB never even looks their way. But he's certainly good enough in that department and his ball skills are second to none across the NFL. He's searching for a big deal this free agency period and will likely get it.
1. Terron Armstead, LT
As boring as it is, the best player available in free agency this offseason is a left tackle. Armstead hits the open market as a result of the Saints' cap woes, which do not appear real most of the time but they never would've let Armstead get this far if the cap wasn't impacting how they do business. The 31-year-old is consistently one of the top players at his position, capable of taking on any assignment and acting as the cornerstone for a good offensive line. Elite left tackles are among the most valuable assets in the game today and very rarely do they hit unrestricted free agency. Armstead is doing just that while at the top of his game and any team with pass protection issues will be giving him a call immediately.