Free agency returns at the forefront of the NFL with the 2023 NFL Draft over and minicamps underway for all 32 teams. Many of the top free agents are off the board, but DeAndre Hopkins‘ release from the Arizona Cardinals makes the offseason a bit more intriguing.
There are plenty of good players available, even in the third wave of free agency. These are the best ones left at each position.
It’s slim pickings at the quarterback position with Lamar Jackson officially back with the Ravens, leaving Wentz as the best available in a market that’s significantly dried up.
Wentz completed 62.3% of his passes for 1,755 yards last year with 11 touchdowns and nine interceptions (80.2 passer rating), getting benched in favor of Taylor Heinicke and Sam Howell. He likely has a job awaiting him, if he’s willing to accept a role as a backup.
This demonstrates how the running back market has thinned over the last several days, as all the top rushers are off the board. Ezekiel Elliott is the top player left in a dry market.
Elliott was arguably the worst starting running back in the league last season, finishing last in the NFL in yards per carry (3.8), tackles avoided (32), and percentage of runs that went for 10-plus yards (7.4%). His rushing-yards-per-game numbers have declined each season as a result of the number of touches accumulated over the course of his career, averaging a career-low 58.4 rushing yards per game and 3.8 yards per carry in 2022.
Hopkins is suddenly the top player on the board in this free agent class, thanks to his stunning release from the Cardinals. Hopkins has a list of quarterbacks he’d like to play with in 2023, but how realistic will it be for him to join any of those teams?
Hopkins has the eighth-most receiving yards through a player’s first 10 seasons in NFL history (11.298) and the fourth-most receptions after a player’s first 10 seasons (853). Hopkins averaged 7.1 catches per game (fourth in NFL) and 79.7 receiving yards per game (10th in NFL) despite only playing nine games last season. He’s been a first team All-Pro three times and selected to the Pro Bowl five times in his 10 NFL seasons.
Whoever gets Hopkins is getting a No. 1 wide receiver — an impressive prize this late in the offseason.
There are not many tight ends left on the market, but Cameron Brate has valuable starting experience in the league (33 starts in 126 career games). He had just 20 catches for 174 yards last season at the age of 31, but provides value in two-tight end sets and good tight end depth.
Taylor Lewan has experienced his fair share of injuries over the years, but is still a good player when he’s on the field. Allowing four sacks and 22 pressures in his last full season (2021). Lewan can hold the fort down at left tackle — in a league that doesn’t have a lot of good ones.
Of course, there’s also the possibility Lewan could retire, but he hasn’t yet made that decision.
Dalton Risner has spent the first four years of his pro career in Denver after the Broncos selected him in the second round of the 2019 NFL Draft out of Kansas State. The 27-year-old is coming off a 2022 season where he gave up three sacks and was called for just one penalty on 967 offensive snaps played, according to Pro Football Focus.
Rodney Hudson played just four games last season, but only allowed two pressures and a pressure percentage of 1.1% in his 284 snaps. He’s worth the contract for a team that needs a center, and provides excellent value for an offensive line.
Still one of the clutch edge rushers in football, Frank Clark’s 13.5 sacks in the playoffs are third most in NFL history. Clark had just five sacks last season, but had 45 pressures and 13 quarterback hits. Clark has hit double digits in sacks twice and has made the Pro Bowl in three of the last four seasons (and is just 29).
Ioannidis fell out of favor in Carolina, yet did have 35 pressures and a pressure rate of 10.5% last season. The sack total was low (one), but Ioannidis was able to get in the backfield and get around the quarterback.
Just 29 years old, Ioannidis gives a defensive line depth as an edge rusher and defensive tackle.
Edge rusher/Outside linebacker
Floyd is the best outside linebacker available — although he’s more of an edge rusher. Floyd had 54 pressures and nine sacks for the Los Angeles Rams last season, and he’s only 30.
Floyd also had a pressure rate of 11.6% with 22 quarterback hits.
Deion Jones is coming off his first season with the Cleveland Browns, playing in 11 games and starting five. He recorded 44 tackles, with 25 solo tackles and 2.5 sacks. He added an interception to his stats sheet last year, bringing his career total to 12. Last season was far from Jones’ best, but saw a lot of success in the first few years of his NFL career, including a Pro Bowl selection.
Peters’ three-year run in Baltimore appears to be over after the Ravens signed former Raiders CB Rock Ya-Sin to a free agent deal. The former All-Pro is coming off a 2022 season in which he appeared in 13 games and had just one interception — the lowest total of his stellar career.
The safety market hasn’t been strong in free agency, so there are plenty of good starters available. Adrian Amos is the top safety left, despite allowing 12 pass touchdowns in coverage over the past two seasons.
Amos had a career-worst 70.2% completion rate allowed when being targeted last year and an 103.8 passer rating allowed. Stil just 29, Amos did have a career-high 102 tackles last season.
Even at 40 years old, Robbie Gould is still one of the best kickers in the game. Gould hit 27 of 34 field goal attempts last season (84.4%) and 50 of 51 extra point attempts (98.0%). He still has never missed a kick in the postseason — as Gould is 29 of 29 on field goals and 39 of 39 on extra points.