NFL free agency starts on March 9. We’ll continue to update our top 99 free agents below until that happens, adding released players as they get added to the mix. The rankings are based on answering one simple question: Which player would we want to sign most?
1. Von Miller, Denver Broncos pass rusher: One of the NFL’s premier edge rushers since the day he entered the league and the reigning Super Bowl MVP, Miller will almost certainly be hit with the franchise tag. He could wind up being the NFL’s highest-paid defender.
2. Josh Norman, Carolina Panthers cornerback: There’s nothing like having your breakout season in a contract year. Norman was among the best cornerbacks in football in 2015 and is not likely to go anywhere.
3. Muhammad Wilkerson, New York Jets defensive end: Sheldon Richardson and Leonard Williams were splashy draft pick additions, but Wilkerson is still the best defensive lineman on the Jets. The Jets look likely to place the franchise tag on the all-around player.
4. Alshon Jeffery, Chicago Bears wide receiver: He might not be the most refined receiver in the league, but few are better at catching deep balls. He was seventh in the league in receiving yards-per-game in 2015 and topped 1,400 yards in 2013. While this Bears regime didn’t draft Jeffery, we can’t imagine them letting him hit the open market.
5. Malik Jackson, Denver Broncos defensive tackle: The average fan learned in the playoffs what the Broncos already knew. Jackson is one of the most underrated, versatile and valuable interior linemen in football. With Von Miller likely to get the tag, Jackson should strike it rich.
6. Olivier Vernon, Miami Dolphins defensive end: The “other” Dolphins pass rusher has dialed up a lot of pressure over the last three years, even if he doesn’t finish with as many sacks as Cameron Wake. Vernon’s consistent pressure will make him a very rich man. Expectations are he’ll leave Miami, who can only afford to pay so much on their defensive line.
7. Eric Berry, Kansas City Chiefs safety: Berry returned back from his cancer scare better than ever. Strong safety play is hard to find and Berry has the versatility teams are looking for. He’s just hitting his prime.
8. Cordy Glenn, Buffalo Bills tackle: True franchise left tackles are awfully hard to find, especially in this market. That’s why Glenn is a strong candidate for the franchise tag.
9. Doug Martin, Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back: He won’t make the same money as the guys listed above (and below) him here because of the position he plays, but no one helped their value more last season. Martin went from an afterthought to the No. 2 rusher in the NFL.
10. Kelechi Osemele, Baltimore Ravens guard: If your team needs a run blocker, Osemele is easily the best name on the market.
11. Eric Weddle, San Diego Chargers safety: Weddle may have taken a step back from his All-Pro level, but he’s still a dynamic centerfielder that can do a little bit of everything for a defense.
12. Kirk Cousins, Washington Redskins quarterback: A first-time starter, Cousins led the NFL in completion percentage while setting Redskins single-season records for passing yards and total touchdowns. Can he repeat that success against a tougher schedule in 2016?
13. Bruce Irvin, Seattle Seahawks linebacker: He isn’t a defense-changing talent, but he’s also better than you think. Irvin is a quality versatile starter.
14. Jason Pierre-Paul, New York Giants defensive end: He’s the x-factor of this free-agent class, with potential to be a team-changing force for years to come. He remained disruptive despite playing with a club over his injured hand. The ceiling is tremendous but Pierre-Paul struggled to wrap up opposing running backs. Can he finish plays?
15. Danny Trevathan, Denver Broncos linebacker: Trevathan is a three-down linebacker entering his prime that can hold up in pass coverage. We’re big fans of his skill set and he’s just the type of above-average starter that gets paid like a superstar in free agency. Perhaps by old coach John Fox?
16. Janoris Jenkins, Los Angeles Rams cornerback: He’s steadily improved each season in the league and now is a playmaking starter. The Rams won’t be able to retain him and Trumaine Johnson.
17. Sam Bradford, Philadelphia Eagles quarterback: Bradford is the NFL’s quarterback Rorschach test. The true believers can explain away his inconsistencies. Everyone else sees average starting quarterback play, which is worth plenty. There will be no shortage of teams willing to give Bradford a try if the Eagles don’t re-sign him.
18. Matt Forte, Chicago Bears running back: One of the league’s most complete backs has not shown many signs of age yet. Perhaps he should be paired with another quality option, but there’s no doubt he could upgrade many backfields.
19. Lamar Miller, Miami Dolphins running back: Miller is a big-play threat who excels as a receiver. He’s probably best used around 250 touches; don’t look for a team to give him all the touches.
20. Brock Osweiler, Denver Broncos quarterback: He displayed some positive traits (pocket movement, arm strength) in seven starts. The Broncos should have seen enough in practice the last four years to know if he’s worth huge money.
21. Sean Smith, Kansas City Chiefs cornerback: Smith quietly put together rock-solid seasons as a man coverage cornerback in Kansas City. He’s headed to his third contract yet is only 28 years old.
22. Trumaine Johnson, Los Angeles Rams cornerback: An above-average starting cornerback that likes to tackle like Johnson is going to get paid huge money in this market.
23. Jaye Howard, Kansas City Chiefs defensive tackle: One of our favorite value picks in free agency, Howard was a terror for the Chiefs last season. Can the Chiefs afford to keep all their great talent on defense?
24. Derrick Johnson, Kansas City Chiefs linebacker: The ageless heart and soul of the Chiefs defense would look strange in any other uniform.
25. Russell Okung, Seattle Seahawks tackle: He is coming off shoulder surgery and is representing himself as an agent. This could get interesting.
26. Damon Harrison, New York Jets nose tackle: One of the premier run-stuffers in football, there just aren’t many humans left on the planet quite like “Snacks.”
27. Prince Amukamara, New York Giants cornerback: There just aren’t enough capable starting cornerbacks in today’s NFL. Amukamara is one of them.
28. Tamba Hali, Kansas City Chiefs pass rusher: It’s rare to see a player take a pay cut like Hali, then enjoy one of his best seasons. The Chiefs might not be able to afford him this time around.
29. Reggie Nelson, Cincinnati Bengals safety: So many teams are looking for a reliable “centerfielder” at safety like Nelson to improve the team’s last line of defense.
30. Ryan Fitzpatrick, New York Jets quarterback: He has more value to the Jets with Chan Gailey running the show than he would in any another city.
31. George Iloka, Cincinnati Bengals safety: He has rare size and coverage ability. It feels like Illoka is just tapping into his physical gifts.
Starters with questions
32. Chris Long, Los Angeles Rams defensive end: He only has four sacks over the last two injury-ravaged years, yet Long should still have some quality seasons left. He was a top-20 defensive end as recently as 2013.
33. Nick Fairley, Los Angeles Rams defensive tackle: He stayed out of trouble and quietly was effective as a rotational player in St. Louis. Can he be effective playing more? There is boom or bust potential here.
34. Tashaun Gipson, Cleveland Browns safety: He followed up an incredible 2014 season with a miserable 2015 campaign. He’s worth a shot at a discounted price.
35. Derrick Shelby, Miami Dolphins defensive end: An improving player that has performed well with his opportunities, Shelby could be a steal this offseason. The Dolphins could wind up keeping Shelby to replace Olivier Vernon.
36. Alex Boone, San Francisco 49ers guard: He can add nastiness to any offensive line.
37. Jerrell Freeman, Indianapolis Colts inside linebacker: He’s great in coverage for an inside linebacker, which is worth a premium.
38. Robert Ayers, New York Giants defensive end: It makes no sense that a former first-round pick that played in New York is so under the radar.
39. Marvin Jones, Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver: If Jeffery is tagged, Jones would be our top receiver on the entire market. He has a terrific skill set, but is a candidate to get overpaid because of the thin market.
40. Chris Ivory, New York Jets running back: He can look like a Pro Bowler for half a season, but Ivory’s running style makes him a better candidate to split carries before he gets run down.
41. Andre Smith, Cincinnati Bengals tackle: It’s a red flag he’s coming off such a down year after the Bengals maxed out his skill set for much of his career.
42. Ian Williams, San Francisco 49ers defensive tackle: He’s like “Snacks” Harrison, possibly with more value on passing downs.
43. Kelvin Beachum, Pittsburgh Steelers tackle: He would be ranked in the top 35 if he wasn’t coming off a torn ACL.
44. Walter Thurmond, Philadelphia Eagles safety: Injury prone for much of his career, Thurmond was part of perhaps the best safety tandem in the league with Malcolm Jenkins in Philadelphia.
45. Mitchell Schwartz, Cleveland Browns tackle: The ever-improving right tackle adds value with excellent Twitter analysis.
46. Ladarius Green, San Diego Chargers tight end: He never quite broke out behind Antonio Gates, but Green put together some terrific tape in 2015. He has excellent hands, incredible speed for a tight end and is a solid blocker. He’s still a Making the Leap candidate!
47. Haloti Ngata, Detroit Lions defensive tackle: No longer a game-wrecker, Ngata can add quality depth to the middle of any defensive line.
48. Donald Penn, Oakland Raiders tackle: An up and down career is back on the rise after a steady turn protecting Derek Carr.
49. Casey Hayward, Green Bay Packers cornerback: He might have been the best cornerback on the Packers last year, yet the team looks set to let him walk away. He can play outside and in the slot.
50. Aldon Smith, Oakland Raiders pass rusher: He is suspended until at least the middle of November and it’s possible he won’t be reinstated (or signed) until 2017. With all that said, Smith is eligible to sign with a new team and represents a rare top-10 pass rusher talent available at a reduced price. Someone will give him a third chance.
51. Travis Benjamin, Cleveland Browns wide receiver: Coming off a career year, Benjamin may find out that NFL teams refuse to pay for undersized slot receivers.
52. Antonio Gates, San Diego Chargers tight end: He’s fully expected to stay with the Chargers.
53. Dwayne Allen, Indianapolis Colts tight end: It’s hard to explain why he never produced with the Colts because his complete skill set is obvious to see.
54. B.J. Raji, Green Bay Packers nose tackle: He can still clog up the middle of a defensive line, with the upside that he’ll turn back the clock one of these years.
55. Adam Jones, Cincinnati Bengals cornerback: Pacman played better than all but roughly 20 players on this list last season. But can he keep up that high level as an outside cornerback turning 33 this year? Would his act play outside of Cincinnati?
56. Coby Fleener, Indianapolis Colts tight end: Every team wants a tight end that can stretch the seams of a defense. Fleener’s hands just aren’t as consistent as you’d like.
57. Greg Hardy, Dallas Cowboys defensive end: Based purely on talent and 2015 play, Hardy would be in the top ten of this list. But you have to sign the person that goes with the talent, and most teams will smartly decide Hardy isn’t worth the trouble.
58. Richie Incognito, Buffalo Bills guard: Incognito emerged from football purgatory to complete his best season as a pro. He’s ranked this low because of his red flags.
59 . Anquan Boldin, San Francisco 49ers wide receiver: He doesn’t need to be open to make catches. He’s found a way to stay productive throughout his 30s and is a great locker room addition.
60. Ramon Foster, Pittsburgh Steelers guard: A solid starter, Foster was a big part of Pittsburgh’s excellent offensive line.
61. Terrance Knighton, Washington Redskins defensive tackle: He signed for one year in Washington last year, hoping for a bigger payday this time around. He should get it.
62. Rodney McLeod, Los Angeles Rams safety: The No. 10-ranked safety by Pro Football Focus last year, McLeod has logged at least 1,000 snaps in each of the last three seasons.
63. Rashad Johnson, Arizona Cardinals safety: He got lost in the shuffle in Arizona’s star-studded secondary but Johnson can do a lot of things well at the safety position.
64. Alfred Morris, Washington Redskins running back: He can’t catch a pass, but Morris is a rugged early down running back that can top 1,200 yards without breaking down.
65. Mark Barron, Los Angeles Rams linebacker: He made a surprisingly smooth transition to linebacker from safety.
66. Brandon Brooks, Houston Texans guard: He has shown that he can start in multiple systems.
67. Evan Mathis, Denver Broncos guard: Mathis is an accomplished veteran two years removed from All Pro-caliber play, but he’s nearing his mid-30s, coming off of surgery and limited to zone-blocking schemes.
Needs the right roles
68. Mohamed Sanu, Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver: Sanu is essentially a fine slot receiver, with some gadget plays mixed in. He could be productive in the right system.
69. Chase Daniel, Kansas City Chiefs quarterback: He’s looked like a capable starter in preseason and spot duty work in the regular season. It’s finally time to Make the Leap!
70. Cedric Thornton, Philadelphia Eagles defensive end: The Eagles can’t keep everyone, but this run stopper has played well in a 3-4 defense before.
71. Rishard Matthews, Miami Dolphins wide receiver: In and out of Joe Philbin’s doghouse for the majority of his Miami career, Matthews finally hit the starting lineup, posting career-highs across the board in just 11 games. There are certainly worse No. 3 receivers around the league.
72. Jermaine Kearse, Seattle Seahawks wide receiver: The Seahawks prefer physical, well-rounded wide receivers willing to block and contribute on special teams, which is where much of Kearse’s value lies.
73. Jahri Evans, New Orleans Saints guard: Once the highest-paid guard in the league, Evans can still help a team out as a quality starter.
74. Justin Tucker, Baltimore Ravens kicker: It’s hard to imagine the Ravens will let one of the best kickers in the league get away.
75. Nigel Bradham, Buffalo Bills linebacker: He wasn’t a fit for Rex Ryan’s defense, but Bradham showed off a three-down starter skill set the year before with Jim Schwartz.
76. Mike Neal, Green Bay Packers linebacker: He’s a high effort player that can play anywhere from outside linebacker to defensive tackle. A good rotation player.
77. Junior Galette, Washington Redskins pass rusher: Although highly productive when healthy, Galette is a coach-killer with character concerns and health questions.
78. Percy Harvin, Buffalo Bills wide receiver: It’s easy to forget that Harvin outplayed Sammy Watkins early last season before injuries resurfaced, begetting thoughts of early retirement. With his football future in question, Harvin won’t land a contract commensurate with his talent level.
79. Dwight Freeney, Arizona Cardinals pass rusher: Freeney is purely a situational edge rusher at a stage of his career in which he will only play for a Super Bowl contender. His last two months in Arizona were his most effective in nearly half a decade.
80. James Laurinaitis, Los Angeles Rams linebacker: Known as a good leader, Laurinaitis just didn’t make enough plays the last few years in St. Louis. He’s a stop-gap pickup.
81. Stephen Tulloch, Detroit Lions linebacker: A stop-gap option for a team needing leadership and snaps at inside linebacker.
82. Courtney Upshaw, Baltimore Ravens defensive end: If he couldn’t make it in Baltimore as anything more than a run-stuffing specialist, he isn’t likely to develop elsewhere.
83. LeGarrette Blount, New England Patriots running back: There is a fear he’ll turn into a pumpkin away from Bill Belichick.
84. Leon Hall, Cincinnati Bengals cornerback: Paying aging cornerbacks is rarely good business, but Hall can still help out as a role player in the right situation.
85. Nick Perry, Green Bay Packers pass rusher: Perry showed flashes of pass-rushing potential last season, but never produced consistently enough to live up to his first-round pedigree.
86. William Gay, Pittsburgh Steelers cornerback: He was easily Pittsburgh’s most reliable cornerback last year and could be back.
87. Akiem Hicks, New England Patriots defensive tackle: Acquired in a trade with the Saints, Hicks flashed impressive ability late in the season.
88. Joe Barksdale, San Diego Chargers tackle: You could do a lot worse if you need a starting right tackle.
89. Tahir Whitehead, Detroit Lions inside linebacker: The former seventh-round pick made a lot of plays for the Lions the last two years. He’s a nice value pickup.
90. Patrick Robinson, San Diego Chargers cornerback: The former New Orleans Saints cornerback has come on strong the last two years as a feisty cornerback.
91. Stefen Wisniewski, Jacksonville Jaguars center: Serviceable starting center, will travel.
92. Bilal Powell, New York Jets running back: He can play all three downs at a solid level, without truly excelling in any one attribute.
93. Nolan Carroll, Philadelphia Eagles cornerback: He wasn’t exactly a solution for the Eagles defense last season, but he wasn’t a problem either. Snaps eater.
94. Jerraud Powers, Arizona Cardinals cornerback: He’s played a lot of snaps for some very good teams over the last five years.
95. Michael Griffin, Tennessee Titans safety: The longtime Titans captain should have a year or two left.
96. DeShawn Shead, Seattle Seahawks cornerback: He flashed starter-level ability when given the chance last season.
97. Marquette King, Oakland Raiders punter: A punter with tons of confidence would be a welcome addition on many teams.
98. Brian Quick, Los Angeles Rams wide receiver: Quick might have been the most physically gifted wideout on the Rams’ roster, but he lost the majority of the past two seasons to a severe shoulder injury. Given the Rams’ history of failing to develop wide receivers, he’s an interesting flier for teams seeking a size/speed reclamation project.
99. Zach Brown, Tennessee Titans linebacker: He has insane pursuit skills but was never fully trusted in Tennessee.
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