It’s a good year to need a receiver in NFL free agency. At least until franchise tags start coming.
Three of the top seven and four of the top 13 pending free agents in our rankings are receivers. In a pass-happy league, playmakers at that position are as valuable as ever. The franchise tag could take some of the top receivers off the board, but there will be some good options available.
Here are the top 25 players set to hit free agency (offensive tackle Orlando Brown Jr. and safety Jessie Bates III were taken off the list with news that the Chiefs and Bengals, respectively, would give them franchise tags):
Late additions: LB Jordan Hicks, LB Bobby Wagner
Since publication, a few veterans were let go by their teams and will be coveted. Two standout linebackers became free when the Seahawks let go of longtime star Wagner, and the Cardinals decided to move on from Hicks. Both players could help any defense in need of an off-the-ball linebacker.
25. OLB Uchenna Nwosu
Nwosu became a starter for the Los Angeles Chargers and flashed some pass rushing skills. There will be plenty of competition for Nwosu, a former second-round draft pick who just turned 25.
24. QB Jameis Winston
Is Winston one of the 25 best players hitting free agency? No. But he’s a quarterback who has a pedigree as the former No. 1 overall draft pick and some track record of success, with a 5,000-yard season. He also hasn’t left behind his reputation as a turnover machine and now is coming back from a torn ACL. Teams that need a quarterback will quickly find out there aren’t as many out there as they hoped and Winston will look more attractive (and the same holds true for Mitchell Trubisky, who almost made the list due to supply and demand).
23. WR Odell Beckham Jr.
Beckham was tough to rank. Had Beckham finished the Super Bowl without tearing his ACL, he would have been higher on this list. With Beckham’s status for 2022 uncertain, it’s hard to tell what kind of deal he can get. It will probably be short-term so he can prove he’s healthy before another run at free agency, but it’s disappointing he got hurt just when he had rebuilt his career.
22. TE Mike Gesicki
(UPDATE: Gesicki is reportedly signing his franchise tag tender from the Dolphins.)
Gesicki won’t help in the run game, as he’s a big receiver who is listed as a tight end. The Miami Dolphins could attempt to put the franchise tag on Gesicki, which could lead to an argument over whether he should get the tight end or receiver tag.
21. TE Dalton Schultz
(UPDATE: Schultz was given the franchise tag from the Cowboys on Tuesday.)
Schultz had a nice year, finishing with 808 yards and eight touchdowns in a crowded Dallas offense. The Cowboys want to keep him, but there will be teams interested in the 25-year-old, especially with the dearth of good tight ends around the league.
20. DE Emmanuel Ogbah
Ogbah is a solid two-way end who can contribute as a pass rusher. He has nine sacks in each of the past two seasons. He’d be a fine defensive line addition.
19. WR Michael Gallup
(UPDATE: Gallup and the Cowboys agreed to a five-year, $62.5M deal.)
The Dallas Cowboys’ third receiver would have been a No. 2 or even No. 1 for some other teams. He’s a physical deep threat with a 1,000-yard season on his resume (back in 2019) and turns just 26 years old this month. Dallas seems set to move on from Amari Cooper and use the cap savings to retain Gallup.
18. C Ryan Jensen
Jensen made his first Pro Bowl, right before hitting free agency. The Buccaneers will want to retain him, but for teams looking for a new center he could be a valuable acquisition.
17. DE Randy Gregory
Gregory has a long list of off-field issues, which teams will take into account. He’s also a very good pass rusher who just posted six sacks in 12 games for the Dallas Cowboys, and could have a much bigger season ahead.
16. OLB Harold Landry III
(UPDATE: Landry reportedly agreed to a five-year, $87.5M extension with the Titans.)
Landry is coming off a 12-sack season and a pro Bowl with the Tennessee Titans. Edge rushers are hard to find and while Landry isn’t elite, he’s very good. A team wanting to upgrade the pass rush will pay up.
15. OT Duane Brown
Brown will turn 37 in late August. But offensive tackles can age well and it’s not like there are a ton of great offensive line options in free agency.
14. CB Stephon Gilmore
Gilmore is 31, and that’s the reason he’s not higher on the list. He’s the rare cornerback to win NFL defensive player of the year, taking the award in 2019. His time with the Patriots ended poorly, with a standoff leading to an in-season trade to the Panthers, but he’d still be a good option on a short-term deal.
13. OLB Haason Reddick
(UPDATE: Reddick has reportedly agreed to a three-year, $45 million deal with Eagles.)
Reddick had 12.5 sacks for the Cardinals in 2020 and 11 last season for the Panthers. It took a while for the former 13th overall draft pick to settle into a role as an edge rusher but his athleticism has transitioned well to that valuable position.
12. WR Mike Williams
(Update: The Chargers reportedly signed Williams to a three-year, $60 million deal.)
Williams had his best season at just the right time. The Los Angeles Chargers probably misused him for his first few seasons, but a new coaching staff expanded his role and the results followed. He still was a bit inconsistent, but he’s 27 years old, the former No. 7 overall pick of the draft and coming off a 1,146-yard, nine-touchdown season. He could end up with the franchise tag.
11. S Tyrann Mathieu
Mathieu is a playmaker and a leader. He can play just about anywhere, and that type of versatility at safety is a huge edge for any defensive coordinator. Mathieu will turn 30 in May but he’s still a top defensive back. With Orlando Brown Jr. getting the franchise tag, Mathieu can explore his options.
10. S Marcus Williams
Williams could have become just the player known for his missed tackle on Stefon Diggs’ “Minneapolis Miracle” play, but he developed into one of the best safeties in the NFL. Maybe the Saints come up with the cap space to tag Williams, but if not he’ll be a hot player in the market.
9. G Brandon Scherff
(UPDATE: Scherff reportedly intends to sign with the Jaguars.)
Not too long ago, guards weren’t valued highly. That has changed. Scherff got two franchise tags from Washington and now is set to explore the open market. He’d help any offensive line and there are many teams that could use him.
8. CB Carlton Davis
Davis became a top cornerback with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and he just turned 25. Durability is an issue, but the talent is unmistakeable. He could get the franchise tag.
7. WR Allen Robinson II
Robinson’s 2021 season with the Chicago Bears is perplexing. He is one of the league’s most talented receivers but was a non-factor last season, with just 410 yards and a touchdown. Still, he’s just 28 and has had top-tier seasons before despite never playing with a great quarterback. Some team will bet that last season’s struggles were due to a combination of being in a bad offense and the distraction of wanting a long-term contract.
6. OLB Von Miller
Miller is coming off a big Super Bowl with the Los Angeles Rams, and he has been one of the league’s elite pass rushers for years. There were injury concerns before 2021, but Miller’s last season with the Denver Broncos and Rams shows he still has a lot left at age 32. Miller has already dropped hints about going back to Denver.
5. OLB Chandler Jones
Jones has double-digit sacks in six of his past seven seasons, and the one season he missed that mark he played only five games due to injury. Like Miller, Jones is 32, but he has some good seasons left at a premium position.
4. CB J.C. Jackson
(UPDATE: Jackson has reportedly agreed to a five-year, $82.5M deal with the Chargers.)
Jackson, an undrafted free agent in 2018, became a star with the New England Patriots. Cornerbacks are at a premium in a pass-first league, and Jackson could get a huge deal at just 26 years old. His desire to get a top cornerback contract has reportedly led the Patriots to decide they won’t give him the franchise tag.
3. OT Terron Armstead
Just about every team needs offensive line help and there aren’t many to go around. So what will a 30-year-old three-time Pro Bowler like Armstead get in free agency? It seems hard to believe the Saints, who have major salary cap issues, can keep him.
2. WR Chris Godwin
(Update: Unable to reach a long-term deal, the Buccaneers gave Godwin another franchise tag.)
If not for a late-season ACL injury, Godwin might contend for the No. 1 spot. He is one of the best receivers in football. The ACL injury makes it more complicated, but Godwin did just turn 26. He should be a top option for many years to come, but might not hit the open market if the Buccaneers give him the franchise tag again.
1. WR Davante Adams
(Update: The Packers gave Adams the franchise tag, though Adams says he won’t play under it.)
If Adams is not given the franchise tag by the cap-strapped Packers, he would be one of the biggest free agents in many years. He will turn 30 in December but still has time left as a top-five receiver. He might be the best in the league.