NFL free agency is off to a rapid start with players being signed across the league, but through two days of the legal tampering period not all of the top free agents are off the board. Three of the the top five free agents on CBS Sports’ top-100 are available, which could lead toward a wild first day of the new league year.
As teams start to put pen to paper on these free agent contracts, there are plenty of talented players still available for contending teams to snatch. Unfortunately for the quarterback-needy teams, none of them are quarterbacks.
These are the top-10 free agents remaining as the league year begins Wednesday, based on Pete Prisco’s top-100 list.
1. Terron Armstead
Clearly the top lineman available on the market, Armstead should be receiving a huge contract from an offensive line needy team. Armstead allowed just one sack, two quarterback hits, and 12 pressures in 263 pass-blocking snaps last season, as he played only eight games. Armstead is one of four offensive tackles to make Pro Bowl in at least three of the last four seasons.
The 30-year-old Armstead is still one of the top left tackles in the game when healthy, making the Pro Bowl from 2018 to 2020. A massive contract appears headed his way, despite missing 48 of a possible 145 games.
2. Von Miller
Miller was dominant once he was traded to Los Angeles at the deadline, showcasing he still has the talent to be an impact player and difference maker on a defense. Leading the NFL with 18 tackles for loss since playing his first game with the Rams in Week 10, Miller also racked up 52 pressures (third in NFL) and nine sacks (tied for sixth) with Los Angeles, including the postseason.
Making his money in the playoffs, Miller finished with 14 tackles, four sacks, six quarterback hits, and a forced fumble. His 22 pressures trailed only Aaron Donald (23) and 16 hurries led all NFL defenders, a critical part in the Rams winning a championship.
Miller finished with 50 tackles, 9.5 sacks, 17 quarterback hits, and a forced fumble in the regular season — along with 55 pressures and 47 hurries (seventh in NFL). A Super Bowl contending team should serious take a look at adding Miller.
3. Chandler Jones
Jones had the bounce-back season in 2021 after playing just five games the previous year with a biceps injury. He still put up double-digit sack numbers (10.5) to go with 41 tackles, 26 quarterback hits, and six forced fumbles (the second-highest total of his career).
One of four players with six forced fumbles on the year, Jones also finished ninth in the NFL in quarterback hits. Jones also had 45 pressures and 25 hurries on the year, which weren’t among the league leaders — even though the pass rusher was excellent at getting to the quarterback and creating turnovers.
Jones may not be the player who had 49 sacks from 2017 to 2019, but he’s still a difference maker on a defense. He’s the most productive edge rusher on the market and should be paid handsomely in free agency.
4. Allen Robinson
Robinson has a ton of talent, but last year as a disaster for him and the Chicago Bears. Robinson had a career-low 38 catches for 410 yards and one touchdown after consecutive 1,000-yard seasons — needing a fresh start to revitalize his career.
Prior to the 2021 campaign, Robinson was coming off consecutive 1,100-yard seasons with the Bears — despite inconsistent quarterback play in both years. Robinson was fourth in the NFL in receiving yards (2,397) over the 2019 and 2020 seasons, trailing only Stefon Diggs, Travis Kelce, and DeAndre Hopkins. He was also fourth in the league in receptions (200) during that span with 13 touchdowns, and is one of just six players with 1,100-plus yards in each of those two seasons.
A “prove-it deal” seems to be in the cards for Robinson, although the wide receiver market was broken with the Christian Kirk contract.
5. Stephon Gilmore
Gilmore had an interesting 2021 season, not playing until he was traded from the New England Patriots to the Carolina Panthers. He had 16 tackles, two interceptions, and three passes defensed in nine games, yet still earned a Pro Bowl selection. Opposing quarterbacks targeting Gilmore had just a 57.9 passer rating when he was the primary defender, completing just 60% of their passes and tossing two touchdowns.
Gilmore had a great year in 2020 (even if he only played 11 games). He was still one of the best cover corners in football, as opposing quarterbacks had just a 66.7 passer rating targeting him while completing 56.3% of their passes targeting him. Teams were still afraid to test Gilmore, targeting him just 48 times — which explains why he only ended up with three passes defended.
The 31-year-old Gilmore will still have a strong market, but it’s hard to determine his value.
6. Darious Williams
One of the underrated cornerbacks on the market, Williams gets overlooked because he plays opposite of Jalen Ramsey. He started 13 games last year and recorded 71 tackles and nine passes defensed with zero interceptions. As the primary defender in coverage, Williams allowed opposing quarterbacks to complete 64.6% of their passes for an 80.6 passer rating.
The 29-year-old Williams will get an opportunity to add to a cornerback-needy team, but how much he will get remains a mystery.
7. Bobby Wagner
Wagner had a head start to free agency after he was released by the Seattle Seahawks last week — and he’s still near the top of his game. He finished with 170 tackles, three quarterback hits, a sack, five passes defensed, and a forced fumble in earning another Pro Bowl and All-Pro selection.
Wagner has the most tackles in NFL since being drafted in 2012 (1,383). He’s the only player in NFL history who has 1,300 tackles, 20 sacks, 10 interceptions, and 50 passes defensed in his first 10 seasons.
A future Hall of Famer, Wagner likely has plenty of elite-level play left. The 31-year-old will likely be able to choose where he wants to go.
8. Tyrann Mathieu
The top safety left on the market, Mathieu finished with 76 tackles, three interceptions, and three passes defensed last season in earning another Pro Bowl selection. He allowed just a 65.9 passer rating in coverage when targeted as the primary defender.
The Chiefs moved on from Mathieu by agreeing to terms with Justin Reid, but Mathieu will have his suitors. His 26 interceptions since the start of the 2013 season (Mathieu’s rookie year) are tied for the most in the NFL amongst safeties. Another big contract is expected for Mathieu.
9. Trent Brown
Two injury-riddled years have hurt Brown heading into free agency, as the 28-year old tackle has played just 14 games in that span. Brown, who played right tackle for New England in 2021, allowed just one sack and nine pressures in 489 snaps — not committing a single penalty.
A calf injury affected Brown in 2021 and he nearly went into cardiac arrest in 2020 in a scare from a pre-game IV. When Brown is on the field, he’s dominant. He should have a market for teams looking to improve at tackle, as good ones are hard to find in the league.
10. Akiem Hicks
Hicks isn’t that far removed from his Pro Bowl season (2018), as the 32-year-old defensive tackle had 3.5 sacks and nine quarterback hits in nine games for the Chicago Bears last season. Hicks’ versatility will have some value for teams, as he can play the edge or line up inside.
Only having 15 pressures in nine games, Hicks had 50 pressures the season prior. The days of Hicks, 32, earning a massive contract appear to be behind him, but he can be a nice pass rusher in a rotation and is still a good run stopper (had 17 run stops in 2021)