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NFL Free Agents 2023: Who are the top players entering free agency?

With the start of the 2023 NFL season only three months away, it's never too early to start thinking about free agency. As free agency draws closer, this list will be updated, with new players included and constantly shifting standings.

The top 10 free agents are shown below, led by three quarterbacks who all arrived at this stage via quite different routes.

Lamar Jackson, Baltimore Ravens

Lamar Jackson is must-watch television, and destroys the myth that a quarterback can only succeed with a particular play style is gradually eroding.

Jackson isn't simply the quarterback position's most explosive open-field runner in the NFL. Among quarterbacks who qualify, his 4.9% big-time throw rate since 2019 is in the top-16, and over the same time period, he has a 93.3 passing grade on throws that travel more than 10 yards downfield.

When people criticize Jackson's game, as they ostensibly love to do, the wide receiver position is one that the Ravens once again chose to mainly ignore this offseason. Jackson will never be a pure dropback passer, but the idea that doing so will be necessary to prevail in 2022 needs to be abandoned because it isn't how football is played now.

Geno Smith, Seattle Seahawks

Smith finished the season with a 79.8 overall rating and an 87.6 mark from a clean pocket, placing him ninth and twelveth, respectively. His 5.6% big-time throw rate ranked sixth, and his 14 passing touchdowns on throws of 20 yards or more were two more than the next-best quarterback.

There is currently no reason to believe that a significant regression is imminent. Smith's passing grade of 85.8 versus middle-of-field open coverage further demonstrates that he didn't gain disproportionately from loaded box counts that liberated his receivers in an effort to increase his effectiveness.

Tom Brady, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Tom Brady is still one of the best football throwers in the NFL right now, despite it being unknown whether he wants to run it back in his age-46 season in 2023. When Tampa Bay signed him in free agency in 2020 at the young age of 43, many laughed at the idea that they would become immediate contenders.

However, all he managed to do was win a Super Bowl in his first season with the team and then follow that up with a 13-win campaign in 2021, during which he came dangerously close to mounting a miraculous comeback against the Los Angeles Rams in the divisional round.

Brady could make a case for being the best player on this list, but since he might retire, we'll let the young guns go ahead of him for now. Brady's passing grade of 79.3 is ninth on the season, while his wide receivers' 16 drops equaled for the fifth-highest total. Granted, he led the league in passing throughout the regular season with 733 attempts, averaging roughly 45 per game except from Week 18 when he was benched early.

Javon Hargrave, Philadelphia Eagles

In 2020 free agency, Hargrave relocated from western Pennsylvania to the East Coast. Since then, he has been a force in Philadelphia and has developed into one of the NFL's top interior pass-rushers.

Since 2020, Chris Jones and Aaron Donald are the only other players at the position with pass-rush grades higher than 92.2, and Hargrave is third with an 18.8% victory rate.

Hargrave will be 30 at the start of the 2023 season, although recent years have seen a number of inside defenders continue to play well into their 30s. Hargrave is also intriguing because of his odd splits as a run defender or pass rusher due to the different roles he has between Pittsburgh and Philadelphia.

Jessie Bates III, Cincinnati Bengals

Bates's unrestricted free agency this time around appears to be much more plausible after Cincinnati gave him the franchise tag last offseason and failed to make a meaningful multi-year offer.

His 84.8 run-defense grade was a top-five score, while his 76.8 PFF grade this season placed him 13th at the position. Bates' seventh 1,000-plus snap season as an NFL player in as many seasons demonstrated his above-average skill level and amazing dependability. In terms of regular-season snaps played among safeties since 2018, he is second only to Kevin Byard.

Jamel Dean. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Carlton Davis, a fellow cornerback for the Buccaneers, returned to the team this summer on a three-year, $44.5 million deal that may serve as a kind of bar for Dean to clear wherever he might wind up. Although Dean has a history of injuries, he has surpassed Davis since entering the league in 2019 and has received coverage grades above 75.0 each season.

Dean takes some chances when attempting to jump routes, but his size, athleticism, and physicality at the line of scrimmage allow him to impede the releases of opposing wide receivers, which will pique the curiosity of many clubs. He can be a little stiff in the hips and doesn't have tremendous ball skills, but those are minor complaints for a player who can match up well with many of the finest big-bodied wide receivers in the NFL.

Lavonte David, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

David, one of the best off-ball linebackers of his generation, is still performing at a very high level and could benefit from linebackers Demario Davis of the New Orleans Saints and Bobby Wagner of the Los Angeles Rams, both of whom are playing excellent football well into their 30s on new contracts. Elite play awareness and intuition, both of which David possesses in abundance, can prevent age-related potential performance losses of one or two steps.

Off-ball linebackers placed David's 88.5 coverage grade this season second, and his outstanding 93.0 mark over the past four seasons is the best at the position.

Jakobi Meyers, New England Patriots

Meyers found himself as the top free agent at a position that is gaining in relevance (and value) every single week after every marquee wide receiver in the 2019 NFL Draft class who was due to hit free agency this offseason inked massive extensions before the year began.

Meyers joined the Patriots as an undrafted free agent in 2019, but he quickly developed into a very good player. Meyers signed a restricted free agent tender to return to New England in 2022, and he easily outperformed all the other significant investments the team made at the position over the previous two offseasons.

Even while New England has a history of letting players leave after their rookie contract value has passed, most notably with another former undrafted free agent in cornerback J.C. Jackson, they may want to keep Meyers around and will likely allow Nelson Agholor reach free agency at the very least.

Mike McGlinchey, San Francisco 49ers

McGlinchey, a competent right tackle who has recovered from a torn quadriceps in 2021, hasn't quite lived up to his top-10 pick status coming out of the 2018 NFL NFL Draft. Over the years, he has coped with a number of minor ailments, but overall, he has done well to limit his time away from the field.

McGlinchey has a top-10 run-blocking grade since entering the league (85.4), which makes him the ideal fit for Kyle Shanahan's wide-zone rushing scheme. Although he still has space to improve as a pass protector, his pressure percentage allowed has significantly decreased over the past two seasons, going from 6.1% throughout his first three seasons to 5.1%.

Orlando Brown Jr., Kansas CIty Chiefs

Following a franchise-tag saga that didn't result in a long-term contract, Brown threatened to hold out for the 2022 campaign. However, Brown turned a poor first half into a good second half guarding quarterback Patrick Mahomes. Brown's pass-blocking grade of 88.7 from Week 10 to the end of the regular season was third-best among left tackles.

Given his much criticized athletic limitations, he might not develop into one of the game's genuine elite tackles, but he's a very dependable blindside protector who has been successful in two completely different offensive schemes.

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