New England Patriots

New England Patriots

The 2022 season is over in the NFL, but the fun is only beginning, as we now turn toward 2023 – and the first order of business is the free agents.

It’s not the strongest year overall for free agency, and the very best players may end up re-signing with their current teams, anyway. But there are certainly a few names that would alter the landscape of the league itself by simply donning a different uniform.

At the same time, it’s a big year in NFL free agency for specific positions (right tackle, safety), so it’ll be interesting to see who is willing to pay up for those premium spots on the roster.

Scroll below to check out our official list of the top-20 NFL free agents of the 2023 off-season…

  • 1. QB Lamar Jackson

    EAST RUTHERFORD, NEW JERSEY - OCTOBER 16: Lamar Jackson #8 of the Baltimore Ravens throws the ball during the first quarter against the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium on October 16, 2022 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images)

    EAST RUTHERFORD, NEW JERSEY – OCTOBER 16: Lamar Jackson #8 of the Baltimore Ravens throws the ball during the first quarter against the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium on October 16, 2022 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images)

    There’s actually a new report suggesting the Ravens could place the franchise tag on Jackson, and then would entertain trade offers to see if they can get an absolute haul. But for now, Jackson is on track to hit the open market, and he’s by far, without question, the best overall free agent and the one who would make the greatest impact on his new team. He’s as dynamic as they get in terms of mobility, and has steadily improved as a passer over the years. A franchise-and-trade would essentially have the same effect as a pure free-agent signing, anyway. If Jackson goes to another team, it will change the landscape of the league.

  • 2. CB Jamel Dean

    NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA - SEPTEMBER 18: Jamel Dean #35 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers celebrates after catching an interception during the fourth quarter against the New Orleans Saints at Caesars Superdome on September 18, 2022 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

    NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA – SEPTEMBER 18: Jamel Dean #35 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers celebrates after catching an interception during the fourth quarter against the New Orleans Saints at Caesars Superdome on September 18, 2022 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

    Is Dean on par with the Stephon Gilmores and Darrelle Revises of the world, in terms of a true No. 1, ace shutdown corner? Probably not. But he’s certainly the best cornerback available in 2023 and No. 1-worthy in the right system. His press-man ability and prototypical size (6-foot-1, 206 pounds) could pique the Patriots’ interest and make him a nice complement to the ball-hawking Jack Jones. Disruptive man-to-man corners are more important than ever in a high-octane NFL filled with dynamic receivers, so Dean will be a huge addition for his next team.

  • 3. DT Javon Hargrave

    CHICAGO, ILLINOIS - DECEMBER 18: Javon Hargrave #97 of the Philadelphia Eagles celebrates a sack during the third quarter in the game against the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field on December 18, 2022 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

    CHICAGO, ILLINOIS – DECEMBER 18: Javon Hargrave #97 of the Philadelphia Eagles celebrates a sack during the third quarter in the game against the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field on December 18, 2022 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

    Hargrave racked up a career-high 11 sacks at age 29 in Philly, and has long-established himself as an impact guy on the defensive interior. It’ll be interesting to see how many years he gets on his next contract, because he just turned 30 last week. But Hargrave will instantly improve the pressure up front wherever he signs.

  • 4. S Jessie Bates III

    Wide receiver DeVante Parker #11 of the Miami Dolphins runs with the ball against safety Jessie Bates III #30 of the Cincinnati Bengals in the third quarter of the game at Hard Rock Stadium on December 06, 2020 in Miami Gardens, Florida. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

    Wide receiver DeVante Parker #11 of the Miami Dolphins runs with the ball against safety Jessie Bates III #30 of the Cincinnati Bengals in the third quarter of the game at Hard Rock Stadium on December 06, 2020 in Miami Gardens, Florida. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

    The bills are about to come due for the Bengals, who have to make room in the budget for massive extensions for both quarterback Joe Burrow and wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase. They even seem interested in re-signing Tee Higgins. That likely means they won’t be able to pay top dollar to keep Bates, who has developed into one of the league’s best and most versatile young safeties. If Devin McCourty retires, the Patriots could be in the market for an infusion of both talent and experience, and Bates would be an instant cornerstone in New England.

  • 5. WR Jakobi Meyers

    Oct 9, 2022; Foxborough, Massachusetts, USA; New England Patriots wide receiver Jakobi Meyers (16) reacts after scoring a touchdown against the Detroit Lions during the second half at Gillette Stadium. Credit: Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports

    Oct 9, 2022; Foxborough, Massachusetts, USA; New England Patriots wide receiver Jakobi Meyers (16) reacts after scoring a touchdown against the Detroit Lions during the second half at Gillette Stadium. Credit: Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports

    If the Patriots make a big signing off the open market, there’s a chance it’s for their own guy. Meyers is the best receiver available in a relatively down year for the position in free agency. But he’s emerged as a solid, tough, dependable chain-mover over the middle of the field, which will make him value added for whatever team signs him. Since he’s the top receiver on the market, it may be tough for the Patriots to retain him. Contenders in need of an inside receiver will be showing interest.

  • 6. QB Derek Carr

    LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - NOVEMBER 13: Derek Carr #4 of the Las Vegas Raiders warms up prior to the game against the Indianapolis Colts at Allegiant Stadium on November 13, 2022 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Sam Morris/Getty Images)

    LAS VEGAS, NEVADA – NOVEMBER 13: Derek Carr #4 of the Las Vegas Raiders warms up prior to the game against the Indianapolis Colts at Allegiant Stadium on November 13, 2022 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Sam Morris/Getty Images)

    Carr doesn’t make enough dynamic plays (or even tries) to win a lot of games on his own, so he is at best a back-end starter. But that still makes him a better option than some of the quarterback situations around the league. A middling quarterback is still more impactful than a high-end talent at most other positions. So if Carr ends up on a team that feels like a quarterback away from contention, like the Jets, that will have an effect across the league.

  • 7. LB Lavonte David

    TAMPA, FLORIDA - JANUARY 01: Lavonte David #54 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers reacts after the Tampa Bay Buccaneers recovered a fumble during the fourth quarter against the Carolina Panthers at Raymond James Stadium on January 01, 2023 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images)

    TAMPA, FLORIDA – JANUARY 01: Lavonte David #54 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers reacts after the Tampa Bay Buccaneers recovered a fumble during the fourth quarter against the Carolina Panthers at Raymond James Stadium on January 01, 2023 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images)

  • 8. OT Mike McGlinchey

    SANTA CLARA, CALIFORNIA - SEPTEMBER 26: Mike McGlinchey #69 of the San Francisco 49ers celebrates after a touchdown during the fourth quarter against the Green Bay Packers in the game at Levi's Stadium on September 26, 2021 in Santa Clara, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

    SANTA CLARA, CALIFORNIA – SEPTEMBER 26: Mike McGlinchey #69 of the San Francisco 49ers celebrates after a touchdown during the fourth quarter against the Green Bay Packers in the game at Levi’s Stadium on September 26, 2021 in Santa Clara, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

    McGlinchey is our top-ranked tackle, because Orlando Brown is expected to stay in Kansas City via franchise tag. But back to McGlinchey. He’s established himself as a strong starting right tackle, and will continue to be that for whomever signs him. It won’t be the 49ers, who have to extend Nick Bosa and may also need to pay a quarterback. McGlinchey has already spoken like a man on his way out the door, who’s ready to go to the highest bidder on the open market. This is his one big chance to cash in, so you can’t blame him for that.

  • 9. OT Jawaan Taylor

    Jan 14, 2023; Jacksonville, Florida, USA; Jacksonville Jaguars offensive tackle Jawaan Taylor (75) reacts against the Los Angeles Chargers during a wild card playoff game at TIAA Bank Field. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

    Jan 14, 2023; Jacksonville, Florida, USA; Jacksonville Jaguars offensive tackle Jawaan Taylor (75) reacts against the Los Angeles Chargers during a wild card playoff game at TIAA Bank Field. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

    Taylor is in his physical prime at age 25, and so he could be a guy who plays out the full life of his next contract, with a chance to cash in a second time. It wouldn’t be shocking if the Jaguars retained him, if only to prove to Trevor Lawrence that they’re committed to keeping him protected. But considering his age and proven ability to start at right tackle in the NFL, he should be able to get a nice payday anywhere.

  • 10. S Jordan Poyer

    ORCHARD PARK, NEW YORK - JANUARY 22: Jordan Poyer #21 of the Buffalo Bills looks on against the Cincinnati Bengals during the second half in the AFC Divisional Playoff game at Highmark Stadium on January 22, 2023 in Orchard Park, New York. (Photo by Bryan M. Bennett/Getty Images)

    ORCHARD PARK, NEW YORK – JANUARY 22: Jordan Poyer #21 of the Buffalo Bills looks on against the Cincinnati Bengals during the second half in the AFC Divisional Playoff game at Highmark Stadium on January 22, 2023 in Orchard Park, New York. (Photo by Bryan M. Bennett/Getty Images)

    This would be fun for the Patriots. As a Buffalo Bill, Poyer has developed into a strong three-down safety, playing at least 94 percent of defensive snaps in each of the last six seasons. He would be an impactful addition to any locker room, and especially so for an AFC East team if they’re able to steal him from Buffalo.

  • 11. QB Daniel Jones

    Aug 11, 2022; Foxborough, Massachusetts, USA; New York Giants quarterback Daniel Jones (8) throws against the New England Patriots during the first half of a preseason game at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Eric Canha-USA TODAY Sports

    Aug 11, 2022; Foxborough, Massachusetts, USA; New York Giants quarterback Daniel Jones (8) throws against the New England Patriots during the first half of a preseason game at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Eric Canha-USA TODAY Sports

    It’s a wonder what actual good coaching can do for a quarterback. Jones took a jump in 2022, and while he still had just a mediocre 92.5 passer rating and threw just 15 touchdown passes, he also cut down on the interceptions and rushed for a career-best 708 yards and seven touchdowns on the ground. Jones should be able to land a starting gig on the open market, and while he won’t break the bank compared to other (better) QBs, he showed enough to be a decent bridge for a team in search of the next franchise guy. Assuming said team has good stuff going on around him.

  • 12. DT Daron Payne

    INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA - OCTOBER 30: Sam Ehlinger #4 of the Indianapolis Colts runs with the ball as Daron Payne #94 of the Washington Commanders looks to make a tackle in the fourth quarter at Lucas Oil Stadium on October 30, 2022 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images)

    INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA – OCTOBER 30: Sam Ehlinger #4 of the Indianapolis Colts runs with the ball as Daron Payne #94 of the Washington Commanders looks to make a tackle in the fourth quarter at Lucas Oil Stadium on October 30, 2022 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images)

    Payne entered the league as an NFL-ready interior run-defender, and he’s steadily improved as a pass-rusher, exploding for a career-high 11.5 sacks in 2022. At 25 years old, Payne figures to really cash in with his next team. He’ll make an immediate three-down impact wherever he lands.

  • 13. DE Marcus Davenport

    JACKSONVILLE, FLORIDA - SEPTEMBER 12: Marcus Davenport #92 of the New Orleans Saints lines up during the game against the Green Bay Packers at TIAA Bank Field on September 12, 2021 in Jacksonville, Florida. (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)

    JACKSONVILLE, FLORIDA – SEPTEMBER 12: Marcus Davenport #92 of the New Orleans Saints lines up during the game against the Green Bay Packers at TIAA Bank Field on September 12, 2021 in Jacksonville, Florida. (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)

    Davenport’s production really dropped off in 2022, with just 0.5 sacks and eight QB hits, despite playing 15 games. He’s still just 26 years old and a year removed from a nine-sack season, so perhaps he just needs the proverbial change of scenery. But on short money, Davenport would have a chance to deliver a nice bang for the buck if his next team can get the most out of him. He should still be an effective edge rusher in the right situation.

  • 14. CB James Bradberry

    PHILADELPHIA, PENNSYLVANIA - JANUARY 08: James Bradberry #24 of the Philadelphia Eagles celebrates an incomplete pass during the first quarter against the New York Giants at Lincoln Financial Field on January 08, 2023 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images)

    PHILADELPHIA, PENNSYLVANIA – JANUARY 08: James Bradberry #24 of the Philadelphia Eagles celebrates an incomplete pass during the first quarter against the New York Giants at Lincoln Financial Field on January 08, 2023 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images)

    Bradberry made headlines for the wrong reason after the Super Bowl, committing the infamous holding penalty that basically ruined the ending of the game and robbed the Eagles of a last-chance drive. But he had a very good season in coverage for the Eagles in 2022, allowing just a 51.8 passer rating. He should be a good plug-and-play starter for a team in need at outside corner.

  • 15. RB Saquon Barkley

    MINNEAPOLIS, MINNESOTA - JANUARY 15: Saquon Barkley #26 of the New York Giants rushes for a touchdown during the first quarter against the Minnesota Vikings in the NFC Wild Card playoff game at U.S. Bank Stadium on January 15, 2023 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by David Berding/Getty Images)

    MINNEAPOLIS, MINNESOTA – JANUARY 15: Saquon Barkley #26 of the New York Giants rushes for a touchdown during the first quarter against the Minnesota Vikings in the NFC Wild Card playoff game at U.S. Bank Stadium on January 15, 2023 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by David Berding/Getty Images)

    After two seasons recovering from a torn ACL and getting his full strength back, Barkley re-established himself as one of the most dynamic running backs in football. At age 26, Barkley probably only has one more chance to get a lucrative deal. He’d rank higher on this list if we were ranking by talent alone, but the running back position just isn’t as important as others.

  • 16. DT Dalvin Tomlinson

    MINNEAPOLIS, MINNESOTA - JANUARY 15: Dalvin Tomlinson #94 of the Minnesota Vikings tackles Saquon Barkley #26 of the New York Giants for a loss during the third quarter in the NFC Wild Card playoff game at U.S. Bank Stadium on January 15, 2023 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Stephen Maturen/Getty Images)

    MINNEAPOLIS, MINNESOTA – JANUARY 15: Dalvin Tomlinson #94 of the Minnesota Vikings tackles Saquon Barkley #26 of the New York Giants for a loss during the third quarter in the NFC Wild Card playoff game at U.S. Bank Stadium on January 15, 2023 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Stephen Maturen/Getty Images)

    Tomlinson is primarily a run-stopper, but a very good one at that, and he’s also improved over the years at pushing the pocket back against the pass. He won’t rack up a lot of pressure stats, but you don’t necessarily need to take him off the field in passing situations, either. He’ll make for a great complement to a team’s best interior pass-rusher.

  • 17. S C.J. Gardner-Johnson

    GLENDALE, ARIZONA - FEBRUARY 12: Isiah Pacheco #10 of the Kansas City Chiefs carries the ball against C.J. Gardner-Johnson #23 of the Philadelphia Eagles during the fourth quarter in Super Bowl LVII at State Farm Stadium on February 12, 2023 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

    GLENDALE, ARIZONA – FEBRUARY 12: Isiah Pacheco #10 of the Kansas City Chiefs carries the ball against C.J. Gardner-Johnson #23 of the Philadelphia Eagles during the fourth quarter in Super Bowl LVII at State Farm Stadium on February 12, 2023 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

    Gardner-Johnson continued to be a steady, dependable all-around safety for the Eagles in their run to Super Bowl LVII, and made one of the game’s best plays with an open-field tackle on Isiah Pacheco (pictured above) that very well may have prevented a touchdown at the time. He’s shown improvement in that area in general. Signing him may not necessarily break the bank, and it would provide a new team with versatility and experience at an undervalued position.

  • 18. RB Josh Jacobs

    SEATTLE, WASHINGTON - NOVEMBER 27: Josh Jacobs #28 of the Las Vegas Raiders carries the ball for a touchdown in overtime to beat the Seattle Seahawks 40-34 at Lumen Field on November 27, 2022 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

    SEATTLE, WASHINGTON – NOVEMBER 27: Josh Jacobs #28 of the Las Vegas Raiders carries the ball for a touchdown in overtime to beat the Seattle Seahawks 40-34 at Lumen Field on November 27, 2022 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

    For the same reason that Barkley could barely crack the top-15, Jacobs is barely in the top-20 free agents because of the position he plays. But that’s not to take away from what was an excellent season for Jacobs in his first season under Raiders head coach Josh McDaniels. Jacobs led the NFL with a career-high 2,053 yards from scrimmage, and also matched his career-best with 12 rushing touchdowns. He just turned 25 and will be a dynamic addition for whomever signs him, and he may even be able to get himself another big contract after that.

  • 19. TE Dalton Schultz

    Dalton Schultz #86 of the Dallas Cowboys scores a second half touchdown while playing the Philadelphia Eagles at AT&T Stadium on September 27, 2021 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

    Dalton Schultz #86 of the Dallas Cowboys scores a second half touchdown while playing the Philadelphia Eagles at AT&T Stadium on September 27, 2021 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

    As easily the best tight end available on the open market, Schultz should have plenty of options and be able to simply pick the best one. His production took a slight dip in 2022, but over a three-year sample size, he’s proven able to be a solid pass-catching tight end at the NFL level. He’ll add another dimension to the passing game at his position that most teams lacked in the NFL last season.

  • 20. QB Geno Smith

    NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA - OCTOBER 09: Geno Smith #7 of the Seattle Seahawks reacts after a touchdown during the first half of the game against the New Orleans Saints at Caesars Superdome on October 09, 2022 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

    NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA – OCTOBER 09: Geno Smith #7 of the Seattle Seahawks reacts after a touchdown during the first half of the game against the New Orleans Saints at Caesars Superdome on October 09, 2022 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

    After a shockingly strong campaign for the 2022 Seahawks, Smith has earned himself the right to start somewhere in 2023, too. Out of nowhere, Smith threw for a career-high 30 touchdowns against just 11 interceptions, and led the NFL with a 69.8 completion percentage. He’s bound to be overpaid and may not match that level of production again, but Smith played well enough in 2022 that he deserves to start for a team that’s bereft of reliable quarterback options.

  • Click here for complete New England Patriots coverage at 985TheSportsHub.com.

    Matt Dolloff is a writer and podcaster for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Yell at him on Twitter @mattdolloff and follow him on Instagram @realmattdolloff. Check out all of Matt’s content here.

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