Tuesday, November 29, 2022

Ranking NFL’s top 30 free agents and predicting where they will land

Whatever the cost of victory is, the Colts and Dolphins can afford it if they want to open their checkbooks.

The two teams, which both fell one win short of the AFC playoffs last season (and are left to wonder if they could’ve made a Bengals-like Cinderella run to the Super Bowl), have the power to be the two biggest spenders when NFL free agency opens Monday with the two-day legal tampering period.

The Colts have about $71.5 million in salary-cap space, followed by the Dolphins with $51.3 million, according to They both also need to answer the big splash made by another near-miss playoff team, the Chargers, who traded for Khalil Mack.

The Jets will enter free agency with about $46.6 million available and a ticking clock to improve, while the Giants are pinching pennies just to get under the cap. It’s a good time for teams in need of defensive backs, a bad time for those in need of a quarterback.

Here is The Post’s list of the top 30 free agents. Suitors and predictions are based on background conversations with informed NFL personnel as well as an attempt to think along with clubs and players.

Jc Jackson
JC Jackson had 17 interceptions over the last two seasons combined.
John Bazemore

1. JC Jackson, CB, age 26

Patriots’ strategy doesn’t bend for many: draft, develop and part ways. No franchise tag for Jackson, who totaled 17 interceptions over the past two seasons in New England and led the NFL with 23 passes defended in 2021.

Suiters: Cardinals, Raiders, Seahawks, Vikings

Prediction: Raiders

2. Terron Armstead, OT, 31

When he plays, he’s terrific on the blind side and in the run game. But the injury-prone, three-time Pro Bowler has never played a full season, missing at least six games in five of his nine seasons.

Suiters: Bengals, Dolphins, Colts, Seahawks

Prediction: Dolphins

3. Von Miller, Edge, 32

Acquired at midseason from the Broncos to gas up the Rams’ Super Bowl run, Miller wants familiarity, according to USA Today. Turned back the clock with four sacks and 22 pressures in the playoffs.

Suiters: Rams, Broncos

Prediction: broncos

4. Bobby Wagner, LB, 31

Released by the Seahawks on the same day they traded Russell Wilson and started to rebuild. Six-time All-Pro still has plenty left in the tank coming off a career-high 170 tackles and eighth Pro Bowl selection.

Suiters: Chargers, Rams, Eagles, Cowboys

Prediction: Rams

5. Chandler Jones, Edge, 32

Double-digit sacks in six of the past seven seasons between the Patriots and Cardinals, missing out only in an injury-shortened 2020. Is he chasing a second Super Bowl ring — maybe on a short-term deal — or a last big contract?

Suiters: Seahawks, Broncos, Dolphins, Patriots, Bills

Prediction: Dolphins

6. Stephen Gilmore, CB, 31

Four-year run with the Patriots included 2019 Defensive Player of the Year award. Named to the Pro Bowl last season despite playing just nine games for the Panthers. Press man-to-man coverage corners don’t usually age well.

Suiters: Panthers, Seahawks, Broncos, Texans

Prediction: broncos

7. Tyrann Mathieu, S, 29

Heart and soul of the Chiefs defense during their run to four straight AFC Championship games. One of the smartest, most versatile and most fiercely competitive players in the NFL. Lines up in the slot, in the box and over the top.

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Suiters: Chiefs, Ravens, Commanders

Prediction: Ravens

8. Allen Robinson, WR, 28

The receivers market hasn’t been strong (with few exceptions) the past two years. Robinson looked like an exception with dynamic 2019-20 numbers, but his 2021 production plummeted while on the franchise tag.

Suiters: Colts, Browns, Jaguars, Dolphins

Prediction: Jaguars

Carlton Davis
Cornerback Carlton Davis will be a top target for the Jets this offseason.
Dirk Shadd

9. Carlton Davis, CB, 25

The Buccaneers chose to franchise tag receiver Chris Godwin for a second time, letting go of Davis, who had four interceptions in 2020. Pro Football Focus data suggests he is much better in zone coverage than man-to-man.

Suiters: Jets, Cardinals, Chargers, Seahawks

Prediction: Jets

10. Brandon Scherff, G, 30

First-time free agent played the past two seasons on the franchise tag and ran his total to five Pro Bowls. Missed 24 games total over the past five seasons with Washington due to injuries.

Suiters: Jaguars, 49ers, Jets, Bengals

Prediction: Jets

Brandon Scherff
Offensive lineman Brandon Scherff is a five-time Pro Bowler.
Geoff Burke

11. Marcus Williams, S, 25

Developed into a good player over the four years since his rookie season ended with the missed tackle on the “Minnesota Miracle” touchdown. Center fielder with 15 career interceptions.

Suiters: Lions, Commanders, Chiefs

Prediction: Lions

12. Ryan Jensen, C, 30

Picked a good time to make his first Pro Bowl in an eight-year career. The Buccaneers already lost guard Ali Marpet to a surprise retirement, so Jensen gained leverage.

Suiters: Steelers, Buccaneers, Falcons

Prediction: Buccaneers

13. De’Vondre Campbell, LB, 28

It all clicked for Campbell when he moved from outside to the middle and found the right scheme with the Packers, his third team. The All-Pro season included 146 tackles and a full playmaker’s stat line.

Suiters: Cowboys, Packers, Lions

Prediction: Packers

14. Jadeveon Clowney, Edge, age 29

Looking for his fifth team in five years, as he hasn’t been able to secure that big multi-year deal. Former No. 1-overall pick had nine sacks opposite the Browns’ Myles Garrett, a personal-best since 2018.

Suiters: Jaguars, Broncos, Ravens, Bengals

Prediction: Jaguars

15. Haason Reddick, Edge, 27

Former first-round pick signed a one-year prove-it deal after a breakthrough with 12.5 sacks for the 2020 Cardinals. Proved it with 11 sacks for the 2021 Panthers, so he should get a bigger deal this time.

Suiters: Seahawks, Vikings, Giants, Eagles

Prediction: Seahawks

16. Cordarrelle Patterson, RB, 30

Unique offensive weapon whose 1,166 yards from scrimmage in 2021 more than doubled his output from any of his previous seven seasons. Former receiver now is primarily a dual-threat running back.

Suiters: Dolphins, Falcons, Patriots, 49ers

Prediction: Patriots

Los Angeles Rams Wide Receiver Odell Beckham Jr.  (3) Pulls In A Touchdown Pass As Cincinnati Bengals Cornerback Mike Hilton (21) Defends
Odell Beckham reached over Mike Hilton to score the first touchdown of Super Bowl 56.
Associated Press

17. Odell Beckham Jr., WR, 29

Indicated he might take less money to stay with the Rams even before the Super Bowl, when suffered his second torn ACL. Seemed close to his old dynamic self in 11 games after ugly exit from the Browns.

Suiters: Rams, Dolphins, Chargers

Prediction: Rams

18. Duane Brown, OT, 36

If the Rams’ Andrew Whitworth can play at a high level at age 40, why not Brown? Just made his fifth Pro Bowl, but the Seahawks are rebuilding and Brown is looking to win.

Suiters: Saints, Bears, Steelers, Colts

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Prediction: Colts

19. Emmanuel Ogbah, Edge, 28

Looking for his fourth team, which is surprising given his production, including underrated back-to-back, nine-sack seasons with the Dolphins. Provides pass rush off the edge or on the inside on third downs.

Suiters: Dolphins, Jaguars, Browns

Prediction: Browns

20. Jameis Winston, QB, 28

Turned down bigger free-agent offers in 2020 in order to learn under Saints’ Drew Brees and Sean Payton. Went 5-2 as a starter in 2021 before season-ending torn ACL. Boom-or-bust, but better than about five current starters.

Suiters: Saints, Steelers, Colts

Prediction: Saints

21. Rodger Saffold, G, 33

Took 12 seasons for a good player to make his first Pro Bowl. Reward? Released by the Titans for salary-cap savings. Starter for Rams in Super Bowl LIII.

Suiters: Cardinals, Ravens, Bengals, Bears

Prediction: Bears

Could Rob Gronkowski end up on the Jets?
Mike Ehrmann

22. Rob Gronkowski, TE, 32

Future Hall of Famer must decide if he wants to play without Tom Brady for the first time or retire for a second time. Still great in the red zone, but no longer an every-down game-breaker.

Suiters: Jets, Bengals, Cardinals, Titans

Prediction: Cardinals

23. James Daniels, G, 24

Started every game in 2019 and 2021, sandwiched around injury-shortened 2020. Versatile enough to play center, but ranked as a top-20 guard by Pro Football Focus last season.

Suiters: Jets, Bengals, Panthers, Jaguars

Prediction: Panthers

24. Michael Gallup, WR, 26

Solid No. 2 receiver who had a 1,100-yard season in 2019, but is coming off a torn ACL. Cowboys reportedly considering trading Amari Cooper because of confidence of re-signing Gallup.

Suiters: Cowboys, Colts, Bears, Patriots

Prediction: Cowboys

25. Marcus Maye, S, 29

Turned down north of $10 million per year from the Jets after a Pro Bowl-caliber 2020 season. Worst-case scenario happened when he suffered a torn Achilles while playing on the franchise tag.

Suiters: Buccaneers, Eagles, Ravens, Saints

Prediction: Eagles

26. Randy Gregory, Edge, 29

Suspended four times by the NFL, including all of 2019, for substance-abuse issues and never has played more than 14 games. Eleven of 12 career starts came last season, when he tied career-high with six sacks.

Suiters: Texans, Cardinals, Chiefs, Jaguars

Prediction: Chiefs

27. Bradley Bozeman, G/C, 27

Former sixth-round draft pick developed into a durable, versatile, hard-nosed, locker-room leader. Coming off his best season at center after starting the previous 32 games at left guard. Guard market is deep.

Suiters: Giants, Vikings, Steelers, Buccaneers

Prediction: Giants

28. Darious Williams, CB, 28

Is he ready to be a No. 1? He rarely faced the best receivers playing opposite Jalen Ramsey with the Rams. Then again, he held up well — four interceptions in 2020 — facing lots of targets.

Suiters: Chargers, Patriots, Eagles, 49ers

Prediction: Chargers

29. Evan Engram, TE, 27

Struggled with drops and injuries during a five-year stint with Giants, but showed accountability and coachability. A rare athlete who could play slot receiver and whose market is strengthened by franchise tags given to three tight ends.

Suiters: 49ers, Colts, Cardinals, Bengals, Bills

Prediction: Colts

30. Laken Tomlinson, G, 30

Former first-round bust for the Lions salvaged his career by starting 80 of a possible 81 games with the 49ers and making the 2021 Pro Bowl. Strength is run-blocking.

Suiters: 49ers, Bengals, Jets, Dolphins

Prediction: Bengals


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