The NFL’s top 25 free agents include Tee Higgins, Kirk Cousins ​​and a pair of star Chiefs defenders

By | February 23, 2024

The story of NFL Free Agency this offseason may not be about a particular player, but about a team trying to keep two of its best players.

If the Kansas City Chiefs can’t keep all their top talent, maybe someone can catch them and win a Super Bowl.

The Chiefs don’t have many big questions this offseason, but they do have two of the top 10 free agents on our top 25 list. Keeping defensive lineman Chris Jones and cornerback L’Jarius Sneed will be a challenge, but not impossible. It is crucial to their desire to win a third title in a row. And, as is the case with virtually every major free agent, the franchise tag could come into play.

The NFL salary cap is set at a whopping $255 million. Free agency officially starts on March 13, and many players on the roster could be extended or given the franchise tag before then, but here are the top 25 potential free agents as the new league year approaches:

1. Kansas City Chiefs DL Chris Jones

Kansas City Chiefs defensive lineman Chris Jones (95) is one of the top potential free agents entering the offseason.  (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

Kansas City Chiefs defensive lineman Chris Jones (95) is one of the top potential free agents entering the offseason. (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

Jones went from perennially underrated to three-time Super Bowl champion and potential Hall of Famer. He turns 30 in June, but has a lot to offer as a first-team All-Pro over the past two seasons. He reportedly wanted $30 million per year during his holdout last season, and he should be among the highest-paid defensive players in the NFL. He told the crowd at the Chiefs’ Super Bowl parade, “I’m not going anywhere.” We’ll see if that ends up being true.

Allen was the seventh overall pick of the draft, will be 27 years old next season and is coming off a 17.5-sack season. Allen would get a monster contract on the open market, but he’s more likely to get the franchise tag if the Jaguars don’t extend him before the deadline.

3.Cincinnati Bengals WR Tee Higgins

As we’ve seen, the receiver market has exploded in recent years. And Higgins would have been No. 1 on many teams. He had a tough season with inconsistencies and injuries, but still showed he can be a top target in any offense.

In 2022, the Rams reportedly offered Carolina two first-round draft picks for Burns, and the Panthers declined. That says a lot about Burns’ value. He is a former first-round pick with 46.5 sacks in five seasons.

Johnson had the best Pro Football Focus grade among cornerbacks last season. He will be 25 years old next season. The Bears couldn’t get a long-term deal done before his big break and now they’ll likely have to use the franchise tag to keep him.

Cousins ​​is an interesting case. He is often criticized, but has put up good numbers throughout his career. Yet he will be 36 years old next season and suffer from an Achilles tendon. He is paid more than some players ahead of him on this list due to his position and the desperation of many teams, but there are a lot of risks due to injuries and age.

Wilkins, the 13th pick of the 2019 draft, has been a steady and durable producer on the inside of the Miami line. On the brink of free agency, he had a career-best nine sacks last season. He will be in high demand.

Winfield was considered the biggest Pro Bowl candy this past season, but then was named a first-team All-Pro, which is a better indication of his value. Winfield is one of the best safeties in the NFL and only 25 years old.

Pittman would probably be a bigger name if he had better quarterback play during his Colts career. Despite this, he had 109 catches for 1,152 yards last season. It would be a bit surprising if Pittman doesn’t get the franchise tag or a long-term extension before the deadline.

Kansas City Chiefs cornerback L'Jarius Sneed is eligible to become a free agent this season.  (AP Photo/Ed Zurga)Kansas City Chiefs cornerback L'Jarius Sneed is eligible to become a free agent this season.  (AP Photo/Ed Zurga)

Kansas City Chiefs cornerback L’Jarius Sneed is eligible to become a free agent this season. (AP Photo/Ed Zurga)

10. Kansas City Chiefs CB L’Jarius Sneed

Sneed was a great fit for Chiefs defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo’s plan. He is a versatile player who does many things well. And he just turned 27. Kansas City has a challenge getting Sneed and Jones back for next season.

Hunter will be 30 years old next season, which works against him, but he has been to four Pro Bowls and is coming off a 16.5-sack season. He has reached double-digit sacks in five of his eight NFL seasons and pass rushers are always appreciated.

Madubuike has chosen a year to break out. He had 13 sacks, which more than doubled his total during his first three seasons, and hit free agency at age 26.

13.Tampa Bay Buccaneers WR Mike Evans

Last season, many people picked Evans to take a step back. Instead, he led the NFL with 13 receiving touchdowns. Evans is a future Hall of Famer with 1,000 receiving yards in all ten of his NFL seasons. He’ll be 31 next season, but he showed he’s still the No. 1 receiver.

When Seattle pushed for the playoffs in the 2023 season, it traded a 2024 second-round pick and a 2025 fifth-round pick for Williams. That shows he still has value as he enters his age-30 season. He has 43.5 sacks in his nine NFL seasons with the Giants, Jets and Seahawks.

15. New York Jets EDGE Bryce Huff

Huff hasn’t started a game in either of the past two seasons and had just 7.5 sacks through his first three NFL seasons. However, the former free agent had a big breakthrough in 2023 with 10 sacks. He won’t be 26 until April. His pass-rush winning percentage, via PFF, was third in the NFL behind Myles Garrett and Micah Parsons, and ahead of Nick Bosa and Aidan Hutchinson. That’s the kind of season that could lead to a monster contract, even with the risk that comes with just one breakout season.

Fuller has been a productive player for years, finishing seventh among cornerbacks in Pro Football Focus’ rankings last season. At 29 years old, there is some concern that he will slip, but he should still get a big contract this season.

Running backs matter. But paying top dollar is usually a bad investment. Barkley could be an exception. Barkley was one of the best running back prospects ever and the No. 2 pick in the draft, and he’s had some big seasons. He has also dealt with injuries, including a torn ACL. He also hasn’t replicated his monstrous rookie season of 2018, and that’s been a long time coming. It’s hard to say what market he’ll have after being awarded the franchise tag last season.

Greenard has been a solid edge rusher in his four NFL seasons and had 12.5 sacks this past season. He will be 27 years old next season and will receive a nice contract.

Perhaps Mayfield should be higher on the list, but it seems inevitable that he will return to the Buccaneers. If it doesn’t work out there, he’s interested elsewhere. Mayfield revived his career on a cheap one-year deal, led the Bucs to a playoff victory and the former first overall pick will be just 29 years old next season.

Dotson spent his first three seasons with the Pittsburgh Steelers, then his fourth season was a big one. He finished last season as PFF’s second-highest rated guard. Guards are valued across the NFL landscape and the 321-pound Dotson should get a big deal.

Brown has just one 1,000-yard season in his five-year NFL career, but injuries are an issue. He has the talent. He was once a first-round pick and has a lot of skills. A team is betting on him staying healthy and productive as he enters his age-27 season.

22.Jacksonville Jaguars WR Calvin Ridley

Ridley’s value is difficult to estimate. At one point he looked like an elite receiver. But that was before a strange 2021 with the Atlanta Falcons in which he played just five games, a one-year gambling suspension in 2022 and an up-and-down 2023 with the Jaguars. He’s still good and only 29, but most of the shine has gone.

Dugger is a smart, all-in-one safety. Last season he had 109 tackles, two interceptions and 1.5 sacks. He usually plays close to the line of scrimmage and that can be an asset for many defenses.

24. New England Patriots OT Trent Brown

The towering Brown has been a quality left tackle for years, and he still has plenty left in the tank. He could move on to a team that has offensive issues.

Let’s lump all three running backs together. They are all big-name stars, but we all understand how difficult running backs can be in free agency. Barkley is part of the star running back group that is looking for big, long-term contracts. That may be hard to find, but all great backs will have value to their teams in 2024 and likely beyond.

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