As teams wait for the June 1st rule to jiggle their rosters around, a number of big-name free agents remain in NFL purgatory. Dead cap space incurred by cutting or trading a player after that date is split between 2023 and 2024. As a result, players are left biding their time in the free agency market waiting for teams.
The Big Name Free Agent Marketplace
Lineback Alexander will be 29 at the start of the 2023 season, so he’s far from past it. He started 12 games for the Jets last season, playing 559 snaps. That’s 24 more than he played in New Orleans in 2021. He made 69 tackles, six tackles for a loss and forced a fumble last season. Alexander was also credited with half a sack and defended a pass.
Alexander had attracted attention from the Steelers, but Pittsburgh instead opted to sign pass rusher Markus Golden. It seems the Jets would like to re-sign him, but health concerns appear to be putting GM’s off. There are several linebackers in the big name free agent marketplace, one or two may miss out.
Ideal Team Fits: Indianapolis Colts, Cleveland Browns, New Orleans Saints
Not many of the big-name free agents are quarterbacks. It might seem like Bridgewater has been around forever but he’s only 30, so a mere whippersnapper by quarterback standards. Add to that the fact that he’s only played more than 12 games three times in his eight-year career and it’s difficult to imagine he hasn’t got plenty of years ahead of him.
He’s won 33 of his 65 starts too, so he’s one of the better backup quarterbacks. His career completion rate is 66.4%, that’s 3.9% better than Andy Dalton’s. Dalton is also five years older than Bridgewater, but he just signed a two-year deal in Carolina.
Draftsharks rate Bridgewater’s risk of injury in 2023 as low, but NFL teams don’t appear to agree. The three concussions he’s suffered since October 2021 might be concerning GM’s. All three of the Dolphins quarterbacks suffered injuries last season though, if a team can protect Bridgewater, he’d be very useful. A number of teams lack an experienced backup, so it seems unlikely he’ll still be on the market when the season begins.
Ideal Team Fits: Las Vegas Raiders, Los Angeles Chargers, Miami Dolphins
Not many big name free agents have a resume as impressive as Peters. When he’s not being fined by the NFL (11 times since 2015 according to Spotrac) Peters is an elite defender. In 2015 he was named Defensive Rookie of the Year. He has also been named to three Pro Bowls in his eight years in the league. Peters has made 346 tackles in the 103 games he has started in the NFL. He has led the league in interception yards on three separate occasions. In his rookie season, he made eight interceptions and racked up 280 yards, scoring two touchdowns in the process. In 2017, he recorded 137 yards from five interceptions, and in 2019 he hauled in five for 210 yards and three touchdowns.
Peters is also a part of the ownership group for an indoor football team who play in the “Fan Controlled Football League”. He owns a share of the FCF Beasts alongside Marshawn Lynch and Todd Gurley amongst others.
It seemed as though 30-year-old Peters would re-sign with the Ravens who he was traded to in 2019. The Lamar Jackson contract negotiation meant 10 former Ravens were left in limbo., amongst them Justin Houston and Jason Pierre-Paul. The Ravens signed 20 undrafted free agents, so according to Spotrac they have 89 active players. That leaves them with just one preseason roster spot available and they already have 11 cornerbacks on that roster.
Ideal Team Fits: Baltimore Ravens, Jacksonville Jaguars, Carolina Panthers
Frank Clark seems to really come alive in the playoffs. He is averaging .048 sacks per game in the regular season and 0.8 per game in the playoffs. Clark has made 303 tackles in his 137 games in the league, so he’d be a valuable contributor for any team. There’s speculation he’ll re-sign with the Seahawks as the Chiefs don’t seem to be able to afford him, but Chiefs nation would love to have him back. Clark will be 30 by September but he’s got the postseason sack record firmly in his sights, so it’ll be surprising if he isn’t playing somewhere.
Ideal Team Fits: Kansas City Chiefs, Indianapolis Colts, Pittsburgh Steelers
“Zeke the freak” will be 28 when the season begins, which is generally when running back production starts to seriously decline. And Elliott is a bigger-bodied back, so his knees and ankles have taken more punishment than most. However, a 2010 study from Bryn Mawr College suggests that the major factor in running back production is the 2,500-touch mark. Elliot has only racked up 2,186 touches in his seven-year career so far, so he’s got at least another productive season in him.
Elliott has scored 70 touchdowns in 108 total games and averages over four yards per touch, so he definitely still has plenty to offer. The major obstacle will be how much of a pay cut he’s willing to take. His last contract earned him $50 million and average out at $15 million per season. It would be pretty surprising if a team offered him that much for a single season. If the Vikings don’t trade Dalvin Cook Elliott may not be the only running back available in the big name free agent market place so his value could take a dip.
Ideal Team Fits: Buffalo Bills, Cincinnati Bengals
Myles Jack was released by Jacksonville in March 2022 to clear $8.35 million of cap space. He spent last year in Pittsburgh. Jack led the Steelers with 108 tackles in 2022, but they released him in March to clear $8 million of cap space.
He will turn 28 on the 3rd of September, so he’s in the prime of his career (C.J Mosely is 30) and there aren’t many weaknesses to his game. He’s made 617 tackles in a seven-year career. Jack really lives up to his “Jack of all trades” nickname too. He’s also recorded 18 QB hits, defended 18 passes, made three interceptions and scored two touchdowns.
Another 28-year-old former Jaguar is currently floating around NFL purgatory. Yannick Ngakoue underwent a throat procedure that prematurely ended his season in December.
Since his contract dispute with Jacksonville back in 2019, Ngakoue has played for four different teams in three seasons. He’s recorded 66 sacks in 116 career games, and he’s forced 22 fumbles during an eight-year career. Ngakoue has also made two interceptions, recovered three fumbles and scored two touchdowns.
There is speculation that he could wind up in Chicago. That would make sense for Ngakoue. His most productive season came in 2017 when the Jaguars ran a 4-3 defense similar to Matt Eberflus’ scheme.
Main Photo: Joe Rondone – USA Today Sports