The legal tampering period is finally upon us. Basically, NFL teams can legally begin a negotiation with NFL free agents to potentially sign and play for them. Wednesday, March 15th at 4 pm is the official start of the signing period. This has become a major event in the NFL over the last few off-seasons with moves like Von Miller to the Buffalo Bills or Christian Kirk setting the wide receiver market by signing a $72 million deal with the Jaguars among many other notable trades that happened.
There is a whole new crop of guys who can make a difference in a new setting, but who are they? Here are the five I believe you need to keep your eye on the most.
5 NFL Free Agents You Need to Know About
1. QB Jimmy Garoppolo
Did you expect an NFL list of any kind not to begin with a quarterback?
For whatever reason, when talking about Garoppolo, it’s almost as if he is an enigma. Some view him as a credible starter in this league, others think he is the product of two systems that benefitted the quarterback position.
There is no secret that there are limitations to his game and that he may leave you wanting more, but we also have a track record of production associated with Garoppolo. He was one bad throw away from defeating Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs in a Super Bowl, and he is just a winning player. Whoever decides to “take a chance” on this proven winner, I believe it will be at a value not many quarterbacks will have.
He is the perfect guy for a franchise in transition like the Atlanta Falcons or the Washington Commanders who are a few pieces away from major success but have a solid core they can build around. Look for Garoppolo to have a better-than-expected market as he transitions to team three in his career.
2. LB Bobby Wagner
How often are future hall of fame players on the market in free agency? We are seeing a bit of a transition in the NFL at the linebacker position, specifically from the interior. It’s almost as if we are devaluing the position as a whole the more we transition to a pass-first offensive game.
It’s important to note that Wagner will be 33 years old at the start of next season at a position that essentially has contact on every play, but even last year he was rated the number-one linebacker by PFF. His release from the Rams was initially shocking, but knowing what we know now, the team is fully transitioning into a new era, one that has shown them also move off cornerback Jalen Ramsey.
Wagner’s status won’t be effected by his age, but more so by how the league values the position. Look for a team with an “old-school” mentality to sign Wagner, like the Raiders or the Bears. I also could see a reunion with Seattle on the horizon to help mentor some of these great draft picks that they’ve had, specifically on the defensive side of the ball.
3. TE Dalton Schultz
The NFL has become a pass-first league and due to that, the tight end position has become catch-first for lack of a better term. Gone are the days of using this position as an extra lineman to help run-block. So, when building your offensive attack, a tight end that can make plays is essential, especially in the red zone.
This is why Schultz is a key free agent for teams looking to take that next step in their offense. Schultz has really only had three years of relevant playing time and accumulated 2000 yards receiving and 17 touchdowns. While this is far from Travis Kelce and Mark Andrews numbers, it is notable since it came from a run-heavy Dallas Cowboys offense.
There is reason to believe that with the right team, he could be a dominant player at the position. I think a good fit would be a reunion with former offensive coordinator Kellen Moore in Los Angeles with the Chargers or maybe even a team like Houston that could be looking to build around a young quarterback they select in this draft
4. WR Odell Beckham, Jr
If star power was a driving force in signing, then look no further than Beckham Jr. After missing all of last year due to an injury he sustained the year before in the Super Bowl (a game many would argue he was completely in control of), he is primed and ready to go for a new team to take his unique talents to.
The key here: does he still have a large market?
Players all eventually have to stare down their NFL mortality and Beckham Jr. seems to have been doing that on and off for the better part of three years. I believe that whoever signs him will be the team he eventually retires from, but one that he will be productive for.
He is a field-stretching guy who has proven to have the ability to make difficult catches, so any team could use him, but I think it comes down to a big market team. Look for a reunion with the Giants or maybe even a team like the Falcons who have an established #1 receiver and a solid tight end, but lack the veteran to help them ascend to new heights.
5. RB Miles Sanders
When evaluating the market value for positions, it is important to see where the league is going, not where it currently is. Running back is becoming more and more of a committee position as opposed to a dominant starter gathering all the reps.
While some may see this as devaluing the position, one could argue that it means you have to have more than one “good” one. Sanders is arguably the best free-agent running back on the market and should immediately impact any team who takes a chance on him. The position is still the best impact on the run game, although designed wide receiver runs, RPOs, and quarterback runs are now seen as more and more “normal”.
A team that maybe doesn’t want to overspend for a running back or just recently let theirs go could be a big contender for Sanders. Look for a team like the Bengals or the Bears to look into his talents.
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