NFL free agents 2023: Ranking top 10 defensive backs
NFL free agents 2023: Ranking top 10 defensive backs originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston
In today's NFL, having a secondary capable of limiting the league's top quarterbacks and wide receivers is paramount. The only thing arguably more important than having an elite passing attack is being able to defend it.
The New England Patriots could lose some talent in their secondary as versatile cornerback Jonathan Jones is scheduled to become a free agent. Jones has developed into an important part of the Pats defense since signing as an undrafted free agent in 2016.
2023 NFL free agents: Top 25 overall | QB | RB | WR | TE | OL | DL | LB
He'll join a 2023 free-agent class that includes a bevy of talented defensive backs. Here's a look at the top 10 cornerbacks and safeties set to hit the market.
10. Marcus Peters, CB
2022 stats (Ravens): 1 INT, 6 passes defended, 47 tackles
Peters struggled to begin the 2022 campaign after returning from an ACL tear that kept him sidelined for all of 2021. The three-time Pro Bowler found his groove after the first month and gave a firm reminder of why he's considered one of the game's best.
9. Vonn Bell, S
2022 stats (Bengals): 4 INT, 8 passes defended, 77 tackles
The Bengals could lose two key members of their secondary with Bell and Jessie Bates set to hit free agency. Bell has been one of Cincinnati's most dependable defensive players since signing in 2020.
UPDATE (March 13): Bell is signing with the Panthers, per NFL Media's Ian Rapoport.
8. Jonathan Jones, CB
2022 stats (Patriots): 4 INT, 11 passes defended, 69 tackles
If the Patriots lose Jonathan Jones in free agency, they'll lose valuable versatility in their secondary. Jones moved from the slot to the outside and posted career-highs in interceptions and pass breakups.
UPDATE (March 13): Jones reportedly will return to the Patriots on a two-year contract.
7. Patrick Peterson, CB
2022 stats (Vikings): 5 INT, 15 passes defended, 66 tackles
Peterson might not be the elite cornerback he once was, but he was productive with Minnesota at age 32. The future Hall of Famer's five interceptions and 15 passes defended marked his highest totals since 2012.
UPDATE (March 13): The Steelers are signing Peterson to a two-year contract, per ESPN's Adam Schefter.
6. Cameron Sutton, CB
2022 stats (Steelers): 3 INT, 15 passes defended, 43 tackles
Teams searching for a consistent, durable option at cornerback should look no further than Sutton. The 2017 third-rounder has played in at least 15 games in every season other than his rookie year. He'll have no shortage of suitors coming off his career-best campaign.
UPDATE (March 13): Sutton is signing a three-year deal with the Detroit Lions, per NFL Media's Ian Rapoport.
5. Jordan Poyer, S
2022 stats (Bills): 4 INT, 8 passes defended, 63 tackles
Poyer is getting up there in age, but he isn't showing it. The Pro Bowler is coming off one of his best statistical seasons -- despite missing some time due to injury -- and has been an anchor on Buffalo's defense for the last six years.
UPDATE (March 15): Poyer is back with the Bills on a two-year contract.
4. Jamel Dean, CB
2022 stats (Buccaneers): 2 INT, 8 passes defended, 57 tackles
Dean comes in as the second-best cornerback available this offseason after a solid year in Tampa Bay. A young, reliable starting CB like Dean should be popular on the open market.
UPDATE (March 13): The Bucs are re-signing Dean on a four-year deal worth $52 million, per The Score's Jordan Schultz.
3. Jessie Bates, S
2022 stats (Bengals): 4 INT, 8 passes defended, 71 tackles
Bates balled out on the franchise tag and should be rewarded for it this spring. It probably won't be in Cincinnati, however, as the Bengals took his potential replacement Daxton Hill in the first round of last year's NFL Draft.
UPDATE (March 13): Bates is signing with the Falcons on a four-year, $ 64.02 million deal, per NFL Media's Tom Pelissero.
2. C.J. Gardner-Johnson, S
2022 stats (Eagles): 6 INT, 8 passes defended, 67 tackles
Gardner-Johnson tied for the most interceptions in the league despite missing five games with a lacerated kidney. The versatile, young safety -- who can also play slot corner -- would be a perfect addition to any NFL secondary.
1. James Bradberry, CB
2022 stats (Eagles): 3 INT (1 TD), 17 passes defended, 44 tackles
Bradberry proved with Philadelphia that he's one of the top cornerbacks in the league and arguably the No. 1 option in free agency this offseason. He bet on himself last year and will be rewarded for his efforts.
UPDATE (March 14): Bradberry is re-signing with the Eagles on a three-year contract worth $ 38 million, per ESPN's Adam Schefter.
Honorable mentions: Jimmie Ward, Adrian Amos, Devin McCourty, LaMarcus Joyner, Duron Harmon, Emmanuel Moseley, Terrell Edmunds, Anthony Brown, Rock Ya-Sin, Isaiah Oliver.