Advertisement

One free agent each NFL team should re-sign in 2023

We’re less than two weeks away from the start of NFL free agency, which begins at 4 p.m. ET on March 15. But the legal tampering window opens two days before that on March 13, where teams will be able to negotiate with free agents before the official start of the 2023 season.

The 2023 salary cap has already been set at $224.8 million, and there are a number of teams who have some work to do when it comes to building their rosters. That includes potentially bringing back some impact players currently set to hit the open market.

Our NFL Wire editors identified one in-house free agent (at the time of publication) that each team should prioritize re-signing this offseason. 

Arizona Cardinals: DL Zach Allen

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

With a new general manager and new coaching staff used to having a dominant defensive line, the Cardinals lack bodies there. J.J. Watt and Allen will be free agents. Although Allen has missed multiple games to injury every year he has been in the league, his production has increased every year as well. In 13 games, he had a career-high 5.5 sacks, 10 tackles for loss and 20 quarterback hits. He has more to offer and can play both the interior and the edge depending on the scheme. – Jess Root, Cards Wire

Atlanta Falcons: RT Kaleb McGary

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

The Falcons declined McGary’s fifth-year option last offseason, but the former first-round pick had somewhat of a breakout year in 2022 and now enters free agency as one of the top offensive tackles on the market. Using the franchise tag on McGary would cost the team $18.24 million, and while Atlanta has the cap space, a long-term deal makes more sense. The 28-year-old finished the season with a 91.6 run-blocking grade from PFF (second-highest among offensive tackles). By re-signing McGary, the team would be solidifying the right side of their offensive line for years to come, while allowing the front office to focus on fixing the defense in free agency. – Matt Urben, Falcons Wire

Baltimore Ravens: CB Marcus Peters

Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

Peters is a bit of a tricky case for the Ravens, as he had an up-and-down 2022 season following his return from a torn ACL that cost him all of 2021. While he’s undoubtedly getting older, if he’s willing to come back to Baltimore on a cheap, team-friendly deal, he could be a perfect low-end No. 2 or high-end No. 3 option in a cornerback room that the team will certainly be looking to add more talent in over the course of the offseason. Peters has made it clear that he enjoys being with the Ravens and has come up big in many key situations in the past, plus he might be willing to take a hometown discount to return to Baltimore. – Kevin Oestreicher, Ravens Wire

Buffalo Bills: LB Tremaine Edmunds

Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

The consensus in Buffalo is that this decision for the Bills is between one of two players: Jordan Poyer or Tremaine Edmunds because of the salary cap constraints the team has. Comparing their careers, Poyer has been the more impactful one on Buffalo’s defense. However, you don’t pay a free agent based on the past. A team needs to project forward. Edmunds is only 24 and has played in 74 career games and numerous postseason outings. Edmunds also had the best year of his career in 2022. Poyer is a worthy player, but it’s going to be tough for Buffalo to make both happen and Edmunds should be the pick. – Nick Wojton, Bills Wire

Carolina Panthers: C Bradley Bozeman

Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

Big Bradley Bozeman came up, well, big for the Panthers in 2022. After a hip injury sidelined starter Pat Elflein from Week 6 on, the fifth-year hog molly filled in admirably at center and became a fan favorite in the process. Bozeman played in every single offensive snap to close out the campaign, helping give Carolina some attitude and much needed continuity in the trenches. With starting guards Austin Corbett and Brady Christensen healing up from their respective offseason surgeries, their presences aren’t a guarantee come opening week. So it’s imperative that the Panthers keep at least part of their interior intact with Bozeman. – Anthony Rizzuti, Panthers Wire

Chicago Bears: RB David Montgomery

© Daniel Bartel-USA TODAY Sports

Montgomery is the team’s top free agent and someone who’s been a key contributor on offense since he was drafted by the Bears in 2019. He’s been reliable in short yardage situations, as well as a solid pass catcher and a good blocker in pass protection, something Khalil Herbert has struggled with. But Montgomery was outperformed by Herbert in the first year of Luke Getsy’s scheme, and you have to wonder if Chicago would choose to explore an alternative option to pair with Herbert. Both sides made it clear that they want Montgomery back with the Bears. But, as we saw with the Roquan Smith situation, it’ll come down to whether both parties can find common ground on an extension. – Alyssa Barbieri, Bears Wire

Cincinnati Bengals: S Vonn Bell

Katie Stratman-USA TODAY Sports

The Bengals have a handful of major free agents worth retaining such as Jessie Bates, Hayden Hurst and Germaine Pratt. But it is Bell who might be the most important. The market will likely drive Bates out of the team’s price range, meaning the team could lose both of its starting safeties. It’s critical for Lou Anarumo’s defense to avoid this, especially when Bell can be helpful in bringing along first-round product Dax Hill as he steps into Bates’ role as a full-time starter. It certainly doesn’t hurt that Bell is only 28 years old and had another solid season with four interceptions and remains a key locker-room culture driver for Zac Taylor since joining the rebuild. – Chris Roling, Bengals Wire

Cleveland Browns: LB Anthony Walker Jr.

Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

The Cleveland Browns have four veteran linebackers set to hit free agency, and three of them saw significant starting snaps. While they certainly need to add a young and promising rookie who can take over at MIKE in the future, they cannot afford to overhaul their defensive structure with new defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz while overhauling their whole linebacker room at the same time. While Anthony Walker Jr. suffered a season-ending injury in the third week of the season, this was early enough for him to be ready for training camp. He is a revered leader in the locker room, was playing at a high level before his injury, and would be the perfect mentor for a young linebacker room adjusting to a new defensive coordinator. – Cory Kinnan, Browns Wire

Dallas Cowboys: S Donovan Wilson

Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

The easy answer here is RB Tony Pollard, but the idea of paying top dollar for a RB with a serious, late-season leg injury makes little sense. Meeting if he’s cheap on a one-year rental. Wilson, however, shouldn’t break the bank as a hard-hitting box safety. His importance to the Cowboys’ three-safety approach under Dan Quinn is important. Let the young kids (Markquese Bell, Tyler Coyle) prep to join him in 2024 when Jayron Kearse and Malik Hooker’s deals expire. – K.D. Drummond, Cowboys Wire

Denver Broncos: DL Dre’Mont Jones

Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Jones, 26, will likely be Denver’s biggest in-house priority this spring. Despite missing four games due to injury last year, Jones totaled a career-high 47 tackles and 10 quarterback hits while matching his career-best marks of 6.5 sacks and nine tackles behind the line of scrimmage. Jones won’t be cheap, but giving him a long-term extension would give the Broncos more salary cap flexibility than a short-term franchise tag would. – Jon Heath, Broncos Wire

Detroit Lions: DL John Cominsky

USA Today Sports

He’s not the biggest name on the Lions’ free agent list, but there might not be a more impactful loss than the 27-year-old Cominsky. After playing decently early on in a minor role before a thumb injury, Cominsky flashed the ability to play multiple spots on the Detroit defensive line. Once he returned and entered the starting lineup, the former Falcons castoff proved an integral piece. The Lions defense allowed a full touchdown less per game on average when Cominsky started. His willingness to do the dirty work freed up rookies Aidan Hutchinson and James Houston to rack up sacks, and Cominsky’s run defense was strong. He’s the exact type of low-cost veteran the Lions sorely need to help build around the exciting young nucleus. – Jeff Risdon, Lions Wire

Green Bay Packers: CB/KR Keisean Nixon

Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

An easy one. It’s the All-Pro kick returner. While the Packers have a long list of free agents who contributed in a significant way during the last few seasons, Nixon is the one who would be the most difficult to lose. He jolted the Packers’ long-dormant special teams to life with an electrifying run of kick and punt returns over the second half of the 2022 season, and he’s even a capable slot cornerback in a pinch. Nixon is still only 25 years old, and he shouldn’t cost a ton even after earning a first-team All-Pro nod last season. If the Packers are truly committed to keeping the special teams trending in the right direction, retaining Nixon is a must. He’s a field-flipper as a returner, which provides obvious value regardless of who is playing quarterback in Green Bay in 2023. Offensive tackle Yosh Nijman is another free agent the Packers need to keep. – Zach Kruse, Packers Wire

Houston Texans: WR Chris Moore

Raymond Carlin III-USA TODAY Sports

The Texans have ambiguity at receiver. Will former 2022 second-round wideout John Metchie be available this season after undergoing leukemia treatments? Will Brandin Cooks take his lumps and be a part of another rebuild? Does Houston even take a receiver in Round 1? Signing Moore provides the ultimate insurance regardless of how these questions are answered. The 6-1, 200-pounder’s best work came in games when Houston missed its top two wideouts. In Week 14 at the Dallas Cowboys, with Cooks and Nico Collins out, Moore hauled in 10 catches for 124 yards. Moore has proven dependable for the Texans when they have faced challenges at receiver, and the 2023 offseason still has such challenges manifest. – Mark Lane, Texans Wire

Indianapolis Colts: WR Parris Campbell

Jenna Watson-USA TODAY Sports

With Michael Pittman Jr. and Alec Pierce expected to be the starting wideouts on the outside, the Colts should want to keep Campbell on a short-term deal. Campbell finally put together a healthy campaign and posted career-highs in receptions (63) and receiving yards (623). His work from the slot and elite speed should fit well with new head coach Shane Steichen, and the Colts need to surround the incoming rookie quarterback (whoever that will be) with as much talent as possible. Considering Ashton Dulin also is set to be a free agent, the Colts have a void at their WR3 spot. – Kevin Hickey, Colts Wire

Jacksonville Jaguars: TE Evan Engram

Corey Perrine/Florida Times-Union

The Jaguars added Engram last offseason hoping the former Giants tight end could shed his reputation for drops while on a one-year, “prove it” deal. Well … he proved it. Engram’s 73 receptions for 766 yards weren’t just career best marks, they also set single-season franchise records for a Jaguars tight end. With the top three tight ends on the depth chart (Engram, Chris Manhertz, and Dan Arnold) all set to hit free agency, the cupboard would be awfully bare if Jacksonville let the entire trio walk. Given the on-field production, the leadership he provided, and the rapport he developed with Trevor Lawrence, there’s no way the Jaguars can let Engram leave Jacksonville. And it sounds like that’s the plan, as the Jaguars are expected to franchise tag Engram. – Adam Stites, Jaguars Wire

Kansas City Chiefs: RT Andrew Wylie

Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

RB Jerick McKinnon and WR JuJu Smith-Schuster might be the obvious answers, but the Chiefs should want to re-sign RT Andrew Wylie. Wylie is the definition of a homegrown player. He came to Kansas City in January of 2017 after bouncing around on a few different practice squads as an undrafted free agent out of Eastern Michigan. He’s done everything the Chiefs have asked of him along the way, playing left and right guard before eventually finding a home at right tackle. After he was a weak link on the offensive line in Super Bowl LV, Wylie came back and dominated the competition in Super Bowl LVII, shutting out Haason Reddick. That’s the type of guy you want to reward with a long-term contract extension and it would certainly be good for team morale moving forward. – Charles Goldman, Chiefs Wire

Las Vegas Raiders: RT Jermaine Eluemunor

AP Photo/Gail Burton

The obvious answer here would be All-Pro RB Josh Jacobs, but the running back market is deep and it’s usually not a great idea to give big money to a veteran running back. Instead, the Raiders should want to bring back veteran offensive lineman Jermaine Eluemunor. The former Patriots OL started all 17 games for the Raiders in 2022, playing both tackle and guard. He was able to lock down the right side of the offensive line and really improved as the season went on. Even if he isn’t the long-term answer at right tackle, Eluemunor’s versatility and experience is desperately needed on the offensive line. The Raiders would be wise to bring him back on a one or two-year deal as they look to improve the offensive line in 2023. Marcus Mosher, Raiders Wire

Los Angeles Chargers: OT Trey Pipkins

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Pipkins entered last training camp in a battle with Storm Norton for the starting right tackle spot and ended up winning. Before that, Pipkins spent last offseason with offensive line developer Duke Manyweather, which proved to benefit his game immensely. Despite battling through an MCL sprain he first suffered in Week 5, Pipkins played at a high level. Drafted as a project in 2019 and struggling to find his footing in the NFL in his first few seasons, Pipkins looked like a capable NFL tackle in his contract year. He only allowed two sacks on 586 pass-block snaps and was road-grader in the run game. With continuity being critical along the offensive line, Pipkins is deserving of manning the position for the foreseeable future.Gavino Borquez, Chargers Wire

Los Angeles Rams: NT Greg Gaines

Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

Gaines and A’Shawn Robinson are both free agents this year, so the Rams’ defensive line could take a hit if both leave. They should ensure that at least one of them returns, and the one should be Gaines. He played through multiple injuries last season, which impacted his play noticeably. When healthy, he’s one of the more underrated nose tackles in the game, not only helping as a run stopper, but also providing pressure as a pass rusher. That’s hard to find in a nose tackle and the Rams don’t currently have a great replacement on the roster for him. To maximize the year(s) that Aaron Donald has left before retirement, the Rams should re-sign Gaines and keep him next to AD. – Cameron DaSilva, Rams Wire

Miami Dolphins: RB Raheem Mostert

USA Today Sports

Head coach Mike McDaniel brought Mostert to South Florida with him last year when he joined from the San Francisco 49ers, and the running back met what was expected of him in his first season with the Dolphins. Beating out Chase Edmonds for the top spot, Mostert rushed for 891 yards and three touchdowns on an impressive 4.9 yards per attempt and added another 202 yards and two touchdowns on 33 receptions. At this point, the Dolphins don’t have a single running back on the roster, and although the former Boilermaker is past that dreaded 30th birthday, he should be welcomed back with open arms for at least another season on a deal that likely won’t break the bank. Mike Masala, Dolphins Wire

Minnesota Vikings: CB Duke Shelley

Tork Mason/USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin

The Vikings have issues at the cornerback position. They didn’t play the best last season, but they also weren’t put in good positions to succeed by former defensive coordinator Ed Donatell. One of those players was Shelley who still found a way to become PFF’s third-ranked cornerback in coverage in 2022. While small in stature, Shelley is good in press coverage and has good click-and-close ability while being aggressive at the catch point. New defensive coordinator can utilize Shelley at cornerback in his aggressive defense and he will be at worst a good depth piece as they rebuild this defense. – Tyler Forness, Vikings Wire

New England Patriots: WR Jakobi Meyers

Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

Leave it to the Patriots to finally get a good homegrown receiver not named Julian Edelman, just to potentially watch him walk out the door four years later. Jakobi Meyers scratched and clawed his way from an undrafted rookie to the hottest available receiver on the 2023 free agent market. He’s earned whatever is coming to him. But on the other hand, it would be great for the Patriots if the market remains reasonable enough for them to keep their top receiving option on the roster. Who needs male pattern baldness when losing hair and stressing over the 2022 Patriots offense? And now, it could be a unit moving forward without Meyers. This can’t be real life, right? – Jordy McElroy, Patriots Wire

New Orleans Saints: DT David Onyemata

Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

DE Marcus Davenport gets more attention given his draft status and prestigious position, but Onyemata is a better player and more important to the team’s success moving forward. The Saints are hurting for interior defensive linemen with all four of their top players at the position hitting free agency. Cutting a deal that would allow Onyemata to play out the rest of his career in New Orleans would be big. He probably shouldn’t still be alone on top of the depth chart at this point in his career, but he’s a steady veteran presence to rebuild the unit around. – John Sigler, Saints Wire

New York Giants: QB Daniel Jones

Chris Pedota, NorthJersey.com-USA TODAY NETWORK

While there are some out there who still believe the New York Giants should move on from quarterback Daniel Jones, general manager Joe Schoen is not among them. He has repeatedly made it clear the Giants desire to sign Jones long-term and that he’s back under center for the foreseeable future. That makes sense after his breakout season in 2022 and because starting over at quarterback would essentially hit the reset button (again) on the Giants’ rebuild. – Dan Benton, Giants Wire

New York Jets: LB Quincy Williams

Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports

Taking care of defensive tackle Quinnen Williams is obviously going to be a high priority this offseason for the Jets, but they also should look to take care of his brother as well. Quincy Williams was a pleasant surprise this offseason at the linebacker position and someone the Jets were able to rely on outside. Williams finished second in tackles with 108, behind C.J. Mosley. With Mosley getting up in age and Kwon Alexander a free agent, the Jets need some stability at the linebacker position. Williams can provide that. You also have to wonder if Quinnen and Quincy will be a package deal. They should be at this point. – Billy Riccette, Jets Wire

Philadelphia Eagles: Safety C.J. Gardner-Johnson

AP Photo/Rick Osentoski

Re-signing DT Javon Hargrave would be a huge win for the Eagles, but retaining FS C.J. Gardner-Johnson is the most urgent move outside of a contract extension for QB Jalen Hurts. A slot cornerback in New Orleans, Gardner-Johnson was traded to Philadelphia and firmly established himself as one of the NFL’s top young stars after making the transition to the safety position. In 12 starts, Gardner-Johnson was the NFL’s co-leader in interceptions with six, while also logging 67 tackles, five tackles for loss, 1 sack and 8 passes defended. A swiss army knife that can slide down into the slot if needed, Gardner-Johnson will provide the Eagles next defensive coordinator with an elite weapon to anchor the secondary. – Glenn Erby, Eagles Wire

Pittsburgh Steelers: CB Cameron Sutton

Philip G. Pavely-USA TODAY Sports

The Steelers don’t have a long list of high-profile free agents to sign this offseason but none are more crucial to the team’s success than CB Cameron Sutton. The team’s top cornerback last season, Sutton really came into his own as a coverage player. He’s capable of playing in the slot or on the boundary and is a willing run defender. Sutton isn’t a true lockdown cornerback worth of No. 1 cornerback money but he’s definitely the best the Steelers have an should get a nice raise this offseason. If the Steelers cannot re-sign Sutton, the team will have to address cornerback early in the 2023 NFL draft. – Curt Popejoy, Steelers Wire

San Francisco 49ers: FS Jimmie Ward

AP Photo/Tony Avelar

There isn’t much competition for this spot. Ward lands at the top of the list ahead of right tackle Mike McGlinchey, who will likely land a deal beyond what San Francisco can afford. While Ward won’t come cheap, he’ll be less expensive than McGlinchey and he’s harder to replace. The 49ers don’t have a ton of in-house candidates who are as good or as versatile as the veteran safety. Last season the team moved Ward to nickel corner with a ton of success, but the best version of their defense has him patrolling the free safety spot. Losing him and his versatility would handcuff new defensive coordinator Steve Wilks in a big way. It would also put a ton of pressure on the front office to track down a replacement in a year where the team doesn’t pick until No. 99 in the draft. – Kyle Madson, Niners Wire

Seattle Seahawks: QB Geno Smith

Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Around this time last year it looked like the Seahawks were about to undergo a major rebuilding phase after trading Russell Wilson to the Broncos. Now that looks like the most brilliant move in franchise history. Wilson went through a stunning decline, while Geno Smith ascended to become one of the league’s best starters. By his own admission, Smith got a little too aggressive around mid-season, which resulted in too many turnover-worthy plays. Still, Smith finished at a top-10 level, making re-signing him an easy decision. While it should not preclude them from drafting a young quarterback – perhaps one like Florida’s Anthony Richardson who could use more time to develop – Smith should return in 2023 and be their Week 1 starter. – Tim Weaver, Seahawks Wire

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: LB Lavonte David

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Yes, cornerback Jamel Dean is the younger free agent with his best football likely still ahead of him, but there’s no way the Bucs can afford to win a bidding war for their No. 2 CB, considering their salary cap situation and the fact that they already gave Carlton Davis III a big extension last year. David might be 33 years old, but he’s still one of the best, most consistent linebackers in the league, and the Bucs have no starting-caliber depth behind him to pair with Devin White. A second-round pick out of Nebraska in 2012, David is one of Tampa Bay’s longest-tenured players, and a longtime captain who is a heart-and-soul presence in the locker room. He might be willing to take a hometown discount to finish his career where it started, and the Bucs need to do whatever it takes to squeeze him in under the cap. – Luke Easterling, Bucs Wire

Tennessee Titans: LB David Long

USA Today Sports

Long has become an important piece on the defense over the last few years, going from a sixth-round pick in 2019 to one of the better players on the unit. The problem for the 26-year-old has been his availability, with Long missing a total of 12 games over his two seasons as a full-time starter, mostly due to soft-tissue injuries that led to his being singled out by head coach Mike Vrabel at the end of the season. But Long’s injury issues actually create an opening for Tennessee to get him back cheaper than they otherwise would, and that’s something this cash-strapped team needs to explore or else the Titans will be looking at a situation in which they’ll need two new starters after Zach Cunningham was cut recently. Long’s status with the Titans is already on shaky ground thanks to the aforementioned injury issues, so the price must be perfect or he won’t be back. – Mike Moraitis, Titans Wire

Washington Commanders: QB Taylor Heinicke

Max Gersh/IndyStar-USA TODAY Sports

Daron Payne is the No. 1 answer, but the Commanders applied the franchise tag to Payne on Monday. Linebacker Cole Holcomb is wanted back, but coming off a foot injury. That leads us to Heinicke. It’s no secret the Commanders want a veteran quarterback. Due to the ownership situation, they need a veteran who can start games if needed and be willing to play at a specific price point. Heinicke expects to have a solid market when he’s free. He loves Washington and would return. The coaches and players appreciate him, too. And Heinicke would understand his role if he’s the backup. He proved to be an excellent mentor for rookie QB Sam Howell last season. Instead of Washington looking elsewhere for that veteran quarterback, re-signing Heinicke makes too much sense for both sides. – Bryan Manning, Commanders Wire

Story originally appeared on Lions Wire