The Who, What, When, Where, and Why of NFL Free Agency


March 14

Who…Are the Top Free Agents? 

Three of the top quarterbacks were off the board before Monday, as Derek Carr (cut by Raiders) signed with the New Orleans Saints, while Geno Smith and Daniel Jones have re-signed with their teams.

Then there’s the franchise tag which has been used on the top two projected free-agent running backs, Saquon Barkley and Josh Jacobs, as well as arguably the best defender, defensive tackle Daron Payne.

Yesterday also saw a flurry of action with top targets such as nose tackle Javon Hargrave, offensive tackle Jawaan Taylor, and safety Jessie Bates among the free agents who have already been scooped up.

So who does that leave?

Let’s start with Lamar Jackson, the consensus top free agent in this class. The Baltimore Ravens have not agreed on a long-term deal and did not use the traditional franchise tag as many expected. Instead, they opted for the non-exclusive franchise tag, which opens the door for another team to sign the dynamic dual-threat.

It’s not often a former MVP quarterback at the age of 26 hits the market.

Who else?

A troika of Super Bowl participants in Kansas City Chiefs left tackle Orlando Brown and Philadelphia Eagles defensive backs Chauncey Gardner-Johnson, and James Bradberry are among SportsGrid’s remaining top 10 free agents.

What…is the 2023 Salary Cap? 

The salary cap will be $224,800,000 per team for this coming season. Clubs must comply with the salary cap by Wednesday, March 15, at 4:00 p.m. ET, the start of the new league year. Teams can also carry over 100 percent of unused cap space from 2022.

When…Does Free Agency Begin? 

Contrary to headlines, free agency hasn’t officially begun. It starts this Wednesday, March 15, at 4:00 p.m. ET.

What has started is the two-day negotiation period between teams and unrestricted free agents, which is from Monday at noon to 3:59:59 on Wednesday. 

Where…Does Free Agency Happen? 

At an NFL franchise near you! 

According to Spotrac, the Chicago Bears started free agency with the most cap space at over $75 million, followed by the Atlanta Falcons ($53.7 million), who could be serious players for Lamar Jackson, and the Las Vegas Raiders, who have come to terms with free agent quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo.

Among the teams with north of $30 million in cap room are two 2023 playoff teams, the Cincinnati Bengals and Seattle Seahawks.

The Denver Broncos and Chicago Bears have already doled out $100 million in contracts, while the Falcons have topped $200 million in free-agent deals.

The New York Jets, Green Bay Packers, Philadelphia Eagles, Baltimore Ravens, and Detroit Lions are other intriguing franchises that could make a splash.

Why…Do Teams Sign Free Agents? 

As Herm Edwards once said, “You play to win the game.”

Free agency and the NFL Draft are the most significant avenues to build a team. The thing is, the free agency winners don’t always translate to the field.

Last offseason, NBC Sports declared the Raiders and Los Angeles Rams “winners” as LA went from Super Bowl champs to 5-12. The soon-to-be last-place Broncos were among the teams who earned an “A” from CBS Sports for their signings.

It guarantees nothing, but don’t let that stop you from enjoying the fun!

Thumbnail photo via Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

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