One free agent each NFL team should want to sign in 2023

The Chiefs and Eagles are set to put a bow on the 2022 season when they battle in Super Bowl LVII. But the other 30 teams are already engrossed in the offseason, which kicks into gear ahead of the start of the new league year.

We’re just over a month away from the start of 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.

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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 over the next month when it comes to building their rosters.

Our NFL Wire editors identified one pending free agent (at the time of publication) that each team should sign to help improve their roster. From the look of it, expect players like safety Jessie Bates III, offensive tackle Jawaan Taylor and wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. to be hot commodities this offseason.

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The Cardinals had a mess on their offensive this season but none was messier than the center position. Rodney Hudson contemplated retirement, returned and had a nagging knee injury that limited him to only four games. They can’t rely on him in 2023, especially since it looks like he will retire. McGovern has missed only three games his entire career and has been a starter for the Jets and Broncos. He played in 100% of the Jets’ snaps last season and had the 10th-highest PFF grade among centers in 2022. – Jess Root, Cards Wire

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The Falcons established an offensive identity behind a dominant rushing attack in 2022, but their defense is still a work in progress. After hiring former Saints assistant Ryan Nielsen as defensive coordinator, the team should look to upgrade its defensive line in free agency. Javon Hargrave racked up a career-high 11 sacks to go along with 57 pressures this season for the Eagles. The 30-year-old can fit in either a 3-4 or 4-3 base defense, and while he won’t be cheap, the Falcons have enough salary cap space to afford him. Plus, Atlanta isn’t going to find a defensive tackle that can get double-digit sacks in the draft. – Matt Urben, Falcons Wire

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The Ravens had been linked to Beckham at numerous points in 2022, but the 2023 offseason seems like the right time to bring the star wideout in. A lot of Baltimore’s next few months hinge on the outcome of whatever happens with quarterback Lamar Jackson, but head coach John Harbaugh and general manager Eric DeCosta made clear at their end-of-season press conference that they would be looking into the wide receiver position. Beckham likely wouldn’t break the bank on any deal that he signs, and could be the perfect low-risk, high-reward signing that the Ravens need to jumpstart their wide receiver room. – Kevin Oestreicher, Ravens Wire

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The Bills turned to veteran Rodger Saffold last offseason on a short-term deal to try and shore things up on their offensive line. There were still struggles, particularly on the interior. Risner was a consistent piece along an otherwise average-at-best Denver Broncos O-line in 2022. Risner to Buffalo has one big issue: The Bills haven’t spent big on offensive linemen under the watch of general manager Brandon Beane. However, Risner and Buffalo did meet prior to him being drafted and the player raved about Bills coach Sean McDermott. Risner also offers leadership and positional flexibility. Things that can’t be measured, but ones McDermott loves. – Nick Wojton, Bills Wire

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If new defensive coordinator Ejiro Evero decides to carry over his 3-4 defense to Carolina, perhaps he can also bring a friend or two with him. And one of those friends could very well be defensive lineman Dre’Mont Jones, who’s fresh off a standout season in 2022. The fourth-year veteran notched—or at least tied—career-highs in sacks (6.5), combined tackles (47), tackles for a loss (nine), forced fumbles (one) and starts (13). With the Panthers needing some tweaks in their potential switch to a three-man front, Jones could easily serve as an end in a system he’s already quite familiar with. – Anthony Rizzuti, Panthers Wire

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The Bears are in need of a game wrecker at the three-technique position, and Payne would certainly fit the bill. Payne is coming off a career year with 64 tackles, 11.5 sacks, 20 QB hits and five pass breakups at defensive tackle for the Commanders. He’s the kind of disruptive player that would shore up the most important position in Matt Eberflus’ defense. Payne spent his first two seasons at nose tackle before playing defensive tackle in a 4-3 defense over the last three years. Payne, who will be 26 when the 2023 season begins, is a prime candidate to receive the franchise tag by Washington. But if he somehow hits the open market, the Bears should be all over him. – Alyssa Barbieri, Bears Wire

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The Bengals have droves of their own free agents to worry about, including starters. Jessie Bates, Vonn Bell, Germaine Pratt, Hayden Hurst and more headline the list. And yet, it’s all but guaranteed Bates isn’t back after drafting Dax Hill in the first round last year. Some of that money could go to an outside name like Taylor, a solid pass-blocker at right tackle who is only 25 years old. There’s an out built into La’el Collins’ contract and he had a disappointing year on the right edge before suffering a torn ACL and MCL in Week 16. Upgrading with Taylor would mean not forcing a need with a high draft pick, which has been a disaster in Cincinnati recently (Billy Price, for example). This is about protecting Joe Burrow, but also keeping the draft options as open as possible, similar to the championship window. – Chris Roling, Bengals Wire

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The Browns have fielded a putrid group of defensive tackles for three straight years, and it has haunted them. As they bring in Jim Schwartz as their new defensive coordinator, their secondary remains in good shape. They will have to hit on a budget too, even if they can do some savvy cap maneuvering with restructures. Rams defensive tackle Greg Gaines is a substantial anchor against the run and has even shown the prowess to create consistent pressure. He would be just a stepping stone to rebuilding their defensive front, but a big one at that. – Cory Kinnan, Browns Wire

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It must be nice for the teams who are actually going to enter the first wave of free agency to go through this exercise. Time has shown Dallas is going to re-sign some of their own and sit on their hands while other teams take swings at putting competitive teams over the top. DaRon Payne is the perfect fit, while if Dallas lets both Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard walk, David Montgomery could be a wise investment. However Campbell offers an intriguing blend of bad QB play, draft pedigree and speed hidden behind a lengthy injury history. This is the type of move Dallas makes. – K.D. Drummond, Cowboys Wire

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The Broncos won’t pick in the 2023 NFL draft until the third round, and it might be difficult to find an instant-starter at right tackle at that point in the draft. After years of short-term solutions at RT, Denver would be wise to sign a healthy, established tackle coming off a rookie contract. Jawaan Taylor, who has played 66-straight games in Jacksonville, could be the right man for the job. – Jon Heath, Broncos Wire

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The Lions have a glaring need for help at outside CB. They can also use a veteran presence with more big-game experience. That’s Bradberry, who has proven himself across different teams and coverage schemes in his career. Bradberry was a second-team All-Pro for the Eagles in 2022. He’s durable and consistently productive in both making plays on the ball in the air and in tackling. There’s still plenty of gas left in the tank with the 29-year-old Bradberry. – Jeff Risdon, Lions Wire

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Adrian Amos and Rudy Ford are free agents, and Darnell Savage – the top safety picked in the 2019 draft – was benched during the 2022 season. Thornhill, a second-rounder from 2019, might not be a game-changer, but he’s been a reliable player in Kansas City, and he played well for the Chiefs down the stretch in 2022. His arrow is pointed up, and the Packers need all the help they can find at a key defensive position. Pairing Thornhill with a draft pick while also bringing back Ford could stabilize the safety position for the Packers in 2023. – Zach Kruse, Packers Wire

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New coach DeMeco Ryans could use an enforcer and example from his time with the San Francisco 49ers as the former defensive coordinator implements his new system in Houston. Much like how Ward was the mentor to S Talanoa Hufanga, he can similarly play a complementary role to S Jalen Pitre, who led the Texans with 147 combined tackles. – Mark Lane, Texans Wire

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It’s not a flashy signing, but Brown, 26, should be high on the Colts’ radar in free agency. They desperately need to find a plug-and-play starter at the right guard position following the failed experiment with Danny Pinter. With some massive contracts on the offensive line, Brown shouldn’t break the bank for the Colts. He’s a powerful run blocker on the interior and he’s a solid pass protector even if he’s a bit streaky. According to Pro Football Focus, Brown allowed 22 total pressures and just two sacks on 456 pass-blocking snaps in 13 starts during the 2022 season. – Kevin Hickey, Colts Wire

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The Jaguars won’t be dumping money into free agency like they did last year. The top priority will be retaining as many impending free agents – namely, Evan Engram, Jawaan Taylor, and Arden Key – as possible. But in Van Noy, the Jaguars could get a cheap veteran (the Chargers gave him a one-year, $2.25 million deal last offseason) who has shown the ability to be reliable in coverage while also bolstering a pass rush. Van Noy has at least five sacks in each of the last four seasons and could help elevate the Jaguars’ young defense in 2023. – Adam Stites, Jaguars Wire

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The Chiefs already made a pass at Key during the 2022 NFL offseason, but he signed with the Jaguars after taking a visit in Kansas City. Perhaps things will be different after losing to the Chiefs in the AFC divisional round – an “if you can’t beat them, join them” type of situation. It makes sense that Brett Veach would remain interested in Key after his 2022 campaign, where he amassed 51 pressures and five sacks, displaying true inside-outside versatility as a pass-rusher. – Charles Goldman, Chiefs Wire

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The Raiders need a ton of help at cornerback, especially with Rock Ya-Sin expected to test free agency. Adding a player like Jones who the front office and the coaching staff is familiar with could really help their secondary. Jones isn’t the biggest cornerback, but he has the flexibility to play in the slot and on the outside. Pairing him with Nate Hobbs could do wonders for their cornerback room in 2023. Marcus Mosher, Raiders Wire

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The Chargers need more pass-rush production behind Joey Bosa and Khalil Mack, as Kyle Van Noy is a free agent and they are not getting much out of 2021 fourth-round pick Chris Rumph. Okoronkwo is coming off a productive season with the Texans, amassing 44 combined tackles, 5.0 sacks, nine tackles for loss, 11 quarterback hits, two pass breakups, and a forced fumble through 17 games. Okoronkwo proved himself getting after the quarterback, as he finished with a 22.9% pass-rush win rate (7th) and 17.5 pressure percentage (8th). Okoronkwo is familiar with Brandon Staley, having been on the Rams together when Staley was their defensive coordinator in 2020. – Gavino Borquez, Chargers Wire

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Starting center Brian Allen has been injured far too often for the Rams to trust him again in 2023. Though he’s still under contract, the Rams should consider releasing him and signing Pocic instead. Pocic started 13 games for the Browns last season and finished fourth in pass block and run block win rate at his position, making him one of the best available centers this offseason. The offensive line was Los Angeles’ biggest issue in 2022 and signing Pocic would help remedy that problem. – Cameron DaSilva, Rams Wire

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Last offseason, the Dolphins made two big free agent acquisitions along their offensive line, signing Terron Armstead and Connor Williams to improve a unit that was one of the worst the year prior. However, the left guard spot, manned by Liam Eicheneberg and Robert Jones in 2022, still proved to be a pain. Miami should be interested in upgrading the position, and while the draft may be the more cost-effective way to fill that hole, signing Seumalo from the Philadelphia Eagles may make the most sense. He has familiarity with the zone-blocking scheme that Mike McDaniel and company implemented in their first year, and at 30 years old, he should have a few more years left of solid guard play in him. His addition could significantly help Tua Tagovailoa as well as the running game really take their performances of this past year to the next level. Mike Masala, Dolphins Wire

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The Vikings need to add at least three cornerbacks this offseason with only Cameron Dantzler, Andrew Booth Jr. and Akayleb Evans on the roster. They could spend a top pick on one, but I believe the best bet is to add a free agent, especially with the position being more about not having a weak link than having elite level talent. Murphy had flashes of great play with the Cardinals and most importantly, would give the Viking much-needed flexibility to play both inside and out. With where the needs of the Vikings line up, this would be a tremendous addition for the franchise. – Tyler Forness, Vikings Wire

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Jakobi Meyers might be as good as gone, and the Nelson Agholor nightmare is over for a Patriots offense that stunk to the highest of heavens in the 2022 season. A 30-year-old Odell Beckham coming off a torn ACL is no savior, but he just might be the best receiver the Patriots have had since Randy Moss. Even better, it won’t cost the team draft picks, and they might just luck out enough to get him on a bargain deal. With Bill O’Brien overseeing the offense, the Mac Jones and Beckham connection would be dynamite. – Jordy McElroy, Patriots Wire

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The Saints were willing to give up a ton of draft picks and a massive contract for Deshaun Watson last season, so why not take that route for the most exciting player in the league? New Orleans can get under the salary cap by more than $30 million with their usual creative accounting. The offense would need big changes but that needs to happen anyway given how poorly they performed last year. They already have better pass-catchers than the Ravens have surrounded Jackson with, and a big swing like this would do a lot to energize a fanbase that has soured as of late. – John Sigler, Saints Wire

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The Giants may have more pressing needs at wide receiver, guard and inside linebacker, but a quality player to pair with Adoree’ Jackson could end up carrying equal value. Dean is a solid coverage corner whose size (6-foot-1, 206 pounds) would allow him to compete with some of the bigger NFC East wide receivers. He’s also a solid tackler who improved his run defense by leaps and bounds in 2022. Dean does take some risks occasionally but that fits right in with Wink Martindale’s defensive approach. – Dan Benton, Giants Wire

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For as good as the defense for the Jets was in 2022, there is still room to grow. The safety pairing of Lamarcus Joyner and Jordan Whitehead wasn’t exactly a strong suit with Whitehead ranking No. 47 and Joyner No. 71 among safeties on PFF. Bates is coming off another strong season and it doesn’t look like he’ll be returning to Cincinnati. Adding Bates to a secondary with Sauce Gardner and D.J. Reed would mean opposing offenses would have a tough time throwing against the Jets’ defense. – Billy Riccette, Jets Wire

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The Eagles will let six defensive linemen test free agency, with two (Brandon Graham, Robert Quinn) being edge rushers. If Philadelphia chooses to use first round draft capital on a defensive tackle, or at cornerback, then Clowney offers the type of pass rushing prowess that would fit Jonathan Gannon’s swarming rotation. Clowney logged just two sacks for the Browns in 2022 after logging nine in 2021, but he’s still stout against the run, and the Eagles emphasize getting pressure on the quarterback just as much as they do sacks. Clowney could join Josh Sweat, Derek Barnett, Haason Reddick, a 2023 draft pick and potentially Brandon Graham on a retooled defense that could lose several key starters. – Glenn Erby, Eagles Wire

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If the Steelers plan to be a player in free agency this offseason, they will need to make some moves to clear up the salary cap. The guy the Steelers could target with that cap space is defensive tackle Dalvin Tomlinson. Tomlinson is a huge interior defensive lineman at 6-foot-3 and 325 pounds and would give the Steelers a huge run stuffer who breaks the mold of what Pittsburgh typically looks for in a defensive lineman. The Steelers run defense came on strong in the second half of the season but adding a guy like Tomlinson would make the jobs of the inside linebackers easier and wouldn’t break the bank in a contract. – Curt Popejoy, Steelers Wire

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The 49ers have Talanoa Hufanga under contract for next season, leaving them with one (1) safety on their roster. Moving Jimmie Ward to nickel corner had some adverse effects in the back end of San Francisco’s secondary. If Ward exits in free agency, Bates would be a home run replacement for the 49ers’ top-ranked defense. He has 14 interceptions in his career and he’s one of very few available safeties who combine coverage skills downfield with the ability to fly downhill and make tackles around the line of scrimmage. Health is another characteristic that makes Bates enticing for a 49ers team that was obliterated by injuries last year. He’s missed just one game in five seasons. It’d be expensive, but Bates is perhaps the one outside free agent who could give the 49ers what they’d miss by losing Ward. – Kyle Madson, Niners Wire

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Splurging on a 33-year old off-ball linebacker is the kind of thing that gets some GMs fired. However, Seattle’s situation is unique. Unique in that they released the best linebacker on the planet last year and it’s time to admit that cutting Bobby Wagner was a terrible mistake. In his absence Jordyn Brooks and Cody Barton both struggled, especially in coverage. Meanwhile, Lavonte David’s list of accomplishments speaks for itself and he’s still playing at an obscenely high level for his age. For the season PFF ranked David third at his position, just two spots lower than Wagner. By their own admission, the Seahawks need to improve their defensive front-seven to catch up with the 49ers. It’s difficult to think of a more valuable upgrade than replacing their biggest defensive liability (Brooks) with a sure thing like David. – Tim Weaver, Seahawks Wire

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Tampa Bay’s ability to be active in free agency at all will obviously depend on how much cap space they can create, as they’re currently projected to be somewhere near $55 million over this year’s salary cap. A former first-round pick, Dillard never established himself as a quality starter in Philly, and the Eagles declined his fifth-year option. Even so, he’s still just 27 years old, and if the Bucs can get him on a cost-effective deal, it could allow them to move on from veteran Donovan Smith, who has a massive cap number this year after struggling through the worst season of his career in 2022. It would be a gamble on Dillard’s traits and potential, but might be worth it for the Bucs to get younger and cheaper at left tackle. – Luke Easterling, Bucs Wire

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The Titans desperately need a new left tackle after the team had arguably the worst in the NFL last season following the injury to Taylor Lewan, who is likely to be a cap casualty. While there’s a good chance they’ll fill the need in the 2023 NFL draft, it’s hard to depend on that crapshoot, especially with how badly the team has struck out on offensive line picks in recent years. The best left tackle set to be available in free agency is Orlando Brown, a 26-year-old four-time Pro Bowler who has spent the last two seasons with the Kansas City Chiefs. Brown will no doubt cost a pretty penny, but if there’s any position the Titans should be spending big on, it’s at left tackle. Brown not only immediately makes the group upfront better, but he’ll provide a long-term solution, also. Perhaps the most attractive thing for the Titans is Brown’s ability to stay healthy, something few Titans have been able to do in recent years. – Mike Moraitis, Titans Wire

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The Commanders need help on the offensive line in multiple spots. You could make the argument that Washington needs four new starters in 2023. In free agency, after making a decision on DT Daron Payne (franchise tag), the goal will be adding a starting guard or right tackle. In signing McGary, who had a strong season with the Falcons in 2022, you have a good run-blocking right tackle, which is a priority for the Commanders. Signing McGary allows Washington to move 2021 second-round pick Sam Cosmi inside to right guard, which many believe is a better spot for him. That gives Washington an athletic right side of the offensive line and then the Commanders can focus on adding another guard in the draft, but not necessarily in the first round. – Bryan Manning, Commanders Wire

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Mike McNamara

Mike McNamara

A Las Vegas Realtor since 2008. Mike has a wide range of knowledge around all things Las Vegas.

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