NFL’s top 100 free agents of 2016
With NFL free agency opening this week, it’s time for teams get busy with roster rebuilding. Offers can be made to players starting Monday, and they can sign contracts when the new league year begins on March 9 at 4 p.m. ET. Ahead of the madness, we rank the top 100 free agents available and break down where they best fit for 2016. And follow along here as we grade every deal of NFL free agency.
In just two years, Jackson, once a situational pass rusher, has become tremendous against the pass and run. The question of whether or not he’ll be the same player away from Denver DL coach Bill Kollar still lingers. Best fit: Jaguars.
He’s had back issues in the past, but when he’s healthy, Osemele is among the best guards in the league. He can also play tackle. Best fit: 49ers.
Fitzpatrick has played winning football for both the Texans and Jets over the past two seasons. That’s an upgrade in a lot of places. Like Osweiler, he’s an option for all teams in need of a QB. Best fit: Jets.
Williams exposed himself as a bit of a diva with his complaints about Rex Ryan’s scheme over the past year, but he can still get to the passer, preferably in a 4–3 scheme. Best fit: Jaguars.
He was a rising superstar until his Fourth of July fireworks accident. He’s still able to get to the passer consistently, he just doesn’t finish very well. Best fit: Giants.
Jenkins is a boom-or-bust coverage player, but the ability is there to be a top man cornerback. Will he ever be focused enough to realize that talent? Best fit: Jaguars.
He has steadily improved during his career to the point where he’s now a very good two-way safety. His age (26) will land him a big contract. Best fit: Bengals.
Smith is of the most physically imposing corners in the game (6' 4", 214 pounds), but we’ll see if teams think he’s lost a step or not. Best fit: Giants.
The Dolphins have right of first refusal so he’s likely staying put, but his underappreciated two-way ability might yield an offer sheet. Best fit: Dolphins.
He wasn’t the same dominating player in ’15 after coming back from a broken fibula, but if he regains his old form, a team will be landing an elite and heady center. Best fit: Colts.
Okung has had a lot of trouble staying healthy and that’s caused him to drop from elite to good. But pair him with the right coach and he still has some good football left in him. Best fit: Raiders.
Weddle kind of falls into the Wes Welker-category of hitting free agency late in his career (age 31) while coming off of an average season. Still, he’d be the perfect cherry on top for a contending team. Best fit: Cowboys.
After missing the ’14 season due to injury, Jones rebounded with 65 catches. He may not be a No. 1, but he’s a good No. 2 boundary receiver for someone. Best fit: Browns.
The surprise No. 15 pick in the 2012 draft never fulfilled that promise with the Seahawks, but at the age of 28, he’s young and he can run. Someone will bid on the ceiling. Best fit: Buccaneers.
Trevathan will be a sought-after commodity because his strength and speed makes him a rare three-down inside linebacker. Best fit: Bears.
After lasting just one season with the Seahawks, the ox-strong Howard developed slowly before playing very well last season. Best fit: Falcons.
Schwartz, who’s one of the best right tackles in the game, will be looking to cash in. Who will be willing to pay? Best fit: Chargers.
Hayward played mostly slot corner in Green Bay but he can be used anywhere. He’s a better player than Davon House, who signed with Jaguars for $21 million last year. Best fit: Bears.
Williams picked a perfect time to have his best and first injury-free campaign of his career. He’s strong at the point of attack when healthy. Best fit: 49ers.
Hali’s sack numbers have been down over the past two seasons, (12.5 total) but he’s still always around the QB, even at age 32. He’s broken down at the end of the previous three seasons, though. Best fit: Raiders.
A very good athlete for his size, Brooks has been inconsistent to this point in his career but he’s only 26 and ready to get better. Best fit: Texans.
At age 32, he’s not the player he once was, but Penn hasn’t missed a game in eight years and that consistency alone will be attractive to teams. Best fit: Seahawks.
A top guard for many years, Mathis finally got going after signing late with Denver and helped solidify the line for the Super Bowl champs. Best fit: Dolphins.
Beachum had rapidly improved to become an upper echelon left tackle when he tore his ACL in Week 7. He’s only 26, and depending on his health, he may shoot up this free agency board. Best fit: Titans.
Ayers is a good two-way player who can stop the run on first and second down and then slide inside in subpackages. His age (30) keeps him from getting big money. Best fit: Falcons.
Sanu played mostly the slot for Cincinnati, but he can jump in anywhere depending on the scheme. He has solid hands and a rock-solid character. Best fit: Browns.
Foster has quietly been a steady presence on a Steelers line that has endured more than its fair share of injuries in recent years. He can play anywhere in a pinch. Best fit: Steelers.
Freeman could always run and hit, but last season he became much better against the run. It’s no coincidence that Colts were better in front of him. He needs good tackles. Best fit: Falcons.
Miller was productive over the past two seasons despite running behind a poor run-blocking line. He’s also 24 and hasn’t had a heavy workload. Best fit: Titans.
He’s quietly been a steady and productive linebacker the past four seasons with 261 tackles, 13 passes defensed, 10 sacks and six interceptions. Best fit: Bears.
Jones ended the season on a down note thanks to his behavior against the Steelers in the Bengals’ wild-card loss, and it doesn't help that he’ll be 33 early this season. Still, he’s a very good inside/outside corner and is one of the game’s top punt returners. Best fit: Bengals.
He helped the Dolphins overcome the injury to Cameron Wake by providing much-needed pressure on the quarterback. Shelby, who went undrafted, isn’t the biggest or fastest player, but he finds a way. Best fit: Raiders.
Gipson can be up and down as a free safety, but he’ll be just 26 this season so there’s room to grow. His skills are good enough that he could generate a lot of interest. Best fit: Titans.
The former first round pick has long teased us with his skills, but injury problems (he’s only played one full season) have always held him back. There will be a team that’ll think his bad luck has run out. Best fit: Panthers.
Ivory is a bruising back who won’t wow anyone with his speed and skillset, but he’s a well-rounded with very good instincts. Best fit: Cowboys.
He never quite found a home at strong safety out of Alabama, but he has found a home as a 4–3 outside linebacker. Best fit: Rams
After bottoming out with the Saints, Robinson rebounded with a good season in San Diego. He’s lacked playmaking ability (just one interception last season) so that should keep the price tag down. Best fit: Browns.
Wisniewski is a perfect example that players aren’t re-signed by their teams for a reason: He wasn't retained by the Raiders and was then just average for the Jaguars on a one-year deal. He's still a good stopgap, though. Best fit: Jaguars.
The former seventh-round pick has just 107 catches in four seasons, but he’s had his moments and has been efficient. A team might think he was victim of circumstances (scheme changes, QB inconsistency) and bet on him. Best fit: Lions.
Galette was a surprise release by the Saints before 2015 training camp one year after getting a contract extension. He had a domestic violence incident, and then tore his Achilles before suiting up for Washington. He’s an active rusher when right. Best fit: Bills.
The former Seahawks player’s career was revived with a switch from cornerback to safety, and there’s room for him to grow. He had three interceptions and a fumble returned for a touchdown in 2015. Best fit: Eagles.
At 31 and with two Achilles surgeries in his past, Hall is no longer a front line, full-time player. But with the rise of sub packages, he’s going to play a key role for a contending team. Best fit: Panthers.
Abdullah was a full-time starter for just three of his seven seasons and it’s debatable whether he’ll ever be that again. He’s best in a scheme that will utilize his ability to do a little bit of everything. Best fit: Steelers.
Mebane was an underrated key cog on the way to winning a Super Bowl two seasons ago, but he wasn’t the same player last year. Now he’s a good veteran stop gap for a team rebuilding its interior line. Best fit: Lions.
Boone has played well at times, but he can be inconsistent. He needs to find a team with a style that meshes with a 6' 8", physical guard. Some teams might view him at his former position of tackle, which would help his chances. Best fit: Bills.
The 2012 first-round pick has flashed talent, especially in last year’s playoffs when he was healthy (3.5 sacks, forced fumble), but he’s been a walking injury report. Best fit: Packers.
Forte has been a terrific all-around running back to this point in his career. He can do it all: run, catch and block. But there’s a lot of tread on those tires and teams tread carefully. Best fit: Patriots.
Boykin developed into one of the league’s better slot corners before the Eagles traded him to Pittsburgh, where he largely rotted on the bench. When given the chance, though, he made plays. Best fit: Ravens.
As he gets older, the nagging injuries keep him from being his former self, but he’s still excellent against the run when he’s healthy. Ngata would be a perfect final piece for a contender. Best fit: Lions.
Ramirez has filled in at guard and center during his career, and at 33 he’s relatively steady. He’d be a good bridge player to a draft pick. Best fit: Giants.
Gates missed four games last season when he was suspended for performance enhancing drugs. He’s not the athletic mismatch he once was, but he’s still a good player. Best fit: Chargers.
Hicks fell out of favor in New Orleans and then revived himself in a big way with an impactful one-year run with the Patriots. Someone will pay him. Best fit: Bears.
Thanks to the rise of athletic linemen in college, the bottom has fallen out of the market for run-stuffing tackles. Knighton found that out last year. The same thing could happen to him again. Best fit: Patriots.
The versatile 2012 second-round pick helped settle down Kansas City’s line once he returned from a knee injury. He can fit any scheme. Best fit: Eagles.
Jones is a very smart player who is a better athlete than he looks. He has some issues with the biggest and strongest linemen, but Jones’s technique keeps him in the fight. Best fit: Texans.
Lane got hurt in the Super Bowl against the Patriots, and the injury kept him out until late in the 2015 season. His value became clear during his absence—Seattle was much better in the secondary with him. Best fit: Seahawks.
Thornton is an athletic big man who is energetic and strong at the point of attack. He struggled last season, but has usually been tough to block. Best fit: Seahawks.
The potential from this tall and athletic tight end has been there since he was drafted in the fourth round in 2012. But his career high has been 37 catches. He still has a long way to go. Best fit: Broncos.
Boldin will turn 36 on Oct. 3 and had just 789 receiving yards last season (a personal worst since 2004). But then again, you trying playing for last year’s 49ers offense. He’s tough as nails and has great hands, and despite his age, he can still play. Best fit: Patriots.
Johnson is not a dominating pass rusher, but he’s fierce against the run and tough to move. Best fit: Giants.
Morris is a durable running back who set a franchise rookie record with 1,613 yards back in 2012. He excels in a zone blocking scheme. His feet looked slow last season. Best fit: Jets
Rey averaged over 100 tackles over the past two seasons and he wasn’t even a full-time starter. He’s a tough player, leader and special teams captain, and he should get chance to start somewhere. Best fit: Dolphins.
At 6' 6", 315 pounds, Massie is a big tackle who plays more athletic because of his feet and pad level. He’s a very inconsistent pass blocker but still has upside. He’s at least a good sixth offensive lineman. Best fit: Lions.
The former star at Missouri backed up Drew Brees and Alex Smith over the past seven seasons. He’s smart with a decent arm, though teams will have an issue with his height (six feet). Best fit: Rams.
Despite the fact that he’s a tall, athletic tight end and was college teammates with Andrew Luck, Fleener has yet to take off with the Colts (he averaged 52 catches over the past three years). It still feels like there's more there. Best fit: Colts.
Even at 33, Johnson can still do it all at inside linebacker in the 3–4. He’s strong against the run, blitzes well and can cover at times. The question is when will the wheels fall off? Best fit: Chiefs.
Gilberry is a good athlete who was a valuable situational pass rusher for the Bengals. He struggled in his chance to be a full-time starter in 2014 and has slowed down a bit. Best fit: Dolphins.
Starks is an upright, slashing runner who can hit big plays in the run and the pass, but he’s not consistent and can put the ball on the ground (three lost fumbles last year). He’s not an every-down starter. Best fit: Packers.
Finally healthy and given a chance to start in place of Martellus Bennett, Miller had 34 catches for 439 yards and five touchdowns (all came in the final eight games). Still, he’s 31 with a long injury history. Best fit: Bears.
Given a chance to flourish with an expanded role when Pernell McPhee signed with Chicago, Upshaw showed that he’s merely an edge-setting outside linebacker. He provides very little pass rush. Best fit: Raiders.
Mostly a role player the past four seasons with the Rams, Hayes showed potential to do more in injury stints as a starter the past two years. He’s a strong but limited athlete, and will be 31 in May. Best fit: Rams.
Long posted double-digit sacks back-to-back in 2011–12 and then had 12.5 total the next three seasons before being released. He’ll be 31 on March 28, but can still be a starter if he’s healthy. Best fit: Panthers.
He finally got a chance to show he could sub for the injured DeAndre Levy in 2015, and Whitehead’s play helped Detroit play good football down the stretch. But it seemed like he was in the dog house for some reason. On the field, he’s a good two-way inside LB. Best fit: Saints
The former No. 20 pick in 2011 never became a dominant pass rusher in either Tampa or Atlanta (16 career sacks). He played well against the run in the Buccaneers’ 4–3 defense. Best fit: Cowboys.
After finishing in Oakland with two injury-plagued seasons, he revived his career with a good all-around season for Kansas City as its No. 3 safety. At age 29, he may find another chance to be a starter going forward. Best fit: Chargers.
The 32-year-old was a four-time, first-team All Pro from 2009–12 and then his play fell off the past couple of seasons. It still feels like he can play at a high level, but the market will dictate that. Best fit: Dolphins.
Played nose tackle for the Steelers at 6' 3" and 310 pounds, but he can really play any of the line spots in a 3–4 defense and will appeal to 4–3 teams. He’s an underrated player who will immediately help his new team. Best fit: Titans.
From Tennessee to Seattle to Detroit, Jones has always been a solid contributor to a line rotation because of his length (6' 5") and ability to rush the quarterback. He’s a good all-around player. Best fit: Eagles.
Despite missing five games due to injuries, Powell set a career high with 47 catches, and averaged 4.5 yards per attempt. He can help a team in a number of ways: running, catching, and special teams. Best fit: Dolphins.
The former Bengals draft pick has long tantalized with his size and speed, but he has largely failed to live up to it because of his inconsistency and drops. He’ll be 28 this year. Best fit: Steelers.
Cook is almost a carbon copy of Gresham. He looks great warming up, but never comes close to realizing his athletic abilities. He’ll be 29 next month. Best fit: Chargers.
Medicals could be a big issue for Beatty (he missed all of last season with a torn pec and injured rotator cuff), so his signing could come late and out of desperation. He developed into a solid left tackle. Best fit: Panthers
The Bengals’ most athletic linebacker ended his season on injured reserve and had a minor knee injury. The former college safety can run and make plays, but he’s not overly physical. He adds to a team on special teams and in coverage. Best fit: Saints.
The special teams standout played well in part-time spot starts (57 tackles and six passes defensed in just eight starts last season) and may draw some interest since he turns 27 in August. Best fit: Lions.