SI’s MMQB Staff Debates the NFL’s Best Free Agents Still Available

The secondary takes top priority from our experts, including a corner who once was selected Defensive Player of the Year.
Gilmore has 31 career interceptions over 12 years in the NFL.
Gilmore has 31 career interceptions over 12 years in the NFL. / Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to the NFL offseason, where receivers get paid lots of money (just ask Justin Jefferson, A.J. Brown, DeVonta Smith, Amon-Ra St. Brown, Jaylen Waddle and Nico Collins), the NFL continues to push for an 18-game season, the league and NFLPA discuss ways to ruin the offseason calendar and teams continue to go through their OTAs and mandatory minicamps. 

So we asked our MMQB staff of NFL experts to answer a series of eight questions. Today, they’re going to weigh in on the best free agent still available. 

Let’s get to their answers as we get closer to the NFL taking a break before July training camps.

The free agent still available who could be a steal is …

Matt Verderame: S Justin Simmons

Former Denver Broncos safety Justin Simmons
Simmons has been selected second-team All-Pro four times over the past five years. / Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Simmons is 30 years old and doesn’t play a premium position, but he’s the best player still on the market.

Released by the Denver Broncos not because of eroding talent but cap implications, Simmons could catch on and become an immediate impact starter. Over the past five seasons, he has been named a second-team All-Pro four times.

Additionally, he’s one of the best in football at creating turnovers. In 2022, he led the league with six interceptions and has 30 over his eight-year career. He’s also forced five fumbles over the past two seasons.

Whoever ends up signing Simmons isn’t just getting the best player available, but one of the best at his position.

Gilberto Manzano: CB Stephon Gilmore 

It’s strange that Gilmore hasn’t had a team commit to him for a second season since leaving the New England Patriots in 2020. Sure, maybe it’s his age, but he still has plenty left to offer heading into his age-34 season.

Gilmore stepped up as the Dallas Cowboys’ No. 1 outside cornerback after Trevon Diggs suffered a season-ending injury in September. He was also a reliable cornerback for the Indianapolis Colts in ’22 and with the Carolina Panthers in ’21.

There are many teams out there who desperately need help in the secondary. Gilmore would be a low-risk signing with plenty of upside for one of the game’s most consistent cornerbacks. 

Conor Orr: Gilmore

I also think the answer is Gilmore, although there are a lot of veteran players who don’t want to deal with the hassle of offseason camps and would like to skip closer to the start of the regular season. Gilmore is always going to bring a base level of competency and is a great person that you wouldn’t worry about injecting into the locker room. I just think this one will take a few more weeks before we start to see needs develop. 

Albert Breer: S Tracy Walker III

Former Detroit Lions defensive back Tracy Walker III
Walker is still a defensive back with positional versatility who’s been a captain. / Junfu Han / USA TODAY NETWORK

I think Simmons and Gilmore are probably the two best players available, but Walker stands to be a really good value. Last year, coming off a torn Achilles he sustained in 2022, he lost his starting spot to Ifeatu Melifonwu. And, at 29, it’s a fair bet that he’s now landed on the back side of his prime.

But he’s still a defensive back with positional versatility who’s been a captain, and was a key piece in the transition from Matt Patricia to Dan Campbell in Detroit, as a guy who could help a new staff inspire buy-in. He’ll be able to help someone in the fall in a bunch of different ways, and probably at a pretty reasonable price.


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Albert Breer

ALBERT BREER

Conor Orr

CONOR ORR

Conor Orr is a senior writer for Sports Illustrated, where he covers the NFL. He is also the co-host of the MMQB Podcast. Conor has been covering the NFL for more than a decade. His award-winning work has also appeared in The Newark Star-Ledger, NFL.com and NFL Network. He lives in New Jersey with his wife, two children and a loving terrier named Ernie. 

Gilberto Manzano

GILBERTO MANZANO

Matt Verderame

MATT VERDERAME

Matt Verderame is a staff writer for Sports Illustrated covering the NFL. Before joining SI in March 2023, he wrote for wrote for FanSided and Awful Announcing. He hosts The Matt Verderame Show on Patreon and is a member of the Pro Football Writers Association. A proud father of two girls and lover of all Italian food, Verderame is an eternal defender of Rudy, the greatest football movie of all time.