We’ve officially made it through the first week of NFL free agency, and plenty of the top talent around the league remains unsigned. The market is crawling along, and the money we usually see being frivolously tossed around is being guarded tightly by teams. Things have been held close to the vest during the process, with few leaks and rumors about where players still on the market may go.
Seven teams still currently have over $20 million in salary cap space, and there are more than enough needs on each team that could be filled by the players we’ll discuss here.
NFL Free Agency Best Fits
Where do the likes of C.J. Gardner-Johnson, Odell Beckham Jr., Dalton Schultz, Adam Thielen, and Bobby Wagner best fit? Which organizations should be inquiring?
Best fits: Eagles, Bengals, Dolphins, Lions
“The disrespect real!”
Gardner-Johnson tweeted that out at 12:01 p.m. on March 16. He was almost certainly talking about an offer he’d received during the free agency process that he felt didn’t live up to his expectations. And in true Gardner-Johnson fashion, the tweet was deleted as fast as it appeared.
The lack of respect is incredibly interesting. In a league getting more positionless by the day, particularly in the secondary, Gardner-Johnson’s versatility should be coveted. Being versatile isn’t intrinsically good in the game of football. Being a master of none is quite easy to accomplish. However, the 25-year-old defensive back has flourished playing in the slot and led the league with six INTs in his first action back at safety since college.
The Cincinnati Bengals could use a second safety that has versatility. Dax Hill is a good young talent, and a pairing with Gardner-Johnson would make them a duo that could blend in on the back end in any conceivable role.
In 2019, Aaron Glenn said, “It’s limitless on what he can do. He does have the speed and the mentality to go out there and play corner. But he can play nickel, he can play in the box, he can play deep safety. You have fun with players like that, now.” But for some reason, the Detroit Lions have been incredibly quiet about the young safety, despite Glenn’s experience with him in New Orleans.
Chris Grier seems to be doing his best Howie Roseman impression. It wouldn’t be a shock to see the Miami Dolphins add Gardner-Johnson to the mix, considering how we’ve seen Vic Fangio’s defenses anchored by impressive safety play throughout the years.
Odell Beckham Jr. and Adam Thielen
Best fits: Cowboys, Bills, Chiefs
The Odell Beckham Jr.-Dallas Cowboys saga during the home stretch of 2022 was excruciating. It’s no secret, and certainly no surprise, that Jerry Jones would want to bring the receiver into The Star. However, at least during the season, he was overruled.
Dallas knows they need to improve at wide receiver. CeeDee Lamb is a star, but they’re lacking complementary options. A move away from Kellen Moore’s offense to Mike McCarthy’s could actually open the door wider for a marriage with Beckham. But the price would have to be right. The WR market is already quiet, and 30-year-old Beckham is coming off another severe knee injury and didn’t play at all a season ago.
The Buffalo Bills are in a similar predicament. While Gabe Davis is probably a better second option than anyone in Dallas, he’s also a boom-or-bust receiver who had an inconsistent campaign a season ago. Adding Beckham brings in yet another outstanding route runner to work off of Stefon Diggs.
The Kansas City Chiefs running into 2023 with Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Kadarius Toney, and Skyy Moore seems unwise. Travis Kelce is still far and away the best tight end in the NFL, but adding someone like Beckham would give the Chiefs a receiver who can play on the outside at a high level.
Thielen had remained productive as the Minnesota Vikings’ second option and could conceivably bring similar value to one of the three teams listed above. DeAndre Hopkins and Brandin Cooks are also being dangled as trade pieces, so it shouldn’t surprise us to see each of these teams come away with a big-name player.
Since 2020, only four receivers have caught more touchdown passes than Thielen. He’s a red-zone wizard with outstanding size, physicality, and savvy that helps him thrive in confined spaces.
Best fits: Chargers, Lions, Packers
A reunion with Kellen Moore certainly shouldn’t be out of the question. Moore and Dak Prescott found ways to get the ball to Schultz consistently, and with Gerald Everett on the final year of a movable contract, adding Schultz on a long-term deal could give Justin Herbert a long-term safety blanket in his new offensive structure.
Detroit traded T.J. Hockenson to the Vikings before the deadline last season, so it would be peculiar to see them spend any sort of significant money for one this offseason. But that doesn’t change the fact that it’s a need on the roster.
Like the Lions, the Green Bay Packers need a tight end. A solid pass-catching TE can do wonders for a young QB, and it would behoove Green Bay to do everything within its power to find ways to make Jordan Love successful in his first season as the team’s starter.
Best fits: Eagles, Bills, Seahawks
It would be cool to see Wagner back in highlighter green. He’s still playing at a considerably high level, and Seattle could use a starting linebacker alongside Jordyn Brooks.
After signing with the Rams, Wagner said, “I felt like we had a lot of good years. I was committed to not only the organization but to the city. So it’s unfortunate that I won’t be one of those guys who said they played their whole career with one team.” There is no bad blood between him and the organization, and seeing him eventually retire as a Seahawk would be a proper send-off.
However, we could also see the veteran follow in the footsteps of Von Miller and scoot off to Buffalo after spending a season in Los Angeles. The Bills are still looking for their Tremaine Edmunds replacement, and adding Wagner could be a perfect complement to Matt Milano. Wagner remains outstanding against the run, and Milano is one of the best coverage linebackers in the NFL.
The Eagles also need linebackers. In fact, Philadelphia always seems to need linebackers. They let both their starters walk in free agency, leaving them with multiple vacancies on the second level. Wagner is a bit unlikely because Philadelphia doesn’t like to spend much money on the position, but he fits a need, and Howie Roseman could look to get aggressive in Jalen Hurts’ rookie contract window that is rapidly closing.