NFL Analysis


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2024 NFL Free Agency: Best Team Fits For Top Remaining Players

Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. looks into the distance
Dec 25, 2023; Santa Clara, California, USA; Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. (3) stands on the field before the start of the game against the San Francisco 49ers at Levi's Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

There was a flurry of action during the first phase of free agency. As the signings slow down while teams scatter the country for pro days, there are several quality free agents on the market.

Of our original top 100 free agents, 15 remain unsigned. We’ll pair each of those players with a team — and only have one fit per team. Each player's rank in our top 100 is listed in parenthesizes.

Let’s start with our top remaining free agent.

Team Fits for Top Remaining Free Agents

Connor Williams, Center (31)

The Fit: Dallas Cowboys

Connor Williams started his career as a guard with the Dallas Cowboys, then moved to center when he signed with the Miami Dolphins in 2021. The Cowboys now need a center after Tyler Biadasz signed with the Washington Commanders.

Since moving to center, Williams has been proficient in pass and run blocking. He was a key piece of Miami’s improvement in the run game in the first half of the 2023 season. One of his best qualities is his push off the line in run blocking with a low stuff rate allowed in nearly every year of his career, per SIS, whether lined up at guard or center.

Williams is still available because of a torn ACL he suffered in December. His agent recently said that the injury was fairly significant and that he would not be signing with any team soon. Signing with Dallas would at least add another option at center if he recovers quicker than expected or adds depth inside if he can’t immediately jump into a starting role.

Justin Simmons Denver Broncos
Denver Broncos safety Justin Simmons (31) celebrates after making an interception against the Kansas City Chiefs during the first half at GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium. (Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports)

Justin Simmons, Safety (33)

The Fit: Philadelphia Eagles

The Philadelphia Eagles tried to take the veteran safety path last season when they traded for Kevin Byard, but that didn’t work out. That doesn’t mean they shouldn’t take another shot at a safety who has played better later in his career.

A saturated safety market might help the Eagles here. There was a lot of talent to go around, and outside of the 25-year-old Xavier McKinney, there weren't many big contracts given out at the position. Philadelphia still has more than $27 million in effective cap space, per Over The Cap. That should allow the team to give a soon-to-be 31-year-old a competitive offer.

Justin Simmons played more single-high safety in 2023 than he had in his previous three seasons and still comes with the ability to play the slot and in the box.

Adding Simmons could allow more movement for C.J. Gardner-Johnson, who signed a three-year deal this offseason and has experience at safety and the slot. He mostly played the slot early in his career, then played more safety in Philadelphia and Detroit.

Miami Dolphins cornerback Xavien Howard
Tennessee Titans running back Tyjae Spears (32) makes a catch ahead of Miami Dolphins cornerback Xavien Howard (25) during the third quarter at Hard Rock Stadium. (Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports)

Xavien Howard, Cornerback (40)

The Fit: Las Vegas Raiders

For years, Xavien Howard was a physical man corner and one of the most productive in that role. At 30 years old, Howard didn’t have the same juice on the outside and struggled in man and zone coverage, allowing 1.2 yards per coverage snap in each.

Howard can still be aggressive, and a defense that allows him to do that off the line and then play more zone coverage on the backend could be the veteran’s best fit.

The Las Vegas Raiders fit that mold because their defensive looks were more multiple after Antonio Pierce took over as the coach. The Raiders have also leaned into defense this offseason, filling out that side of the ball while the offense gets figured out.

Howard would pair with Jack Jones on the outside and provide more depth for the Raiders at the position. Brandon Facyson and Jakorian Bennett would be behind them, with Nate Hobbs in the slot. 

Las Vegas has about $20 million in effective cap space, and it wouldn’t cost much to bring in Howard this late in the offseason, especially with a fairly dormant cornerback market. 

Houston Texans cornerback Steven Nelson (21) returns an interception for a touchdown in a 2024 AFC wild card game against the Cleveland Browns at NRG Stadium. (Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports)

Steven Nelson, Cornerback (45)

The Fit: Kansas City Chiefs

This would be a reunion for Steven Nelson, who spent his first four years with the Kansas City Chiefs from 2015-18. His 2023 season was his best in coverage since then.

Signing a 31-year-old corner shouldn’t be Plan A for many teams, but the Chiefs could use the depth after trading L’Jarius Sneed to the Tennessee Titans, and Nelson fits the Kansas City defense.

In Houston, Nelson didn't play a ton of man coverage, while Kansas City used the fifth-highest rate. But that’s still just around 32 percent of plays, and Nelson was good when he was in man; he can play physically off the line and down the field.

2022 draft picks Jaylen Watson and Joshua Williams have shown flashes when on the field, but adding a player such as Nelson would give the Chiefs some veteran insurance for a defense that should still be one of the league’s best in 2024.

Dalton Risner, Guard (58)

The Fit: Baltimore Ravens

It’s been a quiet market for Dalton Risner so far, so much so that he tweeted two weeks ago that he’s not looking for a monster contract, just one that makes him a starter.

There was a similarly slow market for Risner when he was a free agent last season. He waited until September to sign while he struggled to accept a deal lower than his perceived value. After signing, he said he regretted waiting that long.

When Risner is on the field, he can be a force off the ball, especially in the run game where he has allowed a sub-1.0 percent stuff rate in four of the past five seasons. He was also ninth among interior linemen in ESPN’s pass block win rate in 2023.

A productive, undervalued veteran who could be signed later in the offseason? Sounds like he belongs on the Baltimore Ravens at face value — add in the fact Baltimore could use help along the offensive line after both starting guards left in free agency. The Ravens have 2023 seventh-round pick Andrew Vorhees penciled in as the starting left guard.

Atlanta Falcons defensive tackle Calais Campbell (93) celebrates after a victory against the Carolina Panthers at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. (Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports)

Calais Campbell, Defensive Line (61)

The Fit: Los Angeles Rams

There is no stopping Calais Campbell. Last season as a 37-year-old, he led the Atlanta Falcons in pressures. That says something about the Falcons, but we’ll keep the focus on Campbell, who remains a force as a pass rusher.

Campbell can play inside and outside, which fits perfectly with a Los Angeles Rams team that could use help all along the defensive line. With Atlanta, Campbell spent a lot of time on the edge. He’s been around a 50-50 split between the edge and interior for much of the latter part of his career.

After Aaron Donald’s retirement, there is a massive hole on the Rams’ interior. On the edge, Los Angeles still has 310-pound Michael Hoecht as a starter opposite Byron Young.

Signing Campbell would help make everyone else’s jobs easier. Throwing him next to Kobie Turner would present issues for opposing interior linemen and would continue to allow the edge rushers to be among the league’s least double-teamed players as they were last season.

Dallas Cowboys cornerback Stephon Gilmore
Dallas Cowboys cornerback Stephon Gilmore (21) tackles New York Giants wide receiver Darius Slayton (86) during the second half at MetLife Stadium on Sept. 10, 2023. (Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports)

Stephon Gilmore, Cornerback (64)

The Fit: Houston Texans

For all of the impressive moves the Houston Texans made this offseason, especially on defense, the team's second outside corner remains a question.

The Texans took some low-cost fliers on highly drafted players Jeff Okudah and C.J. Henderson, but that still carries risk if either is out on the field for an extended period. 

Okudah has never lived up to his draft status and has been on and off the field due to injuries throughout his career. Henderson has been one of the worst cornerbacks in the league by nearly every charting metric through two stops in Jacksonville and Carolina.

Stephon Gilmore might no longer be the Defensive Player of the Year candidate he was at his peak, but his aggressive style of play and ball-hawk instincts could be a perfect match opposite Derek Stingley.

At 33 years old, Gilmore played all 17 regular-season games for the Cowboys last season. Although some big plays were given up, he remained one of the best at playing the ball and limiting receptions on targets. 

Tennessee Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill
Tennessee Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill (17) rolls out against the Jacksonville Jaguars during the second half at Nissan Stadium. (Steve Roberts-USA TODAY Sports)

Ryan Tannehill, Quarterback (74)

The Fit: Green Bay Packers

The backup quarterback market was the quickest and most active throughout the first stages of free agency. That left the soon-to-be 36-year-old Ryan Tannehill waiting for a spot, as many teams tried to get younger at the position.

Meanwhile, the Green Bay Packers might be a little too young at quarterback with Sean Clifford as Jordan Love’s primary backup.

Matt LaFleur and Tannehill didn't overlap in Tennessee — Tannehill went to the Titans the year LaFluer took over in Green Bay — but many of the same offensive principles remained. Tannehill resurrected his career by mastering the under-center play-action and in-breaking routes favored by LaFleur and that tree of offensive coaches.

Tannehill would at least give Green Bay a competent backup, which is something a team — such as the Packers, who will view themselves as legitimate top-tier competitors — need, even if Tannehill exceeds the Packers’ age limit on the roster.

Kansas City Chiefs offensive tackle Donovan Smith (79) on the line of scrimmage against the Philadelphia Eagles during the game at GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium. (Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports)

Donovan Smith, Offensive Tackle (75)

The Fit: Washington Commanders

Donovan Smith has been a decent pass protector early in the down — he was 17th in pass block win rate among tackles — but can struggle to hold blocks. He had a troublesome 5.9 percent passing blown block rate last season, per SIS. That, and a penchant for penalties, has slowed his market.

Still, there are positives in Smith’s game, and productivity at left tackle is not easy to come by.

Even as the Washington Commanders have brought in a flood of free agents, their offensive line is a big question, especially with a rookie quarterback likely playing behind it next season.

With Smith, the Commanders could add a serviceable left tackle — 2023 fourth-round pick Braeden Daniels is the current starter — to a line that brought in Nick Allegretti and Tyler Biadasz as free agents.

That still might not be one of the better lines in the league, but it fits the Commanders’ offseason game plan of bringing in a baseline of veteran reliability at a number of spots on the roster.

Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. (3) cuts as official falls during the second half against the Cincinnati Bengals at M&T Bank Stadium. (Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports)

Odell Beckham Jr., Wide Receiver (79)

The Fit: Miami Dolphins

Odell Beckham Jr. and the Miami Dolphins have already talked, and there is an offer on the table, coach Mike McDaniel said at the NFL’s owner meetings.

Adding Beckham to Miami’s offense could give the Dolphins a dangerous No. 3 receiver to take advantage of the spacing created by Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle. Beckham isn't the explosive receiver he was early in his days with the New York Giants, but he still has some burst after the catch.

Miami’s offense is built to take advantage of spacing, even when the top two receivers aren’t on the field. In 2023, the Dolphins still averaged 8.3 yards per attempt when neither Hill nor Waddle were on the field.

While Beckham’s playing time decreased toward the end of the season, he still averaged an impressive 1.92 yards per route run. He killed man coverage with 2.6 yards per route run and averaged 2.62 yards per route run from the slot, two areas that could fit in a smaller role in the Dolphins' offense.

Indianapolis Colts safety Julian Blackmon
Indianapolis Colts safety Julian Blackmon (32) reacts after intercepting the ball against the New England Patriots in the fourth quarter during an International Series game at Deutsche Bank Park in Frankfurt, Germany, on Nov. 12., 2023. (Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports)

Julian Blackmon, Safety (81)

The Fit: New York Giants

The Brian Burns trade was a huge help for the New York Giants' defense, but the secondary still has holes. Jalen Mills was the only outside addition.

Julian Blackmon’s versatility could be a nice fit with the Giants, who need help at the position with McKinney’s departure. Blackmon spent his first two seasons as a single-high safety in the Indianapolis Colts’ defense. He then played the slot 41 percent of the time in 2022 and moved back deep but played more split safety in 2023.

The former third-round pick has the range and ball skills to make plays, and he can move around the field to create different looks for the defense, opening up spots for other defensive backs to rotate into.

He’s had some injuries, but he won’t turn 26 until August. With the current safety market, he wouldn’t be expensive and could easily outplay whatever deal he gets because of his versatility. 

Quandre Diggs celebrates with Seattle Seahawks teammates
Seattle Seahawks safety Quandre Diggs (6) and safety Jamal Adams (33) and cornerback Devon Witherspoon (21) celebrate after the defense made a play against the Arizona Cardinals during the second half at Lumen Field. (Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports)

Quandre Diggs, Safety (87)

The Fit: New Orleans Saints

Quandre Diggs can patrol the middle of the field as a single-high post safety. He did that often in his first two seasons with the Seattle Seahawks, as Seattle was still a heavy Cover-3 defense. In the past two seasons, the Seahawks used more split safeties, but Diggs still played deep.

Last year, the New Orleans Saints used about the same rates of middle-of-the-field, open-and-closed coverages as the Seahawks, but the Saints were more aggressive in their single-high coverages with one of the highest rates of Cover-1.

Throwing Diggs in the deep part of that secondary could help with some of those Cover-1 looks. It would allow Diggs to play aggressively and show off some of the range that made him a Pro Bowler for three straight years from 2020-22.

Last season, New Orleans was forced to use Tyrann Mathieu as their deep safety, though his strengths are better used when moving around the defense. With Marcus Maye and Lonnie Johnson gone, the Saints have a hole at safety next to Mathieu.

New Orleans is never afraid to take on more veterans, which would be fitting for the 31-year-old Diggs. 

Houston Texans defensive lineman Teair Tart
Houston Texans defensive lineman Teair Tart (97) in action during the game against the Tennessee Titans at NRG Stadium. (Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports)

Teair Tart, Defensive Line (93)

The Fit: Minnesota Vikings

The Minnesota Vikings struggled against the run last season. Their defense was middle of the pack in EPA per play but had one of the lowest success rates. The Vikings added Jerry Tillery to the interior of the defensive line, but he is more of a pass rusher than a run defender.

Teair Tart could slide in next to Harrison Phillips — or spell him as a nose tackle — and throw a big body in the middle of the defensive line. Tart had seven tackles for loss against the run last season, which ranked sixth among all defensive linemen.

Any beef along the line could help Minnesota, who will use all of its smaller bodies to blitz the quarterback in Brian Flores’ defense. 

Tart doesn’t have high sack numbers but did push the pocket well in 2022 when he had 26 pressures and six passes defended lined up next to Jeffery Simmons in Tennessee.

Buffalo Bills safety Micah Hyde
New England Patriots running back Kevin Harris (36) runs with the ball against Buffalo Bills safety Micah Hyde (23) during the first half at Highmark Stadium. (Gregory Fisher-USA TODAY Sports)

Micah Hyde, Safety (94)

The Fit: Detroit Lions

The Detroit Lions might need more help at the corner, but Micah Hyde could add a sense of security at safety behind Ifeatu Melifonwu and Kerby Joseph.

Last season, Hyde played more slot corner as the Buffalo Bills bounced players around and dealt with injuries across the defense. He shouldn’t be asked to play the slot much, but he does have the ability to move around, which is something the Lions have taken advantage of with their defensive backs.

Hyde could play the Tracy Walker role. Walker played around 500 defensive snaps last season and played safety while Melifonwu and Joseph moved to the slot or in the box.

At 33 years old, Hyde doesn’t have the range he once did, and he missed most of the 2022 season and a few games in 2023 with a neck injury. But he could provide depth for a promising safety unit, and his veteran presence could be a welcome addition.

Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Tyler Boyd
Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Tyler Boyd (83) is slowed down by Pittsburgh Steelers cornerback Levi Wallace (29) during the first quarter at Acrisure Stadium. (Philip G. Pavely-USA TODAY Sports)

Tyler Boyd, Wide Receiver (99)

The Fit: Arizona Cardinals

As an older, slot-only player, Tyler Boyd could find it difficult to find the right landing spot. His production dropped to just 1.16 yards per route run in 2023, which didn't help. But Boyd’s big frame (he’s incredibly tall for a slot receiver at 6-foot-2) and ability to find open space in the defense makes him an asset to any passing game.

Sliding Boyd would be a great fit for the Arizona Cardinals' offense, which might have Marvin Harrison Jr. playing on the outside. 

Boyd would be a smart veteran player in an offense that could have Harrison Jr. and 2023 third-round pick Michael Wilson, with Trey McBride at tight end as the main 11 personnel grouping.

Boyd could give Kyler Murray a bigger target in the middle of the field, which would be better than the other options the Cardinals have previously given Murray — such as Rondale Moore or Greg Dortch. Murray can be great in the underneath passing game—he was tied for third in EPA per play on throws between one and 10 air yards last season (0.27), and Boyd could thrive as an outlet in that area.