NFL Analysis


13 min read

2025 NFL Free Agency: Ranking 9 Best Players To Hit Market Next Year

Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson
Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson (18) reacts with Detroit Lions safety Kerby Joseph (31) during the game at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

As 2024 free agency enters its latter stages, with teams looking for bargain signings while remaining players wait for their asking price, it’s not too soon to look ahead to 2025. Many elite players may hit the open market next March, where they could cash in. But as always, several of the following players will have their contracts extended or be franchise-tagged next offseason.

Here are the nine best potential free agents and four other players who earned honorable mentions. Four quarterbacks are on my list, but they don’t rank highest. This is about the best players talent-wise, as opposed to the most important players, who are always going to be the starting quarterbacks.

Ranking Best Potential 2025 Free Agents

Honorable Mentions

Amon-Ra St. Brown, WR, Detroit Lions

Amon-Ra St. Brown, 24, is a two-time Pro Bowler and was named first-team All-Pro last season. He ranked second in the league with 119 receptions and third in receiving yards (1,515). He had 10 touchdown catches as the Detroit Lions reached the NFC title game.

Brown has 315 catches for 3,588 yards and 21 touchdowns in his first three seasons. He has far outperformed his draft position as a fourth-round pick (No. 112 overall) in 2021. He will earn only $3.366 million in the final year of his rookie contract if he’s not extended in 2024.

Nick Chubb, RB, Cleveland Browns

In Week 2 of last season, Nick Chubb suffered a significant knee injury: a torn MCL and damaged ACL. The four-time Pro Bowler underwent two surgeries last fall. The Cleveland Browns hope to have him back this season, but it may take until 2025 for him to regain his top form. In 2022, he produced 1,525 rushing yards, 27 receptions for 239 yards and 13 combined touchdowns. He's also a four-time 1,000-yard rusher.

Chubb, 28, enters the final year of a three-year, $36.6 million extension signed in 2021. His next contract likely will include significant roster and play-time bonuses because he has missed 23 games since being drafted by the Browns in the second round of the 2018 NFL draft.

Charvarius Ward, CB, San Francisco 49ers

Charvarius Ward is a success story as an undrafted player who was traded from the Dallas Cowboys to the Kansas City Chiefs at the end of his first training camp. In his first four seasons, he broke through as a three-year starter with the Chiefs. Ward then signed a three-year, $42 million free agent deal with the San Francisco 49ers in 2022.  

The 27-year-old had his best season in 2023 when he was selected second-team All-Pro and made the Pro Bowl after a season with five interceptions, 23 passes defensed (leading the league) and 72 tackles. Ward is one of the NFL’s top cover corners.

Budda Baker, S, Arizona Cardinals

Many veteran safeties, led by Pro Bowler Justin Simmons, are having difficulty getting paid in this year's free agency.

Budda Baker, 28, was a second-round pick by the Arizona Cardinals in 2017. He signed a four-year, $59 million extension in 2020 but then sought another extension and requested a trade last offseason before agreeing to a revised contract with a pay raise for 2023 and 2024. He’s still without a long-term deal.

Baker has four seasons with 100-plus tackles and had 87 tackles in 12 games last season. He made his sixth Pro Bowl despite spending five games on injured reserve due to a hamstring injury. He has seven career interceptions.

Indianapolis Colts defensive tackle DeForest Buckner
Indianapolis Colts defensive tackle DeForest Buckner (99) reacts in the first quarter at Bank of America Stadium. (Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports)


DeForest Buckner, 30, continues to play at a high level as one of the league’s top interior defensive linemen. He made his third Pro Bowl team last season after he had a career-high 81 tackles, eight sacks, 52 quarterback pressures, 11 tackles for loss and two forced fumbles. He’s a consistent disruptive force for the Indianapolis Colts and a durable player who has played in every game the past three seasons.

The 49ers drafted Buckner in the first round in 2016 and traded him in 2020 to Indianapolis for a first-round pick due to salary cap concerns. The Colts immediately extended Buckner’s contract for four years and $84 million. That deal expires after the 2024 season, setting Buckner up for another big payday in free agency if he’s not extended or franchised by Indianapolis.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers offensive tackle Tristan Wirfs
Tampa Bay Buccaneers offensive tackle Tristan Wirfs (78) reacts after a victory against the Philadelphia Eagles in a 2024 NFC Wild-Card Game at Raymond James Stadium. (Kim Klement Neitzel-USA TODAY Sports)


Tristan Wirfs has been a pillar of strength as a starter on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' offensive line since being drafted in the first round in 2020. He’s a three-time Pro Bowler, two-time All-Pro and a Super Bowl champion. He is scheduled to play the 2024 season on the fifth-year option of his rookie contract with a guaranteed salary of $18.244 million.

After playing right tackle in his first three seasons, Wirfs moved to left tackle in 2023. His play stayed at a high level, and this move will increase his future pay as top left tackles are the highest-paid offensive linemen. 

Lions quarterback Jared Goff
Lions quarterback Jared Goff waits to cheer for teammates during warmups before the NFC Championship Game. (Junfu Han - USA TODAY NETWORK)


Jared Goff is the first of four quarterbacks on this list of top potential free agents next year. The Los Angeles Rams selected him first overall in the 2016 draft. He was a two-time Pro Bowler for the Rams, leading them to the Super Bowl (a loss to the Patriots) in his third season. Los Angeles signed him to this contract in 2019, a four-year extension worth $134 million.

In 2021, Goff was considered an afterthought when he was traded along with several high draft picks to the Lions for Matthew Stafford. After a shaky first season in Detroit (3-10-1 as the starter), Goff has led the team’s resurgence with two excellent seasons, including a Pro Bowl year in 2022 and 14 victories in 2023 (12 in the regular season and two in the playoffs). He passed for 4,575 yards, 30 touchdowns and a career-high completion rate of 67.3 percent last season. He added four touchdowns with no interceptions in three postseason games.   

Detroit is expected to sign Goff, 29, to an extension before the coming season. If not, the team risks losing him in 2025 free agency or putting a projected $40 million franchise tag on him. He's a team leader who also does outstanding charitable work in the Detroit area.

Green Bay Packers quarterback Jordan Love
Green Bay Packers quarterback Jordan Love (10) during the second quarter in a 2024 NFC Divisional Round game against the San Francisco 49ers at Levi's Stadium. (Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports)


Jordan Love made believers of the Green Bay Packers organization and fan base with his poise, production and late-season success in 2023. Now he’s on the verge of a huge new contract despite having started only 18 regular-season and two postseason games.

In his first year succeeding Aaron Rodgers (after sitting behind him for three years as a first-round pick in 2020), Love threw for 4,159 yards and 32 touchdowns with 11 interceptions in the regular season. He also rushed for 247 yards and four touchdowns. He led the Packers to victories in six of the last eight games to earn a wild-card spot. Love followed that up with an almost perfect playoff performance, compiling 272 passing yards and three touchdown tosses in the NFC wild-card round thrashing of the Cowboys. Then, Love nearly led his team to an upset of the 49ers in the divisional round.

The Packers have a bargain in the final year of Love’s contract in 2024 at $11 million. That will soon change as the team discusses a lucrative extension that should be in the $50-million-per-year range despite his limited playing time. The alternatives are a huge franchise tag or Love, 25, hitting free agency. Both are improbable for a franchise that seems to have another long-time Pro Bowl-caliber starter to follow Brett Favre and Rodgers.  

Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa
Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa (1) against the Kansas City Chiefs in a 2024 AFC Wild Card Game at GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium. (Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports)


Tua Tagovailoa ranks slightly ahead of Love because he has a better NFL track record as a starter, 32-19. The good news for Tagovailoa is that he played in every game for the first time in his four-year career since being the Miami Dolphins’ first-round pick in 2020. He also played well in the regular season, winning five of the first six games and helping the Dolphins to go 11-4 in his starts.

His production fell off in the last three games — losses to the Baltimore Ravens and Buffalo Bills where he threw two picks in each game that cost Miami the AFC East title. The Dolphins finished the season with a wild-card round dud in freezing Kansas City (199 passing yards, one touchdown and one interception in the 26-7 loss).

Tagovailoa’s overall stats were impressive in the 2023 regular season. He led the league in passing yards (4,624), ranked fifth in passer rating (101.1) and threw 29 touchdown passes against 14 interceptions.

If he plays out his contract on the fifth-year option, he will earn $23.171 million. The Dolphins can pick up needed cap room by extending him, but they may want to see another season of good health and better late-season production before meeting a likely asking price in the $50 million per year range.

It’s a slippery slope for Miami. The team is tight against the cap, and a franchise tag may be a difficult amount for the team to handle next year. Perhaps Tagovailoa will have a chance to hit the open market at the prime age of 27 next March, but odds are Miami re-signs him before then.  

Dallas Cowboys wide receiver CeeDee Lamb
Dallas Cowboys wide receiver CeeDee Lamb (88) reacts after a play against the Green Bay Packers in the second half for the 2024 NFC Wild Card Game at AT&T Stadium. (Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports)


The wide receiver market will soon take a big jump as Justin Jefferson vaults over Tyreek Hill’s $30 million per year contract extension. CeeDee Lamb should fall in closely behind Jefferson after Lamb's career-best season in 2023. He had a league-leading 135 receptions for 1,749 yards (second-ranked) and 12 touchdowns and rushed for two touchdowns.

Lamb was a first-team All-Pro and made his third straight Pro Bowl. He was the Cowboys’ first-round pick in 2020, and this coming season is his last year under contract (under the fifth-year option at $17.991 million).

Dallas owner/GM Jerry Jones says extending Lamb is a priority. That would reduce Lamb’s cap hit this year and remove the need to put an expensive franchise tag on him in 2025, which would be difficult to absorb for a team that is tight against the cap. The team has a lot of work to do on contracts with its three most prominent players: Lamb, QB Dak Prescott and LB Micah Parsons (now eligible for an extension).

Dak Prescott Cowboys vs. Buccaneers
Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott (4) throws during the first quarter against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at AT&T Stadium. (Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports)


The Dallas Cowboys are doing a bit of a tap dance with their three-time Pro Bowl quarterback, who was selected as a second-team All-Pro last season and was second to Lamar Jackson in the 2023 MVP race.

The difficulty is Dak Prescott’s poor playoff record, which he made worse with two first-half interceptions that contributed to an embarrassing first-round home playoff defeat against the Packers. After a 12-5 regular season and an NFC East title, the playoff loss made Prescott 2-5 as a playoff quarterback. He's yet to lead his team to an NFC title game.

That's a negative for a player with a regular-season record of 73-41 who entered last year’s playoffs coming off his best regular season in terms of passer rating (105.9 to rank second in the league). He led the NFL with 36 touchdown passes.

Prescott is finishing his four-year, $160 million contract that he signed in 2021, and after a minor restructuring instead of an expected extension, he will be carrying a $55.455 salary cap number in 2024. Previous restructures of his contract led to the enormous 2024 cap figure. 

Prescott also has a no-tag clause in his current contract, so the Cowboys can’t hit him with the franchise tag in 2025 if they surprisingly let him play it out and hit free agency.  

With only $6.7 million of current cap room, an extension with Prescott is a vehicle for the Cowboys to free up room to deal with Lamb and Parsons, among other needs. Prescott is seeking top-of-the-quarterback-market money. It’s a dangerous game for Dallas to play with their starting quarterback who will be a prime free agent target if he hits the open market next March. 

Jacksonville Jaguars linebacker Josh Allen
Jacksonville Jaguars linebacker Josh Allen (41) runs off the field after a game. (Corey Perrine/Florida Times-Union)


The Jacksonville Jaguars placed the franchise tag on their 2019 first-round pick, who was selected to his second Pro Bowl after an outstanding 2023 season. Josh Allen tied for second in the league with a career-high 17.5 sacks. He added 33 quarterback hits, 66 tackles, and 17 tackles for loss.

Allen, 26, is the prototypical impact edge rusher. He has produced 45 career sacks.

Allen played last season on his fifth-year option for $11.5 million. If he plays under the franchise tender this season, he’ll receive $24 million. He clearly has his sights set on Brian Burns’ new deal with the New York Giants after his trade from Carolina. Burns' contract came in at $141 million over five years ($28.2 million per year) with $87.5 million guaranteed.  

Justin Jefferson Week 1 Vikings vs. Packers
Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson (18) scores a touchdown against the Green Bay Packers during the second quarter at U.S. Bank Stadium. (Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports)


Despite missing seven games last season because of a hamstring injury, Justin Jefferson topped 1,000 receiving yards for the fourth straight season since being the Minnesota Vikings’ first-round pick in 2020. He had 68 catches for 1,074 yards and five touchdowns in 2023.

This followed his dynamic 2022 season when he led the league in catches (128) and receiving yards (1,809) and had eight touchdown receptions. He was the 2022 NFL Offensive Player of the Year, a first-team All-Pro and made his third Pro Bowl. Jefferson holds the NFL record for most receiving yards in a player’s first four seasons with 5,899.

He faces constant double coverage, yet his route-running, speed and athleticism make him the best receiver in the league and a future Hall of Famer if he stays on his current pace.

Jefferson enters the final year of his rookie contract under his fifth-year option at $19.743 million. He and the Vikings have been in negotiations for the past year on a new deal. He’s expected to sign an extension this year that will make him the league’s highest-paid receiver at more $30 million per year. Jefferson is likely seeking to top 49ers EDGE Nick Bosa ($34 million per year on his extension) as the highest paid non-quarterback.

Minnesota has the franchise tag as a backup, so the Vikings won’t let their best player hit the open market.