NFL Analysis


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Best Fits For Top Remaining NFL Free Agents After 2024 Draft

Then-Tennessee Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill
Tennessee Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill (17) heads off the field after beating the Jacksonville Jaguars at Nissan Stadium in Nashville, Tenn.

With the 2024 NFL Draft completed, rosters across the league are filled out. Of course, not every roster is perfect and holes remain. That opens up opportunities for remaining free agents because signings will pick up again in the coming days and weeks after the draft.

There are still quality players available with 13 of our initial top 100 free agents unsigned. As team needs have changed, we’ll once again go through the best landing spots for these remaining free agents. 

Players' initial ranking on our top 100 free agents is in parenthesizes.

Best Fits for Remaining Free Agents

Then-Miami Dolphins center Connor Williams
Miami Dolphins offensive lineman Connor Williams (58) signs autographs for fans at training camp at Baptist Health Training Complex in Miami Gardens. (USA TODAY-Sports)

Connor Williams, Center (31)

Fit: Dallas Cowboys

This was the fit we had for this exercise at the end of March, and a few things have changed.

The Dallas Cowboys stayed fairly dormant on the free-agent market, and center is still the weak link on their offensive line. Dallas drafted OT Tyler Guyton in the first round, and it appears the initial plan is to have him play left tackle while Tyler Smith stays at left guard. However, Guyton has more experience on the right side, and Smith could easily slide to tackle.

With either the left side of the line filled out or the two tackle spots, adding Connor Williams back at center could bring the Cowboys much closer to the quality of offensive line they’ve had in the past.

That might be necessary with a running game that could once again be relying on Ezekiel Elliott. 

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 on Oct. 12, 2023. (Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports)

Justin Simmons, Safety (33)

Fit: Jacksonville Jaguars

Justin Simmons is still a good safety. He will enter his age-31 season and could bring a needed veteran presence to the Jacksonville secondary.

The Jacksonville Jaguars did little to replace Rayshawn Jenkins. Third- and fifth-round picks were used at cornerback to potentially replace Darious Williams and play across from Tyson Campbell.

Antonio Johnson, last year’s fifth-round pick, can play safety but spent most of his time in the slot in 2023. Andre Cisco has been a good deep safety, playing 30 percent of his snaps as a single-high safety last season. Pairing him with Simmons could allow the two to move around in Ryan Neilsen's defense.

Simmons can play as a single-high safety in the box and in the slot, which is great for a Nielsen defense that had a nearly even split between middle-of-the-field open and closed coverages last season. 

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)

Fit: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Xavien Howard was just fully cleared for football activities, and that could clear a path for the 30-year-old cornerback to sign with a new team.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers could be a fit as a team that has not shied away from veteran players. The trade of Carlton Davis opened up a hole opposite Jamel Dean. Currently, 2022 fifth-round pick Zyon McCullum is the projected starting No. 2 corner.

This past season was an inconsistent year for Howard, but full health could bring him closer to his previous level of play. He might not be the shutdown man corner he was earlier in his career, but he could still thrive in an aggressive defense like the one Todd Bowles runs in Tampa Bay.

It’s more zone coverage, but the Buccaneers still run a ton of single-high, which would still play to Howard’s strengths.

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 on Jan. 13, 2024. (Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports)

Steven Nelson, Cornerback (45)

Fit: Las Vegas Raiders

The Las Vegas Raiders want to be a defense-first team but still have a question mark at cornerback.

Jack Jones played great when on the field after he came over from the Patriots — seventh among corners in adjusted yards allowed per coverage snap — but their No. 2 is Jakorian Bennett, a 2023 fourth-round pick. 

Steven Nelson was great last season with the Texans as the No. 2 across from Derek Stingley in a zone-heavy scheme. As the Raiders improved on defense in the second half of the season, they relied on more zone. The coverage was key in backing up less blitzing and more four-man rushes up front.

Even at 31, Nelson has the traits to be a high-end No. 2 corner. He was 24th in adjusted yards allowed per coverage snap in 2023 and could help the secondary match the improved defensive front in Las Vegas.

Then-Denver Broncos guard Dalton Risner
Dalton Risner of the Denver Broncos walks the red carpet before the NFL Honors Awards special at the Phoenix Convention Center. (Arizona Republic/USA TODAY-Sports)

Dalton Risner, Guard (58)

Fit: Baltimore Ravens

The Baltimore Ravens potentially shored up a tackle spot with the selection of Washington’s Roger Rosengarten in the second round of the draft.

If Rosengarten is going to step in at tackle (John Harbaugh said the intention will be to compete with Daniel Faalele on the right side), the Ravens still need an inside player. Dalton Risner remains a perfect fit for Baltimore's physical playstyle.

When we had this fit listed at the end of March, we noted Risner’s ability to be a force off the ball, and it bears repeating. He’s allowed a sub-1.0 percent stuff rate in four of the past five seasons, per Sports Info Solutions, and was ninth among interior linemen in ESPN’s pass block win rate in 2023.

Risner still won’t turn 29 until July, leaving the opportunity for a few prime years as an interior mauler. 

Atlanta Falcons defensive tackle Calais Campbell (93) celebrates after a victory against the Carolina Panthers at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Sept. 10, 2023. (Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports)

Calais Campbell, Defensive Line (61)

Fit: Chicago Bears

The Chicago Bears have a lot going for them after selecting Caleb Williams and Rome Odunze in the first round. That pairing, along with DJ Moore and Keenan Allen, could give Chicago an impressive offense capable of keeping up with one of the league's best defenses from the second half of last season. The unit ranked third in EPA per play from Week 10 on.

Montez Sweat’s addition was a huge piece of that, but the Bears still lack other impact players along the defensive line. The only additions were free agents Jake Martin and Byron Cowart and fifth-round pick Austin Booker. 

Calais Campbell can still help the Bears' defensive line inside and on the edge. As a 36-year-old, Campbell was the Falcons’ leading pressure creator last season. Throwing Campbell on this line could take attention away from Sweat and open up opportunities for the likes of DeMarcus Walker and Gervon Dexter.

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)

Fit: Buffalo Bills

Stephon Gilmore started his career in Buffalo, and it could be the perfect place for the 34-year-old to end it.

Gilmore played in all 17 games for the Cowboys last season, which might be the most appealing attribute for the Buffalo Bills after all of their secondary injuries last season.

His play was up and down, as he ranked 99th in adjusted yards allowed per coverage snap, but he was still above average in completion rate allowed. His ability to play the ball is still there, with 13 passes defenses in 2023. 

After releasing Tre’Davious White, the Bills are relying on Christian Benford or Kaair Elam to step up as a full-time starter on the outside opposite Rasul Douglas. Buffalo didn’t add a cornerback in the draft until selecting slot corner Daequon Hardy in the sixth round.

Adding Gilmore to that mix gives the Bills a veteran option who still has a high ceiling.

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)

Fit: Green Bay Packers

Even after the Green Bay Packers drafted Michael Pratt in the seventh round, this is still a fit that makes too much sense. Ryan Tannehill would bring experience to a young quarterback room with history in the type of scheme Green Bay runs.

Somehow, Sean Clifford, the 2023 fifth-round pick who turns 26 in July is the oldest player in the Packers’ quarterback room, not including Alex McGough, a 2018 seventh-round pick who spent the 2023 season on the practice squad. 

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 on Nov. 20, 2023. (Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports)

Donovan Smith, Offensive Tackle (75)

Fit: New England Patriots

The New England Patriots helped some of their offensive line questions by drafting Penn State OT Caeden Williams in the third round. After he was drafted, Jerod Mayo and Eliot Wolf mentioned Williams’ potential to play left tackle despite him being a career right tackle in college.

Michael Onwenu is expected to stay at guard which could leave a spot open at right tackle. Donovan Smith could provide solid protection on that side in front of rookie QB Drake Maye.

Smith was 17th in pass block win rate among tackles last season, though he had an alarming 5.9 percent passing blown block rate, per SIS. That’s the difference between winning blocks early in the down vs. extending plays. Smith could at least be a plus option in front of the rookie who should be at his best playing quickly and in structure.

Then-Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr.
Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. (3) warms up before a regular season NFL football game at EverBank Stadium in Jacksonville, Fla. (Corey Perrine/Florida Times-Union)

Odell Beckham Jr., Wide Receiver (79)

Fit: Los Angeles Chargers

A few weeks ago, Odell Beckham Jr. seemed destined to be a Miami Dolphin but with no contract and Miami adding Malik Washington (albeit in the sixth round), there might not be much of a need at that spot.

The Los Angeles Chargers, meanwhile, didn’t do much to beef up the receiving corps. Ladd McConkey was drafted in the second round, but a McConkey-Quentin Johnson-Joshua Palmer trio is still an underwhelming supporting cast for Justin Herbert.

Beckham is no longer a superstar, but he would be the top option for the Chargers. Last year, he averaged an impressive 1.92 yards per route run.  His best plays came against man coverage (2.6 yards per route run) and in the slot (2.62 yards per route run).

That could be enough to strengthen Herbert’s receiving options in a transition year for the offense.

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 on Oct. 22, 2023. (Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports)

Quandre Diggs, Safety (87)

Fit: New York Giants

The New York Giants drafted Tyler Nubin in the second round, but even with that addition, they could use more safety help.

Under new defensive coordinator Shane Bowen, this defense will transition from a high frequency of man coverage and single-high defenses to more zone and two-high structures. Last year with Tennessee, Bowen used one of the league's highest rates of Quarters coverage (22 percent).

Quandre Diggs has the versatility to play single-high, as he did often during his first years in Seattle, but he also spent last season in more split-safety looks. He still has the range to make plays on the back end, and that would help a positional group that currently features Nubin, Jason Pinnock and Jalen Mills.

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)

Fit: Washington Commanders

The Washington Commanders went on a veteran-adding spree early in free agency to get a baseline of quality players. Much of that was done on defense with additions on all three levels.

The Commanders don’t necessarily need another safety, but Dan Quinn’s best tendencies during his stint in Dallas featured a ton of dime defense while still spreading out and playing two-high.

Micah Hyde could bounce around a secondary that already features Jeremy Chinn, Darrick Forest and Percy Butler. Throwing Hyde into a defensive back-heavy scheme could also help lessen the load and responsibility on the 33-year-old, who has dealt with serious injuries during the past few seasons.

A return to a more traditional safety role could help Hyde after he was asked to play more slot corner last season in Buffalo. 

Then-Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Tyler Boyd
Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Tyler Boyd (83) looks on from the bench against the Pittsburgh Steelers during the fourth quarter at Acrisure Stadium. (Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports)

Tyler Boyd, Wide Receiver (99)

Fit: Denver Broncos

With so many wide receivers added in a deep draft class, it’s tough to find a natural landing spot for some of the still-available veterans. The Denver Broncos, though, could fill a need in the slot.

Denver drafted Troy Franklin in the fourth round, but he should play more outside. Josh Reynolds was added in free agency, but he spent most of his time outside (31 percent of his snaps in the slot for the Lions last year). The same goes for Marvin Mims, who was explosive during his limited time on the field, playing 26.8 percent of his snaps in the slot.

Adding the big-bodied Tyler Boyd as a slot receiver could be a perfect middle-of-the-field safety net for rookie QB Bo Nix. Nix did so much of his work in Oregon on short passes. In fact, 40.6 percent of Nix’s passes last season were from 1-10 air yards, and he had a class-best 84.7 percent on-target rate to that area of the field.