Free agency comes next week, and it will get chaotic. Teams and agents have been talking numbers and potential contract structures for weeks now, and eventually deals start rolling through one after the other.
Executives don’t view this year’s free agency class as strong compared to other years, but a large number of players will get paid, and teams are prepared to spend, especially after the salary cap increased by $16.6 million (from $208.2 million to $224.8 million). The cap is expected to take another significant jump next offseason.
While players like Jessie Bates, Orlando Brown Jr., Tremaine Edmunds and Javon Hargrave are set to headline the free agency market, several other names should also cash in. Here’s a look at 10 free agents who could get paid more than you might expect:
Safety C.J. Gardner-Johnson
The 33rd Team Free Agency Ranking: 6
The Eagles acquired C.J. Gardner-Johnson before the start of the season for a pair of Day 3 picks, and he played a massive role in the secondary. He finished the year tied for the league lead with six interceptions, despite missing five games.
His production, age (25) and versatility will make him a hot commodity on the open market, and Philadelphia could be bracing to lose him.
QB Jimmy Garoppolo
The 33rd Team Free Agency Ranking: 10
Jimmy Garoppolo’s health is a primary concern, as he’s missed 32 games to injury since 2016. The one year he didn’t miss any games was the 2019 season when the San Francisco 49ers made the Super Bowl. Garoppolo has a quick release, is loved by his teammates and has proven he can be a viable starter.
An advantage Garoppolo has in free agency is his connections around the league, thanks to the Kyle Shanahan and Bill Belichick coaching trees. There’s Josh McDaniels in Las Vegas, Robert Saleh with the Jets, DeMeco Ryans and Bobby Slowik with the Texans and Ran Carthon with the Titans.
WR Jakobi Meyers
The 33rd Team Free Agency Ranking: 20
The wide receiver market is not strong, and the position’s draft class is not as stacked as in previous years. That will benefit Jakobi Meyers, who should get at least $13 million per year. The 26-year-old former undrafted free agent finished 2022 with 67 catches, 804 yards and six touchdowns in 14 games for the New England Patriots.
He caught 70 percent of his targets, ranking 10th among all receivers (minimum 90 targets). Simply put, Meyers could not have found a better time to be a free agent, especially after last year’s spike in pay at the position.
CB Jamel Dean
The 33rd Team Free Agency Ranking: 21
Jamel Dean started 38 games in four years with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, including 15 this past season, his first as a full-time starter. The 6-foot-1, 206-pound Dean plays physically and matches up well with big-bodied receivers. He allowed a completion percentage of 51.9 percent during the past two seasons.
Dean, 26, will be a highly coveted player, and his market could end up taking him to at least $14 million per year.
TE Dalton Schultz
The 33rd Team Free Agency Ranking: 23
Dalton Schultz ranks fourth in receptions, seventh in yards and fifth in touchdowns among all tight ends during the past three seasons. He’s one of seven tight ends with 2,000 or more yards during that stretch. Travis Kelce, George Kittle, T.J. Hockenson, Mark Andrews, Dallas Goedert and Darren Waller are the others. Schultz also brings value as a run blocker, something he’s improved on throughout his career.
The Dallas Cowboys used the franchise tag on Schultz last season, but he’ll hit the open market this time. Expect his market to take him over $10 million per year.
OG Isaac Seumalo
The 33rd Team Free Agency Ranking: 26
Isaac Seumalo is the least talked about offensive lineman on the Philadelphia Eagles‘ front, but he deserves his flowers. The 29-year-old can play all three interior positions and started all 20 games in 2022 after playing just 12 games the previous two years because of knee and foot injuries.
Expect him to land somewhere in the $8 million- to $11 million-per-year range.
OT Jawaan Taylor
The 33rd Team Free Agency Ranking: 34
Taylor, 25, has been durable, starting every game he’s played, including 100 percent of Jacksonville’s snaps in 2019, 2020 and 2021 and 98 percent of the snaps this past season.
DE Zach Allen
The 33rd Team Free Agency Ranking: 45
Zach Allen racked up 95 tackles, 9.5 sacks, 61 pressures and 12 pass breakups during the last two seasons with the Arizona Cardinals. He was in the same defensive line room with future Hall of Famer J.J. Watt during that span, and Allen gave Watt a ton of credit for helping take his game to the next level.
Teams are always looking to add pass rushers, and Allen’s best football is in front of him. He’ll turn 26 in August.
LB Bobby Okereke
The 33rd Team Free Agency Ranking: 49
A third-round pick in 2019, Bobby Okereke has been a full-time starter for two seasons and took a significant step forward this year with 151 tackles (99 solo), six tackles for loss, five passes defended and two forced fumbles.
He showed he could play more than one linebacker spot during his four years with the Indianapolis Colts. The off-ball linebacker market is reasonably deep this year, but Okereke should have a decent market.
IDL Dre’Mont Jones
The 33rd Team Free Agency Ranking: 86
There’s still room to improve, but contracts are all about projecting forward rather than rewarding past production. With Jones turning 26 in January, he should do well on the open market. Look for him to land a deal with an annual value of $14 million to $18 million.
Other names to keep an eye on: