The 2023 NFL Draft is over, but there’s still plenty of work for teams that have been through the first wave of the free-agent market.
Some second-tier free agents signed after the initial start of free agency, but there are always players who can help a team left over after the first couple waves of signings.
General managers and front offices never stop looking for ways to improve their rosters. Let’s take a look at which free agents still on the market can come in and potentially help a team right away.
>> READ: Best Available Free Agents
Best Matches for Remaining Free Agents
Ezekiel Elliott, Running Back
Best Team Fit: Dallas Cowboys
Last year, the Dallas Cowboys had a great one-two punch in the backfield with Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard, but they decided to release Elliott this offseason. They used the franchise tag on Pollard, so everybody anticipated they would address the RB2 need in the draft.
The only running back they drafted was Deuce Vaughn, a tremendous, athletic, undersized back who had a great college career. But if you think he’s Elliott, then you’re making a mistake.
I think Dallas has kept open communication with Elliott. He’s had plenty of time to go out there and test his market. If he will get the same amount of money from a new team as he would in Dallas, then why not return to the Cowboys? He can continue the potent one-two punch with Pollard for another season.
Leonard Floyd, Outside Linebacker
Best Team Fit: Carolina Panthers
As a veteran pass rusher coming off the edge, Leonard Floyd, who did a great job while he was with the Los Angeles Rams, would be a great option.
He helped the Rams win a Super Bowl, and I still think he has enough in the tank to be a rotational edge rusher for the Carolina Panthers. Floyd finished last season with nine sacks and 22 quarterback hits.
The Panthers got their franchise quarterback, Bryce Young, and they did a great job filling needs through the draft. One thing that stuck about Carolina last year — and why the Panthers were in the playoff race till the end — was their defensive play. They had the ability to get pressure on the quarterback consistently.
However, the Panthers did not draft an edge pass rusher this year. They’re moving to a 3-4 defense under new DC Ejiro Evero, which means both edge rushers have to be a little more undersized and have the quickness to get up the field. They have that in Brian Burns, but Yetur Gross-Matos does not fit that 3-4 edge rusher role. He’s more of a five-technique, so they have to go out and get another edge rusher to pair with Burns.
The Panthers have a solid defense already. Plus, they’ve got an offense with a lot of young players that will help them grow. But their defense will have to keep them in games early. In my opinion, Floyd is the best fit for their defensive scheme and team needs.
Frank Clark, Defensive End
Best Team Fit: Jacksonville Jaguars
The Jaguars had a remarkable turnaround last year, winning the AFC South, and they should be favored to win the AFC South again this season. The one area that made Jacksonville competitive was not only Trevor Lawrence and everything accomplished on offense, but they had some players that could get upfield and pressure the quarterback.
They lost one of them, Arden Key, in free agency. So, if I’m general manager Trent Baalke, I’d be looking to add another one. They have Travon Walker, who they drafted No. 1 overall last year, and they drafted Yasir Abdullah in the fifth round this year. He’s got a chance to develop into a quality player but probably not right away.
Obviously, they have Josh Allen, who had seven sacks last season. K’Lavon Chaisson has been a bust since the team drafted him, but Baalke didn’t select Chaisson, so I could see them adding another name to this group.
If the Jaguars add Clark into the mix with Walker and Allen, they’ll have a great rotation, allowing them to repeat as AFC South champions. A veteran like Clark would help their defense tremendously.
Rick Spielman is a former general manager of the Dolphins and Vikings, and winner of the NFL Executive of the Year award by Pro Football Weekly in 2017. Follow him on Twitter @spielman_rick