The 33rd Team conducted an expansion draft to examine how the NFL could add a new franchise. This final piece in the series outlines what a potential expansion roster could look like.
In 2002 the Houston Texans had 155 unprotected NFL veterans to choose from. Seventy-eight of those players had a seven-figure salary and were unprotected largely – if not only – because their club wanted to clear them from the books. Of the other 77 players, two-thirds were out of the league after Houston passed on them. The rest were bottom-roster fringe guys.
So, in other words, half the players available in an expansion draft are there as overpriced veterans. The other half are there because they might not make their team’s final roster anyway.
The pickings are slim. But remember: an expansion team has no longstanding bad contracts. It can afford to overpay a player or two. More importantly, it can afford to splurge on unrestricted free agents.
With that in mind, here is the best (realistic) veteran lineup that a 2024 expansion team could hope to put together, given who is likely to be unprotected and who is likely to reach free agency.
QB Kirk Cousins, MIN via draft
RB Austin Ekeler, LAC via free agency
WR Michael Thomas, NO via draft
WR Michael Gallup, DAL via draft
WR Curtis Samuel, WAS via free agency
TE Hayden Hurst, CAR via draft
OT Trent Brown, NE via free agency
OT Jonah Williams, CIN via free agency
G Andrus Peat, NO via draft
G Kevin Zeitler, BAL via draft
C Ryan Jensen, TB via draft
Edge Chandler Jones, LV via draft
Edge Derek Barnett, PHI via draft
Int DL Roy Robertson-Harris, JAX via draft
Int DL Grover Stewart, IND via free agency
Int DL Fletcher Cox, PHI via free agency
LB Devin White, TB via free agency
LB Isaiah Simmons, ARI via free agency
CB Xavian Howard, MIA via draft
CB J.C. Jackson, LAC via draft
Slot C.J. Henderson, CAR via free agency
S Jamal Adams, SEA via draft
S Budda Baker, ARI via free agency.