As we hit June, the once long list of remaining NFL free agents continues to shrink. We just saw edge rusher Jadeveon Clowney sign with Cleveland, not long after cornerback James Bradberry joined the Eagles and edge rusher Melvin Ingram III decided to join the Dolphins. But teams are still looking for difference-makers, from potential impact starters to veterans who can provide depth chart competition, and there are plenty of big-name talents still available.
So who are the best players still on the free-agent market? And where do they fit best? We ranked the 10 best players still unsigned and picked the optimal landing spot for each one, considering needs, player skill set and scheme, among other factors. Some of these players will join new rosters this month, while others might end up savvy mid-training camp moves for teams filling injury voids or looking for more depth.
Which franchise could use Odell Beckham Jr.’s services, and who most needs Ndamukong Suh on their defensive front? Let’s take a closer look at the 10 best players still available and where they could land.
Best fit: New Orleans Saints
I originally considered matching the veteran defensive tackle back with the Buccaneers, but with Tampa Bay signing Akiem Hicks, we should expect Suh to land with another contender during camp. Suh had six sacks in 2021 and put some good tape out there in the postseason.
I really like the idea of Suh playing in Dennis Allen’s defense. Even in a rotational role, Suh can still create disruption, command two in protection and get home to the quarterback in schemed fronts. He’d be effective in New Orleans with interior stunts and loops that create A-gap pressure and eliminate the quarterback’s ability to climb the pocket. And you need that when you see Tom Brady twice a season.
Best fit: Los Angeles Rams
When Beckham is cleared to return from his left knee injury suffered in the Super Bowl, his best fit is re-signing in Los Angeles. Just look at his production and role in coach Sean McVay’s offense last season. During the Rams’ postseason run to Super Bowl LVI, Beckham caught 21 of 26 targets for 288 yards and two scores.
We can look at isolation routes outside the numbers here, as well as slot fades, where Beckham can get up on the toes of defensive backs. He displays a detailed route tree and the separation speed to get loose. Beckham also fits with McVay’s schemed concepts, where quarterback Matthew Stafford can deliver the ball with timing on crossers and in-breakers. The Rams added Allen Robinson II in free agency to join Cooper Kupp and Van Jefferson, but bringing Beckham back into the mix gives Stafford another proven target in a highly defined pass game.
Best fit: Las Vegas Raiders
An injury limited King to 10 games in Green Bay last season, but he’s a long corner with coverage traits. And he has shown the ability to finish on the ball as a pro (seven career interceptions).
The Raiders will be much more multiple from a coverage perspective this year under new defensive coordinator Patrick Graham. A mix of single-high and split-safety shells would allow King to pedal and play off the ball — or roll up and challenge from press. The Raiders did trade for corner Rock Ya-Sin this offseason, but with a new staff in place and a loaded group of opposing quarterbacks to defend in the AFC West, you can never have enough guys who can cover. King is only 27 years old.
Best fit: Jacksonville Jaguars
I view Collins as a scheme-specific safety at this stage of his career. He can run the alley in Quarters or spin down as a sub-package hybrid defender to generate disruption near the line of scrimmage. That’s why I’m looking at Jacksonville under new defensive coordinator Mike Caldwell, who joins the Jags after working with Todd Bowles and the Bucs in 2021.
Look at how safety Jordan Whitehead was deployed in Tampa Bay last season. Collins has the top-down juice and the physical traits to play underneath in a similar role. And Collins, who had three sacks in Washington last season, can also be schemed as a blitzer. Adding a veteran player like Collins — who has 11 career interceptions — creates much-needed competition for a Jaguars team trying to establish a new defensive identity.
Best fit: Indianapolis Colts
Jones has missed at least seven games in each of the past two seasons, and the tape tells us that his explosive traits are declining at this stage of his career. But with his physical profile, he can be schemed in Indianapolis’ pass game — which is led by Jones’ former Falcons’ teammate Matt Ryan. Adding a veteran to the Colts’ young wide receiver room could give them a boost in specific game situations.
Michael Pittman II plays a big role in Frank Reich’s offense, and I’m excited to watch the development of rookie wide receiver Alec Pierce, given his vertical ability in the red zone. While Parris Campbell is still in the Colts’ plans despite consistent injury issues, there is a fit here for Jones to pair with Ryan as a rotational target. Throw Jones the three-step quick-game passes and the deep in-breakers that cater to Ryan’s ability to deliver the ball with anticipation and location.
Jones only caught 31 passes last season in Tennessee, but he caught more than 800 balls and 59 touchdowns from Ryan over their 10 seasons together in Atlanta.
Best fit: Tennessee Titans
Beasley is nuanced and savvy, with the route quickness to separate underneath and the awareness to find soft voids in zone coverage. And he can still uncover from the slot. Beasley caught 82 of 112 targets this past season in Buffalo. He’s a chain-mover on third down and an interior target who will work the dirty areas of the field.
The Titans drafted Treylon Burks to replace A.J. Brown in their offense, and veteran Robert Woods is a good fit here given the in-breaking cuts we see in the team’s pass game. But Beasley would add a different element in 11 personnel sets, where the Titans need a boost in the dropback pass game on third down. He can shake coverage on crossers and option routes to give quarterback Ryan Tannehill a dependable second-level target when throwing from the pocket. Tennessee definitely needs some help here after ranking 27th in expected points added on third-down dropbacks last season.
Best fit: Dallas Cowboys
There is a premium on second-level players with sub-package traits in Dan Quinn’s defensive system. The Cowboys played a league-low 11 snaps of base defense in 2021. Enter Barr, who has the three-down ability to drop in coverage, pressure the QB and/or track the ball in the run game.
While I don’t see high-level impact ability with Barr at this stage of his career, he can be schemed-up in Quinn’s defense as a blitzer, and we know he has the ability to match/carry underneath in coverage. Barr picked off three passes last season in Minnesota.
Plus, with another rangy linebacker in Dallas, Quinn can drop Micah Parsons down as a defensive end in clear passing situations. The 2021 Defensive Rookie of the Year registered a pass rush win rate of 29.2% last season, tops in the NFL.
Best fit: New England Patriots
Flowers only played 14 games over the past two seasons, and the production never really hit in Detroit. Flowers produced just 10.5 sacks in his three years with the Lions. An edge rusher who lacks transcendent traits, Flowers benefits from heavily schemed fronts — which he will see back in New England.
Over his first three seasons in the NFL, the defensive end logged a total of 20.5 sacks with the Patriots. He wins with slants and stunts, along with the defined one-on-one pass-rush matchups. Flowers played his best and most disruptive football under Bill Belichick, so a return to New England makes sense.
Best fit: Pittsburgh Steelers
Fisher didn’t play his best football for the Colts last season after coming back from an Achilles injury suffered during the 2020 playoffs while with the Chiefs. But if we are looking at this as a depth/competition move, Pittsburgh could be in the mix here as a possible landing spot for Fisher. The Steelers have to continue to upgrade their offense line after already signing center Mason Cole and guard James Daniels in free agency.
I like the idea of adding the 31-year-old Fisher to push second-year left tackle Dan Moore in camp, as the Steelers will show the full playbook of Matt Canada’s offensive system with a new starting quarterback in either Mitch Trubisky or rookie Kenny Pickett. Fisher has posted a pass block win rate of at least 87% in each of his past four seasons.
Best fit: Cleveland Browns
Fuller’s availability issues are a real concern. In six pro years, he has never played a full season. Even so, the vertical element he brings to the field — the ability to run past the top of the secondary — should help him draw some interest over the summer and into training camp. Fuller’s 14.4 air yards per reception ranks third in the NFL since 2016.
He played with new Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson in Houston, and coach Kevin Stefanski schemes his play-action concepts, especially shot-play throws off max-protection, to create third-level voids to target. The Browns traded for Amari Cooper this offseason, and they do already have some straight-line speed on the roster in Donovan Peoples-Jones and Anthony Schwartz. But why not take a flier on Fuller as another deep-ball option for Watson?
Rob Gronkowski, TE: If Gronk doesn’t retire, his best fit is returning to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He is not a dominant force as a run-blocker at this stage of his career, but he can still stretch the seams and work the crossers. And Gronkowski would continue to see pass-game volume in Byron Leftwich’s system.
Sheldon Richardson, DT: Richardson can still produce some splash plays as an interior defender with pass-rush versatility. The Arizona Cardinals make sense to me as a landing spot. Richardson has the size and play strength to align in multiple spots for defensive coordinator Vance Joseph.
Dont’a Hightower, ILB: I can see Hightower re-signing with the New England Patriots later this summer. You have to think about the system here, with a defender who lacks three-down coverage traits. But Hightower can play downhill in the Patriots’ defense, using his high-level awareness to track the ball.