Free agency is fast approaching, officially beginning at 4 p.m. ET on Wednesday, March 15, which is when NFL teams will start shelling out a whole lot of dough for veteran difference-makers. Ahead of the new league year, I wanted to highlight 10 boom-or-bust free agents, with ceiling and floor scenarios discussed for each player.
NOTE: Players are listed with the age they will be on Sept. 7, when the 2023 NFL season is set to kick off.
Boom: OBJ makes a full recovery from his second ACL injury and provides a dynamic element to an offense in need -- much like he did for the Los Angeles Rams in their Super Bowl run, registering 48 catches for 593 yards and seven TDs in 12 games, including the playoffs. Even in his 30s, Beckham still possesses the skill set and talent to win against a majority of defenders, helping an offense get over the hump in 2023.
Bust: A boom-or-bust free agent last year, Beckham's had two ACL surgeries since 2020 and hasn't played a snap since Super Bowl LVI. Despite visiting several teams late in 2022, OBJ wasn't ready to play in the regular season, ultimately preventing him from signing. In the bust scenario, he's unable to return to being the explosive receiver he was early in his career and during the Rams' title run.
Boom: Playing on the franchise tag in 2022, Brown helped the Chiefs return to Super Bowl glory. Now the top offensive tackle available in free agency will merit top dollar, and if placed in an offense similar to Kansas City's -- one that leans on the run and uses play-action off it -- the money spent on Brown will be well worth it.
Bust: Brown got beat plenty as a pass protector in Kansas City. That's not to say this hulking bookend simply cannot get the job done, but his new passer must be able to move in the pocket. (No sitting ducks, please!) Brown's inconsistencies could be further magnified if he lands in an offense that is primarily a dropback-pass operation.
Boom: In a fresh start, Clowney lines up opposite a premier pass rusher just like he did in Cleveland -- though his recent comments derailed that marriage. After playing 63 percent of defensive snaps in 2022, the veteran is used as a rotational pass rusher in a decreased role (SEE: Brandon Graham's '22 production) but becomes far more impactful than he was in his two-sack performance of this past season.
Bust: The days of being an every-down pass rusher are gone, but his new team still tries to use him in that way. The veteran, who's never hit double-digit sacks in a season, steps into a more prominent role but fails to make the impact of a big-money pass rusher.
Boom: The former first-round pick generates a ton of power to knock blockers into the backfield on his way to the quarterback. The best-case scenario is the pass rusher finally stays healthy for a full season and wreck shop off the edge for an emerging contender.
Bust: It's simple. Five years into his pro career, Davenport has never played a full slate of games. He participated in a career-high 15 games in 2022, making nine starts, but only had half a sack when it was all said and done. His inability to stay healthy -- which undoubtedly has played a role in him starting only 32 of his 63 career game appearances -- continues to prevent him from being an impact player up front.
Boom: Garoppolo is a proven winner, going 38-17 as a starter in San Francisco and leading the 49ers to a Super Bowl. In the boom scenario, Jimmy G proves he not only can win under Kyle Shanahan -- and Josh McDaniels/Bill Belichick in New England before that -- but that he can thrive with another play-caller, one who designs his attack to suit Garoppolo's strengths.
Bust: He's enjoyed success as an NFL starter under premier offensive play-callers, completing 67.6 percent of his passes and posting an 87:42 TD-to-INT ratio over 74 career games. After joining a new team this offseason, Garoppolo swiftly realizes just how good he had it. He struggles to maintain his consistent play in a new environment, playing with what will almost certainly be a less-talented supporting cast.
Boom: Gesicki joins a team that utilizes his strengths as a route runner and blocker in space. Joining a wide-open offense -- and one with fewer dynamic weapons that won't steal his targets, as Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle did in Miami -- Gesicki has the ability to enjoy a career year as a big-time playmaker in the slot.
Bust: Joining a run-first offense won't play to Gesicki's skill set. He's not a George Kittle type who loves moving defenders off the line. Getting bogged down in a more physical role will limit him as a playmaker in the pass game.
Boom: With Aaron Rodgers' endorsement as the Packers' No. 1 receiver in 2022, Lazard recorded career highs in catches (60) and receiving yards (788) to go along with six TD grabs. With postseason experience, the sixth-year wideout has the big-play ability to help take an offense to the next level if paired up with a consistent passer.
Bust: Lazard could be in line to get good money in a weak wide receiver market. However, how will he bode with a quarterback not named Aaron Rodgers, whom Lazard has played with his entire NFL career? Lazard could prove to be just another guy. In fact, that feels like the likely scenario to me.
Boom: Peterson is coming off his best campaign in years, intercepting five passes (second-most in a season for his career) for a Vikings defense that ranked ninth in turnovers in 2022. The eight-time Pro Bowler finds a team that primarily plays zone, with premier pass rushers setting up opportunities for takeaways in the secondary. The veteran leader has flourished in that environment in the past -- and would do so again in 2023.
Bust: Once a lockdown corner on the island, Peterson's days of manning up against No. 1 receivers for 60 minutes are over. He'll likely become a liability if he's routinely asked to play man coverage at this stage of his career, though he could excel at it sporadically.
Boom: Sanders is coming off a career year that saw him rush for 1,269 yards and 11 touchdowns on 259 carries (4.9 yards per tote). The Pro Bowler continues to find success in 2023 as a playmaker between the tackles and in the pass game, providing balance and big-play ability to an offense in need of talent.
Bust: Sanders had his best season alongside MVP candidate Jalen Hurts, who was the focal point of the Eagles' top-five rushing attack. Without a dual-threat QB demanding attention in the run game, Sanders' production reverts to around 800 rush yards per season.
Boom: The energetic veteran leader picks up right where his record-setting 2022 campaign left off. On the heels of his league-best 17-TD running season, Williams continues to be a valuable goal-line and short-yardage back.
Bust: A team looks to use Williams as more than a short-yardage back. Turning 28 years old in April, he doesn't have the same burst he showcased early in his career and loses his job as an every-down back before midseason.