Predicting free agency is difficult, but here's a look at some of the players headed for the market who I would want to sign for value -- and some others who could end up agreeing to contracts that might look the worst, from a team's perspective, in a few years' time.
As I did with my list of the top 101 free agents of 2023, I've listed each player with the age they will be on Sept. 7, when the 2023 NFL season is set to kick off.
Players who could be underpriced
In terms of value, Allen reminds me of where Javon Hargrave was three years ago. Well-respected around the league, Hargrave inked a three-year, $39 million contract from the Eagles in 2020 that turned out to be one of the best signings of the last decade.
At the time, some might have wondered if Philadelphia paid too much of a premium for a good-not-great player. But the Eagles apparently knew Hargrave, then 27, was just hitting his prime, and the deal ended up being a steal for a true difference-maker. Allen has a different body type than Hargrave and can play as a 3-4 end when asked, but they are similar in that they can play in multiple fronts and create havoc on every down.
The pool of available off-ball linebackers is deep, but none have the upside of Long. He is great at avoiding contact while knifing in to tackle runners and when he gets sent on a blitz. The Titans developed Long after drafting him in the sixth round in 2019, and his next team should reap the benefits.
Slayton's up-and-down tenure with the Giants ended with a season (46 catches, 724 receiving yards, two receiving TDs) that reminded everyone why he was so intriguing in the first place. Slayton would fit well as a third or fourth receiver who can get deep down the field. His drops and a lack of physicality will likely prevent him from being a highly paid starter, but shopping in this free agency class is about finding quality role players. Virtually every team needs receiving help, and Slayton will bring speed at a price that figures to be around what Zay Jones was paid by Jacksonville a year ago (three years, $24 million).
Peters is the type of player who tends to get undervalued in free agency. Though he's far from a long-term solution, Peters can provide average starting cornerback play at worst and could still pop up with a top-20 type of season. And he'll ultimately cost something like $9 million on a one-year deal. That's a bargain.
Misused on the outside last season by the Patriots, Jones could be an upgrade on a lot of slot cornerbacks around the league if New England doesn't bring him back. Pure speed was never Jones' game, so he should age well.
I like young, talented players who have previously performed at a high level, but are coming off a poor season because of a scheme change. Ford didn't quite fit what the Seahawks were trying to do in 2022, but men with his size (310 pounds) and movement skills are hard to find.
Ceedy Deuce is ranked in the top 10 on my top 101 free agent list, but NFL teams have still been slow to pay hybrid safety/slot corner types. It probably won't help Gardner-Johnson that there are so many safeties available this offseason, but his versatility and aggressiveness make him more valuable than the rest.
There were a couple of weeks last season when Elliss looked like Patrick Willis for the Saints. You had to be there, but it was awesome. (Also, I love unnecessary letters at the end of a name.)
Players who could be overpriced
There are too many mid-level quarterbacks available this offseason to justify treating Mayfield like a potential starter, and there's no need to pay a premium just because he was the No. 1 overall draft pick five years ago. His accuracy, aggressiveness and experience would be assets for him in a clear backup role, but Mayfield just hasn't shown the ability to see the field well as a pro, and there's little reason to think he'll start now.
McGlinchey is a solid player, but the 49ers got the best years out of him. I'm a big believer that offensive linemen are worth paying in free agency or obtaining via trade if they are big difference-makers. Otherwise, drafting and coaching matters more when it comes to quality line play. A lot of the biggest mistakes in free agent history have stemmed from teams overpaying good-but-unspectacular offensive-line starters whose capabilities don't translate to a new system.
Much of what I wrote about McGlinchey above applies to McGary, too. The differences are that McGary (who was drafted in 2019, one year after McGlinchey) has put fewer miles on his body (good!) and has a significantly less-proven track record (bad!). I'm always wary of shelling out for a tackle who profiles as much better in the running game than in pass protection, which describes McGary. I'm also wary of a player who had a career year in the final season of a contract but put forth substandard play before that.
On his first run in Super Bowl LVII, Sanders bounced to the outside even though he didn't need to, a mistake he's been making throughout his career. He's a boom-or-bust player with terrific production. It was telling that the Eagles trusted Kenneth Gainwell to play 12 more snaps than Sanders on football's biggest stage.
It feels bizarre to list Davenport in this context, because I've been a longtime fan of his game when he's right. But he just can't stay on the field, and his production goes way up and down. The primary reason I named him here is that he's the best of a meager edge-rushing crop in free agency, and that could push his price tag up, because teams have to spend on someone. He may be the biggest boom-or-bust signing, and it wouldn't be a surprise if he provided his next team with one great season, along with one during which he's barely there.
He's fine! But he's also hurt so often, and he will probably be considered in the Teddy Bridgewater/Andy Dalton bridge-quarterback-for-hire tier permanently a year from now, so there's no need to pay a premium in 2023.
Edmunds made a big jump in his coverage ability in 2022. Considering all the big plays he gave up in his first four seasons, though, it's fair to expect some regression. He also was in an ideal system surrounded by great players in Buffalo, and recreating that in a new setting will be difficult. It feels like paying him now would be like buying his stock at an all-time high.