Best NFL Free Agents Available as of 7/8/2024

Free agency is slow right now, but it’s certainly not over. Plenty of impactful players are there for the taking, and they should all be signed once they find the right fit and acceptable contracts. I thought we’d reassess the free agency landscape and see who’s still out there. We’ve got a mix of different positions here, but very little remains at the WR, DT, TE and RB positions (unlike last year at this time). The status of RBs as the position of value has been claimed by safeties. Now then; here are the 10 best NFL free agents that are still available as of 7/8/2024 (in no particular order)!

QB Ryan Tannehill

I wanted to get at least one QB on the list given how important the position is. That left me with only one real option. Tannehill is by far the most accomplished QB available. I imagine he only hasn’t been signed because he didn’t want to be. Skipping training camp and/or waiting for a potential opportunity to emerge (for example, via an injury) can be beneficial for a veteran. Tannehill had his worst year by far in 2023 with Tennessee while fighting through injury and a horrible offensive line. I hesitate to say he’s cooked on that basis. At the very least, he’s a high-end backup, and someone should come calling during the preseason.

OT Donovan Smith

To even look at Smith, you have to get past his penalties. He’s a holding machine, and the Chiefs found that issue too problematic to re-sign him. If you can get past that though, Smith is a very effective blocker. As the starting LT on two Super Bowl-winning teams (TB and KC), he must be doing something right. The way I see it, whether he prevents sacks by blocking or by penalty, he’s keeping his QB upright, which is essential. You can probably acquire Smith on an inexpensive contract, which he is highly likely to outperform. Given the dearth of linemen across the league, Smith should certainly be employed.

G Halapoulivaati Vaitai

This would be one of the riskiest signings on the list, but not a costly one. Vaitai was never elite, but he had been a serviceable starting guard for a stellar Lions line. His 2023 season was decimated by injuries though, and he hasn’t fully recovered. Knee and back injuries afflicted him in succession, and he became a cap casualty. With a full offseason to recover, Vaitai should be relatively healthy for 2024. Teams everywhere need interior linemen, whether as starters or depth. Guards got paid this free agency period, but Vaitai would be a cheap option with excellent upside.

C Connor Williams

A former left guard in Dallas who switched to center for the Dolphins, Williams played well in 2022 and the start of 2023. A torn ACL ended his second campaign in Miami, and the team suffered in his absence. Free rushers and botched snaps were plentiful without Williams, but the Dolphins opted to sign Aaron Brewer instead this offseason. While guards are being valued more these days, centers are still underappreciated. Add in the fact that Williams can play center AND guard, and whoever signs him gets a versatile piece up front. Someone needs to scoop up all these quality blockers.

DE Yannick Ngakoue

Once again, Ngakoue finds himself unsigned and on this list. That’s a little more understandable this time around, as he is coming off a career-worst 4-sack season with Chicago. It should be noted though that 2023 was his only season with less than 8 sacks. At just 29 years old, Ngakoue is probably still the player who put up good pass rushing numbers every year, and I’ll cautiously describe last year as a blip based on the Bears’ dysfunction. He still doesn’t do a whole lot against the run, but consistent QB hunters are prized assets, especially those who can do it in many systems.

LB Shaquille Leonard

Players appear on this list for a reason. In many cases, that reason concerns injuries. Leonard is the clearest example. For the first 4 years of his career, Leonard was the best MLB in football. He tackled, rushed QBs, and picked off passes at a frantic pace. Then, a debilitating injury struck in 2022. Leonard underwent 2 surgeries for nerve damage in his back, and the Colts cut him in the middle of 2023 when they determined that he was no longer the same player. I personally saw flashes of his former self, and more time to recover could aid him. Leonard is hungry to disprove his doubters, making him a very intriguing signing.

CB Stephon Gilmore

Gilmore is getting older (he’s now 33), but there’s no doubt that he can still get the job done. No, he isn’t the DPOY from 2019 who dominated the league with the Patriots, but the Gilmore we’ve seen with Dallas and Indianapolis the past two years has still been a quality corner. We’re in more of a passing league than ever, so guys who can cover will continue to be vital. Gilmore wins mostly with technique rather than pure athleticism these days, but he’s a very savvy player who would be extremely helpful to a contender. You need to beat the best QBs to win a Super Bowl, and Gilmore would aid in that effort.

CB Xavien Howard

Anyone who signs Howard has to believe that his 2023 season was marred by injuries, not a physical decline. He was one of the best corners in the game through the 2022 season, but his INT totals have dropped precipitously the past two years (1 each season). Ball hawking was Howard’s claim to fame, and to make matters worse, he got burned on numerous deep routes this past season. A lot of that was playing through injury, and Miami could no longer justify keeping him under his prior contract. Howard is 30 years old, which is a tricky age for CBs. I suspect he has a couple more good years in him though.

S Justin Simmons

Inarguably the best available FA at any position, Simmons should’ve been signed within a day of becoming a cap casualty in Denver. He is the only player on this list who made the Pro Bowl in 2023, and he’s only 30 years old (which is just fine for a safety). Simmons has never had fewer than 2 INTs in a season, his PBU totals are immense, and he racks up tackles. This is one of the best safeties in football, not just among free agents. Perhaps Simmons is waiting until the grind of training camp concludes or is dissatisfied by the poor safety market. There’s no other reason to not sign him.

S Quandre Diggs

It was really hard to choose just one safety to join Simmons in rounding out this list. Jamal Adams is the former Seahawk safety who attracts all the conversation, but Diggs has been the much better player. Though he earned just one interception last year, that feels fluky because he had 3 or more INTs every season from 2017 to 2022. Diggs was also asked to help more in run support last year, and he responded with a career-high 95 tackles. That added versatility should’ve helped him on the free agent market. Instead, he’s inexplicably available, which should really change before the season starts.

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