NFL Free Agents 2023: Predictions for Top Players Expected to Hit Open Market

Zach Buckley@@ZachBuckleyNBAFeatured Columnist IVJanuary 3, 2023

NFL Free Agents 2023: Predictions for Top Players Expected to Hit Open Market

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    BALTIMORE, MARYLAND - DECEMBER 04: Lamar Jackson #8 of the Baltimore Ravens warms up before the game against the Denver Broncos at M&T Bank Stadium on December 04, 2022 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by G Fiume/Getty Images)
    G Fiume/Getty Images

    As a handful of NFL teams get rolling with playoff preparations, a bigger batch of franchises should be thinking about how this offseason might help them join the next postseason picture.

    Adding a top-shelf free agent or two might do the trick.

    The 2023 class isn't particularly loaded, but it does have some dynamic players, including two of the most notable names at the quarterback spot. We'll spotlight three of the top footballers-for-hire and break out the crystal ball to see where they could land.

Tom Brady, QB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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    TAMPA, FL - JANUARY 01: Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady (12) throws a pass during the regular season game between the Carolina Panthers and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on January 01, 2023 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
    Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

    It's certainly possible that Brady, who turned 45 years young in August, decides to hang them up and actually stays away this time. Then again, a recent report from NFL.com's Ian Rapoport and Tom Pelissero said "all options are on the table," so he could absolutely sign up for another year—in Tampa or elsewhere.

    This hasn't been Brady's best season by any stretch, but his down years could be career campaigns for others. His 4,610 passing yards rank second overall, and his 24 touchdowns are tied for ninth.

    He also just helped the Bucs lock up the NFC South crown. Granted, Tampa needed only eight wins to get the job done, but a division title is a division title.

    He could opt to run it back with the Buccaneers, but he'll have other options. Everything from heading back to New England to taking the reins in Miami to joining former teammate and current Titans coach Mike Vrabel in Tennessee feels like it's on the table.

    Prediction: Brady signs a one-year deal with the Titans

Lamar Jackson, QB, Baltimore Ravens

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    BALTIMORE, MARYLAND - DECEMBER 04: Quarterback Lamar Jackson #8 of the Baltimore Ravens drops back to pass against the Denver Broncos at M&T Bank Stadium on December 04, 2022 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
    Rob Carr/Getty Images

    The Ravens haven't inked an extension with Jackson yet, but they cannot, under any circumstances, let him reach the open market.

    If he did, every team with question marks at quarterback and even a few without would surely be racing to set up a recruiting pitch.

    He is 25 years old and already has an MVP and three playoff trips under his belt. He is, essentially, a functional offense on his own, leading a Baltimore attack that severely lacks playmakers around him. He's a good enough passer to elevate lesser receivers and an electric runner who can routinely create something out of nothing.

    If the Ravens can't get a long-term deal done, they can always use the franchise tag to keep him around, but it's in their best interest—and his—to get a lengthy agreement ironed out.

    Prediction: Jackson signs a five-year contract with the Ravens

Roquan Smith, LB, Baltimore Ravens

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    BALTIMORE, MARYLAND - DECEMBER 04: Roquan Smith #18 of the Baltimore Ravens is introduced before the game against the Denver Broncos at M&T Bank Stadium on December 04, 2022 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by G Fiume/Getty Images)
    G Fiume/Getty Images

    Back in October, Baltimore parted with two draft picks—including a second-rounder—and veteran linebacker A.J. Klein to pry Smith away from the Bears.

    The Ravens must already think that was a bargain swap.

    He's been a tone-setting tackle machine. In eight games with the Ravens, he has 70 tackles, six tackles for loss, two sacks and an interception. Tack on his eight outings with Chicago, and he's sitting on 153 tackles, 10 tackles for loss, 4.5 sacks and three interceptions.

    This is where it's worth mentioning that Smith, like Jackson, is 25 years old. In other words, Baltimore could—and should—lock down cornerstone talents on both sides of the ball this offseason.

    Prediction: Smith signs a four-year deal to stay in Baltimore

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