NFL free agency: Best players still available on Day 2

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Believe it or not, NFL free agency is just getting started.

Contracts can’t even officially be signed until Wednesday, but the first day of negotiations lived up to the frenzied expectations as dozens of big names came off the board. The Patriots alone signed seven players to deals worth more than $200 million.

Now what? Well, there are still a few players expected to command $15 million or more per year to be had before the second-tier bargain-shopping takes over. Here is a look at the top three players still available entering Tuesday at each offensive and defensive position:


Alex Smith, Andy Dalton, Tyrod Taylor

Cam Newton re-signed with the Patriots before free agency opened. Jameis Winston is replacing the retired Drew Brees with the Saints. Ryan Fitzpatrick is headed to his ninth team, Washington. Which teams want to challenge underachieving youngsters? That’s where the next three will go.

Running back

Chris Carson, Kenyan Drake, James Conner

Aaron Jones reportedly would’ve fielded a big market if he didn’t re-sign with the Packers. Will those same teams pony up for the other 1,000-yard rushers? Or are other backs about to be underwhelmed, like Melvin Gordon in 2020? Plenty of pass-catching specialists, too.

Wide receiver

Kenny Golladay, JuJu Smith-Schuster, Will Fuller

Slow-moving market so far except for Corey Davis’ $37.5 million deal with the Jets. Golladay is a true No. 1, but Smith-Schuster doesn’t get enough respect for his production by age 24. The rest depends on the buyer’s wish list. Speed? Fuller. Versatility? Curtis Samuel.

Tight end

Hunter Henry, Gerald Everett, Kyle Rudolph

Jonnu Smith’s four-year, $50 million deal with the Patriots sent shock waves around the league, especially with Henry on the board. Rob Gronkowski wasn’t a true free agent because he was only going back to the Bucs.

Offensive tackle:

Trent Williams, Alejandro Villanueva, Mitchell Schwartz

Tackles are playing into their late 30s and Williams is a 32-year-old future Hall of Famer. This market got deeper within the last week when cap casualties Schwartz, who is coming off back surgery, and Riley Reiff joined Villanueva and Russell Okung.

Offensive guard

Trai Turner, Gabe Jackson, Kyle Long

This market thinned out fast Monday, when Kevin Zeitler (Ravens) and Pat Elflein (Panthers) signed and Andrew Norwell (Jaguars) agreed to a pay cut to not get released. The three-time Pro Bowler Long is coming out of a one-year retirement.


David Andrews, Alex Mack, Austin Reiter

First-Team All-Pro Corey Linsley cashed in on a $62.5 million deal with the Chargers as the clear-cut No. 1 option. Mack is a few years removed from playing at that elite level. The rest are journeyman stopgaps.


Anthony Harris, Malik Hooker, Xavier Woods

John Johnson’s $33.75 million deal with the Browns means he’s no longer under-appreciated. But Harris is a better player, and the Vikings made a mistake not getting something in return for him either this season or last. Injury concerns could make the ball-hawking Hooker a value pick-up.


Shaquill Griffin, William Jackson, Patrick Peterson

The strength of this market is determined by what several older players – Peterson, Richard Sherman, Casey Heyward and Malcolm Butler, for example – have left in the tank. Griffin and Jackson are the only No. 1 cornerbacks in their prime.

Inside linebacker

Jayon Brown, Kyle Van Noy, K.J. Wright

Lavonte David (Buccaneers) and Matt Milano (Bills) both re-signed just before free agency started. Coverage linebackers are a rare commodity. Brown is the best of the bunch, Van Noy could play inside or on the edge and Wright has done it for a long time. 

Defensive tackle

Ndamukong Suh, Jurrell Casey, Sheldon Rankins

Looking for an impact player? You are out of luck after missing out on Dalvin Tomlinson (Vikings) and Shelby Harris (Broncos). The top of the draft isn’t great, either. Suh is no longer his $114 million self, but still plays almost every snap.

Defensive end/outside linebacker

Jadeveon Clowney, Haason Reddick, Melvin Ingram

Eight edge rushers already signed deals with an average annual value between $13-18 million. Clowney over-valued himself last offseason and waited until August to sign. Reddick is a wild card: were the former first-round pick’s 12.5 sacks a breakout or a fluke?

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