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Free Agency 2023: High-priced and budget free agents at every position

East Rutherford, New Jersey, USA; Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson (8) drops back to pass against the New York Jets during the first half at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

NFL free agency is upon us, which means monster signings and new beginnings for players around the league.

Sure, a team can sign the biggest name, but there are diamonds in the rough who can be effective contributors, as well. Here is one expensive and one bargain possibility at each position as we head toward free agency. 

QUARTERBACK

Pricier option: Lamar Jackson

Jackson is not just the league's most electrifying open-field runner at the quarterback position. His 4.9% big-time throw rate since 2019 is a top-16 mark among qualifying quarterbacks, and he boasts a 93.3 passing grade on throws 10-plus yards downfield in that same span.

Contract projection: Available in PFF's free agency rankings

Low-budget option: Jacoby Brissett

Brissett proved to be a great choice for the Browns as their interim quarterback in 2022, and he doesn't get enough credit for his solid play through the first 11 games. His 75.2 passing grade ranked 12th among quarterbacks with at least 100 attempts on the season, and he placed in the top 10 in big-time throw rate (4.9%). Brissett should once again become one of the highest-paid backup quarterbacks in the NFL if he doesn't get a shot as a bridge starting quarterback.

Contract projection: Available in PFF's free agency rankings


RUNNING BACK

Pricier option: Saquon Barkley

When healthy, there is no question Barkley is a difference-maker on the ground and through the air. That may be understating things, as he was a significant chunk of the Giants' offense in the 2022 regular season. Barkley accounted for nearly 30% of New York's total yards on offense in 2022. His usage appeared to have caught up with him at times, but that illustrates how much he did for the team in every conceivable way.

While we're a few years and injuries removed from Barkley's historic rookie campaign in 2018, during which he racked up more than 2,000 all-purpose yards and a staggering 91 receptions, Barkley will be just 26 for the 2023 season and has a very high floor wherever he ends up. His 32 explosive rushes this season tied for the fifth most among running backs, and while the upside of him breaking off a big gain is where a lot of his value lies, it's also notable that he dropped his rate of stuffed runs down to 6.8% in 2022 compared to 9.2% over his three healthy seasons when he tried to bounce too many runs outside instead of trusting his blocking.

Contract projection: Available in PFF's free agency rankings

Low-budget option: SAMAJE PERINE

Perine clearly earned a lot of trust from the Bengals coaching staff and became a key third-down running back for Cincinnati despite the presence of the highly-paid Joe Mixon. Last season, Perine garnered 47 targets and earned a 72.7 pass-blocking grade that was nearly double that of Mixon.

The six-year veteran takes care of the ball — he hasn't fumbled since his rookie season and has dropped just four passes in the last two seasons despite seeing 78 targets.

On a smaller sample size, Perine did better to work through contact in 2022, with his 2.96 yards after contact per rushing attempt also besting Mixon's mark.

Contract projection: Available in PFF's free agency rankings


WIDE RECEIVER

Pricier option: Jakobi Meyers

Meyers is predominantly a slot receiver but is certainly not just that, logging a little more than one-third of his snaps out wide. What he lacks in physical tools – his 4.63-second 40-yard dash ranks in the 14th percentile among wide receivers in PFF's database – he more than makes up for with sharp route running and great hands. Over the past three seasons, his 3.1% drop rate ranks ninth among qualifying wide receivers, and at 6-foot-2 and 200 pounds, he can use his frame to make contested catches. His 63.2% contested catch rate is a top-five mark among all wide receivers over the same span.

Contract projection: Available in PFF's free agency rankings

Low-budget option: JARVIS LANDRY

Landry is an underneath slot receiver who could feast if he lands with a team that has quality pass-catchers commanding attention on the outside. And after missing most of the 2022 season with an injury, he is likely looking at one-year flier contract offers once again in 2023.

Landry is also known to be a good veteran leader, which could be a nice addition to a team with young offensive weapons. He’s coming off the two worst seasons of his career, but he was arguably the best slot receiver in the NFL from 2015 to 2020 — his 3,938 receiving yards, 1,748 yards after the catch, 1,166 yards after contact and 91 explosive receptions of 15 or more yards all ranked first among qualifying slot receivers over that span.

Buying low on a potential bounce-back could age nicely in the right setting.

Contract projection: Available in PFF's free agency rankings


TIGHT END

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