- Jakobi Meyers should be seeing dollar signs: The receiver is destined to get overpaid amidst an underwhelming free-agent receiver class.
- Derek Carr should benefit from a weak QB class in free agency: The veteran is the best QB on the open market, so a bidding war may commence.
- Check out PFF's NFL free agent rankings!
Estimated reading time: 8 minutes
This year's NFL free agency period is unusual. The salary cap is the highest it has ever been, but this year's free agent class isn't strong enough for all the money that will be spent on it. The relative supply scarcity at some positions could cause some huge deals to still be signed, or we could see teams retain their own players in an effort to avoid the free for all spending that usually takes place in March.
Here are some players who will likely to get overpaid relative to their performance and some underrated alternatives.
WR Jakobi Meyers
This year's free agent class may be weakest at receiver. Meyers is the best one available. Meyers gets open well and has caught 70.7% of the passes thrown his way over his NFL career, but he is a complementary piece — not a line-leading receiver. Due to the sheer lack of supply in the market this offseason, Meyers may end up getting overpaid despite consistent evidence of his ceiling.
Underrated alternative: WR DEONTE HARTY
The New Orleans Saints discovered a new speedy deep threat and gadget receiver in Rashid Shaheed last season, but Harty has been an outstanding playmaker in that role. Harty only has 99 targets in his NFL career, but he's generated 2.28 yards per route run over that time and shows up exceptionally well in some advanced receiver metrics. Harty could be an outstanding payoff for a team looking to add a complementary piece who can produce big plays out of nothing.
QB Derek Carr
Sometimes, a team being willing to offload a player should raise red flags for anybody looking to acquire him. Carr is a capable starting quarterback, and there are absolutely NFL teams that would be much better off with that level of performance in the building, but Carr was also making $40 million per season, and the Las Vegas Raiders clearly decided that he wasn’t living up to that billing, particularly in a division that also contains Patrick Mahomes and Justin Herbert. Carr is coming off a year in which he ranked 25th in PFF passing grade (65.4) while accumulating almost as many turnover-worthy plays (19) as big-time throws (21). As the best freely available quarterback, he may still get a huge payday, but the trend in the league now has been to move on from players that can only achieve ‘good’, and chase ‘great’.
Underrated alternative: QB ANDY DALTON
One of the under-the-radar stories of the 2022 season was Dalton actually playing quite well for the Saints at quarterback once he had to step in for an injured Jameis Winston. Dalton bounced back to his previous level of solid starting quarterback despite an offensive line that had its issues and a receiving corps that was a work in progress. Dalton won’t be anybody’s first preference to take their team to a Super Bowl, but he showed last season that he can get you very close to a Carr level of performance without the $40 million price tag.
RB Saquon Barkley
You know the story by now: PFF is anti-running back. Don’t draft them in the top five and don’t give them big-money contracts — it’s in the terms and conditions when you sign up to PFF+. Barkley’s career thus far is an advertisement for not drafting backs at the very top of the draft, and the story is the same with big-money contracts. Running backs need too much help around them to command that large of a percentage of a team's salary cap. Barkley had a career year in 2022, racking up 1,312 yards with 820 coming after contact. He was even a big part of downing the Minnesota Vikings in the playoffs, but signing him to a huge-money contract is a move unlikely to make a team better overall.
Underrated alternative: RB KAREEM HUNT
Hunt was sufficiently marginalized during his time with the Cleveland Browns for Nick Chubb that he may actually be quite affordable this free agency period. Hunt has a complete running back skill set and is one of the better receivers at the position in the league. That time in Chubb’s shadow may also have helped extend his NFL lifespan by keeping him on a relatively low workload. He has just 443 total carries over four seasons in Cleveland and has been on the field for less than 1,100 snaps over the entirety of his six-year NFL career. Hunt has high-end starting talent and may be significantly cheaper than the other big-name backs that are hitting the market.
CB James Bradberry
Bradberry is looking to cash in one last time after his career year for the Philadelphia Eagles, which unfortunately may be best remembered for the holding call at the end of Super Bowl LVII. Bradberry excelled with 12 pass breakups in the regular season while allowing a 51.8 passer rating into his coverage, including the playoffs — the best mark in the NFL. The Eagles had an outstanding defense, and Bradberry’s ability to thrive opposite Darius Slay was in stark contrast to his performance when he had to be the top corner in a defense that didn’t have as much talent. Now on the wrong side of 30 years old, teams might be wise to be wary of an inevitable regression to the mean after setting a new career benchmark this year.
Underrated alternative: CB JAMEL DEAN
For some reason, Dean is a constantly overlooked player at cornerback. A third-round pick in 2019, Dean has allowed a 77.6 passer rating into his coverage for his entire career and only 54.7% of passes thrown his way to be caught. He has consistently earned a PFF coverage grade in the high 70s, and this year, he only missed one tackle all season. He is a very capable starter with outstanding size that will likely come at a vastly cheaper price than Bradberry.
LB Tremaine Edmunds
If you look just at this year’s evidence, Edmunds is the ideal free agent. His 90.0 PFF coverage grade was the best in the NFL among all linebackers. He has elite size (6-foot-5, 250 pounds) and speed (4.54-second 40-time) and is hitting the open market before turning 25 years old. The concern is that this season’s career year is a huge outlier from his previous career baseline. Before this season, his average PFF coverage grade was just 44.5 and trending in the wrong direction. This year proved he is capable of putting it all together, but it also means any new team is buying high and hoping his play avoids a slump back down to Earth.
Underrated alternative: LB GERMAINE PRATT
In many ways, Pratt mirrors Edmunds' story, but he comes with none of the notoriety. Pratt was a third-round pick instead of a first-rounder, isn’t quite the same physical specimen and is heading toward his 27th birthday. He is also coming off a career year that is a significant outlier relative to his prior baseline, but the extremes aren’t as wild and he likely won’t cost nearly as much if he does turn back into a pumpkin the moment pen is put to paper.
EDGE MARCUS DAVENPORT
Much was expected of Davenport, as the Saints traded a future first-round pick to move up in the draft and select him, so they clearly expected him to become a superstar. He has all of the necessary ingredients but never quite managed that transition. In five years, Davenport has only played more than 500 snaps in a season once, and his career high for pressures is 51. He has consistently graded well as a pass-rusher but never made it to that elite bracket. Nonetheless, at 26 years old and with incredible size (6-foot-6, 265 pounds) and athleticism (91st percentile 40-yard time and 88th percentile broad jump), he is exactly the type of player teams pay big money for expecting the breakout to come.
Underrated alternative: EDGE Charles Omenihu
Nick Bosa enjoyed a Defensive Player of the Year season for the San Francisco 49ers with 98 pressures across 19 games, but Omenihu quietly had an excellent year on the other side. The former fifth-round draft pick set new career highs for snaps (659), pressures (62) and defensive stops (13), and he now has back-to-back seasons with a 75.0-plus PFF pass-rushing grade. At just 25 years old, Omenihu should be entering his prime and could be a much better gamble than one on Davenport.