The NFL's wild 2022 offseason has delivered a new vibe to free agency. Teams that want to add veteran difference-makers are no longer limited to those on expiring contracts. Blockbuster trades have dominated this spring, allowing elite players who otherwise would not have been available -- Deshaun Watson, Russell Wilson, Davante Adams and Tyreek Hill among them -- to change teams.
As a result, signing a player to a contract extension is not necessarily a move for continuity. Ultimately, that contract can be leverage to receive a much larger return than the compensatory pick a team receives when a player departs via free agency.
All of which is to say that the 2023 free-agent class is not expected to look anything like the rankings that follow. Last year's version of this list featured only four players who eventually made it to the market. Likewise, most of the top 2023 pending free agents are likely to sign extensions or be franchise-tagged. They wouldn't be available on the market in that scenario, but who knows about a trade?
As always, we've weighted the rankings toward players in the "sweet spot" of free agency: exiting their first contract at the age of about 26. Quarterbacks and pass-rushers are more valuable than running backs and off-ball linebackers. We've also included a list of 2022 franchise players who, if they do not sign extensions before July 15, would be eligible once again for free agency in 2023. Players who are eligible for a fifth-year option in 2023, such as Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray, are not included. Let's get to it.