10 best NFL free agents after 2024 NFL Draft and predicting where they’ll sign

Even though the draft has come and gone, there's still a lot of talent waiting to find a new home. Here are our picks for the top 10 free agents and where they may end up.
Calais Campbell is a future Hall-of-Famer, but what team will he end up on for this upcoming season?
Calais Campbell is a future Hall-of-Famer, but what team will he end up on for this upcoming season? / Grant Halverson/GettyImages

No other sport can create offseason excitement like the NFL. No sooner does the Super Bowl conclude than teams begin preparations for next season, and the ensuing rush of trades, free agent signings, and the NFL Draft can give hope to even the most down-on-its-luck fanbase.

Most of this year's offseason player movement has already taken place. With many teams needing to maneuver to get under the salary cap, even as it is set to explode to a new high next year, dozens of outstanding players became available. NFL fans that don't tune in until Week 1 will be lost when they see where some of their favorite players wound up. Kirk Cousins to the Falcons? Justin Fields and Russell Wilson to the Steelers? Saquon Barkley to the Eagles?! It's been a wild few months.

The NFL Draft only concluded last week, and many teams were able to drastically remake their rosters. The Bears ushered in an exciting new era by drafting Caleb Willams and Rome Odunze. The Commanders and Patriots did the same with Jayden Daniels and Drake Maye, respectively. The Falcons... drafted Michael Penix Jr. to sit behind the newly-acquired Cousins?

Time will tell which franchises succeeded in turning themselves into contenders, but the work is still not done. There are plenty of impact players still available in free agency, and with the draft now in the rearview mirror, teams have a better understanding of what they need to complete their rosters.

Here are our picks for the top 10 free agents still remaining, and our guesses for where they might sign before the season begins.

Justin Simmons, Detroit Lions

This is a sentence that has probably never been written before. The Lions are one of the favorites to win the Super Bowl. Dan Campbell's team nearly reached the big game this past season, but Detroit squandered a double-digit lead to the 49ers and fell just short.

The Lions' offense was one of the best in the NFL a year ago, but it's their defense that needs to take the next step. The line has already been bolstered, with former Bengals defensive tackle DJ Reader and former Viking Marcus Davenport joining Aidan Hutchinson and Alim McNeill.

The secondary is in the midst of a much-needed remake, but it's not done yet. Gone are CJ Gardner-Johnson, Tracy Walker, and Cam Sutton, and in their place are first-round pick Terrion Arnold from Alabama and Amik Robertson from the Raiders. All that's needed now is an experienced safety, and Justin Simmons fits the bill perfectly.

Simmons was just one of the cap-slashing moves made by the Broncos this offseason as they sought to rebuild. There's no questioning his production, though, as he's been named a Second Team All-Pro four of the past five years, during which time he's snagged 23 interceptions. He could immediately step in as a defensive captain, and with three young and talented quarterbacks now populating the NFC North in Jordan Love, Caleb Williams, and JJ McCarthy, he could provide stability against the pending air assault.

Stephon Gilmore, Dallas Cowboys

After another massively disappointing playoff exit, the Cowboys are facing a do-or-die season. Dak Prescott has just one year left on his deal, and if Dallas can't make a serious run this year, Jerry Jones might have no choice but to slam the reset button.

Stephon Gilmore is the kind of player that a team that needs to win now should target, and there may be no more desperate team in the NFL than the Cowboys. Gilmore, of course, was with the Cowboys last year, and he proved invaluable after Trevon Diggs tore his ACL early in the season.

Diggs is expected to be ready to play by time the season rolls around, but you can never have enough quality cornerbacks in the league. If the Cowboys brought back Gilmore to pair with Diggs and Daron Bland, they'd boast arguably the best trio of coverage guys in the league. Gilmore is 33, but he's still got it. He's played for four different teams in the past four years. It makes too much sense for both parties for him to stay in Dallas another year, though.

Ezekiel Elliott just came back to the Cowboys to "chase a ring." Gilmore should too.

Tyler Boyd, Los Angeles Chargers

Few teams will look as different next year as the Los Angeles Chargers. Fresh off winning the national championship with Michigan, Jim Harbaugh has taken over the team, but it may take time for him to find the same success that he enjoyed in college. The Chargers' abominable cap situation was remedied by a slew of offseason moves. Now reality sets in though, as Justin Herbert deals with the losses of Keenan Allen, Mike Williams, Austin Ekeler, and Gerald Everett.

The Chargers are hoping that receiver Quentin Johnston is ready to step up after an uneven rookie season. He'll be joined by rookie Ladd McConkey and Josh Palmer, but what Herbert needs is a reliable veteran that can move the sticks.

Tyler Boyd saw his role in Cincinnati diminished with the emergence of Ja'Marr Chase and Tee Higgins in recent years. He's still a quality receiver though, and he may find the likelihood of a larger target share in Los Angeles to be irresistible. Leaving Joe Burrow would hurt, but joining up with Herbert would help soften the blow.

Boyd met with the Chargers this week, and he also has a visit to the Titans scheduled. Tennessee has an unproven quarterback in Will Levis and a trio of receivers in DeAndre Hopkins, Treylon Burks, and the newly-signed Calvin Ridley that will keep Boyd from seeing a large role. Unless the Titans decide to overspend, the Chargers seem like a much more sensible choice for Boyd.

Calais Campbell, Chicago Bears

There's not a thing you could say to ruin the mood of the Chicago Bears fan in your life right now. With Caleb Williams in town, expectations are the highest they've been in the Windy City since the Super Bowl Shuffle was still getting radio play.

The Bears are ready to contend right now. Williams will lead a new-look offense that also boasts fellow newcomers Keenan Allen, D'Andre Swift, and offensive coordinator Shane Waldron. For perhaps the first time in their long history, the Bears finally seem ready to score some serious points.

On the defensive side of the ball, the Bears took massive strides after trading for Montez Sweat midway through the season. Jaylon Johnson, one of the top cornerbacks in the league, was resigned in March, and he'll lead a young secondary that is full of emerging talent, including fellow cornerbacks Kyler Gordon and Tyrique Stevenson, and safeties Jaquan Brisker and Jonathan Owens.

The Bears drafted Kansas defensive end Austin Booker to bolster their pass rush. With Sweat commanding attention and second-year players Gervon Dexter and Zacch Pickens looking to build upon promising rookie campaigns, the only thing missing on the line is a veteran player that knows how to win.

Enter Calais Campbell. The future Hall-of-Famer was still extremely effective on the field last year with the Falcons, and he could be an invaluable addition to this young Bears defense, both between the lines and in the locker room.

The Texans proved last year that the right rookie quarterback can step in and take a team to the playoffs. Williams is coming in to an even better situation, and Campbell could be the final piece to really put the Bears over the top.

Steven Nelson, Las Vegas Raiders

Steven Nelson is no stranger to new teams, as he’s played for the Chiefs, Steelers, Eagles, and Texans in his 9-year career. He intercepted four passes for Houston last year, and could really help a team in need of a solid cornerback.

The Raiders played such inspired ball under Antonio Pierce last year that owner Mark Davis had no choice but to retain him long-term. The offense is a work in progress, with Josh Jacobs gone to Green Bay and Gardner Minshew expected to start under center, but there's a lot to be excited about after the Raiders drafted Brock Bowers to complement Davonte Adams.

Pierce really has to like the way his defense looks. Maxx Crosby is one of the most fearsome defensive ends in the league, and now that he’s paired with one of the jewels of this year’s free agent class in former Dolphin Christian Wilkins, it should ensure that no quarterback is safe against the Raiders.

Other than on the D-line, the rest of the Raiders defense is filled with players that most casual fans aren’t familiar with. The secondary is young and still learning on the job, but don’t mistake that inexperience for a lack of talent. Former fifth-round pick Nate Hobbs has played well, and new signee Jack Jones was solid for the Patriots last year. Still, Vegas needs a veteran cornerback to lead, and Nelson would be a great fit.

The Raiders aren't under any misconception that they're ready to dethrone the Chiefs, but for the first time in a long time, there's optimism that the franchise is making smart moves. Signing Nelson to solidify the back end of the defense would only enforce that perception.

Quandre Diggs, Buffalo Bills

The Bills have to be kicking themselves for failing to turn Josh Allen’s ascension into a Super Bowl run. Buffalo has suffered heartbreaking playoff defeat after heartbreaking playoff defeat at the hands of their nemesis, the Kansas City Chiefs. As long as Allen is taking snaps, the Bills will have a puncher’s chance against anybody, but the climb to the mountaintop is about to get a lot more difficult.

Buffalo entered this year with one of the worst cap situations in the league, and as a result have had to gut the roster. The Bills ate a ton of dead money just to trade Stefon Diggs away, and they made a series of other cuts to save money, most notably letting both of their longtime safeties go.

Micah Hyde and Jordan Poyer were two of the best players and leaders on Buffalo’s defense, and replacing them seems like an impossible task. Poyer signed with AFC East rival Miami, while according to Bills GM Brandon Beane, Hyde has considered retirement or possibly coming back to Buffalo on a reduced deal.

Taylor Rapp and Mike Edwards have assumed the top spots on the depth chart, but neither can hope to replicate the production of Hyde or Poyer. Quandre Diggs, though, who was let go by the Seahawks in another cost-saving move, might be able to. Diggs had a down year last year, but he made the Pro Bowl the previous three years as he racked up 14 interceptions.

Allen will score points no matter who is around him, but the Bills have to find a way to stop Patrick Mahomes if they ever want to get past the Chiefs in January. Mahomes has yet to throw an interception in the playoffs against Buffalo, and he’s knocked the Bills out of the postseason in three of the past four years. Diggs’ ballhawking ability is just what Buffalo needs to try and turn the tables when it counts the most.

Xavien Howard, Kansas City Chiefs

The Kansas City Chiefs are trying to become the first NFL team to win three straight Super Bowls. With Mahomes, Travis Kelce, and Chris Jones leading the way, they have a real shot, but the Chiefs can’t just close their eyes and hope that they can run it back with the same team and have the same success.

Much of 2023 was a struggle for Kansas City. The wide receiver room was a mess, with only Rashee Rice distinguishing himself. Now Rice is out indefinitely after his role in a high-speed car crash, but Chiefs general manager Brett Veach addressed the need for an exciting pass-catcher by drafting Texas receiver Xavier Worthy. Worthy’s elite speed is expected to pair beautifully with Mahomes’ arm and Andy Reid’s playcalling, and he’ll be joined by Hollywood Brown, who came over from Arizona on a bargain contract.

One benefit of being the champs is that players want to chase a ring, and they are often willing to take less money to do so. Brown is just one example. With the receiving corps looking much better, the one major area of need for Kansas City is cornerback, and they could again take advantage of a very good player being willing to take less to be part of a winner.

Trent McDuffie was outstanding in the Chiefs secondary last year, but he wasn’t alone. L’Jarius Sneed was one of the best corners in the league, but given Kansas City’s cap situation, there was no real way to retain him and Chris Jones, so Sneed was traded to the Titans. In his place are nothing but question marks. It’s unknown if Joshua Williams is ready to step into a larger role, and it’s doubtful that sixth-round pick Kamar Hadden will be ready to start on day one.

Howard has said this offseason that he’s willing to play for less if it means playing for a contender. Who better than the Chiefs to satisfy that request?

Ryan Tannehill, Detroit Lions

We spoke earlier about how the Lions have a real chance to make a Super Bowl run this upcoming season. Jared Goff has been both healthy and productive in his Detroit career, but a team with title aspirations should have a capable backup quarterback ready just in case.

Hendon Hooker is currently listed as second on the Lions depth chart, but he’s never thrown a pass in the NFL and was seen as a project when he was drafted by the Lions last year. It would be organizational malpractice to rely on him if Goff went down.

Ryan Tannehill, especially at age 36, is not going to light the world on fire, but he’s a professional quarterback that could certainly make use of Detroit’s cache of offensive weapons in the event that Goff couldn’t play. Outside of handing the ball to Derrick Henry, Tannehill had limited options while with the Titans, so it would be unfair to malign him too badly for not piloting a top offense. He wouldn’t need to play like a Pro Bowler in Detroit, but with the pieces around him and an improved defense, he could do enough to give the Lions a chance against almost any team. If nothing else, the peace of mind alone of having a backup quarterback with so much experience would be worth it for Lions fans.

Dalton Risner, Philadelphia Eagles

Philly is still trying to figure out how last season torpedoed so spectacularly, but GM Howie Roseman has already been extremely active to make sure a similar collapse doesn't happen again in 2024. The defense has been remade by the additions of Bryce Huff via trade, CJ Gardner-Johnson via free agency, and Quinyon Mitchell via the draft.

Roseman also addressed the offense in a big way by signing Saquon Barkley away from the Giants in one of the most shocking moves of the offseason. Barkley is a scary weapon, especially when lined up with Jalen Hurts, AJ Brown, and Devonta Smith, but he'll be running behind a line that will dearly miss retired center Jason Kelce. The Eagles are set at tackle, with Jordan Mailata, Lane Johnson, and Mekhi Becton now in the fold, but the interior of the line needs help.

Dalton Risner was great for the Vikings last year after signing in Week 3, allowing zero sacks while playing in all 15 games. He's been durable throughout his five-year career, with only four games missed due to injury. He'd be a welcome addition for Barkley and Hurts, and with over $28 million in cap space, the Eagles could easily afford to pay him more than the $3 million contract he outperformed last year.

Andrus Peat, Denver Broncos

Denver Broncos head coach Sean Payton is a guy that knows what he likes. After years of success with the Saints, he’s trying to rebuild the Broncos from the ground up. The Broncos just drafted Bo Nix in the first round. Payton reportedly sees a lot of Drew Brees in Nix, who just set the all-time record for Division I completion percentage with Oregon last year.

Payton is going to want people he trusts to protect his new franchise quarterback, and he could look back to the Big Easy to do it. Andrus Peat was drafted by Payton and the Saints in 2015, and he’s been in New Orleans his entire nine-year career, but he’s currently a free agent after failing to come to terms on a new deal. 

A return to New Orleans is unlikely after the Saints drafted his ostensible replacement, Taliese Fuaga of Oregon State, in the first round of the draft. Denver, however, could use the help after surrendering 52 sacks last year. Peat is versatile, having played tackle and guard with the Saints, and he could line up pretty much anywhere with Denver and instantly improve their line. Peat attended Stanford and grew up in Arizona, so maybe a move west makes sense for him.

5 best wide receiver picks in the 2024 NFL Draft. 5 best wide receiver picks in the 2024 NFL Draft. dark. Next