Best NFL free agents available for 2023: Dalvin Cook tops players yet to sign before training camp

The bulk of the 2023 NFL offseason is in the rearview mirror, and teams largely have their 90-man rosters set for the start of training camp.

However, that doesn’t mean there won’t still be some shuffling of players both before and during the preseason. NFL teams are always looking to upgrade their rosters and if injuries strike, they will quickly turn to the free-agent market to add to their depth charts.

The NFL’s free-agent market is more barren than it was during the heyday of the March transaction period, but there are still plenty of familiar names available. Many of these players are in the twilight of their careers and may not be the top-tier athletes they once were.

Even so, they all can play roles for successful NFL teams.

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Who are the best NFL free agents still available ahead of training camp? Sporting News breaks down the 14 best players and most familiar names on the market as the 2023 NFL season draws nearer.

Best NFL free agents still available 2023

1. Dalvin Cook

  • Position: RB
  • Former team: Vikings

With the Titans’ reported signing of DeAndre Hopkins, Cook is now the top remaining free agent ahead of the 2023 season.

Cook was released by the Vikings after Minnesota decided it wanted to roll with Alexander Mattison as its starter. The Florida State product may not be as explosive as he once was, but he played a full season for the first time in 2022 and generated 1,173 rushing yards and eight touchdowns while averaging 4.4 yards per carry.

Cook will turn 28 in August but he still may have a strong season or two in the tank. He would thrive in a situation where he could serve as either end of a dynamic one-two punch at running back and should get the opportunity to do that.

2. Kareem Hunt

  • Position: RB
  • Former team: Browns

Cook isn’t the only running back on the market that should interest NFL teams. Hunt remains unsigned despite reportedly garnering interest ahead of the 2022 NFL trade deadline. The former Browns backup is coming off a season that saw him post career-low marks in yards per carry (3.8) and yards per reception (6.0), so that may be part of what is scaring teams off.

Still, Hunt is just four days older than Cook but has handled just 1,106 total touches during his NFL career compared to Cook’s 1,503. That may mean the former Brown still has some tread on the tires and could emerge as a starter in the right scenario. Either way, he remains a strong backup; he just needs to find a team to trust him with those duties.


3. Marcus Peters

  • Position: CB
  • Former team: Ravens

Peters has long been one of the NFL’s biggest playmakers at cornerback, as he led the league in interceptions as a rookie in 2015 and has twice led the league in pick-sixes during his career. He turned 30 in January but still proved that he could be a solid starter coming off a torn ACL, even if he may not be the All-Pro-level talent he once was.

Some will be concerned about Peters’ 116.3 passer rating allowed during the 2022 season, but he still graded as Pro Football Focus’ 49th-best cornerback in 2022 out of 118 qualified players. That is plenty good enough to remain on an NFL roster despite the feast-or-famine nature of his playmaking efforts.

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4. Dalton Risner

  • Position: G
  • Former team: Broncos

Risner’s availability is a bit perplexing as he has been a four-year starter for the Broncos since being a second-round pick out of Kansas State in 2019. He has missed just four career games and has started the other 62 at guard during his career.

So, why is the 28-year-old available? He did surrender three sacks in 2022 as Denver’s offensive line struggled to protect Russell Wilson. Still, plenty of NFL teams could benefit from signing the durable guard as a plug-and-play starter, so his availability remains a bit of a mystery.

5. Taylor Lewan

  • Position: OT
  • Former team: Titans

Lewan once made three consecutive Pro Bowls but since the start of the 2019 campaign, he has played in just 32 games. That’s good for only eight games per season. In particular, he has dealt with a problematic knee since tearing his right ACL in 2020 and is actually suing the renowned Dr. James Andrews for “medical malpractice” because of his repeated injuries.

All that’s to say that Lewan’s career may be over. And even if he can play, he may never be the same talented blocker that he was during his early seasons. Still, the 6-7, 315-pound tackle has the skills needed to bounce back and be a blind-side blocker, so if he can get his knee right, he could help a contender.

Ben Jones

6. Ben Jones

  • Position: C
  • Former team: Titans

Lewan isn’t the only former Titans lineman who needs a new home. Jones is coming off a season that saw him start 12 games, be graded as PFF’s ninth-best center out of 36 qualified players and make his first-ever Pro Bowl.

Jones is 34, so he is in the twilight of his career and could soon regress. That said, interior offensive linemen can still find success into their mid-to-late 30s and his experience — 151 career starts at center and guard — should make him an attractive interior line upgrade or depth signing for a playoff team.

7. Yannick Ngakoue

  • Position: EDGE
  • Former team: Colts

Ngakoue is looking to join his sixth different team in the last five seasons, so some may view that as a bit of a red flag. And indeed, Ngakoue isn’t the best run defender on the edge, so that drives down his value a bit, as he really should be a situational player.

That said, Ngakoue posted 9.5 sacks last season for the Colts and has been a strong edge defender during his NFL career. He has 65 total sacks over his seven-year career and has never posted fewer than eight in a season. His pass-rushing prowess will certainly be of interest to NFL teams; it’s just a matter of whether Ngakoue will be willing to accept a role player’s salary after making $13 million in each of the last two seasons.

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8. Jadeveon Clowney

  • Position: EDGE
  • Former team: Browns

Clowney is a big name, but there’s no denying that he has failed to live up to the hype that surrounded the No. 1 pick in the 2014 NFL Draft. He has posted just 43 career sacks and has failed to eclipse double-digit sacks in a season.

Even still, Clowney has been a solid starter on the edge and has three seasons with at least nine sacks to his name. He struggled for the Browns in 2022 and ultimately left the team late in the season so that may explain why the 30-year-old remains available. He has lingered on the free agent market during the offseason before though and always finds a home. It will be interesting to see if he can do so again in 2023.

George Fant

9. George Fant

  • Position: OT
  • Former team: Jets

Fant served as the starting left tackle for the Jets over the last two seasons and has made 60 starts in 83 career games during his career. The former Western Kentucky tight end has done well turning himself into a quality blocker in the NFL at 6-5, 322 pounds.

Fant is coming off a down year during which he surrendered five sacks (25th most in the NFL) and committed seven penalties (27th most) while playing just 516 snaps over eight games. That likely explains why the 30-year-old is available, but his experience playing both sides of the line gives him the potential to be a quality swing tackle. He seems likely to draw interest during training camp among teams that aren’t pleased with their tackle position.

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10. Justin Houston

  • Position: EDGE
  • Former team: Ravens

Houston is one of the most experienced players remaining on the free agent market. He has started 144 of 163 career games and has proven that he can be very productive in a reduced role. He started just once for the Ravens in 2022 but still managed to record 9.5 sacks, the fifth time in the last six seasons that he has posted at least eight sacks.

The 34-year-old’s efficacy will eventually wane, but Houston remains able to find success at the NFL level. NFL teams looking for a bit more pass-rushing punch could certainly target him and his 111.5 career sacks to serve as a top backup on the defensive line.

11. Robert Quinn

  • Position: EDGE
  • Former team: Eagles

Quinn surprisingly struggled to get into a rhythm during the 2022 NFL season. He posted a whopping 18.5 sacks for the Bears in 2021 and was named an All-Pro second-teamer but he earned just one sack in 2022 across 13 games with the Bears and Eagles.

Now 33, it’s worth wondering whether Quinn has lost a step or whether he just struggled to play well due to receiving little support from the Bears and his midseason trade to the Eagles. No team has been willing to find out yet but Quinn still has the pass-rushing talent needed to be a productive role player.

Ezekiel Elliott

12. Ezekiel Elliott

  • Position: RB
  • Former team: Cowboys

Let’s just get this out of the way: Elliott isn’t the player that he once was. It’s clear that he doesn’t have the same combination of burst and power that once made him one of the NFL’s best running backs.

That said, Elliott still carries some value as a bruising power back who can be a goal-line maven in the right situation. He racked up 876 yards and 12 touchdowns for Dallas last season and while he averaged just 3.8 yards per carry, he still helped the Cowboys’ offense finish drives.

If Elliott, 28 on July 22, can sign with a playoff contender, perhaps he can provide them with a strong short-yardage backup and regain some of his burst with a lighter workload. But after handling 2,186 touches in 103 games over his first seven seasons, it’s hard to count on that.

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13. Leonard Fournette

  • Position: RB
  • Former team: Buccaneers

Fournette was hyped in a similar manner to Elliott upon his entry into the NFL. He didn’t live up to the hype in a similar manner to the Dallas star and has just two 1,000-yard rushing seasons in his career.

The No. 4 pick in the 2017 NFL Draft is coming off a season that saw him average 3.8 yards per carry. That marks the fourth time in six seasons that Fournette has failed to eclipse a mark of 4.0 yards per carry, so it’s hard to imagine him improving on that at this point. Fournette showed some pass-catching value in 2022, grabbing a career-best 73 passes for 523 yards and three touchdowns, but it seems like he will be limited to backup duty henceforth.

14. Carson Wentz

  • Position: QB
  • Former team: Commanders

Wentz’s NFL career might be over. He has played for three teams over the last three seasons and all of them decided to move onto greener pastures after seeing the former No. 2 overall pick struggle for them.

Still, Wentz has the talent needed to be a backup quarterback at the NFL level. He was on track for an MVP campaign in 2017 before he suffered a torn ACL, after all. Unfortunately, he just hasn’t been able to get out of his own way over the last three seasons, as he has made numerous mental mistakes and committed way too many turnovers.

Some NFL team should take a chance on Wentz and try to rebuild his confidence. But at this point, it wouldn’t be surprised to see NFL teams write off the 30-year-old as broken.


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