8 NFL Players Primed to Be Biggest Risers in 2024 Free-Agency Class After Week 6

8 NFL Players Primed to Be Biggest Risers in 2024 Free-Agency Class After Week 6

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    Lions WR Josh Reynolds

    Lions WR Josh ReynoldsLauren Leigh Bacho/Getty Images

    As the 2023 NFL season inches closer to its October 31 trade deadline, teams are running out of time to make in-season additions. Before long, team decision-makers will be eyeing the 2024 draft class instead of potential trade targets.

    Here at Bleacher Report, we’ve already begun that process—keep an eye out for our early 2024 free-agency big board after the trade deadline—and it’s already been an interesting dive into what type of talent will be available on the open market.

    One thing that has stood out is the unexpected rise of a few impending free agents. The big names—like Chris Jones, Christian Wilkins, Tee Higgins and Danielle Hunter—will likely remain at the top of teams’ wish lists in the spring. Some less prolific players, however, are poised to dramatically increase their stock over the final 12 weeks of the season.

    Here, we’ll identify eight 2024 free agents who fit into that latter category, based on factors like recent production, positional value, age, health and projected roles moving forward.

    Players are listed in alphabetical order.

Chidobe Awuzie, CB, Cincinnati Bengals

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    CINCINNATI, OH - SEPTEMBER 25: Chidobe Awuzie #22 of the Cincinnati Bengals defends in coverage during at Paycor Stadium on September 25, 2src23 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images)

    Cooper Neill/Getty Images

    With Joe Burrow’s calf getting healthier, the Cincinnati Bengals have looked a lot more like last year’s team over the past couple of weeks. Cincinnati still has a long way to go at 3-3, but it may still be playoff contenders.

    With the Bengals creeping back into the spotlight, cornerback Chidobe Awuzie has an opportunity to raise his visibility ahead of free agency. He came into 2023 with plenty of question marks after suffering a torn ACL last Halloween.

    However, Awuzie was healthy enough to play in Cincinnati’s opener.

    “I have the ability, as long as I feel like myself, to go out there and cover,” Awuzie said in August, per Russ Heltman of FanNation.

    The 28-year-old has played in five of Cincinnati’s six games this season, missing only Week 5 with a back injury. He hasn’t played up to his pre-injury level yet (129.9 opposing QB rating) and has played only 61 percent of the defensive snaps.

    The more time Awuzie puts between himself and his knee injury, though, the more likely he is to settle in as a dependable starter. He is still on the under side of 30 and was fantastic in his eight games before the injury in 2022 (53.4 opposing QB rating).

    If Awuzie can stay healthy and show more of that form down the stretch, he may be one of the top players in what is a relatively underwhelming 2024 cornerback market.

Grant Delpit, S, Cleveland Browns

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    CLEVELAND, OHIO - OCTOBER 15: Grant Delpit #22 of the Cleveland Browns reacts after a defensive play during the third quarter against the San Francisco 49ers at Cleveland Browns Stadium on October 15, 2src23 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)

    Jason Miller/Getty Images

    The Cleveland Browns defense has allowed the fewest yards (1,002) through five games of any NFL team since 1971. If Cleveland can keep up its historic defensive pace, other teams will inevitably want a piece of what the Browns have put together.

    That could mean a huge payday for safety Grant Delpit. The 2020 second-round pick has flashed potential before but is playing at an elite level under new defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz.

    Delpit has started all five games, has played 98 percent of the defensive snaps and has already logged 27 tackles, 21 solo stops, a forced fumble, a fumble recovery and an interception. In coverage, he’s allowing an opposing quarterback rating of just 33.8.

    After missing his rookie season with a torn Achilles and working his way into being a reliable starter over the next two seasons, Delpit is peaking in Year 4.

    “Grant Delpit looks like a brand-new player this year,” NFL Network’s Jason McCourty said on Good Morning Football in September.

    If he and the Browns defense as a whole continue playing at this level, Deplit will have a strong case for making the Pro Bowl roster. A safety of that caliber who won’t turn 26 until September is sure to generate a ton of interest on the open market.

Baker Mayfield, QB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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    TAMPA, FL - OCTOBER 15: Baker Mayfield #6 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers warms up prior to an NFL football game against the Detroit Lions at Raymond James Stadium on October 15, 2src23 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Kevin Sabitus/Getty Images)

    Kevin Sabitus/Getty Images

    Quarterback Baker Mayfield and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have cooled off a bit in recent weeks, and Mayfield has looked more like the inconsistent passer he was in Cleveland than he did in his first two games.

    However, it’s worth noting that the 28-year-old’s two down performances have come against the Detroit Lions and Philadelphia Eagles. Those teams possess defenses that will make several good quarterbacks appear subpar this season.

    Mayfield still has a solid 91.3 passer rating—higher than those of Dak Prescott, Matthew Stafford and Deshaun Watson—and has the Buccaneers at 3-2. Though the Buffalo Bills and San Francisco 49ers remain on Tampa’s schedule, Mayfield has several favorable matchups ahead of him too.

    Overall, the Bucs face the 11th-easiest strength of schedule based on 2022 winning percentage (.483). Six of Mayfield’s remaining 12 games will come against defenses that rank 22nd or lower in net yards per pass attempt allowed.

    While the 2018 first overall pick may have a handful of poor performances this season, he’ll have enough chances to even things out. The Buccaneers also stand a reasonable chance of winning the NFC South in their first season post-Tom Brady.

    If Mayfield can keep his QB rating in the 90s, keep his completion percentage in the mid-to-high 60s and lead Tampa to a division title, he could be in store for a strong multiyear deal.

    Minnesota Vikings signal-caller Kirk Cousins currently tops an unimpressive list of 2024 free-agent quarterbacks. With Cousins set to turn 36 next summer, though, a few franchises may prefer to target the much younger Mayfield.

Zack Moss, RB, Indianapolis Colts

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    JACKSONVILLE, FL - OCTOBER 15: Zack Moss #21 of the Indianapolis Colts runs the ball during an NFL game against the Jacksonville Jaguars at EverBank Field on October 15, 2src23 in Jacksonville, Florida. (Photo by Perry Knotts/Getty Images)

    Perry Knotts/Getty Images

    When scouting next year’s crop of free-agent running backs, Zack Moss of the Indianapolis Colts has stood out as a pleasant surprise. A middling runner with the Buffalo Bills for two-plus seasons, he’s been a different back since being traded to the Colts at last year’s deadline.

    Moss averaged a solid 4.8 yards per carry with Indy last season and is averaging 4.9 yards per carry this year. As the fill-in starter for a then-injured Jonathan Taylor, Moss had several highlight performances over the first month.

    In each of his first four games, Moss topped 70 rushing yards, and he topped 100 scrimmage yards in three of them. The 25-year-old has five scrimmage touchdowns, is only 15 rushing yards shy of his career high and ranks second in rushing yards per game.

    Moss has shown a level of vision and burst—both were on display on his 56-yard TD run against the Tennessee Titans—that we rarely saw from him in Buffalo.

    With Taylor back in the lineup, Moss’ days as the lead back are likely numbered, but that may actually be beneficial. He made a very strong impression with his early-season opportunity, and Moss is unlikely to be overworked over the final 11 games.

    As long as Moss continues to make the occasional highlight-reel play while sharing time with Taylor, he’ll become a very intriguing free-agent option. Teams are shying away from big free-agent contracts, and Moss could be the perfect mid-level target for teams in need of a reliable starter.

Josh Reynolds, WR, Detroit Lions

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    DETROIT, MI - OCTOBER src8:  Detroit Lions wide receiver Josh Reynolds (8) runs with the ball after catching a pass during the third quarter of an NFL football game between the Carolina Panthers and the Detroit Lions on October 8, 2src23 at Ford Field in Detroit, Michigan.  (Photo by Scott W. Grau/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

    Scott W. Grau/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

    The Lions are arguably the NFL’s hottest team right now, and if they can stay hot, wideout Josh Reynolds may cash in with an enviable payday.

    Reynolds has always been a serviceable ancillary receiving target but never a bona fide star. His best statistical season came with the Los Angeles Rams in 2020 when he caught 52 passes for 618 yards and two touchdowns.

    This season, though, Reynolds has emerged as a perfect complement to Amon-Ra St. Brown and rookie tight end Sam LaPorta. He’s emerged as a big-play receiver for Detroit and is averaging a career-best 17.9 yards per reception.

    The 28-year-old is on pace for 54 receptions, 966 yards and eight touchdowns this season.

    Reynolds can improve his free-agency stock by continuing to shine with Jameson Williams back in the lineup. Williams, a 2022 first-round pick, returned from suspension two weeks ago and has started to make an impact, but it hasn’t caused Reynolds to disappear.

    Last week against the Buccaneers, Williams caught two passes for 53 yards and a touchdown. Reynolds still had three catches for 50 yards on three targets.

    Moving forward, Reynolds has a chance to prove that he’s a legitimate No. 2 or No. 3 receiver and not just a temporary fill-in for a prized early draft pick.

Curtis Samuel, WR, Washington Commanders

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    ATLANTA, GEORGIA - OCTOBER 15: Curtis Samuel #4 of the Washington Commanders celebrates after scoring a touchdown during the second quarter against the Atlanta Falcons at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on October 15, 2src23 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    The Washington Commanders saw a lot of promise from 2022 first-round pick Jahan Dotson as a rookie. He caught 35 passes for 523 yards and seven touchdowns in only 12 games last season.

    However, it’s been seventh-year receiver Curtis Samuel who has quickly developed chemistry with quarterback Sam Howell this season, not Dotson. Samuel has emerged as the clear second option behind Terry McLaurin and has become a reliable volume receiver for Washington.

    Samuel has caught at least three passes in every game thus far and is on pace for 65 receptions, 808 yards and six touchdowns. Those aren’t eye-popping numbers, but they would represent Samuel’s best since his final season with the Carolina Panthers in 2020.

    In 2021, Samuel parlayed a strong contract year into a three-year, $34.5 million deal with the Commanders. He’s poised to do it again and land a sizeable third contract.

    To do it, Samuel will have to stay healthy, something that has been an issue in past seasons. He’ll also need Howell to continue playing at a reasonable level, and it would certainly help for Washington to stay in playoff contention.

    Like Reynolds, though, Samuel has an opportunity to establish himself as a viable second or third option down the stretch, and he won’t turn 28 until August.

Jonah Williams, OT, Cincinnati Bengals

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    GLENDALE, AZ - OCTOBER src8: Jonah Williams #73 of the Cincinnati Bengals warms up prior to an NFL game against the Arizona Cardinals at State Farm Stadium on October 8, 2src23 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images)

    Cooper Neill/Getty Images

    Awuzie isn’t the only Cincinnati player who can benefit from the Bengals returning to form over the final three months of the season. If Cincinnati can organize another deep playoff run, offensive tackle Jonah Williams will be back in the spotlight—and for good reasons this time.

    Williams, the 11th overall pick in 2019, never quite panned out as Cincinnati’s left tackle of the future. Last season, for example, he was responsible for four penalties and a whopping 12 sacks allowed, according to Pro Football Focus.

    This offseason, though, the Bengals added Pro Bowler Orlando Brown Jr. and moved Williams to right tackle. He’s fared much better in his new home and has allowed just two sacks with no penalties through six games, per PFF.

    To be fair, Cincinnati’s entire offensive line has benefited from a shorter, faster passing plan. Burrow is averaging a career-low 6.1 air yards per attempt and a career-low 2.0 seconds of pocket time. However, Williams has looked much more comfortable on the right side than he ever did at his old position.

    If he can keep it up—and Cincinnati’s offense continues to make positive strides—Williams could emerge as the top right tackle on the 2024 market. He finally looks like a dependable starter, and he’ll only be 26 at the start of next season.

Chase Young, Edge, Washington Commanders

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    ATLANTA, GA  OCTOBER 15:  Washington defensive end Chase Young (99) reacts during the NFL game between the Washington Commanders and the Atlanta Falcons on October 15th, 2src23 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, GA.  (Photo by Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

    Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

    For Commanders pass-rusher Chase Young, the rest of the season is all about reestablishing himself.

    Young was the 2020 Defensive Rookie of the Year but suffered a torn ACL the following season. He made it back late in 2022 and only appeared in three games, and he missed Week 1 of this year with a neck injury.

    However, Young appeared to be at 100 percent during training camp.

    “His explosiveness was back. He wasn’t thinking about anything. He was just playing,” defensive line coach Jeff Zgonina said in camp, per ESPN’s John Keim.

    Indeed, Young does appear to be back. In his five games this season, he has performed much like he did as a rookie, and he’s already recorded three sacks, 15 quarterback pressures, 11 tackles and three tackles for loss.

    The 24-year-old is on pace for 10 sacks and 48 quarterback pressures.

    Several quality pass-rushers are set to be available next spring—including Chris Jones, Danielle Hunter, Brian Burns and Josh Allen—but Young could be right up there with the best of them by season’s end.

    Young must continue to show that his 2021 injury is no longer an issue by staying on the field and playing at a Pro Bowl level. If he can do that, his age, positional value and upside will make him one of the most coveted players on the 2024 market.


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