Top 5 Defensive Free Agents (2023)

The NFL offseason is in full swing, and Free Agency is set to begin it’s regularly scheduled frenzy. Some of the best talent in the league will be hitting the market at any moment, in a window where contenders are both made and broken. The phrase ‘Defense Wins Championships’ isn’t just a cliché. Here’s the top five defensive Free Agents for 2023.

Tremaine Edmunds

Some may argue that his teammate, Jordan Poyer, should make this list in his stead, but the value of a 24 year old athletic freak at MLB with five years of NFL experience as a starter under his belt cannot be overstated. A cornerstone of the Sean McDermott era in Buffalo, the two sides couldn’t come to an agreement on a contract before Free Agency broke. Thus, he hits the market.

In his five seasons with the Buffalo Bills, he’s racked up 565 tackles and 6.5 sacks in a role where he rarely blitzes. Tremaine also has five career interceptions. He was graded as one of the NFL’s best linebackers in coverage last season, a recurring theme throughout his career. Edmunds is more than capable of greatness; In a traditional 4-3 defense he could even be dominant. Spotrac has his definitively undervalued at an estimated $11M AAV. The real figure will be much closer to $20M per season.

Potential fits: Detroit Lions, Houston Texans

Javon Hargrave

One of the problems with being great is keeping all the incredible talent you’ve accumulated. It’s something Philly will be dealing with this year, as Javon Hargrave hits Free Agency. The soon-to-be-former Philadelphia Eagles DT will command top dollar after his 11-sack season helped cart them to a Superbowl appearance. He’s healthy, and he’s stayed that way throughout all seven seasons of his career. That durability and prowess will help significantly wherever he ends up this offseason.

Javon Hargrave was a force to be reckoned with in 2022/23, and we expect the market to reflect that. In his final big payday, he’s expected to haul in roughly $20M/year on a three-year deal.

Potential fits: Chicago Bears, Seattle Seahawks

Free Agents Jessie Bates Cincinnati Bengals Atlanta Falcons Cleveland Browns
USA Today

Jessie Bates III

Jessie Bates didn’t sign the tender he was given last season until it became abundantly clear that a long-term deal wasn’t happening. Those negotiations broke down, and now there’s no chance he stays in orange stripes this offseason. Even if he wanted to, the money is calling, and he’d be foolish to ignore it. Bates was consistently great in coverage, and is a surprisingly hard hitter when it matters. He’s about to make a new team very happy, and there’s plenty of demand for a top-tier Safety.

He wants to be paid like Minkah Fitzpatrick. That may not be in the cards, but his deal won’t be far off. Bates is a crushing competitor, and he’s young enough to be worth every penny of a top-dollar contract.

Potential fits: Atlanta Falcons, Cleveland Browns

Lavonte David

Lavonte David is as veteran as a top Free Agent can get. With a whopping 1346 career tackles, including 124 this season, David is consistent, and perfect for a team that’s on the cusp of Superbowl stardom. Need a guy to hold down the middle, time after time? Look no further. He’ll have a decision to make. Chase the final payday or take one last shot at glory?

His availability was a little surprising, in all honesty. Sure, the Buccaneers are in salary cap hell, but Lavonte David has been a cornerstone for 11 years. Somehow, some way, there was the belief that he might stay. Frankly, they couldn’t afford him. The 33 year old is hitting the market, and though he’ll command a lower value and less years than other top linebackers, he has options. The Bills and Cowboys are both contenders expecting to lose their starting MLBs, for example.

Potential fits: Dallas Cowboys, Buffalo Bills

James Bradberry

It’s been an interesting career for this Cornerback. He left Carolina the first chance he got, and wound up being cut by the Giants after they failed to trade him. That track record doesn’t give us great confidence in his ability to sustain success on a new deal, but when he’s on the field, he’s consistently putting the hurt on receivers. He’s never left a season without double-digit passes defended.

Bradberry bet on himself last offseason with a one-year deal in Philadelphia, and it paid off. After a year playing in one of 2022’s best defenses, with major postseason success, he’s about to cash in. For an expected $15M AAV, you could have Bradberry for three or four seasons.

Potential fits: Baltimore Ravens, Las Vegas Raiders

The tampering period begins on Monday, March 13th at 12:00 EST.

Featured image: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Iestyn Harris
One of the owners The Sports Wave, and a Journalist at Buffalo Fanatics, I'm an English immigrant living in Canada. A huge Buffalo Bills fan, I also love my Boston Celtics, Toronto Blue Jays, and Queens Park Rangers.

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