The second wave of free agency will hit the NFL in the next month or two.
There are a slew of veteran players who are unsigned at this point but have more than enough ability to help turn their teams into serious contenders.
Almost all of these free agents are used to receiving big salaries and would like to command them again. That is likely to depend on the injury status of their next employers.
Running backs like former Viking Dalvin Cook or ex-Cowboy Ezekiel Elliott could command salaries in the $5-10 million range, but they will likely need an injury situation to command that kind of money. Both men seem willing to play the waiting before deciding where to play in 2023.
However, it’s one thing to set out on a strategy, and it’s quite another to stick to it as the days come off the calendar. In this piece, we look at four of the best free agents available and offer potential landing spots for each player.
WR DeAndre Hopkins, ex-Arizona Cardinals
Hopkins is clearly a gamble at the age of 31 because he is coming off back-to-back seasons subpar seasons, largely the result of injuries. However, when Hopkins was healthy, he reeled off four superior seasons that saw him with a minimum of 1,165 receiving yard. Hopkins was at his best with the Houston Texans and in his first season with the Cardinals. He excels as a route runner and will not drop the ball.
Hopkins would be an excellent fit for the New England Patriots, Buffalo Bills and the Tennessee Titans, and it appears that the Pats have the inside track at this point.
RB Dalvin Cook, ex-Minnesota Vikings
Cook was clearly a dynamic big-play producer during his career with the Vikings, and he has the ability to take any running play the distance when he gets into the open. He has explosive speed and moves to make tacklers miss, and he has also shown that he can be a dynamic receiver coming out of the backfield.
Cook has rushed for a minimum of 1,135 yards in each of the last 4 years, and the cost of his contract seems to be the only reason the Vikings did not him back. However, Cook can be a liability if he can’t get by the initial surge of tacklers. He had more carries for negative or 0 yards than all but one other running back in the league last season.
The New York Jets and the Miami Dolphins appear to be the best bets for Cook in the 2023 season.
QB Teddy Bridgewater, ex-Miami Dolphins
Bridgewater appears to be carving out an excellent niche for himself at this point in his career. NFL teams do not look at Bridgewater as an ideal starter because he does not have the physical gifts of the top quarterbacks in the game. However, Bridgewater is among the most resourceful quarterbacks in the sport as he has been able to adapt to multiple offensive systems quickly and provide dynamic leadership.
Bridgewater is one of the best backup quarterbacks in recent memory, and there is little doubt he can step in at a given moment and take over for an injured quarterback. When Bridgewater has time to prepare for an opponent, he can pick out weaknesses and areas to exploit.
The Lions have had talks with Bridgewater, and he appears to be a significantly better choice than current backup Nate Sudfeld.
Running back Ezekiel Elliott, ex-Dallas Cowboys
One of the top power running backs throughout his career, Elliott has slowed down a bit as he enters his 8th season in the league. He may be the No. 2 running back on the market at this point.
Unlike Cook, he is not a breakaway threat. But he can pound the ball between the tackles and wear down a defense with his aggressiveness. He appears to be a solid choice for a team with a top-notch passing game but one that needs help in the running game.
Look for the Cincinnati Bengals and Miami Dolphins to show the most interest in Elliott.