Isaiah Wynn

Latest On Connor Williams, Dolphins Offensive Line

Connor Williams‘ availability for the 2024 campaign is in doubt after he suffered a torn ACL in December. Whenever he’s ready to take the field, it sounds like a return to the Dolphins will be in play.

[RELATED: Drew Rosenhaus On Dolphins C Connor Williams’ Free Agency Timeline]

According to Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald, Williams’ potential return to Miami has “not been ruled out as a possibility.” The two sides will “remain in occasional communication” while the center rehabs.

Williams joined the Dolphins on a two-year contract in 2022 and proceeded to start all 17 games for Miami. With the lineman set to earn a $6.5MM base salary on an expiring contract in 2023, Williams was absent from minicamp. The two sides didn’t resolve his contract situation, and Williams was ultimately in the lineup for Week 1.

A nagging groin injury forced him to miss four games during the first half of the 2023 season, but he started each of his five games following his return. Unfortunately, he suffered a torn ACL in Week 14 that ended his season and put his 2024 campaign in doubt. Williams was setting himself up nicely for free agency prior to the injury, earning a stellar 86.5 grade from Pro Football Focus that positioned him behind only the Lions’ Frank Ragnow among qualified centers.

Agent Drew Rosenhaus previously said that Williams will be “methodical” and take his time as he considers his next landing spot, but it sounds like Miami will remain a possibility. The team brought in Aaron Brewer as a replacement at center, and the organization could also look towards the draft for more depth at the position.

Elsewhere on the OL, the team’s uncertainty at the two guard positions has led the front office to explore options via free agency. As Jackson writes, the Dolphins “have had at least some level of communication” with two “veteran free agent starting” offensive guards, and they’ve also talked with a player who profiles as a part-timer. However, the Dolphins are prepared to see how things unfold in the draft before they make an addition at the position.

As Jackson writes, Isaiah Wynn is in the driver’s seat to start at left guard. On the other side, the team could be eyeing some competition for the likes of Liam Eichenberg, Robert Jones, Lester Cotton, and Jack Driscoll.

Dolphins Re-Sign G Isaiah Wynn

Isaiah Wynn‘s debut season with the Dolphins was cut short, but he will remain in place for the 2024 campaign. The veteran offensive lineman has inked a new one-year deal with Miami, per his agents (via ESPN’s Adam Schefter).

Wynn came to Miami on a one-year deal last offseason following the end of his Patriots tenure. He was moved to left guard after splitting time on the inside and at tackle with New England. That decision proved to be a sound one given the way Wynn played to start the year. PFF charged the former first-rounder with no sacks and four pressures allowed in pass protection in 2023.

While his run blocking evaluation was much worse (a career-low 48.2 mark), Wynn’s injury dealt a notable blow to Miami’s O-line. The Georgia alum suffered a season-ending quadriceps injury in Week 7, leaving the team without a starter on the inside in a season which featured multiple other ailments up front. Center Connor Williams suffered an ACL tear, something which has hindered his free agent market. Left tackle Terron Armstead, meanwhile, continued his career trend of dealing with multiple injuries.

The latter will remain in place for next season, giving Miami stability on the blindside. Wynn’s return will provide continuity on the left side of the offensive line and ensure one guard starter will be retained. The other – Robert Hunt – landed a $20MM-per-year deal with the Panthers in free agency, creating a major vacancy at that position. A number of internal candidates to fill the spot are in place, and the draft looms as an option to add a rookie blocker.

Long-term investments up front will no doubt be a priority for Miami given Armstead’s age (32) and injury history. The 28-year-old Wynn faces similar concerns given the way his 2023 campaign came to an end. If he can remain healthy in 2024 and replicate his play from last season, though, he could land a pact better than the ‘prove-it’ accord he signed in 2023 (and which he has likely inked this time around) with the Dolphins or another team in free agency next year.

Dolphins Place OL Isaiah Wynn On IR, Activate CB Nik Needham

OCTOBER 25: Although McDaniel stopped short of saying Wynn was done for the season, the second-year Dolphins HC indicated (via’s Cameron Wolfe) the veteran O-lineman will face a tough road in an effort to come back this year. If Wynn is unable to return before season’s end, this will mark his fourth NFL campaign to end early because of injury.

OCTOBER 24: After playing shorthanded throughout last season, the Dolphins are moving toward full strength at cornerback. With Jalen Ramsey readying to make his 2023 debut, Miami will soon see Nik Needham back in action.

The Dolphins activated Needham off the reserve/PUP list Tuesday, moving him close to making a comeback from the Achilles tear he suffered in October 2022. To make room for Needham on their 53-man roster, the Dolphins placed guard Isaiah Wynn on IR. With Needham being designated for return on Oct. 4, the Dolphins needed to activate him by Wednesday to ensure he was eligible to play this season.

Wynn went down with a quadriceps during the Dolphins’ loss to the Eagles on Sunday night, and Mike McDaniel said (via’s Cameron Wolfe) the team’s left guard would be out for weeks. This will force more changes to the Dolphins’ offensive front. Despite an explosive start to the season, Miami has played games without left tackle Terron Armstead and center Connor Williams. Wynn will not be able to return until Week 13, with the Dolphins’ bye coming in Week 10. Armstead is on IR and must miss at least one more game with a knee injury.

Miami added Wynn in free agency, giving the ex-New England first-rounder a one-year deal worth $2.3MM. This low-end “prove it” deal came after a Patriots contract year that ended early. The Pats placed Wynn on IR due to a foot injury in December of last year. That came after a substandard platform campaign, leading to tepid interest in free agency. Although Wynn enjoyed nice stretches as New England’s left tackle, he settled for a low-end deal in Miami. This will be Wynn’s fifth trip to IR. Being moved to the injured list in 2018, ’19, ’20 and ’22, Wynn has missed 39 games as a pro.

The Dolphins made Wynn their left guard starter, returning him to a guard role on a full-time basis for the first time since his Georgia days. Wynn made seven starts at left guard for the Dolphins, and although Lester Cotton replaced him against the Eagles, it is possible Miami reinstalls Liam Eichenberg at left guard. The former second-round pick, who operated as the Dolphins’ primary left guard last season, lost the job to Wynn during the preseason. But he returned to a starting role in Week 6, filling in for Williams at center. The 2022 free agent signing coming back would point to Eichenberg sliding back to left guard. A 2019 Raiders UDFA, Cotton has two starts on his NFL resume.

Given a second-round RFA tender last year, Needham saw his momentum blunted by the Achilles tear. He re-signed with the Dolphins on a one-year, $1.82MM deal, doing so after the team traded for Ramsey. The Dolphins were busy at corner this offseason, keeping Needham and then drafting Cam Smith in Round 2. The South Carolina product has yet to find his footing in Vic Fangio‘s defense. Needham’s return further bolsters Miami’s secondary. Ramsey is working his way back from meniscus surgery and is expected to return soon, being designated for return from IR last week.

Needham, who will turn 27 next week, has started 27 games for the Dolphins. Fangio will be the third defensive coordinator Needham will have played for as a pro, but he will supply the secondary with extensive experience alongside Ramsey, Xavien Howard and Kader Kohou. With Ramsey’s return imminent, it will be interesting to see how the Dolphins reintegrate Needham.

Dolphins Notes: QB, Gaskin, Berrios, LG

In most cases, the Dolphins aren’t utilizing camp position battles to determine starting roles. But as the deadline to cut the roster down to 53 players draws nearer and nearer, decisions have to be made throughout the roster. Here’s a look at who’s battling for a roster spot as the preseason continues, thanks to some helpful analysis from Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald:

  • At quarterback, the starter is set, but the backup job may be closer than you’d think. Miami signed quarterback Mike White in the first hour of free agency, making it seem like they were dead set on him taking over at QB2. Last year’s backup, Skylar Thompson, doesn’t seem willing to go down without a fight, though, making the battle more competitive than some would assume. White is the presumed winner of this position battle, but if Thompson has a stellar preseason, he has a chance to surprise.
  • After failing to sign free agent running back Dalvin Cook, the room is shaping up to hold Raheem Mostert, Jeff Wilson, and third-round rookie De’Von Achane, at the very least. If the team is going to open up a fourth roster spot for the position, it’s likely that one of Myles Gaskin or Salvon Ahmed will fill the role while the other will be on the chopping block, if not both. The Dolphins will have to determine if a fourth running back will help the team, and if not, Gaskin or Ahmed’s time in South Beach may be over.
  • Behind the team’s top two wideouts, there are a number of options to plug in. According to Jackson, AFC East mainstay Braxton Berrios seems to be taking direction from wide receivers coach Wes Welker well, giving him an edge on the depth chart. He’s competing with Cedrick Wilson, Erik Ezukanma, and Chosen Anderson for the WR3 role, and seems to have a handle on it. Anderson has been making up for a slow start to camp lately but may need to compete with River Cracraft if the team only decides to keep six wide receivers.
  • At tight end, the battle for the third tight spot poses the most intrigue, assuming the team only takes three tight ends. The starter, Durham Smythe, and the rookie, Elijah Higgins, are likely to make the roster, leaving backups Eric Saubert and Tyler Kroft fighting for what is likely going to be the final roster spot at the position. Neither is much of a factor in the passing game, so whoever shows the best blocking ability throughout the rest of camp may be rewarded the short-term job security.
  • The biggest battle on the line is the battle for the starting left guard spot. Liam Eichenberg and Isaiah Wynn appear to be in a dead heat for the job, according to Jackson. Wynn has more NFL starting experience, but Eichenberg is more familiar with the franchise. Aside from that, the other big battle is for the swing tackle role. Veteran and former starter Kendall Lamm reportedly has established a lead over Cedric Ogbuehi for the job. Seventh-round rookie Ryan Hayes could also contribute to the team depth at the position if he makes the roster.

Minor NFL Transactions: 7/30/23

Here are the minor moves around the league to wrap up the weekend:

Atlanta Falcons

Buffalo Bills

Cincinnati Bengals

Cleveland Browns

Kansas City Chiefs

Los Angeles Rams

Miami Dolphins

New York Giants

New York Jets

Pittsburgh Steelers

Seattle Seahawks

Igwebuike, the former safety-turned-running back, likely won’t have a role in a crowded running backs room that currently includes rookie top-ten pick Bijan Robinson, Tyler Allgeier, and Cordarrelle Patterson. He does have some experience on kick return, where he could compete with Patterson and Avery Williams for a role.

The Rams added some quality, experienced depth today in Freeman. While he’s failed to reach the success he found as a primary backup in his first two seasons, Freeman should have plenty of tread on the tires at only 27 years old with minimal usage over the past three years. Behind starter Cam Akers, Los Angeles only has second-year Kyren Williams and rookie sixth-rounder Zach Evans, so bringing in an experienced backup like Freeman should be beneficial.

The Giants add two depth pieces back to their beat-up receiving corps. Getting them back into the fold will be beneficial for training camp. Meanwhile, across the way, new Jets quarterback Aaron Rodgers will get to work with his old teammate, Cobb, once again.

The retirement of Pottebaum comes as a bit of a shock so early into camp. The Iowa-product was a part of Pittsburgh’s small, seven-man undrafted free agent class this year. Not only that, but heading into camp, Pottebaum was also the only fullback listed on the roster. He was in attendance for the Steelers’ first week of training camp, as well, but now appears to be on his way out. This doesn’t leave Pittsburgh completely high and dry as the team was already exploring the option of utilizing tight end Connor Heyward in a role more similar to what he played in college. Heyward could earn a much larger role in his sophomore season by taking on a few more snaps at fullback.

Minor NFL Transactions: 7/25/23

With a number of teams preparing for the start of training camp, a long list of players were placed on inactive lists today. We’ve compiled all of those and today’s other minor moves below:

Atlanta Falcons

Baltimore Ravens

Buffalo Bills

Chicago Bears

Cincinnati Bengals

Dallas Cowboys

Denver Broncos

Green Bay Packers

Houston Texans

Indianapolis Colts

Las Vegas Raiders

Miami Dolphins

Minnesota Vikings

New England Patriots

New Orleans Saints

New York Giants

Philadelphia Eagles

San Francisco 49ers

Seattle Seahawks

Washington Commanders

Free Agents

Isaiah Wilson hasn’t had an NFL gig since he was released by the Giants in January of 2022. NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero tweets that the free agent lineman was slapped with a three-game suspension, but it’s uncertain what led to the temporary ban. Wilson was a first-round pick by the Titans in 2020 but got into only one game with Tennessee before getting shipped off to Miami. He was waived by Miami after showing up late to his team physical, and his practice squad stint with New York only lasted one season.

Max Garcia is an experienced addition to the Saints OL room, with the veteran having most recently started seven of his 12 appearances with the Cardinals in 2022. The 31-year-old has 59 games of starting experience, although Pro Football Focus was iffy on his production last year (63rd among 77 qualifying offensive guards).

Following a three-year stint in Cleveland, Terrance Mitchell has spent the past two seasons bouncing around the NFL. He got into 14 games (13 starts) for the Texans in 2021, finishing with 60 tackles and 10 passes defended. He spent the 2022 season with the Titans, finishing with 39 tackles in 11 games (five starts). 49ers fifth-round pick Darrell Luter Jr. is set to miss some time with a knee injury, providing Mitchell with an opportunity during training camp.

Isaiah Wynn To Vie For Dolphins’ LG Job

The Dolphins have given 2021 second-round pick Liam Eichenberg two seasons to start on the offensive line. Although no major guard investment arrived via free agency or the draft this offseason, the third-year veteran is expected to see competition from a longtime left tackle.

Terron Armstead is going into the second season of a five-year, $75MM contract, and the Dolphins are planning to give 2020 first-round pick Austin Jackson a second chance at right tackle. This would relegate post-draft pickup Isaiah Wynn to a swing role, but the former Patriots first-rounder has extensive guard duty in his past. The Dolphins appear set to exploring that path. Wynn and Eichenberg will compete for the team’s starting left guard gig, Jim Ayello of The Athletic writes (subscription required).

Wynn spent most of his New England time as the Patriots’ starting left tackle; a short 2022 stretch at right tackle did not go especially well. Inconsistency and injury issues led to Wynn signing a one-year, $2.3MM deal. The Pats did give Wynn some time at guard, however, and the 27-year-old blocker worked as a Georgia starting guard during his sophomore and junior seasons (2015 and ’16). The Bulldogs switched Wynn to tackle during that junior year, and the 6-foot-2 blocker glided to a first-round perch after spending 2017 as the SEC program’s blindside starter. During Wynn’s time in trade rumors, some teams considered him a tackle-guard ‘tweener. The Dolphins used Wynn at multiple spots during their offseason program.

The Dolphins have a recent history of giving players extensive run at both guard and tackle. Jesse Davis was a regular at both positions during his versatile tenure in Miami, while right guard Robert Hunt came over from a rookie-year tackle role. The Dolphins also slid Jackson to guard to accommodate Eichenberg in 2021. Seeing as it is perhaps easier to list the tackles who have not been tried at guard in Miami in recent years, Wynn making his way back to his mid-2010s college position is not hard to envision.

Given Armstead and Jackson’s injury histories, Wynn and Eichenberg may be needed as starters. Armstead battled an assortment of maladies in his first Dolphins slate, seeing hip, foot, knee and pectoral setbacks limit him to 13 games last season. The ex-Saints Pro Bowler played through these ailments for much of the season, but he has missed 38 regular-season games since the start of the 2014 campaign. It would be a surprise if the soon-to-be 32-year-old blocker did not miss time in 2023. Jackson is coming off a season in which a September ankle injury caused him to miss 15 games. The Dolphins did not pick up the USC alum’s fifth-year option, but they are counting on him to bounce back. This marks Jackson’s first NFL instance of staying in the same position for a second straight year.

Eichenberg has not shown much to indicate he is a starter-caliber NFL O-lineman. The ex-Notre Dame left tackle started 16 games as a rookie, primarily playing left tackle; Pro Football Focus graded him as a bottom-five option at the position. During Eichenberg’s injury-plagued 10-start season at left guard last year, PFF graded as a bottom-three regular at that position. Eichenberg’s struggles to this point stand to both give Wynn an interesting opportunity and may require the Dolphins to keep exploring outside options up front.

The team was connected to UFA tackle George Fant earlier this offseason and hosted Cameron Fleming on a visit; Fleming has since re-signed with the Broncos. Low-cost signing Dan Feeney resides as an interior backup option. Journeyman Cedric Ogbuehi — whom the Jets cut this offseason — will try to make the team as a swing tackle.

Injury issues at tackle and the LG question mark surround a team with an injury-prone quarterback. Prior to Tua Tagovailoa‘s three-concussion (in all likelihood) 2022, the southpaw starter suffered two hand injuries and ended up on IR due to a 2021 rib fracture. The Alabama standout, of course, came into the NFL after a severe hip injury. Tagovailoa protection will go a long way toward determining the Dolphins’ viability as a contender, and the Dolphins are set to carry some questions into training camp.

AFC East Notes: Pats, Dolphins, Hamlin, Bills

The Patriots will join the list of teams to lose OTA days due to minor violations. The NFL docked the Pats two OTA sessions, Mike Reiss of tweets. New England did not practice Wednesday and will see another of its sessions nixed next week. The violation is believed to stem from the NFLPA expressing concern about the Pats’ meeting schedule. A 15-minute special teams meeting appearing on the team’s internal schedule was deemed mandatory in nature, and not voluntary, by the union, Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk notes. Bill Belichick incurred a $50K fine, Greg Bedard of the Boston Sports Journal tweets, noting Joe Judge was involved in the violation as well (Twitter links). Pats players were aware they were being asked to stay longer than allowed, per veteran reporter Mike Giardi (on Twitter), with Reiss adding the team was fully cooperative with the NFL inquiry.

While on-field contact has triggered these penalties at various points in the recent past, the Pats’ violation is believed to pertain to only the meeting issue. This punishment certainly can be interpreted as steep for the reported infraction, though the NFLPA made reduced offseason work a key component during the 2011 and 2020 CBA talks.

Here is the latest from the AFC East:

  • Austin Jackson is back at work for the Dolphins, per the Miami Herald’s Barry Jackson, participating in OTA sessions after undergoing reconstructive ankle surgery (Twitter link). Jackson did not undergo surgery upon initially injury his ankle — in Week 1 — as Miami’s starting right tackle attempted to return in Week 12. Jackson played 70 offensive snaps in that December game but did not suit up again last season. The Dolphins said before the draft they are planning to give Jackson another shot as their top right tackle, though they subsequently passed on his fifth-year option.
  • Miami did not draft a tackle, but the team did add ex-New England starter Isaiah Wynn. The former first-rounder is working at multiple positions during OTAs, Mike McDaniel said (via Jackson). League rules prohibit media from reporting which positions Wynn is playing, but the former Patriots left tackle did play guard for three seasons at Georgia. Wynn has spent most of his NFL time at left tackle and struggled on the right side following a 2022 position switch. The Dolphins have Terron Armstead locked in at left tackle, but the ex-Saints blocker has run into numerous injury issues during his career. He missed four games last season. Wynn’s Dolphins path could feature a starting right tackle role, a spot as the team’s swingman or potentially a guard gig. Left guard Liam Eichenberg has not solidified his position like right guard Robert Hunt has.
  • Damar Hamlin has made remarkable strides in his recovery and is fully expected to resume his career this season. But the Bills are playing it cautiously. Hamlin received full clearance to return and has worked out with teammates this offseason, but The Athletic’s Joe Buscaglia notes the third-year safety is not yet participating in OTAs (Twitter link). Hamlin’s progress continues to be a situation to monitor in Buffalo, considering the historically rare circumstances he encountered after making a routine tackle in January.
  • A year after re-signing Matt Milano, the Bills let Tremaine Edmunds walk in free agency. The five-year starting linebacker signed a monster Bears contract and left a hole in the Bills’ lineup. Buffalo is likely to look in-house to replace Edmunds, with WGRZ’s Vic Carucci indicating Tyrel Dodson and 2022 third-round pick Terrel Bernard will compete for the middle ‘backer job. A former UDFA, Dodson made three starts last year. He played 220 defensive snaps. Starting one game as a rookie, Bernard played 110. The Bills also brought back veteran A.J. Klein, who has 82 starts on his resume (16 with Buffalo), in April.

Dolphins Agree To Terms With T Isaiah Wynn

MAY 16: Terms of the deal are in, courtesy of ESPN’s Field Yates (Twitter link). Wynn will earn a base salary of $2.3MM, while incentives could push the value to $2.7MM. As expected, those figures fall well short of what he received on the fifth-year option last year. A strong performance in whatever role Wynn ends up playing could help rebuild his value on the open market heading into next offseason, though yesterday’s addition of Cedric Ogbuehi will add further to the competition for playing time along Miami’s O-line.

MAY 14: As expected, Isaiah Wynn has departed the Patriots in free agency, but he will still be in the AFC East next season. The veteran tackle has signed a one-year deal with the Dolphins, reports Ian Rapoport of NFL Network (Twitter link).

A 2018 first-round pick, Wynn didn’t make his New England debut until the following season. Injuries have been a constant in much of his career, which has seen him play in 43 games (40 starts) with the Patriots. Primarily a left tackle for three seasons, he has seen time at guard and operated as a right tackle in 2022.

The 27-year-old saw his stock drop considerably last season, however, finding himself being benched midway through the campaign. He was mentioned in trade talks leading up to the deadline, but no teams elected to add him as depth for the stretch run. Wynn was charged with nine penalties committed and four sacks allowed by PFF in nine games played last season, leading to a career-worst grade of 54.6.

The Georgia alum made $10.4MM on the fifth-year option last season, but this Dolphins pact will surely come in at a much lower rate. Wynn – a native of St. Petersburg, Florida – will give Miami experienced depth on the right side of their offensive line, a unit which has remained a work in progress this offseason. Austin Jackson is in line to start at right tackle, despite his fifth-round option being declined.

Wynn will look to compete for the RT role (which involves protecting the blindside for left-handed quarterback Tua Tagovailoa) during training camp. Neither he nor Jackson are under contract beyond 2023, but the pair will provide options for a unit tasked with better protecting Tagovailoa moving forward. The Dolphins had previously made only one addition to their offensive line in free agency (Dan Feeney), but this deal could include upside if Wynn can stay healthy and play to his potential. At a minimum, their offensive front will be deeper this season at the tackle spot.

2023 Top 50 NFL Free Agents

Super Bowl LVII provided the latest example of the value free agency can bring. The Chiefs revamped their receiving corps on last year’s market, while the Eagles acquired three defensive starters — including sack leader Haason Reddick. The Jaguars also used a March 2022 splurge to ignite their surprising surge to the divisional round.

Beginning with the legal tampering period, which starts at 3pm CT on Monday, and continuing with the official start to free agency (3pm Wednesday), the next several days represent a highlight on the NFL calendar. Which teams will change their 2023 outlooks for the better next week?

While the 2023 free agent class has absorbed its share of body blows and indeed lacks depth at certain spots, a few positions will bring waves of starter-level talent. Right tackle will invite some big-money decisions, and the safety and off-ball linebacker positions feature considerable depth. A few ascending talents and hidden gems appear in this class as well.

This list ranks free agents by earning potential. In terms of accomplishments, Bobby Wagner, Fletcher Cox and Lavonte David would lap most of the players included here. With each defender going into his age-33 season, however, the standouts’ ability to command big contracts is certainly not what it once was.

In terms of possible destinations, not every team is represented equally. Some teams will bring more needs and cap space into this year’s marketplace than others. With some help from Adam La Rose, here is this year’s PFR top 50 free agents list, along with potential landing spots for each player.

1. Orlando Brown Jr., T. Age in Week 1: 27

As the 49ers did two years ago with Trent Williams, the Chiefs will let Brown hit the market. This could end up benefiting the veteran tackle, who was offered a deal with an average annual value north of Williams’ tackle-record $23MM per year before last July’s franchise tag deadline. Citing insufficient guarantees, Brown turned it down. Kansas City’s offer did contain a bloated final year to bump up the AAV to $23.1MM, but will Brown – a quality left tackle but not a top-shelf option at the position – do as well this year? He will soon find out.

Brown has now made four Pro Bowls and carries positional versatility that would intrigue were he open to a return to right tackle, which by all accounts he is not. The 363-pound blocker can struggle against speed-rusher types, but he is set to be the rare accomplished left tackle in his prime to hit the market. The Chiefs sent a package including a first-round pick to the Ravens for Brown, whose bet on himself led to a $16.6MM tag and an open market. The bidding will run high, though it might not reach the places the Williams pursuit did in 2021.

The Chiefs’ exclusive negotiating rights with Brown end March 13; they have had nearly two years to complete a deal. The market will determine if the league views the sixth-year blocker as an elite-level left tackle or merely a good one. Then again, bidding wars drive up the prices for O-linemen on the market. O-line salary records have fallen four times (Williams, Corey Linsley, Joe Thuney, Brandon Scherff) in free agency since 2021. This foray could give Brown the guaranteed money he seeks, and it puts the Chiefs at risk of seeing their two-year left tackle depart. The Ravens also passed on this payment back in 2021, in part because they already had Ronnie Stanley on the payroll.

The defending champions have Brown and right tackle Andrew Wylie eligible for free agency; some of their leftover funds from the Tyreek Hill trade went to Brown’s tag. Although some among the Chiefs were frustrated Brown passed on last year’s offer, the team will be hurting at a premium position if he walks. Given the importance the blindside position carries, fewer teams are in need compared to right tackle. The Titans losing Taylor Lewan and continuing to clear cap space could point to a run at Brown, though the team has a few needs up front. The Jets likely have needs at both tackle spots. Would the Bears relocate Braxton Jones to the right side? Ryan Poles was with the Chiefs when they traded for Brown, and the Bears could outmuscle anyone for cap space.

Best fits: Titans, Chiefs, Commanders

2. Mike McGlinchey, T. Age in Week 1: 28

Teams in need of right tackles will participate in one of the more interesting markets in recent memory. Above-average-to-good offensive linemen do well in free agency annually, and this year will send three experienced right tackles in their prime to the market. A five-year starter in San Francisco and former top-10 pick, McGlinchey has a good case as the best of this lot. The five-year vet’s run-blocking craft eclipses his pass-protection chops exiting Year 5, but he will walk into a competitive market. The former Notre Dame left tackle should have a lucrative deal in place during next week’s legal tampering period.

Although mutual interest existed regarding a second 49ers-McGlinchey agreement, John Lynch acknowledged the only viable path for McGlinchey to stay in San Francisco would be his market underwhelming. That seems unlikely, so right tackle-seeking teams – and there are a handful – will jockey for the sixth-year veteran. McGlinchey turned 28 in January, making this his obvious window to cash in. He rated fifth in ESPN’s run block win rate stat last season, bouncing back from the quadriceps injury that ended his 2021 season.

There is no shortage of Kyle Shanahan– or Sean McVay-influenced schemes around the league. The Bears employ Luke Getsy as their play-caller; Getsy worked for Shanahan/McVay tree branch Matt LaFleur, and the Bears’ cap space dwarfs every other team’s. After fielding a shaky O-line (on a team full of substandard position groups), Chicago needs a better idea of Justin Fields’ trajectory. Outbidding the field for the top right tackle available is a good start. The Patriots want a right tackle – on a line without a big contract presently – and the Raiders might have a say here as well. In need at multiple O-line spots, Las Vegas will have cash as well if it passes on a big QB investment.

Best fits: Bears, Patriots, Raiders

3. Jawann Taylor, T. Age in Week 1: 26

As expected, the Jaguars took Evan Engram off the market via the franchise tag. The tight end tag being $7MM cheaper than the $18.2MM offensive lineman tag always pointed Taylor toward free agency, and after never missing a start in four Duval County seasons, Taylor will be tough for the Jags to retain. They already drafted Walker Little in the 2021 second round, and no team that is currently paying a left tackle top-10 money (Cam Robinson is seventh) has a top-10 right tackle contract on the books. Taylor is expected to land at least a top-10 right tackle deal, with a $17MM-AAV figure being floated. That would place the former Florida Gator in the top five at the position, depending on how McGlinchey fares next week.

Taylor resembles the genre of player that usually populates the top of a position’s free agency market: a dependable performer who checks in below the top tier at his job. Taylor enjoyed his strongest year in his platform campaign. The former second-round pick dropped his hold count from 11 in 2021 to two in 2022. While PFF charged Taylor with five sacks allowed, Football Outsiders measured his blown-block rate at a career-low 1.3%. Offering a disparate skillset compared to McGlinchey, Taylor has fared better as a pass protector than in the run game. PFF slotted him as a top-10 pass protector among right tackles but viewed him as a dismal run-blocker.

The Jags have presumably made Taylor an offer, but other teams will probably top it. The Dolphins gave Terron Armstead a five-year, $75MM deal in 2022 but have needed a right tackle ever since Ja’Wuan James’ 2019 exit. They were forced to start in-season pickup Brandon Shell for much of the year and have cleared more than $45MM in cap space over the past two days. The team just picked up Tua Tagovailoa‘s fifth-year option, and the league’s lone southpaw starting QB needs better blindside protection after a season in which he suffered at least two concussions. Overspending on O-linemen is not the Patriots’ M.O., but they have a need at right tackle and do not have big dollars devoted to quarterback or any position up front. New England is on the hunt for a right tackle upgrade, and the team’s 2021 free agency showed it would spend when it deemed expenditures necessary.

Best fits: Dolphins, Patriots, Jaguars

4. Jimmy Garoppolo, QB. Age in Week 1: 31

The quarterback market cleared up this week, seeing Geno Smith and Daniel Jones extended and Derek Carr’s lengthy street free agency stretch end with $70MM in practical guarantees. Garoppolo’s injury history will affect his value, but teams kind of make it a priority to staff this position. The former Super Bowl starter is in his prime and on the market for the first time. How high this market goes will depend on what the Raiders want and what Aaron Rodgers decides.

The 49ers’ 12-game win streak that included Brock Purdy’s stunning displays began with Garoppolo at the controls. Guiding San Francisco to four straight wins, Garoppolo was at or close to his best when he suffered a broken foot in Week 13. He sported a 7-0 TD-INT ratio during that win streak and closed the season 16th in QBR. He would have walked into a better market had the injury not occurred; the setback came after a string of health issues. He tore an ACL in 2018, missed 10 games in 2020 after an ankle sprain and was significantly limited by the end of the 2021 slate due to a three-injury season. Garoppolo’s March 2022 shoulder surgery hijacked his trade market.

Ideally for Garoppolo, Rodgers returns to Green Bay or retires. While that is looking unlikelier by the day, it would put the Jets in a desperate position following Carr’s decision. The Raiders represent the other wild card. Garoppolo would slide into Josh McDaniels’ system seamlessly, given the parties’ three-plus years together in New England. The Raiders have operated a bit more stealthily compared to the Jets; they have been connected to Rodgers, Garoppolo and rolling with a rookie. Plan C here would be a tough sell given the presences of 30-year-old skill-position players Davante Adams and Darren Waller, but Las Vegas’ plans cloud Garoppolo’s market. If the Raiders pass and Rodgers chooses the Jets, Garoppolo’s earning power could drop.

McDaniels not fancying a Garoppolo reunion opens the door for the Texans, who hired ex-49ers pass-game coordinator Bobby Slowik as OC, and others. Houston’s situation may not appeal to Garoppolo, but Slowik and Nick Caserio being in Houston make this connection too clear to ignore. The Buccaneers and Commanders are in win-now positions but are giving indications they do not want to spend much at QB. The Commanders were deep in talks for the then-49ers QB last year, however. Garoppolo will test those squads, along with the Falcons, who are entering Year 3 of the Terry FontenotArthur Smith regime. The Panthers’ acquisition of the No. 1 pick likely takes them out of the running, and Carolina not being in the mix could also affect how high the Garoppolo price goes.

Bottom line, there should be enough teams interested in staffing their 2023 QB1 spots that the best free agent option should do OK no matter what happens with Rodgers.

Best fits: Raiders, Texans, Commanders

5. Jamel Dean, CB. Age in Week 1: 26

The Buccaneers retained Carlton Davis last year, but their dire cap situation should force a Dean departure. Dean’s age/performance combination should make him this year’s top cornerback available. With corner a position of need for many teams, the former third-round pick stands to do very well. Dean has only been a full-time starter in one season, however, seeing his defensive snap share jump from 67% in 2021 to 90% last season.

Excelling in press coverage, Dean played a major role for the 2020 Super Bowl champion Bucs iteration and overtook fellow free agent Sean Murphy-Bunting last year. Dean did perform better in 2021 compared to 2022, allowing no touchdowns and limiting QBs to a collective 50.0 passer rating; those numbers shot up to four and 86.0 last season. Still, PFF rated Dean as last year’s 10th-best corner. J.C. Jackson did not break into the top five among corners upon hitting the market last year; Dean should not be expected to do so, either. But many teams will be interested.

The Patriots have paid up for a corner previously, in Stephon Gilmore (2017), but Jonathan Jones – forced to primarily play a boundary role in 2022 – wants to re-sign and will be far cheaper than Dean. The Falcons need help opposite AJ Terrell and trail only the Bears in cap space. Although a Terrell payment is coming, it can be tabled to 2024 due to the fifth-year option. The Dolphins are clearing cap space and now have a corner need, with Byron Jones no longer with the team after his missed season.

Best fits: Dolphins, Falcons, Patriots

6. Jessie Bates, S. Age in Week 1: 26

Bates stands to be one of this free agency crop’s safest bets, combining extensive experience – the final two years as a pillar for a championship threat – with a host of prime years remaining. Beginning his career at 21, the Wake Forest product has started 79 games and anchored the Bengals’ secondary for most of his tenure. The Bengals did not tag Bates for a second time, passing on a $15.5MM price. With the team planning to let Bates test the market, it looks like the sixth-year defender will leave Cincinnati.

The Bengals and Bates went through two offseasons of negotiations, ending in the 2022 tag. The Bengals have some big payments to make at higher-profile positions. Safety does not qualify as such, but Bates has been a cornerstone in Lou Anarumo’s defense and will be handsomely rewarded. Bates finished as Pro Football Focus’ No. 1 overall safety in 2020 and, after a shakier 2021 in which he admitted his contract situation affected his play, Bates came through with impact plays in the postseason. He graded as a top-25 safety, via PFF, in 2022.

Safety is one of this year’s deeper positions in free agency. Of the top 10 safety contracts, however, only one went to a free agent (Marcus Williams in 2022). Bates should be expected to join the Ravens defender, who signed for $14MM per year. It will be interesting if he can climb into the top five at the position; Justin Simmons’ $15.25MM-AAV accord sits fifth. Bates should be expected to approach or eclipse that, though moving to the Derwin JamesMinkah Fitzpatrick tier will be more difficult. Still, after the Bengals offered Bates less than $17MM guaranteed last summer, he should depart for more guaranteed money.

The Browns are interested in Bates, who will cost more than John Johnson cost Cleveland two years ago (three years, $33.75MM). Clear of the record-setting Matt Ryan dead-money hit, the Falcons have cash to spend and a Terry FontenotArthur Smith regime entering Year 3. The Falcons need to make progress, and they do not have much in the way of talent or costs at safety. The team has not featured much here since the Keanu NealRicardo Allen tandem splintered. Bates would be a way to remedy that.

Team fits: Falcons, Browns, Raiders

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