Free agency in 2023 could be full of opulence for some NFL stars.
Though the 2022 regular season is only through nine weeks of action, some players whose contracts are expiring in the offseason have produced quality football and statistics thus far and are worthy of a stalwart paycheck sooner rather than later.
One former pending free agent who was bound to get a pay raise already secured long-term money: Bradley Chubb. The Miami Dolphins reportedly extended the outside linebacker/pass rush specialist with a five-year, $110 million contract after acquiring him via trade from the Denver Broncos before the 2022 trade deadline.
As Chubb gets scratched off this list, let’s take a look at five other NFL stars facing free agency who could break the bank in 2023 (Note: All contract data via Spotrac):
Saquon Barkley, New York Giants
The Giants have been one of the season’s distinctive surprises as they jumped to a 6-2 start under new head coach Brian Daboll. Among the faces headlining the revolution is star running back Saquon Barkley, who is doing it via the ground and passing game. Through eight games, the 25-year-old workhorse has already logged 779 rushing yards on 163 attempts (4.8 yards per carry) for five touchdowns and 28 receptions for 189 yards. Considering he’s making just north of $7 million this season, it’s reasonable to expect that amount to increase if the Giants want to build a serious title-contending team.
Lamar Jackson, Baltimore Ravens
New England Patriots
The Baltimore Ravens could not agree to terms with star quarterback Lamar Jackson ahead of the Sept. 9 deadline, so there could be an MVP-caliber talent available at the most important position. Baltimore is currently 5-3 and on top of the AFC North, with Jackson registering 1,635 passing yards (63% completion rate) to go with 15 touchdowns and six picks while running for 553 yards on 75 attempts (7.4 average) and two touchdowns. He’s turning 26 in January, so whichever organization pens him to a lucrative deal will have a star QB just entering his prime.
Jessie Bates III, Cincinnati Bengals
Staying in the AFC North, Jessie Bates III of the Cincinnati Bengals feels like another prime candidate to see a boatload of money coming his way. The Bengals franchise tagged the 25-year-old safety this past offseason -- worth $12.9 million -- but he’s set for unrestricted free agency in 2023 and should command plenty of attention. The 2018 second-round pick earned second-team All-Pro honors in 2020 and has 12 interceptions to his name, including his second career playoff pick in Super Bowl LVI.
Roquan Smith, Baltimore Ravens
Another AFC North player makes this list, but he wasn’t there to start the season. The Chicago Bears dealt linebacker Roquan Smith to Baltimore before the 2022 trade deadline, signaling their intent to rebuild with draft picks and avoid paying Smith significant money. Through eight games, the 25-year-old two-time second-team All-Pro (2020, 2021) has registered 83 tackles (52 solo), 2.5 sacks, two interceptions and three passes defensed. The 2018 No. 8 overall pick may or may not get paid by the Ravens, but he should be the best LB target in a market with multiple intriguing names.
Orlando Brown Jr., Kansas City Chiefs
Currently on a one-year deal with the Chiefs worth $16.6 million, it feels safe to presume that the soon-to-be 27-year-old left tackle will see even more money in his bank account in 2023. He’s made three straight Pro Bowls and has a crucial role to protect Patrick Mahomes’ blindside. Considering the three offensive lineman who make over $20 million on average a season are all left tackles -- San Francisco 49ers’ Trent Williams, Green Bay Packers’ David Bakhtiari and Houston Texans’ Laremy Tunsil -- Brown is a worthy candidate to join that list given he’s in the early stages of his prime and is one of the best in the position.
- LB Tremaine Edmunds, Buffalo Bills: 24-year-old 2018 first-round pick who turns in steady, reliable performances week in and week out
- DT Da’Ron Payne, Washington Commanders: 25-year-old 2018 first-round pick who has already surpassed his career high in sacks
- LB Azeez Al-Shaair, San Francisco 49ers: 25-year-old versatile linebacker who broke out in 2021 and flies all over the field
- RB Josh Jacobs, Las Vegas Raiders: Soon-to-be 25-year-old workhorse running back who can help a passing attack when called upon
- OT Isaiah Wynn, New England Patriots: Soon-to-be 27-year-old who can play both left and right tackle effectively