The fun of free agency is a team being able to acquire players that the front office and scouting department admired from a distance.

Opportunity is there for each of the NFL's 32 teams to dramatically shake up their rosters ahead of the league's legal tampering period, which begins on March 11. However, retaining top talent is equally as important a part of free agency as is signing players from outside of the organization. 

With that in mind, here is a look, from A to Z, at every team's top free agent that must be kept around this offseason.

Arizona Cardinals

Wide receiver Marquise Brown is the Cardinals' best free agent, but his performance since coming to the desert hasn't been anything to write home about. Since coming over to Arizona in 2022 from the Baltimore Ravens, the 2019 first-round pick has totaled 118 catches, 1,283 receiving yards and seven receiving touchdowns in 26 games played. 

That would be a nice season output for one year for a team's top wide receiver. While Brown is still young, he turns 27 on June 4, he isn't worth breaking the bank for on a rebuilding team. Wide receiver Michael Wilson (2023 third-round pick) and tight end Trey McBride (2022 second-round pick) showed promise last season. Plus, the Cardinals own the fourth overall pick in the 2024 NFL Draft after a 4-13 season. That puts them in prime position to select one of the best wide receiver prospects in years, Ohio State's Marvin Harrison Jr. 

Bringing Brown back isn't a massive need for Arizona, but he is clearly the free agent to retain. 

Atlanta Falcons

The Falcons aren't set to lose any major contributors from their 2023 squad, but Calais Campbell's impact for Atlanta goes beyond the stat sheet. The six-time Pro Bowler did total 6.5 sacks at age 37, but his impact at this stage of his career is more about the intangibles. 

Defensively, Atlanta has plenty of veterans, but offensively, this is still a young team without an established quarterback. Retaining Campbell would the Falcons to have solid veteran leadership for a team that is still struggling to break through in the NFC South. 

Baltimore Ravens 

Ravens defensive tackle Justin Madubike played a significant role in Baltimore's 2023 defense becoming the first in NFL history to lead or co-lead the league in scoring defense (16.5 points per game allowed), sacks (60) and takeaways (31, tied for the most in the NFL with the New York Giants) all in the same season.

His 13.0 sacks and 33 quarterback hits were both the most among defensive tackles in 2023. Madubuike's 11 consecutive games with at least half a sack this past season tied the NFL's record for most consecutive games with at least half a sack in a single season, now sharing the record with Bengals Pro Bowl edge rusher Trey Hendrickson (2021) and Chiefs All-Pro defensive tackle Chris Jones (2018). 

The 26-year-old earned the first Pro Bowl nod of his four-year career, and his projected market value, per Spotrac, reflects that outstanding 2023 performance. On the open market, he could garner a four-year, $81.3 million deal with an average annual salary of $20.3 million. Should Baltimore franchise tag Madubuike, they would be signing him to a one-year, fully-guaranteed $22.1 million deal in 2024. 

It would behoove the Ravens to sign him to a long-term deal and spread out his cap hits, but if they cannot come to terms with Madubuike on a long-term deal, Baltimore needs to franchise tag him. 

Carolina Panthers

The Carolina Panthers NEED to retain Brian Burns this offseason. Obviously letting a two-time Pro Bowl edge rusher walk for nothing is horrendous business. 

Since the Panthers selected Burns 16th overall in the 2019 NFL Draft, 10 players in the entire NFL have produced 45 or more sacks, 10 or more passes defended and five or more forced fumbles in that span: Burns, Shaquil Barrett, Maxx Crosby, Aaron Donald, Myles Garrett, Chris Jones, Cameron Jordan, Khalil Mack, Haason Reddick and T.J. Watt

This entire list is like the V.I.P. section at the NFL's pass-rushers club: creme de la creme only. Plus, the Panthers turned down the following trade compensation for Burns at the 2022 NFL trade deadline from the Los Angeles Rams, per CBS Sports Lead NFL Insider Jonathan Jones: a 2024 first, 2025 first and a 2023 second-round pick. 

Carolina declared Burns is worth three premium picks, so they cannot let him out of the building. Whether that's handing the 25-year-old a multi-year extension (his Spotrac market value is a five-year, $108.8 million deal) or franchise-tagging him for a fully-guaranteed salary of $24 million, the Panthers have to make sure he is in Charlotte in 2024. 

Chicago Bears

Jaylon Johnson, the Bears 24-year-old Pro Bowl cornerback, earned Pro Football Focus' highest defensive grade among corners in 2023 (90.8), narrowly topping Dallas Cowboys All-Pro DaRon Bland (90.4) and New York Jets All-Pro Sauce Gardner (88.6). Johnson's 91.0 PFF coverage grade also led all corners, just ahead of Gardner (90.8) and Bland (89.9).

Chicago nearly dealt him at the 2023 trade deadline, but the Bears made a smart move to hold on to him. Johnson totaled a career-high four interceptions en route to garnering Second-Team All-Pro and Pro Bowl accolades. 

Jaylon Johnson 2023 Season

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The Bears cannot let him walk. Johnson's market value, according to Spotrac, is a five-year deal worth $78.7 million ($15.7 million average per year). Placing the franchise tag on him would cost $19.8 million on a one-year, fully-guaranteed contract. 

Cincinnati Bengals

This spot was reserved for wide receiver Tee Higgins, but after the Bengals made clear they are going to franchise-tag him, defensive tackle D.J. Reader is now the selection here. 

Reader earned the 12th-highest PFF defensive grade (82.2) and was tied for the sixth-highest PFF run defense grade (75.3) among defensive tackle in 2023. Behind Pro Bowl edge rusher Trey Hendrickson (17.8% quarterback pressure rate), Reader was Cincy's second-most consistent pass-rusher (11.5% quarterback pressure rate) among those with at least 100 pass rushes. That 11.5% pressure rate was also the third-best in the entire NFL among players weighing 320 or more pounds last season, among those with at least 100 pass rushes. 

The Bengals defense wasn't as effective as year's past, but some of that can be explained by Joe Burrow's absence the final seven games of the season because of injury. Reader does turn 30 on July 1, but Cincinnati does have $44.7 million in effective cap space to play with this offseason, per His market value, per Spotrac, is a three-year pact worth $44.8 million ($14.9 million average per year). The Bengals have the room to make a new deal for Reader to fit in their salary cap, and they should go out of their way to make it happen. 

Cleveland Browns

The answer here has to be the 2023 NFL Comeback Player of the Year. Sure, Flacco was high across the board in his five regular season starts in 2023, leading the NFL in pass attempts (204), passing yards (1,616), passing touchdowns (13) and interceptions (eight) from Weeks 13-17, but that production in five games translated to higher level quarterback play than Deshaun Watson has been able to provide for the Browns. 

Deshaun Watson vs Joe Flacco 

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Watson is returning from a season-ending shoulder injury that required surgery, so having Flacco around as the break glass in case of emergency backup quarterback once again should be a priority for Cleveland. 

Dallas Cowboys

The Dallas Cowboys and eight-time Pro Bowl left tackle Tyron Smith are headed toward a parting of ways after 13 seasons together since 2011. NFL Media reported Smith is unlikely to return to Dallas for the 2024 season. 

However, the Cowboys can't afford to lose him. The five-time All-Pro, while struggling to stay healthy the last few seasons --only playing in 45% of Dallas' games the last four seasons -- Smith played in 13 of the Cowboys' 17 regular season games this past season as well as their playoff game against the Packers. In the regular season, Smith only allowed one sack and 16 quarterback pressures, barely more than one per game. 

PFF certified Smith's play with an 88.6 pass-blocking grade, the highest in the entire league among offensive linemen to play 100 or more snaps last season. Dallas needs to bring him back. Even though he is older, the Cowboys can't afford to let the NFL's best pass-blocking tackle leave. Especially for nothing. 

Denver Broncos

The Denver Broncos will have a new starting quarterback next season. That much is clear after they announced they are releasing Wilson on Monday. Any quarterback needs a solid offensive line in front of them in order to be able to read a defense and find open targets. 

Broncos center Lloyd Cushenberry, a third-round pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, is one of the best centers in the NFL. Pro Football Focus gave him a 74.7 offensive grade, the 10th best among centers with at least 100 snaps in 2023. Cushenberry excels in pass protection as his 76.4 PFF pass-blocking grade is the third-best among centers in the entire league, trailing only Chiefs Pro Bowler Creed Humphrey (78.6) and Colts Pro Bowler Ryan Kelly (78.3). 

Cushenberry needs to be re-signed since he can be part of the offensive solution moving forward in Denver. 

Detroit Lions

The Detroit Lions were one of the best rushing offenses in the NFL, averaging the fifth-most rushing yards per game (135.9) this past season. Each of their top two running backs, David Montgomery (1,015 rushing yards and 13 rushing touchdowns) and Jahmyr Gibbs (945 rushing yards and 10 rushing touchdowns), totaled over 900 rushing yards and at least 10 rushing touchdowns.

A key component of that success was guard Graham Glasgow, a third-round pick in the 2016 NFL Draft. PFF gave Glasgow a 77.2 offensive grade, tied for the sixth-highest among offensive guards who played at least 200 snaps in 2023. He was a bulldozer in the run game as his 87.0 run-blocking grade ranked as the fifth-best among guards with at least 200 snaps played this past season. 

Head coach Dan Campbell puts a premium on his team's toughness and retaining Glasgow would go along way toward maintaining Campbell's desired play style. 

Green Bay Packers

The Green Bay Packers top free agent they need to retain is cornerback and kick returner Keisean Nixon. They could always use more depth at corner with the injuries suffered the last couple of seasons to Jaire Alexaner and Eric Stokes, but the primary reason his retention is key is because of what he does in the return game. 

Nixon has garnered consecutive First-Team All-Pro selections as a returner, leading the NFL in kickoff return yards in both 2022 (1,009) and 2023 (782). He also came up clutch as a returner this postseason, returning a kickoff 73 yards down inside 49ers territory. Yes, he had the football punched out for a fumble, but it was recovered by Packers linebacker Eric Wilson

Green Bay has signed him to one-year deals in each of the last two offseasons. A two-year pact for the 26-year-old for a modest sum could be all Nixon requires to remain a Packer. 

Houston Texans

While Will Anderson Jr. won NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year for leading all rookies in quarterback pressures (59) and quarterback hits (22), he actually didn't lead the Texans in sacks (7.0). That distinction belongs to 2020 third-round pick Jonathan Greenard (12.5) sacks. He came on strong down the stretch run of the season, totaling 5.5 sacks from Weeks 13-15. 

Having another pass rusher offenses have to account for opens up opportunities to terrorize quarterbacks for both Anderson and Greenard. Keeping the latter around should help the former's promising develop continue on an upward trajectory. 

Indianapolis Colts

Michael Pittman Jr. arrived in 2023. He registered his first 100-catch season in 2023 in his age-26 season with his 109 catches ranking as the fifth most in the NFL last season and tied for the fourth most in a single season in Colts history. They are the most by a player in Indy since current wide receivers coach Reggie Wayne's 111 back in the 2010 season. 

The mountain of a target (6-foot-4, 223 pounds) is paramount to the Colts' development of quarterback Anthony Richardson. If hits the open market, he'll have plenty of suitors. 

Jacksonville Jaguars

The other Josh Allen, a two-time Pro Bowl edge rusher, was one of the NFL's best players in 2023. His 17.5 sacks set the Jaguars single-season record and tied for the second-most in the entire league last season with Bengals Pro Bowler Trey Hendrickson. Only Steelers All-Pro T.J. Watt registered more sacks (19.0) than Allen in 2023. 

Allen, the seventh overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft, didn't just hunt big plays either as he displayed consistent effort in harassing opposing quarterbacks, totaling 90 quarterback pressures, the fifth-most in the entire NFL this past season. Jacksonville waited to sign him to an extension, and that delay is going to cost them either with Allen's high price tag or with the loss of him entirely. Allen is a cornerstone player who should be the face of the Jaguars defense for years to come. 

Kansas City Chiefs

Two-time First-Team All-Pro Chris Jones is the anchor of the Kansas City Chiefs' second-ranked scoring defense (17.3 points per game allowed in 2023). No defensive tackle has more sacks (35.0), tackles for loss (38) and quarterback pressures (217) than Jones in the past three seasons.

How elite is Jones? Well, since 1980, he is one of only four defensive players to be a First-Team All-Pro selection and win the Super Bowl in the same season twice. The other three are all Hall of Famers: Ronnie Lott (1981 and 1989), Richard Seymour (2003-2004) and Troy Polamalu (2005 and 2008). Kansas City needs to make the most of the salary cap's historic spike this offseason and pay this man his money.

Las Vegas Raiders

The Raiders didn't do much right as far as player development was concerned under former head coach Josh McDaniels, but they managed to cultivate the talents of former undrafted free agent center Andre James. The 26-year-old graded out as Pro Football Focus' ninth-best center, among those with at least 100 snaps, in the entire league with a 76.3 offensive grade. 

Vegas is clearly starting over at quarterback, but they should keep the lynchpin of their offensive line around for whoever is taking snaps for them in 2024. 

Los Angeles Chargers

Since Cameron Dicker entered the NFL as undrafted free agent out of the University of Texas in 2022, he has been lights out. Dicker has drained all 45 of his career field goals from under 50 yards out. From 50 yards or longer, he is seven out of 10. That's a field goal percentage of 94.5% (52-55), the third-highest in the entire NFL since 2022, trailing only Texans kicker Ka'imi Fairbairn and 2023 First-Team All-Pro Cowboys kicker Brandon Aubrey (36-38). 

All Los Angeles has to do to retain his services is tender him a qualifying offer since Dicker is an exclusive rights free agent. Easy decision. Plus, he is responsible for one of the best Pro Bowl campaign videos of all time. Dicker is just as good for locker room vibes as he is at converting on field goal kicks. 

Los Angeles Rams

The Rams took a flier on 2020 fourth-round pick in a trade with the Pittsburgh Steelers a year ago, flipping a 2024 fourth-round pick and a 2025 fifth-round pick in exchange for Dotson, a 2024 fifth-round pick and a 2025 sixth-round pick. Los Angeles hit the lottery with this move as Dotson ended up being grade out as PFF's second-best offensive guard in the entire league with an 86.1 offensive grade behind only Atlanta Falcons Pro Bowler Chris Lindstrom (89.7).

No guard was a better run-blocker in 2023 than Dotson as he registered an 88.8 run-blocking grade. The Rams can't let this 27-year-old lineman out of the building. 

Miami Dolphins

Even though the Miami Dolphins reportedly won't franchise tag their 28-year-old former first-round pick, Christian Wilkins is a free agent they have to bring back. 

Wilkins arrived in 2023, nearly beating his career sack total from his first four seasons (11.5) in 2023 with a career-high 9.0. Wilkins was one of only six defensive tackles to register at least nine sacks last season joining Pro Bowler Justin Madubike (13.0), All-Pro Chris Jones (10.5), teammate and "Hard Knocks" BFF Zach Sieler (10.0), Ed Oliver (9.5) and Kobie Turner (9.0). 

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The problem is the Dolphins are up against it with their salary cap, needing to create $31.6 million in cap space before the start of the new league year on March 13. Miami general manager Chris Grier needs to pull a rabbit out of his hat and figure out a way to get cap compliant and re-sign Wilkins, whether it's to a one-year or multi-year deal. 

Minnesota Vikings

Yes, Kirk Cousins turns 36 on August 19 and is coming off of a torn Achilles, but prior to his season-ending injury, he was playing like a top five quarterback. He ranked in the top five of the league in completion percentage (70%, fifth in NFL), passing yards (2,331, second in NFL) and passing touchdowns (18, tied for first) through the first eight weeks of the 2023 season. 

Entering 2023, Cousins had thrown 25 passing touchdowns in eight consecutive seasons (2015-2022), the fifth-longest streak in NFL history. Should Minnesota be unable to re-sign him, the Vikings will re-enter quarterback purgatory. They aren't picking high enough in the draft to comfortably replace him (11th overall), and the rest of the available free agent quarterbacks -- Ryan Tannehill, Baker Mayfield, Russell Wilson and Jameis Winston to name a few -- would represent a step down in 2024. 

New England Patriots

New England Patriots safety Kyle Dugger is a playmaker: he is one of only two players with multiple interceptions and five or more tackles for loss in each of the last three seasons along with two-time Super Bowl champion Chiefs cornerback L'Jarius Sneed

However, Dugger had some inconsistencies in coverage pop out of late. He remains a solid run-stuffing safety, and perhaps the Patriots' new coaching staff led by former linebacker Jerod Mayo is exactly what he needs to get back on track. New England has the most effective cap space in the entire league ($93 million, per, so they should have no trouble re-signing their former second-round pick. 

New Orleans Saints

Derek Carr's play in his first year in New Orleans was remarkably blah. It felt like every time Jameis Winston entered a game that the energy changed for the Saints in a positive direction. Keeping him in town is a must in case Carr has another milquetoast season.

New York Giants

Safety Xavier McKinney is one of his position's elites. Pro Football Focus graded him as the NFL's best safety in coverage (91.2 coverage grade)  as he totaled three interceptions while not allowing any passing touchdowns in 2023. McKinney's 41.4 passer rating as the primary defender in coverage ranked as the seventh-best in the entire league, regardless of position among the 146 players with at least 50 passes thrown their way last season.

As an added bonus to the 24-year-old's game, McKinney is one of only two players in the NFL to play every defensive snap in 2023 along with fellow Giants teammate, linebacker Bobby Okereke. Saquon Barkley was certainly in contention for this spot, but McKinney's skillset is more valuable in 2024. 

New York Jets

Bryce Huff made the leap from rotational pass rusher to one of the most disruptive forces in the NFL. Only three-time Dallas Cowboys All-Pro Micah Parsons (21.8% quarterback pressure rate) had a higher quarterback pressure rate than the Jets' fourth-year defensive lineman among those with at least 250 pass rush snaps. The 25-year-old eclipsed his career sacks total in 2023 alone while matching his career quarterback pressures figure from his first three seasons in just the past year.

New York doesn't have a ton of cap room ($16.1 million in effective cap room, per, but they need to figure out a way to ensure Huff remains a Jet. They simply cannot let a high-end pass-rusher walk out of their facility. 

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Philadelphia Eagles

Running back D'Andre Swift earns this distinction basically by default. Future Hall of Fame center Jason Kelce retired. Franchise legends like defensive tackle Fletcher Cox (33 years-old) and defensive end Brandon Graham (35 years-old) are on the back end of their careers. The Eagles cut safety Kevin Byard.

Sure, Swift totaled the fifth most rushing yards in the NFL last season (1,049) at 24-years-old, which earned him his first career Pro Bowl selection. However, he averaged career lows in yards per scrimmage touch (4.7) and scrimmage touchdowns (six). Swift's vision sometimes holds him back from bigger gains. He did rank eighth among all running backs in offensive rushing expected points added, so he does provide more value than many running backs. 

The good news is he is still plenty young, so general manager Howie Roseman signing Swift to a multi-year deal wouldn't be the end of the world.

Pittsburgh Steelers

The Pittsburgh Steelers offense functioned way better with Rudolph under center than 2022 first-round pick Kenny Pickett. Rudolph only started three regular season games, but in his small sample size, he and the Steelers offense were way more efficient. 

He completed 74.6 percent of his passes, averaged 10.1 passing yards per attempt and had a 120.4 passer rating. All of those metrics ranked as best in the NFL among quarterbacks with 70 or more passing attempts in starts in 2023. Pickett's lackluster play --  13 passing touchdowns and 13 interceptions in 25 career games and the lowest touchdown percentage in NFL history (1.8%, minimum 500 pass attempts) -- makes it such that they need a backup quarterback they trust. Rudolph can be that guy.

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San Francisco 49ers

The 49ers flipped a 2024 third-round pick to acquire Young from the Washington Commanders, and in order to make the most of the Day 2 pick cost, San Francisco needs to re-sign him. They might be able to get him to re-sign on a cheap, one-year prove-it deal after he registered just 3.5 sacks and pressure rate of 11.9%. 

Young has potential, but there were too many times this past season when he was going through the motions. Perhaps a full season with the NFC champions could help him shake some of the bad habits he built up in Washington. 

Seattle Seahawks

The Seattle Seahawks sent a 2024 second-round pick and a a 2025 fifth-round pick across the country to the New York Giants in exchange for Pro Bowl defensive lineman Leonard Williams. Seattle desperately needed more push up front, and Williams provided decent help. His 12.1% quarterback pressure rate ranked as the second-most on the team behind Boye Mafe's 13.8% rate among those with at least 100 pass rush snaps. 

At age 29, Williams still has a few prime years left to work with. New head coach Mike MacDonald worked wonders with Justin Madubuike in Baltimore this past season, and WIlliams is more talented. Retaining him could lead to a significant defensive uptick in the Pacific Northwest. 

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Baker Mayfield may finally have an NFL home where he can truly settle down. He is the only quarterback in NFL history to start for four teams in the span of two calendar years, and Mayfield is also the only quarterback in NFL history with eight different head coaches in a six-season span. 

His best production of his career came in 2023, producing career bests in completion percentage (64.3%), passing yards (4,044) and passing touchdowns (28). This output earned Mayfield his first Pro Bowl selection, and five-time Pro Bowl wide receiver Mike Evans clearly felt comfortable enough with Mayfield being his quarterback for the foreseeable future, agreeing to re-sign on a two-year, $52 million deal on Monday. Evans' and Mayfield's possessed plenty of highlights as Evans co-led the NFL in receiving touchdowns along with Dolphins All-Pro Tyreek Hill in 2023. 

Tennessee Titans

Four-time Pro Bowl running back Derrick Henry may have already played his last game in a Titans uniform, but even at age 30, he remains the best free agent Tennessee could re-sign this past offseason. 

He led the NFL in carries (280) while ranking second in rushing yards (1,167) in 2023, a familiar occurrence for King Henry: he has led the NFL in carries and also ranked in the top two in rushing yards in four of the last five seasons. However, he showed signs of slowing down last season, averaging a career-low 4.2 yards per carry plus 68.6 rushing yards per game -- his fewest since 2017. 

Tyjae Spears showed some nice flashes as a rookie, but it would be fun, even if it is unrealistic, to see Henry remain with the only NFL home he has ever known. 

Washington Commanders

Kendall Fuller is one of the best defensive backs available this offseason: His 83.1 PFF defensive grade is the sixth-best among cornerbacks who played at least 100 snaps last season. Fuller, who snagged two interceptions, was one of the few bright spots on what was the NFL's worst defense last season since their unit was the lowest ranked team in scoring defense (30.5 points per game), total defense (388.9 total yards per game), passing touchdowns (39) and passer rating (105.7).

Keeping Fuller around for the Dan Quinn era could pay massive dividends since Quinn took a Cowboys unit in 2020 that was dreadful and helped flip them into a top five group within a few seasons.