To wrap up this 2022 NFL free agent positional rankings, we will preview the group of defensive backs set to be available. It is a good group of cornerbacks, free safeties, and strong safeties highlighted by some big names. There were some honorable mentions who were tough to leave off. At cornerback, Charvarius Ward, Rasul Douglas, Donte Jackson, Darious Williams, and Anthony Averett are all good players. At safety, Jayron Kearse and Marcus Maye were the top two left off. Let’s take a look at the 10 best defensive backs who will be free agents.
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10. Devin McCourty, New England Patriots
All 12 years of his career, McCourty has been with the Patriots. He has been a staple for Bill Belichick and the three Super Bowl-winning teams he has been a part of. McCourty will play next season at 35 years old. Last season, he still had good production. McCourty totaled three interceptions and 10 passes defended in 2021. The leadership and winning experience McCourty has makes him that much more valuable to whoever he will play for in 2022.
9. Casey Hayward, Las Vegas Raiders
Hayward has a great bounce-back season in 2021. He helped improve a Raiders pass defense that needed to be better. Hayward recorded nine passes defended, his best since 2017. A strong veteran presence will be added to the defensive back group Hayward joins. Next season will be Hayward’s 11th year in the league. He will play at 33 years old but looks to still have good football left.
8. Stephon Gilmore, Carolina Panthers
Despite missing time over the last two years, Gilmore still brings an incredibly respected reputation. Last season, in only eight games, Gilmore had two interceptions. The 2022 season for Gilmore will be his 11th year. He will turn 32 in September. Expect him to be sought out after and ultimately sign with a winning team. Gilmore can still be a great asset to a defense.
7. Jordan Whitehead, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Whitehead is one of the most underrated free agents in this class. He has been in a starting role with the Buccaneers all four years of his career. Whitehead is a physical strong safety in the box. His coverage ability is good as well. He has recorded two interceptions in each of the last two seasons. Whitehead can make plays against the run in the backfield. Whitehead will turn 25 this week as he enters year five of his career. His market will be a strong one.
6. Quandre Diggs, Seattle Seahawks
The first of two great Seahawks defensive backs. Diggs took his game to a greater level after being traded to the Seahawks mid-way through the 2019 season. He makes a ton of plays on the football in coverage from the free safety position. Diggs has had at least three interceptions in every season since 2017 and is an experienced veteran player. He will play this upcoming season, his eighth in the league, at 29 years old. Diggs will be a great addition for whoever signs him.
5. D.J. Reed, Seattle Seahawks
Reed has been a highly productive player over the last two seasons with the Seahawks. He had a career year in 2021. Reed is a smaller outside cornerback but makes plays on the football. Over the last two years, he has had two interceptions each season. Reed had a career-best in terms of passes defended with 10 in 2021. He is a young player at a premium position who will turn 26 in November. Reed will have multiple suitors in free agency.
4. Tyrann Mathieu, Kansas City Chiefs
Mathieu just spent the last three seasons with the Chiefs where he attained a ton of success. He was a core piece to their Super Bowl-winning team in 2019. As he enters year 10 in the NFL, Mathieu will turn 30 in May. Mathieu can provide great versatility to a defensive backfield at slot cornerback, free safety, and strong safety. He had three interceptions and fumble recoveries last season. Over the last five seasons, Mathieu has not played in only two games. He is a great defensive back set to be available.
3. Marcus Williams, New Orleans Saints
Williams has been one of the top free safeties throughout the league for years now. As he enters his sixth year in the league, he will only turn 26 in September. He has recorded at least two interceptions every year of his career. Williams has a ton of range on the backend as a single-high free safety. In terms of prime years, Williams has multiple left. His market will consist of many interested teams.
2. Carlton Davis, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Davis is a young cornerback who has been successful throughout the first four years of his career. He has totaled six interceptions over the last three seasons. Davis has posted 48 passes defended since 2019. On the outside, Davis offers a ton of size to compete against bigger wide receivers. He will play most of this upcoming season at 25 years old. Davis will end up with a big multi-year deal this free agency.
1. J.C. Jackson, New England Patriots
The top-ranked defensive back, Jackson has been highly productive all four years of his career with the Patriots. Each season, he has totaled at least three interceptions and six passes defended. Over the last two seasons, Jackson has had 17 interceptions and 37 passes defended. Jackson is a playmaking cornerback with top-notch ball skills. He will turn 27 years old in November and should maintain similar production. Jackson is going to be highly sought out once free agent starts.
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