Let me make this clear from the start: Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins does not play his position better than defensive tackle Chris Jones plays his position for the Kansas City Chiefs.

So why is Cousins ranked as the top NFL free agent on my top-100 list? Position value. That's the reason. 

Cousins is a good quarterback, the kind who can take a good team to the Super Bowl and win it. He is coming off a torn Achilles tendon, but he should be ready for the open of the 2024 season, which makes him a starter of value in a league where teams crave that type of player under center.

Cousins has his faults for sure, but he's rolled up big numbers in his career and the Vikings found out the cruel truth about his immense impact on their team when he was lost for the year. They would be wise to bring him back, but if he hits the market he is free-agent No. 1 in my book.

The rest of my top 10 includes eight defensive players, led by Jones in the second spot, with five of those being defensive linemen. It is a deep class from that standpoint, although franchise tag designations could change that.

The defensive line is the strength of this class. There are also some good corners and linebackers. The receiver group has some good players as well.

For the most part, it's a good, solid class of free agents, with a lot of players capable of improving teams in a big way and a lot of guys who will start. The target age for free agents should be 26-28, otherwise you are paying for past performance rather than what's to come. But with teams looking for immediate satisfaction now -- more than ever -- signing vets later in their careers to help right away makes more sense than it has in the past. 

Cousins tops this list, but that's just another reminder that quarterbacks are the most valuable players, but not necessarily the best at their positions. This is a quarterback league -- and it always will be. (Note: Some players on this list may have signed new deals with their respective teams as the start of free agency draws nearer or have been taken off the market with a franchise tag designation.)

Top 100 free agents
Kirk Cousins Minnesota Vikings QB
He suffered a torn Achilles tendon last season, but he should be back for the start of the 2024 season. The Vikings found out what it was like without him, so they should make sure he's back, and I think they will.
Chris Jones Kansas City Chiefs DE
He is a game-wrecker for any defense and the Chiefs would be wise to keep him. Jones said he wants to come back, but if he hits the market he will be a top target for a lot of teams.
Josh Allen Jacksonville Jaguars LB
He had his career-best season with 17.5 sacks at the right time. He showed that he can be a dominant edge rusher. The Jaguars will likely tag him if they don't get a deal done. (Received franchise tag)
Justin Madubuike Baltimore Ravens DT
He had his breakout season in 2023, showing off his ability to be disruptive in the run game and as an inside rusher. He just turned 26 in November, so his best football is still to come. (Received franchise tag)
Danielle Hunter Minnesota Vikings LB
He had 16.5 sacks last season and remains a top edge player. The Vikings will likely do what they can to keep him because it's hard to find good edge players.
L'Jarius Sneed Kansas City Chiefs CB
He is a shutdown corner who can lock up the other team's best receiver. The market for that talent will be high if the Chiefs don't keep him around. Watch the Super Bowl to see his value. (Received franchise tag)
Jaylon Johnson Chicago Bears DB
This 24-year-old had his breakout season in 2023, showing off outstanding cover skills to help his push to get a major deal. The Bears , who do have cap room, would be wise to keep him and will likely tag him. (Re-signed with Bears)
Brian Burns Carolina Panthers LB
He had just eight sacks last season, tying his career low, which isn't a good way to go to free agency. But he doesn't turn 26 until April. So he has a lot of good years left rushing the passer. (Received franchise tag)
Antoine Winfield Jr. Tampa Bay Buccaneers SS
He is a do-it-all safety who can cover, play the run and is a willing tackler. He's smallish, but he plays big. The Bucs would be wise to keep him and a tag is possible. (Received franchise tag)
Tee Higgins Cincinnati Bengals WR
(UPDATE: Bengals placed franchise tag on Higgins.) Higgins might be the top receiver in this class, but he has to convince a team he's a true No. 1. I think he can be, so expect him to get a top-dollar deal. (Received franchise tag)
Christian Wilkins Miami Dolphins DT
He is a good inside player who had 9.5 sacks last season in a contract year after he couldn't work out a deal with the Dolphins before the season. At 29, he can still help liven up a team's rush inside.
Mike Evans Tampa Bay Buccaneers WR
This 30-year-old receiver has 10 straight 1,000-yard seasons and is building a strong Hall of Fame resume. He is a big-play threat who has the size teams love on the outside. Age could hurt his contract, but for a team in need of a veteran who can still play he would make sense. (Re-signed with Buccaneers)
Baker Mayfield Tampa Bay Buccaneers QB
The Bucs gambled on Mayfield last season and both sides won. Mayfield took them to the playoffs and now he will get a new deal. The two sides want to marry again, but the contract will be the deciding point.
Michael Pittman Indianapolis Colts WR
He is a big-bodied receiver who hasn't put up big-time numbers, but he's played with some so-so quarterbacks. He doesn't run great, but he would be a nice second receiver for a team that has speed on the other side. (Received franchise tag)
Mike Onwenu New England Patriots OG
He has played guard and tackle in his time with the Patriots , but settled in at right tackle last season. He's 26, so he has a lot of good football in front of him.
Saquon Barkley New York Giants RB
He played on a one-year deal last season, but he didn't have the type of season he needed to cash in this time around. The running back market isn't good. He is still a good back, capable of doing a lot of things, but the value isn't there for the position.
Calvin Ridley Jacksonville Jaguars WR
He had moments where he flashed big-time ability with the Jaguars, but at other times he seemed lost. He had trouble running the right routes. He admitted it was tough learning the offense, which is why he hinted he wants to go back to Jacksonville.
Leonard Williams Seattle Seahawks DE
The Seahawks acquired him in a trade with the Giants and he continued to flash his ability as a good run stopper and an improved pass rusher from inside. The Seahawks want him back after giving up picks to get him, but at what price?
Kendall Fuller Washington Commanders CB
He is a corner who can play outside and inside, which will help his value. He was one of the few bright spots on a bad defense last season for the Commanders .
Tyron Smith Dallas Cowboys OT
At 33, plus dealing with a lot of injuries the past few seasons, his value might not be what it used to be. But when he's on the field, he's still a top-tier tackle. A team looking for a veteran up front would be wise to take a hard look at Smith.
Robert Hunt Miami Dolphins OG
This former tackle settled in nicely at right guard for the Dolphins the past few seasons. He is a big, physical player who can help any team looking to get more powerful up front.
Jonathan Greenard Houston Texans DE
This 26-year-old edge rusher had 12.5 sacks last season. He is also a good run player who will hold up at the point. The age-production combination makes him attractive.
Kamren Curl Washington Commanders SAF
Few outside of Washington know much about him, but they should. He's been a quality safety for the Commanders the past few seasons, capable of playing the run well and handling his coverage duties.
Josh Jacobs Las Vegas Raiders RB
At 25, he is coming off a disappointing season after a big one in 2022. The Raiders were a mess last season, so he gets somewhat of a pass. He did come on late, but position value will hurt his contract numbers.
Andre James Las Vegas Raiders C
He's not a big center at 285 pounds, but he does a nice job in pass protection and he can move in the run game. At 26, he has a lot of good football in front of him after starting the past three seasons.
Patrick Queen Baltimore Ravens LB
He is coming off his best season for the league's top defense. He can rush, cover, run and hit, and he's only 24. It took him a few years, but he flashed his first-round ability last season.
Chase Young San Francisco 49ers DE
He didn't do a lot for the 49ers in terms of sack numbers, but he did show up some in the Super Bowl. He's still a young edge rusher, which is why he will have value.
Leonard Floyd Buffalo Bills DE
This veteran edge player is coming off a 10.5 sack season after signing a one-year deal with the Bills . He was also second on the team in pressures. He is a long, rangy player who can impact the quarterback -- and there is value in that.
Xavier McKinney New York Giants FS
This 24-year-old is coming off his best season, playing every snap for the Giants. He can play the deep middle or drop down and play in the box.
Jonah Williams Cincinnati Bengals OT
He was a starting left tackle before moving to the right side last season. He did a solid job making the move. That versatility will make him attractive to teams.
Stephon Gilmore Dallas Cowboys CB
At 33, he had his moments where he looked like the old Gilmore last season, but also had some where age seemed to be a factor. For a team looking for a veteran corner, he would make sense on a three-year deal.
Jadeveon Clowney Baltimore Ravens OLB
Playing on a one-year deal, he had a good season for the Ravens . He flashed much better pass-rush ability than in year's past, and he's always been a good run player.
Trent Brown New England Patriots OT
This veteran tackle has struggled with inconsistency and weight in his career. But he can play both the left and right side, which will help his market.
Marquise Brown Arizona Cardinals WR
The Cardinals traded to get him from the Ravens, but he hasn't put up the numbers they expected. He has missed six games with injuries in two years, catching 108 passes in two seasons with Arizona after catching 91 with the Ravens in 2021.
Bryce Huff New York Jets DE
He will be a tough evaluation. He can rush the passer, but he didn't play a ton of snaps. Even so, there is value in his ability off the edge.
Kyle Dugger New England Patriots SS
He's a hybrid safety who can play like a linebacker at times. His coverage skills aren't the best, but he's a good all-round player. (Received transition tag)
Lavonte David Tampa Bay Buccaneers OLB
He isn't what he used to be -- which was great -- but he can still get the job done. He doesn't run like he used to, but he makes up for it with his smarts in playing the position. He just turned 34 in January, otherwise he'd be higher on this list.
Kevin Zeitler Baltimore Ravens OG
This 33-year-old has been a quality starter in the league for a long time. He is a physical player who has a few years left. But he can help a team for a few seasons if they are willing to give him a three-year deal or so.
Frankie Luvu Carolina Panthers LB
He can rush the quarterback as a blitzer, but also has done a nice job against the run. He plays hard and fast, and at 27 he is in the prime of his career.
D.J. Reader Cincinnati Bengals DE
When he's healthy, he's a force inside. But he is coming off a torn quadriceps tendon suffered late in the season. That could force him to take a one-year deal to prove that he can be a factor again inside. He is also entering his ninth season, but he'd be much higher if not for the health issues.
Chidobe Awuzie Cincinnati Bengals CB
Coming off a torn ACL suffered in 2022, he wasn't quite as good last season as he was in the past. But when healthy, he is a good, starting corner. A year removed from the injury will help.
Jonah Jackson Detroit Lions OG
For a team looking for a good, run-blocking guard, Jackson should be the target. He is athletic and strong. But he does need to improve in pass protection. When he was out of the Lions lineup last year, it showed.
Willie Gay Jr. Kansas City Chiefs LB
He's been a good starter on their defense the past four seasons, but he is not expected back. He said he doesn't expect to be back. He has 47 starts in his career and he just turned 26 in February.
A.J. Epenesa Buffalo Bills DE
He has a combined 13 sacks the past two seasons, but he looked like a much-improved player in 2023. He was much more active getting after the quarterback. At 26, he is entering his prime.
Sean Murphy-Bunting Tennessee Titans CB
He is a long corner who signed a one-year deal last season with Tennessee from Tampa Bay and turned in a solid season. He led the Titans in picks and passes defensed.
Azeez Al-Shaair Tennessee Titans LB
I liked him as a free agent last season and he didn't disappoint in his one year with the Titans. He is a physical player in the run game who can move. He improved in coverage last season, but that is not his strength.
Julian Blackmon Indianapolis Colts SS
He moved from free safety to strong safety last year and had his best season. He has been bothered some by injuries, but he's only 25 years old. He was the Colts ' best safety last season.
Geno Stone Baltimore Ravens SAF
As a starter, he was a big reason why the Ravens were the top defense last season. He had seven picks and has the ability to cover on the back end.
Jordyn Brooks Seattle Seahawks LB
He bounced back from a torn ACL in 2022 to have a good season playing weak-side linebacker. He has played in the middle in the past, so that should help his worth. At 26, he is in the prime of his career.
Denico Autry Tennessee Titans DT
He is 33, so age is starting to become an issue. But the tape says he can still get the job done. He is a good player who can hold up against the run and also flash as a pass rusher.
Mekhi Becton New York Jets OT
He finally was able to start 15 games last season after battling injuries his first three seasons. He flashed some of the ability that made him a first-round pick, but he had a lot of penalties and had some bouts of inconsistency. Yet he is still young at 24 years old.
Derrick Henry Tennessee Titans RB
He isn't a kid anymore and he has a lot of carries on that body. But for a team in need of a veteran back who can still run hard and tough, Henry would make sense on a two-year deal.
Andrew Van Ginkel Miami Dolphins OLB
He was a rotational player in their defense, lining up both outside and inside in their scheme. He is a solid pass rusher who plays hard and he also has the ability to play in space. It might be time he goes to a team where he's a full-time starter.
Za'Darius Smith Cleveland Browns DE
The Browns were Smith's fourth team, but he did for them in his one season what he has done for all of them: rush the passer. He had 5.5 sacks last season, but his pressure rate was better than that. He can rush from a variety of spots.
Josey Jewell Denver Broncos ILB
He isn't big or fast, but he makes plays. He is smart and knows how to play the position. But the Broncos might be ready to play Drew Sanders next season, their draft pick from a year ago.
Tyler Biadasz Dallas Cowboys C
He didn't play well in 2023, especially in the run game. But he's been a consistent starter for most of his time in Dallas. There is value in a center with starting experience.
Devin White Tampa Bay Buccaneers LB
He has a tendency to gamble a lot, which hurts his play. But when he's focused, he is more than capable of being a quality inside player. His game isn't as good as his reputation, however.
Tony Pollard Dallas Cowboys RB
He didn't have the type of season many expected as he took over as the primary runner in Dallas. He didn't look like he had the same pop as the year before coming off a 2022 injury. Being another year removed could help his contract goals.
Curtis Samuel Washington Commanders WR
At 27, he is coming off two productive seasons for the Commanders after an injury-plagued start to his time in Washington in 2021. He can do a lot of things, including running the football, which will help his value. He's a good No. 3 receiver for any offense.
Odell Beckham Jr. Baltimore Ravens WR
He didn't quite put up numbers that some expected in his season with the Ravens, but he will be another year removed from his torn ACL next season.
Gabe Davis Buffalo Bills WR
For a player entering a free-agent season in 2023, he didn't have the type of year he needed. But he has size and can run, which will attract a lot of suitors. He just might not get the deal he wants.
Dalton Schultz Houston Texans TE
In his lone season with the Texans , playing on a one-year deal, Schultz caught 59 passes with five touchdowns. He was a big part of the offense as C.J. Stroud flashed future star power as a rookie. (Re-signed with Texans)
D.J. Wonnum Minnesota Vikings LB
He had eight sacks last season in a contract year. At 26, he is could be a nice third rusher or spot starter on most teams. He might be attractive to the pass-rush needy teams.
D'Andre Swift Philadelphia Eagles RB
After being traded to the Eagles , Swift looked like a steal early in the season, but the Eagles run game tailed off. He still ran for 1,049 yards and averaged 4.6 yards per rush. The Eagles don't usually give backs second contracts.
Tyler Boyd Cincinnati Bengals WR
This 29-year-old is a reliable slot receiver who is coming off a 63-catch season for the Bengals . He might not be the flashiest receiver, but he knows how to get open and does a great job finding soft spots in the zones.
DaQuan Jones Buffalo Bills DE
He is a force as a run player, but also showed some pass-rush ability last season. When he was out of the Buffalo lineup with an injury, the run defense wasn't nearly as good.
Kevin Dotson Los Angeles Rams OG
The Rams acquired him in a trade from the Steelers and he had his best season for them in 2023. He helped solidify a line that needed it and was one of their unsung heroes.
Tyrel Dodson Buffalo Bills LB
He was forced into starting action because of injuries and he responded with a big year. He is athletic and his speed shows up on tape. He might be ready to be a starter somewhere else.
Grover Stewart Indianapolis Colts DT
He excels in the run game, a power player who can make it tough for an offense to run the football. He did serve a six-game suspension last season for violating the league's performance-enhancing policy, but for a team in need of power inside he should be a target.
Steven Nelson Houston Texans CB
He just turned 31 in January, so age is becoming an issue. But he has played well for a lot of teams, a consistently underrated player.
Jordan Fuller Los Angeles Rams FS
He is a talented player who has been bothered by some by injuries in his time with the Rams. He did start 17 games last season, but missed the team's playoff loss to the Lions. Even so, he's a good player when he's on the field, but the Rams traditionally don't pay safeties.
Bobby Wagner Seattle Seahawks MLB
He is getting up in years, and he doesn't run like he used to, which showed up last season, but he can still be a solid veteran for a team in need of a middle linebacker. The contract would have to be a one-year deal in my book.
Lloyd Cushenberry Denver Broncos C
He has been the Broncos starting center since his rookie season in 2020. He's had some struggles at times, but he is coming off his best season. His run blocking could be better.
Austin Ekeler Los Angeles Chargers RB
After two big statistical seasons, his numbers were down last year. At 29, he's entering his eighth season, which is up in the years for a back. But he can still be a nice spot back for a team with his ability to run it and catch it.
Blake Cashman Houston Texans LB
In his second season with the Texans after coming over in a trade from the Jets , Cashman was one of the unsung players on their defense. He showed the ability to rush, cover and play the run. At 27, he's in his prime.
Adoree' Jackson New York Giants CB
After signing with the Giants, inconsistency and injuries have limited his impact. He flashes solid man cover skills, but he isn't a good tackler and struggles at times in zone.
Darnell Mooney Chicago Bears WR
He looked like he could be a good No. 2 receiver for a team back in 2021, but since then he's been a disappointment. He battled some injuries last season and had just 31 catches. But he did have 81 catches in 2021, so there is talent there.
Jon Runyan Green Bay Packers OG
He is a good pass protector up front, but he ended up rotating last season in large part because he played through some injuries. Therefore he didn't have his best season, but when healthy he's a solid starter.
Ryan Tannehill Tennessee Titans QB
His days as a full-time starter might be over, but for a team looking for a veteran backup he would make sense. He is 34, but that doesn't matter as much for a quarterback. Could Denver be a spot when the Broncos say goodbye to Russell Wilson ?
Connor Williams Miami Dolphins OL
He was on his way to a big contract, but tore his ACL in Week 14. That will limit his value some. But he played well for Miami after moving to center the past few seasons, with his loss being felt late in the season.
Kenny Moore Indianapolis Colts CB
He is a good slot corner who had two pick-sixes in one game last season. He is also a willing tackler, which is a necessity from the slot.
Dorance Armstrong Dallas Cowboys DE
He had 7.5 sacks last season for the Cowboys as a part-time player. He has the ability to be a nice rotational pass rusher for a team.
Josh Uche New England Patriots LB
After getting 12.5 sacks in 2022, he had just three last season as his play time fell. He isn't a great run player, which will likely limit him to being a situational pass rusher.
Drue Tranquill Kansas City Chiefs LB
He signed a one-year deal with the Chiefs and was expected to be mostly a backup. But injuries forced him to get more time and he played well. He has good coverage ability for a linebacker, which is a must these days.
A.J. Dillon Green Bay Packers RB
This power back has been a bit of a disappointment since being a second-round pick in 2020. He has 11 starts in four seasons, but might be ready for a bigger role for a new team, but his per-carry average was a disappointing 3.4 last season.
He suffered a torn pec muscle in Week 2 and didn't return until the Week 17 last season. When healthy, he can add a lot of versatility to a defense.
Aaron Brewer Tennessee Titans C
He has been a starter at both guard and center, playing center in 2023. He is smallish offensive lineman who has trouble with big people. But he can move and he is quick for a center.
Gerald Everett Los Angeles Chargers TE
He has 109 catches combined the past two seasons with seven touchdowns. He's a nice second tight end for a team in need of a solid veteran.
Michael Danna Kansas City Chiefs DE
He can play outside and can rush from the interior, which is the versatility teams love. He isn't a great edge player, but he's a nice rotational player who has been a starter.
Hunter Henry New England Patriots TE
In 44 games since signing with the Patriots as a free agent three years ago, he has 121 catches and 14 touchdowns. He had 42 catches and six touchdowns last season.
Dalton Risner Minnesota Vikings OG
The Vikings traded Ezra Cleveland and then made Risner a starter, and he responded by playing well. The former Denver Broncos starter impressed the team and could be getting a multi-year deal in this market after being on the street to open the 2023 season.
Sheldon Rankins Houston Texans DT
This veteran is coming off a nice season for the Texans. He's bounced around some, but he helped improve the team's run defense in 2023 after signing a one-year deal last March. He turns 30 in April.
Noah Fant Seattle Seahawks TE
He hasn't put up big numbers since being traded to Seattle in the Russell Wilson deal, but he has the ability to be a 60-catch guy. He did have seven catches of 20 yards or more last season, which shows he can show off some big-play ability.
Calais Campbell Atlanta Falcons DE
He is 38, but he still did some good things for the Falcons last year on a one-year deal. He hasn't said if he plans to play or not in 2024, but if he does he can help a team in need of a power player on their line.
Javon Kinlaw San Francisco 49ers DT
This former first-round pick has not lived up to the hype. He was better in 2023, but he still struggles at the point and gets moved in the run game. He does have some inside pass-rush ability. He might be better with his second team.
Zack Moss Indianapolis Colts RB
When Jonathan Taylor was hurt, he put up some impressive numbers last season. He showed a toughness running inside the tackles. He rushed for a career-high 794 yards in 2023 and showed he could be a primary runner for a team.
Jordan Whitehead New York Jets FS
He was third on the team in tackles last season and led them in interceptions with four, three in the opener. He is a smart player who helped keep the back end together.
Ezra Cleveland Jacksonville Jaguars OG
The Jaguars traded to get him from Minnesota and he became a starter at left guard. The staff is said to love him, which means they will likely do what they can to bring him back. (Re-signed with Jaguars)
Kenneth Murray Los Angeles Chargers LB
This former first-round pick hasn't lived up to the expectations, but he was improved in 2023. Maybe a fresh start somewhere else will help.
Gardner Minshew Indianapolis Colts QB
He came off the bench last season when Anthony Richardson went down to do some good things to almost lead the Colts to the playoffs. But there is inconsistency in his game, which has to be a concern for a team that would consider him as a full-time starter. He makes a top-notch backup.