With the last piece of confetti hitting the ground in the Los Angeles Rams' Super Bowl LVI celebration, the 2021 NFL season is now officially in the rear-view mirror. While it's technically the offseason, we all know quite well that the fun is just beginning. As we saw last season, some teams are just one move away from finding themselves in the winner's circle hoisting the Lombardi Trophy and that march to Super Bowl LVII in Glendale, Arizona, begins now. 

Of course, a massive piece of constructing a potential Super Bowl-caliber roster comes via free agency, which is roughly a month out. Beginning at noon ET on March 14, the legal tampering period in the NFL will commence where clubs are permitted to go into contract negotiations with soon-to-be free agents. Then, on March 16 at 4 p.m. ET, the 2022 league year begins and free agency is officially underway. 

As we gear up for that mayhem to unfold, we've ranked the top 25 free agents from the defensive side of the ball and provided a quick preview of their prospects on the market. 

Check out our ranking of top 25 players on offense.

Ranking free agents on defense
Von Miller Los Angeles Rams OLB
Miller is still one of the best pass rushers that the NFL has to offer. Not only will he be able to help any unit get after the quarterback, but the 32-year-old is a winner, with this latest Super Bowl run with the Rams being the latest example. The two-time Super Bowl champion totaled five sacks in eight regular-season games after being acquired by the Rams and tacked on four more sacks in the postseason. Re-signing with L.A. is a likely option for Miller as the Rams look to defend their title in 2022, but if another team can pry him away they'll be getting a future Hall of Fame talent.
Chandler Jones Arizona Cardinals OLB
Jones is another elite pass rusher and was right back to being a game-wrecking presence along the Cardinals ' front seven in 2021 after being limited to just five games the previous year. He finished with 10.5 sacks on the season with five of those coming in the Week 1 opener against Tennessee. The 2021 Pro Bowler also had 36 pressures and 26 quarterback hits. Adding quality pass rushers is always going to be of interest throughout the league and Jones could be set to cash in on the open market, especially if Miller decides to go back to Los Angeles.
J.C. Jackson New England Patriots CB
Jackson has been one of the better cornerbacks in the NFL since coming into the league as an undrafted free agent in 2018. He's also been one of the biggest bargains for the Patriots as Jackson played the 2021 season on a second-round restricted free agent tender that was valued at just under $3.4 million. This past season, Jackson became New England's top corner following the departure of Stephon Gilmore and continued to play at a high level. He totaled a league-leading 23 pass breakups and had eight interceptions. He also allowed just 49.1% of the targets thrown his way to be completed. That level of production should lead to Jackson making top-of-the-market money once free agency opens up.
Marcus Williams New Orleans Saints FS
Williams played the 2021 season on the franchise tag and is now looking to hit the open market after another solid season in New Orleans. He defended eight passes this past year and had a career-high 74 tackles while allowing opposing quarterbacks to complete just 48.8% of their targets thrown in his direction. He's also been remarkably durable over his career and played 98% of the defensive snaps for the Saints in 2021. At just 25 years old, Williams should have plenty of suitors ranging from contenders to teams looking to build upon their budding secondaries, which will likely make him one of the highest-paid safeties in the league.
Jessie Bates Cincinnati Bengals FS
Bates was one of the key members of the Bengals ' Super Bowl run this season and particularly turned up his level of play in the playoffs. During that Super Bowl run, Bates, who is already considered one of the better safeties in the league, totaled 20 tackles, defended six passes, and recorded two interceptions. While he was able to improve his play as the season went on, he did struggle in coverage a bit over the regular season as quarterbacks completed 80% of their passes thrown in his direction. Still, Bates is someone Cincinnati should look to make a priority of keeping as it builds this core around Joe Burrow , but if the Bengals do let him test free agency, he'll have plenty of teams interested in his services to bolster the back end of their secondaries.
Carlton Davis Tampa Bay Buccaneers CB
Davis is one of the few young cornerbacks hitting the free agent market this offseason, so he'll garner plenty of interest throughout the league. The Bucs' former second-round pick can be a true No. 1 corner and has the physicality to play man coverage and square off against a team's top receiving option. He was limited to 10 games in the regular season due to a quad injury but was able to return late in the year to help the Bucs land in the postseason. Over that stretch, the 25-year-old defended 11 passes and recorded one pick, while allowing 57.1% of his targets to be completed.
Jadeveon Clowney Cleveland Browns DE
Veteran pass-rushing help will always be a sought-after ability in the NFL and Clowney does bring that to the table. After a disappointing run with the Titans in 2020, Clowney inked a deal with the Browns and enjoyed a solid bounce-back season. Over 14 games, he totaled nine sacks, 11 tackles for a loss, and 32 pressures. Of course, Clowney's life was made a bit easier at attacking the quarterback with opposing teams paying a bit more attention to Myles Garrett along the Browns' front seven. The former No. 1 overall pick may not be able to carry a defense, but he'll certainly be a strong contributor for a team looking to make a Super Bowl run.
Randy Gregory Dallas Cowboys DE
Gregory has resurrected his career nicely over the past two years after struggling with off-the-field issues. He's a legit game-changing pass rusher, who had 29 pressures for Dallas last season and was second on the team in sacks (6) only looking up to Defensive Rookie of the Year Micah Parsons . His explosiveness and ability to get after the quarterback will be attractive to several teams if the Cowboys let him hit the market.
Stephon Gilmore Carolina Panthers CB
A contract dispute between Gilmore and the Patriots contributed to the star cornerback starting last season on the PUP list and was eventually traded to the Carolina Panther in the middle of the season. He ended up playing in nine games (eight starts) and recorded two interceptions during his stint in Carolina. That clunky 2021 campaign and the fact that he missed the back half of the 2020 season due to a quad injury has lowered the 31-year-old's stock a bit, but he's also not far off from winning the NFL's Defensive Player of the Year honor, either. Given his talent and experience playing deep into the playoffs (Super Bowl LIII champion), he'd be the perfect addition for a Super Bowl-caliber team looking for an added boost to its secondary.
Tyrann Mathieu Kansas City Chiefs FS
Mathieu is a versatile weapon that the Chiefs have used splendidly in their secondary over the last few years. While Patrick Mahomes is the face of the K.C. offense, there's a case to be made that Mathieu has been that type of figure on the defensive side of the ball as the Chiefs have contended for Super Bowls. The 29-year-old can play more traditionally in the back end of the secondary, line up in the slot or situate himself in the box and still find success, which will make him an appealing target. The "Honey Badger" has also been a durable piece to the Chiefs' secondary over the last three seasons, playing no fewer than 94% of the defensive snaps in a season.
Emmanuel Ogbah Miami Dolphins DE
After moving around the league to begin his career, Ogbah seemed to find his footing over the last two seasons in Miami. For the Dolphins , he's posted back-to-back seasons with nine sacks and at least 36 pressures. In 2021, he also defended 12 passes. While he may not be considered elite at his position, Ogbah is an ascending player that can be productive in the right situation.
De'Vondre Campbell Green Bay Packers ILB
Campbell signed on with the Packers last offseason and the one-year stint in Green Bay did prove to be a productive one. Campbell put together an All-Pro season for the first time in his career after totaling a career-high 146 tackles to go along with two forced fumbles, two picks, and five pass breakups. That production now has Campbell in line for quite the payday on the open market. While Campbell did enjoy a strong year, teams might be wondering where this has been throughout his career. Nevertheless, they'll be getting a solid off-ball linebacker that just played 97% of the snaps last season.
Haason Reddick Carolina Panthers OLB
Reddick has been unlocked after making the switch to an edge rusher two seasons ago. Now, he's posted back-to-back double-digit sack seasons and has done so with two different organizations after signing a one-year deal with Carolina last offseason. Reddick's speed is what has allowed him to find success off the edge and he has totaled 23.5 sacks the past two seasons.
Harold Landry Tennessee Titans OLB
Landry popped in the final year of his rookie deal with the Titans in 2021. The Boston College product put together his first Pro Bowl season after totaling a career-high 12 sacks, 43 pressures, and 75 tackles. The 25-year-old could be a franchise tag candidate, but if he does get to free agency he'll be a young pass rusher that teams should flock to. Not only is Landry starting to blossom as a pass rusher, but he's also a tremendously durable player as he's started every game for Tennessee since 2019.
Casey Hayward Las Vegas Raiders CB
Hayward's five-year run with the Chargers ended with his release last offseason -- partially due to salary cap reasons -- and his market wasn't exactly booming. He'd eventually ink a one-year deal with the Raiders and put together another strong season. The 32-year-old started all 17 regular-season games for Las Vegas in 2021 and defended nine passes while allowing 57.1% of his targets to be completed. He's best suited for a team that plays a lot of zone and should see a much healthier market this go-around.
Darious Williams Los Angeles Rams CB
Williams enters free agency after winning the Super Bowl with a Los Angeles Rams team that has held him in high regard. Last offseason, the club placed a first-round tender on him to retain his services for the 2021 season. Last year, he played well opposite of Jalen Ramsey and allowed 62% of his targets to be completed while totaling 71 tackles. In the playoffs, he registered three pass breakups and finished with 24 more tackles. Williams' speed has been an advantage for him throughout his career, but his size limitations -- stands 5-foot-9 -- does cap his ceiling as a No. 2 corner. Still, that's not a bad situation to find yourself in.
Akiem Hicks Chicago Bears DE
Hicks dealt with a nagging goin injury throughout the 2021 season and was limited to just nine games. When healthy, however, he's a great piece along the defensive line. In those nine games, he maintained a strong level of play, totaling 3.5 sacks and 11 pressures. This is the second time in three seasons where Hicks has been held to single-digit games, so there is some level of concern surrounding his durability, but so long as he can stay on the field he's still a solid run defender and pass rusher along the interior.
Quandre Diggs Seattle Seahawks FS
Diggs has put together back-to-back Pro Bowl seasons and, similar to Jackson who we mentioned earlier on this list, simply has a knack for creating turnovers. The safety has 10 interceptions over the last two seasons and just put together a 2021 season where he notched a career-high 94 tackles. He also is only on record for giving up one touchdown last season and opposing quarterbacks had a passer rating of just 63.4 when throwing in his direction.
Marcus Maye New York Jets FS
Maye would be higher on this free agent list had it not been for a torn Achilles he suffered back in Week 9. That was the worst possible outcome for the safety as he was playing the 2021 season on the franchise tag with the Jets . When healthy, he's proven to be an extremely solid piece to a secondary and played well in New York when given more opportunity following the trade of Jamal Adams . In the six games he played before going down with injury, Maye allowed just 47.6% of the balls thrown his way to be completed and totaled 46 tackles with two pass breakups. Given the injury, Maye could be looking for a one-year prove-it deal somewhere to hit a more lucrative market next offseason.
D.J. Reed Seattle Seahawks CB
Reed is coming off a career year in 2021. The former fifth-round pick totaled a career-best 10 pass breakups to go along with two interceptions last season, while holding opposing quarterbacks to just a 47.7 completion percentage when targeted. Since ascending to a starter in Seattle's secondary, there isn't much to pick at in Reed's game as he plays physical and is also solid against the run. The one knock is his size as he is just 5-foot-9, which could leave him exposed to bigger receivers.
Steven Nelson Philadelphia Eagles CB
After a two-year run with the Steelers , Nelson stayed in the state of Pennsylvania and inked a one-year deal with the Eagles for the 2021 season. He started all 16 games he played with the club in the regular season and was a solid No. 2 corner opposite of Darius Slay , which is a role he's probably best suited for. This season, Nelson broke up seven passes and has proven to be a strong figure in the secondary as he can play both zone and man-to-man effectively. He did give up five touchdowns last season, but should be considered a worthwhile addition to a secondary with a team looking for a reliable No. 2 corner.
B.J. Hill Cincinnati Bengals DE
B.J. Hill was one of the key offseason acquisitions for the Bengals that helped propel them to a Super Bowl appearance. In just his first year in Cincinnati, the defensive tackle registered 5.5 sacks and a career-high 50 tackles in 16 games played. He carried over that strong level of play into the playoffs where he added 1.5 sacks and recorded an interception. The 26-year-old is a well-rounded presence along the defensive line that can stuff the run, and make an impact at attacking the quarterback on occasion.
Charvarius Ward Kansas City Chiefs CB
Ward was on a second-round free agent tender for the 2021 season and continued to play at a high level. His 6-foot-1, 200 pound frame helps him hold up in man coverage and be a reliable tackler. This past season, he totaled 10 pass breakups and two interceptions, while racking up 67 tackles. Ward also only allowed quarterbacks to complete 51.3% of their targets against him with a passer rating of 79.4. At just 25 years old, he is primed to be a highly targeted corner on this market.
Jerry Hughes Buffalo Bills DE
Hughes will be 34 at the start of next season, but the veteran pass rusher has played well as he sits on the back-nine of his career. Over the last few seasons, he's been a rotational pass rusher for the Bills , who had the No. 1 defense in the NFL last year in DVOA. Hughes played in 52% of the defensive snaps in 2021 and played in all 17 regular-season games (16 starts). Over that stretch, he totaled two sacks and 26 total pressures. He'll likely re-sign with the Bills as they are primed for a Super Bowl run, but Hughes could be looked at as a solid veteran piece to any contender.
Justin Houston Baltimore Ravens OLB
Gone are the days where Houston will be rivaling the NFL sack record, but the veteran pass rusher is still a strong rotational piece to a team's front seven. With the Ravens last year, he started all 15 of his games and registered 4.5 sacks with 24 pressures. Similar to Hughes, he can still be a valuable piece even as he's in the twilight of his career.