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USA Today Sports Media Group
USA Today Sports Media Group
Cory Woodroof

2024 NFL free agency: 15 sleeper candidates, including Josh Uche

As we get closer to the start of 2024 NFL free agency, it’s worth looking at the sleeper candidates available in this year’s pool.

Our Christian D’Andrea rounded up the 101 best free agents in this upcoming class and picked one free agent for each of the 32 NFL teams.

We’ve also tried to guess where each of the big quarterback dominoes will fall this season.

Now, let’s take a look at the sleeper candidates who could sign with your NFL team on a reasonable deal and make an instant impact or might surprise by signing a big deal after being valued by a number of teams in the league.

We’ve looked at 15 positions in the league and picked our sleeper candidates, including one who had 11.5 sacks in 2022.

QB Gardner Minshew

Christopher Hanewinckel/USA TODAY Sports

Of all the quarterbacks in free agency, we’re wondering if Minshew might be the one to land a legitimate deal with a team looking for a quarterback to start a number of meaningful games in the fall.

He’s perhaps the best backup quarterback in the NFL, and his commendable starts with the Indianapolis Colts this past season could earn him a payday from another NFL team with instability at the quarterback position or one looking for a one-year starter while that team develops a rookie.

RB Antonio Gibson

Geoff Burke/USA TODAY Sports

A thousand-yard rusher in 2021 who doubles as an asset in the passing game, Gibson supplanted Brian Robinson Jr. this past season and hasn’t been quite as prolific due to a decrease in carries (65 in 2023 compared to 258 in 2021).

He’s only 25, and he scored 21 touchdowns in his first two seasons with the Commanders. Gibson feels like a steal that could be signed at a very team-friendly price and could probably start in the right offense.

WR Kendrick Bourne

Brian Fluharty/USA TODAY Sports

If you’re needing a veteran receiver who has a knack for the end zone who won’t break the bank, you might give Bourne a call.

While he was stuck on a struggling Patriots team last season, Bourne was still third on the team in yards received (406) and second on the team in receiving touchdowns (4) in only eight games before tearing his ACL. He was on track to lead the team in both categories before getting hurt.

New England’s revolving door situation at quarterback helped no one catching passes, and it figures that Bourne, only 28, could benefit from a change of scenery and slot in somewhere as a pretty reliable second wide receiver once he’s fully healthy.

TE Gerald Everett

Bob Self/Florida Times-Union

While tight ends like Dalton Schultz and Hunter Henry will likely get the most attention in free agency for their position group, don’t forget Everett, who hauled in 411 yards and three touchdowns last season for a struggling Los Angeles Chargers team.

Everett might be a very reasonable free agent for your team to pursue if you need some help in the tight end room, and we’re curious if he might command a decent deal with his solid history and experience playing in a Sean McVay offense from his days as a Los Angeles Ram.


T Yosh Nijman

Eric Hartline/USA TODAY Sports

Nijman has flirted with starting reps while playing for the Green Bay Packers, but he feels like a starting tackle just waiting for the right opportunity after primarily backing up his position in Wisconsin.

If your team needs a quality veteran to compete for a tackle job this offseason, Nijman might be one of the true steals of this free agency class if all goes right.

C Matt Hennessy

Kirby Lee/USA TODAY Sports

Hennessy entered the NFL as one of the top center prospects in 2020 out of Temple, but he’s not quite been able to live up to that billing with the Atlanta Falcons due to injuries and the presence of center Drew Dalman.

He’s a near lock to head elsewhere this offseason, and he could be a low-risk, high-reward signing for a team that needs center competition. He’s only 26, so it’s possible his best days are ahead of him.

G Nick Allegretti

Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY Sports

Allegretti has been one of the better reserve offensive linemen in recent years, winning three Super Bowls with the Kansas City Chiefs. However, he’s only 27 and could likely start at guard for another team.

Signing Allegretti could add a proven winner to a locker room who has played in 73 games in his career, starting 13 of those. He’d be a solid candidate to snag for a team that needs offensive line help but can’t break the bank for one of the top guards on the market.

DE D.J. Wonnum

Benny Sieu/USA TODAY Sports

Wonnum registered eight sacks and 15 quarterback hits playing opposite of Danielle Hunter with the Minnesota Vikings this past season, and he could be in line for a decent pay raise for a team that needs pass rush help.

Hunter will also hit free agency, and he’ll be the Vikings pass rusher to get all the attention. However, Wonnum could be a nice addition to a team that wants to get after the quarterback without shelling out a huge contract.

DT Teair Tart

Troy Taormina/USA TODAY Sports

Tart entered 2023 as one of the rising stars at defensive tackle for the Tennessee Titans, but he wound up being waived in the middle of the season before landing with the Houston Texans for the rest of the year.

He’s an undrafted free agent, and he’s got tons of potential at only 26. If the right team can maximize his talent, he could finally live up to the hype.

OLB Josh Uche

Mark Konezny/USA TODAY Sports

Uche feels like another talented player who got stuck on an underachieving 2023 Patriots team, as he registered 11.5 sacks in 2022 and looked like a breakout star at the position.

He only had three sacks last season, but he could rebound with the right team in a big way and better fulfill his 2022 season.

LB Shaquille Leonard

The Indianapolis Star

At a time, Leonard was one of the best linebackers in football, but he saw a bit of a regression with the Indianapolis Colts and wound up getting cut midseason. He spent the rest of the year with the Philadelphia Eagles, but it feels like his free agency is slipping under the radar a bit.

If he can find a second wind in his career and regain a bit of his momentum, he could be an instant starter at linebacker for a number of teams.

CB Jeff Okudah

Bob Donnan/USA TODAY Sports

Okudah started out the 2023 season with the Atlanta Falcons on a strong note, thriving in Ryan Nielsen’s man-heavy scheme. However, he fell out of the rotation and wasn’t quite the same player after an ankle injury sustained later in the year.

He’s not quite the same corner in zone coverage, but a team that plays a lot of man coverage could find Okudah to be a really nice option on the outside as long as he can remain healthy.

S Jordan Whitehead

 Vincent Carchietta/USA TODAY Sports

Whitehead doesn’t look like he’ll return to the New York Jets after a season where he snagged four interceptions and 97 tackles.

He’s just a solid starting safety that can create turnovers and get stops, and he’d probably fit into any number of NFL schemes. He might not be an elite player at the position, but sometimes, good more than gets the job done.

K Chase McLaughlin

AP Photo/Chris O’Meara

McLaughlin had a really nice year for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, hitting 29 field goals and making 93.5% of those attempts. He also didn’t miss an extra point all season long.

He’s only 27, so any team that needs a good, young kicker could really benefit from having McLaughlin around.

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