NFL free agency is sometimes considered fool's gold in league circles.
Paying big-dollar deals rarely works out for teams, which is why they are sometimes hesitant to spend. Draft, develop and keep your own is the desired way to build a team, but that doesn't always work, which means supplementing the roster can be mandatory in free agency.
This year's period begins officially on March 18, but legal tampering begins on March 16 at noon, and while fool's gold might be how some consider free-agent classes, this one is different.
There should be a lot of talent in this pending market – depending on how franchise tags go in the coming weeks – and much of it is young, improving talent. With a target age of 26 or 27 for potential free agents, this class is loaded with those players.
It is a deep class of quarterbacks, defensive linemen and some good offensive linemen.
So who tops the list? For me, it's Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott. He is barely scratching the surface of what he can be as a franchise passer, which is why he gets the nod over Tom Brady and other quarterbacks on the market.
I am not saying Prescott is better than those veterans right now, but taking into account age, potential and other factors, he tops my list of the top 100 free agents.
The Cowboys are going to be paying Prescott a big-money deal if they don't tag him. How high? How does a $35-million-a-year average sound? Is Prescott worth that money? That's the argument, but the way the system works it means he will likely be getting that and maybe more on a new deal.
Brady, Philip Rivers, Jameis Winston, Teddy Bridgewater and Ryan Tannehill are other quarterbacks who could find their way onto the free-agent market. Brady, Rivers and Bridgewater will for sure, but tags could be in the works for both Winston and Tannehill, although not definite.
At any rate, with name quarterbacks and a deep pool of players, this free-agency period will be fun. To prime you, here are my top 100 free agents:
Dak Prescott Dallas Cowboys QB
It looks more and more likely that the Cowboys will be putting the franchise tag on him. That won't make Prescott a happy man. He is young, talented and improving. Pay the man.
Chris Jones Kansas City Chiefs DE
He is a power player who is only just now coming into his own. At 26, the Chiefs would be wise to keep him, whether with a new deal or a tag.
Drew Brees New Orleans Saints QB
Brees announced that he will return for another season with the Saints.
Tom Brady New England Patriots QB
Where will he go? Who will pay him? Will the Patriots bring him back? I think they do, but he will have options. He needs more help than what the Patriots gave him last year.
A.J. Green Cincinnati Bengals WR
He is coming off a lost season due to injury, and age is starting to become an issue. But he's still a big-time receiver when healthy. Teams in need of a go-to, big receiver -- like the Bills -- should be all-in if the Bengals don't put the franchise tag on him.
Philip Rivers Los Angeles Chargers QB
Did the Chargers really move on from him? That might end up being a mistake. Rivers can still play if the offensive line in front of him can hold up. The Colts would make a lot of sense.
Amari Cooper Dallas Cowboys WR
He's a good receiver, but is he worth great-receiver money? I would imagine that's the big holdup for the Cowboys. He disappeared in some big games for them last season.
Chris Harris Denver Broncos CB
At 31, he is still a good cover player who can play inside and outside. There is great value in that. He isn't slowing down, either.
Shaquil Barrett Tampa Bay Buccaneers LB
The Bucs are using the franchise tag on him to retain him after his breakout season in 2019.
Jadeveon Clowney Seattle Seahawks OLB
He doesn't put up big sack numbers, getting just three last season, and he isn't a great edge rusher in terms of explosiveness. He was slowed by injury last year, but everybody is intrigued by his potential.
Jameis Winston Tampa Bay Buccaneers QB
Yes, he throws a ton of picks. But he also throws for a lot of yards and touchdowns. He's still relatively young as well. The Bucs are considering bringing him back, and it means using the franchise tag to do it.
Byron Jones Dallas Cowboys CB
He can play corner and safety, but he didn't play as well as expected on the corner last year. Even so, he's young enough and versatile enough to be a big-ticket free agent.
Anthony Harris Minnesota Vikings DB
Here's another safety who many might not know who is going to get a nice deal after an impressive 2019 season. He has six picks and did a nice job in the middle when asked to do so.
Cory Littleton Los Angeles Rams ILB
He is coming off his best season, which will help his value go up. At 26, his best football is still to come. He is an active, athletic linebacker.
Justin Simmons Denver Broncos FS
His name might not be one a lot of fans recognize, but you can bet the NFL personnel people are well aware of him. He is young and athletic and is a ball hawk. There is great value in that.
Brandon Scherff Washington Redskins G
Teams looking to upgrade the interior of their line should start with Scherff. This former college tackle has made a smooth transition inside to guard where his athletic ability is on full display.
Yannick Ngakoue Jacksonville Jaguars DE
He is a nice edge rusher who probably should be playing as a 3-4 linebacker. The Jaguars could tag him. He isn't great against the run, but has improved. But that's not why you sign him, you sign him to rush the passer.
Arik Armstead San Francisco 49ers DE
He had his best season in 2019, coming at the right time. It's unlikely the 49ers will be able to keep him, so he's about to get a mega-deal from some team.
Teddy Bridgewater New Orleans Saints QB
He proved last season that after his devastating knee injury he is still capable of being a quality starter. He came off the bench when Drew Brees got hurt to lead the Saints to a 5-0 record. It's time he gets a real chance to start.
Bud Dupree Pittsburgh Steelers OLB
He is coming off his best season, a career year with 11 sacks. That should help him command a nice deal if the Steelers can't keep him.
Ryan Tannehill Tennessee Titans QB
He resurrected his career with the Titans last season, coming off the bench to lead them to the playoffs. He's probably going to get a tag of some sort, but what's his true value now?
Joe Thuney New England Patriots G
Teams looking for a quality guard who is well schooled in the fundamentals should look at Thuney. He was the Pats best lineman last season.
Jack Conklin Tennessee Titans T
After a slow start to his 2019 season following an injury-marred 2018 season, he bounced back and played well down the stretch and in the playoffs. He's a good starting right tackle.
Dante Fowler Los Angeles Rams DE
He gambled last season by signing a one-year deal with the Rams and responded with 11.5 sacks, a career high. At 26, that's going to get him paid.
Derrick Henry Tennessee Titans RB
He is coming off his best season when he led the league in rushing and followed that up with an impressive postseason. The Titans will likely retain him with a tag of some sort if they can't lock him up.
Javon Hargrave Pittsburgh Steelers NT
He is a power player who can handle the point against the run. Good big people get paid. He will get a nice deal and he offers some pass-rush ability.
James Bradberry Carolina Panthers CB
He thinks he's an elite corner, but he's not that. He is, however, a nice starter who will help a team in need of coverage ability. He's started 47 games the past three seasons.
Bryan Bulaga Green Bay Packers T
He is solid starting right tackle who just goes about doing his job. He has been a good pass blocker for most of his nine seasons with the Packers.
Hunter Henry Los Angeles Chargers TE
Injuries are the only thing that's held him back in his career, but he's had a bunch of them. Even so, in a limited tight-end market, he will get action.
Anthony Castonzo Indianapolis Colts T
He is a good left tackle who will command a nice paycheck in this market. He's been consistently good the past few seasons. There is talk he might retire.
Robby Anderson New York Jets WR
His speed will make him a wanted commodity on the market as teams look to upgrade their outside passing game. He doesn't always play to the speed, but it's there.
Austin Hooper Atlanta Falcons TE
Teams looking for a pass-catching tight end will pursue Hooper. He's one of the top tight ends in the free-agent group.
D.J. Reader Houston Texans DE
He is coming off his best season as a pro, and he's become a top-level defensive lineman, even if few know it. At 25, he has a lot of good football left.
Leonard Williams New York Giants DE
The Giants traded to get him from the Jets, but he almost certainly will be gone. He isn't a big sack guy, which will keep his price down.
Matt Judon Baltimore Ravens OLB
He is coming off a career year at the right time, registering 9.5 sacks to make him a valuable edge player in this class. He does have 24.5 sacks the past three seasons, so he's not a one-hit wonder.
Joe Schobert Cleveland Browns MLB
He's been a quality playmaker on the Browns defense the past three seasons and should warrant a nice market. He can play both the run and the pass well.
Trae Waynes Minnesota Vikings CB
The way Xavier Rhodes played last season for the Vikings, they might want to keep Waynes. He's not a star corner, but he is a capable starter for any team.
Jimmie Ward San Francisco 49ers CB
He is coming off his best season as he moved to safety full time. He has nice range in a league that mandates it on the back end.
Kyle Van Noy New England Patriots MLB
After coming over in a trade from the Lions, this former first-round pick played a big part in the success of the Patriots defense. He can play off the ball, but he can also rush the passer when needed.
Melvin Gordon Los Angeles Chargers RB
He held out last year, but didn't get a new deal. Now he's on the market, but we know the trend of paying backs only to get back a bad return could hurt him.
D.J. Humphries Arizona Cardinals T
He's developed into a nice starting left tackle and the Cardinals want him back. The former first-round pick is hitting stride at the age of 26.
Breshad Perriman Tampa Bay Buccaneers WR
His end-of-season performance will help his stock on the market. He can run, which teams need. At 27, he will find a good contract because of his big-play ability.
Logan Ryan Tennessee Titans CB
He is coming off a good season for the Titans, but he is closing in on 30 and he is limited in terms of man-coverage skills. He does have a knack for making plays in the Tennessee defense.
Andrew Whitworth Los Angeles Rams T
He's coming back for another season, which will almost certainly be with the Rams. He's not as good as he was a few years back, but he's still an above-average tackle.
Devin McCourty New England Patriots FS
It's hard to believe, but he is 32 and is entering his 11th season. Even so, he's still a good safety and knows what it takes to help lead a secondary. There's value in that.
Jason Peters Philadelphia Eagles T
How much does he have left? He is 39 and injuries have started to take a toll on his body. He isn't the same player he was a few years ago.
Shelby Harris Denver Broncos DE
He had his breakout season in 2019 with six sacks as he became a full-time starter. He is one of the sneaky-good players on this list.
Brian Poole New York Jets CB
On a team with corner issues, he was the bright spot playing inside in the nickel. He was a good nickel player for the Falcons before signing with the Jets last year on a one-year deal.
Jamie Collins New England Patriots OLB
He gets traded to Cleveland from the Pats and struggled, but came back last season on a one-year deal and looked like the playmaker from his early days with the Pats. He is a run-and-chase linebacker, who flashed as a pass rusher last season.
Robert Quinn Dallas Cowboys DE
He seemed to revive his career last year in his one season with the Cowboys. He had 11.5 sacks and looked like a younger version of himself. He is 30, so age could start to be a real issue.
Ha Ha Clinton-Dix Chicago Bears SS
He is a solid veteran who can help a secondary, but he isn't great in the run game has never lived up to his draft billing as a first-round pick. Even so, he can help teams on the back end in need of it.
Jarran Reed Seattle Seahawks DT
He missed the first six games last season when suspended for violating the league's personal-conduct policy. He came back to start for the Seahawks, but he wasn't as good as the year before. Even so, he has the tools to be a good inside player.
Maliek Collins Dallas Cowboys DT
I thought this kid had star potential when he came out, but it hasn't worked out. He's been a decent starter, but not much more. At 25, though, he still has time to grow.
Shaq Lawson Buffalo Bills DE
He had his best season in 2019, which will help his value. He is a decent pass rusher and good against the run, but he has never lived up to his draft hype as a first-round pick.
Eli Apple New Orleans Saints CB
He is still just 24 years old, which is why he will have a market after starting 15 games last season for the Saints. He is a solid corner whose confidence seemed to grow last season with the Saints.
Blake Martinez Green Bay Packers ILB
He makes a lot of tackles, and he can stay on the field for all downs, but he is far from elite at the position. Even so, expect him to get play from teams in need of an every-down linebacker.
Damarious Randall Cleveland Browns SS
He came in as a corner, but has made himself into a safety and is a much better player when playing there. He can also play the slot.
Bradley Roby Houston Texans CB
He did some good things in his one season with the Texans, but he also missed six games. He has started 25 games the past two seasons.
Ndamukong Suh Tampa Bay Buccaneers NT
He was a big reason why the Tampa Bay defense was outstanding against the run last season. He might not get a mega-deal, but a team in need of help inside should give him a long look.
Kendall Fuller Kansas City Chiefs CB
He might have helped his value late last season with time at safety, which shows his versatile style. Has excelled at slot corner at times as well.
Jason Pierre-Paul Tampa Bay Buccaneers DE
He has 21 sacks the past two seasons, even though he missed six games last year with a back injury suffered in a car accident. He is 31, so age is becoming an issue.
Jimmy Smith Baltimore Ravens CB
At 31, he isn't a kid anymore. But he can still be a quality cover corner for a team. Injuries, though, have been a concern.
Michael Pierce Baltimore Ravens DT
He's a wide-body who excels against the run. The problem is he gets too big at times. He needs to do a better job of keeping his weight in check.
Emmanuel Sanders San Francisco 49ers WR
He isn't a kid anymore, but he showed with the 49ers after coming over in a trade that he can still be a reliable passing-game weapon. He just can't offer the big play anymore.
Marcus Mariota Tennessee Titans QB
So far, his career hasn't worked out, and he was benched last season for Ryan Tannehill. But he's still just 26 years old, which is why he could and should get another chance to start somewhere.
Eric Ebron Indianapolis Colts TE
After an impressive 2018 season, he regressed last season, which is why the Colts let him go. But in a bad tight-end market, he will get play.
Kenyan Drake Arizona Cardinals RB
After being traded to the Cardinals from Miami during the 2019 season, he showed off his skills to be a starting runner for the Cardinals. He is a big-play runner.
Connor McGovern Denver Broncos G
He has started at both center and guard, which makes him a value signing. He is coming off his best season and it came as the Broncos starting center.
Mackensie Alexander Minnesota Vikings CB
He's a good slot corner who missed time at the end of the season with a dislocated kneecap. He's young at 26 and teams are in need of good slot corners.
Rodney McLeod Philadelphia Eagles FS
In a bad secondary, he played decently last season. He turns 30 in July, but he can still help a team in need of a veteran player in the middle of the field.
Jordan Phillips Buffalo Bills DT
He is coming off his best season in the league, one in which he had 9.5 sacks, which should help his stock. He was a rotational player with the Bills who is ready for more.
Vonn Bell New Orleans Saints SS
He's a box safety who can be a liability against the pass. But for teams that want a good run player who will hold his own near the line of scrimmage, Bell is that guy.
Graham Glasgow Detroit Lions C
He has played both guard and center for the Lions, but rotated last year at guard. Hi versatility will make him attractive on the market and it's unlikely he will be back with the Lions.
Nick Kwiatkoski Chicago Bears ILB
He was thrust into the starting lineup last year because of injuries and played solid football. Teams looking for a player inside will give him a chance to be a full-time starter at the age of 27.
Germain Ifedi Seattle Seahawks T
He looks the part and he's still young, but he doesn't always play to the expectations, which is troubling. He has more trouble in pass protection than he should.
David Onyemata New Orleans Saints DT
He started 15 games last season -- missing one for suspension -- and he is a nice inside player in their defense. At 27, he is the right age for a team looking for inside help.
Bashaud Breeland Kansas City Chiefs DB
He was a decent corner for the Chiefs last season, but he wasn't their best. Even so, he's been a solid starter for much of his career.
Halapoulivaati Vaitai Philadelphia Eagles T
At 27, he's started at both left and right tackle for the Eagles, which will help his market. He is big-bodied player who might just be better served on the right side. Expect a good market for him.
Vic Beasley Atlanta Falcons DE
If the Falcons, a pass-rush needy team, aren't bringing him back, that's a red flag. But he is just 27 and he has 37.5 sacks in his five-year career.
Adrian Phillips Los Angeles Chargers DB
He started just five games because of injury last season, but played well late in the season as he headed to free agency. He is a bigger safety who can play like a linebacker in some schemes. He's also a great special-teams player.
Andrus Peat New Orleans Saints G
He battled through injuries last year and he has a tendency to get heavy. Even so, he is a good, starting guard and he's a big body inside.
Michael Brockers Los Angeles Rams DE
Teams looking for a run-stuffing player will look to Brockers. He's been a solid player on their front, but he isn't a great pass rusher.
De'Vondre Campbell Atlanta Falcons OLB
A long, athletic run-around linebacker, Campbell started 15 games last season and has 54 starts in his four-year career. He turns 27 in July.
Markus Golden New York Giants DE
After two injury-marred seasons, he had 10 sacks for the Giants last season, looking more like the guy who had 12.5 for the Cardinals in 2016.
Daryl Williams Carolina Panthers T
He has started at both guard and tackle, which gives him some versatility value. He struggled more than expected last season for the Panthers.
Nelson Agholor Philadelphia Eagles WR
He is a slot receiver who doesn't always catch the ball the way teams would expect. He has had some moments where he's looked like a value player, but consistency is an issues.
Mario Addison Carolina Panthers DE
At 32, he's up in the years but he can still help a pass-rush needy team. His role might be more situational as he gets older, but he has pass-rush tools.
Kamalei Correa Tennessee Titans OLB
He really came on in the second half of the season and into the playoffs as an edge rusher in 2019. That should help his value on the market. He turns 26 in April.
A'Shawn Robinson Detroit Lions DT
He's a power player against the run, but he doesn't offer much in terms of pass rush. He would be good for a team looking for a big run player.
Andrew Billings Cincinnati Bengals DT
He emerged last season as a good inside player who will get action on the market. He is young and improving. That matters.
Danny Shelton New England Patriots DT
If teams wants a wide-body, one-dimensional run player, Shelton is their guy. He was good in that role for the Patriots last season, but he offers little in terms of pass rush.
Derek Wolfe Denver Broncos DE
This veteran has lost some of his fastball, but he's still a good player, and when he went down last season the Broncos run defense suffered.
Karl Joseph Las Vegas Raiders SS
He played some of his best football last season before suffering a foot injury. That injury could drive down his price, but he is a young player who packs a punch when he hits somebody.
Darqueze Dennard Cincinnati Bengals DB
He missed the first part of last season with injury, but came back to play well in the second half. He plays well in the slot, which is why there is value in him. He needs to stay healthy.
Jalen Mills Philadelphia Eagles CB
He misses too much time with injury, which is the biggest concern. He also isn't a great fit for all schemes since he isn't a natural man-cover player.
Gerald McCoy Carolina Panthers DT
He's not close to being what he used to be, but he can still help inside. His run defense has regressed, but he did have five sacks in 16 starts last season.
Sean Davis Pittsburgh Steelers FS
He was limited to one game last season because of a shoulder injury, but he has the tools to be a good starter. With Minkah Fitzpatrick coming over in a trade, Davis will not be back with the Steelers.
Mike Daniels Green Bay Packers DE
He signed a one-year deal with the Lions last year after being released by the Packers, and it didn't work out for Detroit. He played just nine games because of injury and had just one sack.
Ronald Darby Philadelphia Eagles CB
He's one of many Eagles corners who have been plagued by injuries the past few seasons. When on the field, he has a tendency to give up big plays. But if healthy, he will get a look as a starter somewhere.
Demarcus Robinson Kansas City Chiefs WR
He has some big-play ability, but consistency is an issue. He did average 14.0 yards per catch last season, which shows his big-play ability.