Sometimes in the NFL, a change of scenery is the only thing needed for a player to go from "good" to "superstar level."
Pass-rusher Haason Reddick, one of the highlight players of Sunday's Super Bowl LVII contest, is a prime example. While Reddick was quite good with the Arizona Cardinals and Carolina Panthers—tallying 12.5 sacks in 2020 and 11 sacks in 2021, respectively—he's become a legitimate star this season with the Philadelphia Eagles.
In 2022, Reddick logged a career-best 16 sacks to go with 41 quarterback pressures and his first Pro Bowl nod. He has also notched 3.5 sacks in two postseason games thus far.
Below, we'll examine six impending free agents who could make a similar jump to stardom in 2023. We'll focus specifically on players who don't have a Pro Bowl or first-team All-Pro on their resumes but who have that level of ability. We'll dive into what has been holding them back, what they might accomplish in a new environment and some ideal fits for each player.
Players are listed in alphabetical order.
Edge Marcus Davenport, New Orleans Saints
2018 first-round pick Marcus Davenport has long held superstar potential. However, the Texas-San Antonio product has battled numerous injuries—including season-ending foot and shoulder injuries in 2019 and 2021—and spent the past two seasons on a middling New Orleans Saints team.
This past season, Davenport logged a mere half-sack, though he did have a respectable 14 quarterback pressures. In 2021, he had nine sacks and 21 quarterback pressures to go with 39 tackles and three forced fumbles.
To break through as a Pro Bowl talent, Davenport will, of course, have to stay healthy. However, he would also benefit tremendously from a roster that can score points and put opponents into passing situations. New Orleans ranked 22nd in scoring this past season.
The Buffalo Bills would be a prime landing spot for Davenport. They lost star pass-rusher Von Miller to a torn ACL in 2022 and might not have him to start the 2023 season. Buffalo may also lose defensive end Shaq Lawson (3.5 sacks in 2022) in free agency.
The Bills logged a good, not great, 40 sacks this past season, and Miller was responsible for eight of those. They could use a player of Davenport's caliber, and Davenport could benefit from Buffalo's high profile and the pass-rushing opportunities created by its second-ranked scoring offense.
The Bills, though, would have to clear cap space, as they're slated to be $20.5 million over the cap.
The Baltimore Ravens could also give Davenport a great opportunity. They're projected to have $27.8 million in cap space available—though re-signing star quarterback Lamar Jackson will alter their financial situation substantially—and could lose Brent Urban, Justin Houston and Jason Pierre-Paul in free agency.
Assuming Baltimore does retain Jackson, the Ravens should again be a playoff contender, will be frequently featured in prime time and could offer Davenport a chance to showcase his talents. With a big stage and double-digit-sack potential, the 26-year-old may finally get his own Pro Bowl nomination.