5. Kareem Jackson
Jackson is a versatile and experienced option, having played cornerback earlier in his career with the Houston Texans before settling in as a safety over the last few seasons with the Denver Broncos. He has posted more than 85 total and 60 solo tackles in each of the last two seasons, but his coverage numbers did fall off this year (113.3 passer rating allowed, per Pro Football Reference).
It’s worth noting a back injury ended his 2021 season a game early with Denver eliminated from the playoffs, and he was among the 10 lowest-graded qualifying safeties in the league by Pro Football Focus.
The 34-year old Jackson won’t be expensive to sign. He could be paired with Walker at that bargain rate, or signed cheaply to help replace Walker.
4. Marcus Maye
Simply put, and the writing has been on the wall since the franchise tag was placed on him last year, Maye’s days with the Jets are over. An Achilles injury ended his 2021 season in November, so now he seems sure to have to settle for a shorter deal upon hitting the open market.
After being graded as a top-five safety in the league by Pro Football Focus in 2020 (h/t to The Jet Press), Maye’s level of play had regressed before his injury. So the Jets….look smart for not committing big years and/or money to him.
If Walker finds clearly greener pastures on the market, the Lions could allocate those dollars toward other needs and go a little cheaper for a new lead safety. If Maye is recovering quickly from his Achilles’ tear, with a nod to the recovery made by Rams’ running back Cam Akers this year, there will be far worse fliers to take in an effort to replace Walker.
3. Marcus Williams
The New Orleans Saints have a lot of work to do to get under the salary cap, so it seems certain some top free agents like Williams will be gone. Probably still best-known for his misplay on the “Minneapolis Miracle” in a playoff loss to the Vikings as a rookie, he has two interceptions in each of his five NFL seasons and he allowed a completion rate of less than 49 percent in his coverage this season.
The question with Williams will be cost in money in years, particularly compared to the same to just keep Walker in the fold. If the numbers are similar, re-signing Walker is likely the move. Unlike some others on this list, pairing the two to make a pretty nice safety duo is not going to happen with Williams–he’ll replace Walker or simply be elsewhere.