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NFL free agency 2022: Top players available, best fits, deal predictions, teams to watch, quarter...

Updated: Apr 23, 2022

NFL free agency is approaching, and several teams will look to improve a great deal by signing some of the biggest names on the 2022 open market. Who will sign where? Who are the top free agents? Which teams should be watched closely over the next few weeks? And where will the quarterbacks land?

Original Article Date: 10 March 2022 [A.D.]

Quarterback - Photo by: Tu Trinh

Free Agents and the Availability for the Upcoming Season

The legal negotiation period is opening on Monday, and plenty of players will have agreed-upon new homes by midweek. Our NFL team has you covered with everything you'd ever want to know for the free-agent frenzy on deck. That includes a preview of what to expect, a recap of the franchise-tag window, a look at the best players available, a roundup of the signal-callers and receivers who could sign in new places, a breakdown of perfect player-team fits and a evaluation of how deals could impact April's NFL draft. We dive in on the free agents primed to earn big contracts, settle for prove-it deals or sign at great value. We preview teams that are ready to spend and teams that might stay dormant as they navigate salary-cap concerns. And finally, we wrap it all up with a handful of predictions for what could happen.

In all, more than a dozen of our NFL experts weigh in on one of the wildest weeks of the offseason. It's all here in a handy one-stop cheat sheet. (Salary cap figures are via Over The Cap.)

What Can We Expect in Free Agency, and When Does It Start?

The NFL's 2022 free agent period officially starts Monday, March 14 with two days of legal negotiations. Deals can be formalized as soon as Wednesday, March 16. Teams use early contract extensions and the franchise tag to prevent their best young players from reaching the market, knowing that bidding wars and unfettered leverage will push costs higher.

Ultimately, the most important question is not where free agents will sign but who will get to the market. Eight top players received the franchise tag this week, and two other pending free agents -- Chargers receiver Mike Williams and Titans pass rusher Harold Landry III -- signed new contracts. For the time being, that leaves a list topped by two Saints players (left tackle Terron Armstead and safety Marcus Williams) leading a class that includes an unusually high number of talented tight ends and some big-name veteran pass-rushers.

For the 2022 market, teams will have to comply with a $208.2 million per team salary cap. Teams with the most cap space as of this week include the Chargers ($54 million), Dolphins ($53 million) and Jets ($50 million). -- Kevin Seifert

Who are the top free agents available?

The ideal NFL free agent is coming off of his first contract and is about 26 years old, but teams work hard to either re-sign those players or use the franchise tag. So the most impactful free agents in this class are veteran pass-rushers, including four of the top 10. None are younger than 29. -- Seifert

Who got franchise-tagged?

Franchise tags: Packers wide receiver Davante Adams, Buccaneers wide receiver Chris Godwin, Bengals safety Jessie Bates III, Chiefs offensive tackle Orlando Brown Jr., Dolphins tight end Mike Gesicki, Cowboys tight end Dalton Schultz, Browns tight end David Njoku, Jaguars offensive tackle Cam Robinson.

Three of this year's eight franchised players are tight ends, mainly because they're relatively cheap to franchise. The other five each have relatively specific reasons, including the Packers trying to placate Aaron Rodgers, the Bucs still hoping Tom Brady comes back and the Jags' ongoing infatuation with Robinson. You get the idea. Most interesting to me: Zero pass-rushers were tagged. I thought Harold Landry III (he ultimately signed an extension) and Chandler Jones were strong candidates. But it means a lot of good choices are out there if you need a pass-rusher in free agency this year. -- Dan Graziano

Who are the top quarterbacks on the market?

Jameis Winston: With the Saints, Winston made great strides to clean up problems in his game during a season cut short by an ACL tear. He has put in the work to return from knee surgery, and let's not forget that the former 30-30 man (33 touchdowns and 30 interceptions during the 2019 season) can make all the throws. As always, Winston's potential is intriguing. -- Jason Reid

Teddy Bridgewater: A classic "game manager," Bridgewater won't hurt you with mind-numbing turnovers. Instead, he often takes the check down. Obviously, fewer turnovers is a good thing, but Bridgewater is so risk-averse that there's just not much potential upside with him. On the other hand, most organizations wound rather have stability over sizzle. -- Jason Reid

Best of the rest: Never forget why teams eagerly go to extremes to retain -- or trade for, as we just saw with Russell Wilson to the Broncos -- franchise passers. In a quarterback-centric, 32-team league, there just aren't enough top-notch signal-callers to go around. Once again, this year's class of free-agent passers reminds us of that fact. The list includes veteran game managers and others who have shown potential in spurts. But for organizations in search of game-changers at professional sports' most important position, well, those guys aren't in this group. Other names to know include Mitchell Trubisky, Marcus Mariota, Andy Dalton, Tyrod Taylor, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Cam Newton and Jacoby Brissett. -- Jason Reid

Which free agents will break the bank?

Terron Armstead, OT: Premium skill at a highly sought-after position makes Armstead a prime target for multiple teams. Good left tackles rarely become available. -- Seifert

J.C. Jackson, CB: Opinions are mixed on his cover skills, and it's worth wondering why the Patriots are letting him approach the market. But his playmaking (25 interceptions since 2018) is undeniable. -- Seifert

Carlton Davis, CB: Despite an injury that limited him to 10 games last season, Davis is young and versatile, and he has no obvious holes in his game. In free agency, that's a win. -- Seifert

Marcus Williams, S: His statistics aren't flashy, but Williams is one of the NFL's best safeties. He has equal skills against the run and pass, and he will be only 25 years old when the 2022 season begins. -- Seifert

Brandon Scherff, G: After earning $33 million over 2020-21 on consecutive franchise tags from Washington, Scherff is the best guard on the market and is still young enough at 30 years old to play several more high-level seasons. -- Seifert

Tyrann Mathieu, S: Named to three consecutive Pro Bowls, Mathieu is one of the top safeties and perhaps the best leader on the market. And despite being 30 years old when the 2022 season begins, he should have several more productive years left. -- Seifert

Original Article by: ESPN Staff


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