NFL Free Agency: Ranking the Top 40 Overall Free Agents in 2022
NFL Free Agency: Ranking the Top 40 Overall Free Agents in 2022
In a wrap-up of our position-by-position breakdowns, which offensive weapons and defensive playmakers represent the creme da le creme of the free agent frenzy to come in 2022?
40. Bryan Anger, P, Dallas Cowboys
The 33-year-old punter has been contributing at a very high level for some time now. However, it's been only recently that he's earned the recognition that goes with it. This past year with Dallas, he was able to average 48.4 yards per punt, which tied for fourth in all of the NFL. He went on to the Pro Bowl and was named All-Pro Second team. If Dallas doesn't bring him back, Green Bay is a team primed to improve their punting as part of a special teams overhaul there.
39. Zane Gonzalez, K, Carolina Panthers
After an up-and-down start to his career, Gonzalez has gained enough form to finish ninth in the league in field goal percentage with 13 of 15 field goals made beyond 40 yards, as well as fourth in kickoff average yardage. The only issue with him is the fact that he was placed on IR prior to the final four games because of a quad injury suffered in warmups. Assuming he's back to health, he could be an upgrade for teams like the Commanders or Jets.
38. Tyrann Mathieu, S, Kansas City Chiefs
Mathieu is a solid player, and he's going to draw a lot of attention from contending teams in need of a veteran presence on the back end. For the Chiefs, he posted 76 tackles alongside 3 interceptions, and proved himself worthy of another trip to the Pro Bowl. Mathieu very well could be the top-paid safety in free agency, albeit on a shorter deal (one to two years) than guys like Marcus Williams and Jordan Whitehead. His suitors will include the Bengals and Jaguars.
37. Jordan Whitehead, S, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Speaking of the aforementioned Whitehead, there isn't much to separate him from the Honey Badger. One of the differences is the fact that he is yet to celebrate his 25th birthday -- he's still young and learning. Even so, he started 14 games, had 73 tackles and was slapped with a 74.9 PFF grade for his efforts. He's likely to get anywhere from $8 to 10 million and could wind up with the Steelers, Lions or -- again -- the AFC champion Bengals.
36. Ryan Jensen, C, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
In 2021, Jensen's $10 million was the most among free agent centers as he ended the year with his first trip to the Pro Bowl in part thanks to his first-hand support of the now-retired Tom Brady. The 30-year-old ranked fifth at his position in snaps and started all 17 games for Tampa. There's a chance he returns, though it's more likely he heads elsewhere. The Dolphins and Bengals are at the top of the list for any and all available linemen in 2022.
35. B.J. Hill, DT, Cincinnati Bengals
There are a number of solid defensive tackles to be courted over the course of the offseason, but Hill seems like he could have the biggest impact both in the short- and long-term. The NC State alum won't turn 27 until April, and he's fresh off a season in which his team went to the Super Bowl and improved by eight spots defensively. His production line will make it hard for Cincinnati to let him walk, but if they're outbid expect it to come from someone like the Giants or Lions, both of whom struggled against the run.
34. Harold Landry, LB, Tennessee Titans
This past season saw the Pro Bowler tally a career-best 12 sacks and 22 quarterback hits for the first-seeded Titans. His PFF grade does not do his performance justice, nor does it speak to the promise of his impending haul this offseason. He's projected north of $17 million a year for a three- to four-year deal and given Tennessee's cap issues he's probable to move on. The Dolphins, Jaguars and Seahawks are among others who will compete for his pass-rushing skill.
33. Ben Jones, C, Tennessee Titans
At 32, Jones is beyond his prime, even for an experienced center. However, he has anchored a line in front of Derrick Henry, and a 77.8 PFF grade goes to show his impact both in the pass and run games for Tennessee. In the case the Titans don't spend the $10-plus million to bring him back, the Buccaneers and Rams -- if they too are willing to pay up -- lead all other contenders to replace their own outgoing free agents.
32. Brian Allen, C, Los Angeles Rams
Speaking of the Rams' center situation, Allen could be vacating that spot despite his part in the Rams' title run. The 26-year-old exceeded an elite 80 PFF grade and started a total of 20 games, including the 4 postseason matchups. After making less than $800,000 this past season, he's due to garner more than $10 million a year and join a team on a three- to four-year deal as part of a young and upcoming offense. Think the Dolphins, first and foremost.
31. Haason Reddick, LB, Carolina Panthers
As with Landry, Reddick is your typical outside linebacker who does more to get after the quarterback than slow the run game or maintain in coverage. In his first and only year with the Panthers, the 27-year-old produced 11 sacks, 18 quarterback hits and 12 tackles for loss. He's due to cash in on two big seasons in a row to the tune of $12 to 15 million in this market. The Dolphins, Steelers and Ravens all make a good fit based on scheme.
30. Brandon Scherff, G, Washington Commanders
Many consider Scherff a top-10 guys in this class, but when you consider age and cost, he's not as high as others would believe. Nevertheless, he's coming off a 73.6 PFF grade and has put together five Pro Bowl seasons (one All-Pro), including this past year when he didn't allow a single sack. Spotrac has him at $13 million for whoever gives him a two- or three-year deal to join their up-and-coming offense.
29. Michael Gallup, WR, Dallas Cowboys
After an impressive two-year span, Gallup's 2021 started but quickly took a downward turn. The 25-year-old was placed on injured reserve after the first game only to return and play eight games before tearing his ACL in early January. He has a long road ahead, but we've seen players really rebound from knee injuries like this recently. Gallup's big-play ability should intrigue a number of teams, although Dallas seems interested in keeping him around. If the money isn't right, expect him to explore big-salary options like Chicago and Las Vegas.
28. JuJu Smith-Schuster, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers
Ben Roethlisberger's limitations, in addition to an injury, have kept Smith-Schuster from inking a big contract to this point after proving himself a top young wideout in 2018. At just 25 still, look for him to put the shoulder injury behind him and land with another team on a one- or two-year deal. He's a candidate to move inside the division to Baltimore or pursue a larger market like in L.A. with the Rams. A year with Sean McVay could do him wonders.
27. Leonard Fournette, RB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Fournette is far removed from his last 1,000-yard season, in addition to his impressive run to the Super Bowl in 2020. Yet, the soon-to-be 27-year-old has had 450 or more receiving yards in two of the past three seasons, showing he's more than just a ground-and-pound guy. The run-focused Patriots and 49ers could be interested assuming a $5 or 6 million cap hit isn't too much to deter them.
26. Odell Beckham Jr., WR, Los Angeles Rams
It was a very bittersweet end to the year for OBJ. After getting himself out of the Cleveland, he was able to produce big touchdown numbers (7 in 12 games) and prove again that he is a threat opposite a legitimate number one. He also scored a touchdown in a Super Bowl his Rams would go on to win, however, he did so at the expense of his health. Beckham suffered an ACL injury that will put him on an odd timeline for next year. Nevertheless, I would expect the Rams to bring him back or a club like the Buccaneers or Bills to add to their receiving talent. In all likelihood, he'll be limited to a one-year deal for less than $5 million given the circumstances.
25. James Conner, RB, Arizona Cardinals
Conner joins fellow Arizona back Chase Edmonds as a back in search of a new backfield for 2022. And at just 26, given his proven ability to produce in a lead role, he's going to find a good fit. It will take only an estimated $6 million, and he should have the same suitors as Fournette. Just don't rule out the Cardinals' willingness to bring him back on a two- or three-year deal given what their offense accomplished in 2021.
24. Jameis Winston, QB, New Orleans Saints
It's been a wild ride for Winston of late, and yet here he is, vying for a chance with a new team to serve as their offensive initiator. This past year is hard to gauge given the lack of proven weapons around him, however, he still had a 14-to-3 touchdown-to-interception ratio. An ACL injury will keep him on the sideline to start the year, though, making him an unlikely candidate for a sizable contract. The Commanders and Panthers could add him to what uncertainty they have going into the new year.
23. Ronald Jones, RB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Jones outpaces Fournette for good reason. He's almost three years the junior, and he has 450 fewer carries. That means he has more tread on the tires for whatever team chooses to take a chance on his physical talent. Sure, he's found himself in the Arians doghouse over the last couple years, but his play was worthy of a 73.6 PFF grade. Going forward, he would fit well with New England or Arizona, who might need a new top dog if both Conner and Chase Edmonds depart.
22. Rob Gronkowski, TE, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Joining a number of other Buccaneers, there has been little in the way of new information on Gronk. Without Brady, what is he, and where will he go? Regardless, his consistent ability to produce in the red zone (6 touchdowns in an injury-shortened 2021) and on key third downs will do wonders for his value despite his advanced age. It wouldn't be shocking to see him take a decent one-year deal wherever Russell Wilson and Aaron Rodgers end up.
21. Zach Ertz, TE, Arizona Cardinals
The 31-year-old Ertz is only a year younger than Gronkowski, but it would appear that he too is aging well. It was believed that he was done after his time in Philadelphia, but Arizona revitalized him as a pass-catcher. Ertz turned in 56 catches and 3 touchdowns on his 81 targets, and as a result could fetch something like a three-year, $21 million deal. The Chargers, Bengals and Colts will aim to add him as a safety blanket over the middle.
20. Connor Williams, G, Dallas Cowboys
Williams gets the nod over other guards because of his youth: he's just 24 years old going into his fifth campaign. He's had ups and downs, though the former Longhorn has proven his versatility across the guard and tackle spots both. He was credit with only one sack against and a 76.1 grade this year, per PFF. Considering all the factors, he's in for a $13-plus million contract on a team such as the Broncos, who are building around a very young and talented running back.
19. Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Denver Broncos
Because of Winston's injury, Bridgewater gets the clear nod as the top quarterback out there for the bidding. The 29-year-old has yet to make himself out to be anything but a game manager, but he's a good one at that, and in a limited market to boot. The journeyman completed 67% of his passes, tossed a career-high 18 touchdowns and earned a 73.5 PFF grade. The uncertain Texans, Panthers and Steelers could all find some stability in what Bridgewater has to offer.
18. Jason Kelce, C, Philadelphia Eagles
At 34 years of age, Kelce might not be long for the NFL. But still, he's a five-time Pro Bowler, four-time All-Pro and one-time Super Bowl champ. He's been among the best of the best centers for some time, and whether he stays an Eagle or not, he deserves a rich short-term contract with a contender. A pristine 84.4 PFF grade proves as much. If any other team makes sense, Frank Reich and the Colts might pry him from Nick Sirianni's squad.
17. Terron Armstead, T, New Orleans Saints
Armstead is the most proven of the very best tackles available for the upcoming frenzy. At 30, he's played his way to three Pro Bowl appearances, and just this past year he maintained a 75.9 PFF grade. He will be a big aid to anyone in need of a blindside protector. That includes the Seahawks, Steelers and Jaguars, the latter of which will aim to replace their own departing talent. The thing is, it's going to take a pretty penny as Armstead's value stands at $23 or $24 million.
16. Cam Robinson, T, Jacksonville Jaguars
Like a lot of young Jaguar players -- both past and present -- Robinson, despite his second-round pedigree, hasn't really had a chance to make his mark on the league. However, he has the size and intangibles to do just that on the right team. A number will come calling, consisting of the Dolphins, Panthers, Saints and Bengals. Robinson's high market value will decide who comes out on top.
15. Dalton Schultz, TE, Dallas Cowboys
Schultz finds himself in a unique spot, as he's the only young tight end out there. This comes after he caught 63 and 78 balls over the last two years, respectively. In 2021, his 8 touchdowns contributed to his 78.1 PFF grade, which will undoubtedly get him a nice chunk of cash. Schultz is looking at more than $10 million a year as the lead tight end for someone like the Chargers or Bengals, both of whom pride themselves on a young and uber-talented signal caller.
14. Jadeveon Clowney, DE, Cleveland Browns
Not only does Clowney have the name appeal, but he's fresh off another nine-sack season and had a 66.5 PFF player grade. The 29-year-old is projected at $12.9 million average annual value and could still demand a three-year deal at any of a few prospective landing spots. The Lions or Seahawks could target him, but the Steelers would make it quite a one-two punch on the ends.
13. Stephon Gilmore, CB, Carolina Panthers
Among a big-value cornerback class, Gilmore is the most proven over the years. The 31-year-old bounced back from an injury-plagued year with New England by hitting his fifth Pro Bowl behind a 77.1 PFF grade in his first and possibly only year with the Panthers. Gilmore's skillset will likely give him a two- or three-year deal reminiscent of Darrelle Revis around this age. He could secure more than $14 million a year on a short deal handed down by a team like the Chargers or Commanders.
12. Carlton Davis, CB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Davis checks in nearly five years younger than Gilmore, and while that means he is lacking the same type of high-caliber reputation, he did make a Super Bowl run -- and another playoff run -- at Tom Brady's side. His 2020 was better than his 2021, when he played to a 66.6 grade, but a $19 million-per-year deal is in the cards. Teams with flexible cap situations -- a la the Jaguars and Chargers -- are likely to kick the tires on this impressive corner.
11. Emmanuel Ogbah, DE, Miami Dolphins
Ogbah has proven to be a late bloomer of sorts, but better late than never. The 2016 draftee has 20-plus quarterback hits and 9-plus sacks in back-to-back years. His PFF grade of 77 is nearly unmatched, and though the Dolphins have the funds to bring him back they may spend it elsewhere. The 28-year-old would be a good pick-up for the well-positioned Eagles or Buccaneers.
10. Chandler Jones, LB, Arizona Cardinals
A former teammate of Haason Reddick, Jones has proven himself even more of a force to be reckoned with for opposing offensive tackles. This past year saw him fall off from previous ones, yet he earned a Pro Bowl bid and a 71.7 PFF grade. Jones might not see the big deal he just put a bow on, but he's still in line for a $14 to 16 million salary with a team that will compete for a title. It would be intriguing to see Jones line up opposite Myles Garrett in Cleveland. Others will do their best to obtain the 32-year-old and his ability to wreak havoc defensively.
9. De'Vondre Campbell, LB, Green Bay Packers
Campbell is one of one in this free agent class. He's far and above the rest of the inside linebacker field, this on the heels of an All-Pro year that saw him accumulate 111 tackles, as well as 2 forced fumbles, 2 sacks and 2 interceptions. His 85.8 PFF grade speaks to the type of leverage he should have wherever he chooses to sign. The Broncos and Chargers should be first in line to bolster their run-stopping.
8. Von Miller, LB, Los Angeles Rams
Now a two-time Super Bowl champion, Miller boasts as impressive -- if not more -- a resume as any in this class, regardless of position. This past year, splitting his time between the Broncos and Rams, he posted 9.5 sacks and 17 quarterback hits in 15 games. His 88.7 PFF grade is among the best in the game, and he's yet to show signs of succumbing to his age. Miller's market value is still around $10 or 11 million, in all likelihood preventing the Rams from keeping him on for the title defense.
7. Marcus Williams, S, New Orleans Saints
As much as he lacks the bonafides of many names ahead of him, regardless of position, Williams needs to be taken seriously as one of the best safeties in the league. Not only did he produce an 80.1 PFF grade for one of this year's top defenses, but he's almost always available, starting 14 games in all five of his seasons as a pro. He's due to make big bucks elsewhere ($11 million or more a year) for another team like the Raiders or Eagles given the Saints' disgusting cap situation.
6. Mike Williams, WR, Los Angeles Chargers
Williams is where we hit that elite tier of available receivers. After all, 2021 saw the big man break out in a major way opposite quarterback Justin Herbert and complementing Keenan Allen. At 27, he very well could have made a Pro Bowl after turning 129 targets into more than 1,100 yards and 9 touchdowns. His combination of possession-receiver skill and big-play touchdown threat is probably going to reward him $15 to 16 million per year on a multi-year contract. The Jaguars, Colts and Dolphins should go at him hard given their cap space.
5. Allen Robinson II, WR, Chicago Bears
Robinson might be one of the best one-time Pro Bowl receivers in some time. Before a year limited by Justin Fields' development in Chicago, A-Rob was able to surpass 1,100 in two straight years, giving him three such seasons on his career. Undoubtedly, the 28-year-old will heavily weight the quarterback situation on the team he goes to next. The Patriots could be considered the frontrunner to pair him with Mac Jones, but don't count out the Dolphins or Raiders.
4. Chris Godwin, WR, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Plain and simple: Godwin's only downside is his recent knee injury. A torn ACL and MCL will limit the soon-to-be 26-year-old to rehab this offseason, and his 2022 might start on a delay, but we've seen what he can do when healthy. He has at least 1,100 yards in two of the last three seasons in addition to 21 touchdowns in this timeframe. Whether Godwin gets a big payday will depend on a lot of medical information. If he checks out, he could be in for the three-year deal that would net him around $15 million per year to be a number-one receiver. If that's the case, the Jets and Bears could come calling to keep him from moving on to a new contender.
3. Orlando Brown Jr., T, Kansas City Chiefs
The 25-year-old Brown is but four years into his career but has three Pro Bowl appearances to his name. After being traded from Baltimore this past offseason, he allowed just four sacks of Patrick Mahomes and ended the campaign with a 75.2 PFF grade. Kansas City has expressed their wishes to bring him back, but it's going to take a haul. Brown will bring in between $20 to 23 million a year on a multi-year deal. Miami possesses the amount of capital to get it done.
2. J.C. Jackson, CB, New England Patriots
Jackson is the surefire top corner among this offseason's very best offerings at the position. Through his young four-year career, the 26-year-old is a Super Bowl champ, Pro Bowler and All-Pro Second teamer. He's widely considered to be a top-five corner in the league, and PFF would agree. Jackson's play resulted in an 82.7 grade that only betters his chances of getting at least $16 million and upwards of $20 million a year from a new team. That figures to include the Jets and Chargers, but the Raiders could come into play because of the connection to Josh McDaniels and other former Patriot assistants in Las Vegas.
1. Davante Adams, WR, Green Bay Packers
You can take whichever argument you want -- the talent or the production. We know that by his route-running Adams is probably the most skilled receiver in the league, and as a product of playing with Aaron Rodgers, he has yielded some massive numbers. He had a monster 92.7 PFF grade in 2021, while over the last four years he's smashed the league for 47 touchdowns. If franchised, he could make $20 million, but the market could see him in the mid-to-high 20s on a per-year basis. Where he ultimately ends up will likely come down to Rodgers' decision to stay or go, and where he might go. Tampa and Denver could bring in the dynamic duo, but if Adams wants to do his own thing that brings teams like the Raiders and Ravens into consideration as well.
Brett Oswalt has been writing about sports for five years, has covered everything from the NBA to College Football DFS, and previously served as an editor at numberFire. He is a Senior Workforce Planning Analyst at Highmark by day, and an avid sports fan and girl-dad by night. He resides in Pittsburgh, PA with his wife, Marley, daughter, Aria, and goldendoodle, Braun.