It’s been a little over a month since the Los Angeles Rams beat the Cincinnati Bengals in the Super Bowl. The offseason has started with a lot of rumors and speculation, especially involving the quarterback position. The offseason is moving very quickly as the league year starts in less than two weeks. Here are the top 25 free agent predictions for the 2022 NFL offseason.
The 2021 NFL league year starts on March 16 at 4 pm ET. This is when teams can officially sign free agents and trades also become official. All major moves that occur before that point will not be official until the start of the league year.
There is a decent amount of time until the offseason begins. But it is never too early to speculate on where some of the biggest free agents could end up. After evaluating every team’s major needs and taking into consideration this year’s salary cap here is where the NFL’s Top-25 Offensive Free Agents could play next season.
25. Mitch Trubisky, Quarterback
A free agent who has been generating a ton of interest and buzz over the last couple of weeks has been Buffalo Bills quarterback Mitch Trubisky. It appears that after a year on the bench in Buffalo that the league is ready to give Trubisky another opportunity to be an NFL starter again.
Trubisky was drafted second overall by the Chicago Bears in 2017. He was unfortunate to have been selected before and constantly compared to both Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson. His time in Chicago wasn’t the complete bust many think that it was. He was a Pro Bowler during the 2018-19 season, helped the Bears get to the playoffs in two of his four seasons, and had a winning record at 29-21.
During his four seasons in Chicago, he completed 64% of his passes for 10,609 passing yards (2,652 per season), 64 passing touchdowns (16 per season), 37 interceptions (9.25 per season), 1,057 rushing yards (264.3 per season), and eight rushing touchdowns (two per season). Last season Trubisky completed six of eight attempts for 75 passing yards, zero touchdowns, and an interception. He also had 13 rushing attempts for 24 rushing yards and a rushing touchdown.
There are reports that the teams with major voids at quarterback are looking at Trubisky. However when it is all said and done it is likely that teams with major needs at quarterback will land someone who was at least a starter this past year. This is why Mitch Trubisky is likely to land with the New York Giants.
Signing Trubisky conflicts with the statements made Giants owner John Mara backing up Daniel Jones as their starter next season. New Giants head coach Brian Daboll also would like to see if he can optimize Jones’ play. However, bringing in Trubisky doesn’t mean that the Giants could not achieve that.
The initial thought of bringing in Trubisky would be that he could serve as competition to push Jones to win the job in camp. This could be good for him because he obviously wasn’t ready to step in as the starter when he replaced Eli Manning who really should have considered retiring at least a year earlier. Then if Jones wins the job he is a high-quality backup and a great insurance option if Jones gets hurt. In both of Jones’ two seasons as a full-time starter, he has missed extended periods of time due to injury.
It is also a bonus that Trubisky is a veteran that knows Brian Daboll’s offense from their time in Buffalo last season. He can help teach Jones the offense allowing him to transition easier into Daboll’s offensive scheme. Not all quarterback rooms are as competitive as Green Bay’s with Brett Farve and Aaron Rodgers. More times than not quarterbacks want to see their teammates succeed at the end of the day. Also if Jones struggles and is no longer with New York next season he could help the rookie quarterback the Giants draft learn the offense and serve as the bridge quarterback until he is ready.
Prediction: Mitch Trubisky signs a two year $20 million deal with the New York Giants
24. Eric Fisher, Left Tackle
It feels like it has been forever since the Kansas City Chiefs took Eric Fisher first overall in the 2013 NFL Draft. Since then Fisher has had a solid NFL career. After eight seasons with the Chiefs, he was released by the team last offseason. This was unfortunate timing for Fisher because he was recovering from a torn Achilles tendon suffered in the AFC Championship game. Two months later Fisher was signed by former Chiefs executive Chris Ballard who is now the general manager of the Indianapolis Colts.
Fisher was coming off of making two Pro Bowls in the past three seasons in Kansas City. He had an okay year with the Colts, but never felt like the team’s long-term answer at the position. Indianapolis signed him because Anthony Castonzo shocked the team with his retirement. PFF gave Fisher a 68.2 grade for the 2021-22 season.
Rumors have been that the Colts and Fisher cannot agree on an extension. So it is likely that Fisher will be playing for his third team in three years. The Chicago Bears are in the process of rebuilding their offensive line and have a need at tackle. Fisher is familiar with new Bears general manager Ryan Poles from his time in Kansas City and new Bears head coach Matt Eberflus from his time in Indianapolis.
Chicago needs to add a tackle this offseason even after drafting two promising tackles in the 2021 NFL Draft. The Bears traded up to take Oklahoma State tackle Tevin Jenkins in the second round and then took Missouri tackle Larry Borom in the fifth round. Both showed that they are not ready for NFL level competition yet. Jenkins started at left tackle despite many believing that he should play right tackle at the next level.
Signing Fisher would allow Jenkins to his natural position and Borom to be the team’s swing tackle. Fisher would be a massive upgrade over the veteran they signed last offseason Jason Peters who many believed was going to retire prior to being signed.
Prediction: Eric Fisher signs a one year $10 million deal with the Chicago Bears
23. Brian Allen, Center
It is a yearly tradition for teams to poach starters from the reigning Super Bowl champions. One player who could receive a massive deal for his role with the Los Angeles Rams this past year is center Brian Allen. The former fourth-round pick had his best season to date at a prime time in the last year of his rookie deal.
Allen played very well in his first full season as a starter. Allen started nine games his second year in the league then he did not play the following season. This past season was the first time he was a full-season starter. PFF gave Allen an 80.2 grade for how he played this year. A grade like that he played like one of the top players at his position last season.
Los Angeles will likely let Allen walk because they could feel that Allen could be replaced with a cheaper veteran or rookie in the draft. An offense that could use Allen’s services is the reigning AFC Champion Cincinnati Bengals. They need an upgrade over current center Trey Hopkins. Allen would fit perfectly in Zac Taylor’s offense because Taylor models his offense similar to Sean McVay whom he used to coach for. It may be slightly awkward for Allen to walk into the Bengals locker room with the Super Bowl ring they won against them. However, it wouldn’t take long for the team to embrace Allen and for him to upgrade their offensive line.
Prediction: Brian Allen signs a four year $42 million deal with the Cincinnati Bengals
22. Matt Paradis, Center
In 2019 the Carolina Panthers signed former Denver Broncos center Matt Paradis to a three-year $27 million deal. Since then the Panthers have struggled to rebuild their offensive line around Paradis and now are facing the possibility of having to find a new starting center this offseason.
Unfortunately for Paradis he tore his ACL during Week Nine and missed the remainder of the season. This will definitely have a major impact on his value on the open market. Paradis was given a 66.9 grade from PFF for his play for the first nine weeks of the year.
There is a good chance that Paradis’ free agency is affected by his injury. This could be why he returns to the Carolina Panthers for at least another year. The Panthers’ offense is a mess at both quarterback and offensive line. In order to try to improve their offensive line, it is important for them to retain Paradis. Carolina cannot afford to lose their best offensive lineman not named Taylor Moton without a great plan to replace him.
Prediction: Matt Paradis signs a one year $10.5 million deal to stay with the Carolina Panthers
21. JuJu Smith-Schuster, Wide Receiver
For the second straight season, Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster will become a free agent and could potentially leave the team. Last offseason Smith-Schuster turned down a lot more money from the Ravens and Kansas City Chiefs than he got from the Steelers. He also reportedly turned down a multi-year offer from the Philadelphia Eagles. Instead, he resigned with the Steelers on a one-year $8 million contract. His reasoning for returning was that he wanted to return to the Steelers for potentially Ben Roethlisberger’s final season and potentially to help this team to the Super Bowl.
Smith-Schuster’s career has been very strange to this point. Early on in his career, he looked like an emerging star. Pittsburgh used him as a deep threat that could potentially become their number one receiver. In his second season, he was voted to the Pro Bowl after posting 111 catches for 1,426 receiving yards and seven receiving touchdowns. He was expected to produce even more as the team’s top receiver the following season after they traded away Antonio Brown. However, Smith-Schuster transitioned into a possession slot receiver role and hasn’t had near the production since his second year in the league.
This past season Smith-Schuster was limited to only five games because of a major shoulder injury. He caught 15 of his 28 targets for 129 receiving yards in that span. He missed the remaining twelve games of the regular season but was able to return for the Steelers Wild Card game against the Kansas City Chiefs. During that game, he caught five of his eight targets for 26 receiving yards.
Now that Roethlisberger has moved on and retired it is very likely that the Steelers and Smith-Schuster part ways. He would be an expensive fourth option in the passing game behind Diontae Johnson, Chase Claypool, and Pat Freiermuth. The only scenario where Smith-Schuster returns is if the team offers him a long-term contract. He will likely receive a short-term deal from the team that signs him.
The optimal situation for Smith-Schuster to land is with the Kansas City Chiefs. Their offense really struggled without Sammy Watkins this past season. Former second-round pick Mecole Hardman has struggled to transition into that third target and second wide receiver role for the Chiefs.
If anyone can optimize what Smith-Schuster could bring to an offense it is Chiefs head coach Andy Reid. He can line Smith-Schuster in both the outside and the slot. Smith-Schuster would be another deep threat for Patrick Mahomes and also a slot receiver who can serve as a reliable outlet option when Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce are locked up. Similar to Watkins, Smith-Schuster is capable of taking over a game when a defense doesn’t show him enough attention.
Prediction: JuJu Smith-Schuster signs a one year $8.5 million with the Kansas City Chiefs
20. Christian Kirk, Wide Receiver
It seems like forever ago since Christian Kirk was drafted by the Arizona Cardinals to be the top receiver for the Arizona Cardinals. Since Arizona drafted Kirk in the second round of the 2018 NFL Draft they have drafted Andy Isabella in the second round of the 2019 draft, traded a second-round pick (and David Johnson) for DeAndre Hopkins in 2020, signed A.J. Green, and drafted Rondale Moore in the second round of the 2021 NFL Draft. However, Kirk has been a productive part of the Cardinals’ offense since joining the team.
This past season Kirk had career highs in targets, receptions, and receiving yards. He caught 77 of his 103 targets for 982 receiving yards and five receiving touchdowns. When Hopkins missed time due to injury he had no issue stepping up as the team’s number one receiver during that stretch.
It is unclear how large of a role Kirk would have in Arizona if he returned and if the Cardinals plan to keep Kirk around at his price tag. There has been speculation that Kirk could receive multiple lucrative offers when he hits the market.
One team that will be reshaping their wide receiver group is the Chicago Bears. Allen Robinson is expected to walk in free agency leaving Darnell Mooney to be the team’s number one receiver. Kirk fits what the Bears’ new head coach Matt Eberflus and new general manager Ryan Poles are looking for. He is a very productive receiver who can stretch the field using his speed. Poles and Eberflus have made it known that they want to build their team around speed.
Kirk could lineup in the slot and on the outside for Chicago and be a great complimentary piece to Darnell Mooney. He has taken part in Kyler Murray’s development and would be a great player to bring in to help Justin Fields grow into the quarterback he was projected to be coming out of college. Kirk would likely overtake tight end Cole Kmet as the team’s second option on offense and could be the WR1B for Chicago. He has shown the capability of being a number one receiver for an offense on days that require him to do so. That is extremely important considering there are still questions about whether Mooney is a number one receiver or just a complementary receiver.
Prediction: Christian Kirk signs a three year $36 million deal with the Chicago Bears
19. Rodger Saffold, Offensive Guard
The Tennessee Titans made a tough decision a few days ago when they cut veteran guard Rodger Saffold to save $10.4 million. The addition of Saffold to their offensive line in 2019 was the spark that put Tennessee’s rushing attack among one of the best in the league. It helps to have a freak athlete and elite runner in Derrick Henry at running back. But Tennessee’s offensive line has done extremely well opening up rushing lanes for Henry to take advantage of.
At age 33 Saffold may not be able to singlehandedly turn around an offensive line. But it is worth noting that Saffold was voted to his first Pro Bowl this past season. PFF gave Safffold a 68.8 grade for his performance during the 2021-22 season. Saffold was also named Second Team All-Pro earlier in his career in 2017.
The veteran guard likely wants to land with a possible Super Bowl contender at this point of his career to finally win a Super Bowl. No Super Bowl contender is in dire need of veteran offensive line help than the Cincinnati Bengals. During Cincinnati’s matchup against Saffold and the Titans in the Divisional Round, the Bengals gave up nine sacks and still managed to win the game. Unfortunately for the Bengals, the Rams pass rush was too much to deal with in the Super Bowl.
Saffold would be a massive upgrade over starting left guard Quinton Spain who is set to be a free agent. Signing Saffold also shouldn’t break the bank which is something that the Bengals do not have a rich history of doing over the years. Not only will Saffold help protect Joe Burrow from interior pass rushers, but he will also help open up running lanes for Pro Bowl running back Joe Mixon. Throughout his career, Mixon has underachieved significantly when it comes to yards-per-carry and because of injury because he is constantly being hit in the backfield. Saffold feels like the perfect veteran to add to this roster trying to return to the Super Bowl next season.
Prediction: Rodger Saffold signs a two year $18 million deal with the Cincinnati Bengals
18. James Daniels, Interior Offensive Lineman
One player hitting the market who is expected to get a long-term deal from a team is Chicago Bears interior offensive lineman James Daniels. Since being drafted in the second round of the 2018 draft, Daniels has been one of if not the best offensive lineman the Bears have started the last couple of seasons. Now that he is going to be hitting the market at 24 years old, teams should be willing to give Daniels a long-term contract because he can still grow into a Pro Bowl-caliber player.
This past season Chicago’s offensive line was a mess. After drafting tackle Tevin Jenkins in the second round the Bears decides to cut left tackle Charles Leno which was a major blow to their line. Daniels played well last season posting the highest PFF grade of any Bears offensive lineman. They gave Daniels a 71.0 grade for his performance last season.
Even though Daniels is expected to have a very large market it would be hard to imagine the Bears letting their best offensive lineman from a season ago leave the team without a better option to replace him. New Bears general manager Ryan Poles is a former offensive lineman and saw last season with his previous organization, the Kansas City Chiefs, how important a great offensive line is to the success of an offense.
Chicago has some pieces in place on the offensive line in second-year tackle Tevin Jenkins and former Pro Bowler Cody Whitehair. Keeping Daniels in the building is necessary to continue to build this offensive line for Justin Fields. After the Chicago Bears traded away Khalil Mack, they have fewer excuses for not retaining a player like Daniels who should be a major part of their future.
Prediction: James Daniels signs a five year $65 million deal with the Chicago Bears
17. D.J. Chark, Wide Receiver
Even though a few of the top-tier wide receiver free agents are not going to be hitting the market because they received their franchise tag, there are still some very talented receivers expected to be available in free agency. One player that is an intriguing free agent is Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver D.J. Chark. His offers can range from one year prove it deals to multi-year deals.
After Chark was named to the Pro Bowl in his second season in the league, he hasn’t gotten close to that success in the next two seasons. Even when Chark made the Pro Bowl his numbers weren’t outstanding. Chark finished 2019 with 73 catches on 118 targets for 1,008 receiving yards and eight receiving touchdowns.
The blame for his play in recent years could be placed on injuries and the dysfunctional offenses that he has been a part of in Jacksonville. Chark has missed 16 regular-season games over the last two seasons. This past season Chark was limited to only four games because of an ankle injury he suffered during a Thursday night football game against the Cincinnati Bengals. His final stat line for the seasons was 7 catches on 22 targets for 154 receiving yards and two receiving touchdowns.
After all that has gone down in Jacksonville the past two seasons and including the multiple coaching changes, it might be best for Chark and the team to part ways. The 25-year-old receiver could have the opportunity to be a featured weapon for a team looking to accelerate their rebuild in the Detroit Lions. As of this moment, it appears the Lions are much more stable than the Jaguars as a franchise.
After losing Kenny Golladay, Marvin Jones, and Danny Amendola last offseason, Detroit didn’t do a great job replacing them. Veterans Tyrell Williams and Breshad Perriman did not finish the season with the team. The only receivers on the roster that could have a major role on offense next season are 2021 fourth-round pick standout rookie Amon-Ra St. Brown and Josh Reynolds who just signed a two-year extension with the team.
Chark would fit the X-receiver role that the Lions are lacking. Outside of former Pro Bowl tight end T.J. Hockenson, the Lions lack size from their pass catchers. Chark checks off the boxes necessary to be a big pass-catcher but also has the speed to stretch the field and be more than a possession receiver. Depending on the development of St. Brown, Chark could end up being the team’s third most targeted pass catcher. But he is capable of being a team’s best pass-catcher before and could do it again in Detroit if he was asked to do so. The young receiver could be a massive part of the Lions’ return to relevancy over the next few seasons.
Prediction: D.J. Chark signs a three year $42 million deal with the Detroit Lions
16. Cordarrelle Patterson, Running Back/Return Specialist/Wide Receiver
One of the most exciting offensive players that broke out in a major way last season was Atlanta Falcons’ offensive weapon Cordarrelle Patterson. The player who was considered just a return specialist for the majority of his career has shown that he can be a consistent and dangerous offensive player if used in the right way. All the kudos to Falcons head coach Arthur Smith for figuring out what the Minnesota Vikings, Oakland (now Las Vegas) Raiders, New England Patriots, and Chicago Bears couldn’t when it comes to using Patterson on offense.
This past season Patterson put up career highs in every statistical rushing and receiving category. His final season stat line was 153 rushes for 618 rushing yards and six rushing touchdowns along with 52 receptions on 69 targets for 548 receiving yards and five receiving touchdowns. His combined stat line looks a lot more impressive as he had 205 touches for 1,166 scrimmage yards and 11 total touchdowns.
Despite how well Patterson played, it is unlikely that the Atlanta Falcons could retain him because of their lack of salary cap space. This makes him an intriguing free agent because a majority of teams don’t have a void on their roster that Patterson could slide into. Instead, the teams who could maximize Patterson and use him similar to how he was used next season should be interested in him. This is why the San Francisco 49ers should jump all over the opportunity to bring in Patterson.
Last season the San Francisco 49ers’ offense gained a lot of national attention for how they used First-Team All-Pro wide receiver Deebo Samuel as a rusher last season similar to how Patterson was used in Atlanta. If both “widebacks”, as Samuel describes him and Patterson, were on the same offense the 49ers’ offense would become increasingly difficult to defend.
Kyle Shanahan can rotate between Samuel and Patterson into the backfield, wide at receiver, in the slot. They could line up Samuel in the backfield and fake out the defense by giving Patterson an end-around. There are so many way so many ways to utilize both players on the field. Patterson could fill multiple needs for this roster. He could be the team’s chance of pace back behind Elijah Mitchell, third receiver behind Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk, and be a major upgrade as a return specialist. It wasn’t long ago that Patterson was an All-Pro return specialist.
At the age of 30, Patterson is a total wild card on offense that could add another dimension to Kyle Shanahan’s offense that already keeps defensive coordinators up at night. The best part of this is that the team doesn’t have to break the bank to sign him.
Prediction: Cordarrelle Patterson signs a two year $9.5 million deal with the San Francisco 49ers
15. Ben Jones, Center
The Tennessee Titans offensive line has been one of the most consistent units in the league over the last couple of seasons. A major reason for their consistent play has been the stability they have had in the middle of the line in center Ben Jones. The Titans signed Jones away from their division rival Houston Texans back in 2016.
Jones has never played at a Pro Bowl level. However, he has always been among one of the better centers in the league. Last season, PFF had given Jones a 77.8 grade. In 1,160 snaps during the 2021-22 season, Jones only gave up one sack.
After moving some money around the Tennessee Titans will have the cap flexibility to retain some of their major free agents. After Harold Landry, locking up Jones will be their next priority during free agency. Tennessee’s offensive line is getting older, but they should keep their veterans around as long as they can. Jones is a vital piece to Tenneessee’s dominant rushing attack. He is responsible for opening up holes for Derrick Herny to run through in order to make the spectacular plays he is known for making. It would be surprising for the Titans to let a player of his caliber walk unless they had a plan in place to replace him.
Prediction: Ben Jones signs a two-year $16 million deal to stay with the Tennessee Titans.
14. Trent Brown, Offensive Tackle
Last offseason the Las Vegas Raiders traded right tackle Trent Brown (and a 2022 seventh-round pick) back to his previous team the New England Patriots for a 2022 fifth-round pick. Unfortunately for the third season in a row, Brown had missed extended time during the regular season due to injury. When healthy Brown has been one of the best right tackles in the league. He was given a 78.7 PFF grade last season for how he played in his nine games. In 489 snaps Brown only gave up one sack and did not have a single penalty.
Since New England has limited cap space and options on the roster to replace him it is unlikely the Patriots retain him unless they can retain him at a major discount. But a team like the Seattle Seahawks could and should take a chance on a player like Brown who can be a major upgrade from what they have had at the right tackle position for the past few seasons. Seattle has switched between veterans Brandon Shell and Cedric Ogbuehi at right tackle. Ogbuehi was cut midseason and Shell will hit the market in free agency.
The Pittsburgh Steelers have the second most available salary-cap space available out of all the teams that made the playoffs last year. This offseason Pittsburgh will get the opportunity to replace all the players that left their team last offseason. One major area they need to address with multiple assets is the offensive line. From the 2020-21 season to this past one the Steelers lost four starters across their offensive line.
Right tackle Chukuwuma Okorafor is set to hit free agency this offseason. Rather than retain Okorafor who is a solid option at best the Steelers could replace him with a Pro Bowl-caliber right tackle in Trent Brown. Brown is versatile enough to play on either side tackle position and is one of the best in the league when healthy. Pittsburgh also already had a swing tackle on the roster in Zach Banner who can fill in if Brown was to get hurt next season. Adding Brown to this team would be a huge help to whoever is the quarterback in Pittsburgh next season. He would be an excellent addition to a Steelers roster who are only a few pieces away from being legitimate contenders,
Prediction: Trent Brown signs one year $8 million deal with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
13. Morgan Moses, Right Tackle
In surprising fashion, the (at the time Washington Football Team) Washington Commanders cut long-time right tackle Morgan Moses after the 2021 NFL Draft. This was shocking because the initial thought when they took Samuel Cosmi in the second round was that he was going to be the long-term answer at right tackle. Instead, Washington signed former Chicago Bear Charles Leno to be their starting left tackle and played Cosmi at right tackle. The team ultimately decided to let him go after trying to trade him.
Instead of landing with a team with an obvious need at right tackle, Moses had signed an inexpensive deal with the New York Jets who had veteran George Fant and 2021 first-round pick Mekhi Becton as their starting tackles. Moses was then expected to compete with Fant for the starting right tackle job. Moses ultimately lost but was trusted into the starting lineup after Becton suffered an injury after the first game of the year. Fant moved over to left tackle and Moses started at right tackle for the Jets for the rest of the season.
Moses played well in his first season in New York. PFF gave Moses a 71.0 grade for his performance this past season. However, it is unlikely that the Jets will pay Moses at his price tag unless they have major concerns about Becton long-term. The Jets have Becton on a rookie deal, Fant for at least another season, and could take an offensive tackle with the fourth overall pick if they are concerned with that position.
Throughout his career, Moses has been an extremely solid starter, a team captain, and overall a great veteran to have on the offensive line. This is why he would be a great fit with the Cincinnati Bengals. It was apparent during the playoffs and especially in the Super Bowl that the Bengals need to upgrade their offensive line. It would be in their best interest to use their available cap space to add some immediate upgrades across their line.
Moses would be an outstanding veteran addition to add this roster that was good enough to make the Super Bowl last season. He is a massive upgrade at right tackle that was occupied by veteran Riley Reiff and Isaiah Prince last season. Cincinnati signed Reiff last offseason to start at right tackle but was limited to the first 12 games of the year before he was placed on injured reserve. Reiff missed the last five regular-season games and the entire playoffs. By signing Moses the Bengals could upgrade that position and have a long-term answer at one of their biggest weaknesses on the roster. On top of that Moses is very affordable for a franchise that doesn’t have a long history of signing big-name free agents to huge deals.
Prediction: Morgan Moses signs a three-year $28.5 million deal with the Cincinnati Bengals.
12. Jameis Winston, Quarterback
For the second season in a row, Jameis Winston is one of the top veteran quarterbacks to hit the market. Winston was tasked with taking over for the retired Drew Brees in New Orleans this past season. Winston didn’t play awful. However, he did not look outstanding or comfortable in Sean Payton’s offense. He was unable to stretch the field with a vertical passing attack the way he did in Tampa Bay. Whether it was because of Sean Payton’s offense or the lack of pass catchers this season didn’t go exactly as planned for Winston. However, he did play well enough to be in the conversation to return for New Orleans as the starter next season.
Winston was limited to seven games last season because he tore his ACL against his former team the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Prior to his injury Winston had completed 95 of his 161 attempts (59%) for 1,170 passing yards, 14 touchdowns, and only three interceptions. That is impressive considering that the receivers he was throwing to would likely be the third or fourth wide receiver on the depth chart on an average team.
New Orleans will likely explore all quarterback options before the start of the league year. They could even land a quarterback with their first draft pick in the middle of the first round. However, the most realistic option for them is to roll into next season with Winston returning as their starter. He will likely receive a short-term incentive laced deal for the second year in a row. New Orleans will hope to see Winston see a jump in his second year in this offense.
Prediction: Jameis Winston signs a one-year $12 million deal to stay with the New Orleans Saints.
11. Teddy Bridgewater, Quarterback
Veteran quarterback Teddy Bridgewater has carved himself a solid career as a journeyman quarterback since being drafted in 2014. During the 2020 offseason, Bridgewater appeared to find himself a long-term home when he signed a three-year $63 million deal with the Carolina Panthers. However, after one season with the team, Carolina traded for former Jets quarterback Sam Darnold and sent Bridgewater to Denver. Bridgewater restructured his deal in order to get dealt to a team that still needed a starting quarterback. Denver acquired Bridgewater for only a sixth-round pick.
Bridgewater competed with Denver’s incumbent starter Drew Lock and won the starting quarterback job. In 14 games last season Bridgewater completed 66.9% of his passes for 3,052 passing yards, 18 passing touchdowns, and seven interceptions. Now that the Denver Broncos have traded for Russell Wilson they no longer need Bridgewater.
Teams looking to make a veteran upgrade at quarterback that don’t want to trade for the star quarterbacks on the market could target someone like Bridgewater. A team that would make a lot of sense for Bridgewater would be the Pittsburgh Steelers. They are coming off an unlikely playoff run and as crazy as it sounds Bridgewater would be an upgrade over what they had last year in Ben Roethlisberger.
Bridgewater has been linked to Pittsburgh since he came out of the draft in 2014. The Steelers really liked Bridgewater coming out of the draft and considered him an option to potentially replace Roethlisberger if he was to retire then. They have also been brought up as a potential destination for Bridgewater as a backup and potential heir to Roethlisberger.
He would be a cheap bridge option that could do enough to get this team back to the playoffs next season (and possibly one year after that) while they develop the young quarterback they’re expected to take in the 2022 NFL Draft. Pittsburgh’s offense would once again be run-heavy behind 2021 first-round pick Najee Harris. But Bridgewater could make the smart and crucial throws necessary to keep this talented Steelers team in games.
Prediction: Teddy Bridgewater signs a two-year $25 million deal with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
10. Rob Gronkowski, Tight End
A free agent who has not received enough hype has been Tampa Bay Buccaneers tight end Rob Gronkowski. However, now that Tom Brady will not be retiring, his free agency will be a boring one as he will likely return to play with his great friend for at least one more season.
At age 32 Gronkowski had his best season statistically since the 2017-18 season. In twelve games he had caught 55 of his 89 targets for 802 receiving yards and six receiving touchdowns. On top of that Gronkowski was a well-above-average blocker in the run game.
The four-time Super Bowl champion, four-time All-Pro, and five-time Pro Bowler has nothing more left to prove. When Gronkowski retired back in 2019 he already had the resume to be a first-ballot Hall of Famer.
Even though there was speculation that Gronkowski could sign with the Buffalo Bills or Cincinnati Bengals it would be extremely shocking for him to leave Tampa Bay and play with someone other than Tom Brady. It will be interesting to see who else Tampa Bay brings in to fill the other voids on this roster.
Prediction: Rob Gronkowski signs a one-year $10 million deal with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
9. James Conner, Running Back
About a year ago the Arizona Cardinals took a chance on running back James Conner who was coming off of two injury-filled seasons in Pittsburgh. When Conner was given the opportunity to lead Arizona’s backfield he took full advantage of the opportunity. Now he finds himself as one of the most valuable offensive free agents to hit the market.
Back in the 2018-19 season, Conner filled in for Le’Veon Bell who was sitting out the season and was one of the best running backs in the league that season being named to the Pro Bowl. After that season his time it Pittsburgh was not as productive as he missed significant time due to multiple injuries. The Steelers let him walk in free agency and drafted Najee Harris in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft.
Arizona brought Conner in to compliment pass-catching running back Chase Edmonds who was expected to take a major jump as the team’s starter this past season. Instead, Conner and Edmonds split the backfield snaps somewhat evenly throughout the season. When Edmonds went down Week 9 against the Los Angeles Rams, Conner was in full control of the backfield and showed he was capable of playing like how he did with the Steelers three seasons prior.
In 15 games (six starts) Conner had 202 rushing attempts for 752 rushing yards and 15 rushing touchdowns. He also caught 37 of his 39 targets for 375 receiving yards and three receiving touchdowns. Conner was voted to the Pro Bowl for his performance last season.
The Cardinals have a lot of key free agents hitting the market but it would be difficult to see them letting Conner walk after how well he played for them last season. Conner was the best running back the Cardinals have had since David Johnson’s fourth year with the Cardinals. It shouldn’t break the bank for the Cardinals to retain Conner and they could draft a running back in the middle of the draft to compliment him and replace Edmonds. The strong running game Arizona had last season was a major reason why the team took a huge jump towards making the playoffs last season.
Prediction: James Conner signs a two year $13 million deal to stay with the Arizona Cardinals
8. Melvin Gordon, Running Back
For the second time in his career, Melvin Gordon is going to be hitting the free-agent market. The most impressive part about Gordon at this point of his career is that at 28 (soon to be 29) years old he is still capable of being a starting running back for an NFL team. There are very few running backs still given consistent roles on their respective offenses at that age, let alone capable of leading a committee of running backs.
It felt like the writing was on the wall when the Denver Broncos traded up for North Carolina running back Javonte Williams in the second round of the 2021 NFL Draft. However, Williams and Gordon split carries 50/50 throughout the entire season. In 16 games, Gordon rushed 203 times for 918 rushing yards and nine rushing touchdowns. Gordon also had caught 28 of his 38 targets for 213 receiving yards and two receiving touchdowns.
Fantasy managers who have Javonte Williams on their roster may not want to hear this, but there is a legitimate chance Gordon returns to Denver next season. He has expressed that he wants to remain in Denver to play for new head coach Nathaniel Hackett. Denver’s addition of Russell Wilson now will give Gordon more of a reason to want to return. Hackett may want to keep a veteran in house like Gordon to limit William’s carries.
This would be similar to how Hackett used his running backs in Green Bay. From 2019-21 Hackett used a split backfield of Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams. This past season his backfield was split between Jones and 2020 second-round pick A.J. Dillon.
Gordon may be willing to take a slight pay cut to return to Denver. There aren’t many potential Super Bowl contenders that would give him a sizable role on the offense and pay him close to the highest offer he will see on the market. It could be best for both parties if he was retained this offseason.
Prediction: Melvin Gordon signs a two year $12 million deal to stay with the Denver Broncos
7. Allen Robinson, Wide Receiver
The Chicago Bears decided not to franchise tag wide receiver Allen Robinson for the second year in a row. After both parties failed to agree on an extension over the past year it may be best for Robinson and the Bears to part ways. Unfortunately for Robinson, he is hitting the market after the worst statistical season of his career.
Robinson hasn’t been a Pro Bowler since the 2015-16 season. But he has been one of the most consistent wide receivers in the league over the course of his career. But this past season Chicago started to utilize Darnell Mooney as the team’s number one receiver. In 12 games this past season Robinson caught 38 of his 66 targets for 410 receiving yards and one receiving touchdown.
It is so unfortunate that Robinson will be a free agent now after how he played this past season instead of how he played last year. But despite how poor he played the wide receiver is expected to have a lot of interest from teams around the league. One team that needs a major upgrade at wide receiver is the Las Vegas Raiders. After the trades that went down last week, Las Vegas needs to go bold this offseason just to stay competitive in their own division. Playing with Derek Carr should appeal to Robinson because he has never been paired with an extremely talented quarterback before.
Robinson may not be a burner, but he can replace Bryan Edwards as the team’s 50/50 ball receiver. Las Vegas could find a receiver that could stretch the field in free agency or the draft. Their options include retaining Zay Jones, taking a chance on Will Fuller, or drafting a receiver like Chris Olave in the first round. The trio of Darren Waller, Hunter Renfrow, and Allen Robinson is talented enough to keep the Raiders competitive against the ever-growing tougher AFC West.
Prediction: Allen Robinson signs a two year $30 million deal with the Las Vegas Raiders
6. Laken Tomlinson, Offensive Guard
It wasn’t too long ago that Laken Tomlinson was considered a first-round draft bust. The Detroit Lions made the puzzling selection of taking him with the 28th overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft. After two seasons with the Lions, he was traded to the San Francisco 49ers for a 2019 fifth-round pick. Since then he has been a prominent starter for the 49ers’ offensive line.
Tomlinson started gaining national attention after being voted to his first Pro Bowl this past season. PFF gave Tomlinson a 75.9 grade for his 2021-22 season performance. Even though Tomlinson has been a really solid player for the 49ers it felt like this past season could be his last season with the team. During the 2021 NFL Draft, San Francisco drafted Notre Dame offensive guard Aaron Banks in the second round.
The most logical landing spot for Tomlinson is to follow his former offensive coordinator Mike McDaniel to the Miami Dolphins. There is no team that needs more immediate upgrades on the offensive line than the Miami Dolphins. After investing so many early draft picks in the offensive line in recent years, Miami should turn to free agency to replenish their line. Tomlinson will be a perfect veteran to add to this line because he has played in McDaniel’s offense before. He would major upgrade over current left guard 2020 first-round pick Austin Jackson who hasn’t played well at tackle or guard.
Prediction: Laken Tomlinson signs a three year $36 million deal with the Miami Dolphins
5. Leonard Fournette, Running Back
For the second season in a row Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Leonard Fournette is going to hit free agency. Last year the Buccaneers were able to retain Fournette. It will be interesting to see if Fournette chooses to get a huge contract from another team or run it back with the Buccaneers another year.
Fournette was able to hold the Buccaneers’ starting running back job for the entire season. He was able to fend off Ronald Jones, Giovanni Bernard, and Ke’Shawn Vaughn from turning this backfield into a committee. In 14 games he had 180 rushing attempts for 812 rushing yards and eight rushing touchdowns. Fournette also caught 69 of his 84 targets for 454 receiving yards and two receiving touchdowns.
It is hard to imagine Fournette leaving the Buccaneers with Brady returning for another season. Their offense has dominated the league over the last two seasons and developed outstanding chemistry. The backfield may look different with both Ronald Jones and Giovanni Bernard expected to leave in free agency. But it is likely that Fournette is the lead back for a Tom Brady-led Tampa Bay Buccaneers offense next season.
Prediction: Leonard Fournette signs a one year $5 million with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers
4. Duane Brown, Offensive Tackle
One of the oldest free agents to hit the market is Seattle Seahawks left tackle Duane Brown. The 36-year-old offensive tackle is still considered one of the best at his position in the entire league. This is likely Brown’s final time to receive a massive contract unless he can finish his career the way Andrew Whitworth finished his career (if he decides to retire).
Brown has also been a Second-Team All-Pro twice in his career and was named First-Team All-Pro in 2012. This past season Brown was voted to his fifth Pro Bowl and second since being traded to Seattle from Houston in the 2017-18 season. PFF gave Brown a 71.5 grade for how he played in the 2021-22 season.
Now that the Seahawks have traded away Russell Wilson it seems unlikely that they would want a left tackle that is going to be 37 years old at the start of next season. He would easily fill the void the Indianapolis Colts have at left tackle. Two seasons ago the Colts’ offensive line took a huge blow when left tackle Anthony Castonzo retired. They were able to bring in former first overall pick and Kansas City Chief Eric Fisher last season but he didn’t play great. Brown would be an upgrade over Fisher and could fill that void for at least the next season.
Indianapolis should designate its draft capital to upgrade other premium positions like quarterback, wide receiver, and defensive line. Signing Brown would allow the Colts to not worry about who will be their left tackle next season.
Prediction: Duane Brown signs a one year $13 million deal with the Indianapolis Colts
3. Odell Beckham Jr., Wide Receiver
The loaded wide receiver class got even better after the Cleveland Browns cut Odell Beckham Jr. after the trade deadline. During his time with the Los Angeles Rams, Beckham Jr. proved that he is still a playmaker at the wide receiver position. Very quickly Beckham Jr. was able to step into Robert Woods’ role on the offense and be an outstanding complement to Offensive Player of the Year Cooper Kupp.
In the eight games, Beckham Jr. played with the Rams during the regular season he had caught 27 of his 48 receptions for 305 receiving yards and five receiving touchdowns. During the Rams, four playoff games Beckham Jr. caught 21 of his 26 targets for 288 receiving yards and two receiving touchdowns.
Unfortunately for Beckham Jr. during the Super Bowl, he tore his second ACL in two seasons. This means that he will unlikely be available to play for a team next season. It is hard to imagine him coming back anytime before Thanksgiving. This will have a major impact on his free-agent market. Teams will be less willing to offer Beckham Jr. a long-term deal. This means that it is extremely likely that Beckham Jr. returns to the Los Angeles Rams.
Beckham Jr. played too well during his stretch with the Rams for them to let him walk in free agency. It is also no secret that he wants to return to play with Matthew Stafford. Beckham Jr.’s free agency is not a matter of where he will go but a matter of what kind of deal he will sign.
Prediction: Odell Beckham Jr. signs a three year $28 million deal (worth up to $33 in incentives) with the Los Angeles Rams
2. Terron Armstead, Left Tackle
It isn’t very often that a franchise left tackle the caliber of Terron Armstead of the New Orleans Saints hits free agency. The only reason why Armstead is going to hit the market is because the New Orleans Saints couldn’t franchise tag him with how his contract was structured. He is expected to have many teams interested in making him one of the highest-paid left tackles in the league.
Armstead has been voted to the Pro Bowl in three of the last four seasons. He was also named Second Team All-Pro in 2018. Armstead was limited to only eight games last season because of injury. PFF gave Armstead a 75.9 grade for the games he did play last year.
It is unlikely that the Saints resign Armstead unless he is willing to work his contract around their brutal cap situation. There are a couple of great landing spots for Armstead that will put him in a position to be one of the highest-paid tackles in the league and on a competitive team. The most competitive team with a need at left tackle is the Los Angeles Rams.
It may seem wild to think that Los Angeles has the cap space to sign Armstead to a contract of his market value but they do. Now that Andrew Whitworth (is likely) to retire the Rams have a massive hole on their offensive line and the cap space to fill it. Armstead is an elite tackle who will give the Rams great stability at the left tackle position for at least the next half-decade.
Prediction: Terron Armstead signs a four year $80 million deal with the Los Angeles Rams
1. Brandon Scherff, Offensive Guard
For the third season in a row Washington Commanders guard Brandon Scherff is set to be a free agent. This offseason Washington will finally let Scherff hit the open market by not designating him with the franchise tag. It would be shocking if Scherff got anything other than a contract that made him the highest-paid interior offensive lineman in the league.
Scherff has been an elite talent at his position since he was drafted by Washington with the fifth overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft. He has been voted to five Pro Bowls and was named First-Team All-Pro in 2020. However, it is worth noting that Scherff has missed 14 games over the last three seasons due to injury. He missed six games this past season due to COVID-19 and an MCL sprain. PFF gave Scherff a 73.6 grade for the 2021-22 season.
The best destination for Scherff will be a team that could pay Scherff to be one of if not the highest-paid interior offensive linemen in the league and will be able to elevate to a playoff team or better with his addition to the team. Pittsburgh is a playoff team from a season ago with enough cap space to sign a player like Scherff.
Last summer the potential Hall of Famer David DeCastro retired leaving a massive hole on the Steelers’ offensive line with limited options to replace him. They were able to pick up former Pro Bowler Trai Turner but need a long-term answer at the position. Signing Scheff would not only be an upgrade over Turner but give the Steelers another starting right guard the caliber of DeCastro in his prime.
Prediction: Brandon Scheff signs a six-year $108 million deal with the Pittsburgh Steelers
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