January 6, 2022

The 25 Best NFL Free Agents in 2022, Ranked

The 2022 NFL offseason should be a lot more lucrative for free agents than last year. 

With the NFL salary cap expected to increase by $25.7 million to $208.2 million next season, there'll be plenty of money for teams to throw around for big-name players. 

Twenty-eight of the 32 NFL teams are projected to have cap space in the offseason, with the Miami Dolphins and Los Angeles Chargers with the most available cap space at more than $72 million available. 

But who will these teams be backing up the Brink's truck for? 

We've ranked the 25 best free agents heading into the offseason below. 

25. Antonio Brown, WR, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Antonio Brown got a jump start on free agency after he tore off his pads and stormed off the field in his latest tirade. 

Despite his ever-growing list of transgressions, AB is still a damn good wide receiver. 

Before being released by the Bucs, Brown was averaging 13 yards per reception, which is his highest since 2017, and in the same amount of targets (62) that he had last season, Brown has more yards, receptions per game, yards per game, and yards per target.

Entering his age 34 season, Brown might not have lost a step but he's burned practically every bridge he's built in the NFL. Without Tom Brady advocating for him, Brown might have used up his last chance in the NFL. 

That being said, he's still talented and can help a team in the short term before going full-AB, so there could be some interest in the offseason. 

Potential Landing Spots: Any Contender

24. Calais Campbell, DL, Baltimore Ravens

Calais Campbell only has 1.5 sacks in 14 games this season, he is still getting to the quarterback, and he even has more quarterback hits this season than he did last year.

Campbell will be 36-years-old next season, but his win rate at the line of scrimmage is what is keeping him in the league. I do not think I have seen a player with a rare combination of size, strength, and quickness at his age. Baltimore will likely cut ties with Campbell as Lamar Jackson and Mark Andrews will need new contracts soon, but Campbell will find himself with a contender on a one-year deal.

Potential Landing Spots: Cleveland, Buffalo, Green Bay

23. D.J. Chark, WR, Jacksonville Jaguars

After 2019, D.J. Chark was expected to take a much bigger role with the Jaguars. He was selected to the Pro Bowl in 2019, and although his numbers went down in 2020, he still put up 706 yards and five touchdowns on 53 receptions.

When Urban Meyer came to town, Chark fell out of favor, and he was only active for four weeks before an ankle injury ended his season. Even if Chark can return to his Pro Bowl form, the Jaguars have not improved despite drafting Trevor Lawrence with the No. 1 overall pick. He may be cheaper than everyone would have thought, but at 6-foot-4 and with a 4.3 40 time, he is worth giving a small deal, especially if you have aspirations of contending.

Potential Landing Spots: Tampa Bay, Tennessee, Green Bay

22. Rob Gronkowski, TE, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

In his first season with the Buccaneers, Gronk hauled in seven touchdowns, and he scored two more in their Super Bowl win over the Chiefs. To start the 2021 season, Gronk put up 184 yards and four touchdowns in his first three games. An injury kept him out until Week 8, and since then, he is averaging 68.7 yards per game.

Now, while Gronk would be highly coveted by any team, he is not leaving Tom Brady. As long as Brady is in Tampa Bay, that is where Gronk will be.

Potential Landing Spots: Tampa Bay or Retirement

21. Akiem Hicks, DL, Chicago Bears

In his first three seasons with the Bears, Akiem Hicks was one of the best defensive linemen in the NFL. He racked up 23 sacks in his first 48 games with the Bears, and he even made a Pro Bowl in 2018. Since then, he has had a hard time staying on the field.

At age 32, the market for Hicks is not going to be large, but a contending team looking to boost up their defensive line for 2022 would take a flyer on Hicks. Although his play has declined, Hicks is still one of the best defensive linemen when it comes to the bullrush.

If Hicks can stay on the field as he did in 2020, he could become one of the better free-agent signings at the end of the 2022-2023 season.

Potential Landing Spots: Baltimore, Cleveland, Buffalo

20. Mike Gesicki, TE, Miami Dolphins

Mike Gesicki is a tight end up by name only. He essentially plays the "Big Slot" role in the Miami Dolphins offense. That has allowed him to become a target-hog in South Beach, earning more than 100+ targets in 2021 after averaging 87 targets in his previous two campaigns. 

With his pass-catching prowess and the fact that he's just 26, Gesicki could have a bigger market than expected this offseason. But the 'Fins sure can afford him with their league-leading $75 millin in projected cap space. 

Potential Landing Spots: Miami, Tennessee, Cincinnati

19. Michael Gallup, WR, Dallas Cowboys

Before tearing his ACL at the end of the 2021 campaign, Michael Gallup was setting himself up nicely for a big payday this offseason. 

Gallup is one of the most physical outside receivers in the game, which is a valuable commodity in a league that's becoming a between-the-hashes game. He would've arguably been the top receiver on the market with an injured Chris Godwin hitting free agency, but now that he blew out his knee so late in the season, it kills a lot of Gallup's free-agent value. 

He could be a bargain for a team that's willing to wait, or perhaps the Cowboys can retain him for cheap while he rehabs. 

Potential Landing Spots: Dallas, New Orleans, New England, Chicago

18. Jadeveon Clowney, EDGE, Cleveland Browns

There was never a doubt that Jadeveon Clowney was going to have a good season in Cleveland. When playing next to Myles Garrett, players' stats are always going to be inflated because all the attention will be on him.

Clowney has seven sacks this season and has his most QB hits since 2018. While sacks are not the ultimate stat to determine how good an edge rusher is, getting to a number like seven will turn heads in free agency.

Potential Landing Spots: Cleveland, Indianapolis, Green Bay

17. Randy Gregory, EDGE, Dallas Cowboys

Randy Gregory finally was able to stay on the field, for the most part, this season, and you can see his talent. After many injuries and a suspension, Gregory is finally showing his potential, and doing it during a contract year is a big bonus.

Gregory is one of the highest-rated pass rushers in the NFC, and his explosiveness and twitchy style of play at the snap of the ball makes him a nightmare for any tackle. Of course, his off-the-field issues will always be concerning, but with two-straight seasons of tape, Gregory is rebuilding his image, and reintroducing himself to the league.

Potential Landing Spots: Dallas, New York Giants, Kansas City, Philadelphia

16. Stephon Gilmore, CB, Carolina Panthers

A contract dispute led to the Patriots trading the 2019 DPOY to the Panthers. Stephon Gilmore's career with the Panthers started wi a band as he recorded an interception in his first two games in Carolina.

Since then, he has not done much of anything, but then again, neither have the Panthers. At age 31, it is hard to imagine Gilmore getting a big deal, especially since his last two seasons have been riddled with injuries.

Potential Landing Spots: New Orleans, Arizona, San Francisco

15. Tyrann Mathieu, S, Kansas City

Dating back to his time at LSU, Tyrann Mathieu has been a do-it-all type of player. It is even more impressive considering he is an undersized player.

Earlier in his career, Mathieu could not stay off the injury report, but since 2017, he has only missed two regular-season games. Although he will be 30-years-old next season, Mathieu still plays like he is in his 20s. Not only is he one of the most versatile defenders in the league, but he is also one of the toughest.

There is just a certain vibe to the Chiefs' defense when he is on the field, and I would expect him to be one of the hottest names available this offseason.

Potential Landing Spots: Baltimore, Washington, Philadelphia

14. Brandon Scherff, OG, Washington Football Team

When he is healthy, Brandon Scherff is one of the best guards in the entire NFL. The problem is, he just cannot stay healthy. He has not played 16 games since his second season in the league, and now that he is 30-years-old, there are certainly going to be some discussions if he is worth the risk.

However, he has been very good in his 10 games played this season. There is always going to be a market for an interior offensive lineman who is one of the best pass-blocking linemen in the league.

Potential Landing Spots: Washington, New York Giants, Pittsburgh

13. J.C. Jackson, CB, New England Patriots

Throwing towards J.C. Jackson could be considered a poor decision. No man has had more interceptions in the NFL since 2018 when Jackson entered the league. With nine picks last season and eight so far this year, Jackson has quickly become one of the best corners in the league.

With Stephon Gilmore being traded earlier this season, New England will likely try to bring Jackson back. Jackson currently leads the league in pass deflections (22), and he has set career highs in TFLs (2), total tackles (54), and solo tackles (12).

Potential Landing Spots: New England, San Francisco, Chicago

12. Harold Landry, EDGE, Tennessee Titans

At just 25, Harold Landry has become one the best young pass-rushers in the NFL, and he is enjoying a career year in 2021. In 16 games this season, Landry has career highs in sacks (12.0), QB hits (22), TFLs (14), and total tackles (71).

His incredible athletism and durability are Landry's biggest strength, but unlike the greats at his position, he is not a game wrecker. According to Pro Football Focus, Landry has played the most snaps at his position since 2019, and the next closest is Leonard Floyd, who has more than 250 fewer snaps.

If Landry wants to continue his success outside of Tennessee, he will need to find an already established front-seven to open up lanes as he will not beat tackles in one-on-one situations. Landry is absolutely a system player, but if you put him in the right situation like the one he is in with the Titans, he will thrive.

Potential Landing Spots: Tennessee, Cincinnati, Atlanta, Los Angeles Chargers

11. Mike Williams, WR, Los Angeles Chargers

Mike Williams picked a hell of a time to have a career season. Williams has career highs in targets, receptions, yards, and yards per game. It is even more impressive that he is doing this with Keenan Allen on the opposite side of him.

In 2019, Williams led the NFL in yards per reception (20.4), and while he is still a deep threat, his yards per reception has dropped down to 15.3. His combination of size and speed make him one of the most dangerous receivers in the NFL, even though he has never been one of the game's best receivers.

Potential Landing Spots: Philadephia, Miami, New England

10. Allen Robinson II, WR, Chicago Bears

It is not often that a player that was in the majority of conversations this offseason does not show up the next season. Allen Robinson has been looking for big-time money for a while now, and having no impact on the Bears in 2021 is not going to help him.

He is still one of the most talented receivers in the NFL, and his body control and hands give him a high ceiling. It is still too early to write him off as a quality player, and his quarterback play in his career certainly has not helped.

Potential Landing Spots: Las Vegas, Miami, Tampa Bay

9. Von Miller, EDGE, Los Angeles Rams

Although Von Miller has regressed from his former dominant self, his ability to get to the quarterback is still very impressive at his age. Since being traded to the Rams, Miller has 3.0 sacks and six QB hits. His age and recent ankle injury may be something to look at, but at the end of the day, Miller is still an impact player on the defensive side of the ball.

The Rams gave up a lot to get Miller out of Denver, and with how well Los Angeles is playing this season, it is hard to imagine they will let him walk.

Potential Landing Spots: Los Angeles Rams, Los Angeles Chargers, Arizona, San Francisco

8. Chris Godwin, WR, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Chris Godwin was franchise-tagged last season, and he and the Buccaneers have not been able to come up with a deal. Usually, this means that the Bucs are going to move on. With Tampa Bay releasing Antonio Brown, the chances that Godwin is re-signed increased, but at his current asking price, it might be worth it for Tampa Bay to look elsewhere.

It is not for a lack of talent either. In 14 games before being shut down due to an injury, Godwin racked up 1,103 yards and five touchdowns on 98 receptions.

Godwin, who's recovering from a torn ACL, could have a depressed market unless really gets desperate. 

Potential Landing Spots: Arizona, Las Vegas, Tampa Bay, 

7. Marcus Williams, S, New Orleans

Other than the Minneapolis Miracle, Marcus Williams' has been one of the better safeties in the league.

The word around the league is that he struggles in man coverage, but he has improved in every season in his career. Only being 26-years-old and with no major injuries in his career, he is going to get top dollar this offseason.

New Orleans is going to have to play around with the cap, but if they can move enough money around, I would expect him back in New Orleans.

Potential Landing Spots: Atlanta, New England, San Francisco, Los Angeles Chargers

6. Jessie Bates III, S, Cincinnati Bengals

Cincinnati's defense was much better this season despite all their injuries, and Jessie Bates may be the reason why. It is going to be hard to top what he did in 2020, but Bates still is one of the best secondary players in coverage.

This will likely be the first season in his career that he does not finish with 100 tackles, but his style is like playing center field. He controls the entire defense, and his ability to read the quarterback and makes plays at the contact point separate him from other safeties in the NFL.

Potential Landing Spots: Cincinnati, Washington, New England

5. Orlando Brown Jr., OT, Kansas City Chiefs

The Chiefs traded a first-round pick to the Ravens for Orlando Brown Jr. this past offseason, and now it is finally time for him to get paid. Ever since he came into the league, Brown has been one of the best tackles in the entire league, and outside of a calf injury this season, he has not missed a game since he became a full-time starter.

While he can get beat off the edge by quick edge rushers, his length and strength give him an advantage on every rep. Brown is one of the highest-rated tackles in the entire league, and he will get paid that way this offseason.

The Chiefs already have a lot of money tied up elsewhere, but their top priority should always be keeping Patrick Mahomes healthy. There are not many options out on the market that can or will do a better job than Brown.

Potential Landing Spots: Kansas City

4. Carlton Davis, CB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Although Carlton Davis was shut down earlier this season with a quad injury, he came back later in the season and has been very solid in his limited playing time. His physicality and consistency in man coverage are going to make him one of the highest-paid corners in the league.

It also helps that he is 25.

His injury might complicate things, and the rumor is that he will get the franchise tag this season. Even if he does get tagged, when he hits the open market, he will get top dollar.

Potential Landing Spots: Tampa Bay, Tennessee, New England

3. Chandler Jones, EDGE, Arizona Cardinals

Chandler Jones' start to the 2021 season included 5.0 sacks and four TFLs against the Titans. He did not record another sack until Week 9, but Jones has been constantly great for the Cardinals this season.

Being only two years removed from a First-Team All-Pro selection, Jones is still one of the best edge rushers in the league. He will be 32-years-old next season, and he has lost a step, but his durability throughout his entire career will make him a highly sought-after free agent.

He may not be considered an elite pass rusher at this stage, but Jones remains one of the best in the league at getting to the quarterback and causing havoc.

Potential Landing Spots: Arizona, New England, Dallas

2. Terron Armstead, OT, New Orleans Saints

The Saints are going to have to accept the reality that Terron Armstead will be playing elsewhere next season. The Saints do not have a lot of money to go around, and Armstead is going to get top dollar on the open market.

Since coming into the league, Armstead is one of the best pass-blocking tackles in the NFL. However, at age 30, and the fact that he has never played a full season's worth of games, there are some obvious concerns.

But based on talent, Armstead will get a pretty big payday.

Potential Landing Spots: Jacksonville, Green Bay, Chicago

1. Davante Adams, WR, Green Bay Packers

Since his breakout season in 2018, there has not been a better receiver than Davante Adams in the NFL. Adams caught 115 passes for 1,374 yards and 18 touchdowns in 2020. He responded this season with 117 receptions for 1,498 yards and 11 touchdowns. 

There is not a lot to say about Adams other than he is far and away the best receiver in the NFL. It is hard to imagine that Adams would ever want to leave Aaron Rodgers' side in Green Bay, but the Packers are going to have to move some money around if they want to bring Adams back at his current price tag. 

Potential Landing Spots: Green Bay, Las Vegas, whatever team Aaron Rodgers is on

Photo: Getty Images/Lines Illustration