Patriots

NFL free agents 2022: Ranking the top 25 players available

Patriots

The 2022 NFL free agent class is loaded … depending on what you’re looking for.

Some of the league’s best wide receivers, edge rushers and cornerbacks are seeking new contracts. Based on their recent play and the free agent market, those players could be in for some hefty paydays.

Top 2022 NFL free agents by position: QB | RB | WR | TEOL | DLEDGE | LB | CB | S | K

While some positions have a number of intriguing free agent options, there is a lack of notable talent at other spots. Teams seeking an upgrade at quarterback or running back, for instance, might turn their attention to the 2022 NFL Draft or a trade with another organization.

With the new league year set to begin soon, here's a look at the top 25 players scheduled to become unrestricted free agents on March 16.

25. Antonio Brown, WR

Age: 33

2021 stats (Buccaneers): 42 catches, 545 yards, four touchdowns

Some believe Brown won't play another down in the NFL after his wild walk-out incident with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Since Brown hasn't officially called it quits, we're operating under the assumption he'll find a job in 2022. The troubled wideout might not be the same dominant weapon he was during his days in Pittsburgh, but he's proven he can still make a sizable impact. It'll simply come down to whether there's still a team out there willing to take on the obvious risk that comes with signing him. Given how Brown treated Tom Brady during his exit from Tampa, that's a major question mark.

 

24. Laken Tomlinson, G

Age: 30

We can expect the 49ers to make re-signing Tomlinson a priority this offseason. The 2015 first-round pick is coming off his first Pro Bowl season, during which he allowed only two sacks. He also played a major role in making San Francisco one of the most efficient rushing teams in the NFL.

UPDATE (March 14): Tomlinson is signing with the New York Jets on a three-year contract.

23. Dalton Schultz, TE

Age: 25

2021 stats (Cowboys): 78 catches, 808 yards, 8 TD

In his first two seasons with the Cowboys, Schultz had just 13 catches for 122 yards and no touchdowns over 27 games. Over the next two, he has 141 catches for 1,423 yards and 12 touchdowns, with steady improvements across the board even from 2020 to 2021. After 16 seasons of Jason Witten, Dallas seems to have the perfect heir apparent within its grasp in the 6-foot-5 Schultz. The Cowboys surely want to keep him, but he won't come cheap.

UPDATE (March 8): The Cowboys have placed the franchise tag on Schultz

22. Jadeveon Clowney, EDGE

Age: 28

2021 stats (Browns): 9 sacks, 2 forced fumbles, 37 tackles

Clowney has had an interesting career. The top pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, he's certainly no bust, and yet there's a good chance he'll be playing for his fifth team in as many seasons when the dust settles in free agency. His career sack total (41) pales in comparison to some players drafted behind him in 2014, namely Aaron Donald (98 sacks, 14th overall) and Khalil Mack (76.5 sacks, fifth overall), but he's been a Pro Bowler three times and has had at least nine sacks on three separate occasions, including this year with the Cleveland Browns.

Still on the right side of 30, Clowney waited a month into free agency before signing with the Browns last offseason. Before that, he didn't join the Tennessee Titans until the first week of the regular season in 2020. So long as the production is there, Clowney will have suitors.

21. Haason Reddick, EDGE

Age: 27

2021 stats (Panthers): 11 sacks, 2 forced fumbles, 68 tackles

With more sacks in 2021 than any other player currently slated for unrestricted free agency, Reddick is set for a nice payday. After recording only 7.5 sacks over his first three seasons with the Arizona Cardinals -- the team declined his fifth-year option -- Reddick responded with 12.5 sacks in his final year in the desert before joining the Panthers in 2021, proving his breakout was no fluke. Now strictly an off-ball edge rusher rather than an outside linebacker, Reddick would seem to fit best in a 3-4 defensive scheme.

UPDATE (March 14): Reddick is signing a three-year deal with the Philadelphia Eagles, per NFL Media.

20. De'Vondre Campbell, LB

Age: 28

2021 stats (Packers): 146 combined tackles, 2 interceptions, 2 sacks, 5 passes defended, 2 forced fumbles

 

Don't let the drama surrounding the quarterback in Green Bay distract you from just how great of a find Campbell was for the Packers last offseason.

Originally a fourth-round pick of the Falcons in 2016, Campbell spent four solid seasons in Atlanta and one with the Arizona Cardinals before truly breaking out in Wisconsin, earning First-Team All-Pro honors and grading out as the second-best inside linebacker in the league, according to Pro Football Focus.

Not bad for a guy who didn't sign until June. His 146 combined tackles (102 solo) were both career highs, also recording six QB hits and six tackles for a loss.

Campbell has started 77 of 81 games over the last five seasons. With durability and production like that, suitors will be lining up for Campbell about three minutes into free agency rather than three months this time around.

UPDATE (March 14): Campbell is staying in Green Bay, per reports.

19. Emmanuel Ogbah, EDGE

Age: 28

2021 stats (Dolphins): 9 sacks, 1 forced fumble, 41 tackles

Ogbah has steadily improved over the last two seasons with the Miami Dolphins following a so-so start to his career with the Cleveland Browns and Kansas City Chiefs. 

At 6-foot-4, 275 pounds, he was still agile enough to defend 12 passes this season -- easily tops among non-defensive backs. With Ogbah still on the right side of 30, there's just enough upside here where he should be looking at a long-term deal after his previous two-year contract with the Dolphins.

18. Jessie Bates III, S

Age: 24

2021 stats (Bengals): 88 tackles, 1 interception, 4 passes defended

A strong showing in the Super Bowl, complete with an interception of Matthew Stafford in the first half, will have Bates' already-soaring stock growing even more. In four postseason games for the Bengals, Bates had two interceptions, six passes defended and 20 combined tackles while playing every defensive snap but one for the AFC champions.

UPDATE (March 7): The Bengals have placed the franchise tag on Bates.

17. Devin McCourty, S

Age: 34

2021 stats: 60 tackles, 3 interceptions, 10 passes defended

His legacy in Patriots history secured, McCourty doesn't have much left to prove after three Super Bowl titles and only five games missed over 12 seasons.

But he continues to churn out quality season after quality season for New England, leaving no reason to believe he's nearing the finish line. McCourty allowed only nine completions on 26 attempts in coverage this season, holding quarterbacks to a microscopic 17.6 passer rating in the process, per Pro Football Reference.

Should McCourty return to Foxboro, he can move into the top five in franchise history in games played, behind only Tom Brady, Bruce Armstrong, Julius Adams and Matthew Slater.

UPDATE (March 14): McCourty is staying in New England on a one-year deal, he announced on Twitter.

 

16. Odell Beckham Jr., WR

Age: 29

2021 stats (Browns, Rams): 44 catches, 537 yards, five touchdowns

It's safe to say the issue in Cleveland was, in fact, not Odell Beckham Jr. OBJ went from having another disappointing season with the Browns to finding immediate success with the Los Angeles Rams. He caught five TDs in eight games with L.A. after failing to haul in a single TD in six games with Cleveland. He then went on a tear in the postseason, catching a touchdown pass in Super Bowl LVI before exiting the game with a torn ACL. Beckham's resurgence with the Rams undoubtedly boosted his free-agent stock and reminded everyone of just how talented he is when he's playing up to his true potential, but there is now an injury concern.

15. Brandon Scherff, G

Age: 30

Injuries are the only real concern with Scherff. When he's been healthy, Washington has had one of the best guards in the game. The five-time Pro Bowler allowed zero sacks last season.

UPDATE (March 14): Scherff is joining the Jacksonville Jaguars in free agency, per reports.

14. Tyrann Mathieu, S

Age: 29

2021 stats (Chiefs): 76 tackles, 3 interceptions, 6 passes defended

Honey Badger doesn't seem to care that he's approaching his 10th NFL season, coming off a stretch of perhaps his best three-year stretch with the Kansas City Chiefs that's included a pair of Pro Bowl berths (2020, 2021) and First-Team All-Pro nods (2019, 2020).

A member of the Hall of Fame All-2010s Team, Mathieu has missed only two games over the last five seasons and is in line for one last big payday in his career. Can the Chiefs afford to keep him?

13. Stephon Gilmore, CB

Age: 31

2021 stats (Panthers): 2 INT, 2 passes defended, 16 tackles

A contract dispute led to his abrupt dismissal from New England after four seasons, three Pro Bowls, two First-Team All-Pro nods, a Defensive Player of the Year award and most importantly, a Super Bowl title. Gilmore proved he still had something to offer in Carolina, picking off two passes -- one against his former team -- in eight games after joining the team midseason. Recently named a Pro Bowl alternate, Gilmore should have no shortage of suitors when free agency begins.

12. Carlton Davis, CB

Age: 25

2021 stats (Buccaneers): 1 INT, 11 passes defended, 39 tackles

His age -- he won't turn 26 until New Year's Eve -- and championship pedigree with the Bucs make him a rare potential No. 1 cornerback hitting free agency in his prime. Davis missed seven games in 2021 due to a quad injury he suffered against the Patriots in Week 4, and while he's never missed significant time beyond that, he's still been inactive for at least two games in each of his first four seasons. 

But when healthy, Davis has been among the steadiest corners in the league over the last three seasons, with a respectable passer rating against in the 80s every year since 2019, including 83.2 this season.

 

11. Ryan Jensen, C

Age: 30

Jensen has played in every single game since joining the Buccaneers in 2017. The Pro Bowler and Super Bowl champion is one of Tampa Bay's many free agents this offseason, so it's likely he'll be heading elsewhere for 2022. Whoever lands Jensen will get one of the most durable and reliable centers in the NFL.

UPDATE (March 13): Jensen is staying with the Bucs on a three-year deal.

10. Allen Robinson, WR

Age: 28

2021 stats (Bears): 38 catches, 410 yards, one touchdown

It's time for Allen Robinson to stop wasting the prime of his career in horrific passing offenses. After spending the first four years of his career in Jacksonville, Robinson has spent the last four on a Chicago team that has had Mitchell Trubisky, Andy Dalton, and rookie Justin Fields throwing him the ball. The Bears offense ranked dead last in yards per game in 2021, which contributed to the worst season of Robinson's otherwise impressive NFL tenure. He'll look to find a much better situation for himself in 2022.

9. Mike Williams, WR

Age: 27

2021 stats (Chargers): 76 catches, 1,146 yards, nine touchdowns

Williams hits free agency after the best season of his NFL career. The former Clemson standout notched career-highs in catches (76) and receiving yards (1,106) while hauling in nine TDs. He occasionally struggled with drops, but his freakish physical abilities and improvement year over year should have teams fighting for his services this offseason.

UPDATE (March 8): The Chargers are bringing Williams back on a three-year extension.

8. Orlando Brown Jr., OT

Age: 25

Brown has proven to be one of the biggest steals of the 2018 NFL Draft. Selected in the third round, the three-time Pro Bowler hasn't missed a game since taking over full-time halfway through his rookie season. His stellar play continued after being traded from the Ravens to the Chiefs in 2021, making him a likely extension candidate for Kansas City this offseason.

UPDATE (March 7): The Chiefs have placed the franchise tag on Brown.

7. Marcus Williams, S

Age: 25

2021 stats (Saints): 74 tackles, 2 interceptions, 8 passes defended

The ball-hawking Williams is hitting free agency at the perfect time for the New Orleans Saints, coming off the best season of his career at an age where he can still command top dollar on the open market. Pro Football Focus graded Williams as the seventh-best safety in the league in 2021.

Williams, the 42nd overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, limited opposing quarterbacks to a 48.8 percent completion rate in 2021, the lowest number of his career, while holding QBs to a respectable 85.5 passer rating. Injuries have never been an issue for Williams, either, having played in 76 of a possible 81 games to begin his career.

He's certainly rebounded nicely from a tough ending to his rookie season with the Saints.

 

6. Chandler Jones, EDGE

Age: 31

2021 stats (Cardinals): 10.5 sacks, 6 forced fumbles, 41 tackles

Still the only defensive player drafted by Bill Belichick to leave the Patriots and be named First-Team All-Pro elsewhere, Jones has quietly built a Hall of Fame case after 71.5 sacks over six seasons with the Arizona Cardinals, giving him 107.5 for his career. He was named to the Hall of Fame's All-Decade team for the 2010s.

Five of Jones' 10.5 sacks in 2021 came in Arizona's first game of the season, but he also had six forced fumbles -- the second-most of his career -- and after recording just a single sack over five games due to injury in 2020, the overall production is still enough for him to sign one more lucrative deal in the NFL.

Jones is versatile enough to fit along the edge in both 3-4 and 4-3 defensive schemes, which will give him no shortage of suitors as the top player available at the position.

5. J.C. Jackson, CB

Age: 26

2021 stats (Patriots): 8 INT, 23 passes defended, 44 tackles

The latest in a long line of prolific undrafted free agents to blossom at corner for the Patriots under Bill Belichick, Jackson just might be the most accomplished. He's already ninth in franchise history with 25 interceptions in just four seasons; with eight in 2021, he earned his first Pro Bowl berth and was named Second Team All-Pro with a league-leading 23 passes defended.

Quarterbacks looking Jackson's way didn't find much, completing less than half their passes (49.1 percent) with a passer rating of 46.8.

Perry: Catching up with J.C. Jackson with franchise tag looming

For as much as New England seemingly can't afford to lose him, can it afford to keep him? Given his age and production, Jackson could fetch a deal approaching $20 million per season, the salary commanded by Jalen Ramsey, who's in the midst of a five-year, $100 million pact with the Los Angeles Rams.

UPDATE (March 14): Jackson indeed is leaving the Patriots and signing with the Chargers on a lucrative five-year contract.

4. Von Miller, EDGE

Age: 32

2021 stats (Broncos, Rams): 9.5 sacks, 1 forced fumble, 50 tackles

Following his surprising trade from the Denver Broncos to the Los Angeles Rams midseason, Miller has enjoyed one of the best stretches of his career. The Super Bowl 50 MVP had at least one sack in seven straight games from Week 15 through the divisional round of the NFC playoffs, when he helped the Rams topple Tom Brady.

Miller's production has barely dipped since turning 30. While he never had fewer than 10 sacks in a full season in his 20s, Miller had eight for the Broncos in 2020 before the 9.5 this year. Does it help that he lined up alongside Aaron Donald in the latter half of this season? Perhaps, but there's every reason to think the three-time First-Team All-Pro and member of the Hall of Fame All-Decade Team for the 2010s can continue to produce at a level that warrants one more big payday this offseason.

 

3. Chris Godwin, WR

Age: 26

2021 stats (Buccaneers): 98 catches, 1,103 yards, five touchdowns

Godwin's outstanding 2021 season was marred by a torn ACL in Week 15. One of Tom Brady's favorite targets in Tampa Bay, Godwin had already set a career-high with 98 receptions in only 14 games. He'll probably miss the first half of the 2022 campaign and hope for a deal that reflects his level of talent despite his brutal injury.

UPDATE (March 8): The Buccaneers have placed the franchise tag on Godwin.

2. Terron Armstead, OT

Age: 30

Armstead is one of the biggest names hitting free agency this offseason. The three-time Pro Bowler is likely going to find a new home after spending all nine of his seasons in New Orleans. He'll be the most coveted tackle on the market, but his health is a major red flag. Armstead has never played a full NFL season and missed nine games due to injury last year. Regardless, plenty of teams will gladly take on that risk given his elite talent.

1. Davante Adams, WR

Age: 29

2021 stats (Packers): 123 catches, 1,553 yards, 11 touchdowns

Adams is ready to sign a record-breaking contract as arguably the best wide receiver in today's NFL. He's coming off yet another monster season with the Green Bay Packers with career-highs in catches and receiving yards. Some of that might have to do with having an elite quarterback in Aaron Rodgers, but Adams' route-running and ability to find the end zone are second to none. He'd cost the Packers about $20 million to franchise tag him this offseason.

UPDATE (March 8): The Packers have placed the franchise tag on Adams.