The NFL’s 2022 free agency period will be in full swing sooner than later, and rankings will be coming fast and furious. At Pro Football Network, we rounded the list out after hours of film and analytical research. With health playing a factor, who consists of our Top 100 Free Agent Rankings for 2022?
2022 NFL Free Agent Top 100 Rankings | 1-10
With hundreds of players hitting the open market, it is hard to rank a list of 100 — but we did it.
1) WR Davante Adams
Update 03/08/2022: The Green Bay Packers couldn’t get a long-term deal done with Adams before the tag deadline, but they’ll presumably get something done before the deadline to lower his 2022 cap hit
There’s an argument to be made that Davante Adams is the best receiver in the NFL. And in the 2022 NFL offseason, he’ll be hitting the open market. Since 2018, Adams has averaged 93.2 yards on 7.6 receptions per game. He has 204 more yards than the next closest player in that timeframe in six fewer contests. He is the league’s premier target.
Nobody is better than Adams at the line of scrimmage. His release repertoire allows him to separate immediately from press and off coverage alike, no matter the cornerback’s leverage. His feet allow for instant change of direction, and his ability to lie with his eyes and slight torso adjustments are unmatched.
He never tested like an athletic freak, but at 210+ pounds, his ability to change direction and strength through contact makes him effective both as a route runner and in contested situations. Adams is the entire package.
At 29 years old, there might be some questions about his longevity. Still, Adams’ game is predicated on nuance and technical prowess, so he shouldn’t have any issues remaining one of the very best in the league over his next contract.
Spotrac Market Value: 5 years, $129.3 million
2) WR Chris Godwin
Update 03/08/2022: The Tampa Bay Buccaneers used the franchise tag on Godwin after failing to come to an agreement on a long-term deal.
A torn ACL on December 20 complicates Chris Godwin‘s free agency a bit, but he should still command a large sum on a long-term deal once the market opens up. Like most top receivers in the NFL, he plays both on the boundary and in the slot. Nevertheless, Godwin has been used primarily in the slot since 2019.
But that’s not a problem, or rather it’s not a problem for anyone who has paid attention to the modern game. Cooper Kupp played almost double the snaps in the slot as he did outside. Good offensive minds can scheme top receivers open from anywhere on the field.
Godwin is a bit of a tricky evaluation. He ran a 4.42 at the NFL Combine, but he doesn’t often play to that speed, nor is he often used as a downfield weapon. There’s nothing flashy about his game. Godwin doesn’t snap off routes like Adams or play above the rim like Mike Evans. He’s simply good at everything there is to do as a receiver.
Godwin’s hands are phenomenal. Like Kupp, he’s willing and able to bang around on the interior as a blocker in the run game. And although he’s not known to be a downfield weapon or a contested-catch monster, he’s darned good when forced into either situation. He may not put many defenders on a mixtape, but Godwin gets open with consistency. He’s just a darned good football player.
Spotrac Market Value: 5 years, $91 million
3) S Jessie Bates III
Update 3/07/2022: The Cincinnati Bengals used their franchise tag on the All-Pro safety.
Depending on where you look for your football information, you might think I’m crazy for ranking the Bengals free safety this high, despite being named a second-team All-Pro in 2020.
While it’s true that Jessie Bates III had his ups and downs in 2021, I still believe he’s the best pure free safety in the NFL. The first play of the Bengals’ Wild Card matchup against the Tennessee Titans perfectly encapsulates the positives and negatives surrounding Bates’ game.
His ability to read QBs intentions is otherworldly. His click-and-close ability is akin to his talent. But he’s jumping this route. If A.J. Brown continues running, this is a touchdown on the game’s first play. This was a gamble. But just like with the Trevon Diggs’, Xavien Howard’s, and Marcus Peters’ of the world, gambles come from tape study and instincts.
And although he had a down year in 2021, Bates has turned it on for the playoffs. A massive playoff performance could make him a lot of money in the offseason. Bates is scheme versatile, but his most significant upside comes as a single-high free safety in a system similar to Seattle’s.
Spotrac Market Value: 5 years, $72.4 million
4) CB J.C. Jackson
Update 3/14/2022: J.C. Jackson agreed to terms with the Los Angeles Chargers on a five-year, $82.5 million deal with $40 million guaranteed. The deal set the market for cornerbacks, which was lower than expected.
J.C. Jackson burst onto the scene in New England in 2019 when he registered 5 interceptions and 10 pass deflections in his second season as an undrafted rookie out of Maryland. Yet, the more impressive statistic was his ability to be a ball magnet while also allowing just 31 of 63 targets thrown his way to be caught.
Over the past two seasons, his 17 interceptions lead the league. In that period, he’s allowed just a 52.6% completion rate and has broken up 37 passes in the process, which also leads the league. Jackson is arguably the league’s premier ball hawk, and he’s also one of its most consistent cover corners to boot.
He deserved a first-team All-Pro bid in 2021, but he’ll settle for possibly becoming the highest-paid defensive back in NFL history. If it happens, it will be well deserved. You just have to wonder if it’ll be with the Patriots or if he’ll spread his wings and fly to a different destination.
Jackson should be fine wherever he ends up. He’s a press-man cornerback by trade, but as he did against Dallas in 2021, he’s shown he can flash in zone coverage as well.
Spotrac Market Value: 5 years, $104.7 million
5) S Tyrann Mathieu
Tyrann Mathieu wasn’t quite the outlandish playmaker in a miniature package we’ve come to expect in 2021. Regardless, he can still make splash plays, and he continues to grow from a processing standpoint.
He’s perfect for a defense that puts a lot of responsibility on their safeties. Teams running more complex pattern-matching zone coverages should covet the nine-year veteran in free agency because his trigger is almost instantaneous. He’s an interesting case study because he’s effectively a 185-pound “strong safety,” but his versatility makes him valuable.
He can line up in the slot against receivers, and his quickness makes him a gnat. He’s outstanding down near the red zone in match concepts because he effortlessly passes and picks up routes. But his on-field leadership and tenacity are just as important as his on-field production.
He won’t be a fit everywhere because I wouldn’t necessarily ask him to be a single-high free safety, nor do I want him in the box for a majority of snaps. He’s more of a “jack of all trades” player.
Spotrac Market Value: 3 years, $46.2 million
6) EDGE Chandler Jones
After beginning the season with a 5-sack performance against the Tennessee Titans in Week 1, some probably wondered if Chandler Jones would be the one breaking the single-season sack record and not T.J. Watt.
Usually, when we see a “ghost” move from an edge rusher, it’s using the inside hand to flash as if converting speed to power. Here, the savvy veteran uses both against Taylor Lewan. He’s able to use his natural flexibility to reduce the rush angle to practically a straight line to Ryan Tannehill.
Jones will be 32 heading into next season. His 47 pressures matched names like Randy Gregory (also a free agent) and were fewer than Odafe Oweh, despite rushing the passer 173 times more than Gregory and 80 more times than Oweh.
Jones is the biggest name on the pass-rushing market, but I can’t imagine non-contenders looking to pay him the big bucks at his age. Nevertheless, a few teams are on the brink of contention with a lot of money for free agency, so his market shouldn’t be too thin.
Spotrac Market Value:3 years, $42.4 million
7) S Marcus Williams
Update 3/15/2022: The Ravens agreed to terms with the former Saints standout. Williams and the Saints agreed to a five-year, $70 million deal. The Ravens will guarantee $37 million of the deal.
Marcus Williams might be the purest form of a free safety left in the NFL. This man played half his snaps on Mars in Dennis Allen’s defense. He’d have his toes at 16 yards pre-snap and be at 25 within a half-second. But there’s enough diversity in the Saints defense to get at least a general feel for how he’d operate in a more versatile role.
For example, his interception Week 1 against Aaron Rodgers came as the backside safety. He read Rodgers’ intentions and scooted at a 45-degree angle to take away the front side post. The throw was way off, but Williams’ instincts shined on that particular play. In that same game, he took off from between the hashes and beat both cornerback and receiver to the front pylon. Rodgers tossed the ball out of bounds.
He’s not the most physical player on the back end, but Williams isn’t unwilling to step into the muck, either. There are three types of safeties: Head-hunters (who no longer hunt heads specifically but invite contact), pile-pushers, and skaters. Williams will join the party, but he won’t seek 1-on-1 contact often.
Spotrac Market Value: 5 years, $67.8 million
8) EDGE Von Miller
Von Miller is still one of the best pass rushers in the game. After not playing in 2020 due to an ankle injury, he began the season by being named the AFC’s Defensive Player of the Month for September. He was held sackless for the next seven games but then took off in Week 15 with the Rams, looking like his old self again.
Miller was a hired assassin for Los Angeles in 2021. LA traded for him at the deadline, opting to go all-in on a Super Bowl in their first season with Matthew Stafford. Miller played an age-defying performance against Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the Divisional Round that included a postseason career-high 10 pressures.
None were more aesthetically pleasing than this ghost move against Donovan Smith. After setting him up with the long-arm a few times, it was time to hit his bread and butter.
If $9 million average annual value (AAV) is all it takes to sign Miller, every contender with a trace of cap space should do their due diligence on the veteran. He averaged over 50 snaps a game for LA through the Divisional Round, so it’s not like he’s a “pitch-count” candidate, even at his age.
Spotrac Market Value: 2 years, $18 million
9) OT Terron Armstead
Terron Armstead has long been regarded as one of the best left tackles in the NFL. The most sacks he’s ever allowed in a season is 4. He’s been as solid as they come on the left side. When we talk about offensive linemen, we don’t often comment on their athleticism. However, it’s the first thing that needs to be brought up for a select few. Armstead is one of those linemen.
Armstead’s an athletic freak. Despite posting poor size grades for the position at 6’4″ and 306 pounds, he posted a 9.59 Relative Athletic Score (RAS). That means his power, explosion, and speed scores were enough to make up for being “undersized” coming out of Arkansas-Pine Bluff.
The problem is, Armstead can’t stay healthy. He’s never once played an entire season, and he’s played as many seasons of 10 or fewer games (4) as he has 11+. Whichever team decides to pull the trigger on him must also invest heavily in a young developmental tackle or an experienced swing tackle. With his market likely being over $20+ million AAV, that’s a massive gamble.
Spotrac Market Value: 4 years, $95.8 million
10) CB Carlton Davis
Update 3/14/2022: Carlton Davis inked a deal to remain with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The three-year deal is worth $45 million with $30 million of that guaranteed.
For the sake of transparency, Carlton Davis should be higher on this list. However, as with Armstead, Davis has struggled to remain healthy early in his career. He doesn’t get a lot of love when cornerback names are ranked nationally, but based on tape, I’m not sure what he struggles with.
Davis can step up and play press man, slide back pre-snap and cover a deep third, and always seems to be in the right place for what the coverage and passing concept dictate when playing underneath zones. He should be a target for every team looking to upgrade their CB1 spot.
His length allows him to contest vertically, and his feet are surprisingly quick given his size. But his best attribute seems to be his mind. I lost count of the times he triggered on a route just as the WR was. In short, he’ll run a route for a receiver.
Davis needs to stay healthy if he doesn’t want fans upset at his high cap number. But if he remains healthy, fans will be happy with their favorite team’s investment.
Spotrac Market Value: 5 years, $98.4 million