With the first wave of the 2021 NFL free-agency period behind us, it is time to look forward to who could be available as free agents in the 2022 offseason. Will we see any big-name quarterbacks hitting the market, and how could the other positions shape up?
Top potential free-agent quarterbacks in 2022
1) Lamar Jackson, Baltimore Ravens*
2) Josh Allen, Buffalo Bills*
3) Baker Mayfield, Cleveland Browns*
4) Jameis Winston, New Orleans Saints
5) Sam Darnold, New York Jets*
6) Cam Newton, New England Patriots
7) Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers
8) Ryan Fitzpatrick, Washington Football Team
9) Andy Dalton, Chicago Bears
10) Tyrod Taylor, Houston Texans
*player eligible for a fifth-year option in 2022
The 2022 offseason could see several QBs become free agents
As it stands heading into April of 2021, the QB free-agent class for 2022 owns a plethora of notable names. Currently, first-round selections from 2017, Lamar Jackson, Josh Allen, Sam Darnold, and Baker Mayfield could all be available. However, all four may have their fifth-year options picked up by their teams. If that is the case, all four would not hit free agency until at least 2023.
Outside of those four, however, the free-agent QB class lacks star power. Jameis Winston has the opportunity to change that narrative if he starts for the Saints in 2021. Even without that, Winston offers the most upside of any of the remaining available options. There are similar strengths with Cam Newton if he can improve in his second year in New England.
Behind Winston and Newton, the likes of Ben Roethlisberger, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Andy Dalton, and Tyrod Taylor all offer serviceable QB play as veterans.
Top NFL free-agent wide receivers in 2022
1) Davante Adams, Green Bay Packers
2) Allen Robinson, Chicago Bears
3) Calvin Ridley, Atlanta Falcons*
4) Chris Godwin, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
5) D.J. Moore, Carolina Panthers*
6) Will Fuller, Miami Dolphins
7) Robby Anderson, Carolina Panthers
8) JuJu Smith-Schuster, Pittsburgh Steelers
9) D.J. Chark, Jacksonville Jaguars
10) Jamison Crowder, New York Jets
The 2022 free-agent WR class will potentially be loaded with talent
The 2022 WR free-agent class is a highly intriguing group. Davante Adams has proven time and time again why he is a top receiver in the league. If he hits free agency, he may pass DeAndre Hopkins as the highest-paid WR in the NFL.
After playing on the franchise tag in 2021, both Allen Robinson and Chris Godwin might hit the open market in 2022. Robinson can push Adams in terms of his contract value. A strong season for Godwin in 2021 could also see him begin earning over $20 million a year next offseason.
The pairing of Calvin Ridley and D.J. Moore is unlikely to hit free agency. Both have fifth-year options that their teams will likely pick up. If they do reach free agency, their age and talent can garner sizeable contract offers this time next year.
The back end of the top 10 is also loaded with talented options. Will Fuller, Robby Anderson, JuJu Smith-Schuster, D.J. Chark, and Jamison Crowder will be in line for significant contracts next offseason.
Top running backs on the 2022 market
1) Saquon Barkley, New York Giants*
2) Nick Chubb, Cleveland Browns
3) Gus Edwards, Baltimore Ravens
4) Melvin Gordon, Denver Broncos
5) Leonard Fournette, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
6) Ronald Jones, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
7) David Johnson, Houston Texans
8) Rashaad Penny, Seattle Seahawks*
9) James White, New England Patriots
10) Sony Michel, New England Patriots*
There is a great deal of talent potentially available at the top of the running back free-agent market in 2022
The running back group possibly reaching free agency in 2022 is intriguing. It seems unlikely the New York Giants would let Saquon Barkley go next offseason as they have his fifth-year option to use. On the contrary, given his injury in 2020, the Giants might hesitate. Barkley is the back who offers the most talent in both the running and passing game among this group.
Conversely, if Barkley does not hit the market, Nick Chubb will be the group’s best option. Chubb averaged 5.6 yards per attempt in 2020 and has never averaged below 5 yards per attempt in his career. Last season, Chubb ranked as the sixth-best running back in the NFL according to Pro Football Network’s Offensive Value Metric (OVM).
Behind those two, the group begins to thin out. While Melvin Gordon remains a talented option, Gus Edwards is the player with the best projection. Despite just 144 carries in 2020, Edwards ranked third in OVM. Additionally, entering 2021, Edwards has amassed just 414 career carries. Therefore, he is the golden ticket of a talented back with a relative lack of miles on his legs.
From fifth downward, it becomes about schematic fit in the offense. Leonard Fournette brings pedigree. Ronald Jones, Sony Michel, and Rashaad Penny offer an abundance of upside. David Johnson is a reclamation project, and James White is a useful third-down back.
Top available 2022 free-agent tight ends
1) Evan Engram, New York Giants
2) Zach Ertz, Philadelphia Eagles
3) Mike Gesicki, Miami Dolphins
4) Robert Tonyan Jr., Green Bay Packers
5) David Njoku, Cleveland Browns
6) Hayden Hurst, Atlanta Falcons*
7) Eric Ebron, Pittsburgh Steelers
8) Jimmy Graham, Chicago Bears
9) Jared Cook, Los Angeles Chargers
10) Rob Gronkowski, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The free-agent TE class has some intriguing options in 2022
When you look down the list of tight end options for the 2022 free-agency group, plenty of valuable options exist. However, they each come with a few question marks. Evan Engram is highly regarded and undeniably talented, but Engram dropped 10 percent of the passes thrown to him last season. Zach Ertz is also a capable pass catcher but is coming off an injury-hit season in which he caught just 50 percent of the balls thrown his way.
Mike Gesicki is a player who has developed over the past two years, but questions remain around his blocking. Robert Tonyan, another intriguing option in the group, recorded 11 touchdowns on 59 targets last season and ranked first at the position in OVM. Yet, Tonyan has just 80 total targets in three seasons.
David Njoku is playing on his fifth-year option in 2021. In the past two seasons, he has played just 17 games with 39 targets. Nevertheless, Njoku did generate 56 receptions with 639 yards and 4 touchdowns in 2018. Last year’s numbers for Hayden Hurst are similar to Njoku’s 2018 season. He pulled in 56 receptions for 571 yards and 6 touchdowns. Still, he needs another strong season in 2021 to have a significant market next offseason.
Behind those six are veteran options such as Eric Ebron, Jimmy Graham, Jared Cook, and Rob Gronkowski. All four can play a role but are unlikely to command big deals next offseason.
Top available 2022 free-agent offensive line players
1) Quenton Nelson, G, Indianapolis Colts*
2) Brandon Scherff, G, Washington Football Team
3) Orlando Brown Jr., T, Baltimore Ravens
4) Ryan Ramczyk, T, New Orleans Saints
5) Isaiah Wynn, T, New England Patriots*
6) Duane Brown, T, Seattle Seahawks
7) Terron Armstead, T, New Orleans Saints
8) Frank Ragnow, C, Detroit Lions*
9) Wyatt Teller, G, Cleveland Browns
10) Riley Reiff, T, Cincinnati Bengals
The offensive line free-agent group has plenty of high-quality options in the 2022 NFL offseason
There is much to be excited about for free-agency options on the offensive line in 2022. While Quenton Nelson tops the list, he is eligible for a fifth-year option, which the Colts will almost certainly exercise if they do not get a long-term extension done.
That leaves Scherff as the top offensive lineman available after playing on his second franchise tag in 2021. The cost of a third franchise tag will be astronomical. Therefore, Washington should get a deal done, or Scherff will be a top-rated free agent for many teams next offseason.
The combination of Orlando Brown and Ryan Ramczyk is fascinating. Both play excellent football but have the knock of being right tackles currently. Additionally, both will be looking to convince teams next offseason that they can slide in seamlessly as a left tackle. Will one of them make a perfect fit in Miami as a right tackle protecting the blindside for Tua Tagovailoa?
Isaiah Wynn is the big unknown here. He has played well in bursts but has been injured too often. The Patriots may pick up his fifth-year option, but he will be an intriguing free agent next offseason if they don’t. A strong 2021 season might see him garner a plethora of suitors.
Duane Brown, Terron Armstead, Frank Ragnow, Wyatt Teller, and Riley Reiff round out what may be a deep group of offensive linemen next offseason.