Green Bay Packers wide receiver Davante Adams is No. 1 on Pro Football Network’s Top 50 list of 2022 free agents. In a normal year, given his stats so far, Adams would have no chance of hitting the open market and would be an obvious franchise tag candidate. And he probably still is. But the Packers have significant salary cap issues. So, it’s not beyond the realm of possibility that Adams, 29, actually reaches free agency and resets the wide receiver market with a new contract.
Update (3/8/22): The Green Bay Packers are keeping their star in Wisconsin. They applied the franchise tag — at a whopping $20.1 million — on Adams, but obviously would like to work out a long-term deal.
Davante Adams: Free Agency Overview
The Packers must decide whether they want to franchise tag Adams — at an estimated cost of $18.4 million in 2022 — by March 8.
A big piece of the puzzle: Aaron Rodgers’ future plans. If Rodgers wants out, the Packers will probably enter a transitory/rebuilding stage. The front office might try to reboot a roster that, for all of its regular-season success, has won just two playoff games in the last five years.
Recapping Adams’ 2021 season
Adams in 2021 had arguably the best season of his career — and that’s saying something. He caught 123 passes for 1,553 yards and 11 touchdowns in 16 games. His catch rate (72.8%) and yards per game (97.1) were well above his career averages.
Adams made his fifth Pro Bowl and was a first-team All-Pro for the second time. And while the Packers’ red-zone efficiency wasn’t the same as when he led the NFL in touchdowns (with 18), he was still a threat in and around the end zone. His 11 touchdowns ranked fourth in the NFC.
In just eight seasons, Adams is already second on the Packers’ all-time receptions list (669) and touchdown catches (73). He’s fourth in receiving yards (8,121).
Contract estimate and salary cap implications
Adams just finished up a four-year, $58 million contract extension that turned out to be great value for the Packers. Adams was 19th in AAV among wide receivers in 2021, making less than inferior players like Amari Cooper, Jarvis Landry, Kenny Golladay, Julio Jones, and Robert Woods.
That should change soon. If Adams gets the multi-year contract he deserves, it could be a record-breaker. Spotrac estimates his market value at $25.8 million annually. Figuring out a way to make that fit on the Packers’ balance sheet is a challenge. They are a projected $48 million over the cap — which is almost all due to Rodgers’ $46.7 million cap figure in 2022.
Possible landing spots for Adams
The entire NFL would want a player like Adams. But the entire league cannot afford Adams, at least not right now. So, who has both the need and the resources to make such a move?
The Miami Dolphins ($64.7 million in cap space), Jacksonville Jaguars ($56.1 million), and New York Jets ($44.7 million) all make some sense. All three have young quarterbacks and offenses that need an infusion of talent.
But Adams doesn’t know what it’s like to play for a terrible NFL team. He might be more inclined to accept a little less to go to a team more to his liking. The Broncos just hired Adams’ offensive coordinator (Nathaniel Hackett) as their head coach. It’s not hard to imagine Hackett persuading both Rodgers and Adams to join him in Denver.
Another possibility: Adams reunites with college teammate Derek Carr in Las Vegas. The Raiders were talent-deficient at receiver after Henry Ruggs’ arrest. “It would be a dream,” to play again with Carr, Adams said last summer.
What they’re saying about Davante Adams
“We’re hopeful that we can come to an agreement with [Adams]. … I told him that he’s definitely earned the respect of not only his teammates but all of his coaches, as well, and I think everybody in this organization. Just his ability to compartmentalize his own situation and go out there and compete at the level he did each and every week, putting himself out there, obviously, in a contract year and just bringing it and playing at the highest of levels. He’s the best receiver in the league.” — Packers coach Matt LaFleur