The cash will be flowing next week as the floodgates are set to open on the 2022 NFL free agency period. While the usual open market will be fascinating to watch, Pro Football Network decided to have some fun by putting a mock draft spin on free agency using the 2022 NFL Draft order.
2022 Free Agency Mock Draft
While this exercise uses the NFL Draft order in April, there are some ground rules. For one, each team’s salary cap must be considered. Also, each squad’s immediate needs and fits at each position will be under consideration. There is no long-term outlook for development with these picks.
Here’s what PFN came up with:
1) Jacksonville Jaguars: DE Chandler Jones
The Jaguars badly need to enhance their pass rush this offseason, and Chandler Jones is a sure thing. Jones can come in and immediately make a difference. He will require a massive salary, but the Jaguars have the necessary cap space to meet his demands.
2) Detroit Lions: CB J.C. Jackson
The Lions go with J.C. Jackson, PFN Lead Analyst Dalton Miller’s top free agent to improve their secondary. Detroit has been missing a true No. 1 cornerback since Darius Slay was traded two years ago.
3) Houston Texans: S Marcus Williams
While the Texans would have loved a shot at Jones and Jackson, they get a great tone-setting consolation prize instead. With Justin Reid likely to leave town, Marcus Williams can come in and become the face of the Texans’ defense.
4) New York Jets: CB Carlton Davis
The Jets need to completely rework their defense in Robert Saleh’s image. Carlton Davis, a true top-tier cornerback, would be a foundational piece for the secondary. The Jets have the cap space to burn on Davis.
5) New York Giants: G Laken Tomlinson
The Giants are strapped for cash, but new GM Joe Schoen has started to make moves to get under the cap. While the Giants won’t be able to target top-of-the-market talent, a second-tier lineman like Laken Tomlinson makes sense as a primary target. Tomlinson can come in and solidify one of the starting guard spots.
6) Carolina Panthers: S Tyrann Mathieu
The Panthers, like the Jets, have plenty of holes to fill. However, while their QB situation remains a mess, the Panthers need a legitimate playmaker in the secondary. Tyrann Mathieu can come in from Day 1 and set the tone on defense.
7) New York Giants (from CHI): DL Jordan Willis
Again, the Giants are in cap hell, and Schoen needs to climb out of quite the hole. That said, he should still be able to entice some quality second-tier free agents with opportunities. Jordan Willis has blossomed as a versatile defensive lineman in San Francisco, and he could be an ascending movable chess piece in the Meadowlands.
8) Atlanta Falcons: WR Allen Robinson
Matt Ryan is sticking around in Atlanta, so the Falcons need to prioritize the wideout spot this offseason. While the Falcons don’t have much cap space, their front office will be looking for a replacement for Calvin Ridley. Allen Robinson is an alpha playmaker who has yet to play with a QB the caliber of Ryan.
9) Seattle Seahawks (from DEN): DE Randy Gregory
Following the blockbuster trade of Russell Wilson and the release of Bobby Wagner, the Seahawks are rebuilding on both sides of the ball. The team has struggled to produce a consistent pass rush for years. Randy Gregory can come in and help usher in the new wave in the front seven.
10) New York Jets (from SEA): C Ryan Jensen
Along with a need on defense, the Jets need to improve their offensive line. Ryan Jensen is coming off a career season, and his veteran experience could do wonders for the Jets’ line and QB Zach Wilson. The Jets should prioritize a target like Jensen in free agency.
11) Washington Commanders: G Andrew Norwell
With Carson Wentz now in Washington, the Commanders need to protect him at all costs. Andrew Norwell can immediately come in and fill the void left by Brandon Scherff, who might prove to be too costly to retain. Norwell has mostly played left guard, but he should still work well on the right side.
12) Minnesota Vikings: TE Zach Ertz
The Vikings need to improve their passing game, and Kirk Cousins could use another trusty weapon to throw to. While some may consider Zach Ertz, Adam Thielen, and Justin Jefferson as similar, over-the-middle options, Ertz can feast on double coverage served up to Thielen and Jefferson.
13) Cleveland Browns: DE Derek Barnett
The Browns are expected to lose Jadeveon Clowney in free agency, so replacing him should be a priority for Cleveland. With major money promised to Amari Cooper and David Njoku already this offseason, the Browns look at the second rung of free-agent defensive ends and pluck Barnett from the pool. Barnett is a cost-effective option that makes sense for GM Andrew Berry.
14) Baltimore Ravens: LB De’Vondre Campbell
Tales as old as time, songs as old as rhyme — the Baltimore Ravens and athletic linebackers. Seriously though, De’Vondre Campbell would be an impressive tag-team partner to put next to Patrick Queen.
15) Philadelphia Eagles (from MIA): CB Darious Williams
The Eagles could use an upgrade at No. 2 cornerback with Steven Nelson heading to free agency. Darious Williams is an ascending player who would fit in nicely with Jonathan Gannon’s defense and Dennard Wilson’s secondary opposite Darius Slay.
16) Philadelphia Eagles (from IND): S Quandre Diggs
Speaking of Slay, his best pal, Quandre Diggs, is likely to be switching cities following the Seahawks’ rapid descent into a full-on rebuild. Slay has already hinted about recruiting Diggs to the Eagles, as the team has two open starter spots with Anthony Harris and Rodney McLeod set to become free agents as well.
17) Los Angeles Chargers: TE Rob Gronkowski
If there’s one quarterback who can convince Rob Gronkowski to avoid retirement, it’s got to be Justin Herbert. Gronkowski can head to LA, continue to get endorsements, make a ton of money, and play with one of the best young QBs in the league.
18) New Orleans Saints: QB Teddy Bridgewater
Teddy Bridgewater has fizzled out in Carolina and Denver over the past two years, so maybe it’s time to head back to New Orleans. The Saints need someone to compete with Taysom Hill for the starting QB job, and Bridgewater should come cheap enough for the Saints to afford him, despite a messy cap situation.
19) Philadelphia Eagles: WR Christian Kirk
The Eagles could use a veteran wideout with DeVonta Smith and Quez Watkins blossoming into intriguing playmakers. With Smith, Watkins and Kirk in the lineup, the Eagles could air out the ball regularly. The Eagles will address the wideout position this offseason, and adding someone with experience, like Kirk, would help the passing game.
20) Pittsburgh Steelers: QB Jameis Winston
The Steelers’ options as QB aren’t terrific. While they continue to promote the likelihood of Mason Rudolph taking over as QB1, Jameis Winston would be ideal competition for Ben Roethlisberger’s former backup. Winston would at least make Rudolph “earn” the job.
21) New England Patriots: DE Jadeveon Clowney
With the Patriots going through more changes than ever before, adding a premium lineman to the fold would be a nice move for the franchise. Jadeveon Clowney can come in and immediately produce up front.
22) Las Vegas Raiders: CB Stephon Gilmore
The Raiders need all the help they can get in the playmaking department on both sides of the ball. Josh McDaniels is familiar with Stephon Gilmore from his time in New England, and the pair could look to establish a similar Patriots culture out west.
23) Arizona Cardinals: OLB Emmanuel Ogbah
With Chandler Jones likely to leave town, the Cardinals will need to try to replace his production. Emmanuel Ogbah is likely to stick in Miami, but for this exercise, he would be the perfect replacement for Jones.
24) Dallas Cowboys: DT B.J. Hill
Like the Giants and Saints, the Cowboys can’t afford to be too active in free agency. Likely to wait to make a move in the second wave, B.J. Hill would be the perfect addition to the defensive line. Hill can play multiple positions and be used on all three downs.
25) Buffalo Bills: TE C.J. Uzomah
While Dawson Knox has been a solid No. 1 tight end, the Bills could use even more power at the position. C.J. Uzomah is likely to be retained by Cincinnati. But if he comes loose, Buffalo would be a good fit because of Josh Allen’s ability to spread the ball around.
26) Tennessee Titans: WR JuJu Smith-Schuster
While A.J. Brown has blossomed into a true No. 1 wideout, the Titans need to establish themselves across the middle of the field. JuJu Smith-Schuster could be a dependable target for Ryan Tannehill in the slot.
27) Tampa Bay Buccaneers: G Connor Williams
After losing Ali Marpet to retirement, the Buccaneers have a massive hole in their offensive line. There is also a chance that the organization loses center Ryan Jensen and guard Alex Cappa as well. Connor Williams can come in and immediately station himself at one of the guard spots. He will probably be cheaper to sign than Jensen or Cappa will be to retain.
28) Green Bay Packers: CB Casey Hayward
A true homecoming to celebrate: Casey Hayward makes a lot of sense for the Green Bay Packers, who should be in “all-in” mode with Aaron Rodgers set to return. Hayward can move around the secondary and produce turnovers and lock down the middle of the field.
29) Miami Dolphins (from SF): G Brandon Scherff
The Dolphins need all the help they can get on the offensive line. Brandon Scherff can come in and immediately upgrade the right guard spot. The Dolphins have plenty of money to spend and should help Scherff set the new bar for guard contracts in free agency.
30) Kansas City Chiefs: S Marcus Maye
With Tyrann Mathieu likely to leave town, the Chiefs could use an upgrade opposite fellow safety Juan Thornhill in the secondary. Marcus Maye needs a shot at redemption after a rough final year with the Jets. Joining a Super Bowl contender on a one-year deal could help Maye boost his stock for another run at free agency.
31) Cincinnati Bengals: OT Terron Armstead
The Bengals desperately need help along the line. If they feel like they can be perennial contenders, it’s okay to search through the veteran offensive tackle market. Terron Armstead is the best lineman in free agency. While he’s on the wrong side of 30, a three-year pact could be a worthwhile endeavor for both parties.
32) Detroit Lions (from LAR): WR DJ Chark Jr.
The Lions have a ton of holes to fill, but their wide receiver group is an absolute pit of despair. After re-signing Josh Reynolds, the Lions still need a third member of a wideout trio. DJ Chark Jr., Reynolds, and Amon-Ra St. Brown sound like a quality starting group to us.