Ranking the Best NFL Acquisitions of 2022: Top 20 Trades and Free Agent Signings Through 6 Weeks

    Which NFL trades and free agent signings look the best at the one-third mark of the season? Let's rank the top offseason acquisitions of 2022.

    Unexpected trades highlighted the 2022 NFL offseason, and there were also plenty of free agent signings. Twenty-four players inked contracts with at least $30 million in total value, while 29 landed deals worth $10 million or more per year.

    Which of those offseason acquisitions has worked out the best, and which teams are getting their money’s worth? Now that we’re a third of the way through the year, let’s rank the top 20 moves of the offseason.

    Best NFL Acquisitions of 2022

    We’re only looking at veteran acquisitions, so we won’t list any rookies. Additionally, we’re focusing on players who joined a new team over the offseason, so we won’t include anyone who signed an extension to remain with their incumbent club.

    Broncos edge rusher Randy Gregory and Cardinals wide receiver Marquise Brown would have slotted into this list, but both are slated to miss at least the next four games with injuries, so we left them out.

    20. Jerry Hughes, EDGE, Houston Texans

    Contract: Two years, $10 million

    Signing 34-year-old free agents isn’t generally an advisable strategy, but the Texans have to like what they’ve received from Hughes thus far. The longtime Buffalo Bill has four sacks, four quarterback hits, three tackles for loss, and has played at least 50% of Houston’s defensive snaps in every game.

    Hughes is a first-rate locker-room presence, so Houston might prefer to hang onto him. However, pass-rushing help is hard to find, and the rebuilding Texans could get a decent draft pick for him before the Nov. 1 trade deadline. Matchups against weak Raiders and Titans offensive lines over the next two weeks offer opportunities for further production.

    19. D.J. Reed, CB, New York Jets

    Contract: Three years, $33 million

    Sauce Gardner already looks like a legitimate lockdown corner, but Reed is playing just as well as the rookie. Reed, steeped in Robert Saleh’s defensive system thanks to his time in San Francisco and Seattle, has helped keep opposing receivers like Tyreek Hill, Ja’Marr Chase, and Amari Cooper to limited yardage.

    The Jets ranked 30th in defensive EPA per dropback from Weeks 1-3, but they’re second from Weeks 4-6. Reed has been a massive part of that effort. He’s allowing a career-low 53.2 passer rating and five yards per target, and he hasn’t given up a single touchdown.

    18. Ethan Pocic, C, Cleveland Browns

    Contract: One year, $1.188 million

    I wrote about Pocic in September, noting he was among the 2023 free agents who had boosted their stock the most. Pocic is only starting because the Browns released JC Tretter and then lost replacement Nick Harris to a torn ACL, but he’s played incredibly well through six weeks.

    A former second-round pick who never quite developed with the Seahawks, Pocic is in the best situation of his career. He has four exceptional linemates and works under the NFL’s best offensive line coach, Bill Callahan. Pocic is only 27 years old, so he could be in line for a significant contract next offseason.

    17. Tyrann Mathieu, S, New Orleans Saints

    Contract: Three years, $27 million

    After nearly a decade in the NFL, Mathieu came home to New Orleans to help replace Marcus Williams and Malcolm Jenkins. He’s stereotypically missed a few tackles in the run game, but he’s been excellent in coverage (39.3 passer rating allowed). The Saints rank first in DVOA against opposing tight ends, who often run routes in Mathieu’s area of the field.

    16. Chauncey Gardner-Johnson, S, Philadelphia Eagles

    Trade: Gardner-Johnson and a 2025 seventh-round pick for a 2023 fifth-round pick and a 2025 sixth-round pick

    I still have trouble understanding the Saints’ decision to trade Gardner-Johnson in August. He’s in a contract year, and New Orleans may have felt they wouldn’t be able to extend him given their salary cap woes. But isn’t one season of a versatile defensive back like Gardner-Johnson worth more than a fifth-round pick and a one-round improvement three years from now?

    MORE: One Trade Candidate From Every NFL Team Ahead of the Deadline

    After playing the majority of his snaps in the slot for the Saints, Gardner-Johnson is spending most of his time at deep safety for the Eagles. He’s been more up and down in 2022 than in years past, but CGJ has managed three interceptions, three pass deflections, and a tackle for loss over his last two games.

    15. Christian Kirk, WR, Jacksonville Jaguars

    Contract: Four years, $72 million

    Kirk’s contract with the Jaguars arguably set the 2022 wide receiver frenzy in motion, but he’s largely delivered on his deal thus far. Admittedly, he’s cooled off after posting 17 receptions for 267 yards and three touchdowns over his first three outings with Jacksonville. Still, it’s evident that Trevor Lawrence trusts Kirk, and Doug Pederson knows how to get the most out of him.

    14. Amari Cooper, WR, Cleveland Browns

    Trade: Cooper and pick No. 202 for pick Nos. 155 and 193

    The Browns got a steal of a deal on Cooper, as the Cowboys just wanted to find a taker for his $20 million salary. That annual average now ranks just 14th at the WR position, where salaries have since exploded.

    Cooper has been a steadying presence in Cleveland’s passing game, and he leads the team in targets, receptions, yardage, and touchdowns. He’s had a few quiet games, as the Browns’ lack of other weapons can allow defenses to focus their attention on Cooper. Still, he’s received double-digit targets in four of six games and has quickly become critical to Cleveland’s aerial attack.

    13. Terron Armstead, OT, Miami Dolphins

    Contract: Five years, $75 million

    On a snap-for-snap basis, Armstead should arguably be higher on this list. But he missed most of Week 5 and all of Week 6 with a toe issue, and injuries have become a regular problem for the veteran left tackle. Armstead has been the best lineman the Dolphins have had in years — when he’s been able to stay on the field.

    Connor Williams, who simultaneously left the Cowboys for the Dolphins and switched from guard to center this offseason, also deserves mention. He’s played every snap for Miami at the pivot.

    12. Haason Reddick, EDGE, Philadelphia Eagles

    Contract: Three years, $45 million

    Although Reddick was coming off back-to-back double-digit sack campaigns, the Eagles still managed to lock him in for only $15 million per year. In Philadelphia, he’s continued the ascension that began when he became a pure pass rusher during his final season with the Cardinals in 2020.

    Reddick has 4.5 sacks for the Eagles this year, and he’s continued to force fumbles at an incredibly high rate. His versatility on the edge has become essential for Philadelphia as they’ve transitioned to multi-front defense.

    11. Shaq Mason, G, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

    Trade: Mason for pick No. 170

    The Bucs thought they were acquiring Mason from the Patriots as the final piece on a veteran-laden offensive line. But as Tampa Bay’s front five continued to get hit by injury, Mason became one of the club’s most important players up front.

    Mason is only 29 years old, and high-quality guards can typically play into their mid-thirties. Acquiring him on a two-year, $15 million contract for a fifth-round pick qualified as an excellent trade, and Mason has backed up that move with his performance. He’s yet to allow a sack, and he’s committed just two penalties.

    10. James Bradberry, CB, Philadelphia Eagles

    Contract: One year, $7.25 million

    Before the Eagles traded for Gardner-Johnson to complete their secondary, they found a tag-team partner for Darius Slay. The Giants cut Bradberry on May 9, and he sat on the open market for nine days. Somehow, Philadelphia won the bidding for a 1A-type cornerback at just $7.25 million.

    Bradberry scored on a pick-six in Week 1 and grabbed another interception in Week 4. Facing Dallas in Week 6, he deflected four passes (including two on third downs and one on a fourth down) and allowed just three receptions for 31 yards. He and Slay represent the best corner tandem the Eagles have fielded in years.

    9. Za’Darius Smith, EDGE, Minnesota Vikings

    Contract: Three years, $42 million

    Injuries limited Smith to just one game in 2021, but the Vikings scooped him up after the division-rival Packers released him during the offseason. Through six games, he’s been everything Minnesota could have hoped for.

    Smith ranks third in the NFL with 29 pressures, per PFF. He’s regularly turned that pressure into production, and his 5.5 sacks are tied for fifth in the league. Smith destroyed the Dolphins’ offensive line with 10 pressures on Sunday, according to Next Gen Stats.

    8. A.J. Brown, WR, Philadelphia Eagles

    Trade: Brown (and a four-year, $100 million extension) for pick Nos. 18 and 101

    As if it weren’t already obvious that Eagles general manager Howie Roseman is the favorite for the 2022 Executive of the Year award, Brown is Philadelphia’s fourth member of this list.

    Here’s how talented Brown is: He’s top 10 among wide receivers in catches and yardage, and yet, his season still feels a tad disappointing. Brown has been a streaky player in the past, so his consistency in 2022 might seem disconcerting. He blew up in his first game as an Eagle with 10 receptions and 155 yards and has kept it up with at least 67 yards in four of five games since.

    7. Bobby Wagner, LB, Los Angeles Rams

    Contract: Five years, $50 million

    The Rams have had a lot go wrong this season, but their signing of Wagner has paid dividends. Los Angeles has dropped him into the middle of an already superb defense, deploying the veteran against the run, in coverage, and as a blitzer.

    Wagner simply doesn’t miss tackles, and he’s an important contributor to a Rams defense that ranks second in run defense efficiency. And as Jourdan Rodrigue of the Athletic has detailed, Wagner has brought his locker-room leadership and communication skills from Seattle to LA.

    6. Stephon Gilmore, CB, Indianapolis Colts

    Contract: Two years, $20 million

    Gilmore was the Defensive Player of the Year in 2019 and was still sensational last season in eight games for the Panthers. Still, it was fair to wonder if the veteran corner would still be as productive in his age-32 season as he’d been in years past.

    Through six games, Gilmore looks as good as ever. He’s been outstanding all year and put up another DPOY-worthy performance against the Broncos in Week 5.

    With the Colts down by three late in the fourth quarter, Gilmore picked off Russell Wilson in the end zone, giving Indy a chance to tie the game with a field goal. Then, in overtime, Gilmore deflected a 4th-and-goal pass from Wilson to win the game. It was one of the best individual defensive outputs of the season.

    5. Davante Adams, WR, Las Vegas Raiders

    Trade: Adams (and a five-year, $140 million extension) for pick Nos. 22 and 53

    The Packers’ trade of Adams was perhaps the most shocking move of the offseason. He wanted to go to the Raiders to reunite with his college teammate, Derek Carr, and Green Bay obliged his request.

    MORE: The Biggest Weakness for Every Contender Heading Into the NFL Trade Deadline

    Las Vegas is in last place, but it hasn’t been the offense’s fault. Adams has been absurdly productive, and he’s second among wideouts with five touchdown catches. But he’s playing a slightly different game than he was in Green Bay. His catch rate is way down (from 72.8% in 2021 to 53.7% in 2022), but his average depth of target has increased from 9.6 to 11 yards.

    4. Charvarius Ward, CB, San Francisco 49ers

    Contract: Three years, $40.5 million

    While Bradberry and Gilmore are 29 and 32 years old, respectively, the 49ers signed up for the 26-year-old Ward’s prime. And through six weeks, they’re getting it.

    Ward is allowing a career-low 4.3 yards per target, and he’s tied for second in the NFL with eight pass deflections. He’s been consistently disruptive in the run game, and his menacing style of play fits in well with the 49ers’ defense.

    San Francisco hasn’t typically paid significant money for cornerbacks, but they’ve received a solid ROI from Ward. He’ll become all the more important as the 49ers adjust to life without fellow CB Emmanuel Moseley, who tore his ACL in Week 5.

    3. Khalil Mack, EDGE, Los Angeles Chargers

    Trade: Mack for pick No. 48 in 2022 and a 2023 sixth-round pick

    The Chargers needed a bookend for Joey Bosa, and they found it in the form of Mack, whom they acquired from the Bears in March. With Bosa out until December with a groin injury, Mack is now LA’s top edge rusher.

    Mack posted another sack on Monday Night Football, and he’s now tied for second in the league with six, while remaining one of the NFL’s best run defenders.

    Chicago made the right decision to part ways with Mack as they embarked on a rebuild, but the Chargers took advantage by picking up a future Hall of Famer that wouldn’t typically be available.

    2. Von Miller, EDGE, Buffalo Bills

    Contract: Six years, $120 million

    Speaking of future Hall of Famers, let’s talk about Miller. The Bills have spent years playing the role of the fiscal conservative in free agency, spending modestly and taking a quantity-based approach to signings. That changed once Miller became available.

    $120 million is an eye-popping number, but Miller’s deal with Buffalo is really more of a three-year, $52.5 million pact. That’s an excellent price for the best pass rusher of his generation.

    Now gunning for his second consecutive Super Bowl trophy, the 33-year-old Miller doesn’t look like he’s lost a step. He’s second behind only Micah Parsons in pass-rush win rate, and his presence has opened up lanes for Gregory Rousseau, DaQuan Jones, and the rest of Buffalo’s pass rushers.

    1. Tyreek Hill, WR, Miami Dolphins

    Trade: Hill (and a four-year, $120 million extension) for pick Nos. 29, 50, and 121 in 2022, plus fourth and sixth-round picks in 2023

    The Dolphins paid a hefty price to land Hill, but he’s exceeded all expectations. No one — except Hill — thought he could post better numbers in Miami than he did in Kansas City with Patrick Mahomes, but he’s been the best skill-positon player in the NFL through six games.

    Hill is on pace to break Calvin Johnson’s single-season receiving record. Will he keep it up throughout the year? Probably not, but his production is incredible, especially given that he’s had to play with three different quarterbacks.

    Mike McDaniel has continuously put Hill in a position to succeed, and he’s delivered. Hill is first in the NFL in yards (701) and second in receptions (50), and he’s reached 160 yards in three out of six games.

    Hill is lapping the league in yards per route run, an especially predictive metric for wide receivers. He’s posted 3.61 yards per route run, 0.86 YPRR ahead of second-place Stefon Diggs. That difference between Hill and Diggs equals the distance between Diggs at second and DK Metcalf at 20th.

    Tua Tagovailoa is set to return in Week 7, and Hill should continue to light up opposing defenses. Only time will tell if he can record a truly historic season.

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