With the Super Bowl done and dusted, the thirsty NFL fans’ eye will now turn to the offseason and Free Agency and then the NFL Draft. Team cap space importance and manipulation is a topic people can argue until the cows come home as there are many teams that always produce Houdini tricks to come in under the cap each season.
The legal tampering period starts on 14 March, which is always a weird concept to get your head around. Imagine being able to legally tamper with things?
Before we get started, there is a really good visual found on Twitter regarding the maneuverability for each of the teams:
No surprise in seeing the Saints at the bottom of the pile, they seem to be there most years. Green Bay, the recently crowned Super Bowl Champions, the LA Rams along with 2 NFC East teams, Dallas and New York, fill out the bottom 5.
Let’s go division by division and look at some key players that are due to hit the market, unless their current owners intervene and stop their players’ eyes prying into other team’s front offices.
Pending Free Agents: EDGE Jerry Hughes, EDGE Mario Addison, CB Levi Wallace, WR Isaiah McKenzie, WR Emmanuel Sanders, QB Mitchell Trubisky, RB Matt Breida, RT Bobby Hart, IDL Vernon Butler, RG Ike Boettger, RB Taiwan Jones, WR Jake Kumerow, EDGE Bryan Cox Jr., IDL Harrison Phillips, CB Siran Neal
The Bills will likely get lighter at WR so may look to beef that up in FA or the draft, while there is a clear need along the defensive line.
However, Levi Wallace, who played over 92% of the Bills’ snaps at corner in 2021, would be a good get at the right price. Opposite Tre’Davious White, they have both formed a decent tandem limiting opposing offences to scraps through the air over recent sesasons.
Mitchell Trubisky seems adamant he’ll find a starting job elsewhere. If the market agrees, don’t expect him to back up Josh Allen next season.
New England Patriots:
Pending Free Agents: S Devin McCourty, RT Trent Brown, LB Dont’a Hightower, CB J.C. Jackson, C Ted Karras, WR Matthew Slater, RB James White, RB Brandon Bolden, LB Brandon King, K Nick Folk, IDL Carl Davis, QB Brian Hoyer, LB Jamie Colins, LB Harvey Langi, TE Troy Fumagalli, LB Ja’Whaun Bentley
A fair few big names on the pending Free Agent list in the next month, none more coveted than J.C. Jackson. Jackson returned 1 of his 8 interceptions this year to the house, the first of his career. It’s likely that there could be a bidding war on him, which sees him set off into the Massachusetts sunset and out of Foxboro’.
Pending Free Agents: TE Mike Gesicki, WR Will Fuller, Emmanuel Ogbah, QB Jacoby Brissett, RB Phillip Lindsay, WR Albert Wilson, CB Justin Coleman, LB Elandon Roberts, RB Malcolm Brown, P Michael Palardy, IDL John Jenkins, S Jason McCourty, WR Mack Hollins, LB Brennan Scarlett, LB Duke Riley, C Greg Rancz, RB Duke Johnson, LB Vince Biegel, WR Isaiah Ford, TE Durham Smythe
It’s likely that WR will be a sought-after position this offseason for the Dolphins, this should be extended to looking at getting the signature of Mike Gesicki at the TE position. They’ll have plenty of cap space to work with to at least get to the negotiating room with him. He’s improved on the stats sheet each and every season and account for almost a fifth of their first downs in 2021. Tua will be hoping the Dolphins also patch up that offensive line. It’s possible he gets franchise tagged, but unlikely.
New York Jets:
Pending Free Agents: S Marcus Maye, QB Joe Flacco, WR Jamison Crowder, WR Keelan Cole, WR Braxton Berrios, LB Jarrad Davis, RT Morgan Moses, RG Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, LG Dan Feeney, S Lamarcus Joyner, TE Tyler Kroft, RG Conor McDermott, RB Tevin Coleman, S Will Parks, IDL Nathan Shepherd, LT Greg Senat, K Eddy Pineiro, FB Nick Bawden, IDL Folorunso Fatukasi
It’s obvious that the Jets should be looking to upgrade their secondary this offseason, that could also include getting Safety Marcus Maye to re-sign. They, like the Dolphins, have a decent amount of cap space to try and attract the top names to help with the rebuild project at Gang Green. At Wide Receiver, Braxton Berrios could find himself pricing himself out and Jamison Crowder will likely want a decent amount of money to stay.
Pending Free Agents: S Jessie Bates III, CB Darius Phillips, IDL B.J. Hill, RT Riley Reiff, IDL Larry Ogunjobi, TE C.J. Uzomah, RG Xavier Su’a-Filo, CB Vernon Hargreaves, QB Brandon Allen, CB Tre Flowers, WR Auden Tate, P Kevin Huber, IDL Josh Tupou, S Ricardo Allen, CB Eli Apple, LS Clark Harris, LG Quinton Spain, LB Jordan Evans, IDL Zach Kerr, S Michael Thomas, WR Mike Thomas
The obvious one here is Jessie Bates III in the pack of Bengals looking to find some money in Free Agency. He is a candidate for the Franchise Tag but expect the Bengals to use a good portion of their ~$57m cap space to go after Offensive linemen, purely because they aren’t picking in the top 10-15 this year like they have done over the past 5 seasons.
Pending Free Agents: CB Joe Haden, WR Juju Smith-Schuster, TE Eric Ebron, Cb Ahkello Witherspoon, RG Trai Turner, S Terrell Edmonds, LB Miles Killebrew, WR James Washington, QB Joshua Dobbs, WR Ray-Ray McCloud, CB Arthur Mallet, C B.J. Finney, EDGE Taco Charlton, IDL Montravius Adams, RB Kalen Ballage, RT Chukwuma Okorafor
The recently retired Ben Roethlisberger would have also been on this list, had he not retired. Either way, Quarterback will be a major priority this offseason. There isn’t much in Free Agency at the position so expect a trade or Draft capital to be invested.
Of the current crop on offence, offensive lineman Trai Turner and Chukwuma Okorafor played the 1st and 3rd highest number of snaps respectively in the whole Pittsburgh roster in 2021. That’s saying too much due to the line’s performances last season, but they say consistency is the key.
On the defence, former 1st round pick Terrell Edmunds is part of a secondary that struggled last season and could also lose 5-year Steeler and 12 year AFC North veteran Joe Haden as he will be 33 if he plays in 2022.
Pending Free Agents: S Ronnie Harrison, WR Rashard Higgins, EDGE Jadeveon Clowney, IDL Malik Jackson, EDGE Takkarist McKinley, LT Chris Hubbard, LB Anthony Walker Jr., TE David Njoku, S M.J. Stewart, LB Malcolm Smith, P Dustin Colquitt, IDL Sheldon Day, QB Nick Mullins, EDGE Ifeadi Odenigbo, WR Ryan Switzer
There are a couple of key decisions for the Browns to make this offseason, one of which whose name isn’t on the list above. They need to decide on whether Baker Mayfield is the guy they want going forward and an extension of that is the Wide Receiver position, which currently consists of not a lot after they shipped off OBJ to go get a Super Bowl Ring and Jarvis Landry played hobbled last season.
The two on the above list are Jadeveon Clowney, who amassed 9 sacks in his 14 games played (Tak McKinley, former Falcons 1st round pick is also there) and David Njoku, who despite all the athletic abilities and talent, has just not quite done it consistently in a Browns jersey and will probably be suited for pastures new.
Pending Free Agents: IDL Calais Campbell, IDL Brandon Williams, S DeShon Elliott, C Bradley Bozeman, WR Sammy Watkins, FB Patrick Ricard, CB Jimmy Smith, EDGE Justin Houston, LB L.J. Fort, RB Devonta Freeman, RB Latavius Murray, LB Chris Board, S Tony Jefferson, S Anthony Levine, LB Josh Bynes, EDGE Pernell McPhee, IDL Justin Ellis, QB Josh Johnson, LT David Sharpe, TE Eric Tomlinson, CB Anthony Averett
There are a number of positions that screams “help!” on the defence with a lot of old/injured dead wood and most likely not returning so don’t be surprised to see a lot of these names not on the roster come kickoff 2022. Bradley Bozeman, the Center who was moved from Guard in 2020, has been a decent find from the 6th round back in 2018’s draft and is probably a guy they would like to keep protecting Lamar Jackson.
Pending Free Agents: EDGE Harold Landry, C Ben Jones, LB Jayon Brown, TE Anthony Firkser, LB Rashaan Evans, TE Geoff Swaim, WR Marcus Johnson, LS Morgan Cox, LB Nick Dzubnar, S Matthias Farley, K Randy Bullock, CB Buster Skrine, EDGE Olasunkanmi Adeniyi, LB Dylan Cole, LB B.J. Bello, CB Greg Mabin, WR Chester Rogers, IDL Kyle Peko, IDL Trevor Coley, TE MyCole Pruitt, RB Dontrell Hilliard, RB D’Onta Foreman, WR Cameron Batson, S Dane Cruikshank
Harold Landry will command a decent amount of interest and it far from certain he’ll be able to don a Titans jersey in 2022 considering their cap situation. Like the Browns, they have an upcoming decision on Ryan Tannehill certainly next year, if not this (signs point to him being under Center in 2022). If they are unable to retain Landry, that could mean more emphasis on fellow Linebackers Jayon Brown or Rashaan Evans are prioritised.
Pending Free Agents: LT Eric Fisher, WR T.Y. Hilton, RG Mark Glowinski, CB Xavier Rhodes, TE Mo-Alie Cox, WR Zach Pascal, EDGE Al-Quadin Muhammad, LT Sam Tevi, IDL Isaac Rochell, S George Odum, CB T.J. Carrie, RB Marlon Mack, EDGE Kemoko Turay, LT Julie’n Davenport, LG Chris Reed, EDGE Tyquan Lewis, S Andrew Sendejo, S Jahleel Addae, RG Matt Pryor, K Michael Badgley, IDL Antwaun Woods, LB Matthew Adams, LB Zaire Franklin
With Carson Wentz “unlikely” to be in a Colts uniform in 2022, he could be followed out by some long-tenured players such as TY Hilton and Marlon Mack on offence. They should try and keep the services of Mo Alie-Cox, with it looking likely Jack Doyle will retire. He’ll probably garner some interest from others and the Colts have a good cap space situation so expecting some noise in Free Agency, especially as their draft capital isn’t as much as it could be.
Former #1 overall pick in 2013 Eric Fisher signed on a 1-year deal last year from the Chiefs and had an OK season on a decent Colts O-Line. He was tied 10th for penalties given up (8) and sacks allowed (7), though it was Carson Wentz at QB (known for holding on to the ball for too long) which is reflected in his better run block performance rather than his pass protection.
Pending Free Agents: QB Tyrod Taylor, S Justin Reid, RB David Johnson, CB Desmond King, LB Christian Kirksey, LB Eric Wilson, LB Kamu Grugier-Hill, WR Danny Amendola, S Terrence Brooks, IDL Maliek Collins, C Justin Britt, CB A.J. Moore, LB Neville Hewitt, TE Pharaoh Brown, IDL Vincent Taylor, EDGE DeMarcus Walker, WR Chris Conley, LB Tae Davis, LS Jon Weeks, EDGE Chris Smith, LT Geron Christian, LB Hardy Nickerson, TE Antony Auclair, LG Lane Taylor, QB Jeff Driskel, WR Chris Moore, IDL Jaleel Johnson, RB Royce Freeman, RG Cole Toner, TE Jordan Akins, EDGE Jacob Martin
I’m half surprised this list isn’t longer with the amount of 1-year deals that were signed last year to the Texans roster. We all know that until the Deshaun Watson saga has ended and he’s moved on, this franchise will just be in constant purgatory and still trying to pick itself up from the demolition job Bill O’Brien et al did. As there is a lot of 1-year guys here, don’t expect many back.
One that could be back is Defensive lineman Maliek Collins, who performed OK but that’s not saying much for one of the worst rush defences and averaged 2 sacks per game in 2021 (were the 3rd least in blitz %).
Pending Free Agents: LT Cam Robinson, WR D.J. Chark, LG Andrew Norwell, RG A.J. Cann, IDL Taven Bryan, EDGE Jihad Ward, C Tyler Shatley, CB Tre Herndon, LB Damien Wilson, TE James O’Shaughnessy, CB Nevin Lawson, EDGE Adam Gotsis, WR Tavon Austin, EDGE Lerentee McCray, TE Jacob Hollister, WR Laquon Treadwell, WR Jaydon Mickens, LB Tyrell Adams, P JK Scott, RT Will Richardson
DJ Chark seems like he will be in negotiations at the very least with the team desperate at WR. While Trevor Lawrence will need someone to throw to, even more importantly, he needs linemen to keep him upright and not running for his life. Tackle Cam Robinson, while not elite, is a key cog in understanding the Jags’ priorities this offseason as they hold the #1 overall pick and a tackle named Evan Neal looks like he is the bookies’ favourite to be picked 1st overall. They could sign both Robinson and take Neal 1st overall, but you can be sure at least one of them will be their starter in Week 1 of 2022.
Kansas City Chiefs:
Pending Free Agents: LT Orlando Brown, S Tyrann Mathieu, IDL Jarran Reed, LB Melvin Ingram, CB Charvarius Ward, RT Mike Remmers, CB Mike Hughes, S Daniel Sorensen, WR Byron Pringle, QB Chad Henne, RB Darrel Williams, LB Ben Niemann, RG Kyle Long, TE Blake Bell, WR Demarcus Robinson, EDGE Alex Okafor, C Austin Blythe, RB Jerick McKinnon, FB Michael Burton, IDL Derrick Nnadi, LG Andrew Wylie, LS James Winchester, WR Marcus Kemp, LB Dorian O’Daniel, S Armani Watts
On offence, Orlando Brown should be the #1 priority for the Chiefs this offseason, followed quickly by Safety Tyrann Mathieu on the defence. They are somewhat tight on the budget sheet though and they will be struggling to replace the Honey Badger if he gets decent money elsewhere on the table. Both of these guys are the frontrunners for the Franchise Tag. My money goes on the Honey Badger due to how important he is in that secondary.
With Byron Pringle and Demarcus Robinson headed for the market, they may look to try and find that 2nd Wide Receiver to help draw coverage from Hill and Kelce.
Las Vegas Raiders
Pending Free Agents: LB Nicholas Morrow, IDL Johnathan Hankins, QB Marcus Mariota, LB K.J. Wright, IDL Quinton Jefferson, IDL Solomon Thomas, WR Zay Jones, RB Jalen Richard, CB Casey Hayward, LG Richie Incognito, WR DeSean Jackson, IDL Gerald McCoy, C Nick Martin, TE Derek Carrier, CB Desmond Trufant, RT Brandon Parker, RG Jermaine Eluemunor, LB Kyle Wilber, RB Peyton Barber, IDL Darius Philon, LB Patrick Onwuasor, CB Brandon Facyson, LB Marquel Lee, LG Jordan Simmons
Usually when you get a change at co-ordinator, they can shake things up so Patrick Graham, formerly of the Giants may look to get some of “his guys” on the defensive side.Of the guys hitting the market, Casey Hayward had himself a good season but with the new DC, unsure whether they’ll look to bring him back. Derek Carr’s situation is worth monitoring as he can be cut if the Raiders wanna move on or even trade him but they or Derek himself may also want to re-enter negotiating that contract. With Marcus Mariota’s contract also being up, we could see either both QBs next year, or neither.
Los Angeles Chargers
Pending Free Agents: CB Chris Harris Jr., IDL Linval Joseph, WR Mike Williams, TE Jared Cook, EDGE Kyler Fackrell, RB Justin Jackson, RG Oday Aboushi, CB Ryan Smith, QB Chase Daniel, EDGE Uchenna Nwosu, WR Andre Roberts, LS Matt Overton, RG Senio Kelemete, K Dustin Hopkins, LG Michael Schofield, IDL Christian Covington, CB Devontae Harris, TE Stephen Anderson, IDL Justin Jones, LB Kyzir White, LG Scott Quisenberry
Mike Williams is probably braced for some big numbers coming his way from a variety of teams, should he wish to take a peek at the market (who wouldn’t). Whether he is deserving of them is another case but fortunately for the Chargers, there is plenty of cap space.
Run defence/interior lineman and Cornerback are areas they’ll look to beef up in March and April.
Pending Free Agents: QB Teddy Bridgewater, CB Kyle Fuller, RB Melvin Gordon, CB Bryce Callahan, S Kareem Jackson, RT Bobby Massie, LB Alexander Johnson, RT Cameron Fleming, EDGE Stephen Weatherly, IDL Shamar Stephen, CB Mike Ford, CB Nate Hairston, TE Eric Saubert, C Brett Jones, IDL Justin Hamilton, LB Josey Jewell, LB Micah Kiser, LB Kenny Young
A lot will be determined by how aggressive they pursue Aaron Rodgers (if leaving Green Bay and not retiring) or whether new HC Nathaniel Hackett (formerly of Green Bay for what it’s worth…) deems Teddy Bridgewater adequate enough to warrant entering new contract negotiations. Safety Kareem Jackson was Denver’s leading tackler on the defence last season, but is now entering year number 13. After losing Von Miller who went and got a Super Bowl ring, don’t be surprised Denver address their edge rusher situation.