1-Man’s Opinion on Sports-Wednesday “NFL Blockbuster Days Coming”

Posted by on March 9th, 2022  •  0 Comments  • 

“NFL–Wheeling and Dealing”———————

The NFL is ready to start ‘checkbook football’ better known as Free Agency.

Tuesday was a record setting day, with Aaron Rogers 200M contract setting a new high water mark for the payment of superstars, and the Russell Wilson trade to Denver-a 7-for-2 deal, the biggest trade since the Dallas-Minnesota Herschel Walker heist.

Now that franchise tags have been issued next up will be the bidding war in free agency, and there will be movement.

A look at the names who will be available, courtesy of NFL.com.
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The 2022 NFL free-agent class is deeper than it is flashy. I’ve never had to leave so many quality options out of the Top 101, even if the top end of this list doesn’t have many young players in their prime. The NFL is increasingly a one-year contract league, and this ranking reflects that with a lot of familiar names.

Rank
1

Terron Armstead
OT · Age: 31
Armstead’s injury history makes him a complicated evaluation. He’s missed at least six games in five of his nine seasons, but when he plays, he’s one of the five best left tackles in football. It is extremely rare for a tackle this good with an impeccable reputation as a leader to become available, for any reason, especially with good years still in front of him.

Rank
2

J.C. Jackson
CB · Age: 26
Jackson has improved in each of his four NFL seasons so far. He was already worth plenty after getting off to one of the greatest ballhawking starts to a career ever (25 picks), and now he’s also one of the best pure man-coverage corners in the league on a down-to-down basis. It is curious, however, the Patriots didn’t use the franchise tag on him.
Rank
3

Von Miller
Edge · Age: 33
Miller’s numbers in the 2021 playoffs (four sacks, 22 pressures) were almost identical to what he posted in the 2015 playoffs (five sacks, 23 pressures), which ended with him being named MVP of Super Bowl 50. His run defense was also superb. No player made himself more money in the postseason.
Rank
4

Carlton Davis
CB · Age: 25
Bucs coaches always talked about Davis like a true No. 1 cornerback. He looks like one on film, like the type of prospect that would get taken with a top-15 pick in the draft. Perhaps he hasn’t played quite to a Pro Bowl level yet, but there aren’t many cornerbacks who have sustained his high level of play while also demonstrating prototypical skills over the last three years. He’s about to become very rich if the Bucs use the franchise tag on Chris Godwin.
Rank
5

Chandler Jones
Edge · Age: 32
Even if he’s not at his absolute peak as a pass rusher, Jones can juice up any defensive line on a short-term deal.
Rank
6

Tyrann Mathieu
S · Age: 30
This is my second year making this list without my great friend Chris Wesseling, and I heard his voice so clearly after I initially ranked Mathieu lower. It’s hard to put a price on the intelligence, competitiveness and coverage ability Honey Badger brings, but those traits explain how he’s set to get the third big, long-term deal of his career, despite being an undersized safety drafted in the third round. Wess was early to see Mathieu’s ferocious, versatile style for the transformative force that it was. Like so many people who crossed paths with Wess over the years, Mathieu returned the love.
Rank
7

Marcus Williams
S · Age: 26
Note that this is not a ranking of how much money each player will make. I appear to value top safeties more than NFL general managers do, and there are few safeties better and steadier than Williams.
Rank
8

Allen Robinson
WR · Age: 29
Was Robinson’s decline in 2021 mostly due to his situation? This ranking assumes that to be the case, because he was a borderline top-10 receiver until a discouraging season where it appeared he was playing out the string in Chicago.
Rank
9

Emmanuel Ogbah
Edge · Age: 28
If Ogbah had been drafted No. 1 overall, like Jadeveon Clowney, or played for the Cowboys, like Randy Gregory, this ranking wouldn’t be surprising. Ogbah has been producing like a star for years, without the recognition.

Rank
10

Brandon Scherff
OG · Age: 30
Like a larger version of Kirk Cousins, Scherff is finally going to hit free agency after being slapped with back-to-back franchise tags by Washington. Also like Cousins, I expect him to leave on a massive deal. Injuries are part of the equation (24 missed games in the last five years), but that shouldn’t stop teams from competing for the services of a five-time Pro Bowler.
Rank
11

Odell Beckham
WR · Age: 29
It makes sense for Beckham to stay in Los Angeles and rehab with the Rams after tearing his ACL in the Super Bowl. If I was an opposing general manager, though, I’d offer Beckham a strong long-term deal with guaranteed money now, because it would pay off in Years 2 and 3. Talents like Beckham aren’t often available.

Rank
12

Ryan Jensen
C · Age: 31
Jensen transformed from a very good center to a great one when Tom Brady arrived. He’s the heart and soul of the Bucs’ offensive line, but Tampa can’t keep everyone.
Rank
13

Stephon Gilmore
CB · Age: 31
One could have ranked Gilmore either too high or too low. I wimped out in the middle, because the veteran corner is such a mystery. He was graded well by Pro Football Focus last year, but he never looked explosive physically in the eight games he played with the Panthers, mostly on limited snap counts — and then he hurt his groin.
Rank
14

Duane Brown
OT · Age: 37
Brown solved the Seahawks’ left tackle problem in 2017; he probably had his worst year in Seattle last season before hitting free agency. He’ll turn 37 years old before the 2022 campaign kicks off, and he probably won’t continue to command top-tier money, but he shouldn’t be that far off.
Rank
15

Jameis Winston
QB · Age: 28
Winston tore his ACL just when he was starting to click in Sean Payton’s Saints offense. The ceiling of the former No. 1 overall pick is easily higher than those of the rest of the free-agent quarterbacks, and he proved last year he can succeed while playing with more caution.
Rank
16

Randy Gregory
Edge · Age: 29
Gregory was an All-Pro candidate before suffering a calf injury in Week 9, after which he never quite looked the same. He underwent knee surgery after the season. Betting on 16 games is a bit much, but he’s a difference-maker when right.

Rank
17

Jadeveon Clowney
Edge · Age: 29
After seven seasons where his sack totals didn’t reflect his true value, Clowney’s year in Cleveland went in the other direction, with his nine sacks masking what was probably his most up-and-down campaign. It’s worth wondering if all the injuries have taken a toll.
Rank
18

De’Vondre Campbell
LB · Age: 29
It’s amazing what the right scheme and position can do. Campbell moved to middle linebacker in Green Bay, which unlocked his versatility and playmaking to an All-Pro level. He should be a priority signing for the Packers after they searched for years for a player just like him.
Rank
19

Michael Gallup
WR · Age: 26
Outside starting receivers are so hard to find in free agency that Gallup should have a strong market, even coming off a torn ACL.
Rank
20

Calais Campbell
DL · Age: 36
There is no explanation for why Campbell is still this effective at his age, but he’s been “one of one” since he entered the league in 2008 and is worthy of another big one-year contract.
Rank
21

James Daniels
OG · Age: 24
One truism that has remained constant in all the years of ranking free agents: Above-average starting guards entering their second contract make huge money. It can only help that Daniels has center flexibility.
Rank
22

Haason Reddick
Edge · Age: 27
Reddick’s 23.5 sacks in the last two seasons can’t be wrong, although he did fail to generate much of a market last year. His total pressures in that span (99) aren’t as high as expected, but when he wins, he wins so quickly.
Rank
23

Melvin Ingram
Edge · Age: 33
It was weird when the Steelers gave up on Ingram during the 2021 season. It was familiar to see Ingram become a game-wrecker for the Chiefs down the stretch.
Rank
24

Rob Gronkowski
TE · Age: 33
It’s unclear if Gronk will play again, but he could. His run-blocking is the only part of his game that didn’t come with him to Tampa, and they don’t pay you for run-blocking.

Rank
25

Joe Noteboom
OT · Age: 27
He’s been excellent as a blind-side pass protector in nearly 1,000 combined snaps over the last two seasons. There’s no reason to think he can’t do it as a starter, which is why I wouldn’t be surprised if he gets a big deal to stay with the Rams, assuming Andrew Whitworth retires.
Rank
26

Teddy Bridgewater
QB · Age: 29
I’ve written and talked about Bridgewater so many times that even I’m sick of hearing myself. He’s just a tick under league average for a starting quarterback, and he would improve plenty of rosters, even if he’s not a permanent solution.
Rank
27

D.J. Jones
DT · Age: 27
Jones is a projection, but he excelled in his fifth season with the 49ers after earning more snaps. In a very thin free-agent class of defensive tackles, he has the best combination of youth, experience and potential.
Rank
28

Jerry Hughes
Edge · Age: 34
There are a lot of aging, effective defensive linemen available who can still get it done on a short-term deal. That market has proven to be among the most underpaid in free agency relative to production for years, and Hughes fits the criteria perfectly.
Rank
29

Quandre Diggs
S · Age: 29
Diggs was clearly the Seahawks’ best safety last season. It’s a little awkward.
Rank
30

Akiem Hicks
DL · Age: 32
Hicks’ signing in 2016 was one of the best free-agent deals of the last decade. He’s down a peg from his peak and has struggled to stay on the field, but he’d be great as a role player; just don’t expect star production.
Rank
31

Marcus Maye
S · Age: 29
A torn Achilles came at an awful time for Maye, who didn’t look that comfortable in Robert Saleh’s system before the injury. He was performing like a top-10 safety in 2019 and 2020.

Rank
32

Bradley Bozeman
C · Age: 27
Reliable young interior linemen are hard to find, and Bozeman is coming off his best season, just in time to hit free agency. He found a home at center after playing guard previously.
Rank
33

Russell Gage
WR · Age: 26
Russell Gage was such a stone-cold badass down the stretch of last season that I felt bad for how little I thought about Russell Gage before that.
Rank
34

Ben Jones
C · Age: 33
Jones has only missed one game in 10 NFL seasons. Basically, he’s Ryan Jensenwithout the hype, dirty plays or ass sweat.
Rank
35

JuJu Smith-Schuster
WR · Age: 25
Yes, that 1,400-yard season feels like a distant memory. JuJu will probably have to build up his value on a one-year deal with a functioning offense. Hint: Don’t turn down Patrick Mahomes again.
Rank
36

Trent Brown
OT · Age: 29
He’s a Pro Bowl, field-tilting talent if he’s healthy, if he’s motivated, if he’s with Bill Belichick. He has more value to the Patriots than anyone else — and even for New England, he’s a big risk.
Rank
37

D.J. Reed
CB · Age: 25
A fifth-round pick of San Francisco in 2018, Reed emerged over the last season and a half in Seattle as an outside cornerback who makes up for his size with incredible competitiveness. He reads the ball so well and is a blast to watch.
Rank
38

Christian Kirk
WR · Age: 25
Should I be disappointed he didn’t develop into something more in Arizona, or recognize that every great passing attack needs three to four receivers, and Kirk is a high-octane No. 3 option at worst?
Rank
39

Darious Williams
CB · Age: 29
While Williams didn’t match his breakout 2020 season again in 2021, he held up just fine as the dude everyone throws at because he’s not Jalen Ramsey. He’s a solid, scrappy starter with good ball skills.

Rank
40

Cordarrelle Patterson
RB/WR · Age: 31
I want to rank him higher. But after nearly a decade of watching four other teams use Patterson so poorly, I don’t trust him as an offensive threat anywhere but with Falcons coach Arthur Smith.
Rank
41

Evan Engram
TE · Age: 28
The Giants could never unlock Engram’s full potential and he hasn’t been durable, but someone is going to fall in love with those movement skills. I did, and I refuse to take the L.
Rank
42

Laken Tomlinson
OG · Age: 30
The former Lions afterthought rebuilt his career in San Francisco as a premier run-blocker. He would fit perfectly in any of the Shanahan-like offenses around the league.
Rank
43

Will Fuller
WR · Age: 28
Fuller missed time in 2021 due to a PED suspension, a personal issue and a broken finger. It’s safe to say there are red flags, but the man sure can run fast!
Rank
44

Eric Fisher
OT · Age: 31
Fisher took his first snaps as a Colt just eight months removed from tearing his Achilles and had his worst season since his rookie year. That could make him a better value this offseason.
Rank
45

Connor Williams
OG · Age: 25
Williams’ PFF grade has improved significantly over his last three seasons. Cowboys fans and smart analysts are consistently less impressed. The truth is usually in the middle, though Williams always seems to underperform in big moments.
Rank
46

Bilal Nichols
DL · Age: 25
He can shoot gaps or occupy blockers and plays multiple positions. I love versatile defensive linemen who can fit in most systems.
Rank
47

Rasul Douglas
CB · Age: 27
Cornerback is an inherently volatile position. That’s how Douglas could get cut twice last year … before getting plucked off the Cardinals’ practice squad by the Packers and going on to have one of the best seasons of any cornerback in football. He probably won’t repeat it, but above-average starter play is a reasonable expectation.

Rank
48

Bryce Callahan
CB · Age: 30
Callahan is one of the league’s better slot corners when he’s available. His size (5-9, 188) and possibly related injury history are the only reasons he’s not ranked higher.
Rank
49

Alex Cappa
OG · Age: 27
The Bucs will be more desperate to keep Cappa following Ali Marpet’s surprise retirement.
Rank
50

D.J. Chark
WR · Age: 25
Chark’s 2019 season showed his upside. His speed makes him a good fit as a No. 2 receiver on a lot of offenses.
Rank
51

James Conner
RB · Age: 27
Conner’s fantasy value was even greater than his real-world value. His receiving skills make him a strong three-down option.

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