1 Move Every NFL Team Should Make Before the 2022 Season Begins

Brent SobleskiJuly 5, 2022

1 Move Every NFL Team Should Make Before the 2022 Season Begins

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    T-minus two months and counting before the 2022 NFL campaign begins.

    There's much less time between now and Sept. 8, when the Buffalo Bills open the season against the Los Angeles Rams at SoFi Stadium, than everyone thinks.

    The first rookies report to training camps in two weeks. From there, competition will commence for roster and starting spots. The preseason will eventually come into focus with the Hall of Fame Game on Aug. 4 between the Jacksonville Jaguars and Las Vegas Raiders before the 30 other teams kick into gear the following week.

    Between now and the start of the regular season, much can still be accomplished for each of the franchises.

    In many cases, bookkeeping is the most pressing concern, with star players looking for new contracts. High-profile battles will ensue. Also, significant roster movement can occur based on possible trade scenarios.

    There's plenty left to do for every team before the official kickoff. The following moves are the most pressing for each situation.

Arizona Cardinals: Extend QB Kyler Murray

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    The relationship between the Arizona Cardinals and quarterback Kyler Murray has been rocky this offseason.

    Murray scrubbed his social media account of team references in February. His agent then released a statement about the quarterback wanting a new deal. Both of these occurred around the same time that ESPN's Chris Mortensen reported some within the organization viewed Murray as "self-centered, immature and a finger-pointer."

    The 24-year-old quarterback skipped the first portion of optional organized team activities too.

    The fact remains that both sides need each other.

    The Cardinals may be hesitant to extend the 2019 No. 1 overall pick until they see growth. In doing so, they run the risk of creating a further divide between the two even though Murray is one of the game's best young quarterbacks.

    From Murray's perspective, he must let perceived slights go so he can get the extension he wants now instead of waiting another year or two.

    A long-term commitment will allow both to grow together and remain viable at the game's most important position.

Atlanta Falcons: Create Open Competition at QB

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    The Atlanta Falcons must be realistic about their chances this season and assess the best way to move into the future.

    Currently, they have the second-longest odds at DraftKings to win the Super Bowl. The roster is clearly in transition after the front office traded the franchise's all-time leading passer, Matt Ryan, to the Indianapolis Colts this offseason.

    There could be an opportunity to expedite the rebuilding process if Atlanta isn't dead set on starting a veteran quarterback over a rookie.

    "As with any position, the best guy is going to play," head coach Arthur Smith said after the draft, per The Athletic's Josh Kendall. "With Marcus [Mariota] being the veteran, that's the way it'll go for now."

    According to ESPN's Michael Rothstein, Mariota is "far ahead" of third-round rookie Desmond Ridder heading into traning camp. However, Smith previously told reporters that Ridder is "light-years ahead of most other young quarterbacks from the neck up."

    An open competition should ensue between the two, with an edge going to the rookie if it's close.

Baltimore Ravens: Extend QB Lamar Jackson

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    Lamar Jackson was the NFL MVP in 2019 and one of the unique quarterbacks talents the league has ever seen. He's earned a long-term extension with the Baltimore Ravens.

    Even so, the two sides have yet to reach a new deal. Jackson's commitment to the team and his craft aren't in question.

    "Yes, I've always told you, Lamar [Jackson] works tremendously hard. That hasn't changed. My opinion of that hasn't changed," quarterbacks coach James Urban told reporters last week. "What I see from what he's done hasn’t changed a bit. He works very, very hard. It's very important to him, and there's no question about that."

    The current setup is simply business. Jackson, who represents himself, wouldn't even commit to showing up to training camp when asked during June minicamp.

    The market is set for a deal to get done. Seven different quarterbacks now make $40 million or more annually, whereas Jackson's actual cash earnings for 2022 ($23 million) rank 15th.

    Just the fact that Jackson could enter the fifth and final year of his rookie deal without a long-term extension seems ludicrous based on his performance and how the franchise built the entire offense around his skill set.

Buffalo Bills: Extend S Jordan Poyer

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    Safety Jordan Poyer isn't ready to leave the Buffalo Bills by any means, but the organization can reward one of its steadiest players with a new contract.

    "I can't really think of a better situation for me to be in than Buffalo right now," Poyer said during a recent interview on the Inside the Garage podcast.

    The 31-year-old defensive back is about to enter the final year on his contract, and a new deal can benefit both the player and team.

    Going into last year's divisional-round loss to the Kansas City Chiefs, Poyer hadn't allowed a touchdown in 530 consecutive coverage snaps and posted the sixth-best coverage grade among safeties since the start of the 2017 campaign, per Pro Football Focus.

    Poyer is a critical component to a defense that finished No. 1 overall last season.

    For Buffalo, a new deal could lower this year's salary-cap hit and create more financial flexibility. Poyer holds a $10.8 million cap charge. By lengthening his deal and adding a new signing bonus, the team can spread out the number incurred this year while also giving Poyer the type of security he prefers.

Carolina Panthers: Trade for QB Baker Mayfield

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    Two teams, the Carolina Panthers and Seattle Seahawks, have reportedly been the front-runners for quarterback Baker Mayfield since the Cleveland Browns acquired Deshaun Watson.

    Of the two, the Panthers appear to be more desperate to address the position after pursuing every avenue to get better under center. That could ultimately drive them toward coming closest to Cleveland's asking price.

    "I happen to think Carolina's not a good fit for him, and I know Baker's agents well," Mike Sando said during The Athletic Football Show. "... I think Carolina’s a hornet's nest cuz I think the coach's under the gun, I think everybody there's under the gun. They’ve got an owner who's ready to press the button any day now on a reset, and if I'm Baker, that could be ugly and messy. That's why I come back to saying Seattle is the one spot for him."

    Carolina may not be the best landing spot for Mayfield, but the Panthers must do what's best for their organization. Mayfield is a clear upgrade over Sam Darnold and still brings some long-term potential, even though he'll operate on the last year of his rookie deal in 2022.

Chicago Bears: Sign WR Julio Jones

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    The Chicago Bears own the league's worst wide receiver corps. Beyond Darnell Mooney, who posted his first 1,000-yard campaign last year, the position group doesn't feature another proven threat.

    Why not make a play for the best wide receiver of his generation?

    Julio Jones isn't the same target he once was. He's now 33 years old, hasn't posted a 1,000-yard season since 2019 and the cumulation of injuries have limited his once-dominant skill set. He's coming off the worst season of his career with 31 receptions for 434 yards in 10 games while dealing with a balky hamstring.

    The reasons why he remains on the free-agent market provide the Bears with an opportunity to sign the two-time NFL receiving yardage leader.

    For Jones, Chicago may not be the most enticing landing spot, since it is not considered a potential contender this season. However, the franchise has the fifth-most available salary-cap space, and Jones would have a chance to be a top-two target within the offense.

    The Bears could use Jones' veteran presence, not only to help sophomore quarterback Justin Fields but also to develop an underwhelming group of targets, including this year's third-round draft pick, Velus Jones Jr.

Cincinnati Bengals: Extend S Jessie Bates III

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    The Cincinnati Bengals have always been known as one of the more frugal NFL franchises. Even when they make big free-agent signings or contract extensions, they're often structured with less guaranteed money than the market typically reflects.

    For example, the franchise signed three offensive linemen to fix the team's protection issues, and each had a third or less of his contract guaranteed. While these numbers can vary, that approach doesn't help with the team's franchise player, safety Jessie Bates III.

    Cincinnati slapped the franchise tag on Bates earlier this offseason. According to ESPN's Jeremy Fowler, the 25-year-old defensive back doesn't intend to play under the franchise tag, and a source intimated Bates may hold out of training camp. Minkah Fitzpatrick's four-year, $73.6 million contract extension with the Pittsburgh Steelers certainly didn't help matters.

    "The Bengals will not be paying that kind of money," The Athletic's Paul Dehner Jr. wrote. "Fitzpatrick’s contract essentially ensures Bates will land in the vicinity of that type of deal if he hits free agency in March. Somebody will pay it. It won’t be the Bengals."

    Cincinnati might not need to make Bates the game's highest-paid safety. A fair offer could go a long way, though, and the front office should exhaust its options before giving up on the possibility of a long-term deal.

Cleveland Browns: Sign WR Will Fuller V

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    Putting aside a potential suspension for quarterback Deshaun Watson for a moment, there's other uncertainty on the Cleveland Browns.

    Two positions, wide receiver and defensive tackle, remain glaring weaknesses even on one of the league's most talented overall rosters. The front office seems to have little interest in fixing the defensive interior since the position isn't prioritized, but wide receiver could use a major boost beyond Amari Cooper.

    Significant potential can be found in the young wide receivers. Donovan Peoples-Jones flashed in his age-22 campaign, and former teammate Odell Beckham Jr. called the 2020 sixth-round pick a "monster. Just wait on it."

    The team has three more recent draft picks to develop in the speedster Anthony Schwartz (4.27 40-yard dash), David Bell and Michael Woods II. Bell could become a significant contributor as a rookie after being a two-time first-team All-Big Ten selection.

    Clearly, there's upside among the group. At the same time, Cleveland should consider other options.

    Will Fuller V has dealt with injuries throughout his career. He only played in two games last season after suffering a broken thumb. But when healthy, Fuller is a legitimate vertical threat with four seasons of experience playing alongside Watson. At 28 years old, Fuller can agree to something longer than a one-year deal as Cleveland awaits a disciplinary verdict regarding the quarterback's status.

    Recently, Watson settled with 20 of the 24 women who filed civil lawsuits accusing him of sexual assault or sexual misconduct during massage sessions. Tony Buzbee, the lawyer for the women, has said he plans to take the other four cases to trial.

    Watson, who has denied the allegations against him, attended an NFL disciplinary hearing last week. NFL Network's Ian Rapoport reported a decision on the length of any suspension could come following post-hearing briefs from both Watson and the league's legal teams during the week of July 11.

Dallas Cowboys Sign TE Dalton Schultz to Long-Term Deal

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    The Dallas Cowboys have never been afraid of paying their homegrown stars.

    Three players the Cowboys originally drafted—running back Ezekiel Elliott, left tackle Tyron Smith and guard Zack Martin—went on to become the highest-paid player at their respective positions for at least a short period of time. Quarterback Dak Prescott also holds the game's fourth-largest contract.

    The idea of the Cowboys now trying to nickel-and-dime this year's franchise player, tight end Dalton Schultz, is laughable. According to CBS Sports' Patrik Walker, the two sides aren't close on a multiyear contract extension.

    "I want to work out a long-term deal and I think they do too," Schultz told reporters in April. "Hopefully, we can get that done. But just knowing where I'm going to be for the next year, I'm happy with."

    Last season, Schultz finished top five among tight ends with 78 receptions and eight touchdown catches. He also generated the highest passing grade at his position when targeted 20 or more yards downfield, according to Pro Football Focus. His continued development after being a fourth-round pick in the 2018 NFL draft deserves to be rewarded.

Denver Broncos Extend Edge Bradley Chubb

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    Injuries seem to be the only thing holding Bradley Chubb back from becoming one of the game's best edge defenders.

    As a rookie, Chubb registered an impressive 12 sacks. The 2018 fifth overall pick suffered a partially torn ACL during his sophomore campaign. He emerged as a Pro Bowler in 2020, only to have last season cut short by an ankle injury.

    "He looks good,” new Denver Broncos defensive coordinator Ejiro Evero told reporters during mandatory minicamp. "He's feeling good; he's looking good. He's expecting to have a big year, and we're expecting the same thing from him."

    Because of Chubb's injury history, the Broncos could slow-play a contract extension. If they wait, they could have to pay significantly more to keep Chubb.

    "You can tell that he's comfortable," defensive lineman Mike Purcell said last month. "Last year with the ankle—even coming around the edge—he would say that he could feel it. But now, you can see him coming around that edge and it's nothing. He can bend and move, so he's looking how he was his rookie year."

    They might get a discount if they extend him before the season starts, and that's what they should do.

Detroit Lions Extend TE T.J. Hockenson

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    The Detroit Lions saw something special in tight end T.J. Hockenson to make him the eighth overall pick in the 2019 NFL draft.

    His value is different compared to someone like Kyle Pitts, who followed as a top-10 pick just two years later. Pitts is a unicorn in how he's the size of a tight end with the traits of a wide receiver. Hockenson's skill set is also rare in today's game because he's capable of affecting a game as a receiver and a blocker.

    The 25-year-old tight end finished second on the team in receiving yards the last two seasons and earned a Pro Bowl nod in 2020. Negotiations for a long-term extension should be on the table already since Hockenson's window to discuss a new deal opened this offseason.

    According to ESPN's Jeremy Fowler, the Lions and the tight end's representation "could knock out a deal this summer." They've yet to do so, but they should.

    The Lions are slowly building their roster under the direction of general manager Brad Holmes and head coach Dan Campbell. Hockenson joins Amon-Ra St. Brown, Penei Sewell, Aidan Hutchinson and Jameson Williams as the pieces who will form the franchise's identity for years to come.

Green Bay Packers Sign Edge Justin Houston

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    Rashan Gary's development from a toolsy first-round pick into one of the league's most consistent pass-rushers has been impressive. His progression allowed the Green Bay Packers to move on from former NFL Defensive Player of the Year candidate Za'Darius Smith.

    Smith's back injury last season allowed Gary to grow into a full-time role, thus making the two-time Pro Bowl selection expendable. The Packers released Smith before the start of the new league year and saved $15.3 million.

    With Smith's release, the Packers' trio of talented edge defenders is now a duo without proven depth behind either. Tipa Galeai and fifth-round rookie Kingsley Enagbare have the potential to develop into solid rotational pieces. The Packers can hedge their bets by signing a proven veteran, like Justin Houston.

    Houston is 33 years old, but he's still a capable edge defender who can set the edge and apply pressure on opposing quarterbacks. He's no longer a starting-caliber player, but he can eat up quality reps as part of a rotation.

    A possible hang-up exists since the Baltimore Ravens placed the unrestricted free-agent tag on Houston, per ESPN's Field Yates. An interested team must sign Houston before July 22 or his rights revert back to the Ravens this season at 110 percent rate of last year's salary.

Houston Texans Sign S Landon Collins

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    The Houston Texans are searching for an identity and legitimate building blocks for their roster.

    Landon Collins is one of the top remaining free agents at 28 years old. He could easily sign a three- or four-year deal and see the entirety of the contract while playing a relatively high level.

    The Washington Commanders made two mistakes with Collins' handling. First, they made him the league's highest-paid safety by far after three straight Pro Bowl campaigns with the New York Giants. Second, Washington's coaching staff converted Collins to linebacker last season.

    "I'm a team player," Collins told reporters in October. "Do I like playing down there? I'm good at it. If I'm good at it, I'll play there. If I need to be played there, cool. Other than that, do I like playing linebacker? No. No, I don't. I don't like hitting big linemen, getting big linemen off me. I'm undersized for being a linebacker."

    The seven-year veteran can provide an ideal complementary piece to what the Texans already have at safety. Eric Murray, Terrence Brooks, Jalen Pitre and M.J. Stewart present cornerback flexibility, whereas Collins is closer to a traditional box safety. The latter can serve as the unit's intimidator.

Indianapolis Colts Extend OG Quenton Nelson

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    Quenton Nelson's price tag is only going to increase as the market shifts. But the guard market isn't what the Indianapolis Colts should be closely watching.

    "Nelson, 26, is widely considered the NFL's best guard by a wide margin and could want closer to $20 million annually," ESPN's Jeremy Fowler reported. "I have heard the same sentiment from several veteran agents: Nelson will break the bank."

    Brandon Scherff is the game's highest-paid guard at $16.5 million annually.

    Nelson's value might be reflective of the offensive tackle market. Fourteen different tackles, including Nelson's teammate Braden Smith, make more than Scherff. If the Colts were to start the negotiation at a price just above Smith's, Nelson's next deal will likely reach or even exceed $18 million annually.

    Only three left tackles—the San Francisco 49ers' Trent Williams, Green Bay Packers' David Bakhtiari and Houston Texans' Laremy Tunsil—make $20 million on average per season.

    Generally, the Colts take a draft-and-develop approach and prefer to extend their homegrown talent. Nelson is well on his way to becoming one of the best blockers the game has ever seen. The sooner the Colts lock in Nelson's rate, the better.

Jacksonville Jaguars Trade Edge K'Lavon Chaisson

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    New regimes create new opportunities. Conversely, a new general manager and/or head coach has no ties to the team's previous investments and draft picks.

    K'Lavon Chaisson is already on his second general manager and third full-time head coach since the Jaguars choose him with the 20th pick in the 2020 NFL draft.

    Organizational instability changes the dynamic for a first-round selection. The current setup could both help and harm Chaisson's standing.

    From a schematic point of view, the LSU product should fit well in Mike Caldwell's system as a standup edge. However, the team also used this year's No. 1 overall pick on Travon Walker, who will convert to outside linebacker.

    With Walker and Josh Allen as the team's primary edge defenders, the Jaguars are sitting on another first-round investment as a rotational piece. General manager Trent Baalke may hold onto Chaisson for another year or two as he plays under his rookie deal and helps create more flexibility along the defensive front.

    Or he could trade him to a franchise with a starting spot for a soon-to-be 23-year-old brimming with upside. Dealing him now might result in the best return package.

Kansas City Chiefs: Extend LT Orlando Brown

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    Orlando Brown doesn't need to worry about how much the Kansas City Chiefs value him after what the organization traded to acquire his services.

    Then, the organization placed the franchise tackle on the 6'8", 345-pound blocker this offseason.

    A contract extension is a natural progression with this relationship, though the two sides have yet to reach one.

    Brown made the Pro Bowl in his first season with the Chiefs. He helped serve as the anchor of a much-improved front five. The current expectation is for something to get done between the two parties sooner rather than later.

    "I'm not doing a whole lot of conversing with him, but (general manager Brett Veach) and his crew are. … These things don't ever happen overnight. That's not how it works," head coach Andy Reid told reporters during the team's minicamp. "But they'll work through it. And I know both sides will handle it the right way and come to a spot there that's good for both Orlando and the team."

Las Vegas Raiders: Insert Dylan Parham into Lineup, Let O-Line Gel

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    By committing to Dylan Parham as the starting right guard from the onset of training camp, the Las Vegas Raiders can provide definitive guidelines for two different positions.

    Parham became the franchise's top draft pick this year, albeit in the third round with the 90th overall selection. General manager Dave Ziegler talked about the blocker's increased value because of his ability to play all five positions.

    "Definitely a part of the allure, the value. Again, we talked about it last week, the value of a guy that can come in and play two spots just adds depth to your team," Ziegler told reporters. "That's an important part of the evaluation. ... Really what we're going to do is we'll let him come in and see what he can do. The more that he can do, we're going to allow him to do."

    The argument laid forth is the wrong approach in this particular case. The Raiders' offensive line needs consistency, particularly along the right side.

    Parham can immediately slot at right guard, while the question of whether Alex Leatherwood will be the right tackle or guard is quieted. Let these two young linemen settle into a spot, establish a comfort level and allow the entire unit to gel.

Los Angeles Chargers: Extend S Derwin James Jr.

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    Los Angeles Chargers' Derwin James Jr. is the template for a modern NFL defender.

    James is a 6'2", 215-pound defensive back capable of playing both safety spots, lining up over the slot, playing in the box and blitzing opposing quarterbacks. He's a defensive weapon used like a queen on a chess board.

    Because of his versatility, the Chargers don't need to substitute as often or get caught in as many mismatches. The 25-year-old, two-time first-team All-Pro earned the right to be counted among the league's highest-paid safeties as he enters the final year of his rookie contract.

    A source told USA Today's Tyler Dragon that "the Chargers and Derwin James have started preliminary discussions on a long-term extension ... The thinking is a long-term deal will get done before the start of the regular season."

    Understandably, some trepidation may exist on the organization's side since James is building a lengthy injury history. Yet his quality of on-field play and how it changes the complexion of the Chargers' defense make a contract extension worth the risk.

    With Joey Bosa, Mike Williams, J.C. Jackson (through free agency), and James all locked up, the Chargers can concentrate on an extension for quarterback Justin Herbert next offseason.

Los Angeles Rams: Re-Sign WR Odell Beckham Jr.

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    Head coach Sean McVay hasn't been shy about wanting wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. back in a Los Angeles Rams uniform.

    "Oh, of course. I really want Odell back on our team," McVay said during an appearance on The Rich Eisen Show (h/t Sports Illustrated's Mike Fisher) in May. "He's a guy that, in a short amount of time, we were able to develop a really special relationship. I thought he brought a great spark to our team. I thought he played really well. He's a great teammate."

    The comments came a month after Beckham tweeted he'd love to re-sign whenever the Rams send him a "real offer."

    Los Angeles already signed Allen Robinson II to a three-year, $46.5 million free-agent deal this offseason. Despite the addition, the door still seems open for Beckham to rejoin the team.

    From the wide receiver's perspective, he probably feels he's owed more than last year's minimal one-year deal. Beckham revealed he played through a torn ACL during his time with the team and still nearly won the Super Bowl MVP before his knee gave out for good.

    Beckham's market won't be lucrative since he's still recovering from said injury. Another chance to thrive in the Rams' system is his best path toward getting the eventual payday he wants.

Miami Dolphins: Remain Fully Committed to QB Tua Tagovailoa

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    That moment when asking a little actually means a lot. The Miami Dolphins have failed to fully commit to quarterback Tua Tagovaolia for any real amount of time.

    As a rookie, the organization rushed the fifth overall pick into the lineup even when veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick was playing relatively well. Why? The front office and ownership wanted to know what it had in the lefty prior to the 2021 draft just in case they had an opportunity to draft a better quarterback prospect, per ESPN's Adam Schefter.

    A year later, a trade for Deshaun Watson fell apart when the quarterback, who faced 22 civil lawsuits from women accusing him of sexual assault or sexual misconduct at the time, couldn't settle out of court with all of the plaintiffs, according to FOX Sports' Jay Glazer (h/t The Comeback).

    Basically, Tagovailoa enters his third year without any legitimate backing, and it's already being framed as a make-or-break year after adding wide receiver Tyreek Hill, running back Chase Edmonds, fullback Alec Ingold, left tackle Terron Armstead and guard/center Connor Williams to the lineup.

    Maybe, just maybe, Miami can finally place Tagovailoa into a situation primed for success, believe in him and follow through with legitimate support.

Minnesota Vikings: Open Competition at Center

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    Garrett Bradbury knows this season could very well be his last with the Minnesota Vikings after the organization chose not to pick up his fifth-year rookie options.

    "Bradbury admitted he has to be 'more consistent,'" the St. Paul Pioneer Press' Chris Tomasson tweeted. "Said he played at 295 pounds last year and is now 305-310. 'I'm putting on weight... so I'm feeling really good.' Said he put on weight by 'lifting and eating. Beef and ice cream. Just eating everything that I can.'"

    The Vikings chose Bradbury with the 18th overall pick in the 2019 draft. His lateral agility and overall athleticism helped teams overlook the fact he didn't hold up well at the point of attack. The issue has only been magnified at the professional level.

    Instead of handing Bradbury the job for another season, the Minnesota Vikings can sign a J.C. Tretter or create an open competition between the incumbent and backup Austin Schlottmann. Maybe the Vikings even consider moving this year's 59th overall pick, Ed Ingram, over the ball. Ingram played some center at this year's Senior Bowl.

New England Patriots: Extend LT Isaiah Wynn

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    The New England Patriots are often locked up tighter than Fort Knox when trying to pry information out of the organization. Everyone knows the following regarding offensive lineman Isiah Wynn...

    1. He started all but one career game at left tackle.

    2. Wynn ended last season on injured reserve due to a knee injury and missed 15 games during his first three seasons.

    3. The 2018 23rd overall pick will play under his rookie fifth-year option this season if a contract extension isn't reached.

    4. The left tackle didn't show up for voluntary activities this offseason and exclusively played right tackle at mandatory minicamp.

    "I ain't worried about no contract right now," Wynn told reporters in June. "I'm focused on being the best player I can be for the team, so we can move forward to the season. I'm not worried about any of that right now. That will come when it comes."

    It might not come, and the Patriots would be making a mistake if so.

    Yes, Wynn's injury history and sometimes inconsistent play are concerning. But his age, 26, and versatility make him a valuable part of the team's foundation. If anything, an extension now might be favorable for the organization based on all of the previous points.

New Orleans Saints: Extend DB C.J. Gardner-Johnson

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    The New Orleans secondary has the potential to be one of the league's very best for an extended period depending on what the organization does with a possible contract extension for C.J. Gardner-Johnson.

    Both Tyrann Mathieu and Marcus Maye signed three-year free-agent deals this offseason to serve as the team's starting safeties. Cornerback Marshon Lattimore is signed through the 2026 campaign. Lattimore's bookend, Paulson Adebo, still has three years remaining on his rookie deal.

    Johnson-Gardner is the glue, though. He's going to chirp and get under the opponent's skin while playing over the slot at a high level. The hybrid defender brings a certain amount of physicality and energy to the unit. Currently, the 2019 fourth-round draft pick is set to play this season under an expiring rookie contract.

    CJG is good, and he knows it.

    "I ain't got no respect here, as in the league doesn't respect me," he told reporters. "They don't respect me, bro. I'm the menace. That's what y'all call me. Y'all ain't never said I was the best nickel in the league yet. I say that more than y'all say that."

    By extending Gardner-Johnson now, the Saints secondary will be on lock until at least 2024.

New York Giants: Sign RB David Johnson

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    The potential signing of a backup, 30-year-old running back probably isn't too thrilling for New York Giants faithful. Sometimes the right move isn't the flashy one.

    David Johnson will never be the back everyone imagined when he could be when he posted 2,118 yards from scrimmage during the 2016 campaign. Injuries and an outrageous contract extension already saw to that.

    Nonetheless, Johnson proved he can be a solid contributor as part of a running back rotation. As such, some interest continues to percolate around the league. Johnson already visited the New Orleans Saints earlier this offseason.

    For the Giants, the team should hedge a bit regarding Saquon Barkley's future. His injury history alone makes depth at the position a necessity. The 2018 second-overall draft pick hasn't played a full season since his rookie campaign, thanks to ankle issues and a torn ACL.

    Matt Breida, Gary Brightwell Jr. and Antonio Williams are projected as New York's running back depth. Breida bounced between three teams over the last three seasons, while Brightwell and Williams have a combined 12 career rushing attempts.

    If the Giants aren't entirely comfortable with Johnson at this point in his career, they could call the Cleveland Browns and possibly trade for D'Ernest Johnson, dependent on giving up a draft asset.

New York Jets: Commit to Mekhi Becton at One Tackle Spot

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    While a commitment to Mekhi Becton seems a benign request since he's clearly set to start at one of the tackle positions, the discussion surrounding the 2020 11th overall draft pick is far less tranquil.

    In October, Pro Football Network's Tony Pauline reported that "people close to the organization [felt] Becton has a bit of growing up to do. One source said Becton taps out a lot—he taps out of plays, taps out of games and does not work very hard. The team was upset when Becton showed up to camp this summer overweight and out of shape."

    As the end of 2021 neared, Pauline noted the Jets' offensive coaches were "done with Becton." At the Senior Bowl, sources told Pauline that George Fant had "been informed the left tackle position is his to lose."

    These reports came after the team fined Becton "heavily" as a rookie for not making weight, and he even acknowledged his detractors during last year's training camp by wearing a shirt labeled "Big Bust."

    By giving Becton a clear understanding of what's asked of him—whether it's at right or left tackle—the coaching staff provides a better chance at success in the long term.

Philadelphia Eagles: Trade OT Andre Dillard

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    Typically, a team doesn't actively look to trade away offensive line depth. One injury can derail the entire position group. But the Philadelphia Eagles are different.

    The Eagles claim the league's best offensive front, according to Pro Football Focus. More importantly, significant depth can be found along the trenches.

    Originally, Philadelphia chose Andre Dillard with the 22nd overall pick in the 2019 draft. The plan allowed for Dillard to learn under Jason Peters and then serve as his heir apparent.

    Instead, Jordan Mailata, whom the team chose in the seventh round a year earlier after not playing collegiate football, emerged as a force at left tackle. Malaita now serves as Jalen Hurts' blindside protector. The Eagles rewarded the native Australian with a four-year, $64 million contract extension last September.

    Dillard, meanwhile, is stuck in a backup role as he enters the final year of his rookie deal. As a former first-round pick at a premium position, the Eagles still have some leverage with teams in search of O-line help and should take advantage before Dillard walks next offseason.

    Philadelphia still has Le'Raven Clark on the roster. Clark has started 16 games throughout his five-year career.

Pittsburgh Steelers: Immediately Name Kenny Pickett Starter

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    The Pittsburgh Steelers drafted Kenny Pickett, who turns 24 before the start of the regular season, with the 20th overall pick in this year's draft. However, they plan to open the campaign with Mitch Trubisky behind center. The idea borders on nonsensical.

    The Steelers spent all offseason searching for their franchise quarterback. They closely evaluated all of their available options in the draft and settled on Pickett. Internally, the team viewed him as the most pro-ready of the bunch.

    "It's almost like he spent his rookie NFL season at the college level and really mastered it," former Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert, who selected Pickett before retiring, said during an interview on Pittsburgh's 105.9 The X (h/t ESPN's Brooke Pryor).

    "Coach [Pat] Narduzzi and coach [Mark] Whipple provided him an opportunity to take that step in a pro schematic. And it is easier to project those types of players and those schematics to our level. It's not that the others that play in a more college-type offense can't do it—it's just more guesswork."

    Let's be done with the farcical, "He needs to earn the spot." Contracts and draft status often dictate roster decisions. Pickett will be the Steelers' starting quarterback and should be from the start of training camp to get as many quality reps as possible in preparation for the 2022 campaign.

San Francisco 49ers: Sign C J.C. Tretter

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    Alex Mack's retirement changes the complexion of the San Francisco 49ers' offensive line.

    Plenty of talent still exists among the group, of course, particularly with left tackle Trent Williams. However, Mack served as the starting center for head coach Kyle Shanahan at three different stops. He became the spearhead for the entire unit because of his intelligence to call protections and the natural ability to excel in the zone-heavy scheme.

    While J.C. Tretter didn't directly replace Mack as the Cleveland Browns' starting center, only one season existed between their two tenures with the franchise.

    Tretter, who doubles as the NFLPA president, remains one of the top available free agents after the Browns released him earlier this offseason. Cleveland saved $8.25 million with the center's release, and the team already had a replacement in place after developing Nick Harris for the last two seasons.

    Like Mack, Tretter excels in calling protections and leading a zone-heavy scheme. Tretter, who has dealt with knee issues, was graded as the league's second-best pass-blocking center in each of the last three seasons, per Pro Football Focus.

Seattle Seahawks: Extend WR DK Metcalf

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    The Seattle Seahawks can't run the risk of potential contract negotiations turning into a bigger point of contention with wide receiver DK Metcalf beyond his current holdout.

    Metcalf is only 24 years old and the Seahawks' most recognizable star. He's also one of the game's best wide receivers, recording 216 receptions, 3,170 yards and 29 touchdowns during his first three seasons.

    In the middle of an offseason where multiple wide receivers leveraged their way into a trade and new contacts, Seattle general manager John Schneider should do everything in his power to keep Metcalf happy. By doing so, the Seahawks can legitimately formulate a plan to reboot the franchise.

    Right now, the Seahawks aren't settled at quarterback, with Drew Lock and Geno Smith as their top options. Cleary, the organization wants to rebuild its defense and piece together the best possible offensive supporting cast to eventually plop a talented, young quarterback into the cockpit—whether the franchise trades for Baker Mayfield or waits until next year's draft.

    The latter can't happen without the league's most physically intimidating wide receiver on the roster.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Sign TE Jared Cook

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    Maybe Rob Gronkowski is finally gone from football for good. Whether he is or not, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers must operate as if the tight end won't be with the team this fall.

    Cameron Brate remains on the roster and gives the Bucs a solid starting option. Nonetheless, another receiving threat from the position can be added based on how much quarterback Tom Brady likes to target his tight ends. Last season, the future Hall of Fame signal-caller threw to his trio of tight ends 167 times.

    Gronkowski isn't the only option gone since O.J. Howard signed with the Buffalo Bills as a free agent.

    Tampa Bay did draft a pair of tight ends this offseason, but Cade Otton and Ko Kieft heard their names called in the fourth and sixth rounds, respectively. They're not going to be immediately handed roles in an already established offense.

    General manager Jason Licht should pursue another veteran option, with Jared Cook being the best remaining receiving threat of the bunch. The 35-year-old tight end caught 48 passes last season for 564 yards and four touchdowns.

Tennessee Titans: Rework Derrick Henry's Contract

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    A reworked or possibly new deal should be in Derrick Henry's future.

    "It's always good to get a promotion at your job," Henry told reporters at mandatory minicamp. " ... Yeah, man, I'm just trying to work through that. I'm currently still under contract, and if that's what the future holds, then, yeah, that would be great."

    The Tennessee Titans are open to the idea, too, according to ESPN's Jeremy Fowler.

    Henry is arguably the game's best running back. At worst, he's the second- or third-best (depending on how a person feels about Jonathan Taylor and Nick Chubb) since he's coming off his first injury-plagued campaign. The two-time NFL rushing leader missed nine regular-season contests because of a Jones fracture in his foot.

    This year, Henry's $15 million salary-cap charge is the second largest of any running back. The number increases by a half-a-million in 2023.

    The Titans can reduce those numbers in the short term, thus creating extra salary-cap space that can be used elsewhere, while extending his current deal to make sure the 28-year-old old freight train is with the Titans for the majority, if not all, of his career.

Washington Commanders: Sign CB Joe Haden

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    Now that Terry McLaurin's new contract is out of the way, the Washington Commanders can address other areas of the roster, with cornerback being a significant position of interest.

    The Commanders aren't especially deep in their secondary.

    William Jackson III, Kendall Fuller and Benjamin St-Juste are the team's top three corners, with the flexibility of safeties Kamren Curl and Bobby McCain to drop into coverage. The unit's overall cornerback depth is suspect, with Danny Johnson and Christian Holmes as the primary backup options. Johnson has played in 26 games the last two seasons with only one start, and Holmes is a seventh-round rookie.

    The addition of an established veteran would go a long way to solidifying this group after it finished 29th in pass defense last season.

    Joe Haden is 33 years old and likely wants to play for a contender. While Washington certainly isn't counted among the NFC's best teams, the roster can compete in the NFC East and the weaker of the two conferences. Futhermore, the allure of playing near home—Haden is a greater Washington D.C. area native—might sway a decision in the team's favor.


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