Best Free-Agent Option Remaining for Every NFL Team
The Buffalo Bills and Los Angeles Rams are set to play on Thursday night, and with that game, the 2022 NFL season will officially commence.
The end of a long offseason is in sight, and teams have taken a lot of steps to get to this point. Between the predraft process, free agency, draft weekend, minicamps, training camp, the preseason and final roster cuts, rosters have not come together quickly or easily. However, franchises have finally settled on the teams they'll carry into 2022.
Or have they? The reality is that several quality players are still available, and many will be picked up in the coming weeks and months. The free-agent pool got even deeper with last week's cutdown to 53 players.
Where will the best remaining free agents land? That's anyone's guess. However, we're here to examine where they would best fit. We'll dive into factors like past production, player upside, team needs, scheme fit and cap space—where applicable—to identify one free agent who should be at the top of each team's wish list.
To keep things interesting, we'll look at 32 different players here. Teams are listed in alphabetical order.
Arizona Cardinals: CB Chris Harris
The Arizona Cardinals find themselves in need of a starting-caliber cornerback as Week 1 approaches. Projected starter Antonio Hamilton is set to miss at least the first four games of the season after burning his foot in a cooking accident.
"It's disappointing for him," Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury said, via the PHNX Cardinals podcast's Bo Brack. "He had earned a starting role."
Veteran cornerback Chris Harris would be a logical depth addition and potential early-season spot starter. The 33-year-old may not be the Pro Bowl player he once was, but he's an experienced vet who can play inside or outside.
Harris appeared in 14 games with 11 starts for the Los Angeles Chargers last season. He also spent two years (2017 and 2018) with the Denver Broncos under then-head coach Vance Joseph and defensive backs coach Marcus Robertson.
Robertson now holds the same position in Arizona, while Joseph is the defensive coordinator. Harris should have at least some familiarity with Arizona's defensive scheme, and he has more than enough experience to step in and immediately contribute.
Atlanta Falcons: WR Keelan Cole
The Atlanta Falcons are looking for depth behind top receivers Drake London, Olamide Zaccheaus and Bryan Edwards. According to ESPN's Dan Graziano, Atlanta discussed acquiring Laviska Shenault Jr. with the Jacksonville Jaguars before they traded him to the Carolina Panthers.
Atlanta, which has just $2 million in cap space, should be looking at budget options on the free-agent market. It might be able to get a bargain with Keelan Cole, who was released by the Las Vegas Raiders during final cuts.
Cole had joined Las Vegas on a one-year, $1.3 million deal.
While Cole would purely be a complementary pass-catcher, his deep-threat ability would be valuable. Last season with the New York Jets, the 29-year-old averaged 16.0 yards per carry and finished with 449 yards and a touchdown. His best season came with the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2017, when he tallied 748 yards and three scores.
In Atlanta, Cole would be a viable role player alongside the current group and tight end Kyle Pitts.
Baltimore Ravens: WR Will Fuller
The Baltimore Ravens head into 2022 with one of the most underwhelming receiving corps in the league. 2021 first-round pick Rashod Bateman flashed promise as a rookie, but there is no proven top option on the depth chart.
Even after picking up Demarcus Robinson late in the offseason, the Ravens receiving corps—aside from star tight end Mark Andrews, of course—is largely a mishmash of complementary options.
Bateman is the only current Ravens receiver to eclipse 400 yards last season. Baltimore traded former top wideout Marquise Brown to the Cardinals during draft weekend.
While Will Fuller wouldn't give Baltimore a legitimate No. 1 perimeter target, he could help replicate Brown's downfield ability. Though 55 career games, Fuller has averaged 14.7 yards per catch and scored 24 touchdowns. Like Brown before him, Fuller could give Lamar Jackson a speedy deep threat who perfectly complements the quarterback's ability to buy time.
Health would be a concern—Fuller has missed 42 games in six seasons—but Fuller would add another explosive element to the Baltimore offense.
Buffalo Bills: S Andrew Sendejo
The Buffalo Bills have no glaring weaknesses. If Buffalo had to add to a specific position, though, it wouldn't hurt to improve its safety depth. Micah Hyde and Jordan Poyer form a solid tandem, but there's no proven depth behind them—and Poyer is working back from a hyperextended elbow.
Jaquan Johnson and Damar Hamlin have played a combined 250 defensive snaps (just 50 for Hamlin).
Free-agent safety Andrew Sendejo played more than double that many snaps (609) in 12 games last season. The 34-year-old is likely nearing the end of his career—and has already played regular-season games for five different teams—but he was a serviceable starter in 2021.
Last season with the Indianapolis Colts, Sendejo made 10 starts. He finished with 40 tackles, two passes defended and a forced fumble. He allowed an opposing passer rating of 92.1 in coverage—not ideal, but far from terrible.
The Bills are poised to chase a championship, and Sendejo could help ensure that the defense isn't undone by an injury to a safety. He has started 24 games over the past two seasons and could start in a pinch if Buffalo needed him.
Carolina Panthers: TE Jared Cook
With a new quarterback in Baker Mayfield and a healthy Christian McCaffrey at running back, the Panthers have a chance to make some noise in 2022. Carolina took a late step to upgrade Mayfield's supporting cast, trading for Laviska Shenault Jr.
The Panthers should make another move with Mayfield in mind and add veteran tight end Jared Cook.
Mayfield showed during his time with the Cleveland Browns that he can thrive by throwing to tight ends—David Njoku and Austin Hooper combined for 820 yards and seven touchdowns last season. The Panthers, though, don't have a premier pass-catching tight end on their roster.
Ian Thomas, Tommy Tremble and Stephen Sullivan combined for just 368 yards and one touchdown last season.
Enter Cook, who can be a difference-maker even at 35. Last season with the Los Angeles Chargers, he caught 48 passes for 564 yards and four touchdowns. Adding him could help make Carolina's offense better while allowing the Panthers to better evaluate Mayfield for the future.
Chicago Bears: WR T.Y. Hilton
The Chicago Bears are clearly a rebuilding team and one that is building on the fly. Chicago claimed a whopping seven players off waivers following the August 30 roster cuts. Among them was wide receiver Ihmir Smith-Marsette.
Smith-Marsette should not be Chicago's final addition to the receiver room. The Bears are looking to build around second-year quarterback Justin Fields, and outside of Darnell Mooney, there isn't much proven talent at receiver.
Not that they should be considered high-end proven players, but N'Keal Harry (ankle) and Tajae Sharpe (rib) are both on injured reserve.
The Bears should take a long look at 32-year-old veteran T.Y. Hilton. Hilton opened last season on injured reserve (neck) and had a down year with just 331 yards and three touchdowns in 10 games. Two years ago, however, he caught 56 passes for 702 yards and five scores.
A 10-year vet and four-time Pro Bowler, Hilton has plenty of knowledge that he could imprint on Fields. Even if he isn't the Pro Bowler he once was, he could boost the receiver room. He also spent the last four years alongside Bears head coach Matt Eberflus with the Indianapolis Colts.
Cincinnati Bengals: CB Joe Haden
The Cincinnati Bengals addressed their biggest need early in the offseason, signing offensive linemen La'el Collins, Ted Karras and Alex Cappa. They also used a fourth-round pick on Cordell Volson—who was recently named the starting left guard—and claimed Max Scharping off waivers.
With the line in a better spot than it was a year ago, the Bengals should look to further bolster a pass defense that ranked 26th in yards allowed last season—and specifically at cornerback.
Second-round pick Cam Taylor-Britt is on injured reserve following core muscle surgery, and the depth behind Eli Apple, Chidobe Awuzie and Mike Hilton is questionable.
Joe Haden, a three-time Pro Bowler who has played for the Cleveland Browns and Pittsburgh Steelers, would be a great addition to Cincinnati's defense. While he was hampered by a foot injury last season, Haden was a high-end starter in 2020—he allowed an opposing passer rating of just 75.9 in coverage.
Haden has 148 starts on his resume and plenty of experience battling opposing AFC North pass-catchers. He has surprisingly remained unsigned all offseason. Cincinnati should change that.
Cleveland Browns: DT Sheldon Richardson
The Cleveland Browns have a tremendous pass-rushing tandem in Myles Garrett and Jadeveon Clowney. However, their depth at defensive tackle is far more questionable.
Of the four defensive tackles on the active roster, only Taven Bryan—a 2018 first-round pick of the Jacksonville Jaguars—has more than two years of experience. Jordan Elliott and Tommy Togiai have played a combined 38 games. Perrion Winfrey is a fourth-round rookie.
It would behoove the Browns to add a veteran to the mix, and it would make a ton of sense to bring back Sheldon Richardson. The 31-year-old spent two years in Cleveland before joining the Minnesota Vikings last year.
Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com believes that Richardson would be a great fit with the Browns' young defensive linemen.
"Richardson ... is good in the locker room and would be a strong mentor for a young player like fourth-round pick Perrion Winfrey," Cabot wrote. "He also has a knack for keeping Myles Garrett motivated."
The Browns lead the league in cap space, have a need at DT and have a potentially excellent fit available in Richardson. This is a pairing that should be made immediately.
Dallas Cowboys: WR Cole Beasley
The Dallas Cowboys are adding veteran offensive tackle Jason Peters to the practice squad, according to ESPN's Todd Archer. Adding Peters gives Dallas another option—along with rookie first-round pick Tyler Smith—for replacing left tackle Tyron Smith, who suffered an avulsion fracture.
Tyron Smith is expected to be out until at least December, per NFL Network's Ian Rapoport.
While it wouldn't hurt for Dallas to continue considering offensive line options, we'll look to Dallas' other need on offense—receiver depth.
The Cowboys parted with Amari Cooper and Cedrick Wilson Jr. this offseason. Michael Gallup is still working back from a torn ACL, Jalen Tolbert is a rookie, and free-agent addition James Washington (foot) is on injured reserve.
Dallas could use an experienced pass-catcher to bolster its receiver room, and former Cowboy Cole Beasley would fit the bill. He previously spent three seasons with quarterback Dak Prescott and can play inside and outside—much like Gallup.
Last season with Buffalo, Beasley caught 82 passes for 693 yards and one touchdown.
Denver Broncos: LB Anthony Hitchens
The Denver Broncos may be without starting linebacker Jonas Griffith when the season opens against the Seattle Seahawks. Griffith suffered an elbow injury in Denver's preseason opener and was initially expected to miss between four and six weeks. However, Denver is hopeful that Griffith will return before then.
"Yeah, we're definitely hoping for Jonas to be Week 1, that's kind of our aiming point," head coach Nathaniel Hackett said, per Ellie Kinney of the team's official website. "We very much dodged a bullet on that one."
It would still be smart to add some veteran linebacker insurance, especially after Denver traded Malik Reed to the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Anthony Hitchens is a starting-caliber inside linebacker who has remained available all offseason. He has started at least 14 games in each of the past four seasons with the Kansas City Chiefs and has 107 starts in his career.
Last season, Hitchens tallied 80 tackles and two passes defended while allowing an opposing quarterback rating of 83.4 in coverage. Adding him would provide depth and help ensure that the Broncos return a top-10 defense to go with new quarterback Russell Wilson.
Detroit Lions: LB Blake Martinez
The Detroit Lions should be in the market for linebacker depth after deciding to part with 2017 first-round pick Jarrad Davis during the final cutdown. The Lions have a couple of solid linebackers in Chris Board and Alex Anzalone, but there isn't a proven difference-maker at the second level.
Detroit, which ranked 29th in yards allowed and 31st in points allowed last season, needs defensive difference-makers.
The problem is that Detroit has only $1.5 million in cap space. Adding a Pro Bowl-type talent won't be easy.
However, it could be feasible with former New York Giants linebacker Blake Martinez. The 28-year-old was released in a surprising move that ESPN's Jordan Raanan said was "mutual, according to a source."
Martinez was released with $7.5 million in dead money remaining on his contract. With New York still paying him, he might be willing to take a bargain salary for the 2022 season. There would be some risk involved, as Martinez is working his way back from a torn ACL that he suffered in September 2021.
However, the potential reward could be huge. Martinez tallied 151 tackles, three sacks and an interception when he was last healthy in 2020.
Green Bay Packers: WR T.J. Vasher
The Green Bay Packers should continue looking at receiver options throughout the 2022 season. The Packers traded away star Davante Adams and have plenty of questions remaining.
Part of the concern stems from second-round pick Christian Watson and his offseason road bumps. He has missed time following knee surgery and dealt with drop issues early in the offseason.
"His hands have definitely been questionable," Andy Herman of Packer Report tweeted in late May. "I don't think there's been a practice yet where he hasn't dropped at least one pass."
The Packers inquired about Laviska Shenault Jr. before he was dealt to Carolina, according to ESPN's Dan Graziano. They should take a look at 2021 Cowboys undrafted free agent T.J. Vasher.
Vasher missed his rookie season with a knee injury and didn't make Dallas' 2022 roster, but he impressed during the offseason.
"He's made some really big-time flash plays, splash plays," Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy said, per ESPN's Todd Archer.
The 6'5", 210-pound Vasher has potential as a big-bodied possession receiver, and he's a project the Packers could look to develop alongside Watson and fellow rookie Romeo Doubs. The Packers should take a flier on him as they did Travis Fulgham last month.
Houston Texans: Edge Jeremiah Attaochu
The Houston Texans are in the process of rebuilding, presumably around second-year quarterback Davis Mills. If the Texans are going to be at all relevant in the AFC South race this season, however, they must dramatically improve their defense.
Last season, the Texans ranked 31st in yards allowed and 27th in points allowed.
Boosting the pass rush would be a great first step for Houston. Last year's unit produced a mere 32 sacks, and the current crop of pass-rushers—which includes Jerry Hughes and Mario Addison—lacks depth behind 2021 team sacks leader Jonathan Greenard.
The challenge will be finding an edge-rusher who fits with Houston's current cap situation—the Texans have only $1.3 million available.
Jeremiah Attaochu is a player Chicago could afford to take a flier on. He appeared in only five games with the Bears last season before landing on injured reserve with a torn pectoral. Two years ago in Denver, however, he appeared in 13 games and finished with five sacks and 19 quarterback pressures.
With Attaochu working his way back, the Texans should be able to sign him to a relatively team friendly contract. If he can return to form, Attaochu could enhance Houston's pass-rushing depth.
Indianapolis Colts: Edge Jason Pierre-Paul
The Colts could also use pass-rushing help, though they're in a better position than Houston. Indianapolis traded for Yannick Ngakoue in the offseason, which should improve a pass rush that produced only 33 sacks in 2021.
The Colts should be interested in adding even more to the equation. A playoff contender cannot have too many quality sacks artists, and Indianapolis—now equipped with quarterback Matt Ryan—should view itself as a contender.
Jason Pierre-Paul is exactly the sort of veteran pass-rusher the Colts could use this season. He has Super Bowl experience (XLVI and LV) and could mentor younger edge-rushers like Kwity Paye and Dayo Odeyingbo.
Of course, Pierre-Paul could also help improve Indy's pass-rushing depth. He had a down season in 2021, finishing with only 2.5 sacks to go with 31 tackles and a forced fumble. However, Pierre-Paul logged 9.5 sacks and was a Pro Bowler just two years ago.
The Colts were close to making the playoffs in 2021, and if Ryan can provide an upgrade at quarterback, they should get there this season. Having a proven vet like Pierre-Paul come playoff time would be a major boon.
Jacksonville Jaguars: WR Albert Wilson
The Jaguars traded Laviska Shenault Jr. just before final roster cuts. However, this doesn't mean that Jacksonville should be settled at wide receiver. A starting trio of Marvin Jones Jr., Zay Jones and Christian Kirk is intriguing, but Jacksonville could use more veteran depth.
Jacksonville's primary goal this season should be developing second-year quarterback Trevor Lawrence. If one of the Jaguars' three starters goes down, Lawrence will be looking at a relatively unproven starter.
This is potentially problematic, as a lack of quality targets—and bad coaching on the part of Urban Meyer—led to a disaster of a rookie season for Lawrence. The No. 1 pick in the 2021 draft finished with a passer rating of only 71.9.
Of Jacksonville's other three receivers—Jamal Agnew, Tim Jones and Kendric Pryor—Agnew is the only one with an NFL reception on his resume.
Free agent Albert Wilson, however, could start in a pinch if the Jaguars needed him to. He started five games with the Miami Dolphins last season and has 38 career starts under his belt.
Wilson wouldn't threaten to supplant Jones, Jones or Kirk, but he could be exactly the sort of veteran depth Jacksonville needs.
Kansas City Chiefs: CB Vernon Hargreaves
The Chiefs figure to be among the AFC's top contenders again this season. Kansas City took steps to improve its defense by signing veteran pass-rusher Carlos Dunlap and using first-round picks on George Karlaftis and Trent McDuffie.
McDuffie is one of three rookie cornerbacks—along with Jaylen Watson and Joshua Williams—to make Kansas City's active roster. It wouldn't hurt for Kansas City—which lost starting corner Charvarius Ward in free agency—to add a little more experience to the group. However, the Chiefs have less than $1 million in cap space with which to work.
Taking a flier on Vernon Hargreaves could help bolster Kansas City's veteran depth while requiring minimal cap clearance. Hargreaves' last contract was a one-year, $2 million deal with Houston.
Hargreaves was claimed off waivers by Cincinnati last season and helped provide depth during the Bengals' run to Super Bowl LVI. While he has never lived up to the expectation of being the 11th overall pick in 2016, Hargreaves has 58 starts under his belt and playoff experience.
Las Vegas Raiders: DT Ndamukong Suh
The Las Vegas Raiders made a big splash when they signed Chandler Jones in free agency. He and Pro Bowler Maxx Crosby should be one of the better pass-rushing tandems in the league.
However, the Raiders don't have a difference-making defensive tackle, and there is questionable pass-rushing depth behind Jones and Crosby.
Signing Ndamukong Suh could help with both issues.
Last season with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Suh played 63 percent of the defensive snaps and finished with 27 tackles, six sacks and 19 quarterback pressures. He started all 17 games in 2021 and could step in to start for the Raiders.
Suh has also expressed interest in playing for Las Vegas this offseason. However, his contract demands have been a sticking point.
"There's interest from the Raiders, a person with direct knowledge of the situation told The Athletic, but the issue is the price," The Athletic's Tashan Reed wrote. "Suh is seeking a contract with an annual value of $9 million per year."
While the Raiders may not want to overpay Suh, it's time they put pen to paper. By acquiring Jones and Davante Adams, Las Vegas has signaled that it is going all-in on winning now. There's no reason to get thrifty at defensive tackle when the Raiders have $20 million in cap space available.
Los Angeles Chargers: CB Kevin King
A playoff hopeful like the Los Angeles Chargers can never have too many good cornerbacks. The Chargers could also use some early season insurance, as prized free-agent addition J.C. Jackson is recovering from ankle surgery.
The hope is that Jackson will be available for Week 1.
"J.C. is working out. He's trending positive," Chargers coach Brandon Staley said, per Nicholas Cothrel of FanNation.
Los Angeles should take a flier on former Packers cornerback Kevin King. While King never lived up to being a 2017 second-round pick in Green Bay, he has flashed his potential. In 2019, for example, King logged 15 passes defended and five interceptions.
Last season, though,
King dealt with a shoulder injury, missed seven games and allowed an opposing passer rating of 108.9 in coverage. The down campaign is likely why he's still available.
At only 27 years old, King possesses a great combination of youth and experience. He has 42 starts on his resume and still has room for development. For a team that is looking to contend, not only in 2022 but for the foreseeable future, King could be the perfect late addition.
Los Angeles Rams: WR Odell Beckham Jr.
Wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. remains unsigned, which isn't particularly surprising. The three-time Pro Bowler suffered a torn ACL in Super Bowl LVI and isn't going to contribute in the early portion of the regular season.
However, the Los Angeles Rams should look to bring back Beckham sooner than later. According to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport, Los Angeles is only one of several potential suitors.
"He's continued to receive interest from several teams, contending teams," he said a month ago.
Beckham showed during the postseason that he can be a legitimate playmaker in the Rams offense. He may have been headed toward Super Bowl MVP honors—he had 52 yards and a touchdown in less than a half before the injury—if not for the ACL tear. In four postseason games, he caught 21 passes for 288 yards and two touchdowns.
The Rams might get similar production out of Beckham in this year's playoffs. However, the longer L.A. waits to bring Beckham back, the greater the chances are of him landing elsewhere.
The Rams would likely have to create cap space—they have $2 million available—but they should lock up Beckham while they can.
Miami Dolphins: CB Deandre Baker
The Miami Dolphins could use a little cornerback help heading into their Week 1 matchup with the New England Patriots. Miami placed Byron Jones on the physically unable to perform list to start the season as he continues to recover from leg surgery.
"We're just being patient, not putting pressure on him to rush him back," general manager Chris Grier said, per David Furones and Chris Perkins of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.
Trill Williams landed on injured reserve with a torn ACL.
While Xavien Howard and 2020 first-round pick Noah Igbinoghene should make for a serviceable starting duo, the Dolphins could stand to add some experienced depth. 2019 first-round pick Deandre Baker would be well worth a look.
Baker spent part of the 2020 season with the Chiefs before suffering a broken femur and landing on injured reserve. He returned to Kansas City last season, where he appeared in eight games with one start.
Only 25 years old, Baker still has some upside that Miami could look to develop. More importantly, though, his time in Kansas City came under new Dolphins cornerbacks coach Sam Madison. There should be some familiarity there, and Baker should be able to integrate himself into the cornerback room relatively quickly.
Minnesota Vikings: DT Malcom Brown
The Minnesota Vikings have shown interest in defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, USA Today's Tyler Dragon reported in June. This isn't a shock, as the Vikings could use help at the front end of their defense.
Last season, the Vikings ranked 26th in rushing yards allowed, 29th in yards per carry surrendered and 24th in points allowed.
The problem with going after Suh is that Minnesota has only $1.8 million in cap space available. Instead, the Vikings may have to chase a more budget friendly alternative. Malcom Brown, who was released by the Jaguars last month, could fit the bill.
Brown is a seven-year veteran who has been a full-time starter since his 2015 rookie campaign with the Patriots. He started all 17 games with Jacksonville in 2021, finishing with 57 tackles, two sacks and four tackles for loss.
While finding a starting-caliber interior defender on the cheap is rare, the Vikings could be fortunate. Brown was released with $4.6 million in dead money on his contract, which could allow him to accept a more team friendly agreement for the 2022 season. If Minnesota can make a deal work, it should jump at the chance to add Brown before Week 1.
New England Patriots: CB A.J. Bouye
The New England Patriots should be looking at cornerback depth. New England lost star J.C. Jackson during free agency and offseason addition Malcolm Butler to a hip injury during the preseason.
Butler, theoretically, could be back this season.
"The injury settlement negotiated between the Patriots and CB Malcolm Butler is for about six regular season weeks," ESPN's Field Yates tweeted. "While Butler can sign with another team at any point now, that settlement suggests he would be available to play around mid- to late October."
For now, though, New England should look at a budget option to fill in. If the Patriots decide to bring back Butler once he's healthy, they'll need the financial flexibility.
The 31-year-old A.J. Bouye should fit the criteria. He signed a two-year, $7 million deal with Carolina last year but landed on injured reserve (foot) in December and was released in March with $1.2 million in dead money remaining on his contract.
Bouye was a serviceable starter last season, finishing with 28 tackles and allowing an opposing passer rating of 91.0 in coverage. While he certainly wouldn't make Patriots fans forget about Jackson, he could provide valuable veteran depth.
New Orleans Saints: OT Eric Fisher
The New Orleans Saints lost starting left tackle Terron Armstead in free agency this offseason. While they used a first-round pick on Trevor Penning to help replace him, Penning has landed on injured reserve following foot surgery.
According to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport, Penning is out "indefinitely."
While veteran James Hurst was likely to start over the rookie anyway, Penning's injury does leave New Orleans light on tackle depth. Landon Young, who has one career start, and rookie Lewis Kidd are the backup tackles.
It would behoove the Saints to add an experienced starter to the group, and former Chiefs and Colts tackle Eric Fisher should be near the top of the list.
Fisher didn't have a stellar season with the Colts in 2021—he allowed seven sacks, according to Pro Football Focus. However, it should be noted that Fisher rushed back from a torn Achilles that he suffered in January 2021.
Further removed from the injury, Fisher should be closer to the Pro Bowl form he displayed in 2020 with Kansas City. And because of the injury and underwhelming 2021 campaign, Fisher might be available on a one-year, "prove-it" deal.
New York Giants: LB L.J. Fort
With the surprise release of Blake Martinez, New York should be in the market for a veteran linebacker. The problem is that the dead-money remaining on Martinez's deal leaves the Giants in an unfavorable cap situation.
New York is $6.7 million over the cap.
Obviously, the Giants need to clear some cap space if they're going to add a free agent. Linebacker L.J. Fort could require New York to clear less. Fort is 32 years old and is coming off a season lost to a torn ACL.
Given his age and the injury, Fort could likely be had at a bargain price.
If healthy, though, Fort could be a valuable addition to the defense. He spent the last three seasons in Baltimore under new Giants defensive coordinator Don Martindale. With 91 games and 19 starts on his resume, Fort could bring both experience and knowledge of Martindale's system to the proverbial table.
Fort wouldn't be the sort of addition that makes headlines, but he would bring a veteran voice to the linebacker room.
New York Jets: OT Justin Skule
The New York Jets could benefit from adding to their offensive line depth. Mekhi Becton landed on injured reserve with an avulsion fracture in his right knee. This prompted the Jets to sign 37-year-old left tackle Duane Brown and move George Fant to the right side. Fourth-round rookie Max Mitchell is the only other tackle on the active roster.
The Jets just might be able to land a bargain by targeting Justin Skule, a 2019 sixth-round pick of the San Francisco 49ers. The Vanderbilt product appeared in 31 games with 12 starts in his first two seasons before spending 2021 on injured reserve with a torn ACL.
Still only 25, Skule has an intriguing combination of youth and experience. He should also fit with head coach Robert Saleh, offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur and offensive line coach John Benton—all three came from San Francisco to New York.
While adding Skule wouldn't excite the Jets fanbase, he's an ideal fit in terms of need, scheme and cap space.
Philadelphia Eagles: OT Julie'n Davenport
Like the Jets, the Eagles could use tackle help in the wake of an injury. The Eagles are set to open the season without backup tackle and 2019 first-round pick Andre Dillard.
"Dillard suffered a nondisplaced fracture in his forearm in practice today, sources say," NFL Network's Mike Garafolo tweeted Thursday. "Further testing is needed to determine the best course of action and timeline for a return but the expectation is Dillard will be available for a majority of the season."
Adding early-season tackle depth would make a ton of sense for the Eagles. Cap space is a problem, though, as Philadelphia is $2.6 million over the limit. Though perhaps not as perfect a fit as Skule with the Jets, Julie'n Davenport would fit Philadelphia's needs.
The 27-year-old has never been a high-level starter, but he does have 60 games and 32 starts on his resume. He signed a one-year, $1 million deal with the Bears this offseason but was released.
The price point for Devenport should be low, and he would bring valuable starting experience to the backup tackle spot.
Pittsburgh Steelers: OL Daryl Williams
The Pittsburgh Steelers appear poised to start veteran quarterback Mitch Trubisky over rookie Kenny Pickett to start the season. At least Trubisky is listed as QB1 on the initial regular-season depth chart.
However, with the offensive line still a major question mark, Pittsburgh could struggle regardless.
"All I see is penalties, guys getting beat. I don't see depth," NFL Network's Brian Baldinger said on NFL Total Access (h/t Matthew Marczi of Steelers Depot). "I'm worried. I'm worried regardless of who plays quarterback right now."
The Steelers added James Daniels and Mason Cole this offseason and have staged a competition between Kendrick Green and Kevin Dotson at left guard. However, it's clear that the line could use additional help.
Offensive lineman Daryl Williams is the perfect player for Pittsburgh. The 30-year-old has primarily been a right tackle but has played left tackle and both guard spots during his career. He could provide depth at multiple spots.
Adding Williams with only $3 million in cap space could be tricky, but not impossible. He was released from Buffalo with $3.6 million in dead money remaining and could be amenable to taking less up-front money to play in 2022.
San Francisco 49ers: S Jaquiski Tartt
The San Francisco 49ers are hoping to get back to the NFC title game (or further) in 2022. Their plans took a bit of a hit, though, when safety Jimmie Ward suffered a hamstring injury in mid-August.
The 49ers are hopeful that Ward will return soon, but he landed on injured reserve and will miss at least four weeks.
"I believe it's Week 5, the earliest he can come back," head coach Kyle Shanahan told KNBR's Tolbert & Copes (h/t Angelina Martin of NBC Sports Bay Area). "He should be able to do that, but we definitely don’t want to rush him back."
San Francisco already added safety Tashaun Gipson to its practice squad as safety insurance, but it should strongly consider bringing back Jaquiski Tartt as additional secondary help.
Tartt signed with the Eagles this offseason but was released as part of Philadelphia's final cuts. In seven seasons with the 49ers, he appeared in 80 games with 64 starts and logged 367 tackles.
With Ward on IR, the 49ers have only three safeties—Talanoa Hufanga, Tarvarius Moore and George Odum—on the active roster. Bringing back Tartt would give San Francisco another starting-caliber option.
Seattle Seahawks: Edge Takkarist Mckinley
Now that they have parted with longtime starting quarterback Russell Wilson, the Seattle Seahawks are firmly in rebuilding mode.
Seattle is unlikely to win a lot of games with Geno Smith and/or Drew Lock under center. Therefore, the season should be about finding pieces who can contribute long-term. 26-year-old pass-rusher Takkarist McKinley should get some consideration.
The 26th pick in the 2017 draft, McKinley failed to flourish with the Falcons but has shown glimpses of his upside. His best season in Atlanta came in 2018 when McKinley logged seven sacks and 22 tackles, and he did have 13 sacks over his first two seasons.
Last season, McKinley joined the Browns and appeared in 11 games before suffering a torn Achilles in Week 14. Despite playing only 43 percent of the snaps in those games, McKinley had 2.5 sacks and 14 quarterback pressures.
Because of the injury, McKinley is unlikely to contribute right away. However, he's young, has pass-rushing potential and is a player Seattle could develop for 2023 and beyond. It would be a great gamble for a team that logged only 34 sacks in 2021 and lost sack leader Carlos Dunlap (8.5) in free agency.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: OL Trey Hopkins
With Tom Brady back in the fold, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers should be among the NFC's top contenders this season. However, Tampa has some legitimate questions along the offensive line.
Guard Ali Marpet retired, guard Alex Cappa departed in free agency, and center Ryan Jensen suffered a significant knee injury at the start of camp. Fortunately, the Buccaneers have prepared for change along the line.
Tampa used a 2021 third-round pick on center Robert Hainsey, a 2022 second-round pick on guard Luke Goedeke and traded for Shaq Mason in the offseason.
Still, it would behoove the Buccaneers to add a bit of veteran insurance to the interior, and former Bengal Trey Hopkins could be the perfect choice. Hopkins has played both guard and center during his career, though he has primarily played center over the past four years. He started 15 games in 2021 and helped the Bengals reach Super Bowl LVI.
Hopkins' experience would be valuable as young players like Hainsey and Goedeke grow. At this stage in the year, the 30-year-old Hopkins shouldn't command a top-of-the-market salary either. For the Buccaneers, who have just $1.5 million in cap space, that would be a bonus.
Tennessee Titans: LB Kyler Fackrell
The Tennessee Titans find themselves in need of pass-rushing help unexpectedly. Pro Bowl edge-rusher Harold Landry—who logged 12 sacks in 2021—suffered a torn ACL in practice and is out for the year.
While Tennessee did claim former Steelers linebacker Derrek Tuszka off waivers, it should be looking to add to its cadre of pass-rushers.
Kyler Fackrell, who was released by Las Vegas on August 31, would be a fine fit in Tennessee. He wouldn't replicate the production that Landry had last season, but he's an experienced veteran who could improve Tennessee's depth.
Fackrell has 86 games and 19 starts on his resume. Last season with the Chargers, he logged 17 tackles and three sacks while playing 43 percent of the defensive snaps in 13 games. Fackrell's best season came in 2018 with the Packers when he tallied 10.5 sacks and 42 tackles.
Could the Titans count on Fackrell again being a double-digit-sack player? No, but they could rely on him to provide a handful of sacks and a veteran presence as a rotational player at the outside linebacker position.
Washington Commanders: CB T.J. Carrie
Aside from inconsistent quarterback play, poor pass defense was perhaps the Washington Commanders' biggest problem in 2021. The defense ranked 29th in passing yards allowed, 28th in net yards per attempt allowed and dead-last in touchdowns surrendered (34).
While Washington added quarterback Carson Wentz to help alleviate one issue, it did little to address its secondary aside from re-signing Bobby McCain. The Commanders didn't draft a defensive back until they took safety Percy Butler in the fourth round.
Cornerback depth should be a priority heading into Week 1, and Washington should strongly consider former Raiders, Browns and Colts cornerback T.J. Carrie.
Carrie, who entered the league as a seventh-round pick out of Ohio in 2014, has carved out a long career as a rotational player. He has been a full-time starter in the past (2015 and 2017) but has settled in as a complementary option more recently.
Over the last two seasons with Indianapolis, Carrie appeared in 26 combined games and allowed an opposing passer rating below 100 in each campaign. He has experience under defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio (Raiders 2015-17) and could give Washington immediate depth to start the season.