7 NFL Players Who Should Look Forward to Free Agency in 2022
In most professions, being unemployed is a bad thing. In the NFL, however, hitting the open market can be a major blessing. The best players who reach free agency tend to cash in on the financial front and won't remain unemployed for long.
Of course, money isn't everything, and some players simply wish to reach free agency to find better opportunities. This offseason, for example, safety John Johnson III took less money to sign with a team he believed in—the Cleveland Browns.
"I felt like it was an opportunity of a lifetime coming to a situation where things are moving in the right direction," Johnson said, per Dan Axelrod of WKYC 3 Cleveland. "That's rare in this business."
What isn't rare in the business side of the NFL is teams preventing players from reaching free agency via the use of the franchise tag. The franchise tag could put a damper on the 2022 offseason for some of the players on this list, though at least a few should make their way to the open market.
Keeping both financial implications and franchise trajectories in mind, here's an early look at the seven players who should be looking toward 2022 free agency the most.
Players are listed in alphabetical order.
Davante Adams, WR, Green Bay Packers
Green Bay Packers wideout Davante Adams is in the final year of his current deal and may have a couple of reasons for looking forward to free agency.
For one, Adams is going to get paid. The four-time Pro Bowler has become one of the NFL's most dangerous and consistent receivers and will be a prime free-agent target. He has a projected market value of $24.9 million annually, according to Spotrac.
Adams might also face the prospect of playing without longtime quarterback Aaron Rodgers in 2022. Rodgers has stayed away from the team this offseason, and the Packers have 2020 first-round pick Jordan Love as their quarterback of the future.
Rodgers' situation isn't likely to be resolved in the immediate future.
"I'd be surprised if there was any hardcore negotiations over the course of the next couple weeks," NFL Media's Ian Rapoport said on Total Access.
With all due respect to Love, if Rodgers is gone by next offseason, Adams could look to join a more stable quarterback situation for the 2022 season.
Jamal Adams, S, Seattle Seahawks
The Seattle Seahawks have continued long-term contract discussions with safety Jamal Adams, though no deal is yet in place.
"It's been ongoing, and it's been amicable throughout," head coach Pete Carroll said, per Larry Stone of the Seattle Times.
From a financial standpoint, Adams may prefer not to get a deal done before next offseason. Adams has emerged as arguably the best box safety in the game and should command loads of suitors on the open market.
In his four pro seasons, Adams has amassed 356 tackles, 21.5 sacks, seven forced fumbles and two interceptions. He had 9.5 sacks and 26 quarterback pressures in 2020.
Given Adam's consistent level of production, his projected market value of $12.4 million annually—according to Spotrac—may be a little low.
Von Miller, Edge, Denver Broncos
Von Miller is most likely a future Hall of Famer. The Denver Broncos pass-rusher is an eight-time Pro Bowler with a Super Bowl MVP and three first-team All-Pro selections on his resume.
While Miller is coming off a season lost to ankle surgery, he believes he has maintained his Pro Bowl form.
"It never left," Miller said, per NFL Media's Grant Gordon.
Next offseason may represent the last opportunity for the 32-year-old Miller to cash in on a long-term deal. Depending on how the Broncos' quarterback situation plays out this year—a camp competition is expected between Drew Lock and Teddy Bridgewater—Miller may look to chase another Super Bowl with a different franchise.
Denver went just 5-11 with Lock under center in 2020.
Even if getting another ring isn't important to Miller, though, free agency should be attractive. According to Spotrac, Miller should land a deal in the three-year, $30 million range—not at all bad for a player on the back end of his career.
Allen Robinson II, WR, Chicago Bears
Chicago Bears wideout Allen Robinson II is set to play on the franchise tag in 2021—if the Bears don't get a long-term deal done by the July 15 deadline. Depending on how rookie quarterback Justin Fields develops this season, Robinson may want to get away from Chicago next offseason.
Even if Robinson is happy to stay in the Windy City, he should be even happier to reach the open market.
Robinson played with the underwhelming quarterback tandem of Nick Foles and Mitchell Trubisky last season. He still finished with 1,250 receiving yards and six touchdowns. He should be one of the most coveted players in 2022 free agency, and he will only be 28.
Spotrac projects Robinson's market value as $20 million annually. Seeing as how Kenny Golladay got a four-year, $72 million deal coming off an injury-hampered season, that projection might actually be on the low end.
Brandon Scherff, G, Washington Football Team
Washington Football Team guard Brandon Scherff is set to play on the franchise tag for the second consecutive season. While Scherff probably doesn't mind the guaranteed money that comes along with the tag—he'll earn a little more than $18 million this season—hitting the open market could be a lucrative venture for the four-time Pro Bowler.
According to ESPN's John Keim (h/t Chris Russell of FanNation), Scherff has already turned down one long-term offer from Washington that would make him the NFL's highest-paid guard. Scherff should be able to cash in on the tag this year and still get a similar offer on the open market.
For the record, Joe Thuney is currently the highest-paid guard on a multiyear deal in terms of annual salary. He signed a five-year, $80 million deal with the Kansas City Chiefs this offseason.
If the Football Team returns to the playoffs this season, Scherff may be happy to be back in Washington next year. Either way, a prolific pending payday should have him psyched about 2022 free agency.
Fred Warner, LB, San Francisco 49ers
Depending on how rookie quarterback Trey Lance develops this season, linebacker Fred Warner may be very eager to stay with the San Francisco 49ers. The 49ers have a playoff-caliber roster—one that went to the Super Bowl just two years ago—and if Lance is the real deal, they could be contenders for years to come.
Still, Warner should be thrilled with the prospect of reaching free agency because he's going to get paid. Arguably the league's best off-ball linebacker, Warner is already a star at 24 years old.
In his three seasons, Warner has amassed 367 tackles, 15 tackles for loss, 21 passes defended, three interceptions and four sacks. Last season, he had an opposing passer rating of just 69.7.
Warner is also entering the final year of his rookie contract, meaning next offseason could bring him a massive payday—if the 49ers don't franchise-tag him first. Spotrac projects Warner's market value at $17.1 million annually.
T.J. Watt, Edge, Pittsburgh Steelers
Pittsburgh Steelers pass-rusher T.J. Watt is entering the final year of his rookie contract. Despite being one of the league's most productive sack artists—29.5 sacks and 120 quarterback pressures over the past two seasons—Watt does not have an extension in place.
"T.J. has another year on his contract," Steelers owner Art Rooney II said, per ESPN's Brooke Pryor. "We look at him as a key player in our future."
However, Watt may not necessarily want to be a part of Pittsburgh's future, depending on how things pan out with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. The 39-year-old quarterback fell off late in the 2020 season and may be entering the final year of his career.
If the long-term quarterback outlook in Pittsburgh isn't good, Watt may want to bolt for greener pastures. Even if he's happy with the situation, though, Watt should be eager to reach free agency. According to Spotrac, he has a projected market value of $25.4 million annually.