Big-Name NFL Free Agents Who Should Find New Teams in 2022

Maurice Moton@@MoeMotonFeatured ColumnistDecember 16, 2021

Big-Name NFL Free Agents Who Should Find New Teams in 2022

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    Typically, the NFL's best free agents re-sign with their respective teams, though some prefer to look for greener pastures if they avoid the franchise tag.

    Per NFL Network's Tom Pelissero, the league's salary cap will reach a projected $208.2 million after a down year due to COVID-19-related losses. As a result, top-tier impending free agents can look forward to lucrative long-term contract offers on the open market next offseason.

    Big-name wide receivers may headline the 2022 class. With that said, Davante Adams and Chris Godwin might re-sign with the Green Bay Packers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, respectively, if their quarterbacks remain on the roster. Why leave a Super Bowl contender with Aaron Rodgers or Tom Brady under center?

    Behind Adams and Godwin, two starting-caliber wideouts should explore their options with different clubs.

    Aside from the wide receivers, players at premium positions may also want out of their current situations in order to maximize earning potential or join playoff contenders.

    We'll highlight six premier free agents who should look for new destinations in 2022.

Terron Armstead, OT, New Orleans Saints

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    Terron Armstead may have to sign elsewhere to find a deal that matches his worth on the open market. According to Over The Cap, the New Orleans Saints are approximately $61.3 million over the cap threshold.

    At 30 years old, Armstead can still provide high-level pass protection. Per Pro Football Focus, he's allowed just one sack through 468 offensive snaps. Potential suitors shouldn't discount his run-blocking ability, either. The 6'5", 304-pounder wins his battles on early downs to clear lanes for running backs with the ability to reach the second level of defenses and take on linebackers.

    The Saints front office may allow Armstead to test the market and look toward the draft for his replacement. If available, he might draw interest from playoff-contending squads flush with cap space.


    Best Fit: Washington Football Team

    While questions linger about the Washington Football Team's quarterback position with Taylor Heinicke the lone signal-caller under contract beyond the 2021 term, it can assemble one of the best offensive lines on paper.

    With rookie second-rounder Sam Cosmi already in place, an extension for All-Pro guard Brandon Scherff and a big-money deal for Armstead, Washington can elevate whoever starts under center in 2022. It'll have enough cap flexibility to strengthen a key positional group with approximately $61.7 million in cap space. 

Jadeveon Clowney, Edge, Cleveland Browns

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    Jadeveon Clowney doesn't mind signing short-term contracts. Over the last two offseasons, he's inked one-year deals worth more than $10 million with added bonuses and incentives. If another squad ups the ante for his services, the explosive 6'5", 255-pound defensive end may follow the money.

    Clowney could command a lucrative salary because of his three-down ability. He's not a premier pass-rusher, having logged eight sacks over his last 33 outings, but the three-time Pro Bowler sets a hard edge and blows up run plays in the backfield. 

    This season, Clowney has played his best since the 2018 campaign, logging five sacks, 24 quarterback pressures and nine tackles for loss with the Cleveland Browns. He'll have an opportunity to cash in on a bounce-back season after missing eight contests with the Tennessee Titans last year. An upstart squad should pursue him on the open market. 


    Best Fit: Los Angeles Chargers 

    Clowney would complement Joey Bosa on the edge to bookend the Los Angeles Chargers defensive line. While the latter continues to rack up sacks and quarterback pressures, the former would strengthen the club's run defense, which ranks 31st in yards allowed. 

    Per Over The Cap, the Chargers will have the second-most cap space next year with approximately $72.8 million. They can land a splashy upgrade for Uchenna Nwosu, who's on an expiring contract.

Michael Gallup, WR, Dallas Cowboys

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    Right now, Michael Gallup's 2021 receiving numbers wouldn't garner much attention on the open market. He missed seven games because of a calf injury and has hauled in 27 passes for 324 yards and a touchdown.

    However, Gallup has a solid four-year resume that shows great upside.

    Gallup played second fiddle to wideout Amari Cooper through his first two seasons and became the third option in the passing game after the Dallas Cowboys selected CeeDee Lamb in the first round of the 2020 draft. Yet, he has a 1,100-plus-yard campaign under his belt and averages 15 yards per catch through 52 contests.

    With Cooper and Lamb under contract for the long term, the Cowboys will likely allow Gallup to hit the open market. If Chris Godwin and Davante Adams re-sign with their respective squads, the Colorado State product could maximize his earning potential.


    Best Fit: Indianapolis Colts

    The Indianapolis Colts can pair Gallup with Michael Pittman Jr., who plays the X-receiver position on the perimeter.

    This past offseason, the club re-signed wideout T.Y. Hilton on a one-year deal, but his performance started to decline in 2019, partially because of injuries. The 32-year-old has missed 14 games over the past three years. 

    Quarterback Carson Wentz can use his big arm to stretch the field with Gallup, who would become a key target in the aerial attack.

Casey Hayward Jr., CB, Las Vegas Raiders

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    The Las Vegas Raiders will probably bring in a new coaching staff after interim head coach Rich Bisaccia finishes the season as Jon Gruden's replacement. Nearly two months after the latter's resignation because of his racist, sexist and anti-gay emails, the team has hit rock bottom, losing five of its last six games.

    As the Raiders go through a transition, cornerback Casey Hayward Jr. may want out after a strong campaign in which he allowed a 50 percent completion rate and a 70 passer rating in coverage. According to Pro Football Focus, he hasn't allowed a touchdown in 587 straight coverage snaps. 

    Hayward has played in defensive coordinator Gus Bradley's Cover 3 scheme for the past five seasons. If the play-caller lands a new job elsewhere, the 32-year-old cornerback can follow him or join a team that uses a similar zone system that suits his strengths.


    Best Fit: Seattle Seahawks

    If the Seattle Seahawks want to make a run at the playoffs with quarterback Russell Wilson next year, they must address their pass defense, which gives up the most yards leaguewide. While cornerbacks D.J. Reed and Sidney Jones IV have put together solid performances on the boundary, they're far from proven long-term solutions. Both have expiring contracts, too. 

    Hayward can shore up the Seahawks secondary as the lead cornerback and, at times, shut down his side of the field. He should have another one or two high-level years left in the tank.

Haason Reddick, Edge, Carolina Panthers

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    Over the past two seasons, Haason Reddick has become one of the league's top pass-rushers. He's logged double-digit sack numbers in consecutive terms.

    Last year, Reddick broke out with the Arizona Cardinals and finished as their sack leader. He's built on that standout campaign, leading the Carolina Panthers in sacks (10.5) and ranking in the top 25 in quarterback pressures (28) going into Week 15.

    Though Carolina has a strong pass-rushing tandem in Reddick and Brian Burns, the former could earn a massive pay raise with his recent sack numbers, which puts his current team in a bind. The Panthers may invest in a veteran signal-caller to succeed underperforming quarterbacks Sam Darnold and Cam Newton. They have a projected $30 million in cap space.


    Best Fit: Miami Dolphins

    The Miami Dolphins rank atop the list in projected cap space ($77.1 million) in 2022. With quarterback Tua Tagovailoa on a rookie deal, the team can splurge on free-agent targets.

    The Dolphins defense has held opponents to 17 points or fewer in five consecutive games, but they can address the outside linebacker spot opposite rookie Jaelan Phillips, who's on a tear of late with six sacks in the last three contests.

    With Phillips on one side and Reddick on the other, the Dolphins would have a good combination between a young veteran and an upstart playmaker. Together, they can generate a ferocious pass rush.

Allen Robinson II, WR, Chicago Bears

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    Aside from a lost 2017 campaign because of a torn ACL, Allen Robinson II has gone through his worst year as a pro, hauling in 32 passes for 353 yards and a touchdown. He's yet to eclipse 68 receiving yards in a single game this season. 

    As an afterthought in the Bears' passing attack for most games, Robinson ranks third on the team in targets (56), receptions and receiving yards. 

    Currently playing with the franchise tag in a down campaign, Robinson doesn't seem like a candidate to return on a new deal with a developing quarterback in Justin Fields. He'll probably garner top-dollar contract offers with three 1,147-plus-yard seasons on his resume. A team in need of a No. 1 wideout will pay him.


    Best Fit: Las Vegas Raiders

    Las Vegas Raiders quarterback Derek Carr has one year left on his deal. He'll push for an extension in the offseason, per ESPN's Adam Schefter.

    Though Carr isn't a lock to remain in Las Vegas, the Raiders may see a lot of potential in a connection between him and Robinson. Despite playing behind an offensive line with four new primary starters and losing his top wideout in Henry Ruggs III before Week 9, he's averaging a career-high 302 passing yards per game.

    With Robinson as a complement to tight end Darren Waller and wide receiver Hunter Renfrow, Carr could set career highs in multiple passing categories. 


    Maurice Moton covers the NFL for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter @MoeMoton.