2022 NFL Free Agents: Predictions for Players Who Will Command Most Interest

Theo SalaunCorrespondent IJanuary 3, 2022

2022 NFL Free Agents: Predictions for Players Who Will Command Most Interest

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    Aaron Gash/Associated Press

    As the NFL hurtles toward the postseason, offseason questions are coming into view. A number of playoff-bound free agents will have to revisit stalled summer negotiations, and a number of contenders will have to reevaluate needs.

    Among the names available to hit the open market, the Green Bay Packers' Davante Adams is in his own tier. Fittingly, then, he's already being discussed—with NFL.com's Ian Rapoport reporting that a franchise tag is on the table.

    The Packers aren't the only contenders with offseason decisions to make, though. Teams like the Kansas City Chiefs and New England Patriots may also have work to do, involving some of the most intriguing 2022 free agents. 

Davante Adams

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    Jeff Haynes/Associated Press

    According to Rapoport, there have been no contract negotiations between Adams and the Packers since July 2021, and now the team intends to franchise-tag their receiving centerpiece.

    That would be a steep price at around $20 million but a bargain compared to the annual $27.25 million-plus Adams reportedly hopes for. Any hope for a compromise on a long-term extension seems to lie partially with Aaron Rodgers, which could theoretically link to the Packers' playoff success.

    Adams told reporters that he will be "monitoring" his quarterback's offseason plans and that they "naturally" impact his. Rodgers' shakiness with the front office is well-established, but the 13-3 Packers are true contenders, and one has to wonder if a Super Bowl could sweeten soured conversations.

    Still, Lombardi Trophy heroics or not, the team appears intent on a franchise tag—even if it's a band-aid fix capable of sowing future discontent.

    Projection: Franchise tag with Green Bay

Tyrann Mathieu

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    Ed Zurga/Associated Press

    The Chiefs started the season at 3-4, worrying their fans and encouraging their rivals. Kansas City's defense then proceeded to hold opposing teams to under 20 points in seven of their next eight matchups, single-handedly righting the ship.

    Kansas City isn't a 2021-22 contender without that defensive turnaround and the defense doesn't flip that switch without Tyrann Mathieu. The 2021 Pro Bowler is the unit's vocal leader and Swiss Army knife, while backing it up on paper with the team's second-most solo tackles (57) and most interceptions (3, including one returned for a touchdown).

    In the last year of a three-year, $42 million deal, any team interested in Mathieu will need to open up the bank account. During his own failed extension talks this past summer, the Honey Badger mentioned "disrespect" after fellow safety Jamal Adams secured a $70 million deal.

    The Chiefs were reluctant to pay up on an extension this past summer, but the defense's impact this season could shift those sentiments. If they bounce back after this 34-point outpouring by the Cincinnati Bengals, especially during the playoffs, that should be enough to get Mathieu his pay day.

    Projection: Re-signs with Kansas City

Allen Robinson II

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    Mark LoMoglio/Associated Press

    Allen Robinson's wild ride continues. He dropped 1,400 yards and 14 touchdowns in his 2015 sophomore season, but a 2017 torn ACL derailed lofty career hopes. Then, after joining the Chicago Bears, he returned to form and posted 1,000-plus yards and six-plus touchdowns in 2019 and 2020—just before the pendulum swung again.

    Now, Robinson is a non-factor in Chicago's passing attack—seeing career lows across the board. At 28 years old, the former Pro Bowler has posted just 388 yards and one touchdown in this contract year.

    Not being part of their present, it feels likely that A-Rob isn't a part of the Bears' future. If this down season engenders a discount on the market, the Patriots could be an intriguing alternative.

    At 10-6, New England has exceeded expectations this season. If they fall short this postseason, though, a true No. 1 receiver could help Mac Jones in his sophomore year. Kendrick Bourne and Jakobi Meyers have been productive, but Robinson's ceiling lends a different caliber of target. 

    Coming from a dysfunctional environment and promised a true role, Robinson could be swayed by a short-term, affordable deal with a chance at the postseason.

    Projection: Signs with New England

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