2022 NFL Free Agents Who Can Earn Big Pay Days in the NFL Playoffs

Alex Ballentine@Ballentine_AlexFeatured ColumnistJanuary 8, 2022

2022 NFL Free Agents Who Can Earn Big Pay Days in the NFL Playoffs

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    From a team perspective, getting to and winning the Super Bowl is the ultimate prize. On an individual level, one of the perks of getting to the postseason is the opportunity to elevate your personal value. 

    After this weekend, 14 teams will still be in the hunt to win the Super Bowl, while 18 teams will be home starting their plans to hopefully be in that position next January. 

    One of the elements of that planning is free agency. To that end, non-playoff teams will be watching still-competing players closely, especially those who are about to hit the market this offseason. After all, being on a winning team and proving he can produce in the playoffs can only help a player's stock.

    While everyone's main objective is lifting the Lombardi, there are multiple impending free agents who could drive up their asking price this postseason. Based on their opportunity to produce, answer questions teams might have about them and help their team make a run, here are seven guys whose playoff performances could put them in line to get big contracts this offseason.

LB De'Vondre Campbell, Green Bay Packers

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    The Packers got an absolute steal last offseason when general manager Brian Gutekunst essentially pulled De'Vondre Campbell off the scrap pile and signed him to a one-year, $2 million contract. 

    After his performance in Green Bay this season, he shouldn't have a hard time finding a team willing to pay him for more than one season. The 28-year-old has had a career year in Green Bay, setting or tying career-highs in tackles (146), interceptions (2), sacks (2) and quarterback hits (6).

    He's drawn rave reviews from teammates. As Cale Clinton and J.P. Acosta of ESPN have noted, Campbell's ability to play well in the middle of the field as a run and pass defender have allowed the Packers to play a lighter box defensively. 

    Campbell was ranked 59th or lower at his position by Pro Football Focus in four of his five seasons before signing with the Packers. This season, though, he was the second-highest graded player at his position.

    The knock on Campbell on the open market is going to be that he hasn't produced like this over a larger sample size. 

    It's a warranted criticism, but one that the playoffs should help him address. The Packers have the best odds to win the Super Bowl (+350, per DraftKings Sportsbook).  

    If they live up to that potential and Campbell has standout performances against some of the best offenses in the league, it's going to help legitimize everything he's done this year and set him up for a large payday in the offseason. 

OT Eric Fisher, Indianapolis Colts

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    When Eric Fisher was cut by the Kansas City Chiefs last season, it took three months before the Indianapolis Colts came along and signed the veteran tackle. Understandably, a 31-year-old tackle coming off a serious Achilles injury is going to have a depressed market. 

    As one might expect, Fisher struggled at the beginning of the season. For example, he had nine blown blocks in his second start with the Colts against the Titans in Week 3, per Sports Info Solutions

    However, with time to get into shape and back to form, he started looking like his former self. He has had no more than three blown blocks in all but one of his starts since Week 3. 

    Injuries have cropped up again, though, for the former No. 1 pick. He sat out Week 17 with knee, shoulder and toe ailments. 

    It's just one week, but anyone who is considering giving Fisher a contract this offseason is going to want to feel good about his health. 

    Fisher can reassure potential suitors that his health isn't a concern with a good stretch in the playoffs. With the Colts riding Jonathan Taylor, Fisher should get plenty of opportunities to showcase his skills as part of an offensive line that has done well this season. 

    If Fisher can prove he can still be a contributing member of a contender, he should see the reward this offseason.  

WR Christian Kirk, Arizona Cardinals

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    Christian Kirk has a great opportunity to make himself some cash in the playoffs. 

    Throughout Kirk's time in Arizona, his role has fluctuated with mixed results. He saw 108 targets in 13 games in 2019 but followed it with just 79 targets in 14 games in 2020. 

    This year, he's seen well over 100 targets, and he's on the precipice of his first 1,000-yard season. Part of the increased volume has stemmed from an injury to DeAndre Hopkins, which has moved Kirk up the pecking order. 

    Since Hopkins' knee injury in Week 14, Kirk has seen 24 percent of the team's targets.

    With head coach Kliff Kingsbury "not sure" if the Cardinals will get Hopkins back during the playoffs, there remains a chance Kirk's expanded role will stick. 

    It's unclear how interested the Cardinals will be in retaining Kirk. As it stands, Spotrac estimates the receiver's market value will be somewhere around four years and $50.4 million. 

    However, Kirk will be competing against a loaded group of receivers. This year's crop of receivers that could hit the market includes Allen Robinson II, Chris Godwin, Davante Adams and Mike Williams. A little extra momentum from some strong playoff outings could help Kirk earn himself a little more recognition and dollars.

DE/OLB Harold Landry, Tennessee Titans

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    Last year was a good time to be a pass-rusher. Five of the top 10 highest-paying contracts given out in free agency by average annual value were given to quarterback hunters. 

    Last year's edge class included multiple pass-rushers in their 20's with proven production. This year's class does not feature the same combination of production and youth.

    Chandler Jones (turns 32 in February) and Von Miller (33 in March) have age concerns. Randy Gregory has been on and off the field throughout his career because of injuries as well as multiple failed or missed drug tests that led to suspensions. Jadeveon Clowney brings his own injury issues to the table. 

    That all sets up for Harold Landry of the Tennessee Titans to have a healthy market in free agency. He's been incredibly productive this season, setting career highs in sacks (12), tackles for loss (14) and quarterback hits (22). 

    Dan Pompei of The Athletic has reported the Titans and Landry have had talks about an extension. The fact they haven't come up with one yet may wind up costing Tennessee more money down the line. 

    Landry is a bit of a tweener with his 6'2" 252-pound frame. But his ability to play as a stand-up linebacker in three-down-linemen alignments and as a traditional hand-in-the-dirt pass-rusher in the 4-3 is crucial to Tennessee's schemes. 

    With the Titans set up to potentially see prolific passers like Patrick Mahomes and Josh Allen in the playoffs, Landry could show off his pass-rushing skills. If he can add a strong postseason to his resume, he's going to have a whole lot of leverage with his current team or be at the center of a bidding war with other potential suitors. 

TE Dalton Schultz, Dallas Cowboys

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    When injuries have impacted the offense in Dallas over the past two seasons, Dalton Schultz has been there to pick things up. He should be well compensated for that in 2022. 

    Schultz took over the starting tight end role and performed admirably when Blake Jarwin went down with an ACL tear in 2020. In 2021, he took the job and ran with it, garnering over 100 targets and 75 receptions—second only to CeeDee Lamb for the team lead in both categories this season.

    With Michael Gallup out of the lineup, Schultz's role has grown even more heading into the playoffs. Quarterback Dak Prescott has targeted Schultz 19 times over the past two weeks, setting a new season-high for targets in each game. 

    The Cowboys have a lot of money wrapped up in offensive weapons. Both Ezekiel Elliott and Amari Cooper have monster contracts, and the team will have a lot of defensive players looking for new deals in 2022. 

    That could force the Cowboys to pass on paying Schultz. However, his ability to block and serve as a receiving threat make him an ideal fit in just about any offense, and plenty of teams will be interested in his upside.

    As one of Prescott's favorite targets, Schultz could be in line for a big game or two in the postseason, which in turn could lead to an even bigger check in free agency. 

CB Charvarius Ward, Kansas City Chiefs

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    Two things could hurt Charvarius Ward's market when he hits free agency this offseason.

    One is the fact he missed four games with a quad injury this season. The other is the performance he had against Ja'Marr Chase in last week's game against the Cincinnati Bengals. The corner was burned for 93 yards and a touchdown on six targets, per PFF

    Both of those can be addressed if Ward gets to make another deep playoff run with the Chiefs, especially if it involves a rematch with Chase. 

    Ward's value comes in his ability to play press-man coverage. He's asked to do it a lot in Kansas City, and that always comes with the risk of getting beat. 

    He'll get the opportunity to show he can stay healthy down the stretch run and lock up high-quality competition in the postseason. He already has played eight playoff games with the team in three years, including two trips to the Super Bowl.

    Outside of Stephon Gilmore and J.C. Jackson, there aren't a lot of lockdown options set to hit the market. Both could be re-signed by their respective teams. 

    When there's a dearth of talent at a position of need, teams can start overspending. If Ward has a couple of good outings against top receivers in the playoffs, he could be on the receiving end of a bloated deal. 

S Jordan Whitehead, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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    Jordan Whitehead's agent is going to have a lot to work with when selling his client's resume to potential suitors. Whitehead will only be 25 next season, he's been productive and he could potentially finish his first contract with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as a two-time Super Bowl champion. 

    The Bucs have a tough road ahead with the departure of Antonio Brown along with injuries to Chris Godwin and Leonard Fournette. They still have two major factors going for them, though: Tom Brady and a nasty defense. 

    Whitehead can be an overlooked part of the latter. The safety is a willing tackler who can be an enforcer filling run lanes, but he's been especially good in coverage this season, giving up a passer rating of 62.8 when targeted. 

    Last year, Whitehead made some big plays for the Bucs. That includes a forced fumble that set up a touchdown in the NFC Championship Game. He proceeded to play in the Super Bowl with a torn labrum, helping the defense shut down Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs. 

    Whitehead is the kind of young, tough player who could be enticing for a franchise looking to change its culture. Another Super Bowl would serve to bolster that perception. 


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