1 Free Agent Each NFL Team Should Avoid This Offseason

Alex KayContributor IJanuary 12, 2022

1 Free Agent Each NFL Team Should Avoid This Offseason

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    Although the NFL playoffs have yet to begin, the offseason is already underway for most NFL franchises.

    That makes this an ideal time to look at the impending free-agent class and the impact it could have on the 2022 campaign.

    With plenty of notable names set to hit the open market this spring, there will be news about big-money deals being signed before you know it.

    Not all of these contracts will be sensible, however.

    Every year, teams find ways to overpay for unnecessary additions to their rosters or bring aboard bad fits for their schemes.

    It's inevitable that franchises will bungle some of their signings when free agency begins March 16. With that in mind, here's a look at one player each organization should avoid on the open market.    

Arizona Cardinals: Edge Von Miller

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    The Arizona Cardinals were one of the surprise teams of 2021, rising to contention despite dealing with numerous injuries on both sides of the ball.

    The team should remember the attrition it suffered and try to maximize value by adding depth at positions of need. Splurging for an expensive, aging pass-rusher like Von Miller would be wasteful.

    While Miller has been wreaking havoc for the division rival Los Angeles Rams since being traded to the NFC West squad in November, he's on the wrong side of 30 and isn't a fit for a club that already employs similar talent.

    The team already played with a pair of aging stars on the edge in J.J. Watt (32) and Chandler Jones (31).

    While Jones was effective in the final year of his contract—notching 10.5 sacks in 15 games—Watt struggled to stay on the field in his first season with the Cardinals. The injury-prone pass-rusher still effectively has another year left on his deal and can hopefully help the team more reliably in 2022.

    Miller is also likely to cost a pretty penny on his next contract.

    The Rams would be foolish not to make a run at retaining Miller after giving up a pair of picks to acquire him, even though they could end up paying somewhere just shy of $20 million per season to get a deal done.

    Considering that Miller missed the 2020 season and time this year with ankle injuries, it's a good bet the future Hall of Famer won't make it through his next contract unscathed. Arizona should feel comfortable passing on Miller and letting the Rams absorb that cost.

    If the Cardinals want to splurge on a proven edge-rusher, they should simply come to terms on a new deal with Jones, a player they are familiar with and a proven fit in the defensive scheme.  

Atlanta Falcons: WR Odell Beckham Jr.

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    The Atlanta Falcons are going into the 2022 offseason with a potentially massive need at the wideout position.

    The receiving corps was already thin going into the 2021 campaign after the team traded Julio Jones, but it suffered from a lack of depth once Calvin Ridley stepped away in October to focus on his mental well-being.

    Even if Ridley returns to the fold—which is far from guaranteed, with rumors circulating that the organization and wideout could be looking for a "fresh start"—the Falcons must find more talent at the position.

    While there could be some big names on the open market—such as Davante Adams, Chris Godwin, Mike Williams and Allen Robinson—the Falcons should stay away from Odell Beckham Jr.

    The mercurial wideout hasn't had a productive season since 2019, his first year with the Cleveland Browns after being traded by the Giants. He dealt with injuries and poor chemistry with Baker Mayfield before forcing his way out at the November trade deadline.

    Beckham, now 29 years old, isn't the type of player a rebuilding Atlanta squad will want in the locker room as it looks to return to contending status after a four-year playoff drought.

    The Falcons should instead turn their attention to younger wideouts with upside, players they can grow along with promising pieces such as tight end Kyle Pitts.   

Baltimore Ravens: WR Allen Robinson II

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    The Baltimore Ravens haven't been that successful in their search for quality wideouts over the last few years. They would be wise to avoid shelling out big money for a player coming off his worst season as a pro.

    Allen Robinson played the 2020 campaign on a pricey franchise tag in Chicago but produced like a replacement-tier wideout.  

    The 28-year-old only hauled in 38 catches for 410 yards and one touchdown over 12 games, a massive disappointment following back-to-back 1,000-yard plus seasons.

    Robinson's lack of chemistry with rookie wideout Justin Fields was concerning. The wideout didn't seem to fit in Chicago's offense with the mobile signal-caller at the helm either, which is a major reason why Baltimore shouldn't consider the eight-year veteran.

    The Ravens have utilized one of the NFL's most run-heavy schemes since Lamar Jackson became the starting quarterback.

    The team passed on a league-low 44.96 percent of offensive plays in 2020, and even with one of the most banged-up running back corps in football, dialed up throws on just 56.37 percent of its snaps in 2021.

    Robinson has a chance to rehabilitate his career in 2022, but Baltimore isn't the club that can maximize his talents.        

Buffalo Bills: RB Leonard Fournette

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    The Buffalo Bills brass may be getting impatient with the slow development of the team's running backs and could throw some money at the position in free agency.

    If it does sign a veteran on the open market, the team should think heavily before doling out a big contract to Leonard Fournette, arguably the top player at the position set to hit free agency in 2022.

    Fournette managed to successfully turn his career around in 2020, catching on with the Buccaneers after his release from the Jaguars and becoming an instrumental part of the club's Super Bowl run.

    While teams were leery about paying the back when he became a free agent last spring, they may be more willing to cut a big check after he returned to Tampa and put up 812 yards and eight touchdowns on 180 totes.

    While Fournette does offer value as a hard-running back with elite ball security, he's traditionally been a one-dimensional player who isn't a great asset as a receiver.

    He did show growth in the area this past season (ranking fourth amongst RBs with 454 receiving yards), but that was largely a result of his situation within Tampa's backfield. 

    He'd be better utilized in a platoon that features a high-end pass-catching back, something the Bills lack at this time.

    Devin Singletary and Zack Moss combined for 63 catches and 425 receiving yards this year, numbers that don't inspire confidence for either to be a quality third-down back if paired with Fournette.

    The Bills could use some of the money that Fournette would cost to ink a player like Chase Edmonds, a dangerous playmaker out of the backfield who would add a new dimension to the offense.    

Carolina Panthers: QB Jameis Winston

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    Their quarterback situation is a mess right now, but the Carolina Panthers could make things worse by signing one of the veterans who will be available this spring.

    The team already has Sam Darnold under contract in 2022 after picking up his fifth-year option valued at $18.9 million. General manager Scott Fitterer recently confirmed that the signal-caller—who cost the team three draft picks to acquire last year—will be back in the fold.

    The team may be saying it wants to develop Darnold, but its actions—which include bringing in Cam Newton for a second stint with the club and possibly giving him a chance to earn the starting job in 2022—indicate otherwise.

    The Panthers would be wise to avoid muddying the waters by bringing in a quarterback like Jameis Winston.

    While the club desperately needs a franchise signal-caller to compete in the NFC South, bringing in a polarizing veteran who's coming off a season-ending ACL tear isn't the right path forward.

    Carolina should instead focus on the draft, where it holds the No. 6 pick, to unearth a viable long-term option under center.

    In the meantime, Darnold should get one final shot at proving he belongs in the league without a veteran backup breathing down his neck.    

Chicago Bears: WR Davante Adams

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    The Chicago Bears have more question marks up-and-down their roster than most teams going into the offseason. They also need to find a new head coach and GM after cleaning house Monday.

    It would be best for the organization to stay away from dishing out any big-money deals to the top-end wideouts given how far it is from contending.

    Chicago finished 6-11 in 2021 and will be without a first-round pick in 2022 after flipping it to the New York Giants when it moved up the board to take Justin Fields at No. 11 last year.

    Even if the Bears managed to somehow win what will be a fierce competition to acquire a game-changing receiver like Davante Adams, the signing in itself won't get them back to contending status.

    Instead of splurging on a wideout, they should focus on the offensive line to help Fields next season.

    The Ohio State product had a dismal rookie year, getting sacked 36 times and throwing just seven touchdowns to 10 interceptions in 12 games. Because of that, protection should be the No. 1 priority in the Windy City this spring.    

Cincinnati Bengals: G Brandon Scherff

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    The Cincinnati Bengals eschewed the chance to address arguably their biggest need going into the 2021 draft, taking wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase with the No. 5 pick instead of focusing on the offensive line.

    While the decision looks to be the right one, Cincinnati will want to beef up Joe Burrow's protection during the 2022 offseason after his 2020 rookie year was cut short by an ACL injury. And no quarterback was brought down more often in 2021, with Burrow taking 51 sacks.

    If Burrow continues to get battered at this rate, he may not have many more healthy seasons for fans to look forward to.

    While the Bengals could look to plug the holes along the interior of their O-line with a pricey free agent, they should have a choice of high-end guards in the first round.

    Brandon Scherff is likely to be one of the more expensive interior linemen on the open market, but his injury woes are concerning.

    With the 30-year-old missing at least two games in each of the last five seasons—most recently suffering an MCL sprain that kept him sidelined this year—the Bengals should save money and get a more reliably available rookie to shore up the offensive trenches.    

Cleveland Browns: WR JuJu Smith-Schuster

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    The Cleveland Browns are going into the offseason in dire need of pass-catchers.

    The lack of talent surrounding quarterback Baker Mayfield didn't help during a disappointing 8-9 season, especially with Jarvis Landry banged up for much of the year and Odell Beckham Jr. getting cut after the trade deadline.

    Cleveland will want to reload the receiver room in free agency, bringing in at least one proven veteran who can assume the role OBJ played before his release.

    While there will be no shortage of big-time weapons looking for new deals, the Browns will want to focus on the players who have the best chance of staying on the field in 2022.

    Because of that, JuJu Smith-Schuster is not someone the team should prioritize signing. While he has been reliable in the slot for the Pittsburgh Steelers, he is coming off a significant shoulder injury that limited him to just five contests.

    Prior to the ailment, Smith-Schuster had taken a clear backseat to Pittsburgh's up-and-coming wideouts. He contributed a meager 15 receptions on 28 targets for 129 yards and zero touchdowns.

    It remains to be seen if the injury will have any lingering effects on the wideout's availability, but the Browns should be leery about trying to lure him away from their AFC North rivals.  

    The team needs a sure thing for its No. 2 pass-catcher, and Smith-Schuster has too many question marks.

Dallas Cowboys: S Quandre Diggs

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    After a trying 2020 campaign, the Dallas Cowboys raised their game on the defensive side of the ball.

    The improvement helped them get back into the playoffs, but there is still work to do for this to be a great defensive unit.

    One spot that Dallas will want to shore up in free agency is the secondary. The safety position was particularly weak in 2021.

    With the oft-injured Donovan Wilson the only safety under contract for 2022, the Cowboys will need to acquire several players this spring.

    While a steady option like Quandre Diggs might be appealing, Dallas should try to splurge for a game-changing star the position.

    Diggs has been a ball hawk during his time with the Seattle Seahawks, racking up 13 interceptions in two-plus seasons.

    The Cowboys already led the league with 26 interceptions this year, however, and they could use a more impactful center fielder type who is younger and healthier than the 28-year-old Diggs.

    Factor in the major leg/ankle injury that Diggs suffered in Seattle's season finale, and it would be much wiser to go after an up-and-coming safety like Cincinnati's Jessie Bates III, arguably the top free-agent-to-be at his position this year.    

Denver Broncos: QB Teddy Bridgewater

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    The Denver Broncos are on the cusp of contending but desperately need a quarterback who can help them reach their potential.

    Teddy Bridgewater clearly isn't that guy, going 7-7 as a starter in his first year at Mile High after earning the job over incumbent Drew Lock.

    The Broncos make the playoffs, finishing 7-10 and losing 10 of its last 14 games. 

    Bridgewater recorded a middling 3,052 passing yards and 18 touchdowns against seven interceptions and was sacked 31 times.

    He completed 66.9 percent of his passes but couldn't spark an offense that has playmakers such as Melvin Gordon III and Javonte Williams in the backfield and wideouts like Courtland Sutton and Jerry Jeudy.

    After the disappointing display, Denver should have no qualms about letting Bridgewater walk.

    Even if they can't secure a potential franchise quarterback through the draft—the team is picking ninth for the second straight year—or via trade, it would be wise to look elsewhere to find a stopgap solution for the 2022 campaign after Lock took L's on the final three contests of the season when filling in for an injured Bridgewater.     

Detroit Lions: WR Sammy Watkins

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    The Detroit Lions will continue their rebuild during the 2022 offseason following a 3-13-1 finish to the campaign.

    While the team does have a few pieces to build around—rookies Penei Sewell and Amon-Ra St. Brown showed promise in 2021—it will need to spread its dollars around to field a remotely competitive roster. The Lions are projected to have $31.5 million in cap space.  

    Because Detroit is far out of contention and lacking franchise players at key positions like quarterback, the front office must avoid wasting time with aging veterans this spring.

    Instead of focusing on a player like Sammy Watkins—even if the 28-year-old comes cheap and fills a major need in the receiving corps—the Lions should bring in younger players who could maximize their potential on long-term deals.

    Watkins just played for his third team in five years, putting up a career-worst 49 catches for 394 yards and one touchdown with the Ravens.

    Watkins has little upside and is prone to injury, making it unlikely he'd still be around by the time Detroit is ready to turn the corner.

    Wideouts like Marquez Valdes-Scantling and JuJu Smith-Schuster would be better fits for this rebuilding club and would likely cost less than $10 million per season on the open market.   

Green Bay Packers: WR Antonio Brown

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    The Packers only have three wideouts—Amari Rodgers, Randall Cobb and Juwann Winfree—under contract for 2022, making it a position of critical importance for the front office to address in free agency.

    While retaining Davante Adams should be the top priority for the organization, bringing in more talent to keep Aaron Rodgers productive and happy in the twilight of his career would be extremely beneficial.

    Although it may be tempting for the Packers to take a high-risk, high-reward gamble on Antonio Brown, the team would be making a mistake if it signed the wideout.

    In terms of raw ability, there are few receivers available with more than Brown. He was incredibly productive during his tenure with the Buccaneers, amassing 87 catches for 1,028 yards and eight touchdowns in 15 games.

    But he served a three-game suspension for using a fake COVID-19 vaccine card and returned for just two games before a bizarre display in which he took off his equipment and ran off the field in the middle of a game, effectively ending his tenure with the Bucs and potentially his NFL career.

    If the 33-year-old does get another shot, it should not be with the Packers. Green Bay has been one of the most consistent teams in football over the last few years and should not jeopardize the locker room cohesion and chemistry that has been established.

    While the Packers may not be able to find as talented of a receiver on a dirt-cheap contract, Brown isn’t worth the headache.

Houston Texans: EDGE Jadeveon Clowney

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    With talent lacking at nearly every position, Houston will have to get creative and stretch its salary-cap room around to field some semblance of a respectable lineup in 2022.

    If the front office feels Davis Mills could be a long-term answer at the QB spot, the team should then make shoring up the trenches a top item on the to-do list.

    It's tough to win without quality pass-rushers and pass protection, two things the Texans direly need to acquire this offseason. The former especially needs to be addressed after Houston was only able to bring pressure on 20.7 percent of opponents' dropbacks, tying for the fifth-worst mark.

    Signing some decent edge-rushers will help in that department, but the Texans will want to pass on bringing Jadeveon Clowney back into the fold.

    While Clowney was a fierce pass-rusher for the Browns this season—he reached the nine-sack mark for the first time since 2018, his final year in Houston—he's likely to command a sizable contract for the 2022 campaign and beyond.

    Clowney, who recorded 5.5 of his sacks over the final three weeks of the season, has been playing on a series of one-year contracts.

    Going into his age-29 season, the No. 1 overall pick in 2014 may want to ink his name to a long-term deal to provide stability into his early 30s.

    While Houston would certainly benefit from a player of Clowney's caliber, younger edge-rushers such as Harold Landry III will be available at a similar cost.

    Having a reliable player such as Landry, a 25-year-old who has played over 1,200 more snaps than Clowney during the last three seasons, around for the rebuild would give Houston a much better bang for its buck. 

Indianapolis Colts: OT Duane Brown

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    The Colts will do some soul-searching this offseason after they were eliminated from playoff contention on the final day of the campaign.

    The front office will likely put the acquisition of a stalwart left tackle near the top of its wish list heading into the 2022 season.

    There are several free-agent options to pair with Quenton Nelson on the left side of the line, but Indy should not settle for an aging player at the tail end of his career.

    The club would be doing exactly that by signing Duane Brown.

    Even though Brown had yet another commendable year—he earned a 70-plus PFF grade for the 13th consecutive season—and has been one of the most consistent players at his position, he'll turn 37 in August and likely doesn't have much left in the tank.

    Instead of installing Brown as another stopgap while the franchise looks for the heir to Anthony Castonzo, the team should either sign a younger option on a long-term deal or look to the draft to find an anchor on the blind side for the foreseeable future.

Jacksonville Jaguars: WR Marquez Valdes-Scantling

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    The Jaguars were sorely lacking difference-makers on both sides of the ball this year and should prioritize getting some weapons in the offseason.

    Trevor Lawrence had a promising rookie year, but the No. 1 overall pick has to get some help to maximize his talents. Jacksonville ranked dead-last in scoring this season, averaging a pitiful 14.9 points per game.

    When the Jags go hunting for playmakers on the open market, they should heavily consider passing on Marquez Valdes-Scantling.

    The Packers wideout has the size (6'5") and speed (4.37 40-yard dash) to be a transcendent touchdown scorer but hasn't consistently put it all together on the field.

    MVS has notched only 123 receptions on 247 targets, generating 2,153 yards and 13 scores across four seasons. While those aren't horrible numbers, they are disappointing considering not only his athletic gifts, but also because Aaron Rodgers was his quarterback.

    If Rodgers wasn't able to turn Valdes-Scantling into a consistent deep threat, it's unlikely he will become one with a dearth of talent surrounding him in Jacksonville.

    A team will likely overpay for MVS's ability to stretch defenses, but the Jags need to find a more complete playmaker this offseason.

Kansas City Chiefs: WR DJ Chark Jr.

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    With Travis Kelce approaching his mid-30s and Tyreek Hill set to enter the final year of his contract in 2022, the Chiefs must use this offseason to load up on more weapons to surround Patrick Mahomes with.

    While the aforementioned playmakers are two of the NFL's best, they have little in the way of reliable talent surrounding them.

    Mecole Hardman, set to enter free agency after next season, was the only other Chiefs pass-catcher to eclipse the 600-yard receiving mark or have more than 60 catches in 2021.

    There will be several young wideouts for Kansas City to explore long-term deals with, but DJ Chark Jr. doesn't seem to be a good fit for the club.

    Chark is coming off four injury-plagued years with the Jaguars, breaching the 1,000-yard mark just once in that span. He has elite size and speed for the position but hasn't used his frame consistently in the pros.

    An ankle injury kept Chark sidelined for all but four games in 2021, and even before then he hadn't shown the ability to be much more than a deep threat worthwhile of a handful of targets per game.

    Chark hasn't consistently made contested catches, as his catch percentage is only 55.5. 

    Kansas City already has a deep threat in Hardman on the roster and would be better served inking a more versatile and physical wideout to complement the receiving corps.

Las Vegas Raiders: OG Alex Cappa

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    The Raiders blew up their offensive line this past offseason, a move that had mixed results in 2021.

    First-round pick Alex Leatherwood has been wildly inconsistent as well, making the offensive line a key area for this club to address after the season.

    Las Vegas will certainly want to shore up the interior of its O-line, as the team hasn't consistently run the ball this season.

    The Raiders finished the year ranked No. 28 in rushing, averaging a meager 95.1 yards per game.

    Alex Cappa is a guard that has the ability to excel as a run-blocker, using his sturdy frame and power to open lanes.

    The Buccaneer will be an intriguing pickup for any team that wants to add an edge in the ground game, but his ability to pass-protect is suspect.

    Cappa hasn't been able to win reliably when faced with speed-rushers and can't move laterally at a high level. He's a rather one-dimensional guard that could hinder Vegas' improving passing attack.

    While Cappa would be a nice score for a team that has a more complete and versatile offensive line, the Raiders should pass on him and look to get an interior offensive lineman with a more varied skill set.

Los Angeles Chargers: OT Trent Brown

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    After employing one of the NFL's worst offensive lines in 2020, the Chargers went to work building up the unit to better protect quarterback Justin Herbert.  

    While the Bolts made some nice moves to improve in the offensive trenches, the team must find a better right tackle for the 2022 campaign.

    Bryan Bulaga has been a disastrous signing for the club, playing just 45 snaps this season before landing on IR. Getting him off the books and finding a long-term replacement to pair with promising rookie tackle Rashawn Slater will be a key goal for Los Angeles.

    The Chargers won't want to make the mistake of signing another injury-prone lineman, which is why they should avoid coming to terms with Trent Brown.

    Brown is a massive 6'8", 380-pound tackle that has performed at a high level with the Patriots but has also struggled to replicate that success during stops with the Raiders and 49ers.

    He's also missed a good chunk of time with injuries over the last three seasons, getting sidelined for a combined 24 contests since the start of the 2019 campaign.

    At his best, Brown can play on either side of the line and excel in both run and pass-protection roles, but it's not worth betting that the 28-year-old keeps playing at a high level outside of New England or even stays on the field consistently anymore.

Los Angeles Rams: RB/WR Cordarrelle Patterson

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    The Rams won't be picking until Round 3 in the draft after dealing away their first two selections for Matthew Stafford and Von Miller. The Rams can't afford to make many mistakes in either the draft or free agency if they want to improve their roster this offseason.

    One misstep the team could make is signing Cordarrelle Patterson to fill its running back need.

    Patterson has had an interesting journey to becoming a viable weapon out of Atlanta's backfield, serving mostly as a wideout and return specialist during his first eight years in the NFL.

    The Falcons became the first team to use him regularly as a rusher, and he rewarded the club with 618 yards and six touchdowns on 153 totes.

    While Patterson is undeniably a scoring threat—he found paydirt 11 times this past season alone—he's not the type of consistent back the Rams need to augment their high-octane passing attack.

    Patterson, who saw just over 12 touches per game this season, simply isn't cut out to be the workhorse L.A. has been missing since Todd Gurley left.

    After averaging fewer than 100 yards per game on the ground this season and dealing with several serious injuries to its running back platoon, the Rams need to find a sturdy player who can pound the rock.

    Cam Akers is projected to be L.A.'s bell cow in 2022, but the second-year back has dealt with injuries early in his career.

    While he can be a three-down back when healthy, he missed almost all of the 2021 campaign with a torn Achilles and was limited for stretches as a rookie because of a rib injury and a high ankle sprain. 

    If Akers misses time next season, the club would be rolling the dice by tasking Patterson with a heavy workload.

    L.A. wanted to feature Akers as a pass-catcher before his Achilles injury and showed those plans have not changed by targeting him three times in Week 18. 

    Getting a downhill runner such as Leonard Fournette to pair with Akers would be a safer move for the Rams. 

Miami Dolphins: OT Germain Ifedi

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    While no issue is more pressing for the Dolphins than finding a head coach right now after their shocking decision to fire Brian Flores, the team also heads into the offseason once again searching for offensive line help.

    Tua Tagovailoa hasn't properly developed after the club expended the No. 5 overall pick on him last year, as he's been under constant siege from opposing pass-rushers.

    The second-year QB had to get the ball out in 2.52 seconds on average this season, the third-fastest mark in the league, and was pressured on 20.9 percent of his dropbacks.

    It would be unfair to say Tagovailoa has been a bust until the team gets better protection in place, which the franchise could accomplish by signing one of the marquee tackles on the open market.

    Miami should spare little expense on this endeavor, meaning it shouldn't settle for a lesser talent like Germain Ifedi.

    While Ifedi, a first-rounder in 2016, has played decently over the last two seasons—earning his first 60-plus PFF grades of his career—it's clear he's not going to develop into a star lineman.

    The Dolphins should instead be looking at some of the top-tier options, such as Terron Armstead or Orlando Brown Jr., to give Tagovailoa a real chance in 2022.

Minnesota Vikings: CB Bryce Callahan

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    The Minnesota Vikings will have a new look this offseason after parting ways with longtime head coach Mike Zimmer and general manager Rick Spielman.

    The next regime will have many critical decisions to make, a list that will include free-agency signings who can bring some much-needed improvements to the defense.

    While there are some red flags across the lineup after the squad ranked No. 30 in total defense, the cornerback position in particular must be addressed.

    Minnesota allowed 252.9 passing yards per game and 29 passing touchdowns this season. The defense leaned heavily on an aging Patrick Peterson—set to become a free agent—as a starter and had wildly ineffective depth options like Kris Boyd and Alexander Mackensie behind him.

    Bryce Callahan could be of some use to Minnesota, but the team would be better served going after an outside cornerback with a history of staying healthy.

    Callahan has been an elite slot cornerback during his six seasons but has yet to stay healthy for the duration of any one of those. He missed six games in 2020 and another six this year, a concerning amount of playing time lost in that span.

    Given how desperate the Vikings should be to improve the secondary, a reliable cornerback will be a better fit in the Twin Cities.

New England Patriots: CB Patrick Peterson

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    The New England Patriots have done remarkably well at the cornerback position in recent years, but the team may be lacking some talent if it doesn't make a free-agency splurge this offseason.

    After the midseason Stephon Gilmore trade and with J.C. Jackson in line to earn a massive contract as arguably the best cornerback set to hit the open market, New England will need to restock the defensive back cupboard sooner than later.

    While there will be a handful of high-end corners seeking new deals, the Pats would be wise to avoid going after one whose best days are well behind him.

    Patrick Peterson just finished a one-year deal with the Vikings with middling results.

    The 31-year-old couldn't return to his All-Pro form after an underwhelming end to the decade he spent with the Cardinals and doesn't seem to have much left in the tank.

    Peterson had career lows in interceptions (one), solo tackles (34) and pass defenses (five) during his lone year in Minnesota.

    Although Peterson won't command a hefty contract, the Patriots would be better off identifying some younger players with more athleticism and upside to install in their secondary.

New Orleans Saints: OT Riley Reiff

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    The New Orleans Saints missed the playoffs and have more problems ahead as they try to get out of salary cap hell this offseason.

    Spotrac estimates the team will be $68 million over the cap—$30 million more than any other team—meaning it needs to make a drastic number of moves to free up space to sign free agents.

    If New Orleans can't retain Terron Armstead, set to become one of the most coveted players on the market, it will be hard-pressed to afford offensive line talent who can replace the left tackle's contributions in 2022.

    One massive mistake New Orleans could make if it is able to free up space is using it to sign an overpriced replacement for Armstead.

    Riley Reiff is back in the free-agent pool after playing out a one-year deal with the Bengals. He made the switch from the left to right side of the line in Cincinnati but could return to the position at which he spent most of his 10-year career.

    The Saints would likely ask Reiff to play left tackle again if they signed him, but a 33-year-old who has been inconsistent and is now coming off an ankle injury would be a costly pickup.

New York Giants: EDGE Emmanuel Ogbah

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    The New York Giants are forging a new path after firing head coach Joe Judge following two brutal seasons.  General manager Dave Gettleman also retired after the team suffered its worst four-year stretch ever under his stewardship.

    With a need to acquire pieces at several key positions, Gettleman's replacement has his work cut out attempting to get this club back into contention.

    Big Blue can free up money to spend on the open market, but the GM will need to use it wisely or risk setting this franchise back even further.

    One of the more critical needs is on the edge following a season in which the Giants could hardly generate pressure, ranking No. 29 in the league after bringing it on just 20.1 percent of snaps.

    Unfortunately, quality edge-rushers don't come cheap. The G-Men must be careful not to tie up too much in a player who isn't guaranteed to make a big impact for the club.

    Emmanuel Ogbah is one of the few recently productive pass-rushers under the age of 30 set to become a free agent in 2022. While Ogbah had a standout 2021 campaign, his first four years in the league left something to be desired.

    A second-round pick by the Browns in 2016, Ogbah never had more than 5.5 sacks in a season until he joined the Dolphins in 2020. He's since had back-to-back nine-sack campaigns, proving to be a solid schematic fit with the organization.

    He's not a surefire pickup, however, and at a price that will likely ring up at over $15 million per season, the Giants may want to look for someone more consistent to help set the edge.

New York Jets: CB Stephon Gilmore

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    The New York Jets must become a better defensive team if they want to claw their way out of the league's basement.

    Although several injuries to key pieces on that side of the ball in 2021 left them short-handed, the front office must make several free-agent signings to shore up the D's weakest points.

    The secondary stands out as needing the most attention, as Gang Green allowed 259.4 passing yards per game (third-most in the league) and 28 passing touchdowns with just seven interceptions all season.

    With the team conceding an NFL-worst 29.6 points per game, getting a playmaking defensive back is a must this offseason.

    The Jets do have a war chest of draft picks they can use to augment the secondary, but getting a proven option on the open market has its appeal.

    They will want to avoid overpaying for an aging veteran while they slowly improve, however, which is why Stephon Gilmore shouldn't be given serious consideration.

    The Patriots dealt Gilmore to the Panthers for a sixth-rounder earlier this season after he missed the first seven weeks while recovering from quad surgery.

    He missed five games the season prior and hasn't been able to stay healthy since winning the Defensive Player of the Year Award in 2019.

    At 31 years old, Gilmore no longer rates among the league's top corners. That probably won't stop a team from paying him like one, but the Jets should avoid that mistake during their rebuild.

Philadelphia Eagles: WR Will Fuller V

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    The Philadelphia Eagles finally found a wideout they can count on after drafting DeVonta Smith, but the rookie had little help from his fellow receivers in 2021.

    Smith finished the regular season with 64 receptions for 916 yards and five scores, far outpacing the output of Jalen Reagor (33 receptions for 299 yards and two touchdowns) and Quez Watkins (43 receptions for 647 yards and one touchdown).

    While Philadelphia may not want to give up on a 2020 first-rounder like Reagor just yet, the team should add at least one wideout in free agency.

    Will Fuller V should not be that receiver, especially not after he saw the field for just two games during his lone year with the Dolphins.

    Fuller started the year serving out the final game of a six-game PED suspension and made little impact when he was finally activated, catching four of eight targets for 26 yards. He was inactive the remainder of the year with a broken finger.

    While the 27-year-old was one of the game's more intriguing wideouts during his tenure with the Texans, his time in Houston was also marred by injuries that saw him miss at least five games in all but his rookie season.

    The Eagles should instead look at wideouts with a clean bill of health who can establish a rapport with quarterback Jalen Hurts as he continues to develop in Year 3.

Pittsburgh Steelers: QB Marcus Mariota

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    Pittsburgh has failed to line up a successor to Ben Roethlisberger.

    Neither Mason Rudolph nor Dwayne Haskins inspires much confidence as a long-term option under center, meaning the Steelers may decide to draft a signal-caller early in the 2022 draft or kick the tires on a veteran free agent.

    If the team decides to go the latter route—or finds itself seeking a bridge quarterback to start while the rookie gets up to speed—it should stay away from Marcus Mariota.

    Mariota has been looking for a starting job ever since he left Tennessee after the 2019 season. He landed with the Raiders, serving as Derek Carr's backup for the last two years.

    The 28-year-old was a decent passer during his time with the Titans—completing 62.9 percent of his attempts for 13,207 yards and 76 touchdowns against 44 interceptions in 61 starts—but won just 29 of 63 games with the club.

    His injury history is even more concerning, as Mariota missed plenty of time during his five seasons in Tennessee. He even suffered a quad injury that landed him on IR this year despite playing just 24 total snaps, going down on a designed quarterback run he was called in off the bench to execute.

    The Steelers have been a pillar of consistency, relying on few head coaches and quarterbacks throughout their history in a league where there is constant turnover at those positions.

    Mariota would be nothing more than a short-term stopgap for the club, something it will want to avoid as it prepares to move into the post-Roethlisberger era.

San Francisco 49ers: CB Robert Alford

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    The San Francisco 49ers cornerback room should look very different next season.

    The team is likely to part ways with the oft-injured Jason Verrett and aging Josh Norman, plus has a tough decision to make regarding nickelback K'Waun Williams.

    While San Francisco does employ a pair of rookies in Deommodore Lenoir and Ambry Thomas, neither has flashed the potential to be a long-term starter.

    It's inevitable that San Francisco looks to the free-agent pool to find at least one significant defensive back this offseason, but it should think hard before doling out a contract to Robert Alford.

    Alford managed to overcome two consecutive lost seasons to serve as Arizona's top cornerback for most of the 2021 campaign. It was an impressive display from the 33-year-old but not one San Francisco should bet on him repeating.

    Unfortunately, Alford went down with another pectoral injury in Week 14, ending his resurgent campaign with a similar injury to the one he suffered in the 2020 preseason.

    Given his age and constant string of injuries over the past three seasons, the 49ers can't afford to take a chance on Alford staying healthy in 2022, even if it comes at a budget cost.

Seattle Seahawks: LB Dont’a Hightower

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    The Seattle Seahawks are heading into the offseason on the heels of their first losing campaign in 10 years.

    The front office may believe drastic changes are needed to get back to the playoffs, but the Seattle decision-makers should be careful about signing a veteran linebacker to their aging defense.

    The Seahawks have gotten a remarkable amount of mileage out of Bobby Wagner over the last decade, but the 31-year-old is due to make a whopping $16.6 million in 2022.

    With the team needing a shake-up, it's a good bet the six-time All-Pro parts ways with the organization this spring.

    Replacing him with Dont'a Hightower, another linebacker from the 2012 draft class on the wrong side of 30, would be a poor choice.

    While Hightower may have a little less mileage on his tires after opting out in 2020, the 31-year-old is clearly in the twilight of his career. He remains a key piece of New England's defense, but that doesn't mean he'll be as successful of a defender outside of Foxborough.

    Seattle should instead look at some of the younger, more athletic linebackers hitting the open market.

    Foyesade Oluokun has played well for the Falcons and is someone who could assume Wagner's mantle if the team chooses to offer the 26-year-old a long-term deal.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: RB James Conner

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    The Tampa Bay Buccaneers just squeezed a productive year out of Leonard Fournette, but the defending champs will find their backfield platoon pricy to keep intact this offseason.

    With Fournette, Ronald Jones II and Giovani Bernard all set to enter free agency, Ke'Shawn Vaughn will soon be the only running back under contract in Tampa Bay.

    Considering that cap space will be at a premium, the Bucs will not want to waste any of their precious dollars overpaying for a back on the open market.

    They would likely need to do exactly that to entice James Conner to Florida after the veteran back piled up 18 total touchdowns in 2021.

    The Cardinals made the most of Connor's budget one-year deal, but the 26-year-old will likely try to cash in following his scoring frenzy.

    While he's one of the NFL's best short-yardage and goal-line backs—plus has chops as a pass-catcher—Conner would be an unnecessary luxury in Tampa while Tom Brady remains under center.

    The Bucs would be better served seeing what they have in Vaughn after he averaged an impressive 5.0 yards per carry in 2021.

    If they aren't comfortable with the second-year back taking on a large role just yet, a cheaper veteran such as Sony Michel could do the trick in Tampa following a solid stint with the Rams this season.

Tennessee Titans: WR Mike Williams

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    The Titans may have thought they found an ideal receiver pairing for star A.J. Brown when they traded for Julio Jones, but the veteran wideout has been ineffective and injured for much of his first season in Nashville, Tennessee.

    With the Jones deal looking like a mistake, Tennessee should go back to the drawing board and try to identify a complementary wideout who could jump-start a struggling passing game.

    Mike Williams helped provide that spark for the Chargers this year, but it'd be an expensive gamble to expect him to maintain his high level of play over the life of his next contract.

    After teasing his potential for the previous four years, Williams—the No. 7 pick in 2017—finally broke out with a 76-catch, 1,146-yard, nine-touchdown campaign.

    He was on pace for an even more productive season after scoring six touchdowns over the first five games, but the 27-year-old found the end zone just once between Weeks 6 and 15.

    Williams was plagued by drops as well, registering a career-high six this season.

    The Titans may want to go in a different direction after getting burned by the Jones deal.

    Aggressively pursuing one of the more consistent wideouts available or settling for a cheaper player with upside could be the shrewder move this offseason.

Washington Football Team: QB Andy Dalton

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    Washington will have plenty of cap space this offseason, but the club may not be able to find a player to spend it on at the position where it needs the most help.

    There is no greater need for the Football Team this offseason than at quarterback. The organization swung and missed on Ryan Fitzpatrick and won't want to go into 2022 with Taylor Heinicke as its starter after disappointing results this year.

    Unfortunately, there aren't many upgrades available on the open market, and the draft class looks rather thin.

    Instead of throwing money at another overpriced veteran who won't be anything more than a game manager, the Football Team should stand pat and do its best to either trade for a proven quarterback or roll the dice on a prospect.

    Andy Dalton certainly won't be worth paying for, especially not after he completed just 63.1 percent of his passes for 1,515 yards and eight touchdowns against nine interceptions and 18 sacks in eight games.

    Dalton, who matched Fitzpatrick's price tag at $10 million for the 2021 campaign, has zero upside at this point in his career.

    The 34-year-old is best left on the free-agent pile, giving Washington the opportunity to see what a lesser-known prospect can do in 2022.