10 NFL Free Agents Who Can Fill Remaining Holes After 2022 Draft

Michelle Bruton@@michelle_nflFeatured ColumnistMay 1, 2022

10 NFL Free Agents Who Can Fill Remaining Holes After 2022 Draft

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    Jack Dempsey/Associated Press

    The NFL draft is in the books, and after months of speculation, we finally know where this year's top prospects will be suiting up this fall.

    Even though teams are happily getting to know their rookies, there are still a few who didn't quite seem to solve all their needs through the draft. Likewise, a handful of free agents are still looking for new homes (or to return to their most recent ones).

    After an early flurry of activity slowed to a trickle, we could be seeing free-agent signings pick up again on Monday.

    That's because, beginning at 4 p.m. ET, teams will be able to sign unrestricted free agents without them counting toward the 2023 compensatory draft pick formula.

    Let's look at 10 free agents and the teams that could prove to be their best fits in this second wave of free agency.

Baltimore Ravens: WR Jarvis Landry

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    David Richard/Associated Press

    When the Cleveland Browns drafted wideout David Bell with the 99th overall pick, many interpreted that to signify the end of the Jarvis Landry tenure in Northern Ohio. 

    As a free agent, Landry could be in line for an average annual salary around $12 million, per Spotrac. However, he reportedly is looking for more like $20 million, per ProFootballTalk's Mike Florio, which isn't likely to happen. He did miss time with a knee injury, but his stat line of 52 receptions for 570 yards and two touchdowns in 2021 was a career-low for the 29-year-old. 

    On Day 1 of the draft, the Baltimore Ravens made a splash when they shipped Marquise Brown and a third-round pick to the Arizona Cardinals in return for the No. 23 overall pick. 

    Though Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson seemed surprised, Brown revealed on the I Am Athlete SiriusXM radio show that Jackson knew he had asked the organization for a trade. 

    If the Ravens plan to add more weapons to appease Jackson, whose top wide receivers now are 2021 first-round pick Rashod Bateman, Devin Duvernay and James Proche II, they didn't do it during the rest of the draft. Baltimore had six selections in Round 4 but didn't use any of them on a wideout. 

    Among the free agents, if we assume Odell Beckham Jr. will re-sign with the Los Angeles Rams (and keep reading for more on that), Landry becomes the next big name. 

    As the South Florida Sun-Sentinel's Omar Kelly pointed out, Ravens executive vice president of player personnel Ozzie Newsome has "been a fan of Landry for a while and tried to trade for him when he was with the Dolphins." Newsome may not be calling the shots in Baltimore anymore, but he remains a link to Landry within the organization. 

    The Ravens don't have a ton of cap space to work with, but no one will meet the top end of Landry's demands. If Baltimore can work some cap magic, Landry and his team should recognize it's a good situation. 

Chicago Bears: WR Julio Jones

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    Eric Christian Smith/Associated Press

    The Chicago Bears drafted Tennessee wideout Velus Jones Jr. at No. 71 overall in this year's draft, and he will be able to contribute right away in the return game. The speedster joins a receiving corps that includes Darnell Mooney and Byron Pringle. 

    However, if the Bears want to surround new quarterback Justin Fields with more weapons, they should look to the veteran free-agent market.

    One free agent the Bears might consider is Julio Jones, who remains unsigned after being released by the Titans this offseason. 

    Jones' 2021 season admittedly didn't wow anyone; injury limited him to 10 games, in which he notched 31 receptions, 434 yards and a touchdown. However, his yards per game dropped from 85.7 in 2020 to 43.4 in 2021. 

    If he can stay healthy in 2022, and if he's not determined to go to a contender, the 33-year-old could be a valuable veteran presence for a Bears offense looking to develop some young weapons into future mainstays. It's unlikely both sides would be interested in anything more than a one- to two-year deal. 

    Chicago has about $13 million in cap space, though roughly $4.2 million will need to go toward signing its new draft picks.

Cleveland Browns: Edge Jadeveon Clowney

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    Nick Cammett/Associated Press

    Edge-rusher Jadeveon Clowney is one of the bigger names remaining in free agency and has the expected price tag to match; per Spotrac, his market value is around $12.7 million in average annual salary. 

    The Cleveland Browns have deep enough pockets to make it work, currently sitting on about $24.2 million in cap space. Restructuring wideout Amari Cooper's contract helped them amass a nest egg that could be used to bring Clowney back to the place he suited up in 2021. 

    Per Mary Kay Cabot of cleveland.com, the Browns signing Deshaun Watson increases the chances Clowney will be back in 2022, both because it makes the Browns a contender now and also would reunite the two from their time in Houston. 

    Clowney had his best season in years in 2021, notching nine sacks (a half-sack off his career high), 19 QB hits, 11 tackles for loss, two passes defended and two forced fumbles in 14 starts. 

    If the Browns had to bring only one of Clowney or Jarvis Landry back, 850 ESPN Cleveland's Tony Grossi claims Clowney will be the guy. 

    Clowney is no stranger to signing contracts later in the offseason; last year, he didn't sign with the Browns until mid-April. 

Green Bay Packers: WR Will Fuller

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    Rick Scuteri/Associated Press

    The Packers, who lost No. 1 wideout Davante Adams and Marquez Valdes-Scantling this offseason, had a clear need at the position heading into the draft. They addressed it, trading up to select North Dakota State's Christian Watson at No. 34 overall and drafting Nevada's Romeo Doubs in Round 4. 

    However, those two players will take time to develop in the Packers' offense, and the team is ready to win now. Plus, we all know Aaron Rodgers demands a certain level of trust with his receivers before he'll target them in meaningful ways. Another veteran would ensure Rodgers has an option on the field to whom he's comfortable throwing. 

    The Packers have $14 million in available cap space, but their effective space is much lower. They'll have to allocate about $9.3 million to their new draft picks. And currently, under the Rule of 51, only their top 51 contracts count against their cap; Nos. 52 and 53 will come due in September. 

    Within those parameters, Will Fuller is an option that doesn't break the bank. After seeing action in just two games in 2021, he isn't likely going to command a repeat of the $10.6 million (with $10 million guaranteed) Miami paid him last year. The 28-year-old will have to accept a one-year prove-it deal, and that would work out well from Green Bay's side, too, as the team develops its new young guns. 

Green Bay Packers: TE Kyle Rudolph

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    Ed Zurga/Associated Press

    Before the draft, it was revealed that the Packers' trade with the Las Vegas Raiders that resulted in Davante Adams' departure in return for first- and second-round picks was initially meant to include another player. 

    CheeseheadTV's Aaron Nagler reported that during trade talks with the Raiders, the Packers were looking to get tight end Darren Waller included in the deal, before being reminded of the league rules that prohibit players from being part of a trade package when on an unsigned franchise tag. 

    The news then became that the Packers were hoping to trade for Waller during this year's draft. However, Waller himself shot that down on Wednesday, telling CBS Sports Radio's Zach Gelb he had spoken with the Raiders, who told him "there's no trade that's going to happen."

    After the draft, the Packers' tight end group includes Robert Tonyan, who returned on a one-year, $3.75 million deal; 2020-third-round pick Josiah Deguara and Tyler Davis, whom the team signed off the Colts' practice squad. If the Packers are looking to add to their tight end group, veteran Kyle Rudolph is still on the market. 

    With the New York Giants last season, Rudolph tallied 257 yards and a touchdown on 26 receptions in 13 starts. With Tonyan coming back from a torn ACL suffered in October, adding some veteran hands to the tight ends room at a reasonable price is a good strategy. 

    The Packers and their rivals to the west frequently sign each other's former players; in this case, Green Bay has had a front-row seat to scouting the 32-year-old for years, and his knowledge of the Minnesota Vikings' offense certainly wouldn't hurt to have.

Kansas City Chiefs: DE Melvin Ingram

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    David Becker/Associated Press

    The Chiefs began the offseason with more than 20 unrestricted free agents. Of those, they've re-signed five. 

    Elsewhere on this list, we've projected safety Tyrann Mathieu to leave Kansas City and move to a new organization (more on that to come). But we're tabbing arguably the second-biggest name on the Chiefs' unrestricted free-agent list, defensive end Melvin Ingram, to return. 

    Ingram arrived in Kansas City in November after the Chiefs sent a sixth-round draft pick to the Pittsburgh Steelers to acquire him.

    Ingram's impact on the team went beyond the stat sheet. His presence allowed defensive tackle Chris Jones to move from the edge inside, where he thrived.

    But if Kansas City wants to lock down Ingram for what would be his first full season with the organization in 2022, it will cost a heck of a lot more than the roughly $600,000 the team paid him last year. The Chiefs have about $14.4 million in cap space to work with before signing their draft picks; with Ingram being 33, this won't be a lengthy contract.

Los Angeles Chargers: CB Bryce Callahan

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    Rick Scuteri/Associated Press

    The Chargers had a need in the secondary heading into the draft. They selected Ja'Sir Taylor out of Wake Forest in the sixth round, and he could contribute right away on special teams. But in terms of building out their depth at cornerback, there's still room for them to bring in a veteran. 

    J.C. Jackson is the team's clear No. 1. Asante Samuel Jr. played on the outside last season, and signing someone like Bryce Callahan to man the slot would allow the team to keep the second-year player on the boundary. 

    Now 30 years old and coming off an injury, Callahan wouldn't break the bank for the Bolts, but as a rotational player he could still allow them to maximize their existing strengths at the position.

    The Chargers still have a healthy amount of cap space left (approximately $18.3 million). And the team has a track record of signing free-agent defensive backs since the arrival of head coach Brandon Staley, who formerly served as a Broncos assistant.

Los Angeles Rams: WR Odell Beckham Jr.

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    Tony Gutierrez/Associated Press

    Despite arriving in the middle of the season, Odell Beckham Jr. became an important part of the Rams team that would eventually capture the Lombardi Trophy, tallying 305 yards and five touchdowns on 27 receptions in the regular season. Beckham was also a key contributor in the postseason, contributing 21 receptions for 288 yards and two touchdowns in four games before tearing his ACL in the Super Bowl game against the Cincinnati Bengals. 

    That torn ACL is the biggest reason Beckham still finds himself a free agent as the calendar turns to May. In late March, Rams GM Les Snead said the team "definitely" wants Beckham to return; on Friday, Beckham tweeted he would happily sign an extension when the team sends him a "real offer."

    The disconnect between the two parties likely concerns Beckham's compensation being tied to how much time he plays in 2022. Per NFL Network's Ian Rapoport, Beckham's timetable would have him returning to the field in November. As a result, Around the NFL's Nick Shook thinks the Rams "could likely work on a deal that's friendlier financially."

    We'll see if the two sides are able to arrive at a deal that works for both, but the mutual interest in Beckham remaining in L.A. has been established.

Philadelphia Eagles: S Tyrann Mathieu

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    Ed Zurga/Associated Press

    There's been a lot of chatter linking free-agent safety Tyrann Mathieu to the Philadelphia Eagles, per Tim McManus of ESPN, as well as to the Raiders. He's also had interest from the Cowboys, Colts, Saints, Broncos, Ravens, Steelers and Dolphins. It's not a bad place to be if you're the Honey Badger. 

    Spotrac sets Mathieu's market value at $14.8 million in average annual salary; the Eagles, Ravens and Raiders all have less than $10 million in remaining salary-cap space. But for the right player, there's (almost) always a way. 

    Per McManus, the Eagles hosted Mathieu on a virtual visit earlier in the month. Philadelphia is eyeing him to beef up the back end of its defense after losing Rodney McLeod, who signed a one-year deal with the Colts, in free agency. 

    Though we don't know where Mathieu will end up, he doesn't appear to have a shortage of options. One team that doesn't seem likely is his former one, the Kansas City Chiefs, who already brought in safety help in free agency with Justin Reid.

San Francisco 49ers: OL JC Tretter

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    Terrance Williams/Associated Press

    The 49ers have reportedly been doing their due diligence on free-agent offensive linemen in case they didn't land the one they wanted in the draft. One player they've kicked the tires on is JC Tretter. 

    San Francisco did address the position in the draft, taking UTSA's Spencer Burford at No. 134 overall and Fordham's Nick Zakelj at No. 187. 

    Burford provides great depth, having started at all four guard and tackle spots for the Roadrunners. Meanwhile, Zakelj told the media following his selection by the 49ers that he sees himself "being more of a guard at the next level."

    Right now, it looks like the 49ers would plan to start Daniel Brunskill at center. But if the team wants to bring in veteran center experience, JC Tretter remains an option. 

    The 49ers lost Laken Tomlinson in free agency, and their situation with veteran center Alex Mack is "fluid," per general manager John Lynch. The team is entering a new era with young quarterback Trey Lance, and it needs above all to ensure he has a stable offensive line in front of him.


    Free-agent contracts and status via Spotrac.