2022 NFL Offseason Additions Who Already Seem to Be at Home with Their New TeamsJune 1, 2022
2022 NFL Offseason Additions Who Already Seem to Be at Home with Their New Teams
When the NFL opens its doors to free agency, it's one of the most exciting times in the offseason. The money flows, and every team that lands a big-name addition tends to feel like a winner. However, not every free-agent signing or trade deal ends up being successful.
Standout players don't always remain stars with new teams and in new systems. Odell Beckham Jr. never returned to Pro Bowl form after the New York Giants traded him to the Cleveland Browns in March 2019. Last season, Jonnu Smith went from being an eight-touchdown tight end with the Tennessee Titans to a bit player with the New England Patriots.
Sometimes, though, veteran players quickly take to their new surroundings and remain stars despite their uniform changes.
It's too early to tell which 2022 veteran additions are going to shine this season. We can, however, dive into the latest buzz and get a good idea. That's exactly what we're going to do here, rounding up the latest on some key veterans from organized team activities (OTAs) and analyzing what it could mean for the coming campaign.
Players are listed in alphabetical order.
J.C. Jackson, CB, Los Angeles Chargers
Before the Los Angeles Chargers even got to OTAs, new cornerback J.C. Jackson was already leaving a positive impression on at least one key defender.
"We really haven't been doing football things, just talking with him and stuff like that," second-year corner Asante Samuel Jr. said, per a team transcript (h/t NFL.com's Grant Gordon). "Definitely, I can tell that he is trying to, not necessarily be a big brother, but a mentor—whatever he sees, and whatever I ask of him, he will tell me and try to help me get better with it."
Jackson, who is coming off a spectacular season with eight interceptions and a league-high 23 passes defended, should instantly become the centerpiece of Los Angeles' secondary. However, his willingness to teach will also aid players like Samuel, Michael Davis and safeties Derwin James and Nasir Adderley.
And while Jackson is already one of the NFL's best defensive backs, he's looking to improve with his new team.
"He wants to get better, and he wants to work. That's what we definitely need: a ballhawk that just wants to work," Samuel added.
With Jackson now in the fold, the Chargers should see a significant boost to a pass defense that tied for 15th in yards allowed per attempt last season.
Chandler Jones, Edge, Las Vegas Raiders
The Las Vegas Raiders added two significant pieces this offseason: wideout Davante Adams and pass-rusher Chandler Jones. Adams will look to rekindle the connection that he had with Derek Carr in college at Fresno State, and there's little reason to believe he won't fit into his new offense.
Jones, meanwhile, is already settling into his role as a leader of the defense.
"Chandler's been incredible since [he] got here," Pro Bowl pass-rusher Maxx Crosby said last week, per Aidan Champion of FanNation. "He's a great leader. I think he's going into Year 11 now. He's got over 100-plus sacks, so I'm constantly asking him questions. The cool thing about Chandler is he's one of the most humble dudes I've met."
Jones, who has four Pro Bowls and one sack title on his resume, has plenty to teach rising stars like Crosby. The Raiders expect him to do exactly that while also being a force on the field. The 32-year-old logged 10.5 sacks in 15 games with the Arizona Cardinals last season.
While Jones is plenty seasoned, he isn't afraid to learn from his new teammates.
"He asks me stuff all the time, and it throws me off because I look at his career and that's something I aspire to do," Crosby said, per Champion.
Expect Jones to be ready to roll in Week 1 and to make an instant impact on the field.
Christian Kirk, WR, Jacksonville Jaguars
The Jacksonville Jaguars' decision to give wide receiver Christian Kirk a four-year, $72 million deal in free agency turned plenty of heads this offseason. The 2018 second-round pick showed flashes with the Cardinals but never notched a 1,000-yard campaign.
However, quarterback Trevor Lawrence is already impressed with what he's seen from Kirk in Jacksonville.
"The way he sees the field, different coverages unfold, the way he runs his routes, I just think he's quarterback-friendly," Lawrence told reporters during the first week of OTAs. "And then obviously his speed is something that we really needed, and it's going to help us a lot. You guys saw today. He can fly and locate a ball, all those things."
It's great early news for the Jaguars, who have a generational talent in Lawrence but need to develop him. Lawrence struggled as a rookie under former head coach Urban Meyer, and a lack of reliable receivers was part of the problem.
Kirk is coming off a career campaign with 77 receptions for 982 yards and five touchdowns. If he can build a strong rapport with Lawrence before Week 1, he's going to help the 22-year-old quarterback thrive and may finally hit that coveted 1,000-yard mark.
Von Miller, Edge, Buffalo Bills
The Buffalo Bills handed pass-rusher Von Miller a six-year, $120 million contract in free agency. That's a lot for a 33-year-old sack artist, but there are a couple of reasons why it makes sense.
For one, Miller is still an effective pass-rusher. He logged 9.5 sacks in the regular season with the Denver Broncos and Los Angeles Rams last year plus another four sacks in the playoffs.
Secondly, the Bills are hoping that Miller can help mentor young pass-rushers like Gregory Rousseau, Boogie Basham and A.J. Epenesa. The eight-time Pro Bowler has quickly adapted to his new home and his mentor role.
"He'll come to whether it's me, Boogie, A.J., whoever, and tell them what he sees as well," Rousseau said, per Dante Lasting of the team's official website. "It's really just natural. We're just flowing out there. And he's one of our brothers. He's one of us now, so I feel like he's fitting in great."
Miller's presence in practice is also helping to prepare the offensive line.
"I'm thankful to have him," tackle Dion Dawkins said, per Lasting.
Miller should approach double-digit sacks again in 2022, but his value to the Bills goes beyond his raw numbers. His experience and veteran leadership can make the roster stronger on both sides of the ball.
Allen Robinson II, WR, Los Angeles Rams
The Los Angeles Rams have underwent some retooling of their receiving corps this offseason. Odell Beckham Jr. remains unsigned, and L.A. traded Robert Woods to the Tennessee Titans. Both are coming off ACL tears. The Rams also brought in former Jaguars and Chicago Bears wideout Allen Robinson II, and he has managed to impress arguably the best receiver in the game.
"His football aptitude is incredible. But his willingness to spend the time here and learning this thing, because he doesn't just want to know the offense, he wants to understand the offense," Cooper Kupp told reporters last week. "There's a difference between knowing what to do and knowing how to do it. And he wants to know how to do it and how to do it as efficiently as possible."
Though Robinson is coming off a down season—one impacted by a stint on the reserve/COVID-19 list and the questionable guidance of former Bears head coach Matt Nagy—he's been among the league's top wideouts in the past.
Robinson was a Pro Bowler in 2015 and a 1,250-yard receiver in 2020 with a combination of Nick Foles and Mitchell Trubisky at quarterback. In head coach Sean McVay's offense and with Matthew Stafford under center, Robinson can return to stardom.
The 28-year-old is already impressing with his work ethic, and he figures to be a high-end No. 2 option opposite Kupp. Expect him to be a major asset in the Rams' quest to repeat as champions this season.
Matt Ryan, QB, Indianapolis Colts
The Indianapolis Colts have been searching for a franchise quarterback ever since Andrew Luck's surprising retirement during the 2019 preseason. Philip Rivers only stuck around for one season before retiring, and the Colts pulled the plug on Carson Wentz after 17 games.
Indy's trade to acquire Matt Ryan, however, may have settled the position for now, though. The four-time Pro Bowler and 2016 NFL MVP has wasted little time in impressing his new team.
"Colts head coach Frank Reich says the last few weeks have been 'incredibly eye-opening' with Matt Ryan, from his professionalism to his 'insane' accuracy," JJ Stankevitz of the team's official website tweeted.
Colts wideout Michael Pittman Jr. has also been impressed.
"Matt can pretty much put it wherever he wants," Pittman told reporters last week at OTAs.
Having a more reliable and accurate quarterback will be huge for the Colts, who were hamstrung by Wentz's poor play late last season. Needing just one win in the final two weeks to make the playoffs, Wentz totaled 333 yards with two touchdowns and two turnovers in back-to-back losses to end the year.
Ryan makes Indianapolis a contender, and at 37 years old, he should have enough left in the tank to put the Colts in the postseason picture for several more years.
Marquez Valdes-Scantling, WR, Kansas City Chiefs
The Kansas City Chiefs traded star wideout Tyreek Hill to the Miami Dolphins this offseason and will be looking to replace him with a committee approach. Mecole Hardman and tight end Travis Kelce are back, and the Chiefs added receivers Marquez Valdes-Scantling, JuJu Smith-Schuster, Justin Watson and second-round rookie Skyy Moore.
Each of Kansas City's new additions is likely to play a role in the coming season. Through early OTAs, though, Valdes-Scantling appears to have the best connection with quarterback Patrick Mahomes.
"Among the new receivers, the most impressive performer Thursday was Valdes-Scantling, who ran a variety of smooth routes and demonstrated a strong sense of timing with Mahomes," The Athletic's Nate Taylor wrote last week. "Valdes-Scantling executed a one-on-one repetition so precisely that cornerback Dicaprio Bootle fell to the turf."
Valdes-Scantling might not possess the same game-breaking ability that Hill has, but he's still fast enough (4.37 40-yard dash) to take the top off a defense. With the Green Bay Packers last season, Valdes-Scantling was a role player who finished with 26 catches for 430 yards and three touchdowns, but his quick connection with Mahomes could allow him to become Kansas City's new favorite target on the perimeter.
This doesn't mean that he will become an All-Pro like Hill. However, it does suggest that Mahomes will have more than enough quality targets to continue thriving without Hill in K.C.
Russell Wilson, QB, Denver Broncos
The Denver Broncos finally settled their long-standing quarterback problem by acquiring Russell Wilson from the Seattle Seahawks. The nine-time Pro Bowler is already changing how the Denver offense operates.
"The way he commands the offense, they get to the line fast," safety Justin Simmons said, per Joshua Kellem of Broncos Wire. "There are times where we're breaking our shell as a defense a little early, so he's figuring out pre-snap where he wants to go with the ball. It's clean. It's quick. It's crisp. So it's fun. I love it. It's the game within the game."
If Wilson can quickly improve the Broncos offense, which finished in the bottom half of the league in 2021, the team could be a legitimate title contender in 2022. The Broncos ranked 23rd in scoring last season and went 7-10 while having the league's third-ranked scoring defense.
And Denver is willing to build its system around Wilson's skill set.
"We want to build this thing completely around him and make sure that he's comfortable and watch him come alive," new head coach Nathaniel Hackett told reporters last week on the first day of OTAs.
Wilson seems to already have the offense operating quickly and smoothly. This bodes well for the Broncos heading into training camp this summer and could have them poised to challenge the Chiefs, Chargers and Raiders in the AFC West.
*Contract information via Spotrac.