The 2022 NFL free agency class isn't a great one. Then again, the free agent crop usually isn't that bountiful.
"Paying big money to free agents is how you kill your team," one NFC GM said at the scouting combine. "Most of them are there for a reason."
That doesn't mean it can't work in terms of supplementing the roster or filling a hole or two here and there. This year's class had many of the top targets taken off the market with franchise tags or last-minute deals. That's because teams have more cap room and they know drafting and developing is a better way than signing and hoping they fit.
Green Bay Packers receiver Davante Adams, Tampa Bay Buccaneers receiver Chris Godwin, Cincinnati Bengals safety Jessie Bates and Chargers receiver Mike Williams all would have been in the top 10 of my top 100 free agents heading into the open of the period next week. But Adams, Godwin and Bates were tagged and Williams got a new deal from the Chargers.
The tight end position was also seemingly loaded, but Miami's Mike Gesicki, Dalton Schultz of the Cowboys and David Njoku of the Browns were all given the franchise tag. That thinned out a good position.
The top player on my list is now New Orleans Saints left tackle Terron Armstead. He is a big-time player when he's on the field, but he's missed a lot of time because of injuries. That's the concern with these players. There are issues for a lot of them.
I do think there is value down the line for some of the lesser-known players. Among the players on this list that I think will bring good value are Cardinals receiver Christian Kirk (No. 12), Chiefs corner Charvarius Ward (No. 22), Ravens center-guard Bradley Bozeman (No. 30), Rams tackle Joseph Noteboom (No. 34), Packers receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling (No. 35), 49ers defensive tackle D.J. Jones (No. 38) and Vikings tight end Tyler Conklin (No. 56). They are all young, rising players with a lot of upside.
That's the way teams should handle free agency, but most of the time they don't. They get caught up in names and not games. This is the year they should wise up, especially since there aren't a lot of top-tier guys on the market.
My list skews to the younger players, but there is some age at the top. It's all a crapshoot, which is why I would rather take my chances on the younger players on their way up than older guys on their way down.
And a reminder that this list was comprised prior to March 10 and does not reflect new players in the market who have been released.
Terron Armstead New Orleans Saints OT
|He will be 31 and he is coming off a season where he played only nine games. Injuries have forced him to miss a lot of time in his career. When he's healthy, he is outstanding. He's also a great locker room guy.|
Von Miller Los Angeles Rams OLB
|At 32, he has a few good years left and showed in the postseason for the Rams that he can still provide nice edge pressure. The Rams would love to keep him, but that might not be possible. Pass-rush needy teams should make a run if they need help in the short term.|
J.C. Jackson New England Patriots DB
|The Patriots did not franchise him, so he hits the market. Jackson has become a good, quality corner who can excel in man coverage. He has a nose for the football.|
Chandler Jones Arizona Cardinals DE
|He is 32, so age is starting to become an issue. He is a good pass rusher, but after getting five sacks in the opener last season he cooled down in a big way. Even so, he will get a lot of action since he can rush the passer.|
Carlton Davis Tampa Bay Buccaneers CB
|He is long corner who can lock up another team's top receiver. He missed time last season with an injury, but he is still a younger corner at the age of 25 who can become a Pro Bowl player.|
Brandon Scherff Washington Commanders OG
|He is the best guard in the market and a player who can boost any offensive line. The Commanders likely won't keep him, which means a talented younger lineman is there for the taking.|
Marcus Williams New Orleans Saints FS
|He is coming off an impressive 2021 season, which will help his status on the market. At 25, he is developing into a much better player on the back end than earlier in his career when his aggressiveness sometimes cost him.|
Allen Robinson Chicago Bears WR
|He is a big, strong receiver who has played with a lot of bad quarterbacks in his career. He isn't a burner, but he can win those 50-50 balls as well as any receiver in the league.|
Randy Gregory Dallas Cowboys DE
|He is an explosive edge rusher, but injuries slowed him last season and he's had some off-field issues that have kept him out at times in his career as well. But when he's on the field, he can be a good edge rusher.|
De'Vondre Campbell Green Bay Packers OLB
|He signed a one-year deal with the Packers and proved to be one of their best defensive players. He is an active linebacker who can stay on the field for all three downs.|
Laken Tomlinson San Francisco 49ers OG
|He has made steady improvement the last two seasons, fitting in perfectly in the San Francisco style of offense. He is a good run blocker who will be an early signing when the period opens.|
Christian Kirk Arizona Cardinals WR
|This is the type of free agent I would sign if I were a GM. He's a rising player who is just now hitting his peak at the age of 25. He has never been the top receiver on his team, but the skills are there. He is coming off a 77-catch season.|
Haason Reddick Carolina Panthers OLB
After starting his career as an inside linebacker, he has blossomed since moving outside as a rusher. The Panthers would like him back, but the price might get too high. He has 23.5 sacks the past two seasons.
James Daniels Chicago Bears OG
He can play both center and guard, two positions where he's started for the Bears. He's also a young player at 24, which brings value. He will be signed early.
Stephon Gilmore Carolina Panthers CB
He isn't the same player he was a few years ago, but in a corner-needy league he will get action. He is said to be looking for $15 million a year. He's not worth that on a long-term deal, but he can still be a good starter.
Quandre Diggs Seattle Seahawks SS
A lot of teams are looking for a guy who can play the middle of the field, and Diggs is that guy. Even as teams move to more split-safety looks, he fits in any scheme. He has the range you like since he's a former corner.
Darious Williams Los Angeles Rams DB
After a big-time season in 2020, his play dropped off a little bit last season. He's still a good No. 2 corner on any team who can excel in zone coverage. He is short at 5-9.
Ryan Jensen Tampa Bay Buccaneers C
He is a nasty, tough player who anchored the Tampa Bay line. He will have a good market if he doesn't return to Tampa since so many teams need inside help.
Bobby Wagner Seattle Seahawks MLB
The Seahawks released him Tuesday because he's getting up in the years and they are in rebuild mode. He isn't the same player he was a few years ago, but he can still help a team with his smarts in the middle of a defense.
Tyrann Mathieu Kansas City Chiefs FS
This veteran is still a capable player who can do a lot of things for a defense. That, coupled with his smarts and his work ethic, will make him a nice addition to any defense.
Emmanuel Ogbah Miami Dolphins DE
He started his career slowly, but since coming to the Dolphins he has emerged as a good defensive end. He isn't going to just line up and win with his speed, but he has become a much better pass rusher the past two years.
Charvarius Ward Kansas City Chiefs CB
At 25, he has a chance to really hit it big in this market. He isn't a No. 1 corner, but he fits as a No. 2 corner with his ability to play man coverage. He has good size at 6-1, 195 pounds.
Trent Brown New England Patriots OT
He is a massive right tackle who played well last season for the Patriots. He can also play the left side as a good pass blocker. He will have value on this market.
Akiem Hicks Chicago Bears DE
Injuries slowed him last season, but when he was on the field he was still a force inside. He's a power player who is tough to single block. He is getting up in the years at 32, but he can still play at a high level.
Foye Oluokun Atlanta Falcons LB
He led the NFL in tackles last season and is one of those off-the-ball linebackers who seem to show up a lot on tape. He can run and he can stay on the field for all three downs, which brings value.
Jadeveon Clowney Cleveland Browns OLB
He isn't a No. 1 pass rusher, but if you pair him with a dominant edge player he can be a productive pass rusher. He's really good against the run, but you don't pay top dollar for that skill set.
Duane Brown Seattle Seahawks OT
Age is becoming an issue for him at 36, but he is coming off another solid season. He excels in pass protection on the left side, which gives him value on this market, even at his age.
Austin Corbett Los Angeles Rams OG
This former center has made a nice transition to right guard, starting all of the Rams' games there the past two seasons. He was a good run blocker in their zone scheme, but he has had some pass-protection issues at times (see 49ers Week 18 game).
Rob Gronkowski Tampa Bay Buccaneers TE
If he plays — he might retire — he will find a home somewhere. He showed last year that he can still be a productive tight end, even if he isn't what he was a few years ago.
Bradley Bozeman Baltimore Ravens OG
He has played both guard and center for the Ravens, which gives him value on this market. He turns 28 in November and he is coming off a good season at center for the Ravens. The market should be solid.
Odell Beckham Jr. Los Angeles Rams WR
He finally looked to be back to his pre-injury self last year down the stretch, but then suffered another major knee injury in the Super Bowl. That's why he's down this low.
Derek Barnett Philadelphia Eagles DE
Barnett is a good, solid player, but he won't wow you with his pass-rush skills. He does play hard, and he's good in the run game. He is a capable starter with a lot of starts on his resume.
Melvin Ingram Kansas City Chiefs DE
He was traded from the Steelers to the Chiefs last season and helped solidify that Kansas City defense. He is a power player who holds up against the run and can still influence the quarterback. He would be a nice second edge player on most rosters.
Joe Noteboom Los Angeles Rams OT
He filled in at left tackle when Andrew Whitworth missed time last season and played well in his three starts. He is good in pass protection. The Rams would like to have him back, especially if Whitworth retires.
Marquez Valdes-Scantling Green Bay Packers WR
He is one of the top deep threats on the market, one of the true "speed" guys in this class. When he's on the field, teams have to defend differently. He is a home run threat. I probably rank him higher than most, but I love outside speed in an offense.
D.J. Chark Jacksonville Jaguars WR
He suffered an ankle injury in Week 4 that cut short his 2021 season. He is a bigger receiver who can run, which will help his value. The Jaguars could bring him back.
D.J. Reed Seattle Seahawks FS
He is a smallish corner at 5-9, but he is feisty and will battle. He has fit playing in Seattle's zone scheme, but his height might hurt him on the outside as a man player.
D.J. Jones San Francisco 49ers DT
I think he's one of the most-underrated players in this class. Pop in the tape in the 49ers' season finale against the Rams and see why that is the case.
Alex Cappa Tampa Bay Buccaneers OG
He has 46 starts over the last three seasons, making him another young guard on the market with experience. He is a good run player who can sometimes struggle in pass protection.
Jameis Winston New Orleans Saints QB
He is coming back from a major injury that forced him to miss most of 2021, but he appears to be making great progress. There is a good chance he goes back to the Saints.
Donte Jackson Carolina Panthers CB
He is said to be seeking a deal that will pay him $15 million a year, which is a little pricey. But he's been a decent starter who will get action on the market in a cornerback-needy league.
Morgan Moses New York Jets OT
Any team looking for a power right tackle should take a look at Moses. He excels as a run blocker and played well for the Jets last season.
Patrick Peterson Minnesota Vikings CB
His one year with the Vikings was a mixed bag. He missed time with a hamstring injury, which hurt. He still flashes the talent that made him a top corner with Arizona, but he's not the same player he once was. He can still be a starter.
Connor Williams Dallas Cowboys OG
He's a decent starter who will get action on the market because he's only 24 and has 51 starts on his resume. Look for him to be one of the early signings because of line desperation in the league.
Zach Ertz Arizona Cardinals TE
At 31, age is becoming an issue. Even so, he looked much better with the Cardinals last season than he did in his last years with the Eagles. He is a pass-catching threat who can still help any offense inside.
Uchenna Nwosu Los Angeles Chargers LB
If you are looking for an underrated edge player, this is the guy. His best football might be ahead of him, but he has to prove he can do it when there isn't a Joey Bosa on the other side.
Jordan Whitehead Tampa Bay Buccaneers FS
He's a tough, physical safety who will show up with some big hits and in the run game. When he missed time last season, it showed up in the Tampa Bay secondary.
Brian Allen Los Angeles Rams C
He has played well in their zone scheme, but at times he has issues in pass protection. He can move, which is why he fits their system. I think he can be pushed around at times in pass protection.
JuJu Smith-Schuster Pittsburgh Steelers WR
He missed most of last season with shoulder surgery, but he did return to play in the playoffs, so he's healthy. He is a possession receiver who can help a team looking for help inside.
Marcus Maye New York Jets FS
He tore an Achilles tendon last season in Week 9, which ended his season. As he recovers, teams might be reluctant to give him a big-money deal. He is a good player who can play deep and near the line of scrimmage.
Ben Jones Tennessee Titans C
He's a good starting center who excels in the run game. He has also started at guard in his career. At 32, he is getting up there in years.
Leonard Fournette Tampa Bay Buccaneers RB
He has turned his career around in Tampa after being cut by the Jaguars. He is a power runner who won't make many people miss, but he has developed into a good pass catcher.
Cordarrelle Patterson Atlanta Falcons WR
After being considered a bust for much of his early career, Patterson was a nice addition for the Falcons last year. He played running back and receiver, showing off his versatile skills. He also can return kicks.
Leighton Vander Esch Dallas Cowboys OLB
He looked like a star when he came into the league, but injuries have slowed that train down some. He does flash that ability at times, but the consistency isn't there. Even so, he can be a capable starter for any team.
Casey Hayward Las Vegas Raiders CB
He played well last season on a one-year deal for the Raiders. He excels as a zone player, which is fine since he's getting up in years at the age of 32.
Tyler Conklin Minnesota Vikings TE
He is the type of player teams should focus on in free agency. He had his breakout season last year when Irv Smith Jr. went down, showing he can be a starter in the league. He is only 26.
Eric Fisher Indianapolis Colts OT
After tearing an Achilles tendon late in 2020 with the Chiefs, he settled in and did a nice job for the Colts last season. He isn't a guy who will be All-Pro, but he is a capable starter.
Michael Gallup Dallas Cowboys WR
He is coming off a torn ACL suffered late last season, but the talk is he will be ready for the opener in September — no matter where he plays. The Cowboys are expected to push to get him back.
Foley Fatukasi New York Jets DT
He is a power nose who can hold up against the run. He is coming off a good season where he did just that. He isn't much as a pass rusher, but teams in need of a run-stuffing inside player should give him a hard look.
Levi Wallace Buffalo Bills DB
The Bills have seemingly looked to replace him each of the past two seasons, but he remained the starter. He is a No. 2 corner who needs to be paired with a top guy. He excels playing zone coverage more than man.
Justin Reid Houston Texans SS
He started 13 games last season, but he was suspended for one game by the team for a disagreement with coaches. At times he has looked like a Pro Bowl safety, but inconsistency has been an issue. Maybe a change of scenery would be good.
C.J. Uzomah Cincinnati Bengals TE
He is a big tight end who can catch the football in the middle of the field. He's also a solid blocker, although not a great one. He was a perfect complement to their receiving group last season.
Ced Wilson Dallas Cowboys WR
He stepped in last season and played well as their slot receiver. He is good after the catch, which he showed last season. At 26, his best football is in front of him.
Kareem Jackson Denver Broncos SS
This former corner has made a nice transition to safety and is a smart, heady player who can cover tight ends when asked to do so. He would add a veteran presence to any secondary.
Jaquiski Tartt San Francisco 49ers SS
Many might remember him for his drop of a sure interception in the NFC Championship Game, but he's been a solid starter for the 49ers for a few seasons. He isn't flashy, but he knows how to play the game and knows his role.
Sebastian Joseph-Day Los Angeles Rams DT
He tore a pec muscle last season that forced him to miss time. When he's on the field, he's a good run player. He isn't a great pass rusher.
Tim Settle Washington Commanders DT
If a team is looking for a rising player who didn't play a lot because he played behind good players, Settle is that guy. He is a good inside rusher and might be ready for a bigger role with a new team.
Xavier Woods Minnesota Vikings FS
He started all 17 games for the Vikings last season, getting three picks and 108 tackles. They raved about him in camp last season, and he responded with a solid season.
Russell Gage Atlanta Falcons WR
With the Calvin Ridley news, the Falcons would be wise to bring him back. He showed last season, after Ridley left the team for personal reasons, that he could be a nice player in their offense. They need him now.
Byron Pringle Kansas City Chiefs WR
He is coming off his best season in 2021 with 42 catches and five touchdowns. He is one of those rising players who can help an offense in need of a receiver. He is a little older at 28.
Jerry Hughes Buffalo Bills DE
Any team looking for a veteran edge player should give Hughes a look. He isn't the same player he was a few years ago, but as a situational player he can help a team.
Mitchell Trubisky Buffalo Bills QB
It's funny how his reputation has changed after one year as a backup with the Bills. He was a decent starter with the Bears, but nothing more. Now he might be the top quarterback on the market. Amazing.
James Conner Arizona Cardinals RB
He is coming off a good season for the Cardinals as a rotational back with Chase Edmunds. He is a power runner who also can catch the ball if needed. He won't rip off the big runs, but he moves the chains.
Dont'a Hightower New England Patriots OLB
The veteran linebacker didn't play as well last season after opting out in 2020. He's slowed down some, which is never a good thing in a league that spreads people out.
Calais Campbell Baltimore Ravens DE
The 35-year-old Campbell is still a good run defender who can hold the point. He did miss time last year with a calf injury, so that is a concern. But he's a great teammate to have on any roster.
Evan Engram New York Giants TE
The skill set would make you believe he's one of the best receiving tight ends in the league. Yet it hasn't happened for him. He's been a big tease. The talent is there. The issue will be whether somebody can get it out of him.
Andrew Norwell Jacksonville Jaguars OG
He'll be 31 in October, but he is coming off a decent season in 2021. He is a good run blocker, but his pass protection can be bad at times. The Jaguars want to upgrade at guard, which is telling.
A.J. Johnson Denver Broncos ILB
He tore a pec muscle in Week 6 that ended his season. But when he's been on the field, he's a good starting linebacker.
Rasul Douglas Green Bay Packers CB
He is coming off his best season in his only year with the Packers. He was outstanding playing the ball last season, looking much better than he did in his other stops. The question is whether that was a fluke or not.
Larry Ogunjobi Cincinnati Bengals DT
In his only season with the Bengals, he was a big part of why the defense improved. He did get hurt late and missed the playoffs, but he played well for their front last season.
Bilal Nichols Chicago Bears DT
He has played a bunch of different spots for the Bears, being a reliable starter at times. He won't wow anybody, but he is a nice player to have in your rotation.
O.J. Howard Tampa Bay Buccaneers TE
He hasn't lived up to the hype of when he was a first-round pick. But he has the tools to be a nice starting tight end, with pass-catching being his primary attraction.
Terrell Edmunds Pittsburgh Steelers SS
At 25, he is a starter entering his prime. But he doesn't really excel in any area. He's a decent starter, but not much more than that.
Teddy Bridgewater Denver Broncos QB
He has been a starter at two different spots the past two seasons, yet here he is back on the market. He is a good teammate, but he seems to play too conservatively at times. Even so, he could end up as a starter for a team in need.
B.J. Hill Cincinnati Bengals DE
He is a good run player who has improved as a pass rusher. When Larry Ogunjobi went down late last season, Hill stepped in during the playoffs and played well for the Bengals.
Rashaad Penny Seattle Seahawks RB
He finished 2021 looking like one of the best runners in the league. After dealing with a bunch of injuries in his career, he finally looked like the first-round pick he was for Seattle. But the injury history has to be a concern.
Kyzir White Los Angeles Chargers OLB
He is a smallish linebacker — a converted safety in fact — who can run and chase, but has trouble at times at the point in the run game. His style fits with the modern game.
Gerald Everett Seattle Seahawks TE
In his one season with the Seahawks, he caught 48 passes with four touchdowns. He turns 28 this summer, so there is still a lot of good football left in him. He doesn't provide much as a blocker, but he can create opportunities in the passing game.
Braxton Berrios New York Jets WR
He emerged last year as a weapon for the Jets as a slot receiver and kick return man. He was an All-Pro for the latter.
Bryce Callahan Denver Broncos CB
He's been a good nickel corner in his career, but injuries limited him last season. Even so, teams are always looking for good inside coverage players.
Riley Reiff Cincinnati Bengals OT
He signed a one-year deal with the Bengals last season and played OK for them at right tackle before going down late in the season with an ankle injury. He was missed in a big way in the postseason.
Anthony Barr Minnesota Vikings OLB
He suffered a torn pec muscle in 2020 and missed time to open last season. But he came back to again be a good player on a bad defense. He might not be the player he was a few years ago, but he can still help a team looking for a veteran linebacker who is good against the run.
Joe Haden Pittsburgh Steelers CB
Injuries limited him to 11 games last season and he's getting up in the years. So those are both concerns. But when he's on the field, he's still more than capable of being an above-average corner.
Arden Key San Francisco 49ers DE
He played well in his only season with the 49ers after opening his career with the Raiders. He can play outside and inside and provide pressure. He signed a one-year deal last season and will parlay that into more this time around.
A.J. Green Arizona Cardinals WR
The veteran surprised some with his solid season for the Cardinals in 2021. He had 54 catches with three touchdowns, which isn't great but he showed he could still be a solid No. 2 or No. 3 receiver.
Robert Tonyan Green Bay Packers TE
In 2020, he appeared on his way to becoming one of the league's better tight ends. But he started slowly last season and then suffered a torn ACL midway through the season. That will hurt his market.
Raheem Mostert San Francisco 49ers RB
When he's on the field, he's an explosive runner capable of the big play. He fit the 49ers' offense to perfection, but he's had to battle a litany of injuries in his career. Maybe he joins Mike McDaniel in Miami.
Sammy Watkins Baltimore Ravens WR
He played 13 games for the Ravens last season and had disappointing numbers, catching 27 passes for 394 yards and one touchdown. He is a speed receiver, but he didn't play to that last season.
Mark Glowinski Indianapolis Colts OG
This veteran has 74 career starts, including 46 the past three seasons for one of the better offensive lines in the league. He turns 30 this year, so he still has some good football left in him.
Chris Harris Los Angeles Chargers CB
He was once one of the better corners in the league, especially in the slot. He isn't that anymore, but he can still help a young secondary,