The 2022 NFL offseason has been littered with big-name headlines. Aaron Rodgers stays in Green Bay! Russell Wilson to the Broncos! Tom Brady returns! And no doubt we'll be talking about the biggest of these stories -- most of them at quarterback -- throughout the coming season. But what about the moves that got lost in the shuffle? Free agency saw dozens of veterans find new homes, and surely some of them aren't getting quite the attention they deserve.
With that in mind, here are nine of the most underrated signings of 2022 free agency:
Note: AAV denotes a player's average annual value.
Raiders sign Patriots RB Brandon Bolden
Contract: 2 years, $5 million | AAV: $2.5 million
Bolden is 32 and has never run for even 275 yards in a season, but he's a proven special-teamer coming off a career year as a pass catcher (41-405-2). More importantly, top backs Josh Jacobs and Kenyan Drake haven't played a full season in years, so he could come in handy not only as a dump-off option for Derek Carr but important backfield insurance.
Buccaneers sign Falcons WR Russell Gage
Contract: 3 years, $30 million | AAV: $10 million
Tom Brady's presence works wonders. Gage, 26, wasn't a superstar in Atlanta, but he logged two straight seasons of at least 65 catches and 770 yards as a Matt Ryan safety valve, hauling in 70% of his targets in 2021. In other words, he's a steal as their new No. 3 wideout behind Chris Godwin and Mike Evans, giving Tampa Bay a tough, ascending possession man.
Lions sign Jaguars WR D.J. Chark
Contract: 1 year, $10 million | AAV: $10 million
Why a half-dozen other teams didn't match or eclipse the Lions' offer is beyond us. At a cheaper rate than guys like Will Fuller, Curtis Samuel and Nelson Agholor, the 25-year-old Chark gives Detroit a legitimate downfield threat who should only be on the rise after an injury-riddled two seasons. Even without steady QB play in Jacksonville, he proved he can be a No. 1.
Titans sign Browns TE Austin Hooper
Contract: 1 year, $6 million | AAV: $6 million
Cut by Cleveland after David Njoku got the franchise tag, the former Falcons standout was deployed primarily as a run blocker with the Browns, but he's got the skills to be a top-10 pass-catcher at the position, as he flashed in Atlanta. Earning less than guys like Will Dissly and Evan Engram, he's a bargain for a tough Titans offense that should feature him in the red zone.
Panthers sign Rams OG Austin Corbett
Contract: 3 years, $29.25 million | AAV: $9.75 million
Along with Bradley Bozeman, this is Carolina's best O-line investment in years. Corbett may not be an elite pass protector, but he's an ascending 26-year-old starter with playoff and Super Bowl experience. A highly graded run blocker who's also stayed healthy and avoided penalties, he instantly improves the interior of maybe the Panthers' most porous unit.
Steelers sign Bears OG James Daniels
Contract: 3 years, $26.5 million | AAV: $8.8 million
Pittsburgh isn't getting Daniels on the cheap, making him one of the seven highest-paid right guards in the NFL, but the value is still rock-solid. The best, most versatile piece of an otherwise iffy Bears line, he's also only 24, so he'll be primed to keep growing while addressing a major need for the Steelers.
Vikings sign Cardinals LB Jordan Hicks
Contract: 2 years, $10 million | AAV: $5 million
Arizona spent years trying to replace Hicks with younger alternatives, but he refused to come off the field, overcoming an injury-riddled finish with the Eagles to serve as one of the Cardinals' steadiest all-around defenders. Approaching 30, he's not a freak athlete, but he makes for a tremendous on- and off-field fit alongside Eric Kendricks and behind a restocked D-line.
Raiders sign Ravens CB Anthony Averett
Contract: 1 year, $4.5 million | AAV: $4.5 million
Las Vegas made big splashes with Davante Adams and Chandler Jones, but Averett enters as a quietly high-upside addition at corner, where he stayed busy around the ball (three INTs, 11 pass deflections) as an emergency starter for Baltimore in 2021. You could do a whole lot worse in this price range, and at 27, Averett still has room to grow.
Jets sign Buccaneers S Jordan Whitehead
Contract: 2 years, $14.5 million | AAV: $7.25 million
GM Joe Douglas deserves props here. This is a do-everything starter who's still young (25), was a championship starter, and won't even command top-20 safety money. Related to ex-Jets great Darrelle Revis, Whitehead didn't get all the attention in a Bucs secondary featuring Carlton Davis and Antoine Winfield Jr., but he's a durable, hard-hitting force for the back end.