The 2022 NFL offseason is here. Teams can now use the franchise tag to secure big names ahead of free agency. And the rest of the market will open with the legal tampering window on March 14, with the new league year officially kicking off two days later. That means it's also trade season. No deals can become official until March 16, but as recent offseasons have proven, clubs can strike principle agreements well beforehand. And there are no shortage of all-stars who could be on the move.
With that in mind, here are eight star players who should be shopped, if not dealt, before the 2022 campaign:
The biggest problem for most teams in the NFL: they don't have a truly elite QB. The Seahawks are not one of those teams. But unlike the others in their privileged company -- the Chiefs, the Packers, the Bills, etc. -- they are not on the verge of a title run. In fact, aside from Wilson's two favorite receivers, they're quite barren. Fresh off a 7-10 last-place finish, they've got plenty of 2022 cap space to restock, but the fixes won't be easy. Two of their best starters -- aging left tackle Duane Brown and safety Quandre Diggs -- are due to hit free agency, their O-line in general is still shoddy, and their defense -- once a fearsome staple of Pete Carroll contenders -- has been among the worst in the league for three years running.
In other words, it's not hard to see why now is the right time to auction the best asset on the block. Retaining Russ would certainly not be a bad outcome; an elite QB always gives you a chance. But this is about resetting while the opportunity is ripe. It's about taking the whole picture into account. Even coming off a down year that included surgery, is Wilson's value going to be higher? He's 33, with a sterling Pro Bowl resume, and has pretty clearly been open to a move for at least a year. It's the trade haul that could generate the next Super Bowl team that should motivate the Seahawks. If they can get multiple first-rounders, another pick or two, and perhaps even a young QB with Wilson similarities (think the Eagles' Jalen Hurts), they'd be primed to rebuild.
Financially speaking, a trade wouldn't hurt but help Seattle, by the way. Due $37 million in 2022 and $40M in 2023, Wilson would save the Seahawks an instant $11M in a relocation, giving them not only a likely abundance of draft-pick compensation, but more than $45M in total cap space to fill out the lineup starting this year.
If the Seahawks are one of the few teams with an unmistakably elite QB, the Titans are one of maybe a dozen with QBs good enough to earn big money and maybe even guide a playoff run but rarely lift teammates to championship heights. That makes their predicament especially challenging, when mostly everyone else is in it. Where can you turn at QB, after all, if all that surrounds you are other, slightly better or worse mid-tier starters? That's only partially relevant to the issue at hand: Tannehill, on his own, is not worth the $38.6M he's due in 2022 -- an outrageous figure that makes him the NFL's fifth highest-paid QB.
The former Dolphins starter helped turn the Titans into what they are today: a tough, respectable, old-school contender. But approaching 34, he's now 0-3 in his last three playoff starts, with at least two of those losses largely on his hands. Is it a stretch to suggest any top-16ish QB could ride Derrick Henry and their offense to a playoff appearance? Jimmy Garoppolo is at least doing that, no? More receiving help wouldn't hurt, but it seems just as likely the current Tannehill-led setup has reached its peak. Moving him for a big swing via trade or in the draft (Malik Willis? Matt Corral?) would also save $10.2M.
He's a lifelong Falcon who loves Atlanta, and coach Arthur Smith prefers he stick around, but this isn't an exercise in sentiment. Is Ryan still good? Yes. Does he fully belong on this team? No. Sure, the division may open up with Tom Brady and Sean Payton gone, but there's a difference between capitalizing with a wild-card game and capitalizing with a Lombardi. Ryan is entering his age-37 season more suited for a Matthew Stafford-like sendoff to sunnier, win-now pastures. Somebody would buy him as a starter, right after watching the Stafford gamble work wonders. Get that first-round compensation while you can! The Falcons would be saving $8M by trading Ryan, not to mention another $28M+ in 2023.
Like Ryan and Tannehill, Wentz is far from a bad QB on his own. Before his late-season crash in Indy, the ex-Eagles star proved to be a fine figurehead for a team that leans more on the ground and defense. And maybe they're OK with "fine," which has come to define Wentz's once-explosive career, but team owner Jim Irsay sure doesn't give that vibe. And when the team owner has all but outed himself as the QB's harshest detractor, it's fair to wonder if that QB will ever comfortably suit up for his club again. Just like the Titans, they don't have an obvious path to an upgrade. But the money is right for a gamble: the Colts would save a whopping $28M+ by dealing Wentz, and if no one bites at that contract, they could easily eat some of it (perhaps close to the $15M they'd absorb by outright cutting him) just to get some compensation.
49ers QB Jimmy Garoppolo
This one goes without saying. Garoppolo and the 49ers have all but confirmed they'll part ways despite the QB making his second NFC Championship appearance in three years. Trey Lance is the true investment at QB in San Francisco, for better or worse, and the 49ers can save $25.5M by either cutting or trading Jimmy G. Someone will take a flyer in some fashion. While Garoppolo has probably reached his peak as a high-ceiling, low-floor point guard for a run-first contender, his savvy experience will be attractive.
New York could certainly hang onto the former first-rounder as a guinea pig for new coach Brian Daboll's offense. But due $7.2M in a contract year, with a future extension likely to cost the Giants anywhere between $12M and $15M per year, they should be seeking any reasonable offers they can get. Barkley is just 25 with freakish (and often injured) physical tools, but that money would be better spent on fixing QB, the O-line, and pretty much every other position. They could also use any extra picks for their rebuild.
Falcons DT Grady Jarrett
Like Ryan, he's a lifelong Falcon who will only be remembered as such -- a true franchise icon both on and off the field. Turning 29, however, he's not necessarily in a good spot to maximize whatever's left of his prime, on a team seemingly at least a year or three from true contention. He's also expensive, due $23.8M in the final year of a lucrative extension. Jarrett remains one of the game's finest interior linemen, but after a noticeable drop in sacks and QB hits in 2021, the Falcons could save $16.5M by dealing him to the highest bidder.
Chiefs DE Frank Clark
The former Seahawks pass rusher was a vital piece of Kansas City's Super Bowl win in 2019, but he's due a whopping $26.3M in 2022, a year after posting just 22 tackles and 4.5 sacks as part of an underachieving Chiefs D-line. He's now seen his sack total drop in three straight seasons. At 28, he may very well have a number of solid, even Pro Bowl, seasons left, but the Chiefs could still stand to get younger and more reliable on that side of the ball. He'd save $12.7M via trade this offseason.