NFL News & Analysis

2022 NFL Free Agency Preview: Players to target, plans of action, potential cuts and team needs for all 32 NFL teams

Green Bay, Wisconsin, USA; Green Bay Packers wide receiver Davante Adams (17) during a NFC Divisional playoff football game against the San Francisco 49ers at Lambeau Field. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

The coming weeks are when championship contenders are made. Just take a look at the Cincinnati Bengals and Los Angeles Rams, teams that signed or traded for multiple veterans who provided stability and helped get them to Super Bowl 56.

Last year’s free agency was tough for almost every NFL franchise, as the pandemic lowered the salary cap well below expectations. This year, the cap is expected to grow by over $25 million from 2020, though that still might not save teams from having to make difficult personnel decisions this offseason. 

Here is an in-depth look at where all 32 NFL teams are entering 2022 free agency, including the ideal plan of action, players to target, notable free agents, potential cuts, cap space and team needs. 

All cap projections come courtesy of our friends at OverTheCap, and only notable unrestricted free agents were listed for each team. Any cap space number listed is subject to change in the coming weeks.

JUMP TO A TEAM:

ARZ | ATL | BLT | BUF | CAR | CIN | CHI | CLE | DEN | DAL | DET | GB | HOU | IND | JAX | KC | LVR | LAC | LAR | MIA | MIN | NE | NO | NYG | NYJ | PHI | PIT | SF | SEA | TB | TEN | WSH


ARIZONA CARDINALS

Projected Cap Space: -$813K (22nd)

Notable Free Agents: Edge Chandler Jones, WR Christian Kirk, TE Zach Ertz, WR A.J. Green, RB James Conner, RB Chase Edmonds, CB Robert Alford, TE Maxx Williams, QB Colt McCoy

Potential Cuts: OT D.J. Humphries (saves $15 million), G Justin Pugh (saves $9.8 million), Edge Devon Kinnard (saves $4.8 million), LB Jordan Hicks (saves $6.5 million)

Team Needs: CB, iOL, DI, WR

Arizona was forced to play Robert Alford (who hadn’t played a down since Week 17, 2018), 2021 fourth-round pick Marco Wilson, slot corner Byron Murphy Jr. and NFL journeyman Antonio Hamilton at outside corner this season. The unit ranked 28th among the NFL's 32 outside cornerback groups in PFF coverage grade. With little money to spend, cheap veteran cornerbacks should be on Arizona’s mind. If Green Bay can’t re-sign Rasul Douglas, Arizona could reunite with the cornerback. Douglas was poached off the Cardinals' practice squad by the Packers midway through the season and proceeded to produce a top-20 coverage grade with the team.


ATLANTA FALCONS

Projected Cap Space: -$6.6M (25th)

Notable Free Agents: RB Cordarelle Patterson, LB Foyesade Oluokun, Edge Dante Fowler Jr., S Duron Harmon, WR Russell Gage

Potential Cuts: DI Tyeler Davison (saves $3.7 million)

Team Needs: iOL, WR, DL, CB

Atlanta is in a bad spot this offseason, and the restructuring of Matt Ryan’s contract a year ago didn't help. He’s locked into the starting job for 2022 because of it. Ryan was a fine starter in 2022, earning a 75.8 PFF grade, but it’s evident he’s starting to decline. It was the soon-to-be 37-year-old’s second-lowest-graded season of his career. The rest of the roster simply has too many holes to fill for the team to be competitive around him.

Throw in the Falcons' cap situation, and it’s likely they are going to stay relatively quiet in free agency. Dynamic weapon Cordarelle Patterson, wide receiver Russell Gage and safety Duron Harmon are all impending free agents for Atlanta and were among the eight most valuable non-quarterbacks on their roster last season.


BALTIMORE RAVENS

Projected Cap Space: $8.7M (19th)

Notable Free Agents: DI Calais Campbell, Edge Justin Houston, WR Sammy Watkins, C Bradley Bozeman, S DeShon Elliott, CB Anthony Averett, LB L.J. Fort

Potential Cuts: None

Team Needs: CB, S, DL

Injuries made the Baltimore secondary look worse than it should have been, but the unit still has room to improve. Marlon Humphrey and Marcus Peters will man two cornerback spots, and safety Chuck Clark has played decently in his versatile role, but the rest of the pack is skating on thin ice. A cornerback in Round 1 of the 2021 NFL Draft is in the cards, but the team could also pursue a defensive back in free agency. One such player is safety Justin Reid, who is coming off a couple of underwhelming years in Houston. Reid was a top-15 graded safety in 2018 and in 2019. Going to Mike Macdonald’s defense in Baltimore could help resurrect that past play, and the Ravens could get him for a fair price in free agency.


BUFFALO BILLS

Projected Cap Space: -$4.6M (24th)

Notable Free Agents: Edge Jerry Hughes, WR Emmanuel Sanders, QB Mitchell Trubisky, DI Harrison Phillips, CB Levi Wallace, G Ike Boettger

Potential Cuts: C Mitch Morse (saves $8.5 million), WR Cole Beasley (saves $6.1 million), LB A.J. Klein (saves $5.2 million)

Team Needs: DI, WR

Free-agent edge defender Jerry Hughes may turn 34 before Week 1 of next season, but he has shown no signs of slowing down. His 81.2 pass-rush grade last season ranked 15th among NFL edge defenders. With Buffalo in Super Bowl contention next year, bringing back established veterans like Hughes while grooming young talent like 2021 first-rounder Gregory Rousseau is a smart idea. The interior defensive line needs some work, as well. If the team has money to spend after bringing back players like Hughes and cornerback Levi Wallace, they should pursue veteran Calais Campbell — a top 10-graded interior defender in 2021 — on a one-year deal.


CAROLINA PANTHERS

Projected Cap Space: $17.2M (17th)

Notable Free Agents: CB Stephon Gilmore, Edge Haason Reddick, CB Donte Jackson, C Matt Paradis, DI DaQuan Jones

Potential Cuts: OL Dennis Daley (saves $2.5 million)

Team Needs: QB, OL, LB

Carolina’s passing offense reached a whole new level of bad in 2021. Between Sam Darnold and Cam Newton, the Panthers produced the NFL’s third-least efficient passing offense since the 2013 season.

Least efficient passing offenses since 2013
Team EPA/Pass Play
2018 Arizona Cardinals -0.28
2016 Los Angeles Rams -0.24
2021 Carolina Panthers -0.19
2017 Cleveland Browns -0.18
2021 New York Giants -0.17

Carolina won't look for a quarterback in free agency, but the team should look to upgrade its offensive line. Tackle Taylor Moton was the only offensive lineman on the roster to earn a pass-block grade above 65.0 in 2021. Reasonably priced and stable veteran offensive linemen are priority No. 1 in free agency. Guard Connor Williams — who is projected to receive a three-year, $20 million deal — could be an option. He sneakily has been one of the 15-most valuable guards in each of the past two seasons.


CHICAGO BEARS

Projected Cap Space: $28.6M (11th)

Notable Free Agents: WR Allen Robinson II, DI Akiem Hicks, G James Daniels, OL Germain Ifedi, DI Bilal Nichols, QB Andy Dalton, T Jason Peters, LB DeAndre Houston-Carson, S Tashaun Gipson Sr.

Potential Cuts: None

Team Needs: OL, WR, CB

Justin Fields‘ nine-sack outing against the Cleveland Browns will always be remembered when thinking back on the 2021 11th overall pick’s rookie campaign. Fields was under pressure on 43.3% of his dropbacks in 2021, the second-highest rate in the NFL. Addressing the offensive line this offseason is a top priority for new general manager Ryan Poles, who is a former offensive lineman himself.

With Teven Jenkins at one tackle spot and Cody Whitehair likely being shifted back to center, guards and another tackle will be a priority for Poles and company. Re-signing James Daniels wouldn’t be a bad idea, considering he was a top-20 graded guard in 2021. The team does have the cash to target the lone premier tackle on the open market, Terron Armstead. The 30-year-old is coming off an injury-hindered 2021, but when healthy, he’s one of the best in the game. He’s never earned a single-season PFF grade below 75.0 in his nine years at left tackle in New Orleans.

Expanding Fields’ receiving arsenal is also of the utmost importance for the Bears. New offensive coordinator Luke Getsy had a strong relationship with star free agent wide receiver Davante Adams in Green Bay, but expecting Chicago to pluck him from their arch-nemesis is a pipe dream. The cost of Adams, who has been a top-five graded wide receiver for three straight seasons, is likely too steep a price for Chicago. Someone much cheaper, such as D.J. Chark Jr., could be of interest.


CINCINNATI BENGALS

Projected Cap Space: $58M (3rd)

Notable Free Agents: S Jessie Bates III, DI B.J. Hill, T Riley Reiff, TE C.J. Uzomah, G Quinton Spain, CB Eli Apple, CB Darius Phillips

Potential Cuts: CB Trae Waynes (saves $10.8 million)

Team Needs: OL

The scary part about the Bengals is that they have the third-most money to spend in free agency after ending the 2021 season as AFC champions. Some of that is going to go to their impending free agents — mainly safety Jessie Bates III — but a good chunk will need to go to the offensive line. The Bengals clearly made the right decision to take wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase over offensive tackle Penei Sewell with their fifth overall pick last season, but that’s not to say the offensive line wasn’t a major problem in their Super Bowl run.

Lowest pass-block grade by a Super Bowl team in the last decade
Team Grade
2021 Cincinnati Bengals 57.3
2020 Tampa Bay Buccaneers 69.0
2014 New England Patriots 69.2
2020 Kansas City Chiefs 70.3
2019 San Francisco 49ers 70.5

Cincinnati is also a candidate to pursue tackle Terron ArmsteadPFF’s No. 2 available free agent. If they don’t pay the big bucks for Armstead, they could also go after Washington’s Brandon Scherff, who has been one of the 10 most valuable guards in the NFL since entering the league in 2015.


CLEVELAND BROWNS

Projected Cap Space: $24.9M (12th)

Notable Free Agents: Edge Jadeveon Clowney, TE David Njoku, Edge Takkarist McKinley, S Ronnie Harrison, LB Anthony Walker, WR Rashard Higgins

Potential Cuts: QB Case Keenum (saves $7.1 million)

Team Needs: WR, DI, EDGE

Cleveland should pay up for either one of the big-name wide receivers, interior defensive linemen or edge defenders in free agency. Wide receiver should be priority No. 1 of those three positions. Cleveland’s wide receiver room ranked 27th in receiving grade in 2021. The Browns could look to add Chris Godwin, who has never earned a receiving grade lower than 75.0 in his career, or Allen Robinson II, who has been a top-15 graded wideout in two of the past three seasons. At edge, a cheaper solution than bringing back Jadeveon Clowney would be signing either Jerry Hughes or Melvin Ingram III — both of whom were top-25 graded pass-rushers in 2021 — assuming they hit the market.


DALLAS COWBOYS

Projected Cap Space: -$21.7M (30th)

Notable Free Agents: Edge Randy Gregory, WR Michael Gallup, TE Dalton Schultz, G Connor Williams, LB Leighton Vander Esch, S Jayron Kearse, WR Cedrick Wilson, S Malik Hooker

Potential Cuts: CB Anthony Brown (saves $5 million), TE Blake Jarwin (saves $3.8 million)

Team Needs: LB, DL, OL

No, Dallas can’t part ways with running back Ezekiel Elliott to free up cap space. The only way the Cowboys can do so is via restructures, but that’s not giving them significant cash to spend. If anything major, they’ll be able to bring back tight end Dalton Schultz, who is a priority for the team after earning the sixth-best PFF grade at the position in 2021.


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DENVER BRONCOS

Projected Cap Space: $38.9M (6th)

Notable Free Agents: CB Bryce Callahan, CB Kyle Fuller, T Bobby Massie, RB Melvin Gordon III, LB Alexander Johnson, QB Teddy Bridgewater, S Kareem Jackson, LB Josey Jewell

Potential Cuts: None

Team Needs: QB, CB, EDGE, LB

Denver’s free agency plan could drastically change in the coming weeks depending on if Aaron Rodgers becomes available via trade or not. For now, Rodgers is still a Packer, so let’s plan for Denver’s free agency thinking they won’t get the 2021 MVP. 

The Broncos must address the cornerback situation in free agency. Elements of their scheme under Vic Fangio will remain the same with Ejiro Evero becoming the new defensive coordinator on Nathaniel Hackett’s staff.

While Bryce Callahan’s 2021 didn’t go as hoped, his high end is too good to ignore. The versatile corner has produced coverage grades above 77.0 in three of his past four seasons on the field. Evero could and should opt to bring in Darious Williams, who spent plenty of time with Evero in Los Angeles. Williams was volatile in 2021, but he showed top-notch play in this kind of system in 2020. That year, Williams nabbed five interceptions and broke up 11 other passes en route to an 81.5 coverage grade.


DETROIT LIONS

Projected Cap Space: $23.6M (13th)

Notable Free Agents: Edge Charles Harris, S Tracy Walker

Potential Cuts: Edge Trey Flowers (saves $10.4 million)

Team Needs: CB, S, QB, WR, LB

Detroit could use new faces at every position, but the secondary comes first. The Lions' posted the second-worst coverage grade in the NFL in 2021. Heck, it got so bad they had to convert safety Will Harris into an outside corner. Defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn could woo the team to pursue safety Marcus Williams, whom he coached in New Orleans for four seasons.

Williams — the sixth-highest graded safety of 2021 — would assuredly bolster the Lions' backend. A veteran presence could be tapped at cornerback, as well. Stephon Gilmore — who has earned a coverage grade above 79.0 in four of his past five seasons — could be an option to help groom some of the young talent on Detroit’s roster.


GREEN BAY PACKERS

Projected Cap Space: -$50.8M (31st)

Notable Free Agents: WR Davante Adams, LB De’Vondre Campbell, WR Marquez Valdes-Scantling, CB Rasul Douglas, T Dennis Kelly, TE Robert Tonyan

Potential Cuts: Edge Za’Darius Smith (saves $15.3 million), Edge Preston Smith (saves $12.5 million), WR Randall Cobb (saves $6.5 million), TE Marcedes Lewis (saves $2.5 million), DI Dean Lowry (saves $4.1 million)

Team Needs: WR, OL

Green Bay’s free agency strategy is dependent on 2021 NFL MVP Aaron Rodgers. He’s either returning, retiring or demanding a trade to a new franchise to close out his career. If Rodgers returns, Green Bay will have to work some magic in order to bring back his star pass-catcher Davante Adams while remaining under the cap. Right now, they are at risk of losing three of their four most valuable players from 2021.

Most valuable Packers in 2021, according to PFF WAR
Name 2021 PFF WAR
QB Aaron Rodgers (future in doubt) 3.38
WR Davante Adams (free agent) 0.76
S Adrian Amos 0.37
LB De’Vondre Campbell (free agent) 0.35

Either way, Green Bay is not going to be a hyperaggressive team in free agency. Even if they do lose Rodgers and Adams, the Packers would still be over the cap. Green Bay is either going to be a contender or a bottom-tier team in 2022, and that will be decided on in the next month.


HOUSTON TEXANS

Projected Cap Space: $17.9M (16th)

Notable Free Agents: S Justin Reid, DI Maliek Collins, QB Tyrod Taylor, CB Desmond King II, TE Jordan Akins

Potential Cuts: S Eric Murray (saves $5.5 million), OT Marcus Cannon (saves $5.1 million), Edge Jordan Jenkins (saves $2.8 million), CB Jimmy Moreland (saves $2.5 million)

Team Needs: Every position

Let's not sugarcoat it — the Texans' roster is bad. While the team has some money to spend, it would catapult to top of the league in that regard if Deshaun Watson gets traded. General manager Nick Caserio plotted the Texans’ course last offseason by signing a multitude of low-level veterans to two-year deals, setting the team up to spend big in 2023.

With no clear franchise quarterback in the picture, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to continue to plan for 2023 as the year to build this team back up, aiming for the top pick in next year’s draft to hopefully take a promising quarterback prospect — something that isn’t available this year.

INDIANAPOLIS COLTS

Projected Cap Space: $37.4M (7th)

Notable Free Agents: T Eric Fisher, TE Mo Alie-Cox, G Mark Glowinski, CB Xavier Rhodes, RB Marlon Mack, WR T.Y. Hilton

Potential Cuts: QB Carson Wentz (saves $13.3 million), DI Grover Stewart (saves $8.1 million)

Team Needs: QB, WR, OT, DL

Indianapolis is back to square one at the quarterback position after a volatile and underperforming season from Carson Wentz. They could be stuck with him for 2022, but they aren’t eliminating the possibility of bringing a new arm in to compete and possibly take over. That issue, however, won’t be addressed in free agency given the lack of quality quarterbacks on the open market. One thing is for certain, though: Whoever is under center for 2022 will need more receiving threats. 

Michael Pittman Jr. performed well in Year 2 with a 78.0 PFF grade, but Zach Pascal was a bottom-tier player with a 52.7 mark and veteran T.Y. Hilton is once again hitting free agency. The good news is that they do have the money to spend on a blue-chip wide receiver. Davante Adams may cost a bit more than they are willing to pay, but Chris Godwin and Allen Robinson II are in the cards. Godwin earned an 81.3 PFF grade in 2021 before going down with a torn ACL. Robinson is coming off a disappointing season in which he earned a 66.9 PFF grade, but we must consider the situation he was in. After all, he did earn a top-five grade at the position in 2020.


JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS

Projected Cap Space: $59.3M (2nd)

Notable Free Agents: WR D.J. Chark Jr., T Cam Robinson, G Andrew Norwell, G A.J. Cann

Potential Cuts: LB Myles Jack (saves $8.4 million), Edge Dawuane Smoot (saves $4.6 million)

Team Needs: Every position outside of QB and RB 

This free agency period is all about getting Trevor Lawrence help, mainly at wide receiver since the team ranked 30th in receiving grade in 2021. Wide receiver D.J. Chark Jr. doesn’t get the respect he deserves, but given his cost, Jacksonville might as well spend a few more million for one of the big dogs, such as Chris Godwin.

Up front, the Jaguars have room to add offensive linemen, regardless if they go tackle or defensive end with their No. 1 overall pick. Guard Brandon Scherff — who spent a few years with current Jacksonville offensive line coach Paul Rauscher in Washington — is a potential name to watch if he hits the open market. Scherff’s lowest-graded season came in 2018, when he earned a 72.5 PFF grade before suffering a season-ending injury in the middle of the campaign. And that still ranked 15th at the position. Needless to say, he’d be a major addition in the trenches.

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KANSAS CITY CHIEFS

Projected Cap Space: $14.5M (18th)

Notable Free Agents: T Orlando Brown Jr., S Tyrann Mathieu, Edge Melvin Ingram III, CB Charvarius Ward, CB Mike Hughes, DI Derrick Nnadi, RB Darrel Williams, T Mike Remmers

Potential Cuts: Edge Frank Clark (saves $12.7 million, jumps to $19.5 million after June 1)

Team Needs: DL, WR, CB

Free agency for the Chiefs will be all about retaining as opposed to bringing in new talent. It’s a guarantee they will re-sign offensive tackle Orlando Brown Jr. after trading for him last offseason. Brown earned a 75.3 PFF grade in 2021 but is going to get paid like he produced at an elite level.

Safety Tyrann Mathieu has been one of the team's key players since joining in 2019. This past season, he produced a 75.7 coverage grade that ranked 15th among qualifying safeties. The team could also look to bring back edge defender Melvin Ingram III — whom they traded for midyear — after he posted an 80.4 PFF grade in Kansas City in 2021.


LAS VEGAS RAIDERS

Projected Cap Space: $20.5M (15th)

Notable Free Agents: CB Casey Hayward Jr., QB Marcus Mariota, WR Zay Jones

Potential Cuts: OL Denzelle Good (saves $4.2 million)

Team Needs: WR, CB, DI, LB

After several years of flat-out bad coverage play, Las Vegas made a turn for the better in 2021 under defensive coordinator Gus Bradley. The team improved its coverage grade by nearly 35 grading points from 2020 — the second-highest climb in the NFL. The bad news is that Bradley was ousted amid the head coach turnover and is now set to serve in the same role in Indianapolis.

And the Colts' best outside corner from the improved unit — Casey Hayward Jr. — is set to be a free agent. Hayward has been a high-quality corner for most of his NFL career but has also proven he is scheme-limited to the Seahawk Cover 3 system Bradley runs. Now, the Raiders do have a great new defensive coordinator in Patrick Graham, but his system is vastly different and in need of several new cornerbacks. See below for a visualization of how unique Bradley’s scheme is, courtesy of PFF's Tej Seth.

One option for the Raiders to consider in free agency is veteran corner Stephon Gilmore, who was with Graham in New England for the first few years of his career. Gilmore may not be in top form, but he’s still capable of playing at a good level. He was the 11th-highest graded cornerback in 2021 on a limited sample (304 snaps). It was just three seasons ago that Gilmore was the second-most valuable player at the position, according to PFF WAR.


LOS ANGELES CHARGERS

Projected Cap Space: $57.1M (4th)

Notable Free Agents: WR Mike Williams, DI Linval Joseph, LB Kyzir White, Edge Uchenna Nwosu, CB Chris Harris Jr., TE Jared Cook, RB Justin Jackson

Potential Cuts: T Bryan Bulaga (saves $10.8 million)

Team Needs: CB, DI, WR

Head coach Brandon Staley could be eyeing to poach cornerback Darious Williams from the cap-strung Los Angeles Rams. Williams thrived in Staley’s final year as the Rams' defensive coordinator in 2020, as he was a top-five graded cornerback in the NFL. The Chargers also could look to add Bryce Callahan, who has enjoyed notable success in the Vic Fangio defense that Staley’s is built on. He owns a 90.2 coverage grade since 2017. Retaining contested-catch machine Mike Williams is also on Los Angeles' to-do list. His 66 contest catches since 2018 are the third-most in the NFL. The Chargers would still need to add another wide receiver in the 2022 NFL Draft to complement Williams’ physicality and Keenan Allen.


LOS ANGELES RAMS

Projected Cap Space: -$13.7M (28th)

Notable Free Agents: Edge Von Miller, WR Odell Beckham Jr., CB Darious Williams, C Brian Allen, G Austin Corbett, RB Sony Michel, DI Sebastian Joseph-Day, Edge Ogbonnia Okoronkwo, T Joseph Noteboom

Potential Cuts: DI A’Shawn Robinson (saves $5.5 million)

Team Needs: iOL, LB, CB

Multiple key Rams players are set to depart in free agency, and the team has no money to spend. Edge defender Von Miller and wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. are likely to be Los Angeles' top priorities before the new league year begins, and understandably so. The veterans proved to be valuable midseason additions. Miller posted an 89.9 PFF grade following his trade to the Rams, while Beckham earned a 75.1 mark.


MIAMI DOLPHINS

Projected Cap Space: $63.7M (1st)

Notable Free Agents: TE Mike Gesicki, WR Will Fuller V, Edge Emmanuel Ogbah, QB Jacoby Brissett

Potential Cuts: DI Adam Butler (saves $4.2 million), T Jesse Davis (saves $3.6 million), WR Allen Hurns ($2.6 million), TE Cethan Carter (saves $2.5 million)

Team Needs: OL, WR

New head coach Mike McDaniel and company are dedicated to building around Tua Tagovailoa this offseason. And the good news is that the money is there for them to bring in some high-quality receiving threats and blockers up front. Mike Gesicki may be listed as a tight end, but he’s a big slot. Inline blocking is not his game, but he is a quality pass-catcher when split out at receiver, as evidenced by his 79.4 and 70.8 receiving grades in the past two seasons. The team could also opt to give another one-year flier to Will Fuller V, who missed almost all of 2021 on such a deal in Miami due to injury. Back in 2020, he was a top-10 graded wide receiver in the NFL. 

If the Dolphins do want to retain those two receiving weapons, they will still have money to spend up front. San Francisco 49ers impending free agents Laken Tomlinson and Tom Compton are two names to watch out for. Tomlinson has been a top-15 graded guard in each of the past two years, and Compton performed admirably, earning a 79.9 PFF grade in 2021 while stepping in for Mike McGlinchey.


MINNESOTA VIKINGS

Projected Cap Space: -$15.6M (29th)

Notable Free Agents: LB Anthony Barr, CB Patrick Peterson, S Xavier Woods

Potential Cuts: Edge Danielle Hunter ($14.6 million), DI Michael Pierce (saves $6.5 million)

Team Needs: CB, iOL, EDGE, QB

Minnesota has plenty of needs but little cash available to help its cause in 2022 free agency. Quarterback Kirk Cousins accounting for $45 million against this year’s cap (roughly 21.5% of Minnesota's entire cap) is a big reason for that. Cornerback is a pressing need for Minnesota. The best-case scenario is signing either Bryce Callahan or Kyle Fuller — both of whom spent several years with new defensive coordinator Ed Donatell in Chicago and Denver — for pennies on the dollar. Both endured middling 2021 seasons but have proven in the past they can play at a high level in this defensive system.

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NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS

Projected Cap Space: $8.2M (20th)

Notable Free Agents: CB J.C. Jackson, LB Donta Hightower, T Trent Brown, S Devin McCourty, iOL Ted Karras, LB Ja’Whaun Bentley, RB James White

Potential Cuts: DI Davon Godchaux (saves $5 million)

Team Needs: WR, CB, EDGE, LB

New England's goals in free agency should be to get Mac Jones a legit WR1 and retain cornerback J.C. Jackson. The Pats’ receiving room wasn’t terrible in 2021 as a whole, but it was clearly missing an outside threat. Their receiving grade when lined up out wide as a group ranked 21st in the NFL. Trading for Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Calvin Ridley is perhaps the best-case scenario, but Allen Robinson II, who ranked in the top 10 in outside receiving grade in 2020 before a down year in 2021, is also a quality option. As for Jackson, he was the most valuable non-quarterback on New England's roster in 2021, and it wasn’t even close. Losing him would be a death blow to the secondary.


NEW ORLEANS SAINTS

Projected Cap Space: -$76M (32nd)

Notable Free Agents: T Terron Armstead, S Marcus Williams, QB Jameis Winston

Potential Cuts: CB Bradley Roby (saves $9.5 million), Edge Tanoh Kpassagnon (saves $2.4 million), S J.T. Gray (saves $2.1 million)

Team Needs: QB, OT, WR, S

The Saints are still stuck in salary cap hell. General manager Mickey Loomis has done a great job of performing cap magic at times in his career, but this offseason will be his toughest task yet. With no clear starting quarterback, the Saints are slated to be $76 million over the cap, almost assuring two key players — tackle Terron Armstead and safety Marcus Williams — will be looking for new teams.

Both Armstead and Williams rank among PFF’s top 10 free agents of 2022. Armstead has earned a pass-block grade north of 83.0 in seven straight seasons, while Williams has been the NFL’s fourth-most valuable safety since entering the league in 2017.


NEW YORK GIANTS

Projected Cap Space: -$10.7M (27th)

Notable Free Agents: TE Evan Engram, S Jabrill Peppers, T Nate Solder

Potential Cuts: CB James Bradberry (saves $12.1 million), LB Blake Martinez (saves $8.5 million), TE Kyle Rudolph (saves $5 million), TE Kaden Smith (saves $2.5 million)

Team Needs: iOL, LB, EDGE

New general manager Joe Schoen inherited a bad cap situation. Whatever they have left to spend after getting back in positive territory should be dedicated to cheap options along the interior offensive line. Patriots guard Ted Karras is one potential option. He was the 16th-highest graded guard of 2021 and shouldn’t command a big payday. Off-ball linebacker and edge are two big areas of need for Wink Martindale’s defense, but that’s likely going to be a problem addressed in the draft.


NEW YORK JETS

Projected Cap Space: $48.1M (5th)

Notable Free Agents: S Marcus Maye, DI Folorunso Fatukasi, T Morgan Moses, WR Jamison Crowder, WR Braxton Berrios, WR Keelan Cole

Potential Cuts: DI Sheldon Rankins (saves $5.4 million)

Team Needs: CB, LB, S, WR

The Jets’ secondary is desperately in need of a facelift. Even if the team plans on drafting Notre Dame safety Kyle Hamilton or Cincinnati cornerback Sauce Gardner with its top 10 picks in the 2022 NFL Draft, it still needs to address the secondary with its $48 million in free agency.

Safety Marcus Maye will likely sign a one-year prove-it deal after rupturing his Achilles in 2021. When healthy in 2020, he was a top-five graded player at the position. The Jets have the money to make a power play in free agency, and that’s precisely what they should do at cornerback. If New England lets J.C. Jackson — PFF’s seventh-highest graded cornerback in 2021 — walk, the Jets should be one of the first teams calling.


PHILADELPHIA EAGLES

Projected Cap Space: $21.5M (14th)

Notable Free Agents: CB Steven Nelson, Edge Derek Barnett, S Anthony Harris, S Rodney McLeod

Potential Cuts: None

Team Needs: CB, LB, S, EDGE

Philadelphia is set at cornerback for 2022 with Darius Slay and Avonte Maddox, but the team needs to address the other outside spot and both safety positions this offseason. Steven Nelson, Anthony Harris and Rodney McLeod are all hitting free agency, and none of the three earned a coverage grade above 61.0. Considering Harris has multiple top-five seasons under his belt, bringing him back is worth the investment. Philly could pair him up with one of the top safeties on the open market, such as Marcus Williams, who has been a top-10 graded player at the position in four of his five NFL seasons.

The Eagles are in a good spot where they don’t need to overspend in free agency, as they own three first-round picks in the 2022 NFL Draft.


PITTSBURGH STEELERS

Projected Cap Space: $31.3M (10th)

Notable Free Agents: WR JuJu Smith-Schuster, CB Joe Haden, CB Ahkello Witherspoon, S Terrell Edmunds, G Trai Turner

Potential Cuts: LB Joe Schobert (saves $7.8 million)

Team Needs: QB, CB, OT

Pittsburgh’s offseason goal is to find a quarterback who can push the ball downfield and — most importantly to them — add value with his legs. The now-retired Ben Roethlisberger could not do either of those two things in the final years of his career. In 2021, Big Ben led Pittsburgh to the second-lowest adjusted completion percentage when targeting the sticks in the league. He was also one of two starting quarterbacks who didn’t record an explosive run of 10 or more yards. 

That’s going to be a problem they try to solve in the draft.

Pittsburgh should look to address the problems they face in the secondary in free agency. Coverage was an area of weakness in 2021 for the team, as it ranked 25th in unit coverage grade. And the only three defensive backs who failed to produce a non-poor coverage grade above 60.0 for the season are all slated to hit free agency. Among that pack is Ahkello Witherspoon, who was low-key great when on the field for Pittsburgh. He took on a major role in Week 13 and proceeded to post a 79.7 coverage grade while intercepting three passes and breaking up five. Retaining him while pursuing one of the top veteran corners on the open market should be a priority.


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SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS

Projected Cap Space: -$4.5M (23rd)

Notable Free Agents: G Laken Tomlinson, DI D.J. Jones, CB K’Waun Williams, CB Jason Verrett, DI Maurice Hurst, Edge Arden Key, S Jaquiski Tartt, T Tom Compton, RB Raheem Mostert

Potential Cuts: Edge Samson Ebukam (saves $6.5 million)

Team Needs: CB, iOL

A Jimmy Garoppolo trade would free up over $26 million in cap space for the 49ers. Guard Laken Tomlinson should take some of that cash, as he has been a quality performer in Kyle Shanahan’s offense with 73.6 PFF grade in 2021. After that, they have some tough decisions to make, mainly in the secondary. Slot corner K’Waun Williams and safety Jaquiski Tartt are coming off down years with sub-61.0 coverage grades, and cornerback Jason Verrett can’t stay healthy. San Francisco is one of the few spots where Casey Hayward Jr., who was among the NFL’s five most valuable cornerbacks of 2021 in Las Vegas, could thrive. Seahawks free agent corner D.J. Reed Jr. is also likely to be looking for a new home with that defense undergoing a scheme change. Reed — a top-10 graded cornerback of 2021 — would fit like a glove in San Francisco.


SEATTLE SEAHAWKS

Projected Cap Space: $35.6M (8th)

Notable Free Agents: T Duane Brown, S Quandre Diggs, TE Gerald Everett, CB D.J. Reed Jr., T Brandon Shell, CB Sidney Jones, RB Rashaad Penny, G Ethan Pocic, QB Geno Smith

Potential Cuts: CB Ugo Amadi (saves $2.5 million)

Team Needs: EDGE, CB, C, OT

The Seahawks have a slew of key players hitting free agency who will eat up most of their available money. After bringing back some of those free agents, whatever is left should be used on the defensive line.

Seattle hasn’t had an even average pass rush in years. They’ve ranked 24th or worse in team pass-rush grade in each of the last four seasons. They were 30th in 2021. The good news is that they have the cash to disperse to a veteran edge defender. Randy Gregory is a player who should be on Seattle’s radar after he had a late-career breakout year in 2021 with the Dallas Cowboys. He earned an 84.7 pass-rush grade last season, ranking 11th among qualifying edge defenders.


TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS

Projected Cap Space: $3.1M (21st)

Notable Free Agents: WR Chris Godwin, CB Carlton Davis, C Ryan Jensen, TE Rob Gronkowski, RB Leonard Fournette, S Jordan Whitehead, G Alex Cappa, Edge Jason Pierre-Paul, TE O.J. Howard, DI Ndamukong Suh, RB Ronald Jones, RB Giovani Bernard

Potential Cuts: None

Team Needs: WR, DI

Barring Tom Brady posting a Michael Jordan-esque “I’m back” statement to social media and changing his mind about retirement, the Buccaneers need to plan for a rebuild this offseason. This means only the team’s young, important free agents should be brought back, like wide receiver Chris Godwin and cornerback Carlton Davis. Their cap number will climb over $20 million, but Brady’s retirement will make it possible to keep them. Godwin and Davis rank No. 1 and No. 3 among Buccaneers non-quarterbacks in PFF WAR over the last three years.


TENNESSEE TITANS

Projected Cap Space: -$7.1M (26th)

Notable Free Agents: Edge Harold Landry III, C Ben Jones, LB Jayon Brown, T David Quessenberry, TE Anthony Firkser

Potential Cuts: T Taylor Lewan (saves $12.9 million), G Rodger Saffold (saves $10.4 million), CB Jackrabbit Jenkins (saves $6.9 million)

Team Needs: TE, G, EDGE

Tennessee is still in its contention window. Two positions the team desperately needs to attack this offseason are tight end and edge. Barring any major restructures or cuts, the draft will be when those voids are attacked, but there are veteran options out there if they so choose. Tennessee was rumored to be interested in Zach Ertz before he was traded away to Arizona. He is now slated to be a free agent, and they could once again make a run at the tight end. Ertz earned a 70.1 receiving grade with Arizona in 2021 and has at times in his career been a top-three graded tight end as a receiver in the PFF database.

With Harold Landry III likely commanding too much, the Titans could look for a cheap veteran edge defender in free agency. Justin Houston is one name to monitor. The 33-year-old bounced back in 2021 at Baltimore by earning a 77.9 PFF grade — a top-20 mark at the position.


WASHINGTON COMMANDERS

Projected Cap Space: $31.9M (9th)

Notable Free Agents: G Brandon Scherff, DI Tim Settle, T Cornelius Lucas, QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, S Bobby McCain

Potential Cuts: DI Matt Ioannidis (saves $6.9 million), S Landon Collins (saves $6.4 million)

Team Needs: QB, LB, S

Washington is presumably going to pick up a new starting quarterback this offseason, whether it be Jimmy Garoppolo via trade or a rookie at No. 11 overall. In free agency, the Commanders are top-10 in projected cap space, and they should use at least a little bit of that cash at off-ball linebacker. One player to target is De’Vondre Campbell, who is fresh off a breakout with the Packers. Campbell was the second-highest graded player at the position in 2021 and won’t break the bank for Washington if they want him.

Star guard Brandon Scherff is looking for a long-term deal from the team after playing on multiple franchise tags. He’s projected to fetch a three-year, $50 million deal with $30 million guaranteed. Scherff has never produced a sub-70.0 PFF grade in his eight-year NFL career. I wouldn’t put it past the Commanders to shy away from bringing back Scherff considering the injuries as of late and the high price tag, but it wouldn’t be the end of the world to pay the price. He is one of the best guards in the game when healthy.

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