NFL free agency is a year-round process, as teams scout opposing players in an effort to defeat them during the year and perhaps sign them in the offseason.
Now we're at the end of the 2021-22 NFL season, the free agency picture is coming into focus and teams are beginning to identify potential targets to improve their roster weaknesses.
Here are the top wide receivers slated to hit free agency in 2022. Click here for PFF's full list of top 100 free agents.
Click here for more PFF tools:
Adams made it clear he wanted to become the highest-paid player at the wide receiver position, and it’s hard to argue against him deserving that distinction. Matters become more complicated when you try to determine who is technically the highest-paid wide receiver and what the true annual value of their contracts are. A franchise tag for Adams will be just shy of $20 million, making it less likely given Green Bay’s salary cap challenges ahead — but not impossible to workaround.
Projected contract: 4 yrs — $23.25m avg/yr
2. Chris Godwin
Godwin and the Buccaneers were unable to come to an agreement on a multi-year deal after he was franchise-tagged in the 2021 offseason, but that very well may work out in his favor. A far more robust free-agent market is certain for the 2022 offseason, given the salary cap will resume growing instead of shrinking. Godwin hauled in 98 passes through Week 15 before a torn ACL prematurely ended his season, but that was still a career-high total. And the drop issues that plagued him during the Buccaneers' 2020 Super Bowl run subsided a bit as his hand grew healthier.
Projected contract: 4 yrs — $17.5m avg/yr
Williams picked a great season to break out and become a consistent player week in and week out, topping his previous season-high for receptions by Week 12. After a blazing start the first three weeks of the campaign, during which Williams ranked fifth in receptions (22), sixth in receiving yards (295) and tied for second in explosive plays (8), he slowed down a bit. Yet, he still finished with a fourth straight 70.0-plus season grade and a career-best 76 receptions for 1,146 yards (15.1 yards per reception, fourth straight season averaging over 15 yards per reception). Williams is a big play waiting to happen with rare physical tools.
Projected contract: 4 yrs — $17m avg/yr
Robinson endured a disastrous 2021 season as he once again tried to produce in a woeful passing offense. He saw just 44 targets through Week 8 after commanding 76 targets through Week 8 in 2020. While the lion’s share of the blame can be placed on the Bears’ offense in general, Robinson individually earned the worst overall grade of his career thus far (66.9). It’s entirely possible the focus was on staying healthy and getting ready for 2022 and beyond outside of Chicago.
Projected contract: 3 yrs — $16m avg/yr
The Rams‘ final midseason addition of 2021, Beckham Jr. didn’t take too long to get acclimated to the West Coast. He had had his first 40-plus yard reception since Week 2 of 2020 in just his second game with the team — against the Green Bay Packers in Week 12 — on a beautifully run slant-and-go route. Plays like that are why Beckham Jr. had as many suitors as he did when he was granted his release from the Cleveland Browns, and they could be lining up again given how effective he’s been during the Rams’ Super Bowl run.
Projected contract: 1 yrs — $14m avg/yr
Gallup’s contract year got off to a bit of a shaky start, as he sustained an injury in Week 1 that kept him sidelined through Week 9. He put up at least 30 receiving yards in every game from Weeks 10 to 17 but unfortunately suffered a torn ACL late in the season that complicates matters heading into 2022.
Projected contract: 4 yrs — $13.75m avg/yr
Even at 33 years old and after missing time here and there due to injury, Brown is still one of the best wide receivers in the NFL when he plays. Through five contests to start the season, he had three outings with at least 90 receiving yards and a touchdown, and his 86.3 receiving grade ranked fourth among wide receivers. In any given stretch, Brown can be dominant, but there will of course be other questions this offseason after his bizarre mid-year breakup with the Buccaneers in 2021.
Projected contract: 1 yrs — $4m avg/yr
Smith-Schuster reportedly turned down offers from the Baltimore Ravens and Kansas City Chiefs in order to stay with the Pittsburgh Steelers, who selected him in the second round of the 2017 NFL Draft. Smith-Schuster was once believed to be supplanting Antonio Brown as the best wide receiver in Pittsburgh, but even with Brown no longer in town, that still isn’t the case. However, Smith-Schuster plays a very valuable role as a sure-handed slot receiver who a quarterback can rely on in critical situations. He ranks in the top 15 in third-down receptions (85) among wide receivers since he was drafted in 2017. That said, he will once again likely be facing one-year flier offers after missing much of the 2021 season to injury.
Projected contract: 1 yrs — $8m avg/yr
Kirk lined up in the slot on 79% of his snaps in 2021, easily beating out his previous career-high of 41.6%. Kirk has had a similar career trajectory to Washington Commanders wide receiver Curtis Samuel, with a massive jump in slot deployment and his average depth of target dropping in the fourth year of his rookie contract. Both are roughly 5-foot-11, 200-pound former second-round picks who play at 4.4 speeds.
Projected contract: 3 yrs — $11.67m avg/yr
10. D.J. Chark Jr.
Chark’s relationship with former Jaguars head coach Urban Meyer didn’t get off to the best start, as Meyer said he was a “big guy that played little.” In a wide receiver room devoid of top-end talent, Chark was supposed to be that guy. Unfortunately, an ankle injury sustained in Week 4 knocked him out for the remainder of what was quite the eventful season in Jacksonville. Chark may look to depart for greener pastures, and there should be a handful of teams interested in adding a 6-foot-4 wide receiver with 4.3 speed.
Projected contract: 3 yrs — $13.33m avg/yr