It’s officially the offseason for all 32 NFL teams, and 31 of them will be looking to patch roster holes and dethrone the Super Bowl champion Los Angeles Rams.
These next few months are the building blocks for Super Bowl contenders. Every team wants to nail free agency and the draft, but not every offseason plan ends up working out — whether it be limited cap space, disgruntled players or draft reaches, among other factors.
Here is every NFL team's best- and worst-case scenario for the 2022 offseason.
JUMP TO A TEAM:
Best case: Impending free agents — such as Chandler Jones — take team-friendly deals, Arizona gets a CB in Round 1 and another pass-catcher in Round 2
Worst case: Kyler Murray forces his way out
It's been a tumultuous start to the offseason for Kyler Murray. The 2018 No. 1 overall pick wiped his Instagram clean of any Cardinals posts, and reports have since come out that he is in fact not happy — although Murray disputes that. It’s highly unlikely that Murray — who was a top-five graded passer in 2021 — will be playing for a new team this fall, but it’s not out of the question given the recent drama.
The best case for Arizona is Murray and the franchise make amends and then the focus shifts to retaining their key impending free agents on team-friendly deals while attacking valuable positions in the draft. Edge defender Chandler Jones posted an 87.7 pass-rush grade in 2021. Retaining him, among others, while looking for a cornerback in Round 1 and bringing in another pass-catcher in Round 2 would be a good plan for Arizona this offseason.
It also would help if the Cardinals could land a low-cost veteran corner like Rasul Douglas, who was poached off their practice squad by Green Bay and produced a top-20 coverage grade in 2021, in free agency.
Best case: Land Desmond Ridder in Round 2 of the 2022 NFL Draft
Worst case: Key impending free agents walk and Ridder is off the board by Round 2
Atlanta is in a tough spot. The team is tied to veteran quarterback Matt Ryan for at least the 2022 season after restructuring his contract a year ago. 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. The Falcons don’t have a lot of available cap space, and it may be too risky for them to spend the No. 8 overall pick on a questionable quarterback prospect.
Their best case in the draft is getting Cincinnati quarterback Desmond Ridder — who I believe is getting overlooked relative to the rest of the quarterback class — with their No. 43 overall pick. It also would be wise to bring back dynamic weapon Cordarelle Patterson, wide receiver Russell Gage and safety Duron Harmon if they can afford it. Those three players were among their eight most valuable non-quarterbacks in 2021.
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Worst case: Key impending free agents walk and they attack the trenches with their No. 14 overall pick
Injuries decimated Baltimore’s chances of making the playoffs in 2021. With a healthy Lamar Jackson, Marlon Humphrey and Marcus Peters, they should get back to competing for a postseason spot in 2022. And what would help their cause even more is bringing back interior defensive lineman Calais Campbell and edge defender Justin Houston on friendly deals after they finished as the first- and second-highest graded players on their defense last year.
Along with that, pairing Humphrey and Peters with first-round cornerback prospect Trent McDuffie would be ideal. McDuffie earned an 80.0-plus PFF grade as a true freshman, sophomore and junior thanks to his awareness, athleticism, physicality and tackling.
Best case: Bring in veteran help, veteran help and more veteran help
Worst case: Make no major additions to the defensive front or wide receiver room
Buffalo is in contention mode, and veteran help is essential to getting them over the hump. Re-signing edge defender Jerry Hughes is a good start before looking at possible new faces. 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.
One veteran Buffalo should keep a good eye on is Calais Campbell. If Baltimore lets him walk, bringing him in on a one-year deal would be significant for Buffalo’s run defense. Campbell ranked in the top 10 in PFF grade at the position in 2021 thanks to a 77.9 grade against the run.
At wide receiver, Buffalo could take a swing on JuJu Smith-Schuster. He’s likely to sign a one-year prove-it deal after several underwhelming seasons. Smith-Schuster has failed to post a receiving grade above 70.0 after doing so in each of his first two years in the league — 2017 (73.5) and 2018 (81.2).
Best case: Trade back in the 2022 NFL Draft and grab a quarterback in the back half of Round 1
Worst case: Reach for Kenny Pickett at No. 6 overall
The pressure is on Carolina to take a quarterback in the 2022 NFL Draft after the Sam Darnold experiment unsurprisingly failed. There are rumors out there that head coach Matt Rhule likes Pittsburgh quarterback Kenny Pickett, who he recruited years ago when he was the head coach at Temple.
At No. 6 overall, though, this would be a major reach. Pickett's tendency to hold onto the ball is his biggest issue, leading to some concerns about how his game will translate to the NFL. Pickett averaged 3.19 seconds per throw in 2021, which would have been the slowest time in the NFL this past season. And for a quarterback who isn’t a dynamic athlete, that’s a massive worry.
Pickett was a fantastic college quarterback in 2021, but the No. 6 overall pick is way too early for him to come off the board. Carolina should aggressively attempt to trade back. Then, if it’s feasible, the Panthers can take a swing on a quarterback.
Worst case: Fail to bring in veteran offensive line or receiving help
New general manager Ryan Poles will be looking to build a winning offense around promising second-year quarterback Justin Fields this offseason. That includes stocking the receiving room with talent after Allen Robinson II likely departs in free agency. New offensive coordinator Luke Getsy had a strong relationship with free-agent wide receiver Davante Adams in Green Bay, and some reports suggest the team would have interest in the star pass-catcher. While it is in the cards, it’s still a pipe dream.
One wide receiver who the team may have a better chance at landing, although it would still be difficult, is Calvin Ridley. ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler named Chicago as a sleeper to land the wide receiver through trade earlier this month. Ridley is a top-notch route-runner and posted an 84.9 PFF grade in 2020 before missing most of 2021. If the Bears can’t land one of the top wide receivers available, D.J. Chark Jr. is a name to look out for in free agency.
Chicago's offensive line is also going to welcome in new faces after 2021’s unit allowed the second-highest rate of pressured dropbacks in the NFL. If the Bears don’t make a power play for a top free-agent wide receiver — which is most likely — they have the money to pursue 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. Armstead, who grew up in southwest Illinois, never earned a single-season PFF grade below 75.0 in his nine years at left tackle in New Orleans.
Best case: Pick up multiple offensive line free agents — one being a premier talent — while landing a top interior lineman in the 2022 NFL Draft
Worst case: Sign only average players in free agency and pass on an offensive lineman in Round 1
The fact that Cincinnati made it to the Super Bowl with such a shaky offensive line is remarkable. Their line tied for 28th in unit pass-blocking grade in 2021. It was also the lowest pass-blocking grade by a Super Bowl team in the PFF era (since 2006) by more than double-digit grading points. The good news is that Cincinnati has the capital to fix that for 2022 and beyond. They have the money to be a major bidder for Terron Armstead — PFF’s No. 2-rated free agent — while also bringing in other top pass-protectors on the market. Center Ryan Jensen and guards Brandon Scherff, James Daniels and Connor Williams are all names to keep an eye on for Cincinnati if they hit the market.
The Bengals are also in position to get a top offensive lineman in the 2022 NFL Draft with the No. 31 overall pick. Central Michigan tackle Bernhard Raimann (FBS-leading 94.6 PFF grade in 2021), versatile Texas A&M lineman Kenyon Green and Senior Bowl standout guard Zion Johnson from Boston College are all possibilities there.
Best case: Get Baker Mayfield a new pass-catcher and make the defensive line priority No. 2
Worst case: Overpay for their impending free agents — such as Jadeveon Clowney — and avoid a wide receiver in Round 1 of the 2022 NFL Draft
Baker Mayfield will need more pass-catching weapons in 2022 as he eyes a bounce-back campaign. That could come in the form of spending big in free agency on someone like Chris Godwin, who has never earned a receiving grade lower than 75.0 in his career, or drafting a wide receiver with the No. 13 overall pick.
Cleveland’s wide receiver room ranked 27th in receiving grade in 2021. A couple of names to monitor in the draft are Ohio State’s Garrett Wilson and Alabama’s Jameson Williams. Wilson is a fluid route-runner, while Williams is the most dangerous pass-catcher in the class. Both posted PFF grades above 80.0 in 2021 and slot into the top 20 on the PFF Big Board.
The worst-case scenario is avoiding significant investments at the wide receiver position and giving a hefty deal to Jadeveon Clowney, even if it’s for only one year. Clowney is fresh off earning a 66.5 PFF grade in 2021 and is projected to fetch $15 million on a one-year contract in free agency.
Best case: Skill position room remains the same for Dak Prescott in 2022
Dallas isn’t in the best cap situation. They are currently $21 million over the cap, but they can open up plenty of space with restructures. Still, the possibility of having to part ways with wide receiver Amari Cooper looms, whether it be via trade or release.
Some would be happy with Dallas cutting ties with Cooper to retain Michael Gallup and Dalton Schultz. There is a world in which the Cowboys can keep their receiving room intact, and they should do everything in their power to do so. The only team to get more PFF WAR from their wide receivers and tight ends in 2021 was the Super Bowl champion Los Angeles Rams.
Worst case: Drew Lock is QB1 for 2022
Denver moving from Teddy Bridgewater and Drew Lock to Aaron Rodgers would be one of the biggest quarterback upgrades in recent memory. Rodgers is coming off a season in which he posted the third-highest passing grade in the NFL. Bridgewater, meanwhile, produced fewer big-time throws than turnover-worthy plays and Lock earned a 59.9 passing grade.
Rodgers would undoubtedly put the Broncos into contention, and the addition of star wide receiver Davante Adams would only help that cause. If this dream scenario doesn't come to fruition, Denver is looking at Drew Lock versus a rookie for the QB1 job this fall, putting the team a ways away from being a contender.
Best case: Attack the secondary hard in free agency
Worst case: No clear worst-case scenario — it would be difficult to mess the offseason up
There is a chance Detroit adds a quarterback in the 2022 NFL Draft with its second first-round draft pick, courtesy of the Los Angeles Rams at No. 32, but for a team with this many holes, playing for the 2023 NFL Draft is best. Either way, building up the secondary for the next few years is necessary after the Lions produced a bottom-three team coverage grade once again in 2021.
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 — is a potential option to help groom some of the young talent on Detroit’s roster.
There are few bad scenarios that could play out for Detroit this offseason, given the sheer number of holes on the roster. The franchise can’t do much to make be any worse.
Best case: Aaron Rodgers sticks around for one last ride, and the team fits him and Davante Adams under the cap
Worst case: The Jordan Love era commences
It’s obvious that Rodgers and Adams returning for 2022 is the best-case scenario for Green Bay this offseason. If they depart, however, the offense is in the hands of 2020 first-round pick Jordan Love, who was seen as a risky pick then and has shown little promise in his limited time on the field.
Love has taken only 70 dropbacks in a meaningful NFL action and produced a poor 31.3 passing grade on such reps. He managed six turnover-worthy plays in that small sample. The inaccuracy and bad decisions that showed on his college tape resurfaced in that regular-season action. If Love is forced to lead the way, the Packers will go from a contender to a bottom-tier team.
Best case: Continue to build for the 2023 offseason
Worst case: Go into win-now mode with the idea that Davis Mills can be a franchise quarterback
The Texans shelled out a slew of small, short-term contracts to low-tier veterans last offseason — a unique approach as they began a multi-year rebuild. Getting Deshaun Watson off the books would place them in the top three in available cap space for 2022 and in first for 2023 by a wide margin. This strategy puts them in play to obtain a promising franchise quarterback with an early draft pick next offseason, which is the best-case scenario.
The worry is they get hung up on the idea Davis Mills can be their franchise quarterback. Mills put together some surprise performances in his rookie campaign, but it wasn’t enough to improve his long-term prospects. The 2021 third-round pick still finished with more turnover-worthy plays (20) than big-time throws (13) en route to a 58.3 PFF grade.
Best case: A top quarterback slides to the team in Round 2 and they sign Marcus Mariota
Worst case: Carson Wentz has no competition and remains QB1
The bad thing here is that Indianapolis’ worst-case scenario isn’t far off from their best-case scenario.
Carson Wentz couldn't bring the Colts to the postseason in 2021, causing the team to go back to the drawing board. Indianapolis desperately wants to find a franchise quarterback, but as we know, those are hard to come by. Wentz earned a lowly 67.9 passing grade in 2021 and got there in a highly volatile fashion. Some reports suggest the team could even release Wentz this offseason.
In this plan, the Colts are hoping a quarterback falls to them in Round 2 due to their first-rounder belonging to Philadelphia. There are no clear better options in free agency, and the trade market is looking bleak. It’s possible that Cincinnati's Desmond Ridder or North Carolina's Sam Howell slides to the Colts in the second round, but that's a dangerous waiting game. And even then, it’s obviously no guarantee that a rookie would pan out. Ideally, one of those signal-callers falls and the Colts sign Marcus Mariota in free agency.
Best case: Go all-in on getting Trevor Lawrence help in free agency with ample cap space
Worst case: No worst case — the team would have to try to have a bad offseason
It would be extremely difficult for Jacksonville — which has the second-most available cap space and the No. 1 overall pick in the 2022 NFL Draft — to botch this offseason. The Jaguars' worst-case scenario is still going to make them a much better team after last year’s drama-filled, losing campaign.
The goal for this offseason is simple: Build around Trevor Lawrence. They have the money to target a premier free-agent wide receiver, and that’s exactly what they should do. Chris Godwin, who has never earned a single-season receiving grade below 75.0 in his NFL career, is among that small group. He recorded an 81.3 PFF grade in 2021 before going down with a torn ACL in the final weeks of the regular season.
The Jaguars also have room to add offensive linemen, regardless if they go with a tackle or an edge defender with their No. 1 overall pick. Guard Brandon Scherff — who spent a few years with current Jacksonville offensive line coach Phil Rauscher in Washington — is a potential name to watch if he hits the open market. Scherff’s worst 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.
Worst case: Clark remains, Orlando Brown Jr. re-signs for too much money and the Chiefs are limited for the rest of free agency
Kansas City doesn’t have a lot of capital this offseason, but they have a clear path to getting better. It starts with cutting edge defender Frank Clark, whom they traded for first- and second-round picks before giving him a massive extension. Clark is set to account for $26.3 million of Kansas City's cap in 2022 — the largest hit on the team and the sixth-largest at the position league-wide.
In his three years with the Chiefs, Clark earned PFF grades of 63.3, 54.3 and 54.9. Cutting him before June 1 would give the team $13.6 million in dead cap but also save $12.7 million. After June 1, the Chiefs' savings would jump to $19.5 million while their hit lessens to $6.8 million. Either way, there is no justification for paying Clark the full $26.3 million to be on the roster in 2022.
All of Kansas City's available cash right now is likely going to tackle Orlando Brown Jr, who earned a 75.3 PFF grade in 2021. However, he is set to get paid as if he produced at an elite level.
The worst-case scenario is that Clark remains and Brown’s contract is even larger than expected. At that point, there would be no room to add more pieces in March.
Best case: Scoop up multiple veteran cornerbacks in free agency
Worst case: Rely on current players in secondary
Las Vegas needs to overhaul its secondary. Last year’s group fared better than in previous years, but it was a unit crafted to play Gus Bradley’s Seahawk Cover 3 defense, and that is won't be a part of the new regime. The top performer from that group — Casey Hayward Jr. — is set to be a free agent and struggles outside of that system.
One option for the Raiders to consider in free agency is veteran corner Stephon Gilmore, who was with new Raiders defensive coordinator Patrick 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.
The Raiders can’t ignore the secondary this offseason. It’s their top priority in free agency.
Best case: Attack the secondary in free agency and select a wide receiver in the first round of the 2022 NFL Draft
Worst case: Fail to sign a veteran cornerback to fit Brandon Staley’s system
The Chargers had the second-lowest graded cornerback room in the NFL last season. They have a promising young talent in Asante Samuel Jr., but much, much more is needed. One prime candidate head coach Brandon Staley could and should be eyeing is cornerback Darious Williams from the cap-strung Los Angeles Rams. Williams thrived in Staley’s final year as the Rams' defensive coordinator in 2020, finishing as a top-five graded cornerback in the NFL. The Chargers should also 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.
In the draft, it’s understandable why many mock drafts are sending Georgia interior defender Jordan Davis to the Chargers at No. 17 overall. The team needs a run-stuffer for its two-high defense. Those players can generate value, but the best option for Los Angeles with that first-round selection is at wide receiver, even if they decide to re-sign Mike Williams in free agency. The team could use a complementary piece to Keenan Allen and Williams, such as Jameson Williams and his game-changing speed. The deep connection between Herbert and Williams would regularly light up SoFi Stadium.
2022 NFL Draft position rankings:
Top 10 players at every position
Worst case: Aaron Donald hangs up the cleats
NBC’s Rodney Harrison stunned most of the football world during the Super Bowl pregame show by noting that star interior defensive lineman Aaron Donald could retire from the NFL if the Rams won the big game, which they proceeded to do. Donald is widely considered to be one of the best players in NFL history, if not the best.
Donald has earned an elite PFF grade above 90.0 in each of his eight seasons in the league. He has won three Defensive Player of the Year awards and should have taken home several more. This past season, Donald generated 1.14 wins above replacement — 0.34 more than any other defender in the NFL. That’s unlike anything PFF has ever seen from an interior defensive lineman. Donald calling it a career would cause significant regression for the Rams' defense.
If Donald decides to come back, repeat talk can safely remain. And if several key impending free agents, including Von Miller and Odell Beckham Jr., come back, the Rams will be cooking in 2022. Miller earned a 91.0 PFF grade after getting traded to the team. Beckham emerged down the stretch, earning an 85.7 PFF grade during postseason play before tearing his ACL in the Super Bowl.
Best case: Revamp offensive line and add receiving threats
Worst case: None — they are too rich in cap space and draft capital to falter badly this offseason
Miami is one of a few teams that don’t have much of a worst-case scenario this offseason. With more cap space than any other team in the NFL, the Dolphins would have to try to mess their free agency up. Offensive line and wide receiver stand out as areas to address. Miami’s offensive line was the lowest-graded unit of 2021, and the team lacked a quality third option at wide receiver after Jaylen Waddle and DeVante Parker.
There is a clear connection between new head coach Mike McDaniel and a couple of San Francisco offensive linemen hitting the market — Laken Tomlinson and Tom Compton. Tomlinson has been a top-15 graded guard in each of the past two years, and Compton performed admirably in 2021, earning a 79.9 PFF grade while stepping in for Mike McGlinchey.
Worst case: Forced to cut Danielle Hunter to get under the cap and fail to bring in veteran cornerback help
Thanks to a $45 million cap hit from quarterback Kirk Cousins, Minnesota is going to be fighting to get out of negative territory before the new league year commences. Many options are on the table to remedy that situation, including cutting ties with edge defender Danielle Hunter, which would open up $14.6 million. While injuries have hurt Hunter the past couple of years, this is a less-than-ideal plan. Hunter produced a 77.4 pass-rush grade in seven games this past season. On true pass sets, that mark jumped to 89.6. Without him from Week 9 on in 2021, the Vikings ranked 25th in team pass-rush grade.
If the Vikings are forced to release Hunter, they should target cornerbacks Bryce Callahan and 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. And they are really the best options Minnesota can afford.
There’s also a chance cornerback prospect Derek Stingley Jr. slides into their hands in the 2022 NFL Draft, although that would be one of the biggest steals of the draft if it occurs. Stingley possesses rare physical tools, and his 2019 true freshman season earned the highest grade from a non-quarterback in the PFF College era.
Worst case: Wide receiver room stays largely the same for 2022
New England's goals in free agency should be to get Mac Jones a legit WR1 and retain cornerback J.C. Jackson. The Patriots' receiving room wasn’t terrible in 2021, but it was clearly missing an outside threat. The unit's receiving grade when lined up out wide 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 close. Losing him would be a death blow to the secondary.
Best case: Is there a best-case scenario?
Worst case: Everything
The Saints are in a horrible cap situation. They are nearly $76 million over the limit with no franchise quarterback and with star tackle Terron Armstead and star safety Marcus Williams set to hit the open market. Both are among PFF’s top eight free agents in this cycle.
New Orleans can get under the cap through restructures and cuts, but the lack of a high-quality passer damages the team's chances of even sniffing the postseason. And head coach Sean Payton is also stepping away from the game, so while the team should strongly consider hitting the reset button, that’s not in the cards. The Saints' best bet is taking a rookie signal-caller with their 18th overall pick in the 2022 NFL Draft. Desmond Ridder is the most NFL-ready passer in this class and is a name the Saints should strongly consider in Round 1.
Best case: Sign at least one reliable veteran interior offensive lineman and draft a promising offensive lineman in Round 1
Worst case: Do nothing in free agency
The new regime in New York inherited a bad cap situation, which is going to prevent the franchise from making any major moves in free agency. Whatever the Giants 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 in 2021 and shouldn’t command a big payday.
The team has some clear needs on defense at edge defender and off-ball linebacker. The Giants will likely attack one of those spots with either the No. 5 or No. 7 overall picks, but the other should be used on the offensive line. Either Evan Neal of Alabama, Charles Cross of Mississippi State or Ikem Ekwonu of North Carolina State should be there for New York.
Best case: Completely overhaul the secondary in free agency and in the 2022 NFL Draft
Worst case: None
The Jets have four top-40 draft picks — two of which are in the top 10 — and the fifth-most cap space in free agency. This is going to be difficult to mess up.
Most of the capital should be used on overhauling the secondary. The Jets produced the third-lowest coverage grade in the NFL last season and lack any long-term promising talent. In free agency, it starts with bringing back safety Marcus Maye on a one-year prove-it deal after he ruptured 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 J.C. Jackson — PFF’s seventh-highest graded cornerback in 2021 — hits the market, the Jets should be one of the first teams calling.
In the draft, New York should have three prospects circled on its board to take with the No. 4 and No. 10 overall selections: Safety Kyle Hamilton and cornerbacks Derek Stingley Jr. and Sauce Gardner. All three players earned college coverage grades above 91.0 in their careers and are worthy of being taken within the first 10 picks this April. Getting two of those three would be a positive long-term move for the Jets.
Best case: Make a deal for a top veteran quarterback in exchange for draft capital
Worst case: Jalen Hurts is still the QB1 for 2022
With three first-round picks in 2022, Philadelphia has the ammo to pull off a massive trade for a veteran quarterback like Russell Wilson or Kyler Murray. That's a highly unlikely scenario, but it's one that shouldn’t be discounted given what the Eagles have to offer.
Jalen Hurts being the team's QB1 for 2022 is indeed the worst-case scenario, but it is not a terrible situation. Hurts is a certified playmaker on broken plays and when scrambling, but his reliance on those plays is also an understandable concern. He ranked 24th in passing grade inside the pocket and turned in more turnover-worthy plays than big-time throws when clean from pressure.
Best case: Don't need to trade into the top 10 to draft quarterback Malik Willis
Worst case: A low-tier veteran is the team's new starting quarterback
After dealing with a depleted arm and no mobility at quarterback the past few years, the Steelers' brass is reportedly interested in Willis — a dynamic runner who also possesses the strongest arm in the class. Last year, Willis led the FBS in both rushing grade and big-time throw rate.
The only problem is the Steelers pick 20th overall, and early indications are Willis is going within the first 10 selections. While he boasts elite tools, he is still raw and has a long road ahead of him to get to franchise quarterback status. This makes a trade-up a very bold bet to make. The Steelers could possibly hold tight and at No. 20 and still land Willis, which is their best-case scenario.
Best case: Use money from a Jimmy Garoppolo trade on cornerbacks in free agency
Worst case: Prioritize retaining players over adding new faces in the secondary
San Francisco’s secondary ranked 24th in unit coverage grade in 2021. The outside cornerbacks allowed the third-highest rate of first downs or touchdowns in the NFL. And that’s where any available money in free agency should be spent, given the 49ers don’t have a first-round pick.
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 look for a new home as Seattle's defense undergoes a scheme change. Reed — a top-10 graded cornerback in 2021 — would fit like a glove in San Francisco.
Best case: Russell Wilson is happy, and the team restructures his contract and doesn’t break the bank on impending free agents
Worst case: Wilson is done
Despite Russell Wilson repeatedly stating that he is staying with Seattle, it hasn’t stopped reports indicating that he is exploring his options. Wilson is coming off the lowest-graded season of his career, but he still has plenty left in the tank. After all, he did play through a finger injury for most of the 2021 season. Resetting the franchise with a Wilson trade demand is an unlikely scenario, but still a possible one, making it the worst-case scenario.
The best-case scenario is that Wilson comes back, gets his contract restructured to free up $11 million in cap space and the Seahawks use what they have to bring back impending free agents along with new veteran defensive backs. Tackle Duane Brown and safety Quandre Diggs are going to command decent paydays, but if PFF's projections (two years, $20 million; three years, $24 million) come true, Seattle should be able to retain them.
If the money allows for it, the Seahawks should be all over Buccaneers free agent cornerback Carlton Davis III, who has been one of the 25 most valuable players at the position in each of the past three years, according to PFF WAR. Signing a veteran edge defender would also be wise if they can swing it. One such candidate is Randy Gregory, who racked up a career-high 43 pressures in 2021.
Best case: Tom Brady reneges on his retirement announcement
Worst case: Kyle Trask is QB1
There have been reports that Tom Brady hasn’t completely shut the door on unretiring. Assuming he would want to remain a Buccaneer in such a case, that would quite easily be the best outcome of the franchise’s offseason.
Tampa Bay became a Super Bowl contender because of Brady. He led the team to the Lombardi Trophy in 2020 before falling short of an all-time comeback in the divisional round in 2021. Brady was the second-highest graded quarterback in the NFL in each of the past two seasons with the team. Without him, the Buccaneers immediately drop to a bottom-tier team. Kyle Trask would presumably take over as the starting quarterback, but he has no meaningful reps in the NFL.
Best case: Let Harold Landry III walk, replace him in the draft and spend sign a tight end
Worst case: Break the bank for Landry
Tennessee went all-in during the 2021 offseason on Bud Dupree, then a free-agent edge defender PFF wasn’t too high on. After he earned a 53.6 PFF grade in the first season of his five-year, $82.5 million deal, the signing looks like a mistake. And the Titans now might give another hefty — and risky —contract to one of their own edge defenders this offseason.
Harold Landry III racked up cleanup and unblocked pressures in 2021, leading him to a projected contract of $60 million across four years this offseason. Despite his high pressure and sack totals, Landry earned a 56.8 pass-rush grade last season. He actually generated negative PFF WAR for the year. This screams buyer beware.
Not breaking the bank for Landry and replacing the edge position in the 2022 NFL Draft with their 26th overall pick is ideal for the Titans. They are short on cap space, and this edge draft class is incredibly deep. Using remaining cash on a tight end in free agency to help their offense would be significantly better for the team.
Best case: Don’t reach for a quarterback
Worst case: Cough up the No. 11 overall pick for Jimmy Garoppolo
The Commanders are operating in win-now mode, which means they will be aggressive in the quarterback market this offseason. The only problem is, the options are not great. They could very well overpay for a new starter, whether it be through free agency, the trade market or the 2022 NFL Draft.
The biggest concern is perhaps coughing up the No. 11 overall pick for Jimmy Garoppolo — something The Athletic’s Ben Standig said was a possibility because of the demand. Garoppolo is a mid-tier at-best starting quarterback. He can efficiently hit schemed throws underneath and operate the structure of the offense, but asking him to elevate the players around him would be a tall task.
Garoppolo’s downfield throws are all over the place, he struggles to see linebackers and his performance under pressure is a major issue. This past year, he failed to record a single big-time throw under pressure while producing 18 turnover-worthy plays. Garoppolo for a Day 2 pick is fine, but nothing more.