NFL News & Analysis

NFL Free Agency 2022: The five best Day 1 signings, including J.C. Jackson to the Los Angeles Chargers

Atlanta, Georgia, USA; New England Patriots cornerback J.C. Jackson (27) runs after intercepting a pass against the Atlanta Falcons during the fourth quarter at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

The first day of the 2022 NFL free agency period drew a litany of blockbuster moves to change the NFL landscape ahead of the new league year.

While there will be much more free agency mayhem to go around this week, here are the five best free agency signings after Day 1 of the legal tampering period.

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1. CB J.C. Jackson, Los Angeles Chargers: Five Years, $82.5 million ($40 million guaranteed)

Jackson was regarded as the top-tier cornerback prospect in free agency, and the Chargers paid him as such to lure him away from the New England Patriots.

The former undrafted free agent is coming off of a banner season in man-to-man coverage, in which he gave up just 30 catches from 62 man-coverage targets for 444 yards, one score and five interceptions. His 44.0 passer rating allowed in man coverage and 89.0 man-coverage grade both ranked first among qualifying corners.

He’ll enter Sofi Stadium as the team’s top-flight corner and join Asante Samuel Jr. and Derwin James in a loaded secondary.

2. G Ted Karras, Cincinnati Bengals: Three years, $18 million ($11.6 guaranteed)

It's no secret the Bengals offensive line was a revolving door last season. In all, they were responsible for 172 total pressures, 17th among teams in the regular season, and they put up eighth-worst pass-blocking grade among the league's offensive line units. 

Karras earned a 76.6 pass-blocking grade in 2021, seventh among 88 qualifying players at the position. He has experience at left guard, right guard and center and will help bring some added stability to a Bengals' offensive line in dire need of a complete makeover.

3. C Ryan Jensen, Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Three years, $39 million ($23 million guaranteed)

Jensen was the top center expected to reach free agency this offseason — and PFF’s No. 12 overall free agent — and was reportedly expected to yield offers of up to $15 million per year. The return of quarterback Tom Brady likely helped the Buccaneers get this deal over the finish line, and anything short of re-setting the market at center should be viewed as a win.

Jensen has played over 1,000 snaps in five straight seasons despite being one of the nastier players in the league, earning a run-block grade above 70.0 in four of the last five seasons.

4. WR Michael Gallup, Dallas Cowboys: Five years, $62.5 million ($23 million guaranteed)

Gallup was always the Cowboys' top priority in free agency, and the franchise got a deal done to retain their 2018 draft selection.

Despite his injury-riddled fourth season, Gallup has maintained solid production. He can play either outside spot, and his strength comes in his ability to create separation with his footwork and route running down the sidelines. He’ll look to improve on a career-best 74.0 PFF grade and 1,107 receiving yards in 2019 without Cooper in the fold.  

5. CB Carlton Davis, Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Three Years, $45 million ($30 million fully guaranteed)

Preventing Davis from hitting the open market was a win for Tampa Bay, as a good portion of their secondary is currently in free-agency limbo. A year ago, the Auburn product was a top-10 zone corner, registering a 79.6 zone-coverage grade while forcing 10 incompletions in total. Fresh off the second-highest defensive grade of his career (69.9), expect the former second-round pick to continue his evolution under a sparkling new deal.

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