Free agency and the official league year officially begin next Wednesday. Some teams are in a better position to take advantage of free agency than others, but all will soon face crucial decisions when it comes to filling holes and rounding out their rosters. After all, not all teams have the capital to trade for a top quarterback like Russell Wilson and will have to find alternative ways to improve rosters.
PFF decided to take stock of every team's needs and has found one available free agent who would fit perfectly with each team — ranging from top names available, to backups or even rotation players who can offer value on cheaper deals. Players like Haason Reddick, JuJu Smith-Schuster and Marcus Maye could be a key player on the right franchise.
Below we list matches for every team (in alphabetical order).
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The expectation was that cornerback would be a glaring weakness for Arizona entering the 2021 season, but the team actually got a solid performance out of Robert Alford, who was coming off two straight lost seasons because of injury. With Alford hitting free agency, the Cardinals could once again use an injection of talent at the position.
Davis has the skill set to be a legitimate No. 1 option on the outside if Arizona opts to prioritize the secondary over the defensive line. Davis' 44 forced incompletions since 2019 are the most in the NFL.
Few quarterbacks threw the football between the numbers at a higher rate than Matt Ryan in 2021, and that isn't likely to change with Arthur Smith running the show in Atlanta. Smith-Schuster would give him a physical, sure-handed slot target over the middle of the field and a potential value candidate after coming back down to earth in a Pittsburgh Steelers offense that has trended in the wrong direction over the past two seasons. He might not be the primary option in a passing game that some thought he could be early in his career, but Smith-Shuster is still a nice complementary piece.
The Ravens seemingly always have a large run-stuffing nose tackle in the middle of their defensive line. And Fatukasi fits that mold. He ranked in the 97th percentile of all interior defensive linemen in PFF run-defense grade across the 2019 and 2020 seasons before falling back in that department in 2021 for the Jets. Brandon Williams and Justin Ellis are set to hit free agency for Baltimore this offseason, leaving the Ravens to replace their snaps.
Working alongside Jonathan Allen, Daron Payne and Matt Ioannidis, Settle has never played more than 364 defensive snaps in a season. However, he has shown enough in that limited role to be an intriguing offseason acquisition who could take on more snaps, earning PFF pass rushing grades above 70.0 in each of the past two years.
Buffalo could be in need of some additions to its interior defensive line, depending on what happens with Harrison Phillips in free agency. At worst, Settle would be a relatively cheap depth piece with some upside.
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The Panthers don't necessarily need to make any high-profile additions to their offensive line in free agency, but they should look to eliminate clear holes with reliable veterans. Karras is an interesting option for Carolina in that his contract will be relatively inexpensive for a team tight on resources this offseason, and he has proved to be a capable starter at both center and guard. Karras is coming off a career year in New England in which he ranked seventh among 36 qualifying left guards in PFF grade.
Chicago's priority needs to be putting quarterback Justin Fields in a better position to succeed in his second season. A veteran center of Jensen's caliber would certainly help. Jensen has graded out above the 70th percentile in gap and zone rushing schemes over the past three seasons, and it's easy to see former offensive lineman and new Bears general manager Ryan Poles valuing the physicality and “nastiness” that Jensen would bring to Chicago's offensive line.
There are no misconceptions about what the Bengals need to do this offseason. Cincinnati should look to revamp its offensive line — likely through the draft and free agency — so that Joe Burrow doesn't take another 70 sacks in 2022.
Right guard has been the biggest problem area on the Bengals' offensive line in recent years. No team has earned a lower PFF grade at the position than Cincinnati since 2020. Corbett could help solidify the position after ranking eighth out of 41 qualifying right guards in PFF grade over the past two seasons.
Next season will go a long way toward determining Cleveland's future outlook, with a lot of focus placed squarely on quarterback Baker Mayfield and the passing offense.
Robinson is coming off a disappointing 2021 season while playing on the franchise tag with the Bears, but he still has the skill set of a No. 1 wide receiver. And his ability to come down with any pass in his vicinity would help build some much-needed trust between Mayfield and his top target — something that was missing last season. Only Kenny Golladay has caught more contested targets than Robinson since he joined Chicago in 2018.
The Cowboys will once again be in the market for a safety, and will likely look in the value section as they navigate one of the trickier salary-cap situations in the NFL. Harmon's physical skills and playmaking ability are on the decline at this stage of his career, but he showed this past season in Atlanta that he could still be a consistent coverage defender who limits big mistakes on the back end. Dan Quinn's defense also projects as one of the better scheme fits for Harmon, given how the safety has been utilized throughout much of his career.
DENVER BRONCOS: Edge Haason Reddick
Broncos general manager George Paton said recently that the team expects Bradley Chubb to get back to the level of play he has shown when healthy. But even with Chubb's return, edge defender stands out as an area of need for Denver. Reddick has an explosive first step and wins with his speed and quickness off the edge. His 99 quarterback pressures over the past two years are tied for 15th among edge rushers. Getting that pressure off the edge was an area where the Broncos really struggled last year, particularly after trading Von Miller.
Amon-Ra St. Brown, Detroit's 2021 fourth-round selection at wide receiver, turned in one of the best rookie performances of any wideout in the draft class. The receiving corps still has a long way to go in terms of adding pieces around him, though. Chark, 25, can contribute as a starter outside for the Lions, while also fitting with the timeline of a rebuilding franchise under Dan Campbell. At 6-foot-4 with sub-4.4 speed, Chark could become the field stretcher that the offense is missing. His average depth of target has increased every season in the NFL, reaching 17.1 yards downfield on 19 targets before his injury last season.
With Aaron Rodgers officially slated to return and Davante Adams receiving the franchise tag, Green Bay will likely be limited to working around the margins in free agency. Signing Remmers as a sixth offensive lineman, who the team would feel comfortable with stepping in and starting at both guard and tackle, is the type of move that adds valuable security without a big investment.
The lasting memory of Remmers' 2020 season with the Chiefs is his struggles in the Super Bowl after kicking over to the left side, but he earned a very respectable 71.3 PFF grade over the course of the full season while starting primarily at right tackle.
The Texans are still far from meaningfully competing, but it would be surprising if they ran back their 2021 offseason strategy of volume signing low-ceiling veterans to short-term deals. Reed, 25, stands out as a potential long-term starting option at one of Houston's bigger needs after two consecutive seasons with 75.0-plus PFF grades in Seattle. His physicality in run support and willingness as a tackler are both big positives when looking at his potential 2022 scheme fit in Lovie Smith's defense.
The Colts went with a one-year, veteran stopgap at left tackle last offseason in Eric Fisher. Brown would likely be in a similar situation on a one- or two-year deal if Indianapolis was looking to make a change at the position and Seattle couldn't keep Brown in the midst of trying to retain Quandre Diggs and D.J. Reed.
Brown's 71.5 PFF grade in 2021 was his lowest mark since his rookie season in 2008, but the 36-year-old is still a reliable pass protector who does a good job of avoiding negative plays in the run game. We've seen high-end tackles like Andrew Whitworth and Jason Peters play well into their late 30s. There's no reason Brown can't join that group and be a strong short-term starting option on a Colts offensive line that already has plenty of other pieces in place.
The Jaguars have plenty of money to spend in free agency and they have many different areas on the roster they need to attack. Paying up to put Trevor Lawrence in a position to break out in 2022 should be the priority for Jacksonville, including up front to shore up the offensive line.
Scherff — who spent a few years with current Jacksonville offensive line coach Phil Rauscher in Washington — is a good option for the Jags to pursue. Scherff has been one of the 10 most valuable guards in the NFL since entering the league in 2015. His 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 it still ranked 15th at the position. That's a testament to how reliable of a player he is when healthy.
It's safe to assume that the Chiefs might be hesitant to take another big swing at an edge rusher, despite a clear need at the position, given how the Frank Clark trade and deal have panned out.
Hughes may be 33 years old without the kind of sack production you want from a high-end pass-rusher, which is the reason PFF projects his contract this offseason at one year for $6.5 million. But he can still impact the quarterback and provide value on that deal as a pass-rushing specialist. He's coming off a 2021 season where he ranked in the 92nd percentile of all edge defenders in pass rush win rate.
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The Raiders already made a move to address defensive tackle before the official start of free agency, signing Andrew Billings, who bounced around several practice squads at the end of the 2021 season. It's still one of the weaker positions on the roster — only Kendal Vickers and PJ Johnson are under contract for 2022 alongside Billings.
Hill is at his best against the run, where he is graded in the 78th percentile of all interior defensive linemen since 2018, but he does offer some pocket-pushing ability as a pass-rusher. With Maxx Crosby and Yannick Ngakoue already in place on the edge, it makes sense for Las Vegas to prioritize run defense on the interior.
Georgia defensive tackle Jordan Davis has become one of the more popular mock draft connections for Los Angeles, but there are free-agent options available to help solidify the Chargers' interior run defense, as well. A Joseph-Day reunion with Brandon Staley is one of the most logical solutions. He is the kind of player who isn't going to rack up gaudy statistics, but he makes life easier on his teammates by eating blocks and freeing up others. Joseph-Day ranks in the 99th percentile of all interior defensive linemen in run-stop percentage since 2019.
The Rams aren't in a position to be big spenders in free agency following several offseasons with an all-in approach. Los Angeles could still chase upside with Verrett, who shouldn't carry a prohibitive price tag given his extensive injury history. Verrett has played more than 300 defensive snaps just twice in his eight-year NFL career (2015 and 2020). He finished second and eighth among all qualifying cornerbacks in PFF grade in those seasons.
There's no getting around the risk of signing a cornerback over the 30-year-old mark with Verrett's injury history, but there also aren't many available cornerbacks with his expected contract who can be top-10 players at the position when healthy.
It takes no projection to say that Tomlinson would be a scheme fit in former offensive coordinator Mike McDaniel's new offense in Miami. Tomlinson is a value add in the run game and records positive grades at one of the higher rates at the position. He would fill a clear area of need for a Dolphins offensive line that has been among the worst in the NFL over the past several seasons. The only offenses with a lower collective PFF grade at guard than Miami over the past three seasons are the Texans and Bengals.
New Vikings coach Kevin O'Connell has added Jackson's previous defensive coordinator, Ed Donatell, to his staff in Minnesota. That familiarity makes the Vikings a natural landing spot for Jackson if Denver isn't looking to bring him back.
Jackson's ability to stick with receivers in man coverage isn't going to improve as he pushes toward 34 years old, but he still brings a high football IQ and quality run support to the middle of a defense. He could pair with Harrison Smith for a year before Minnesota looks to get younger at the position.
The Patriots have shown they're more willing to let high-profile players walk in free agency, and there's a decent chance that happens with J.C. Jackson.
Ward would be a cheaper alternative who makes sense in Bill Belichick's defense as one of the few free-agent cornerbacks with good size and length and fits best in a man-heavy scheme. It would be a mistake to assume that Ward could step in as a true No.1 cornerback and replace Jackson's production, but he projects as a quality starter on the outside.
The return of Michael Thomas should give a shot of life to the Saints passing offense, but they could still use a wide receiver who can challenge defenses vertically. There's no guarantee that you're going to get 17-plus games of Fuller in 2022, as the veteran's one-year deal with the Dolphins last season highlights.
Chances are that his next team doesn't get a full season, but the big-play ability he brings to the table is worth taking a flier on with a one-year deal for a team with a tight cap situation like New Orleans, though. Fuller graded in the 92nd percentile of all wide receivers in receiving grade vs. single coverage in 2020, the last time he saw significant action.
The Giants have several young options on the edge, including 2021 second-round selection Azeez Ojulari, but there's still a need for more pass-rushing juice. The problem is that New York doesn't have a lot of cap space to work with, and high-end pass rushers command cap space in free agency.
Martin, 26, could be an under-the-radar signing to help bolster the Giants' pass rush. Martin is explosive off the ball and does a good job of using his hands to get into the backfield. He is coming off a career-high 38 pressures in the largest role of his career in 2021.
It seems as if the missed tackle by Williams against Stefon Diggs in the 2017 playoffs is still factoring into the public perception, which is a shame because Williams has been a tremendous football player throughout his five years in the NFL.
Williams ranks in the 94th percentile of all safeties in PFF coverage grade since 2017 and has been a consistent, all-around performer. That's the type of player who New York could build their secondary around with a quarterback on a rookie contract and plenty of cap space to work with.
Maye is one of several free agents entering free agency off a significant, season-ending injury. Add that Maye wasn't playing all that well before his injury and it's reasonable to expect a suppressed market. PFF currently projects Maye to sign a one-year, $6 million contract this offseason. That could present an opportunity for a team like Philadelphia in need of safety help.
Maye is a versatile free safety who has graded out well in zone coverage throughout his career, particularly in 2020 when he earned an 85.8 PFF coverage grade. Philadelphia's 2021 starters — Anthony Harris and Rodney McLeod — are both free agents.
Few safeties have been better at getting downhill and making plays against the run than Whitehead the past two years in Tampa Bay. He ranks in the 95th percentile of all safeties in run-defense grade and 97th percentile in run-stop percentage since 2020. He is best suited as a strong safety in a defense that plays a lot of single-high coverages. Things are trending in the opposite direction across the league, but the Steelers are one of the teams who still fit that bill.
It just so happens that they could be in need of a safety to pair with Minkah Fitzpatrick, and Whitehead has high school and collegiate ties to Pittsburgh.
The 49ers managed to make things work with Daniel Brunskill last offseason, but it's not difficult to imagine that they would want to improve the right guard spot. The possibility that 2021 second-round selection Aaron Banks wins that job doesn't preclude San Francisco from looking at free-agent options, especially with Laken Tomlinson hitting free agency on the left side.
Glowinski is a plus athlete who has been an above-average zone blocker in his starting stint with Indianapolis the past several seasons. He will likely be more of a cost-effective option in free agency than Tomlinson.
The only teams with a lower team pressure rate than the Seahawks last season were the Lions and Falcons. No one on the team recorded more than 35 pressures on the season. The pass rush needs to improve in 2022.
Gregory would certainly help as one of the better edge rushers on the free-agent market. He has had his issues staying on the field throughout his career, but Gregory has graded out in the 93rd percentile of all edge defenders in pass-rushing grade since 2020. He is a potential difference-maker for Seattle's defense.
The Buccaneers' defensive line stands out as an area of need for a roster that is in a very different place than it was at the end of the 2021 regular season following surprising retirements by Tom Brady and Ali Marpet. Tampa currently does not have Ndamukong Suh, William Gholston or Steve McLendon under contract for 2022.
Campbell might be 35 years old, but he is still playing at a high level. His 80.8 PFF grade last season ranked eighth among qualifying interior defensive linemen. Campbell played under Bruce Arians earlier in his career with Arizona, and he fits schematically with what Tampa Bay likes to do on defense.
Injuries to Derrick Henry, A.J. Brown and Julio Jones last season highlighted Tennessee's need to build a better cast of complementary options on offense. Williams might not be the first name that comes to mind when looking for an offensive difference-maker, but he's one of the more intriguing tight end options available.
Williams' 83.8 PFF run-blocking grade since joining the Cardinals in 2019 ranks first among all tight ends — an important consideration on an offense like Tennessee's. There's a possibility that he could add more than anticipated as a receiver, as well. Williams caught 16 of 17 targets in an expanded receiving role prior to his Week 5 injury last season.
Johnson was having an incredible 2021 campaign before suffering a torn pec in Week 6, as he owned an 81.0 PFF grade and hadn't missed a tackle on 34 attempts. In 2019 and 2020, he was one of the five highest-graded off-ball linebackers in the league. The 30-year-old's pro career got off to a late start, but he has more than proved that he belongs as a starting linebacker. Regardless of the scheme, any team with a hole at linebacker — like Washington — should look to bring in Johnson.