NFL Draft News & Analysis

10 free agent signings that make sense after the 2022 NFL Draft

Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow (9) rolls out of the pocket as Cleveland Browns defensive end Jadeveon Clowney (90) and Cleveland Browns defensive tackle Malik Jackson (97) give chase in the second quarter during a Week 9 NFL football game, Sunday, Nov. 7, 2021, at Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati. The Cleveland Browns lead the Cincinnati Bengals 24-10 at halftime. Cleveland Browns At Cincinnati Bengals Nov 7

Now that the 2022 NFL Draft is behind us and teams know exactly what they need heading into next season, the free-agent market will soon heat up again.

While the premier free agents are off the market by now, there are still impact veterans out there. Here are 10 free agent signings that make sense after this year's draft, starting with former No. 1 overall pick Jadeveon Clowney, who has made a living off one-year deals since leaving the Houston Texans.

EDGE Jadeveon Clowney: Cleveland Browns

Clowney returning to Cleveland, whether on another one-year deal or a multi-year extension, would represent the first time he has stayed with a team for more than one season since 2018. The Browns should be doing everything they can to make it happen. 

The Browns have made some moves to add depth to their edge group through trade (Chase Winovich), free agency (Stephen Weatherly and Isaac Rochell) and the draft (Alex Wright). Still, Cleveland shouldn’t be overly confident with any of them stepping into a starting role opposite Myles Garrett in 2022. Clowney is one of the league’s best run defenders at the position and a disruptor in the passing game, even if he hasn’t lived up to his draft position billing as an elite pass-rusher. 

WR Odell Beckham Jr: Green Bay Packers

The Packers have brought in several wide receivers this offseason in an attempt to fill the Davante Adams-sized hole in their offense — namely Christian Watson and Sammy Watkins — but they still need someone Aaron Rodgers can rely on to win one-on-ones when Green Bay’s offense needs a play. 

Beckham showed last season in Los Angeles that he can still be that guy, as he took on a bigger role as the season progressed and came up big in the postseason for Matthew Stafford before his injury. Given the late injury, he’s not going to be a Week 1 contributor, but there’s a good chance OBJ could give the Packers offense the spark it needs as they push toward the playoffs. 

C J.C. Tretter: Miami Dolphins

The Dolphins didn’t have much to work with in the draft, but none of their four draft picks went toward the offensive line. That leaves Michael Deiter — PFF’s 27th-highest-graded center in 2021 — stepping back into the starting center role with little competition. 

Tretter would serve as a significant upgrade after earning seven consecutive 80.0-plus PFF pass-blocking grades. He would also walk into a Mike McDaniel offense that is fairly similar to the one Tretter has operated in with Cleveland the last few seasons. Both offenses ran outside zone at an above-average clip with a fair amount of power and counter mixed in. 

DI Akiem Hicks: Los Angeles Chargers

The Chargers just continued to add to their defense this offseason, with Bryce Callahan signing with Los Angeles this week. Why not bring in another veteran with whom Brandon Staley has familiarity?

Hicks not only has ties to the coaching staff in Los Angeles, but he would fill a need on their defensive line as someone who can play both over the tackles and more as a penetrating 3-tech when the Chargers go to a four-man front. That role is currently reserved for Jerry Tillery, who has earned PFF grades below 46.0 in each of the first three years of his NFL career. 

The 32-year-old Hicks has dealt with injuries in recent years, but he still projects as a piece the Chargers should be looking at on the interior defensive line. 

WR Julio Jones: San Francisco 49ers

The Deebo Samuel trade request creates a clear need for additional receiving talent in San Francisco. The team drafted SMU wide receiver Danny Gray in the back end of the third round in addition to signing Ray-Ray McCloud in free agency, but it’s hard to say that’s enough. 

At 33 years old with consistent appearances on the injury report, Jones is no longer in the “best receiver in the league” conversation like he was for most of his NFL career. But that doesn’t mean he can’t still be a productive contributor to an offense. Last season, his 1.76 receiving yards per route run with the Titans ranked 30th out of 114 wide receivers with 200 routes run. 

The 49ers didn’t reunite Julio with Kyle Shanahan last offseason when he was available, but the price might be more attainable for San Francisco this time around. 

EDGE Melvin Ingram III: Miami Dolphins

The Dolphins make a second appearance on this list, as their $19.7 million in effective cap space ranks third in the NFL behind only the Cleveland Browns and Carolina Panthers, per Over The Cap.

Ingram is best utilized in a rotational, pass-rush-heavy role at this stage of his career. Miami can use him in that capacity and rotate him in with Emmanuel Ogbah, Jaelan Phillips and Andrew Van Ginkel. Ingram’s 12.8% pressure rate is a top-25 mark at the position over the last three seasons — he can still offer value for a team like Miami looking to contend in a crowded AFC. 

LT Duane Brown: Chicago Bears

The Bears threw some darts at the offensive line on Day 3 of the draft, but their two projected starters at tackle are still Teven Jenkins and Larry Borom. A lot is riding on those two taking big steps forward in their second seasons. 

Brown isn’t a long-term solution at the position, but he can step in as a starting left tackle Justin Fields and the rest of this offense can have confidence in. Brown’s 71.5 PFF grade in 2021 was his lowest since his rookie season in 2008, but it was still a middle-of-the-pack mark among qualifiers at the position. Even if he doesn’t bounce back in 2022, that represents an upgrade at a key position for the Bears. 

WR Jarvis Landry: New Orleans Saints

The selection of Chris Olave reduces the desperation for the Saints to add a veteran wide receiver in free agency, but the unit could go from need to a legitimate strength if New Orleans adds Landry to join Olave and Michael Thomas

Landry and Thomas can both work in the slot and outside, which would provide some flexibility on offense. In four seasons with the Browns, Landry logged 1,258 snaps out wide and 1,757 snaps in the slot. He’s been a physical, productive receiver throughout much of his eight-year career, and there’s no reason that would change in New Orleans. 

With all the money the Saints have restructured this offseason, they currently have the fifth-most effective cap space in the NFL at $13 million. That should be enough to get something done with Landry on a short-term deal. 

LB Alexander Johnson: Washington Commanders

Johnson has had a unique career arc as a 30-year-old who only stepped into a starting role in 2019. He’s been one of the best run-defending linebackers in the NFL over the last three years, though. The only off-ball linebacker with a higher PFF run-defense grade than Johnson over the last three years (89.9) is Bobby Wagner

Washington has some options at the linebacker position with 2021 first-round pick Jamin Davis and Cole Holcomb, but they don’t have anyone on the roster to deter them from slotting Johnson into a starting role in the middle of their defense. He’s the top off-ball linebacker still available, even if there are some bigger names like Dont’a Hightower and Anthony Barr out there. 

LT Eric Fisher: Pittsburgh Steelers

The Steelers' draft signaled a vote of confidence in their offensive linemen, as not one of the team’s seven draft selections addressed the offensive line. That includes late on Day 3 when teams typically look to add some depth. 

After a shaky start to his NFL career, Fisher has settled in as a middle-of-the-road starter at left tackle. He’s earned PFF grades of at least 68.0 in each of the last seven years — over 10 points higher than the 57.5 PFF grade that rookie Dan Moore Jr. earned for the Steelers in 2021. Fisher could compete with Moore for the starting job next season while improving the depth at a position that looks thin if either Moore or Chukwuma Okorafor is lost to injury.

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