NFL free agency is hard-earned, and players who achieve it are worth whatever they can get. Consider this list of players who could be underpriced and overpriced a prediction about which player contracts will look the best (and worst) from the team's perspective in a few years' time.
As with my list of the top 101 free agents of 2022, players are listed alongside the age they will be when the 2022 NFL season is set to kick off, on Sept. 8.
Players who could be overpriced
Scherff quietly made over $45 million over the last three years, bouncing from his fifth-year option in 2019 to back-to-back franchise tags. Like Kirk Cousins, who followed a similar path out of Washington, Scherff is now set to strike it rich as a free agent. Though he's still a mauler, the five-time Pro Bowler's body could be breaking down, given that he's missed 22 games over the past four seasons, and it's possible Washington got his best years.
I don't know what to think about Gilmore. This was the Defensive Player of the Year just two seasons ago. But Gilmore appeared so focused on this next contract coming off quad surgery that he missed the start of the season with New England. Traded to Carolina in October, Gilmore logged a full complement of snaps in just two of his eight appearances, then missed the final two weeks with a groin injury. He played well enough in 304 total snaps as a Panther; it's just difficult to gauge how close he is physically to where he was during his peak.
There are some centers without Jensen's brand name (Bradley Bozeman, Ben Jones) who could be better values. I also worry about paying offensive linemen whose careers hit another level after they played with Tom Brady. Jensen is a leader for the Bucs and has more value to them than he would to other teams.
As with Jensen, I like Gregory best staying where he is. The Cowboys have stuck with Gregory through multiple suspensions because of the talent that we saw in 2021, but he's still never topped 550 snaps in a season. He fits best as a complementary piece to the pass-rush puzzle, not as a $15 million-per-year foundational element.
This hurts so much to write, because I love to watch Patterson and believe his special teams value ranks with that of any player over the last decade. It was glorious to see Falcons coach Arthur Smith unlock Patterson's offensive ability last season, with Patterson logging 1,166 yards from scrimmage at age 30. But I'm wary of paying for that production unless Smith remains his coach.
Including Trubisky here only feels necessary as a response to the strange media hype he started to get during the NFL Scouting Combine. Backup quarterbacks should be affordable this offseason because there are so many available. Anyone projecting Trubisky as more than a backup is holding on too closely to a scouting report based on 13 starts at North Carolina six years ago.
Peak Akiem Hicks was glorious. The last three seasons were less so, with two seasons destroyed by injuries and a good-not-great 2020 campaign sandwiched in between.
Players who could be underpriced
History is instructive. Ogbah was a steal in a trade when the Chiefs acquired him in 2019, and he was perhaps the best free-agent value of the 2020 class, when he took a two-year, $15 million contract with the Dolphins coming off a torn pectoral muscle. He's worth double that now, having posted nine sacks in each of the past two seasons, and yet, I'm still not sure he'll get it, because he doesn't have the draft pedigree or name value that some other less-productive free agents have.
We had Nate Tice, who worked in scouting for the Falcons and was a personnel director in the AAF, on the Around the NFL Podcast to discuss my list of the top 101 free agents. When I asked for a player who was ranked too low on the list as it stood at the time, I was shocked he named Jones at No. 35. Jones topped 500 snaps for the first time in 2021, so I thought that ranking was very bullish, based on a projection that he'll keep growing. But Tice sees a possible future star just hitting his prime at an incredibly thin position in free agency, and I've got no argument against that.
Watch Gage's reps over the second half of last season with the Falcons and come back to me. He was cold-blooded, taking hits over the middle, winning contested catches and beating guys with quickness off the line of scrimmage. He can do damage in the slot and on the outside, making him a great fit in virtually any receiver room.
Reid's coaches have spoken highly of his leadership, toughness and intelligence. His rangy play early in his career made me believe he was headed for future All-Pro nods. Coming off a down season for a down franchise, now would be a great time for someone to buy low. Then again, teams should have options ...
The entire safety crop: Teams have started to undervalue safeties on defense like they do running backs on offense, which doesn't make sense. There are so many quality starters in this class, from the top-shelf talent (Marcus Williams, Tyrann Mathieu) to resurgent veterans (Quandre Diggs) to guys coming off injuries (Marcus Maye, DeShon Elliott) to sleeper starters (Jordan Whitehead, Jayron Kearse, Jaquiski Tartt, Tracy Walker and Xavier Woods). These are plus starters whose value is likely to be pushed down because there are so many available.
A lot of teams don't have a player who can take the top off a defense like MVS, who is better at the subtle aspects of playing receiver than he's given credit for.
For years, name-brand veteran defenders signed to one-year deals have been one of the better sources of value in free agency, with Ndamukong Suh and Justin Houston being recent examples. Ingram is cut from a similar cloth. He is year-to-year at this stage of his career, but just ask the Chiefs what kind of impact he can make.
It took Penny three and a half years to show why Seattle drafted him in the first round in 2018, so there's plenty of risk here. But let's not pretend Penny didn't do his best Derrick Henry impression late last season, putting up four games with 135-plus yards in the final five weeks for the Seahawks. I'd only do a short-term deal, but there's a chance whoever signs him could be landing a Pro Bowler with home-run potential at a reasonable price.
JuJu is a young player with a history of production, and his status as a post-hype all-star will keep his price down. That's exactly the type of free agent to target. Antonio Brown's burns weren't completely off-base; Smith-Schuster was never a No. 1 wideout. But he'd be an elite slot receiver at a bargain basement price.
Reed is so overlooked that he's still wearing a 49ers uniform in his NFL.com profile, even after appearing in 24 games with Seattle over the past two seasons. Undersized, underdrafted cornerbacks tend to fly under the radar, even in free agency, but Reed's competitiveness and ball skills are worth a starter's salary.
Like D.J. Jones above, Fatukasi has improved in each of his pro seasons so far and projects to make a bigger impact on his second contract. Watch him for a handful of snaps, and you'll see him win plenty.
Here's an answer to the question: Who are two players that I'd rank higher if I could do a 2.0 version of the top 101? (If Bucky Brooks gets seven mock drafts, I deserve a second crack at the free agents list.) Nwosu is going to be a popular pickup. There aren't many players in the NFL, much less among those available in free agency, who can win on the edge with Nwosu's speed. White is like De'Vondre Campbell, made for 2022 linebacker play because he can do everything well.