Here is Gregg Rosenthal's original Top 101 Free Agents of 2022 ranking as it stood before players began to be signed, tagged and/or released:
The only thing that moves more quickly than Adams’ feet on his release off the line of scrimmage? One of my editors deleting his name off this list when the Packers inevitably use the franchise tag on him or sign him to a new contract.
Ranking fourth in the NFL in yards after the catch since 2019 (trailing only Cooper Kupp, Davante Adams and Deebo Samuel), Godwin fits in any scheme or formation, with any quarterback. Even if he's slowed in the early part of 2022 by a torn ACL suffered in December, it's worth paying for a top-10 receiver just entering his prime.
Jackson has improved in each of his four NFL seasons so far. He was already worth plenty after getting off to one of the greatest ballhawking starts to a career ever (25 picks), and now he's also one of the best pure man-coverage corners in the league on a down-to-down basis.
Armstead would be No. 1 on this list if not for his injury history. He's missed at least six games in five of his nine seasons and got beat more than usual in 2021 when he played. Then again, it's rare for a top-five tackle with an impeccable reputation as a leader to become available, for any reason.
The Chiefs gave up a first-round pick for Brown in a trade a year ago. Considering that investment and his solid play in 2021, there's little reason to think he'll hit the open market.
Chargers coach Brandon Staley said last offseason that he envisioned Williams as an offensive centerpiece, then backed it up by consistently feeding him the ball last season. The big jump in targets (Williams had 129 in 2021 after failing to eclipse 90 in any of his first four seasons) led to more production, and now it's time for the Chargers to pay up -- or someone else will.
Miller's numbers in the 2021 playoffs (four sacks, 22 pressures) were almost identical to what he posted in the 2015 playoffs (five sacks, 23 pressures), which ended with him being named MVP of Super Bowl 50. His run defense was also superb. No player made himself more money in the postseason.
Bucs coaches always talked about Davis like a true No. 1 cornerback. He looks like one on film, like the type of prospect that would get taken with a top-15 pick in the draft. Perhaps he hasn't played quite to a Pro Bowl level yet, but there aren't many cornerbacks who have sustained his high level of play while also demonstrating prototypical skills over the last three years. He's about to become very rich if the Bucs use the franchise tag on Chris Godwin.
Even if he's not at his absolute peak as a pass rusher, Jones can juice up any defensive line on a short-term deal.
After the worst regular season of his career, Bates was possibly the Bengals' best player during their Super Bowl run. He's been one of the top deep safeties since entering the league in 2018.
This is my second year making this list without my great friend Chris Wesseling, and I heard his voice so clearly after I initially ranked Mathieu lower. It's hard to put a price on the intelligence, competitiveness and coverage ability Honey Badger brings, but those traits explain how he's set to get the third big, long-term deal of his career, despite being an undersized safety drafted in the third round. Wess was early to see Mathieu's ferocious, versatile style for the transformative force that it was. Like so many people who crossed paths with Wess over the years, Mathieu returned the love.
Note that this is not a ranking of how much money each player will make. I appear to value top safeties more than NFL general managers do, and there are few safeties better and steadier than Williams.
Perhaps no member of 2018 rookie class improved more over the course of his first pro contract than Gesicki, who functions as one of the most productive slot receivers in football, regardless of position. Gesicki is sixth in catches, fifth in yards and eighth in Pro Football Reference's Approximate Value stat among tight ends over the last three years combined. He creates mismatches, an attribute that virtually every team could use.
Was Robinson's decline in 2021 mostly due to his situation? This ranking assumes that to be the case, because he was a borderline top-10 receiver until a discouraging season where it appeared he was playing out the string in Chicago.
Like a larger version of Kirk Cousins, Scherff is finally going to hit free agency after being slapped with back-to-back franchise tags by Washington. Also like Cousins, I expect him to leave on a massive deal. Injuries are part of the equation (24 missed games in the last five years), but that shouldn't stop teams from competing for the services of a five-time Pro Bowler.
Landry may not possess any trait that stands out as elite, but he's good at everything and never leaves the field. He has three 1,000-snap seasons in a row; the entire rest of the league's edge players have eight of those combined in the last three years. If anything, Landry's only grown stronger each year since he was a second-round pick in 2018.
It makes sense for Beckham to stay in Los Angeles and rehab with the Rams after tearing his ACL in the Super Bowl. If I was an opposing general manager, though, I'd offer Beckham a strong long-term deal with guaranteed money now, because it would pay off in Years 2 and 3. Talents like Beckham aren't often available.
Jensen transformed from a very good center to a great one when Tom Brady arrived. He's the heart and soul of the Bucs' offensive line, but Tampa can't keep everyone.
One could have ranked Gilmore either too high or too low. I wimped out in the middle, because the veteran corner is such a mystery. He was graded well by Pro Football Focus last year, but he never looked explosive physically in the eight games he played with the Panthers, mostly on limited snap counts -- and then he hurt his groin.
Brown solved the Seahawks' left tackle problem in 2017; he probably had his worst year in Seattle last season before hitting free agency. He'll turn 37 years old before the 2022 campaign kicks off, and he probably won't continue to command top-tier money, but he shouldn't be that far off.
Schultz was of the most pleasant surprises of 2021. His consistent development since being picked in the fourth round in 2018 is a credit to the Cowboys' coaching staff, and it'd be a shame for them to watch him cash in elsewhere.
Winston tore his ACL just when he was starting to click in Sean Payton's Saints offense. The ceiling of the former No. 1 overall pick is easily higher than those of the rest of the free-agent quarterbacks, and he proved last year he can succeed while playing with more caution.
Gregory was an All-Pro candidate before suffering a calf injury in Week 9, after which he never quite looked the same. He underwent knee surgery after the season. Betting on 16 games is a bit much, but he's a difference-maker when right.
After seven seasons where his sack totals didn't reflect his true value, Clowney's year in Cleveland went in the other direction, with his nine sacks masking what was probably his most up-and-down campaign. It's worth wondering if all the injuries have taken a toll.
It’s amazing what the right scheme and position can do. Campbell moved to middle linebacker in Green Bay, which unlocked his versatility and playmaking to an All-Pro level. He should be a priority signing for the Packers after they searched for years for a player just like him.
Outside starting receivers are so hard to find in free agency that Gallup should have a strong market, even coming off a torn ACL.
There is no explanation for why Campbell is still this effective at his age, but he's been "one of one" since he entered the league in 2008 and is worthy of another big one-year contract.
One truism that has remained constant in all the years of ranking free agents: Above-average starting guards entering their second contract make huge money. It can only help that Daniels has center flexibility.
Reddick's 23.5 sacks in the last two seasons can't be wrong, although he did fail to generate much of a market last year. His total pressures in that span (99) aren't as high as expected, but when he wins, he wins so quickly.
It was weird when the Steelers gave up on Ingram during the 2021 season. It was familiar to see Ingram become a game-wrecker for the Chiefs down the stretch.
It's unclear if Gronk will play again, but he could. His run-blocking is the only part of his game that didn't come with him to Tampa, and they don't pay you for run-blocking.
He's been excellent as a blind-side pass protector in nearly 1,000 combined snaps over the last three seasons. There's no reason to think he can't do it as a starter, which is why I wouldn't be surprised if he gets a big deal to stay with the Rams, assuming Andrew Whitworth retires.
Jones is a projection, but he excelled in his fifth season with the 49ers after earning more snaps. In a very thin free-agent class of defensive tackles, he has the best combination of youth, experience and potential.
There are a lot of aging, effective defensive linemen available who can still get it done on a short-term deal. That market has proven to be among the most underpaid in free agency relative to production for years, and Hughes fits the criteria perfectly.
Hicks' signing in 2016 was one of the best free-agent deals of the last decade. He's down a peg from his peak and has struggled to stay on the field, but he'd be great as a role player; just don't expect star production.
A torn Achilles came at an awful time for Maye, who didn't look that comfortable in Robert Saleh's system before the injury. He was performing like a top-10 safety in 2019 and 2020.
Reliable young interior linemen are hard to find, and Bozeman is coming off his best season, just in time to hit free agency. He found a home at center after playing guard previously.
Russell Gage was such a stone-cold badass down the stretch of last season that I felt bad for how little I thought about Russell Gage before that.
Yes, that 1,400-yard season feels like a distant memory. JuJu will probably have to build up his value on a one-year deal with a functioning offense. Hint: Don’t turn down Patrick Mahomes again.
He’s a Pro Bowl, field-tilting talent if he’s healthy, if he’s motivated, if he’s with Bill Belichick. He has more value to the Patriots than anyone else -- and even for New England, he’s a big risk.
Robinson has settled in as an average starting left tackle. While that has plenty of value, he’s the type of good player with a strong draft pedigree who often gets paid like a superstar in free agency.
A fifth-round pick of San Francisco in 2018, Reed emerged over the last season and a half in Seattle as an outside cornerback who makes up for his size with incredible competitiveness. He reads the ball so well and is a blast to watch.
Should I be disappointed he didn’t develop into something more in Arizona, or recognize that every great passing attack needs three to four receivers and Kirk is a high-octane No. 3 option at worst?
While Williams didn’t match his breakout 2020 season again in 2021, he held up just fine as the dude everyone throws at because he’s not Jalen Ramsey. He’s a solid, scrappy starter with good ball skills.
I want to rank him higher. But after nearly a decade of watching four other teams use Patterson so poorly, I don’t trust him as an offensive threat anywhere but with Falcons coach Arthur Smith.
The Giants could never unlock Engram’s full potential and he hasn’t been durable, but someone is going to fall in love with those movement skills. I did and I refuse to take the L.
The former Lions afterthought rebuilt his career in San Francisco as a premier run-blocker. He would fit perfectly in any of the Shanahan-like offenses around the league.
Fisher took his first snaps as a Colt just eight months removed from tearing his Achilles and had his worst season since his rookie year. That could make him a better value this offseason.
Williams' PFF grade has improved significantly over his last three seasons. Cowboys fans and smart analysts are consistently less impressed. The truth is usually in the middle, though Williams always seems to underperform in big moments.
He can shoot gaps or occupy blockers and plays multiple positions. I love versatile defensive linemen who can fit in most systems.
Cornerback is an inherently volatile position. That’s how Douglas could get cut twice last year ... before getting plucked off the Cardinals' practice squad by the Packers and going on to have one of the best seasons of any cornerback in football. He probably won’t repeat it, but above-average starter play is a reasonable expectation.
Callahan is one of the league's better slot corners when he’s available. His size (5-9, 188) and possibly related injury history are the only reasons he’s not ranked higher.
The Bucs will be more desperate to keep Cappa following Ali Marpet’s surprise retirement.
Chark’s 2019 season showed his upside. His speed makes him a good fit as a No. 2 receiver on a lot of offenses.
Conner’s fantasy value was even greater than his real-world value. His receiving skills make him a strong three-down option.
Now we are at the part of the list where I've ranked certain players I believe in -- like Elliott -- higher than you might find them in another free-agent rundown. Elliott added so much toughness to the Ravens' secondary when he took over as a starter in 2020. He sat out most of last year with a biceps and pectoral injury and the Ravens missed him greatly.
The game-changing splash plays are mostly gone. Still, Barr is the rare linebacker who can rush, tackle and cover, barely leaving the field.
Packers fans who think they are going to sneak MVS back on to the roster may be disappointed by the size of his market.
A rolling ball of butcher knives, Fatukasi can rush the passer and stop the run. He’s a fun breakout candidate.
Injuries and a benching for "disciplinary reasons" soured Reid’s 2021 season. I can’t forget the incredible potential he showed in 2018 and '19, when he was one of the best young safeties in the league.
It took Houston a while to find a job last year and then he landed in Baltimore, where he outplayed most of his younger Ravens teammates -- same as it ever was.
After three-plus seasons as a testament to Seahawks general manager John Schneider’s weird drafting, Penny played like a poor man’s Derrick Henry down the stretch. I want him to stay in Seattle because there was something special brewing there.
Whether making punishing hits or covering well for a safety, Whitehead has been surprisingly dependable as a starter for four seasons. The fourth-round pick has earned his payday.
Hayward should follow Gus Bradley to Indianapolis. He excelled under the defensive coordinator with the Chargers and revived his career with him in Las Vegas.
Fournette’s third-down skills have improved so much that he doesn’t ever need to be taken off the field. Like so many in Tampa, he will really miss Tom Brady.
There aren’t many three-down running backs who offer Gordon’s ability to win in short yardage and on third downs without sacrificing big-play ability.
A good-not-great first-round pick who never improved that much as a pass rusher, Barnett always seems to have a few killer personal foul penalties each year.
I can’t quite believe I’m ranking Kearse this high, but I also can’t quite believe how great of a find he was for Dan Quinn last year.
A boom-or-bust corner, Jackson's physical style and top-end playmaking could still be fully unlocked if he finds the right fit. He’s the type of corner who could pop up with a random Pro Bowl season at some point.
White was a leader on the 2021 Chargers' defense, flying around and communicating. I’d be surprised if they let him go after such a breakout season.
If I was an agent for a defensive lineman, I would make my client sign with the 49ers because everyone who goes there makes the most of their opportunities. Key was a beast down the stretch last season.
While Nwosu never quite materialized into the ideal running mate for Joey Bosa, he had five sacks and 40 total pressures last season. That’s consistent with his career of above-average flashes as a pass rusher.
One of Rams GM Les Snead’s many productive Day 3 draft picks, Joseph-Day can stuff the run and create havoc as a rotational defensive tackle.
The former Giant was excellent for the Bengals, especially in the playoffs. He was undoubtedly an upgrade over starter Larry Ogunjobi and should be brought back.
Howard was clearly not close to his former self in his first season back from an Achilles tear. His physical style is worth taking a chance on because the upside is so big.
Seems like no one has been on more of our Top 101 lists over the years than Richardson, who still delivers professional snaps on a year-to-year basis. Well, unless it’s this next guy …
I admittedly have a soft spot for Suh, who was absolutely the Bucs' best defensive player in their playoff loss to the Rams. He still shows up in big moments.
Mike Zimmer asked a lot of Peterson and the former All-Pro delivered plenty for a veteran on a pricey one-year deal. He’s earned another.
It’s hard to blame Crowder too much for his dip in production with the Jets. Slot receiver skill sets often age well, so it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Crowder catch 80 passes again in the right setting.
A revelation in 2021, Oluokon can make big hits and big plays as an inside linebacker. He fit well in a Patriots-style defense.
Edmonds can run routes like a receiver and make defenders miss. You don’t need to have more than 150 touches to have plenty of value.
The former Washington starter was a godsend for the Jets, filling in for an injured Mekhi Becton at left tackle and playing at a high level.
The Lions want to bring back Walker, who had the best season of an ascending career under defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn.
It feels wrong to imagine McCourty in another uniform. He had a few more down moments than usual at age 34, but still mostly limited big plays in the Patriots' secondary.
If assistant coaches under Sean McVay get paid, why not starting guards who played more than 2,100 offensive snaps in the last two seasons combined?
Ward is that guy the Chiefs were seemingly always looking to replace, who overachieved season after season (53 total starts) since going undrafted in 2018.
Could I interest you in the best (or second-best) punter in the NFL last year?
The former Cowboy only looks better as a free agent after one upper-middle class season in Minnesota.
Njoku will look like a Greek God at least once per month, but the consistency was never there for long in Cleveland.
It’s a shame King got hurt last season because he looked at home under first-year Packers defensive coordinator Joe Barry.
I would have loved to see him start a game in Las Vegas, but that dependable Derek Carr was too darn dependable. Mariota is at the top of the backup quarterback pile, but the fact that he got injured in such limited playing time with the Raiders is a red flag.
Ertz might not move like he once did, but he’s a walking third-and-7 conversion that any quarterback would love to have.
Ogunjobi is that guy who gives up a lot while searching for his own splash plays, one reason he could be on his third team in as many years.
Safeties who can hit aren’t in vogue, but my god Williams’ hits can be breathtaking. He’s developed into a good slot defender who can cover tight ends.
It took Hightower a while to knock off the rust following his year off. His bigger issue is how the game has changed to target players like him in pass coverage, but his leadership and intelligence are both off the charts.
Dalton has seen a ton of action (15 starts) since transitioning into the backup phase of his career and has played exactly how you’d expect. The new Dalton Scale: If your veteran backup is worse than Dalton, you need a new QB2?