Over the next few months, NFL teams will go through minicamps, training camp and the preseason as rosters take shape before Week 1 of the 2022 campaign.
Across the league, in-house position battles will include rookies, experienced veterans and backups in competition for starting jobs.
In an early look at the new rosters, we've projected the season-opening starters for every team's offense and defense with a focus on new acquisitions and key positions up for grabs.
All of our projections list three starting wide receivers, one running back, one tight end, five linemen and obviously one quarterback on offense. For uniformity, we've listed base defenses with seven-man fronts (3-4 or 4-3) and four defensive backs. Because of the high use of nickel alignments (five defensive backs), you'll also see a designation (NB) for nickelbacks, also referred to as slot defenders.
Due to suspensions and injuries, players such as DeAndre Hopkins and Michael Gallup won't appear in starting lineups because they're projected to miss Week 1 of the upcoming season.
Offense: QB Kyler Murray, RB James Conner, WR Marquise Brown, WR A.J. Green, WR Rondale Moore, TE Zach Ertz, LT D.J. Humphries, LG Justin Pugh, C Rodney Hudson, RG Will Hernandez, RT Kelvin Beachum
Defense: DL J.J. Watt, DL Leki Fotu, DL Zach Allen, Edge Cameron Thomas, ILB Zaven Collins, ILB Isaiah Simmons, Edge Markus Golden, CB Marco Wilson, CB Jeff Gladney, FS Budda Baker, SS Jalen Thompson, NB Byron Murphy
Wideout DeAndre Hopkins isn't listed in the initial starting lineup because he's going to serve a six-game suspension for violating the league's performance-enhancing drug policy. Once he's back, the three-time All-Pro will reclaim his spot in three-wide receiver sets with Brown, whom the Arizona Cardinals acquired via trade from the Baltimore Ravens, and Moore in the slot.
The Cardinals may have a rookie starter on the defensive side of the ball. Thomas, who's a third-rounder, has a chance to leapfrog outside linebacker Devon Kennard for a lead role following two-time All-Pro edge-rusher Chandler Jones' departure to the Las Vegas Raiders. The San Diego State product had a breakout 2021 campaign with 20.5 tackles for loss and 10.5 sacks.
Gladney, a 2020 first-round pick of the Minnesota Vikings, signed with the Cardinals after a Dallas jury found him not guilty of felony assault.
Offense: QB Marcus Mariota, RB Tyler Allgeier, WR Drake London, WR Cordarrelle Patterson, WR Olamide Zaccheaus, TE Kyle Pitts, LT Jake Matthews, LG Jalen Mayfield, C Matt Hennessy, RG Chris Lindstrom, RT Kaleb McGary
Defense: DL Grady Jarrett, DL Ta'Quon Graham, DL Marlon Davidson, Edge Lorenzo Carter, ILB Deion Jones, ILB Rashaan Evans, Edge Arnold Ebiketie, CB A.J. Terrell, CB Casey Hayward, FS Richie Grant, SS Jaylinn Hawkins, NB Isaiah Oliver
Mariota will start the season under center, but his durability issues may not allow him to keep rookie third-rounder Desmond Ridder at bay. Though the Atlanta Falcons selected Allgeier in the fifth round, he beats out Patterson, who, according to ESPN's Michael Rothstein, could see more snaps at wideout, and a career backup in Damien Williams for the lead role. Over the last two years, the BYU product racked up 2,736 yards and 36 touchdowns.
Atlanta starts a pair of new edge-rushers in Lorenzo Carter and rookie second-rounder Arnold Ebiketie. They'll replace Dante Fowler Jr., whom the team released, and free agent Steven Means. Rashaan Evans starts at inside linebacker over FCS Montana State product Troy Andersen following Foyesade Oluokun's departure to the Jacksonville Jaguars.
At safety, 2021 second-rounder Richie Grant moves into a starting role alongside Jaylinn Hawkins, who allowed a 57.9 percent completion rate in coverage and recorded three pass breakups with two interceptions while on the field for 49 percent of the defensive snaps in 2021.
Offense: QB Lamar Jackson, RB J.K. Dobbins, WR Rashod Bateman, WR Tylan Wallace, WR Devin Duvernay, TE Mark Andrews, LT Ronnie Stanley, LG Ben Powers, C Tyler Linderbaum, RG Kevin Zeitler, RT Morgan Moses
Defense: DL Calais Campbell, DL Michael Pierce, DL Justin Madubuike, Edge Odafe Oweh, ILB Josh Bynes, ILB Patrick Queen, Edge Tyus Bowser, CB Marlon Humphrey, CB Marcus Peters, FS Marcus Williams, SS Chuck Clark, NB Kyle Hamilton
Marquise Brown requested a trade, and the team dealt him to the Arizona Cardinals during the draft. Barring veteran additions to the wide receiver room, the Ravens will have a wide-open competition for two spots alongside Bateman. Duvernay, a 2020 third-rounder, and Wallace, a 2021 fourth-rounder, get the nod over James Roche II, who's a sixth-round pick from the 2020 class.
Newcomers Linderbaum and Moses should start at center and right tackle, respectively. The former is a first-round pick, and the latter has 113 starts on his resume. In 2021, Powers logged a majority of the team's snaps at left guard, and he'll remain in that spot unless Tyre Phillips can stay healthy and make strides through the offseason.
Rookie second-round edge-rusher David Ojabo will need time to recover from a torn Achilles, and head coach John Harbaugh thinks Bowser bounces back from the same injury to participate in training camp. On the back end, the Ravens tap into Hamilton's versatility and use him in the slot while they keep Clark at safety.
Offense: QB Josh Allen, RB Devin Singletary, WR Stefon Diggs, WR Gabriel Davis, WR Jamison Crowder, TE Dawson Knox, LT Dion Dawkins, LG Rodger Saffold, C Mitch Morse, RG Ryan Bates, RT Spencer Brown
Defense: DE Von Miller, DL Ed Oliver, DL DaQuan Jones, DE Greg Rousseau, LB Matt Milano, LB Tremaine Edmunds, LB Terrel Bernard, CB Tre'Davious White, CB Kaiir Elam, FS Micah Hyder, SS Jordan Poyer, NB Taron Johnson
The Buffalo Bills haven't re-signed Emmanuel Sanders or Cole Beasley, though they have an in-house receiver due for a bigger role in Davis, who had a memorable 2021 playoff performance against the Kansas City Chiefs in an AFC divisional game, recording eight catches for 201 yards and four touchdowns. Crowder will replace Beasley in the slot. Coming off his first Pro Bowl season, Saffold comes over from the Tennessee Titans to play left guard.
The Bills made a big splash in free agency, signing Miller to upgrade the pass rush. They also brought in Jones and Tim Settle. The former has more starting experience, so he gets the nod for the spot alongside Oliver. Bernard could see the field when the team uses its base defense.
Buffalo selected Elam in the first round of this year's draft. He'll start on the boundary in place of Levi Wallace, who signed with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Offense: QB Sam Darnold, RB Christian McCaffrey, WR DJ Moore, WR Robbie Anderson, WR Terrace Marshall Jr., TE Ian Thomas, LT Ikem Ekwonu, LG Brady Christensen, C Bradley Bozeman, RG Austin Corbett, RT Taylor Moton
Defense: DE Brian Burns, DL Derrick Brown, DL Matt Ioannidis, DE Yetur Gross-Matos, LB Shaq Thompson, LB Damien Wilson, LB Cory Littleton, CB Donte Jackson, CB Jaycee Horn, FS Xavier Woods, SS Jeremy Chinn, NB Myles Hartsfield
Head coach Matt Rhule isn't afraid to shuffle the deck at quarterback, so we shouldn't be surprised to see rookie third-rounder Matt Corral if Darnold continues to struggle under center. As a 2021 second-rounder, Marshall gets the nod over Rashard Higgins in three-wide receiver sets.
The Panthers will likely roll out four new starters across the offensive line. As the No. 6 overall pick in the 2022 draft, Ekwonu is a lock to play left tackle. Bozeman should start at the pivot over Pat Elflein, who has struggled at center and guard through five seasons. Corbett comes over from the Los Angeles Rams to fill the right guard spot. In 2021, Christensen played four positions across the line, though he could find a home at left guard.
Through free agency, the Panthers added starting-caliber players for all three levels of their defense, signing Ioannidis, Wilson and Woods.
Wilson faces a charge of assault with bodily injury of a family member following an arrest in April. If the league suspends him, Littleton, who had a 2018 Pro Bowl campaign with the Rams but lost his starting spot with the Las Vegas Raiders last season, may play in the nickel formation with Thompson.
Offense: QB Justin Fields, RB David Montgomery, WR Darnell Mooney, WR Byron Pringle, WR Velus Jones Jr., TE Cole Kmet, LT Larry Borom, LG Cody Whitehair, C Lucas Patrick, RG Sam Mustipher, RT Teven Jenkins
Defense: DE Trevis Gipson, DL Justin Jones, DL Khyiris Tonga, DE Robert Quinn, LB Nicholas Morrow, LB Roquan Smith, LB Matthew Adams, CB Jaylon Johnson, CB Kyler Gordon, FS Eddie Jackson, SS Jaquan Brisker, NB Tavon Young
As of right now, the Chicago Bears would head into the 2022 season with an underwhelming group of wide receivers. If they don't add a notable veteran, Jones, their rookie third-rounder, can edge Equanimeous St. Brown, Tajae Sharpe and Dante Pettis for one of the top three spots.
Jenkins and Borom flipped sides from their positions last year. They lined up at right tackle and left tackle, respectively, during voluntary minicamp. After five seasons with the Green Bay Packers, Patrick fills a void at center where the Bears could appreciate his veteran experience. Mustipher slides from center to right guard where he took snaps at minicamp.
In the trenches on defense, Tonga moves into a starting spot to replace Eddie Goldman, who's currently a free agent, alongside Jones, who signed a two-year, $12 million deal. On the second level, Morrow's ability to play on all three downs helps him earn a first-string role. In the secondary, the Bears' top two draft picks, Gordon and Brisker, should become early contributors. Young has experience in the slot from his time with the Baltimore Ravens.
Offense: QB Joe Burrow, RB Joe Mixon, WR Ja'Marr Chase, WR Tee Higgins, WR Tyler Boyd, TE Hayden Hurst, LT Jonah Williams, LG Jackson Carman, C Ted Karras, RG Alex Cappa, RT La'el Collins
Defense: DE Trey Hendrickson, DL B.J. Hill, DL DJ Reader, DE Sam Hubbard, LB Logan Wilson, LB Germaine Pratt, LB Akeem Davis-Gaither, CB Chidobe Awuzie, CB Eli Apple, FS Jessie Bates III, SS Vonn Bell, NB Mike Hilton
The Cincinnati Bengals signed Hurst after they lost tight end C.J. Uzomah to the New York Jets in free agency. The team upgraded its offensive line with three starting-caliber additions in Karras, Cappa and Collins. At left guard, Carman takes over for Quinton Spain, who's still a free agent.
The Bengals may not make major changes on defense, though we should keep an eye on Bates' contract situation while he's on the franchise tag. Keep in mind that the club selected Dax Hill in the first round of this year's draft. Rookie second-rounder Cam Taylor-Britt could push Apple for a role on the boundary through training camp.
Offense: QB Deshaun Watson, RB Nick Chubb, WR Amari Cooper, WR Donovan Peoples-Jones, WR David Bell, TE David Njoku, LT Jedrick Wills Jr., LG Joel Bitonio, C Nick Harris, RG Wyatt Teller, RT Jack Conklin
Defense: DE Myles Garrett, DL Jordan Elliott, DL Perrion Winfrey, DE Chase Winovich, LB Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, LB Anthony Walker, LB Jacob Phillips, CB Denzel Ward, CB Greedy Williams, FS John Johnson III, SS Grant Delpit, NB Greg Newsome II
Watson faces 22 civil lawsuits from women who have accused him of sexual assault and misconduct, though for now, he's on the active roster.
At wide receiver, Cooper stands out as the only lock to start. Peoples-Jones has shown enough flashes to get the early nod, and Bleacher Report NFL scout Nate Tice believes Bell has a chance to play "power slot" at 6'1", 212 pounds. The rookie third-rounder caught 232 passes for 2,946 yards and 21 touchdowns through three terms at Purdue. The Browns cut JC Tretter weeks before they signed Ethan Pocic, which may suggest they have confidence in Harris to start at center.
Cleveland hasn't re-signed Jadeveon Clowney, Malik Jackson or Malik McDowell, who faces charges of aggravated battery on a police officer, resisting arrest and exposing sex organs in public. The Browns added Taven Bryan, but their homegrown defensive tackles, Elliott and Winfrey, claim first-string roles. The club acquired Winovich from the Patriots. He's the starter unless Clowney returns on a new deal.
After trading Troy Hill to the Los Angeles Rams, the Browns can move Newsome into the slot in nickel coverage with Williams on the boundary.
Offense: QB Dak Prescott, RB Ezekiel Elliott, WR CeeDee Lamb, WR Jalen Tolbert, WR James Washington, TE Dalton Schultz, LT Tyron Smith, LG Tyler Smith, C Tyler Biadasz, RG Zack Martin, RT Terence Steele
Defense: DE DeMarcus Lawrence, DL Neville Gallimore, DL Osa Odighizuwa, DE Dorance Armstrong, LB Leighton Vander Esch, LB Micah Parsons, LB Jabril Cox, CB Trevon Diggs, CB Anthony Brown, FS Malik Hooker, SS Jayron Kearse, NB Jourdan Lewis
Dallas Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones thinks Michael Gallup could miss multiple games. The team selected Tolbert in the third round of the 2022 draft, so we may see the rookie in three-wide receiver sets for the first few weeks.
Along the offensive line, the Cowboys' first draft pick surpasses Connor McGovern for the left guard spot. Jones said Smith would compete for that position (h/t NFL.com's Nick Shook). Steele has extensive starting experience in two seasons (27 starts). He replaces La'el Collins at right tackle.
On the opposite side of the line, Armstrong replaces edge-rusher Randy Gregory, who signed with the Denver Broncos. Dallas retained Armstrong on a two-year deal after his five-sack 2021 campaign. He gets the nod over Dante Fowler Jr., who played under defensive coordinator Dan Quinn with the Atlanta Falcons in 2020 but posted modest pass-rushing numbers that year (three sacks and 23 pressures).
On the back end of the defense, the Cowboys maintain the status quo with 2021 second-round cornerback Kelvin Joseph's early availability in question because of an investigation into a fatal shooting connected to a vehicle in which he was a passenger. If the league doesn't suspend him, the Kentucky product could push Brown for a spot on the boundary.