A lot of the top NFL free agents of 2022 will be off the market once the new league year opens next March. Teams will pick up fifth-year player options on rookie deals here soon.
In no way does this mean there won’t be a ton of top-end players available as the NFL salary cap increases in 2022.
Pittsburgh Steelers edge rusher and top-end NFL Defensive Player of the Year candidate T.J. Watt is among them. We’re also intrigued to see if the Green Bay Packers find a way to retain star wide receiver Davante Adams ahead of NFL free agency.
Below, we look at the top-20 NFL free agents of 2022 with updates throughout the year regarding contract status and the like.
1. T.J. Watt, EDGE, Pittsburgh Steelers
After picking up the 2021 option on his rookie deal for north of $10 million, it seems unreasonable to believe that Pittsburgh isn’t going to place the franchise tag on the three-time Pro Bowler next March. A first-round pick back in 2017, Watt has morphed into an elite-level pass rusher.
Over the course of the past three seasons alone, the Wisconsin product has recorded 98 quarterback hits, 42.5 sacks and an absurd 16 forced fumbles. If he hits the NFL free-agent market, look for roughly $25 million annually.
2. Davante Adams, wide receiver, Green Bay Packers
After re-signing one of the top NFL free agents from this cycle, running back Aaron Jones, and with the Aaron Rodgers’ situation up in the air after the 2021 season, there’s absolutely no telling what the Packers plan to do with Adams. What we do know is that the 28-year-old former Fresno State star is one of the top-three receivers in the game.
Last season saw Adams record 115 receptions for 1,374 yards while hauling in a league-high 18 touchdown catches and coming down with 77% of his targets. Green Bay must think long and hard about an extension before the 2021 season or it could face a major quagmire come March.
3. Orlando Brown Jr., offensive tackle, Kansas City Chiefs
Orlando Brown is one pending star NFL free agent unlikely to hit the open market next March. The young 25-year-old two-time Pro Bowler will now protect Patrick Mahomes‘ blindside with the Kansas City Chiefs after a blockbuster trade during the spring.
It’s a role he performed well in last season with Baltimore after Ronnie Stanley went down with an injury. If the two-time Pro Bowler performs at the same level in front of Mahomes this season, he’s going to demand north of $20 million annually on the open market.