After a reduction in the salary cap this past season because of the pandemic, the cap for 2022 is expected to rise by more than $25 million, and top $208 million.
The first beneficiaries of that extra money will be the big NFL stats guys that make up this year’s collection of top free agents.
Davante Adams – Wide Receiver
Davante Adams says he wants to be the highest paid wide receiver in the NFL, and all 32 general managers should be willing to make that happen. He’s a First Team All-Pro in each of the last two seasons and has been named to the Pro Bowl in each of the last five years.
The only issue with Adams is that he’ll turn 30 next season, and some teams will balk at signing him to a long term contract. Still, he should get more than the $20 million base Amari Cooper is set to make in 2022.
Terron Armstead – Tackle
He turns 31 in July, but there will always be a market for a quality left tackle like Terron Armstead, regardless of age.
The Saints are dead last in cap space, and are actually projected to be over by $71 million in 2022, so they are unlikely to retain Armstead. They also just gave $96 million over five years to right tackle Ryan Ramczyk, and Armstead should make that much money, or more.
Armstead has had surgery on his knee since the season ended, but he should make a full recovery, and be healthy for whatever new team pays for his services.
Chris Godwin – Wide Receiver
Chris Godwin was franchise tagged last year in the hopes that a deal on an extension could be reached. It wasn’t, and he played this past season without a contract for 2022. For him there is the upside of a much better market, and more money to be spent.
The downside is that he tore his ACL and MCL in Week 15, and he may not be ready to go full-speed with training camps open. However, he is expected to make a full recovery, and there is more than enough evidence on tape that Godwin is a game-changing talent.
Chandler Jones – EDGE
In the never ending debate, does pressure help coverage, or does coverage create pressure, the top defensive free agents this offseason fall into the former category. Chandler Jones is consistently one of the best pass rushers in the league, and his pressure can help a defense cover with average defensive backs.
He started the 2021 with five sacks in Week 1. And while he never reached those lofty numbers again, he did have an excellent season, finishing fourth in the league in quarterback hits.
He is going to be 32 when the new season starts, but he’s a three-down player with 107.5 career sacks, and with the exception of the 2020 season, he’s always been extremely durable.
This is likely to be the last contract of his career, so he’s going to look to make a big one.
Von Miller – EDGE
Von Miller is a year older than Chandler Jones and did miss the entire 2020 season due to injury, but he’s a former Super Bowl MVP that has 115.5 career sacks.
The Rams gave up a pair of draft picks to trade for Miller, and they would prefer to have him for longer than just a half-season rental at that price. But he’s likely to draw more than $20 million in guarantees for what is expected to be his final contract. So if the Rams want to retain the future Hall of Famer, it will cost them.
Orlando Brown, Jr. – Tackle
This is another case of a high-capital trade that is going to push the acquiring team to pay big bucks for his continued service. The Chiefs sent a first-round pick to the Ravens for Orlando Brown, Jr., and after a season of Brown learning a new system and playing left tackle full-time, without question the Chiefs will try to sign him.
The adjustment took some time early in the year, and blocking for Patrick Mahomes is entirely different from blocking for Lamar Jackson, but Brown has made the adjustment. His contract is going to top $100 million.