The NFL calendar waits for no man, and no sooner than Super Bowl LVI is in the books, we move on to the rumors which are the most fun part of free agency.
The market opened up again on March 16, 2022 with players out of contract being able to move teams. The legal tampering period though is already open and deals are being reached (if not signed).
A ton of rosters are being turned upside down as franchises upgrade talent, plug gaps and manage their salary cap.
We will bring you all the very latest and best rumors throughout the coming months – remember they all impact your NFL predictions from September onwards…
Latest Free Agency Rumors – April 26
- Of course we all know Deebo Samuel wants to be traded by the San Francisco 49ers, but it takes two to tango. And Niners GM John Lynch apparently has no wish to dance. Lynch says he could not imagine dealing Samuel, adding: “He’s just too good of a player”.
- The Green Bay Packers traded away their best receiving threat to Las Vegas in the shape of Davante Adams – now turns out they wanted something in return outside of those draft picks. Per Jeff Howe of The Athletic, the Packers asked for Raiders TE Darren Waller as part of the deal.
- The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have restructured Tom Brady’s contract to free up more than $9million in cap space ahead of the 2022 season. That of course will lead to speculation that the move is in readiness to bring back TE and Brady’s BFF Rob Gronkowski.
- More WR craziness and this time Deebo Samuel. A report from Adam Schefter suggests Samuel – who is reportedly on the lookout for a massive new contract – maybe doesn’t want that deal to get done with the San Francisco 49ers. Cue Twitter blowing up, no surprise there. Add in Deebo’s brother commenting on FB posts about his brother and then retracting said posts, it’s wild out there.
- Wow, another day and another huge offseason deal. This time it is Cleveland Brown Denzel Ward becoming the highest paid CB in the NFL. His five-year pact is worth $100.5million overall – just moving ahead of Jalen Ramsey – and it totally smashed the previous record for guaranteed money. A staggering $71.25million is guaranteed for Ward, more than $27million ahead of the $44.346 that New Orleans star Marshon Lattimore received.
- Not surprisingly there are a few WRs out there not happy that they are not getting in on the huge contract action this offseason. The position has been right at the center of the news cycle with Davante Adams and Tyreek Hill both getting in the region of $30million APY after massive trades to Las Vegas and Cleveland respectively. Now it is reportedly Deebo Samuel, A.J. Brown and Terry McLaurin who want a piece of the piece. Per Adam Schefter they will not participate in their teams’ on-field offseason programs as they all want their contract situations sorting pronto.
- The Colts view themselves as Super Bowl contenders after trading for Matt Ryan, and they have upgraded yet again by signing CB Stephon Gilmore to a two-year deal worth around $23million. The 31-year-old might not be the force who was DPOY in 2019 any more, but he’s still a talented vet who adds spice to that Colts bid to dethrone Tennessee in the AFC South.
- We can’t imagine any team having a more troubled offseason than those Dallas Cowboys. Losing stars in trades and free agency, cheerleader lawsuits, paternity suits and now second-year CB Kelvin Joseph being interviewed by police in regard to a fatal shooting in Dallas last month. The Cowboys are aware of the incident and Joseph’s agent said the Cowboy was an unarmed passenger in a vehicle from which gunshots were fired, killing 20-year-old Cameron Ray on March 18.
- Wow, just when it looked like Kyler Murray and the Arizona Cardinals had made up, the Cold War in the desert is back on. Per Tom Pelissero of NFL Network, Murray says he will not play for the team in 2022 without a new contract. Murray – the first overall pick in the 2019 Draft – is entering the fourth year of his rookie deal which would pay him just $5.5million. About $40million is the starting point for any franchise QB getting a new deal nowadays. Quite the difference.
Which players got the NFL franchise tag?
The deadline to place the tag on players was 1600 Eastern on Tuesday March 8. The following players are now tagged and they have until July 15 to work out long-term deals:
- Cincinnati S Jessie Bates
- Cleveland TE David Njoku
- Dallas TE Dalton Schultz
- Green Bay WR Davante Adams
- Jacksonville OL Cam Robinson
- Kansas City OL Orlando Brown
- Miami TE Mike Gesicki
- Tampa Bay WR Chris Godwin
When does NFL fee agency start?
Free agency in 2022 actually started at 4pm ET on Wednesday March 16, 2022. That was the beginning of the 2022 league year – the 2021 year ended at 3.59:59pm ET.
All teams had to be UNDER the 2022 salary cap via their top 51 salaries when the 2022 league year began.
Before that though there was another important date – 4pm ET on Tuesday March 8 – when teams were able to designate players to carry either the franchise tag or the transition tag ahead of free agency. More on that later in this article.
Teams were able start to negotiate with unrestricted free agents (UFA) before free agency actually kicked in – that negotiating period commenced at noon Eastern on Monday March 14.
While most of the action is around unrestricted free agents, we also need to factor in restricted free agents (RFA). Assuming they receive offer sheets from other teams, the deadline to sign those is Friday April 22. Teams then have until April 27 to match those offer sheets for their own players.
The NFL Franchise Tag explained
The franchise tag adds another fascinating wrinkle to NFL free agency each March – it’s the one thing the teams would never give up in the CBA (Collective Bargaining Agreement).
So why is the franchise tag so important to franchises? It allows them to keep a player who is out of contract EVEN IF THEY CAN’T AGREE A NEW DEAL.
Think about it – it means no other team can sign the player, but it also likely stops that player resetting the market with a huge deal which then impacts other teams. Pretty neat right?
There are two types of franchise tag – with a crucial difference:
Exclusive Francise Tag: Teams can tag an out-of-contract player which means they get offered a one-year deal at the average of the five largest salaries in the league for that league year at that player’s position.
Non-Exclusive Franchise Tag: This essentially means there are no guarantees that the team keeps their star player. But if they do lose said star player, they get pretty handsome compensation (unless that player is a franchise QB).
The non-exclusive tag means teams tender their player a one-year deal at the average of the five highest salaries at that player’s position over the last five years, or 120% of the player’s cap number the previous season. Basically it’s whichever number is bigger – normally the former.
The player can then negotiate with other teams, and if he gets offered a deal elsewhere, his current team can decide to match it.
If a player is offered a deal elsewhere, and his current team declines to match it, then the player can then move to the new team but his current team get TWO FIRST-ROUND DRAFT PICKS as compensation.
While players hate the franchise tag – there is no long-term security – the one saving grace is that their contracts under the tag are fully guaranteed. So injuries etc do not cost them a dime.
Though teams tag their players in March, that doesn’t mean for sure that a player starts the season on the tag. In some cases it just buys both sides the time to hammer out a long-term contract. That needs to be done by 4pm ET on July 15.
2022 franchise tag tenders – per overthecap.com – are as follows:
|Position||2022 Franchise Tag Tender|
|Defensive End (DE)||$20,186,000|
|Wide Receiver (WR)||$19,127,000|
|Defensive Tackle (DT)||$16,888,000|
|Offensive Lineman (OL)||$16,698,000|
|Running Back (RB)||$12,536,000|
|Tight End (TE)||$10,834,000|
|Special Teams (ST)||$5,469,000|
What is the NFL salary cap in 2022?
The good news for NFL teams – and players – is that the salary cap is on the rise again in 2022.
After a drop to $182million in 2021 thanks to that pesky COVID-19 pandemic, it rises to $208.2million for 2022.
Top NFL Free Agents in 2022
Some of these players obviously will never hit the market (see above and the franchise tag) but as of now they are the biggest names and stars about to become available to the highest bidder:
|Davante Adams (franchise tag)||WR||Green Bay Packers|
|Terron Armstead||OT||New Orleans Saints|
|Chris Godwin (franchise tag)||WR||Tampa Bay Buccaneers|
|Von Miller||EDGE||Los Angeles Rams|
|Chandler Jones||EDGE||Arizona Cardinals|
|J.C. Jackson||CB||New England Patriots|
|Mike Williams (re-signed with Chargers)||WR||Los Angeles Chargers|
|Marcus Williams||S||New Orleans Saints|
|Orlando Brown Jr||OT||Kansas City Chiefs|
|Allen Robinson||WR||Chicago Bears|