Analysis

2022 NFL free agency matchmaking: One fit for each NFC team

NFL free agency officially begins with the arrival of the new league year at 4 p.m. ET on Wed., March 16. As we head toward the open market, Nick Shook explores one fun free agency fit for each NFC team.

NOTE: All cap figures and projections cited below come from Over The Cap, unless otherwise noted. As with Gregg Rosenthal's Top 101 NFL Free Agents of 2022, each player's listed age represents how old he will be on Sept. 8, when the 2022 NFL season is poised to kick off.

The Cardinals' top three tight ends are headed to free agency -- and the team needs to retain at least one of them. Arizona isn't projected to be in the worst cap situation, and although Ertz will cost more than, say, Maxx Williams, he also carries the most potential to produce for Kliff Kingsbury's offense. Despite arriving as a midseason trade acquisition and appearing in just 11 games with the Cardinals, Ertz still placed second on the team in catches (56) and third in receiving yards (574) in 2021.

I'd love to pair Allen Robinson or Chris Godwin with the Falcons, but they simply don't have the projected cap space necessary to make a strong offer for either receiver. We'll drop down a couple of tiers, then, to match them with Gallup, a starting outside receiver who could fill a significant role for a team that should be looking for pass-catching help regardless of whether Calvin Ridley stays in Atlanta. Gallup will likely not be in the position to demand a massive contract, coming off a torn ACL.

The Panthers might lose one or both of their starting center and right guard, and Daniels can fill either void. Carolina doesn't have a ton of projected cap space, but some financial gymnastics could make this work. The addition of Daniels would be a boon for whomever is playing quarterback for Matt Rhule in 2022.

The Saints are still projected to be well over the cap, even after restructuring three contracts last week, and Armstead -- who's been in New Orleans since the Saints drafted him in 2013 -- isn't going to come cheap. The Bears need a rock-solid left tackle and would find exactly that in Armstead, who carries with him an impeccable reputation as a leader. Signing Armstead would be quite a way to start a new era in Chicago for general manager Ryan Poles and provide much-needed protection for Justin Fields.

Dallas has a lot of cap work to complete this offseason, which could include the departures of players like Amari Cooper and possibly Demarcus Lawrence. The Cowboys also need to fill an upcoming void at safety. They could probably find a happy medium with a guy like Elliott, who is ranked 61st on Gregg Rosenthal's Top 101 Free Agents list but showed plenty of ability prior to losing much of 2021 to injury.

Robinson remained in Chicago via the franchise tag last season and struggled mightily in an offense with plenty of issues that were unrelated to him. New Bears leadership will attempt to repair what would seem to be a very burned bridge with Robinson, but I'd expect him to leave for more money elsewhere. Detroit has a need for an impact playmaker opposite Amon-Ra St. Brown and money to spend. The Lions should shower Robinson with cash.

The best pending free agent in this class -- and arguably the best receiver in the NFL -- shouldn't wear another jersey in 2022. If Aaron Rodgers decides to return, the Packers have to do everything possible to keep Adams and preserve the league's top QB-WR duo. There's simply no other option.

Beckham told me two days before Super Bowl LVI he'd be happy to accept less money to stay with the Rams, where he felt he'd found a home. Beckham followed that up with two significant catches in the Super Bowl before exiting with an ACL tear, which will unfortunately lower his value on the open market (and make for an abbreviated 2022 season). One would imagine it shouldn't be too difficult for the Rams to get a deal done to keep Beckham in Los Angeles.

Let's replace one former Brown (D-lineman Sheldon Richardson, who returned to Minnesota on a one-year deal last season) with another in Ogbah, whose incredibly steady play in recent years has flown under the radar. Ogbah would provide the kind of consistent edge-rushing contribution the Vikings haven't enjoyed since the heyday of Everson Griffen and Danielle Hunter's partnership -- and signing him likely won't break the bank.

The Saints would be wise to keep safety Marcus Williams and the aforementioned Armstead, but as mentioned in the blurb explaining Armstead's fit in Chicago, they've got cap problems. They also need pass-catching options. But they need a quarterback more. So let's shoot for a reunion with Winston, who was New Orleans' unquestioned starter before going down with a torn ACL in November.

The Giants will likely be forced to part ways with one or more players to get under the cap, so we're looking toward some lesser-known names to provide help. Much of New York's offensive line is unsettled, but adding Bozeman at center would at least fill one need at an important spot responsible for directing protection of Daniel Jones.

The Eagles have some money to spend and could upgrade their defense via free agency by signing Landry, one of three Titans to finish with 8.5 or more sacks in 2021. For a team that has too often battled injuries all over the field, Landry would be a welcome addition, thanks to his production and his consistent availability. With Landry, Fletcher Cox, Javon Hargrave and Josh Sweat, the Eagles would have a formidable defensive front that should excite their fans.

The 49ers need to create some space to get under the cap, but a Jimmy Garoppolo trade -- widely expected to occur at some point -- would clear over $25 million. San Francisco would be wise to use some of that space on its secondary, and Gilmore seems like the perfect veteran to upgrade the group.

Heading into Year 14, Brown is in the end stages of his career, but he should still be worth a solid number as a free agent. The Seahawks, meanwhile, have struggled to get consistent play from their offensive line, and they can't afford to let a veteran walk away in the hopes they'll find an adequate replacement. Paying Brown one more time should address the left tackle spot. Though it's not exactly exciting, it makes good sense.

Ali Marpet unexpectedly retired short of 30 years old, and it seems as if Ryan Jensen might be headed elsewhere. The Buccaneers can't afford to let the entire interior of their offensive line leave in one offseason. Keeping Cappa is a no-brainer, even if there might not be a lot of spice in retaining a solid young guard.

Last year, I wrote the Commanders should go after Allen Robinson, thinking he could serve as a No. 1 receiver alongside Terry McLaurin. The latter has since proven he can be the No. 1 guy himself. But Williams would be a perfect complement. Pair the two with a quality quarterback -- Ron Rivera has already started pitching his team as "a viable option" for signal-callers -- and suddenly, Washington's offense isn't so bad.

Follow Nick Shook on Twitter.

Related Content

Purchase single game tickets for the 2022 season