As free agency gets fully underway, here are the 5 best fits in free agency for both the team and player.
UFA TE Dalton Schultz to the New York Jets
The New York Jets ranked last this season in terms of TE production, only targeting them 77 times throughout the regular season. The Jets worked with Ryan Griffin and Tyler Kroft as the top two TE options. For a young QB, a safety blanket at TE is useful. We have recently seen the success this has with Mahomes and Kelce, Jackson and Andrews, and Allen and Knox. Additionally, the Jets own the 5th most current cap space ($48.196M) and may pay top of the market at the TE position.
With Wilson struggling in his rookie season, the Jets’ best course of action is to solidify the TE position with a pass-catching and blocking option in FA and draft a young/high upside TE to pair for the future. This past season, the Cowboys’ TE Dalton Schultz had more receptions (78), than the Jets had in targets to the TE position (77). In the 78 receptions, Schultz also tallied 808 yards and 8 TD, including averaging 5.7 catches, 52.3 receiving yards, and 1 touchdown in the last 3 games. Prior to the start of the 2022 NFL season, he will turn 26 and a lot will depend on what the tender is.
UFA S Marcus Maye to Baltimore Ravens
In 2021, the Baltimore Ravens really struggled on defense, finishing with the most passing yards allowed, the 26th most TDs allowed, and the 26th most forced INTs. While they will be getting key contributors like Marcus Peters and Marlon Humphrey back to the CB corps, the Ravens still need a top flight S to man the backend.
The Ravens could certainly use an upgrade over DeShon Elliot, the 6th round pick in 2018, who is a free agent. Also, Marcus Maye is coming off a major Achilles injury this past season, and his availability will be in question to start the season. When he is healthy, he’s a FS with great ball skills and anticipation. He has top end speed (4.47s in the 40-yard dash where the safety combine average is 4.54s) and secured 88 combined tackles, 11 passes defended, 2 sacks and 2 INTs in 2020, which was his last fully healthy season. Maye will most likely be given a 1-year contract due to his major injury at 28 years old.
In order to fit Maye into their current cap structure of $8.8M, The Ravens would most likely not need to shed some cap space. However, if they did, the Ravens could use simple restructures to create about $26.2M in cap space or could use max restructures, hitting approximately $70.5M.
UFA S Jessie Bates to Dallas Cowboys
Even with the revival of the Dallas Cowboys’ defense under the leadership of Dan Quinn, the 2022 off-season could lead to a lot of turnover. Six key defensive players will see free agency which includes FS Damontae Kazee and SS Jayron Kearse. The nature of Quinn’s defense relies on players’ versatility to play across multiple different position groups. Jessie Bates III stands at 6-foot-1 and 200 pounds with the ability to cover, play deep centerfield, and play up in the box when necessary.
With Quinn’s defense, his ability to line him up in different spots would be enticing and useful. If the Cowboys want to create the cap space necessary to sign a player such as Bates, they would need to restructure some of their current contracts or move on from others. They currently sit $22M over the cap but could work to create space by using simple restructures and accumulating $74M in cap space for the 2022 offseason. While they will not want to do this with all of the contracts and feel that acquiring Bates is necessary, they could shift money around to make the space. Bates will likely garner top 5 safety money. Another big factor in all of this is whether Bates gets franchised by the Bengals.
UFA OT Terron Armstead to Miami Dolphins
The Dolphins offensive line was by far the worst in the NFL allowing the most pressures against (262), the most hurries against (204), and having the 2nd worst run blocking grade in 2021. The best OT in this FA class is Terron Armstead of the Saints, who will most likely get a top-of-the-market contract. The top of the OT market is Trent Williams’ at $23.1M AAV.
Armstead is 30 years old and will be coming off a season in which he missed multiple games due to injury (knee and elbow). His quality on the field has never been in question. Since the beginning of 2018, he has had 1,939 pass-blocking snaps and has only allowed 8 sacks, which is a 0.4% sack rate allowed. The Dolphins OT’s this past season allowed 18 sacks and 135 total pressures, which is a 1.2% sack rate allowed (3x higher than Armstead over 4 seasons).
UFA OG Brandon Scherff or UFA OG Connor Williams to Cincinnati Bengals
If you watched the playoffs at all, you know that the Bengals need to protect Joe Burrow on the OL. In the playoff games against the Titans and the Rams, their OL caused major issues to the flow of the offense with Burrow at the helm. Burrow could be a top 5 QB in the NFL in years to come, but the Bengals first need to make sure he stays healthy by bringing in some IOL help.
The Bengals should look to follow the lead of the Los Angeles Chargers from the 2021 offseason or of the Chiefs from the 2021 offseason, and they should completely overhaul the OL. The top top priority for both the Chargers and the Chiefs was to get a top tier IOL (Thuney for KC and Linsley for LA). The Bengals should follow suit by looking at the top of the IOL market this offseason and by signing Brandon Scherff and Connor Williams. Scherff is coming off a season in which he played on his second straight franchise tag and made $18.04M. Scherff has dealt with injuries in the past having had an injury in 4 straight seasons, including ones that required surgery in 2018 and 2019. When he is playing, Scherff plays at the top level. Williams, who might be a step below Scherff in ability, has been quite healthy for the Cowboys recently playing in all games in 2020 and 2021.
UFA QB Mitchell Trubisky to the Pittsburgh Steelers
For the first time since 2004, the Steelers will be starting an NFL season with a QB not named Ben Roethlisberger. The answer to the Steelers’ QB problem this offseason is not in regard to their current roster. They need to look at the route of trade, free agency, or the draft.
In a perfect world, the Steelers would sign Mitchell Trubisky as their starting QB and they would draft a QB to develop for the future. Both Trubisky and the rookie would work out and have strength at the most important position in all of sports. In the end, Trubisky is a proven winner despite some obstacles. Since 2018, he has had the 4th highest winning percentage amongst active QBs behind only Mahomes, Jackson, and Rodgers with a minimum of 1000 pass attempts (per CBS).