It seems as if there are more high-quality free agents who remain available post-draft this year than any other. Former Pro-Bowlers, No. 1 overall picks, Super Bowl champions, defensive rookies of the year, and the current NFLPA president remain unsigned to this point in May. These players could wind up contributing significantly to the history of the NFL and who will be left standing in late January and early February for Super Bowl LVII. Here are the players whose decisions will impact the 2022 postseason most significantly.
After a Pro Bowl 2020 season, Bradberry’s play regressed a bit in 2021 and he became the latest post-draft cap casualty in New York. With a new regime at general manager and head coach coming in, Bradberry’s release was not incredibly surprising.
Still, most teams in the league would benefit from adding the 28-year-old corner to their defensive secondary. Having missed just 5 games in his 6-year career, Bradberry has proven that he is durable, and injuries are not a concern at this point in his career.
While I would argue that the defensive line is the most impactful position group on defense, you still need at least three really solid cover guys on the field to stop the most prolific offenses in the league. Most defenses in the league play with a nickel corner on the field 60% of the time. Adding Bradberry could prove to be the difference for teams like San Francisco, Philadelphia, LA Chargers, and Dallas who all seem to be on the cusp of being true contenders.
A team looking to trade for Bradberry prior to his release would have also acquired the final year of his contract at a $13.5 million cap hit. This was the main reason that Bradberry was not moved. No teams were willing to part with any significant draft capital in order to take on that deal.
Now that no draft capital is in play, expect Bradberry to sign a deal in the $7-10 million range. All 32 teams could use a player of Bradberry’s caliber in the secondary in an increasingly pass oriented NFL. The difference between Bradberry and the next best remaining free agent cornerback is significant. Xavier Rhodes, Chris Harris, Janoris Jenkins, and Joe Haden are the biggest names remaining on the open market – all four of which are over 30 years in age.
Odell Beckham Jr.
OBJ played a significant role in the Rams’ 2021 Super Bowl run. In LA’s four playoff games, he averaged over 70 yards per game, caught more than 80% of his targets, and caught two touchdowns. These numbers could have been much better if not for tearing his ACL in the second quarter of the Super Bowl.
This injury is certainly cause for concern for a team looking to sign the veteran receiver. The main question mark about Odell is when he will return to the field. With the injury occurring on February 13, it is unlikely that we will see him suit up again until mid-season at the earliest.
Still, it is not unheard of for a receiver coming off of an ACL tear to get signed for a significant amount. While much younger, Chris Godwin just got a 3-year $60 million deal from the Bucs. I don’t expect Odell to command that much at this point in free agency. However, Michael Gallup also tore his ACL in 2021 and received a 5 year $57.5 million deal this offseason.
Additionally, this has been the offseason of the receiver – with trades, $100+ million extensions, and six 1st-round selections used on the position. Teams around the league are clearly placing an emphasis on and becoming more and more willing to invest substantial capital in the position.
Comparing OBJ to Christian Kirk, Allen Robinson, and Robert Woods — all three of which were either signed to a new team or traded this past offseason — I’m not sure I’d rather have any of them over Beckham Jr. when healthy. Taking his injury into consideration and the fact that he will play less than half of the regular season games in 2022, he will likely come at a significant discount to those three receivers mentioned above who are all on contracts worth more than $15 million APY.
Wherever Odell lands, expect to see him sit on the PUP list – and subsequently, the IR — until at least November. He should be ready to go by the playoffs and provide a significant jolt to a team’s offense at the most important point in the year.
Ndamukong Suh, Jason Pierre-Paul, Jadeveon Clowney
In my opinion, the defensive line is the most important position on the field other than quarterback