New England Patriots

Von Miller #40 of the Los Angeles Rams looks on during the first half against the San Francisco 49ers at Levi's Stadium on November 15, 2021 in Santa Clara, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

The offseason is officially here for the whole National Football League. So it’s time to ask one of the biggest questions every year: who are the top NFL free agents of 2022?

This year could very well be described as the Year of the Receiver. Several high-end wideouts are on track to become unrestricted free agents when the 2022 league year begins on March 16. But anyone who’s followed the league recently knows that many of the biggest names will have agreements in place at some point during the legal tampering period from March 14-16.

So it’s quite possible that we’ll know days, perhaps even weeks, before NFL free agency “officially” begins, who is landing the likes of J.C. Jackson, Von Miller, and many others.

  • Some of the best free agents are just entering their prime, while others are squarely in it.

    Either way, expect a lot of big-money contracts to be handed out during the off-season. And it’s very likely most of the highest-paid players land on this list of the top 25 NFL free agents of 2022.

    1. EDGE Von Miller

    Russell Wilson #3 of the Seattle Seahawks unsuccessfully attempts to keep Von Miller #40 of the Los Angeles Rams from getting a sack in the second quarter of the game at SoFi Stadium on December 21, 2021 in Inglewood, California. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

    Miller will be 33 years old at the start of the 2022 season, so it’s unclear what kind of term he can get at this point. But what is clear is that Miller can still make a significant impact as an edge rusher. The future Hall of Famer made 9.5 sacks and 17 QB hits in 15 games, split between the Broncos and Rams, then made four more sacks in four postseason games to earn his second Super Bowl ring with Los Angeles.

    He may be closer to the end of his career than the beginning, but Miller still has plenty left in the tank and would be a sensible signing for a contending team that can clear the space for a “mercenary” type of deal, with a reasonably high AAV and only one year guaranteed. Keep an eye on the Bengals, Patriots, Seahawks, and Steelers.

  • 2. EDGE Chandler Jones

    Ryan Tannehill #17 of the Tennessee Titans fumbles after being hit by Chandler Jones #55 of the Arizona Cardinals during the third quarter at Nissan Stadium on September 12, 2021 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Silas Walker/Getty Images)

    Ryan Tannehill #17 of the Tennessee Titans fumbles after being hit by Chandler Jones #55 of the Arizona Cardinals during the third quarter at Nissan Stadium on September 12, 2021 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Silas Walker/Getty Images)

    Since being traded to the Cardinals in 2016, Jones has almost quietly built a Hall-of-Fame-caliber resume. He racked up 10.5 more sacks in 15 games this past season, and is up to 107.5 in his career. He was named a First Team All-Pro in 2017 and 2019.

    Jones is 31 years old, but could possibly still fetch a deal for 3-4 years if someone’s willing to commit. He should certainly continue to make good pass rusher money. The Dolphins, Jaguars, Jets, and Colts will certainly have the financial capabilities to take him on.

  • 3. CB J.C. Jackson

    Nov 18, 2021; Atlanta, Georgia, USA; New England Patriots cornerback J.C. Jackson (27) runs after intercepting a pass against the Atlanta Falcons during the fourth quarter at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

    Nov 18, 2021; Atlanta, Georgia, USA; New England Patriots cornerback J.C. Jackson (27) runs after intercepting a pass against the Atlanta Falcons during the fourth quarter at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

    Jackson checks in at No. 5 as the best cornerback on the market and the first who will still be under 30 years old at the end of the 2022 season. He may be a tier slightly below the makeup of an elite shutdown cornerback, but his ball skills are undeniable (17 interceptions in the past two seasons) and he will make a lot of plays as long as quarterbacks keep throwing in his area.

    Jackson makes sense for a team that can install him as their No. 1 cornerback without having to lean on him as the anchor of the defense. So the Chargers, Colts, Raiders, and Steelers qualify as good potential suitors in that regard.

  • 4. LB Bobby Wagner

    Jeremy McNichols #28 of the Tennessee Titans is tackled by Bobby Wagner #54 of the Seattle Seahawks during the fourth quarter at Lumen Field on September 19, 2021 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

    Jeremy McNichols #28 of the Tennessee Titans is tackled by Bobby Wagner #54 of the Seattle Seahawks during the fourth quarter at Lumen Field on September 19, 2021 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

    Adding the 31-year-old Wagner would make a defense older rather than younger, but he’s been arguably the best middle linebacker in football for most of his career. The 2021 season was the first since 2015 that he wasn’t named a first team All-Pro. He should still be able to make a significant impact with a new team, and it probably wouldn’t be much term.

  • 5. OT Terron Armstead

    Terron Armstead #72 of the New Orleans Saints in action against the Seattle Seahawks during the fourth quarter at Lumen Field on October 25, 2021 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

    Terron Armstead #72 of the New Orleans Saints in action against the Seattle Seahawks during the fourth quarter at Lumen Field on October 25, 2021 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

    Armstead is 30 years old and has missed 11 games the past two years, but he’s one of the better left tackles in the league and hitting the open market squarely in his prime. So you can expect him to draw plenty of interest among tackle-needy teams, and cash in big-time.

  • 6. S Marcus Williams

    Marcus Williams #43 of the New Orleans Saints reacts after intercepting a pass against the Green Bay Packers during the second half at TIAA Bank Field on September 12, 2021 in Jacksonville, Florida. (Photo by James Gilbert/Getty Images)

    Marcus Williams #43 of the New Orleans Saints reacts after intercepting a pass against the Green Bay Packers during the second half at TIAA Bank Field on September 12, 2021 in Jacksonville, Florida. (Photo by James Gilbert/Getty Images)

    Williams should become one of the highest-paid safeties in the league. Could he top the Broncos’ Justin Simmons, who made $15.1 million in 2022? Williams is only 25 years old and has not just recovered from the sting of the “Minneapolis Miracle” play with Stefon Diggs, but established himself as one of the best young safeties in the NFL. He’ll find a new home with a team that hasn’t invested in safety at the draft and could use an injection of talent there.

  • 7. EDGE Randy Gregory

    Randy Gregory #94 of the Dallas Cowboys sacks Mac Jones #10 of the New England Patriots in the third quarter at Gillette Stadium on October 17, 2021 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

    Randy Gregory #94 of the Dallas Cowboys sacks Mac Jones #10 of the New England Patriots in the third quarter at Gillette Stadium on October 17, 2021 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

    Gregory doesn’t come without risk. He missed the entire 2017 and 2019 seasons due to suspensions under the league’s substance abuse policy, and missed five games due to injury in 2021. But Gregory hasn’t faced major discipline since his reinstatement, and he emerged as a productive starting edge rusher for the Cowboys with six sacks, 17 QB hits, and three forced fumbles. Because of his past transgressions, it’s possible Gregory can only get a one-year deal, but someone will gamble on his talent. The Patriots, Seahawks, and Chiefs seem like the kind of teams who would.

  • 8. OG Brandon Scherff

    Brandon Scherff #75 of the Washington Football Team blocks during the NFL preseason game against the Cincinnati Bengals at FedExField on August 20, 2021 in Landover, Maryland. (Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images)

    Brandon Scherff #75 of the Washington Football Team blocks during the NFL preseason game against the Cincinnati Bengals at FedExField on August 20, 2021 in Landover, Maryland. (Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images)

    Patriots fans saw with Joe Thuney’s move to the Chiefs in 2021 that guards can get paid, too. Scherff has lived up to his first-round billing as one of the best starting guards in the NFL during his time in Washington, and should be able to find a team willing to give him multiple years at more than $15 million annually.

  • 9. CB Carlton Davis

    Carlton Davis #24 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers carries the ball against the Dallas Cowboys during the fourth quarter at Raymond James Stadium on September 09, 2021 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images)

    Carlton Davis #24 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers carries the ball against the Dallas Cowboys during the fourth quarter at Raymond James Stadium on September 09, 2021 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images)

    The Bucs are facing a massive talent exodus, beyond just Tom Brady’s retirement. On offense they’re likely to lose Chris Godwin, and defensively, they’ll probably have to replace Davis, who has started 50 of his 51 career games at cornerback. He’s 25 years old, so Davis gets a bump up this list over corners with higher pedigrees. But he’ll be a good starter in his prime years, so expect a team to pay up for that on the open market.

  • 10. WR Allen Robinson

    Allen Robinson #12 of the Chicago Bears runs for yards during the first half against the Los Angeles Rams at SoFi Stadium on September 12, 2021 in Inglewood, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

    Allen Robinson #12 of the Chicago Bears runs for yards during the first half against the Los Angeles Rams at SoFi Stadium on September 12, 2021 in Inglewood, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

    Robinson has had kind of a strange career. When healthy, he’s one of the best big-play threats at outside receiver in the league and a dominant 1-on-1 player. But he’s dealt with major injuries, offensive systems in flux, and inconsistent quarterbacks throwing him the ball. So you shouldn’t blame Robinson if he insists on going to a team with a franchise quarterback in place. The Chargers, Ravens, and Patriots would make logical sense, if they’re willing to pay.

  • 11. CB Stephon Gilmore

    Stephon Gilmore #9 of the Carolina Panthers looks on in the fourth quarter Atlanta Falcons at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on October 31, 2021 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images)

    Stephon Gilmore #9 of the Carolina Panthers looks on in the fourth quarter Atlanta Falcons at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on October 31, 2021 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images)

    Gilmore may have been a top-3 player on this list if he’d stayed healthy over the past two seasons. But he’s now 31 years old and has missed 14 games in the past two years, mainly due to knee problems. So it’s unlikely he’ll ever play at the same speed that he did in New England, where he won Defensive Player of the Year in 2019. But Gilmore’s not done yet. If he can stay on the field, Gilmore should still be a very good starting cornerback for whoever’s willing to take the chance.

  • 12. LB De’Vondre Campbell

    De'Vondre Campbell #59 of the Green Bay Packers reacts after sacking Kyler Murray #1 of the Arizona Cardinals during the first half at State Farm Stadium on October 28, 2021 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

    De’Vondre Campbell #59 of the Green Bay Packers reacts after sacking Kyler Murray #1 of the Arizona Cardinals during the first half at State Farm Stadium on October 28, 2021 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

    Campbell was a dynamic inside linebacker before it became cool. He’s squarely in his prime at age 28, and in the era of Darius Leonard, Devin White, et al., his playing style has become more valuable. So it’s possible Campbell resets the market as the top inside linebacker available. The Chiefs, Raiders, Patriots, and Eagles could use a guy like him.

  • 13. DT Akiem Hicks

    Aaron Rodgers #12 of the Green Bay Packers is sacked by Akiem Hicks #96 of the Chicago Bears in the second half at Soldier Field on October 17, 2021 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

    Aaron Rodgers #12 of the Green Bay Packers is sacked by Akiem Hicks #96 of the Chicago Bears in the second half at Soldier Field on October 17, 2021 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

    One of the league’s best late bloomers, Hicks emerged as a premier interior pass rusher during his time with the Bears. He’s 32 years old and missed eight games in 2021, so it’s likely Hicks won’t get a long-term offer. But on a classic one-year prove-it deal? He could immediately infuse his new team with impact talent at a relatively scarce position.

  • 14. S Tyrann Mathieu

    Tyrann Mathieu #32 of the Kansas City Chiefs dives into the endzone for a touchdown after a 34-yard interception return against the Baltimore Ravens during the first quarter at M&T Bank Stadium on September 19, 2021 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Todd Olszewski/Getty Images)

    Tyrann Mathieu #32 of the Kansas City Chiefs dives into the endzone for a touchdown after a 34-yard interception return against the Baltimore Ravens during the first quarter at M&T Bank Stadium on September 19, 2021 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Todd Olszewski/Getty Images)

    The “Honey Badger” is still 29 years old and enjoyed a career resurgence through his prime years with the Chiefs. Mathieu is quietly a three-time First Team All-Pro and can still make plays with the best of them at safety. There may not be a ton of demand for safeties on the open market, but someone should be willing to pay him over $10 million annually.

  • 15. WR Odell Beckham Jr.

    Odell Beckham Jr. #3 of the Los Angeles Rams catches the ball in the second quarter of the game against the Cincinnati Bengals during Super Bowl LVI at SoFi Stadium on February 13, 2022 in Inglewood, California. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

    Odell Beckham Jr. #3 of the Los Angeles Rams catches the ball in the second quarter of the game against the Cincinnati Bengals during Super Bowl LVI at SoFi Stadium on February 13, 2022 in Inglewood, California. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

    Health is the biggest question for Beckham coming out of the Super Bowl. He appeared to be on his way to making a major impact in the game before appearing to injure his knee or leg in a non-contact injury. Those are always scary, but the fact that Beckham stood on the sidelines for the rest of the game was possibly a good sign. We’ll see how much teams are willing to commit to Beckham in terms of years, but he’s clearly still a dynamic receiver when healthy.

  • 16. DE Emmanuel Ogbah

    Emmanuel Ogbah #91 of the Miami Dolphins reacts after defeating the at Caesars Superdome on December 27, 2021 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

    Emmanuel Ogbah #91 of the Miami Dolphins reacts after defeating the at Caesars Superdome on December 27, 2021 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

    The 32nd overall pick in the 2016 draft, Ogbah has been slower than expected to ascend. The Browns moved on from him after three seasons and he lasted just one year in Kansas City, but Ogbah seemed to finally put it together under Brian Flores in Miami. He’s made nine sacks in each of the past two years, and in 2021 he batted down a mind-blowing 12 (!) passes at the line. Still just 28 years old, Ogbah may have shown enough to get a surprisingly big contract.

  • 17. WR JuJu Smith-Schuster

    Wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster #19 of the Pittsburgh Steelers runs with the ball against the Las Vegas Raiders in the first half of the game at Heinz Field on September 19, 2021 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

    Wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster #19 of the Pittsburgh Steelers runs with the ball against the Las Vegas Raiders in the first half of the game at Heinz Field on September 19, 2021 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

    Since a 111-catch season for Smith-Schuster in 2018, the emergence of Chase Claypool and Diontae Johnson has pushed him down the pecking order in Pittsburgh. That, and he played only five games in 2021. So he won’t get a big contract, but if he can stay healthy, he could deliver great value for a team in need of a dynamic inside receiver.

  • 18. WR D.J. Chark

    D.J. Chark #17 of the Jacksonville Jaguars makes a reception for a touchdown during the game against the Arizona Cardinals at TIAA Bank Field on September 26, 2021 in Jacksonville, Florida. (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)

    D.J. Chark #17 of the Jacksonville Jaguars makes a reception for a touchdown during the game against the Arizona Cardinals at TIAA Bank Field on September 26, 2021 in Jacksonville, Florida. (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)

    It would make sense for the Jaguars to retain Chark, but it would make even more sense for the receiver to explore the open market first. A broken ankle limited Chark to just four games in 2021, so teams may have pause on how much they’re willing to commit financially. But he’s only two seasons removed from a 1,000-yard season and should be a productive outside receiver in the right situation with good health. Someone will take the plunge on him, with the potential for good value.

  • 19. S Marcus Maye

    Oct 24, 2021; Foxborough, Massachusetts, USA; New York Jets free safety Marcus Maye (20) tackles New England Patriots running back Damien Harris (37) during the first half at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports

    Oct 24, 2021; Foxborough, Massachusetts, USA; New York Jets free safety Marcus Maye (20) tackles New England Patriots running back Damien Harris (37) during the first half at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports

    Maye finally has a chance to escape the Jets, but he’s coming off a season in which he played only six games before suffering a torn Achilles. The injury almost certainly crushed his earning potential in this particular off-season, but if Maye can prove he’s close to the same level he played at before his Achilles injury, he’ll at least be able to parlay a one-year deal into something more lucrative in 2023. Assuming he stays on the field, he’ll make a good mercenary.

  • 20. LB Dont’a Hightower

    BUFFALO, NEW YORK - JANUARY 15: Cole Beasley #11 of the Buffalo Bills runs the ball against Dont'a Hightower #54 of the New England Patriots during the third quarter in the AFC Wild Card playoff game at Highmark Stadium on January 15, 2022 in Buffalo, New York. (Photo by Bryan M. Bennett/Getty Images)

    BUFFALO, NEW YORK – JANUARY 15: Cole Beasley #11 of the Buffalo Bills runs the ball against Dont’a Hightower #54 of the New England Patriots during the third quarter in the AFC Wild Card playoff game at Highmark Stadium on January 15, 2022 in Buffalo, New York. (Photo by Bryan M. Bennett/Getty Images)

    There’s a chance that the three-time Super Bowl champion and former second team All-Pro has more left in the tank than he showed late in 2021. It’s hard to play like your normal self after taking a whole season off, which Hightower did in 2020. But do the Patriots feel it’s time to move on? Wherever Hightower ends up, it’s likely on a one-year deal, but he does plan on playing. Teams in need of veteran depth at inside linebacker could get great value out of him.