2022 NFL Free Agency is likely going to see a record amount of money thrown around, and with players looking to cash in, teams are going to have to pick and choose which players they target the hardest this offseason.
As teams face crucial salary cap constraints that limit the types of moves they can make, looking for good players on cheap contracts is going to be the name of the game, making the following five players crucial for competing teams to target.
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5 Most Underpriced Free Agents
5. Marcus Maye
The New York Jets are facing an uphill battle in keeping their best defensive player this offseason, safety Marcus Maye.
Having just turned 28 years old, Maye still has plenty of time to cash in on a contract this offseason and line himself up for another decent-sized one in a few seasons. The Jets need some sort of identity in their defense and Maye provides that, an underrated element that the Jets would be smart to keep.
Maye is coming off a torn Achilles suffered against the Colts in November, so signing a one-year, incentive-driven deal is a safe bet for Maye to look into, especially since teams will be hesitant to throw out heavy guarantees for a player coming off of a major injury.
4. Eddie Goldman
After looking into a potential trade of him, the Chicago Bears ultimately released defensive tackle Eddie Goldman, ending his seven-year run with the team that drafted him out of Florida State back in the 2015 NFL Draft.
With new leadership taking over, Goldman was seen as expendable, and he should command a healthy list of suitors this offseason looking to bring a solid DT on. Goldman still seems to have enough left in the tank to still be a strong force in the middle of the defensive front and will not command a ton to bring him in.
3. Trenton Brown
After having put forth enough to warrant a four-year, $66 million extension back in 2019, Trenton Brown has bounced around, making two stops with the New England Patriots (including most recently) and spending two seasons with the Oakland/Las Vegas Raiders.
Hitting the free agency market should help get Brown back on his feet with a team, hopefully for the long term, even though his health has made it tough. Having played in only 25 games across the last three seasons combined, Brown certainly has fallen off a bit, but still can go out there and serve as a team’s starting right tackle for the 2022 season.
A team like the Cincinnati Bengals or Miami Dolphins would be smart to check in on Brown, especially with each of these team’s needs on the offensive line – the Bengals are well-documented in their failed attempts to keep Joe Burrow’s jersey clean, and the Dolphins desperately need an RT to help protect Tua Tagovailoa’s blindside, making Brown a great candidate for a one-year cheap deal.
2. Jameis Winston
One of the most polarizing quarterback prospects to hit the open market this offseason, Jameis Winston will likely not earn the type of suitors that he should earn after having suffered a torn ACL for the New Orleans Saints.
After playing for the Saints for the second consecutive one-year deal, Winston received $5.5 million guaranteed, a figure that he will likely try and get again, minimally, this offseason in free agency. Even with his torn ACL putting some teams who need a QB in a bind, Winston looks to be tackling rehab extremely hard this offseason and profiles as one of the best available QBs on the free agency market to go after.
Winston is likely returning to the Saints due to their limited cap availability, but be on the lookout for him to head to the Seattle Seahawks, Houston Texans (if Deshaun Watson is traded), Carolina Panthers (Sam Darnold competition), or even the Indianapolis Colts. Plenty of suitors could drive his price up, but Winston still will likely sign for less than what he should be in free agency.
The final player on this list is someone also coming off a season-ending injury and is only 25 years young – Juju Smith-Schuster is probably looking at signing an incentive-driven deal this offseason to try and recoup some lost value that he would have had had he played a full season in 2021.
His season-ending shoulder injury was just another disappointing news headline in a rollercoaster season for the Pittsburgh Steelers, and with the team not knowing what they are doing for QB in ‘22, it is likely that Smith-Schuster will be looking elsewhere.
Could a team like the Kansas City Chiefs, Green Bay Packers, Buffalo Bills, or another Super Bowl hopeful target Smith-Schuster with the hopes of making him into a reclamation project on a cheaper deal? Only one way to find out.