Here are the best remaining 2022 NFL free agents

Here are the best remaining NFL free agents originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington

The first week of the 2022 NFL free agency period has seen some massive fireworks.

J.C. Jackson left the New England Patriots for a five-year, $82.5 million deal with the Los Angeles Chargers. Von Miller took his talents cross-country, going from the Super Bowl champion Los Angeles Rams to the Buffalo Bills on a six-year, $120 million pact. And speaking of the Rams, they poached Allen Robinson away from the Chicago Bears on a three-year, $45 million contract to pair with Cooper Kupp at wideout.

Chandler Jones (Las Vegas Raiders), Haason Reddick (Philadelphia Eagles), Brandon Scherff (Jacksonville Jaguars), Marcus Williams (Baltimore Ravens) and Randy Gregory (Denver Broncos) also found new homes, while Carlton Davis (Tampa Bay Buccaneers), De’Vondre Campbell (Green Bay Packers) and Quandre Diggs (Seattle Seahawks) re-signed with their respective teams.

But even with all of that talent coming off the board, there remain several big-name free agents on the open market.

Here’s a look at some of the best players who are still unsigned.

Terron Armstead, OT, New Orleans Saints

Armstead entered free agency as the top left tackle and arguably the best overall free agent. A third-round pick of the Saints in 2013, Armstead made three consecutive Pro Bowls from 2018-2020. But he has struggled to stay on the field throughout his career. Armstead, 30, has played in 10 or fewer games in four of the past six seasons, and he’s never played a full NFL season. He was limited to just eight games last season.

Odell Beckham Jr., WR, Los Angeles Rams

After a dramatic midseason exit from the Cleveland Browns, Beckham Jr. played a key role in the Rams’ Super Bowl LVI run. In eight regular-season games with Los Angeles, the three-time Pro Bowler hauled in 27 catches for 305 yards and five touchdowns. Then, in the postseason, Beckham Jr. caught 21 passes for 288 yards and two touchdowns across four games, which included a score in the Super Bowl.

Unfortunately, Beckham Jr., 29, went down with a torn ACL during the Rams’ Super Bowl triumph over the Cincinnati Bengals, which will certainly have some effect on his market. With Allen Robinson now in the fold, a return to L.A. for OBJ seems less likely, though the Rams reportedly still hope to retain him.

Antonio Brown, WR

If we’re just talking about talent, Brown is certainly one of the best available players. The 33-year-old wideout tallied 42 receptions for 545 yards and four touchdowns in just seven games last season.

But he was limited to seven games due to being suspended for misrepresenting his COVID-19 vaccination status and being released for quitting on the Bucs mid-game at MetLife Stadium, in addition to an ankle injury. Brown claimed his infamous outburst against the New York Jets was due to the Bucs wanting him to play through the ankle injury, while head coach Bruce Arians said it was over a lack of targets.

Brown clearly can still play at a high level, but will any team take a chance on him? For what it’s worth, the wideout does seem interested in joining forces with Deshaun Watson in Cleveland.

Jadeveon Clowney, EDGE, Cleveland Browns

Clowney enjoyed a nice bounce-back season with the Browns in 2021. The three-time Pro Bowler tallied nine sacks, 11 tackles for loss and 32 quarterback pressures in 14 games. It was by far his best season since 2018 with the Houston Texans. With Chandler Jones, Von Miller and Haason Reddick already signed, the 29-year-old Clowney is now the top available edge rusher, and the Browns reportedly are trying to retain him.

Leonard Fournette, RB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Like Armstead, Fournette is the top player at his position in this free-agent class. In 14 games last season, the former first-round pick rushed 180 times for 812 yards (4.5 yards per carry) and eight touchdowns. He added 69 catches for 454 yards and two scores, which was one of the better receiving seasons of his five-year career.

The Bucs have been bringing the band back together with the signings of Chris Godwin, Ryan Jensen and Carlton Davis, in addition to the unretirement of Tom Brady. Will they follow suit by re-signing the 27-year-old Fournette?

Stephon Gilmore, CB, Carolina Panthers

Gilmore has seen fellow cornerbacks J.C. Jackson and Carlton Davis each secure multi-year deals with an average annual value of at least $15 million this free agency period. Davis and Jackson are entering their age-26 and -27 seasons respectively, while Gilmore is set to turn 32 in September.

Gilmore began his first season with the Carolina Panthers on the PUP list due to a quad injury he sustained the previous season and would go on to appear in eight games. The 2019 Defensive Player of the Year still managed to make his fifth-career Pro Bowl despite playing in less than half of Carolina’s contests, recording two interceptions and 159 yards allowed.

Rob Gronkowski, TE, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Even at age 32, Gronkowski continued to produce like one of the game’s top tight ends. Gronk posted the seventh-most receiving yards (802) among tight ends while appearing in 12 games last season. That 12-game output put him on pace for a 1,100-yard-plus season. Gronkowski has never played an NFL season without Tom Brady as his quarterback and that appears likely to remain the case in 2022.

Akiem Hicks, DT, Chicago Bears

Hicks has struggled with injuries in recent seasons, missing 11 games in 2019 and another eight last season. But when he’s been on the field, Hicks has been a difference-maker along the defensive line. In nine games last season, he had 3.5 sacks, five tackles for loss and 11 quarterback pressures. The one-time Pro Bowler has been with the Bears since 2016 and is entering his age-33 season.

Tyrann Mathieu, S, Kansas City Chiefs

Mathieu was a stud in his three seasons with the Kansas City Chiefs. The versatile safety made three Pro Bowls, received two First Team All-Pro nods and helped the Chiefs win a Super Bowl. Despite all of that, Kansas City decided to go in a different and younger direction at the position by signing 25-year-old Justin Reid from the Texans to a three-year, $31.5 million deal.

Mathieu turns 30 in May but he’s still right up there with the league’s best safeties, coming off a season where he tallied three interceptions and 76 total tackles. The Honey Badger has also proven to be extremely durable, playing full seasons from 2017-19 and missing a combined two games over the last two years.

Bobby Wagner, LB

On the same day they traded Russell Wilson to the Broncos, the Seahawks released another face of the franchise in Wagner. A second-round pick of Seattle in 2012, Wagner has made eight Pro Bowls, six All-Pro First Teams, the All-2010s Team and won a Super Bowl.

In addition to all of his accolades, the 31-year-old linebacker has also been an iron man throughout his 10-year career, appearing in at least 15 games eight times and 16 games five times. The two-time NFL tackles champion was third in the category last year with 170 total. With another season like that, Wagner will crack the top 10 of the all-time total tackles list.

Jameis Winston, QB, New Orleans Saints

Winston’s potential market is coming more into focus following the Browns’ acquisition of Deshaun Watson. The Panthers, Seahawks, Indianapolis Colts and New Orleans Saints still need a quarterback. There remain two more signal callers on the trade market who are probably more appealing options than Winston in Baker Mayfield and Jimmy Garoppolo. But among the free-agent options, Winston is the top available player ahead of fellow 2015 draft class member Marcus Mariota.

After losing out on landing Watson, re-signing Winston reportedly is back in play for the Saints. New Orleans went 5-2 with Winston under center in 2021 and 4-6 after he suffered a season-ending torn ACL. Winston, 27, threw for 1,170 yards, 14 touchdowns and just three interceptions prior to the injury.

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