Monday, April 15, 2024

2022 Fantasy Football: Previewing this spring’s free agents and other players who might get cut or traded

The 2022 NFL season kicks off on September 8, but the offseason officially begins on March 16. That’s when players can sign contracts with new teams if they’re free agents, or when players can change teams via trade. We’ll hear about plenty of players being on the move, especially some high-profile quarterbacks, anytime between now and then.

A number of players are set to go into free agency with only a select few figured to fetch a franchise tag. Many other players who aren’t scheduled to be free agents might get cut based on the size of their contracts. With a handful of teams expected to be in some salary cap trouble, count on seeing players who aren’t worth the value of their deals finding their way into free agency.

Why should Fantasy managers care? Simply put, the majority of people who play Fantasy Football don’t bother keeping up with offseason moves. They’re the ones who draft players too early because they see names they know and instinctively take them. Or worse, they’re the ones who don’t bother to prepare and end up taking a guy without knowing how the offseason impacted them. New quarterback? New teammate? New team?! If they don’t bother to care, you shouldn’t feel bad beating them.

Moving to the long-term formats, there are plenty of Dynasty/keeper league managers who pay attention to player movement all year long. Those who know which veterans might find themselves in a worse situation are the ones who win offseason trades.

To help everyone stay on top of things, check out our list of free-agents-to-be and potential salary-cap casualties. They’ll be updated daily throughout the offseason (peep the date at the top of the page) to help guide you through what figures to be a fun and busy spring.

One final word of caution: Some teams don’t mind players with expensive price tags, and some teams prefer to keep their free agents. Just because a player is listed below doesn’t mean they’re for-sure changing teams.

And finally, the number next to every player’s name is their age as of the start of the 2022 season (September 8). 


Free agents

Jameis Winston, 28

Ryan Fitzpatrick, 40

Cam Newton, 33

Mitchell Trubisky, 28

Teddy Bridgewater, 30

Others: Mike White, 27 (restricted); Andy Dalton, 35; Marcus Mariota, 29; Trevor Siemian, 31; Nick Mullens, 27

Potential trade candidates

Aaron Rodgers

GB • QB • 12






If you’ve paid attention, you already know Rodgers has been outspoken on the state of the Packers front office. You also know he played lights-out football for the second year in a row. He’ll be 38 years old when the season starts, but that wouldn’t keep a quarterback-starved team like Denver or Pittsburgh from ponying up a bunch of draft picks for him. That’s IF the Packers are willing to move him, or IF he still wishes to leave Green Bay.

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Deshaun Watson

HOU • QB • 4






Watson is still embattled in a number of court cases alleging some disturbing behavior. It’s those cases that kept him from playing or getting traded last season. If and when that’s settled, he’s a virtual lock to get dealt from Houston, and many teams already considered acquiring him at last trade deadline. Despite the off-field concerns, the Texans figure to fetch a hefty haul of picks and players in trade for Watson, which is quite likely why he hasn’t been released yet. Watson turns 27 just after the start of the 2022 season.

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Russell Wilson

SEA • QB • 3






Wilson and the Seahawks aren’t entirely on the rocks, but there has been speculation about his future in Seattle. He’s coming off a “down” year, posting at least four-year lows in completion rate (64.8%), touchdowns (25) and passing yards (3,113) over 14 games. Other teams wouldn’t care about his 2021 production because his upside is still fantastic. He turns 34 in November, so there are still plenty of good years left. That means teams would certainly give up a bunch for the seven-time Pro Bowler.

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Jimmy Garoppolo

SF • QB • 10






Garoppolo might actually be the best bargain of all the trade targets. He’s 30, he’s 33-14 in his career as a starter, he has legit playoff game experience including playing in a Super Bowl, he seems intelligent enough to learn a new offense and he’s been pretty dang accurate over the past three seasons. He also wouldn’t cost in much in a trade as other quarterbacks this offseason, plus his contract is palatable. And the Niners might be especially excited to deal him — a trade would take $25.6 million off their salary cap for 2022 AND they’d get a good draft pick or two for him.

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Others who could be traded: Carson Wentz, 29; Derek Carr, 31; Gardner Minshew, 26

Running backs

Free agents

Leonard Fournette

TB • RB • 7

Fournette is coming off a smash year where he finished top-7 among running backs in overall Fantasy points, PPR Fantasy points per game and 15-PPR-point consistency rate (57%). All options are on the table for the Bucs, but since Fournette bought back into being a tough, disciplined player, he’s been everything Tampa Bay has needed at running back and still has some theoretical tread left on the tire. If he stays in Tampa at age 27 and the Bucs don’t spend any major capital at running back, he has a shot to serve as a No. 1 RB again in 2022.

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James Conner

ARI • RB • 6

Would you believe Conner averaged more touches per game in 2021 (15.9) than he did in 2020 (15.7) and 2019 (15.0)? It wasn’t until late December when Conner started to succumb to nagging injuries. Will another team have faith in him as a lead running back? Or could he wind up back in Arizona as a “1A” back with Edmonds or another guy (Edmonds is a free agent too) as a “1B”? Either way, the odds of him recording another 18 touchdowns seems unlikely.

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Rashaad Penny

SEA • RB • 20

Penny is interesting. He will enter the 2022 season at age 26 and with only 280 career carries. Though he flashed sparingly in previous seasons, his finish over his final five games in 2021 (692 total yards, six touchdowns) was impressive. A team could genuinely view him as a lead guy in a well-built committee with the hope he can string together a bunch of games without getting hurt. Fantasy managers may take to Penny depending on where he lands, especially if taking the running back directly behind him on the depth chart is not only good, but cheap on Draft Day.

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Chase Edmonds

ARI • RB • 2

Edmonds had just four games with 10-plus carries before getting a chance to work as an every-down guy for two weeks without James Conner. In 10 games in tandem with Conner he averaged north of 11 touches and 80 total yards but scored just one time. He also missed some time with an ankle sprain. The worry is that Edmonds will always be a complementary back and never a true workhorse, which is certain to be the case if he stays in the desert.

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Sony Michel, 27: Michel had a great year picking up starts for the Rams, but he’s unlikely to find a meaningful starting role in free agency. He figures to be a late-round value pick again in 2022.

Melvin Gordon, 29: Not many people will be happy to draft Gordon in Fantasy next year. He figures to be a 29-year-old committee back — good enough to help a team’s rushing presence, but not good enough to register as anything more than a low-end No. 2 running back.

Cordarrelle Patterson, 31: The ninth-year breakout broke down as the season ended. Maybe the Falcons bring him back to help provide depth at running back and receiver, but it’s difficult to buy into him having anywhere near as good of a year as he just had.

Other free agents: Darrel Williams, 27; D’Onta Foreman, 26; Jordan Howard, 28; James White, 30; Ronald Jones, 25; Devonta Freeman, 30

Potential players on the move

Saquon Barkley

NYG • RB • 26

A new regime in New York may not see Barkley as a great player and could move on from him either via trade or release. The Giants actually save $7.2 million in cap space if they trade him but would eat that much in cap space if they cut him. Either way, Barkley’s upcoming age-25 season is his last under his current contract.

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Kareem Hunt

CLE • RB • 27

Might Hunt’s disappointing 2022 put him on the chopping block in Cleveland? The Browns would save $6.25 million on the cap with no dead money if he’s traded or cut, and D’Ernest Johnson looked pretty good every chance he had. The Browns are good on cap space as of now, so there’s no dire need to make a change here, but it’s a possibility if the Browns want to move on from the 27-year-old.

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Others potentially on the move: Tarik Cohen, 27 (saves $2.5M if cut); Mike Davis, 29 (saves $2.5M if cut); Mark Ingram, 32 (saves $2.3M if cut).

Wide receivers

Free agents

Davante Adams

GB • WR • 17



REC YDs1553



The 30-year-old would remain a reliable first-round stud if he keeps catching passes from Aaron Rodgers. But if it’s Jordan Love or someone else who isn’t a true slinger, then his value will slide. The Packers figure to use their franchise tag on Adams.

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Chris Godwin

TB • WR • 14



REC YDs1103



He would have been franchise tagged if not for suffering a torn ACL in December — and he still might get the tag this spring. Godwin has proven to be a reliable receiver and will only be 26 years young when the season starts. He figures to be a high-target receiver no matter what offense he plays in.

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Odell Beckham Jr.

LAR • WR • 3



REC YDs537



Beckham deserves credit for playing 16 games and re-establishing himself as a touchdown threat (five in his final seven in the regular season). We may all agree that his days as a Fantasy phenom are done, but the 30-year-old might make us believe in him as a startable option depending on who his quarterback is.

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Mike Williams, 28: Will we see the 28-year-old build on his career-bests, or is Williams the next receiver who played big in a contract year only to flounder the following season? Fantasy managers will probably believe the latter.

JuJu Smith-Schuster, 26: Returning three months early from a major shoulder injury was encouraging, but Smith-Schuster definitely didn’t look crisp in the Steelers‘ playoff loss. Will he ever be back in position to reel in 120-plus targets?

Allen Robinson, 29: Was Robinson a victim of circumstance in 2021, or has he turned into an unexplosive possession receiver? The market for his services will speak to just how many around the league view him.

Other free agents: Christian Kirk, 26; D.J. Chark, 26; Allen Lazard, 27 (restricted); Marquez Valdes-Scantling, 28; Will Fuller, 28; Michael Gallup, 26; Jakobi Meyers, 26 (restricted)

Potential players on the move

Michael Thomas

NO • WR • 13






Was his ankle problem enough to create a permanent break-up between him and Sean Payton? Or might his contract be too bloated for the Saints to hold on to him? New Orleans saves nearly $16 million in cap space if they cut him with a post-June 1 designation, and it’ll be even more space saved if they trade him after June 1. Thomas’ return for his age-29 season will be watched carefully by Fantasy drafters.

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Amari Cooper

DAL • WR • 19



REC YDs865



There might not be an argument for the Cowboys to let Cooper go given how he played down the stretch. However, the Cowboys would save $16 million in cap space if they cut or traded Cooper (a number that grows by $4 million if after June 1). Cooper’s just 28 years old and still has some good years left in him. Enough to make him a top-24 receiver? That wasn’t the case in 2021.

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Robert Woods

LAR • WR • 2



REC YDs556



Fantasy managers were underwhelmed by the start to Woods’ 2021 season, but it shouldn’t be forgotten that he averaged 15.5 PPR points per game in the four matchups AFTER his Week 5 eruption. Woods finished top-20 in PPR points per game and targets per game. His recovery from a torn ACL for his age-30 season will be tracked, but if he’s playing anywhere other than L.A. then it might not matter.

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Others potentially on the move: Julio Jones, 33 (saves $9.5M if post-June 1 cut, more if traded); Jarvis Landry, 29 (saves $15.1M if cut); Cole Beasley, 33 (saves $6.1M if cut)

Tight ends

Free agents

Rob Gronkowski

TB • TE • 87



REC YDs802



He’ll be 33 at the start of next season, but he’s proven to be an available, productive part of the Fantasy game in two years with the Bucs. Tampa Bay has a number of roster decisions to make, but keeping Gronkowski with Tom Brady figures to be among the easiest ones they’ll make. He finished third among tight ends in PPR points per game and fourth in targets per game.

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Zach Ertz

ARI • TE • 86



REC YDs763



Ertz was a late-round pick in 2021 Fantasy drafts because he was the second tight end in Philadelphia’s offense. Then he was traded to Arizona and averaged 11.5 PPR points per game, a number that would have placed him eighth among tight ends. Ertz, 32 for next season, proved he can still function as a usable threat in the passing game and should garner attention from win-now franchises, including Arizona.

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Mike Gesicki, 27: Gesicki landed exactly nine PPR Fantasy points in five games this year. It wouldn’t take much for him to be a better Fantasy option in 2022, but a change in quarterback is probably what would make most people comfortable to take him before Round 10.

Other free agents: Gerald Everett, 28; Jared Cook, 35; Robert Tonyan, 28; OJ Howard, 28; Evan Engram, 28

Potential players on the move

Tyler Higbee, 29: He’d save the Rams $6.25 million if designated as a post-June 1 cut

Logan Thomas, 31: He’d save Washington $4.7 million if designated as a post-June 1 cut 

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