The NFL's negotiating window for free agents opens Monday, and the post-pandemic rebound of the salary cap to a record $208.2 million is good news for those hitting the market.
Even after franchise tags took eight players out of play, and long-term deals removed some others, there are plenty of big names available, from quarterbacks Cam Newton, Jameis Winston and Teddy Bridgewater to James Conner, Leonard Fournette, Odell Beckham Jr., Allen Robinson, T.Y. Hilton, Rob Gronkowski, Zach Ertz, Chandler Jones, Von Miller, Jadeveon Clowney, Calais Campbell, Stephon Gilmore and Tyrann Mathieu, among many others.
Here's a look at a few of the less-heralded pending unrestricted free agents who might end up getting more money than you think:
The No. 2 overall pick by Chicago in 2017 took a year to reset as the backup in Buffalo -- and he now figures to have a strong chance to start again in 2022. Whatever the perception might be, Trubisky is a one-time Pro Bowl selection who was 29-21 (!) in parts of four seasons as the starter on a Bears team that lost before he took over and lost again after he left. Statistically in Years 2-4, Trubisky compares favorably to the likes of Peyton Manning, Ben Roethlisberger and Philip Rivers at that point in their careers. He's a good athlete with running ability. He's a leader. With so many lingering QB questions, somebody will bet on Trubisky's upside to at least come in and compete. It wouldn't be a surprise if he commands around $10 million plus incentives on a one-year deal.
With the Packers' Davante Adams (franchise tag), the Bucs' Chris Godwin (tag) and the Chargers' Mike Williams (three years, $60 million) off the board, and with Michael Gallup likely to join them soon on a new deal with the Cowboys, other receivers should benefit. In four seasons with the Cardinals, Kirk already has 236 career catches -- including 77 for 982 yards and five touchdowns in 2021 -- despite sharing targets with the likes of DeAndre Hopkins, Larry Fitzgerald and A.J. Green. If Arizona doesn't keep him off the market, it wouldn't be a shock to see Kirk get $15 million or more per year. Valdes-Scantling has averaged just over 30 catches over four seasons in Green Bay's Adams-heavy offense. But "MVS" also has the kind of rare combination of size (6-foot-4, 206 pounds) and speed (he ran a 4.37-second 40-yard dash at the 2018 NFL Scouting Combine) that usually gets paid. His deal could end up well north of $10 million a year.
Top big men always seem to get bigger deals than expected, and these two should be no exception. Fatukasi (listed at 6-4, 318) became a full-time starter last season and had a career-high 46 tackles (25 solo). Ogunjobi (6-4, 305) signed a one-year deal with the Bengals, had 16 QB hits and emerged as a key piece in Cincinnati's march to Super Bowl LVI. It wouldn't be a surprise if both command upwards of $10 million a year.
A sixth-round pick out of Yale in 2018, Oluokun emerged as a full-time starter in Year 3 and has been highly productive, posting career highs in tackles (192) and interceptions (three) last season. He also wears the green dot as the defensive signal-caller and is a team leader. The Falcons want to keep him, but it'll be pricey -- most likely costing upwards of $10 million a year.
The Bears got a bargain last October, acquiring Grant from the Dolphins for a 2023 sixth-round draft pick. He scored a 97-yard touchdown on a punt return against the Packers on the way to his second consecutive second-team All-Pro nod as a return man. A new deal could yield over $5 million a year, which would make Grant the NFL's highest-paid pure return specialist.