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The Brandt Report

2022 NFL free agency: Team fits for 10 notable free agents

Last week, I identified one free agent each team should attempt to keep. This week, I wanted to find one team fit for 10 notable free agents.

Before we dive in: I tried to stay away from those free agents who seem especially likely to be tagged, which means you won't find some of the premier talent theoretically headed for the market, like Davante Adams. That is also why this list includes notable free agents, not necessarily the 10 best. And to keep things fresh, I refrained from discussing players whom I argued last week should be retained by their current teams. That's not to say the players below can't be tagged or re-signed, but they do have, as I see it, plausible pathways to new homes next season.

Here are team fits for 10 notable free agents:

With Cincinnati coming off a Super Bowl appearance in which Joe Burrow took six second-half sacks, we can count on the Bengals to be paired with practically any available linemen in articles like this. I would even expect them to explore multiple additions up front, including perhaps a marquee talent at a tackle spot. But in terms of boosting the inside, I like the idea of signing the 27-year-old Cappa, who should be sought-after if the Bucs don't end up re-signing him. Cappa's offensive grade from Pro Football Focus last season (18th among guards) puts him in the same neighborhood as buzzed-about free agent Brandon Scherff (13th), who is three years older and has not played a full season's worth of games since 2016, and well above Bengals guards Quinton Spain (43rd, also a free agent), Jackson Carman (67th) and Hakeem Adeniji (81st).

Miami has not had great luck with running back acquisitions during the Tua Tagovailoa era -- or with running the ball, period. No Dolphins player's been able to reach 700 rushing yards or five rushing TDs in either of the two seasons since Tagovailoa was drafted. There will be plenty of running backs on the market, but Conner is appealing for his versatility (he's logged at least 35 catches per year and 83 scrimmage yards per game over the past four seasons) and youth (26 years old). If the Cardinals allow him to walk, he could establish himself as a core element of the offense that new coach Mike McDaniel is assembling around Tagovailoa.

The Jaguars are loaded with projected cap space and, as ever, roster needs. Kirk has yet to crack the 1,000-yard mark after four NFL seasons, but with stud DeAndre Hopkins limited to 10 games in 2021, he led the Cardinals with 77 catches and 982 receiving yards. Perhaps especially relevant for developing QB Trevor Lawrence is the fact that Kirk ranked second in catch rate over expectation (9.4%) among all NFL players with at least 100 targets last season; Marvin Jones (5.1%) and Laquon Treadwell (4.6%) were the only two Jaguars players with four-plus targets to earn positive marks in that category. The team would have to figure out how to incorporate Kirk, who thrived in the slot last season, into an offense that already features Laviska Shenault in that role. But splitting targets among multiple talented pass-catchers would be a good problem to have in Jacksonville.

Clowney is now in a much different place, career-wise, than he was after the 2019 season, when he spurned efforts by Seattle, which had acquired him via trade, to retain him in free agency. After a down 2020 in Tennessee, a rejuvenated Clowney piled up nine sacks for the Browns, which would have made him the single-season leader on a Seahawks team that finished tied for 22nd in sacks last season. There is some risk in committing to the 29-year-old, who undoubtedly benefited from the presence of Myles Garrett in Cleveland and hasn't played a full season since 2017. And there will likely be competition, not least from the Browns, who would surely like to keep Clowney around. Finally, there is the potential awkwardness around the end of Clowney's time in Seattle. But there should also be a definite urgency to upgrade the talent base around Russell Wilson, which makes it easy to imagine Clowney returning to the Pacific Northwest.

The Eagles managed to finish 10th in defense and 11th against the pass despite being one of nine teams last season that did not have any individual player log at least eight sacks. Imagine where they could go with someone like Reddick, who has really broken out while playing on consecutive contract years with Arizona and Carolina over the past two seasons. The 27-year-old is one of just five players to post 20-plus total sacks and at least 10 sacks per year from 2020 to '21, joining Myles Garrett, Trey Hendrickson, T.J. Watt and Aaron Donald. Getting the chance to return to Philly should only serve as icing on the cake for the Temple product.

As I wrote last week, the Chargers must do everything they can to support Justin Herbert. Schultz is coming off a career year, and while the Cowboys might tag him, he's not an absolute lock to return, with pass-rusher Randy Gregory also heading for the market and Dallas facing a tricky cap situation. Schultz sure could make life easier for Herbert as a replacement for veteran free agent Jared Cook. Last season, Schultz bested Cook in receiving yards (808 to 564), receiving TDs (eight to four), passer rating when targeted (118.6 to 74.6) and catch rate over expectation (+3.7% to -4.9%, per Next Gen Stats). He was also a bit more surehanded, credited by PFF with just three drops, as opposed to Cook's seven, which were the most in the NFL by a tight end.

Robinson is coming off an injury-marred season in Chicago, but he could be the perfect veteran partner to help take some of the burden off Terry McLaurin. Robinson's receiving total over the past three years (2,807) is almost twice what the No. 2 pass-catcher (in terms of yardage) managed in Washington in that span. Provided the 28-year-old Robinson is fully healthy, he'd bring instant credibility and balance to a passing game that has pretty much been carried solely by McLaurin since 2019. 

Let's say the Browns don't bring in a flashier QB option and end up standing pat with Baker Mayfield. Let's also say Mariota, who spent the past two seasons behind Derek Carr in Las Vegas, is left seeking backup duty once more as the QB carousel begins to slow down. This fit, which was posited by The Athletic's Zac Jackson back in November, could suit the needs of both Mariota and the Browns perfectly. Mariota would put some competitive pressure on Mayfield while, at worst, serving as a fleet-footed backup with the potential to elevate the run-oriented offense if given the chance. And it's not hard at all to see a situation in which Mariota displaces Mayfield to re-establish himself as a QB1 in the NFL. 

The Colts' defense finished a decent 16th overall in 2021, but the pass rush was sorely lacking; Indianapolis tied for 25th in sacks (33) and 24th in pressures (157). As great as DeForest Buckner is, it's not ideal when an interior lineman with seven sacks leads your team in that category. Ogbah, who's spent the past two seasons in Miami, finished with the 14th-most pressures (54) in the NFL in 2021, per Next Gen Stats, and his 18 sacks over the past two seasons are tied for 10th-most in the league (matching pass-rushing studs like Joey Bosa, Brian Burns and Yannick Ngakoue). 

In 2021, opposing offenses went after Reed, who had logged 10 career starts in his three previous seasons -- according to Next Gen Stats, Reed was targeted 83 times, the most of any Seahawks defender by far. But he stood up to the scrutiny, allowing a catch rate over expectation of -11.9 percent, better than any player to log 80-plus targets last season, while holding QBs to a passer rating of 69.1 when targeted, fifth-best in that group. Cornerback has been a need for the Vikings for a while. If Reed isn't brought back to Seattle and the Vikings can navigate their tough cap situation, they should jump at the chance to add the 25-year-old.

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