The 2022 NFL free agency will be remembered more for the absurd trade action than the actual contracts that free agents signed to start the league year. Blockbuster trades produced new starting quarterbacks for four different teams.
As if Russell Wilson to Denver wasn't splashy enough, Deshaun Watson to Cleveland featured a fully guaranteed $230 million contract that shook the market at its core. Just when we thought Green Bay might trade Aaron Rodgers, the Packers instead dealt the game's best receiver, Davante Adams, to Las Vegas. That surfaced just five days after another high-end receiver, Amari Cooper, was shipped from Dallas to Cleveland. Khalil Mack to the Chargers is almost an afterthought now. That's how frantic the pace has been.
Free agency is simply trying to keep up. At least the past week taught us a ton about roster strategy for 32 teams. Buffalo got its premier pass-rusher in Von Miller, perhaps the missing player for a Super Bowl run. Jacksonville spent a quarter of a billion dollars just to look presentable on Sundays. The Jets put their ample cap space to good use with offensive line and tight end help. The Dolphins did the same with money spread across several positions. Free-agent quarterbacks Jameis Winston, Marcus Mariota and Mitch Trubisky found offenses in which they can make an impact. And the Bengals doubled down on the aggressive spending that helped propel them to the Super Bowl last season.
Overall, execs and agents felt the spending was slower this time around, as teams were still adjusting to the post-COVID-19 reality that they had borrowed too much cap space from future years to get through the pandemic, thus staying frugal. But billions were exchanged, and just as many notes were gathered as I worked the phones over the past week. Let's share some of them. Here is a free-agency nugget on each of the 32 NFL teams.
Buffalo secured outside linebacker Von Miller with an offer that was hard for other suitors to top, paying the elite pass-rusher $53 million over the next three years and $120 million over the next six. But Miller, agent Joby Branion, family and associates went through a lengthy checklist on prospective teams before he signed with Buffalo, and a few interesting themes emerged.
Buffalo managed to produce a top-ranked defense despite one missing ingredient: a dominant rusher off the edge. That was intriguing. Also, the fact quarterback Josh Allen is 25 years old and under contract for the next seven years in Buffalo was appealing. Remember, Miller signed a contract extension in Denver as Peyton Manning was on his way out. Miller never got back to the playoffs until the Rams traded for him. That wore on him.
Bills fans are intense, which Miller loved, with the pageantry reminding him of College Station from his Texas A&M days. Plus, the Bills really wanted this to happen and weren't going to lose out on him again. Miller got the impression during the process that the Bills had tried to trade for him in the past, possibly during last year's trade deadline as the Rams acquired him. When Miller became a free agent, Buffalo quietly applied a full-court press, knowing Los Angeles would be aggressive in trying to re-sign him.