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Friday, May 27, 2022

9 bold predictions as the action is set to begin

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The NFL year 2022 is just days away from beginning.

Monday marks the opening of the “legal manipulation window,” in which NFL teams and free-agent player representatives can negotiate new deals. Then on Wednesday afternoon those players can sign contracts.

If last week is any indication, free agency is shaping up to feature a lot of back-and-forth intrigue and record-setting contracts.

Here are nine predictions for how things will play out during this start of the league year and free agency.

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more trades to come

Last week, Russell Wilson and Carson Wentz were given fresh starts via trade, and then Khalil Mack was shipped from Chicago to Los Angeles, followed by Amari Cooper from Dallas to Cleveland. Look for more changes and deals in the league next week. Obviously, a trade for Deshaun Watson should follow, and another quarterback, Jimmy Garoppolo, could also be traded shortly. But it’s not just passers-by who could be changing direction. The way teams operate is changing, and teams are finding more creative ways to manipulate the cap, so it’s not that hard to deal with dead money in some cases.

Brandon Scherff charges

After back-to-back seasons with the franchise tag in Washington, the former No. 5 overall pick (2015) is expected to draw a lot of attention on the open market and make a lot of money, likely at the level of five-year-olds. , $80 million deal the Kansas City Chiefs gave offensive guard Joe Thuney last year. The Cincinnati Bengals and New York Jets are among the teams expected to go after Scherff.

Lots of money for Charvarius Ward

A year after signing a one-year, $3.38 million deal to return to the Kansas City Chiefs, Ward is expected to capitalize on a growth season in a big way. The 25-year-old cornerback is expected to have many suitors, including the Chicago Bears, whose general manager Ryan Poles previously served as the Chiefs’ director of player personnel. Ward could end up landing a deal that could pay him around $19 million per year, some league insiders predict.

Chargers aggressive approach

Los Angeles made a big splash last week by trading for Mack. Now, look for the Chargers to continue to charge into free agency as they try to close the gap between them and the Chiefs. Defense is expected to be among LA’s top priorities, with one of its top targets expected to be cornerback JC Jackson, who recorded 44 tackles, eight interceptions and 23 interrupted passes last season for the New England Patriots. They could also look at Bobby Wagner, whom the Seahawks just released to save money against the salary cap.

Los Angeles Rams outside linebacker Von Miller (40) celebrates after their win against the Cincinnati Bengals in Super Bowl 56 on Sunday, February 13, 2022 in Inglewood, CA.

Outings for the Rams

The newly crowned Super Bowl champions have 19 players on expiring contracts, including linebacker Von Miller, cornerback Darious Williams, running back Sony Michel, guard Austin Corbett and wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. However, the Rams They don’t seem to be big spenders. in free agency because they’re in poor shape against the salary cap. Finding money to give Aaron Donald another massive contract instead means controlling most of the Rams’ energies and resources. As a result, some within the league are predicting an exodus of some of the most recognizable faces, including Miller, who some believe is seeking a contract that will pay him approximately $16 million per year.

Burrow Protection

Joe Burrow had a breakout year in 2021 when he returned from season-ending knee surgery as a rookie to lead Cincinnati to the Super Bowl. However, he was still sacked a league-high 51 times during the regular season and an additional 19 times in the postseason. The Bengals know they have to do better to protect their franchise quarterback, and now they’re expected to invest in their offensive line this free agency. Scherff, Terron Armstead and Laken Tomlinson could draw interest from Cincinnati.

Busy shopping for the Jets

The pressure is on in New York as general manager Joe Douglas enters his fourth season. The Jets know they need to beef up Zach Wilson’s offensive line and give him more weapons as well. The Jets also need defensive playmakers.

Robust paydays are coming for recipients

With Mike Williams signing a three-year extension that will pay him $20 million per year, and Davante Adams and Chris Godwin set to earn roughly $20 million a year in franchise tags from Green Bay and Tampa, respectively, wide receivers are lining up to be handsomely compensated. Allen Robinson and JuJu Smith-Schuster could be among the next.

Another push from the Bucs

Tom Brady’s investment in retirement quickly turned things around for Tampa Bay. There were rumors that the Bucs could join Watson’s draft, but now they have their quarterback situation resolved and Super Bowl aspirations renewed. However, there is work to be done. Chris Godwin is set to return on the franchise tag, but veterans Jason Pierre-Paul, Ndamukong Suh, Rob Gronkowski, Leonard Fournette and others are set to hit free agency. They will now likely spend the next two days maneuvering to create enough room to reload for one more push to a Super Bowl.

Follow USA TODAY Sports’ Mike Jones on Twitter @ByMikeJones.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: NFL Free Agency: 9 Bold Predictions as Teams Prepare to Spend

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