Only a few shopping days remain for teams scrambling to fill needs ahead of the 2022 NFL Draft.
But the cupboard isn’t bare, especially for those with the budget to sweeten the pot for some of the best available veterans on the market.
Here are the top 10 free agents still standing six weeks into the 2022 league year:
10. Julio Jones
Credentials: Two-time All-Pro, 2010s All-Decade Team
Best Fit: New England Patriots
We’re not here to suggest the old Julio Jones might return. He’s a 220-pounder who could flash as a second or third option and deliver a game-changing play on occasion. Teams that aren’t confident there is a solution in the 2022 draft could come knocking.
The light barely flickered in Tennessee with 31 catches in his only season with the Titans.
Bill Belichick has turned aging receivers into valuable pieces before, and the Patriots are a team with WR concerns.
9. DT Larry Ogunjobi
Credentials: 21.5 career sacks
Best Fit: Jacksonville Jaguars
A priority for the Chicago Bears in the 2022 free agent class, their deal with Ogunjobi didn’t stick because of a failed physical. He started 16 games last season and has been a starter for the Browns and Bengals with the skill set to play all three downs.
If the price is right, there are a dozen teams Ogunjobi can help. He turns 28 in June.
8. RB Melvin Gordon
Credentials: Two-time Pro Bowler
Best Fit: Buffalo Bills
If there’s one thing the Bills can improve on the offensive side by adding another veteran, running back depth is a consideration. With no bell-cow back, Gordon could be part of the existing rotation and relative Old Reliable in a backfield still reliant on quarterback Josh Allen to move the sticks.
7. Edge Jadeveon Clowney
Credentials: Former No. 1 overall pick, three-time Pro Bowler
Best Fit: Dallas Cowboys
Nine sacks last season showed Clowney can get to the QB when blockers are focused elsewhere — Myles Garrett — and Dallas can create pressure on the other side. The Cowboys subtracted Randy Gregory and might be able to score Clowney on a shorter deal and relative discount. But there’s also a point at which Clowney might not be an upgrade over a cheaper, healthier developmental-type prospect.
6. OT Duane Brown
Credentials: One-time All-Pro, Five-time Pro Bowler
Best Fit: Denver Broncos
Following Russell Wilson isn’t the worst plan for Brown, who fits the scheme and could play on the right side, where the Broncos don’t have a proven veteran. Or he could be called into rescue duty on the left side, where Garett Bolles was an All-Pro in 2021 but has to show it in a new scheme after a rocky four seasons prior.
5. TE Rob Gronkowski
Credentials: Four-time All-Pro, 92 career TDs
Best Fit: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Gronk is no guarantee for even half the regular season. But he’s reliable, proven as Tom Brady’s go-to in big games and undeniably carries the clutch gene TB12 wants on his side.
The questions are whether the Bucs want to invest elsewhere or wait until September to assess Gronkowski’s desire to play.
4. WR Jarvis Landry
Credentials: Five-time Pro Bowler, two 100-catch seasons
Best Fit: Indianapolis Colts
Dumped by the Browns, Landry was essentially replaced (again) when Cleveland traded for Amari Cooper. The previous regime brought in Odell Beckham to be the Batman to Landry’s Robin.
Gander at the depth chart of the Colts and even the most grandiose projections for Michael Pittman Jr. as the lead receiver for Matt Ryan don’t cover the lack of talent at the position. Landry could be a security blanket for Ryan, who also could use a true No. 1 tight end.
If not the Colts, Aaron Rodgers and the Packers wouldn’t mind having another reliable set of hands with Davante Adams gone to Vegas.
3. DT Akiem Hicks
Credentials: Size-strength combo to play multiple roles
Best Fit: Los Angeles Chargers
Hicks hogs blockers and is best in a rotation. His size and strength allow him to be used in a 3-4 or 4-3 front and a team with consistent edge rushers could get a steal considering Hicks devours single blocking against interior offensive linemen.
Reality might have set in with just seven games played last season and durability can’t be ignored, but for an almost-there defense like the Chargers, Rams or Bengals, Hicks’ energy and impact is potentially profound.
2. WR Odell Beckham Jr.
Credentials: Two-time All-Pro
Best Fit: Green Bay Packers
A swing-and-miss last season by the Packers in a bid to sign Beckham Jr. shouldn’t shift the team’s interest, especially given the predicament of the depth chart. Beckham Jr. tore his ACL in the Super Bowl and his previous return was slower than expected, so factoring in a late-season return is part of the bigger picture.
There’s also the benefit of getting multiple seasons on a three-year deal that could be backloaded for health and performance.
1. S Tyrann Mathieu
Credentials: Three-time All-Pro
Best Fit: New York Giants
Mathieu remains a heart-and-soul chess piece and Wink Martindale could employ him in a dozen ways if the Giants can hit on other needs in the draft.
His price was an issue in a split with the Chiefs. If Mathieu agrees to a shorter deal with less guaranteed money, he could be a steal.
–By Jeff Reynolds, Field Level Media