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Wade Payne / Associated Press
The conclusion of the 2022 draft closed another chapter of the NFL offseason. After the initial free-agency frenzy slowed down, veterans opted to see how the draft played out before signing their own deals. This time frame we’re in now is the final wave of free agency before preseason cuts at the end of summer.
Now is the perfect time for Super Bowl contenders to make a move. Rosters are mostly set, so we have a clear picture of team needs and the salary-cap situation. Waiting to shore up the roster could be problematic if the contender doesn’t have adequate depth to withstand an injury.
We’ve identified one move that each of DraftKings’ top seven Super Bowl favorites can make to push them over the top in 2022. Each of these teams has just enough of a need at one or two spots to justify a move. However, most contenders face salary-cap limitations, so trading for a star isn’t feasible.
Let’s dive into a realistic move the top seven teams can make and break down why it could push the contender toward a Super Bowl ring.
Editor’s note: The Kansas City Chiefs-James Bradberry pairing was removed after the Philadelphia Eagles announced Wednesday that they agreed to a one-year deal with the free-agent cornerback.
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Justin Berl / Getty Images
The Super Bowl favorites have close to a bulletproof roster. General manager Brandon Beane has done an excellent job acquiring talent on both sides of the ball. Head coach Sean McDermott and his staff have also done well to develop the young talent into impactful starters.
The biggest concern on the roster is the lack of proven boundary cornerback depth. Slot specialists Taron Johnson and Siran Neal have that role locked down, but the outside spot is a different situation. Tre’Davious White is coming off a torn ACL, and expecting 2022 first-round pick Kaiir Elam to be ready for stardom in his first year is unrealistic.
Adding a veteran who can bring versatility, composure and some ball-production upside would be ideal, and former Cleveland Browns and Pittsburgh Steelers star Joe Haden is perfect for Buffalo’s needs.
The 33-year-old Haden is coming off a successful five-year tenure with Pittsburgh. However, he missed five games with a foot injury and failed to grab an interception for only the third season in his career last year. Still, a rotational role with Buffalo could prolong his career.
Haden is physical in run support and has thrived in Cover-2 and Cover 4-based schemes throughout his career. Buffalo varies its looks at the fourth-highest rate but provides plenty of help to its cornerbacks with two elite safeties. Pittsburgh had Minkah Fitzpatrick to help protect Haden on deep routes but had an otherwise lackluster secondary.
He may not start when White is back at its full capacity, but Haden provides much better depth than 2022 sixth-round pick Christian Benford.
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Alex Menendez / Associated Press
There’s a unique balance of roster-building strategies whenever a team is in win-now mode. Because Tom Brady returned to the Buccaneers after announcing his retirement, Tampa Bay has to continue plugging holes with capable veterans or have strong faith in recent draft picks. The two roster spots lacking great depth after recent departures are tight end and defensive tackle. We’ve yet to see if Brady’s favorite target, Rob Gronkowski, will be back or retire. The other key loss this offseason was tackle Ndamukong Suh.
Suh has enjoyed a long and productive career. At 35 years old and with a Super Bowl ring to his credit, his greatest motivation to play at this point might be for the love of the game. According to 247Sports’ Brad Stainbrook, Super Bowl contenders such as the Bucs, Raiders and Browns are interested in Suh.
Returning to the Bucs makes a ton of sense, as he’d re-enter a role that has led to 14.5 sacks and 112 tackles over the last three years. Tampa could also offer him less of a workload than in past years since it drafted Logan Hall in the second round of the 2022 draft.
Tampa would benefit from a veteran body to platoon with the rookie Hall. The Bucs lack depth along the line, and fellow lineman William Gholston is turning 31 this offseason.
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Jason Behnken / Associated Press
The Green Bay Packers lost a superstar receiver in Davante Adams and replaced him with a handful of additions. Veteran Sammy Watkins was a reasonable low-risk signing, and three receivers were drafted. Packers co-director of player personnel Jon-Eric Sullivan acknowledged they knew of their need for receivers entering the draft.
Adding speed threats in Christian Watson and Romeo Doubs may pay off, but there’s no guarantee considering their level of collegiate competition. The Packers have one of the least proven depth charts in the NFL, and there’s no reason why they should be done looking to help Aaron Rodgers.
There are several intriguing receivers still on the market, but they each come with a concern. Instead of going after another injury-prone receiver such as Will Fuller or Odell Beckham Jr., 35-year-old Emmanuel Sanders makes a lot of sense. He has been consistently productive since his third season in the league regardless of quarterback play and situation.
His 2021 season with the Bills continued that streak, as he averaged 14.9 yards per catch. His ability to win with quickness off the line of scrimmage and cut sharply on intermediate routes makes him a perfect fit for an anticipatory passer like Rodgers. Sanders’ presence would allow the younger talents to take their time to acclimate to the NFL.
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Kamil Krzaczynski / Associated Press
This time last year, it seemed as though Chicago Bears edge-rusher Robert Quinn had the worst contract in the NFL. He had turned 31 during the offseason and was coming off a season with two sacks. With an $ 11.3 million cap hit in 2021 and a $ 17.1 million cap hit in 2022, it was feasible Chicago would be stuck with the albatross deal until next season.
Much has changed in one calendar year. Quinn was a rare bright spot on the Bears as he racked up 18.5 sacks and four forced fumbles in 16 games. He played as well as he ever has.
Now, Quinn is a valued option despite his $ 12.8 million base salary. He’d be an incredible addition at this point of the offseason since the free-agent market is filled with pass-rushers clearly out of their prime. It only makes sense the Los Angeles Rams would be the team to move a Day 2 asset for him considering their recent trend of trading draft picks for veterans.
Quinn could capably replace Von Miller, and with the unproven combination of Terrell Lewis and Justin Hollins set to start across from Leonard Floyd, the Rams should be uneasy about their ability to complement Aaron Donald.
The biggest question is whether Los Angeles would be willing to restructure a deal or two to open the space needed for Quinn. With just $ 5 million available, the Rams could have enough space to absorb Quinn’s base salary by restructuring Donald’s contract.
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Jamie Squire / Getty Images
The number of quality, starting-caliber offensive linemen available is always thin. Decent starting tackles get snatched up quickly for large contracts. The difficulty in finding a competent edge protector has put a premium on the position for decades.
Yet somehow, veteran right tackle Bobby Massie is still on the market, and the Los Angeles Chargers are a perfect fit after not addressing the position this offseason.
He’s coming off a nice season with Denver after spending five good years in Chicago previously. Massie’s massive frame allows him to comfortably control power rushers who try to run through his chest. Pro Football Focus has graded Massie below a 70 overall mark just once in the last four years, making him a true value compared to what some teams are spending on similar production.
The negative is Massie has missed 18 games over the last three years. He had missed just four total from 2014 through 2018, but this could be a sign of his body breaking down. Los Angeles has been snakebitten on the injury front for years, but this is such a critical need that the Chargers must consider signing him.
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Matt Patterson / Associated Press
Unless your name is Tom Brady, superstars always fade with age. It’s only a matter of time until Father Time robs even the most dedicated players of key aspects of athleticism. No one would have thought that Julio Jones would be on the brink of being a journeyman this soon after his 2019 season that featured 99 receptions for 1,394 yards and six scores.
But here we are after just two injury-shortened seasons. Now 33, Jones failed to impress in his lone season in Tennessee before being released. He’s accumulated 1,205 yards and four TDs over his last 19 games from 2020 and 2021.
It’s time to reset his career in a favorable scheme with a familiar face. Jones and San Francisco 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan enjoyed massive success in the two years he was the play-caller in Atlanta. Between 2015 and 2016, Jones accumulated 3,280 yards and 219 receptions. He led the league in yards per game each season.
Expectations would be much different now that Jones is likely a power slot receiver instead of a matchup nightmare regardless of alignment. That still helps the 49ers, who have no proven depth behind star Deebo Samuel and developing young receiver Brandon Aiyuk. Adding a future Hall of Famer to that mix can only help their growth.
Jones’ wide catch radius and sharp route-running can also help Trey Lance in his transition to the starting QB. Few receivers are as capable of contorting their body and hauling in tough catches as Jones has been throughout his career.