2022 NFL free agents: Zach Ertz, Marquez Valdes-Scantling among potential offseason steals

The 2022 NFL offseason will kick into high gear on March 14, when free agents can officially begin negotiations with other teams ahead of the new league year on March 16. And there are plenty of big names who could be available, from Pro Bowl wide receiver Chris Godwin to form No. 1 overall pick Jameis Winston to Super Bowl-winning pass rusher Von Miller. But which players deserve more attention as they approach the open market? We’re glad you asked.

Here are 10 of the top underrated free agents of the 2022 offseason, with projected average annual values ​​for each:

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You can find change-of-pace running backs almost anywhere at any time, but Edmonds, 25, is a top-end role player with route-running experience and minimal wear and tear. Injuries limited him to 12 games in 2021, but he has still topped 40 catches and 800 scrimmage yards in two straight seasons. Pair him with another ball-carrier for a top-10 backfield.

Projected AAV: $3 million-$6 million

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The big story in Atlanta’s 2021 receiving corps was the absence of Calvin Ridley, but Gage proved to be a steady hand for Matt Ryan, logging a 70 percent catch rate and posting 65+ catches for 770+ yards and four scores for a second straight year . Just 26, he has the makings of a tough, ascending possession receiver.

Projected AAV: $5 million-$10 million

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Like Russell Gage, he’s not an Allen Robinson or Odell Beckham Jr. — a big name with the juice to command a No. 1 role. He’s best suited for a No. 2 or No. 3 role. Unlike Gage, however, his game isn’t collecting targets as much as stretching the field. MVS has averaged 17.5 yards per catch for his career as Aaron Rodgers’ deep man. You can’t teach speed.

Projected AAV: $6 million-$10 million

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The longtime Eagles star isn’t scaring anyone with his speed these days, but he also won’t command nearly as much as younger counterparts Dalton Schultz and Mike Gesicki. More than that, Ertz remains ultra-reliable over the middle and in the red zone. You’re still talking about a top-10 starter at an important pass-catching position.

Projected AAV: $7 million-$10 million

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You’d rather pay for a tackle than an interior man, but Glowinski, 29, has been a rock-solid right guard for the Colts’ vaunted O-line for three years running. He doesn’t have the name recognition of a Quenton Nelson or even Eric Fisher, but he was vital to Indy’s run-game dominance in 2021 and could fill a starting job with ease.

Projected AAV: $7 million-$10 million

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He’s 33, and his sack numbers haven’t been gaudy for years (he hasn’t hit double digits since 2014, when he was still new to the Bills). But edge rushers can age gracefully, and he’s a prime example, settling in as a top piece of Buffalo’s playoff-caliber rotation. As a short-term starter or top reserve, you can do a heck of a lot worse.

Projected AAV: $2 million-$6 million

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The big names — Nick Bosa, Arik Armstead, Fred Warner — get the love on San Francisco’s defense, but Jones, 27, has quietly gotten better each year on the 49ers’ front, logging 10 tackles for loss in his contract year. He’s the kind of ascending interior starter who could draw a bigger market than anticipated, but for good reason related to his upside.

Projected AAV: $6 million-$10 million

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Seattle’s defense has been bad for years, but over the past season and a half, Reed, 25, has proven to be a legitimate cover man, logging 17 pass deflections and four picks since 2020. Feisty for his size, he has shown enough flashes in San Francisco and Seattle to warrant looks from teams hungry for long-term upside at a mercurial position, even though bigger names like JC Jackson and Stephon Gilmore could shape the market.

Projected AAV: $9 million-$14 million

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The former 49ers starter never stuck as a steady full-timer in San Francisco and made just three starts for the Steelers down the stretch in 2021, but he brought some stability to Pittsburgh’s secondary with three picks and nine pass breakups. Witherspoon is still young (26), with good size (6-feet-2) and experience, making him a high-upside bet for an outside job.

Projected AAV: $5 million-$8 million

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At 31, with an injury history, McLeod’s best days are behind him. But you’d be hard-pressed to find a better all-around veteran at a likely bargain price. He’s smart and tough with solid ball skills and a natural locker-room presence. He’d be a perfect No. 2/3 safety for a contending team with other pieces in the secondary.

Projected AAV: $1 million-$3 million

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