2022 Free Agent Wide Receivers: Next Five

by Emily Lefco
2021 Fantasy Football Best Ball Overrated Wide Receivers

Welcome back to our look at the 2022 Free Agent Wide Receivers!

On March 7th, we started with our top five free agent wide receivers in fantasy football.  Things change quickly in the NFL, however. We already know that Davante Adams will remain on the Green Bay Packers and Chris Godwin will remain with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.  Both have thus avoided free agency this offseason.

We will now look at the next top-five free agent wide receivers.

With free agency just days away, where will lightning strike?  Where will these players land?  Will they return to the same team? Or will they be running a completely different scheme in 2022 on a completely new offense in a brand new city?

We'll try to answer those questions as we look at our next set of 2022 free agent wide receivers.

2022 Free Agent Wide Receivers: Next Five

6) Michael Gallup, Dallas Cowboys

The 25-year-old is set to be an unrestricted free agent. However, the Cowboys could work out a long-term deal with Gallup before he hits the open market on March 16th. At that point, any team in the league can offer him a deal. As such, he should draw plenty of attention from teams other than Dallas during the offseason. Gallup caught 35 passes for 445 yards and two touchdowns over nine games in his 2021 campaign.

Gallup's contract year initially got off to a shaky start when he sustained an injury in Week 1 that kept him on the sidelines through Week 9. Also, Gallup underwent surgery on a torn ACL (injured in the Week 17 loss to the Arizona Cardinals).  According to the team's physician, Dr. Dan Cooper, Gallup is expected to recover fully by August.

Gallup is a scheme-diverse No. 2 receiver. PFF indicates that Gallup can play as an X and a Z receiver.  He can defeat both press coverage and aggressive man coverage from cornerbacks with his hands and his route running and pacing to successfully separate.  He is a perfect secondary option but can work in either the X or Y slot on offense.

Based on his skill set, teams like Washington or New England would make a lot of sense for him. However, Jacksonville always needs receiver help. Though they might need more than Gallup alone.  Still, the 26-year-old wideout would make a fantastic complimentary piece to an offense that already has a primary receiver.

The timing of his injury however at the end of the season presents a significant complication as he could miss the start of the 2022 campaign. Also, it remains to be seen whom the unrestricted free agent will play for in 2022. He does not have the ceiling, consistency, or elite athleticism of the best receivers in the game.   However, in terms of fantasy value, his ceiling could fall closer to that of No. 2 receivers in the league if he lands in the right fit.

Gallup could cash in on a two-year, $25 million contract.

7) Christian Kirk, Arizona Cardinals

Arizona Cardinals' impending free-agent WR Christian Kirk said QB Kyler Murray's future would impact his decision during free agency. Still, Kirk has expressed a desire to return to Arizona.

The 25-year-old had his best season in the NFL in 2021, catching a career-high 77 passes on 103 targets for a career-high 982 yards and five touchdowns in 17 regular-season games.  Kirk saw an increased role with the team over the season's final month as the Cardinals were without DeAndre Hopkins (knee), which meant Kirk became the No. 1 option.

Kirk was almost automatic in efficiency, catching 74.8 percent of his targets at 9.5 yards per target. Still, a limited snap count and modest target rate limited him despite his blazing efficiency. Notably, Kirk lined up in the slot on 79% of his snaps in 2021, easily beating out his previous career-high of 41.6%.  In addition, the former second-round pick plays at 4.4 speed.

Kirk has set himself up nicely for free agency with a strong campaign during his fourth season. His strengths include tracking the ball downfield and being comfortable making catches through contact over the middle of the field. As a result, it seems likely that some team will give Kirk a nice payday this offseason.

As far as durability, Kirk has not missed any extended stretches since recovering from a broken foot in his rookie season. However, he dealt with a lingering ankle injury in 2019 that kept him out of three games.

Kirk has shown that he is not quite a No. 1 option, but he certainly can do damage on the field.  As PFF suggests, he would fit in well as a vertical slot threat who can help stretch the field to open up holes in the defense. There are few quarterbacks out there who will give him more downfield opportunities than Kyler Murray.

With Kirk's value on the rise, it is uncertain whether the Cardinals will bring him back or not. Notably, Kirk played one season with Murray in college, and his fantasy value would likely be highest if both he and Murray stick it out in the desert.

Kirk could see a contract deal for three years and $35 million.

8) HB/WR Cordarrelle Patterson, Atlanta Falcons

As seen in our "2022 Fantasy Football Free Agent Running Backs" article, Patterson is also represented here as a "wide back." Though largely undrafted and instead picked up off the waiver wire, this last 2021 season was a breakout season for Patterson. Patterson became the Falcons' most consistent offensive weapon and arguably the team's most valuable player (MVP). Consequently, we will see a natural rise in his average draft position (ADP) rank in 2022.

Patterson finished the 2021 season with a career-high 153 carries for 618 yards (4.0 yards per carry) and six touchdowns. He added 52 catches on 69 targets for 548 yards and five more scores.

Additionally, Cordarrelle Patterson managed to nearly break the record for most positions played with his versatility as a natural playmaker. He fits in well as a matchup weapon. Not quite a wide receiver and not quite a running back. But, as PFF maintains, Patterson is good enough at running back and wide receiver to be a real matchup threat at either position. As a result, he can exploit significant mismatches against opposing teams.

With a nose for the end zone, it would be wise for the Falcons to keep the versatile veteran. Patterson himself has been campaigning vigorously for the Falcons to re-sign him. He would fit well with a team that will cater to his versatility at different positions.

However, now that he is past 30 years old and had diminished returns late in the year, he may not see a substantial deal come his way. Therefore, if he leaves Atlanta for another organization, fantasy managers should not expect a repeat in 2022.

Patterson's contract projection is two years, $12 million.

9) Juju Smith-Schuster, Pittsburgh Steelers

The Pittsburgh Steelers will reportedly try to re-sign wide receiver Juju Smith-Schuster at a reasonable price, but now it looks like he expects to hit free agency.  Unfortunately, just like he found a year ago in free agency, Smith-Schuster might not find much there on the open market to his liking after an injury-plagued season in 2021.

He will enter free agency after shoulder surgery, limiting him to only five games in 2021 before returning for Pittsburgh's only playoff game. He missed time during the 2019 season with a knee injury and concussion.

According to PFF, JJSS plays a valuable role as a sure-handed slot receiver who a QB can trust in critical situations. Accordingly, he would fit in nicely with a scheme that has him as a physical slot receiver. As such, he could play on a talented offense like that in Tennessee.

While his landing spot will determine his ultimate ranking this offseason, JJSS is more likely to be a WR3 or "draft-day afterthought" versus the top fantasy target he has been in the past.

However, he could be a fantasy sleeper in 2022 if he lands in the right situation. JJSS will most likely benefit from a new city if Mason Rudolph remains the top QB option in Pittsburgh. Also, if he returns with the Steelers, his fantasy value will have a low ceiling due to concerns at QB for Pittsburgh.

Juju Smith-Schuster may get a one-year, $8 million contract.

10) Antonio Brown, Questionable

Amongst the 2022 free agent wide receivers, it is difficult to imagine Brown returning to the field anytime soon. Yet that's not the first time we've said that. The 33-year-old finished the season with 42 catches on 62 targets for 545 yards and four touchdowns in seven games. Brown is still one of the most talented wideouts in the league.  Accordingly, he still had flashes of efficiency by racking up at least seven catches in four of his seven appearances this year.

AB walked off the field in the Week 17 win over the New York Jets, but he claims he was too hurt to play after head coach Bruce Arians demanded that he go back into the game, as team doctors had cleared him. Brown dealt with the injury for most of the year. Moreover, in a recent interview with HBO Sports, Antonio Brown insisted that the Buccaneers offered him $200,000 to seek mental health treatment. Furthermore, Brown insinuated during the interview that a defamation lawsuit could be coming against the Buccaneers.

The veteran wideout, who the Bucs consequently released during the week after the incident with Bruce Arians, reported he had broken bone fragments, cartilage loss, and a ligament torn from the bone in his ankle. Brown's attorney said that Brown plans to undergo surgery on his injured ankle, though it is unclear if that will still happen now that he has been exiled from the team.

PFF purports that Brown is a scheme-diverse utility receiver with his route-running ability, ball skills, and role in setting up defenders. Brown works in any scheme and at any position. He would be best suited to a system that taps into his versatility and already interchanges roles on the field.

However, given his age, the potential severity of his ankle ailment, and his history of behavioral issues, it is possible most teams are not willing to take a chance on him moving ahead. Still, those in dynasty formats should keep him on the roster for now.

If he receives a contract, it is projected to be one year, $4 million.

Check out our latest 2022 NFL Mock Draft!

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