Star-studded names like Davante Adams and Chris Godwin highlight the 2022 NFL free agency class, but the defensive side of the ball has quite a few playmakers ready to hit the market as well.

Defense may not be as fun in today’s highlight-happy NFL, but it still wins championships. Just ask the Los Angeles Rams.

With that said, here are the top five defenders about to hit free agency.

5. Jessie Bates III, Safety

Jessie Bates is a veteran safety who now has Super Bowl experience under his belt. Sure, it didn’t end well for him and the Cincinnati Bengals, but he showed up big in the Super Bowl and in the playoffs as a whole, and he should be due for a pretty nice payday now that he’s off his rookie deal.

Bates notched six tackles, a pass defended, and an interception of Matthew Stafford in the Super Bowl loss. He also secured an interception in Cincy’s Divisional Round win against the Tennesee Titans.

Including the playoffs, he finished the 2021 campaign with 108 tackles, 10 passes defended, three interceptions, and a fumble recovery.

The Bengals will have close to $50 million in cap room, so bringing back Bates should be a high priority.

4. De’Vondre Campbell, Linebacker

De'Vondre Campbell, Green Bay Packers
De’Vondre Campbell #59 of the Green Bay Packers warms up before the game against the Baltimore Ravens | Rob Carr/Getty Images

If you’re looking for a do-everything inside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme, De’Vondre Campbell is likely the best option. He toiled in obscurity for the first few seasons of his career before the Green Bay Packers took a shot on him and asked him to run their defense.

He finished the 2021 season with 102 tackles, two sacks, two forced fumbles, and two interceptions, which was one of the most productive seasons Green Bay has seen out of a linebacker in ages.

The Packers will desperately want to bring him back, but they may not be able to. Green Bay enters the 2022 league year around $50 million over the cap

3. Chandler Jones, Linebacker

Chandler Jones was excellent in 2021 for the Arizona Cardinals. He finished with 31 tackles, 10.5 sacks, and six forced fumbles. Only Josh Norman (seven), Joey Bosa (seven), and Darius Leonard (eight) forced more footballs to the turf this past season.

Jones was impressive, to say the least. Not bad for a guy in his 30’s coming off a season-ending biceps injury in 2021.

Pass rushers who can impact the quarterback and demand respect from opposing offensive like Jones aren’t often available, so Jones may be able to cash in on his bounce-back season.

The Cardinals will undoubtedly want him back, but he’s going to cost them.

2. Von Miller, Linebacker

Even at 32-years-old, Von Miller has still got it. He proved that and more during LA’s Super Bowl run. Miller notched four sacks in the playoffs, including two against Joe Burrow in the Super Bowl.

Miller finished the 2021 regular season with 9.5 sacks, five of which came when playing with Aaron Donald, Leonard Floyd, and the Rams’ defense.

Speaking of Donald, the superstar defensive tackle is considering retirement, but one of the stipulations for “running it back” with the Rams is having Miller back for another season.

One would think that makes Miller a high-priority for LA this offseason, and Miller has said he wants to be back with the team as well.

The Rams are nearly $20 million over the cap heading into the league year, though, and that’s something that could end up making things very interesting for the reigning world champions.

If he wanted to, Miller could hit the open market and demand a pretty penny. He still is a superstar.

1. J.C. Jackson, Cornerback

J.C. Jackson, New England Patriots
J.C. Jackson #27 of the New England Patriots reacts during the first half against the Buffalo Bills | Kathryn Riley/Getty Images

Lockdown cornerbacks don’t grow on trees, but the New England Patriots found one in J.C. Jackson when they picked him up as an undrafted free agent in 2018.

Because of Bill Belichick’s brilliance in scouting players and specifically scouting defenders, the Patriots have gotten multiple incredible seasons out of Jackson for a great discount. He signed a one-year deal in 2021 worth just $3.3 million. As of now, Spotrac believes he should demand upwards of $20 million a year on the open market.

The Patriots are notoriously stingy, and they don’t have a ton of cap space ($2.8 million), so there is a chance Jackson can take his talents elsewhere. He wouldn’t be the first-star player Belichick has let go for the money.

Jackson notched eight interceptions and a defensive touchdown in 2021. He had nine interceptions in 2020.

Ballhawks like him don’t come around often, so expect Jackson to get a ton of attention on the free agency market.

Stats courtesy of ESPN and Pro Football Reference. Contract information via Spotrac

RELATED: Mike McCarthy Responds to Jerry Jones’ Non-Committal Attitude About His Future With Dallas Cowboys: ‘I’ve Never Dealt With Anything Like This’

The post 2022 NFL Free Agency: Ranking the Top 5 Defensive Players appeared first on Sportscasting | Pure Sports.


By: Andrew Kulha
Title: 2022 NFL Free Agency: Ranking the Top 5 Defensive Players
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Published Date: Sun, 20 Feb 2022 09:45:00 +0000

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