Football season is officially over. I know, it’s a sad time where fans have to look elsewhere for entertainment on Sundays.
But right around the corner is NFL free agency, which is always a hectic and crazy time for the league.
Every team has needs that will have to be addressed, but let's start with the two last teams we saw standing -- the Los Angeles Rams and the Cincinnati Bengals. These two teams battled it out in the Super Bowl, but will be taking two very different approaches to free agency this offseason.
Both are already among the top favorites to win the Super Bowl next season, but free agency could very well increase -- or decrease -- those preseason odds.
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When does NFL free agency start?
NFL free agency begins once this season ends and the next one begins. This year, that falls on March 16, 2022, at 4 p.m. ET.
While nothing officially can be signed, teams are allowed to begin to talk to free agents the two days prior to the official start of free agency. Front offices can begin speaking with free agents two days before free agency begins during the legal tampering period. Players and teams can agree to contracts, however they are not official until the new league year starts.
Super Bowl 2022
Here’s the latest news on the Rams vs. Bengals Super Bowl 2022 showdown. Get our coverage on how to watch, commercials, the halftime show, injuries and more.
Who is a free agent on the Los Angeles Rams?
The two biggest free agents for the Rams were their two big acquisitions during the middle of the season -- linebacker Von Miller and wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr.
Miller will test free agency for the first time in his career. His six-year, $114,100,000 contract he signed in 2016 with the Denver Broncos is up and the 32 year old could make for a great pickup for a team needing help on the outside. He recorded 31 tackles and five sacks in eight games with the Rams this season. Including his seven games with the Broncos, Miller totaled 9.5 sacks and 50 tackles.
After he was released by the Cleveland Browns, Odell Beckham Jr. signed a one-year, $1.25 million deal with the Rams in November. He was an extremely effective member in the passing game, especially with Robert Woods going down with a season-ending injury days after OBJ was signed.
After recording just 17 catches and zero touchdowns in six games with the Browns, Beckham Jr. hauled in 27 passes for 305 yards and five touchdowns in the regular season for the Rams. But the postseason is where he truly flourished, bringing in 21 catches for 288 yards and two touchdowns in his four games played, which includes the Super Bowl that he was knocked out of in the second quarter with a knee injury.
Outside of those two star players, running back Sony Michel, cornerback Darious WIlliams and guard Austin Corbett are the more notable UFAs the Rams could be losing. Linebacker Troy Reeder and kicker Matt Gay are both restricted free agents.
Beckham Jr. and Miller would be big losses, in addition to Aaron Donald and/or Andrew Whitworth if either chooses to retire. But the Rams are in a position where they could be bringing back a majority of their Super Bowl-winning team, which helps considering they do not have a ton of cap space to work with. Spotrac projects them to be roughly $10 million over the cap to start the offseason.
Who is a free agent on the Cincinnati Bengals?
The Bengals have a number of free agents that either need to be re-signed or will be taking their talents elsewhere. But the good news is Cincinnati also has one of the largest cap spaces heading into this summer.
The biggest UFAs the Bengals will need to address are safety Jessie Bates III, tight end C.J. Uzomah, offensive tackle Riley Reiff and defensive Larry Ogunjobi.
Bates III is just 24 years old and has progressed to be one of the more underappreciated safeties in the league. He took a slight step back this season as he failed to hit 100 tackles like he had the two seasons prior, or reach three interceptions which he did his first three seasons. But he’s in for a payday and would be a big blow to the Bengals’ secondary.
Uzomah had a career year in Cincy this season, recording career-highs in receptions (49), receiving yards (493) and touchdowns (five). He was able to build a good report with Joe Burrow after playing in just two games in the QB’s rookie season last year.
While neither Reiff or Ogunjobi were on the field for the Bengals during the Super Bowl, both were big reasons as to why the Bengals had success this season. Reiff was a bright spot on an otherwise poor offensive line. The tackle allowed four sacks this season, but was penalized only once. He was injured in the Bengals’ Week 12 game and shut down for the season.
Ogunjobi was part of a dangerous defensive line for the Bengals. He set new career-highs in (7.0) and tackles for loss (12) while totaling 49 tackles. He played 16 games in the regular season before suffering an ankle injury in the WIld Card game against the Las Vegas Raiders. But he was able to recover his first fumble of the season in the game before he was hurt.
Other free agents for the Bengals are cornerback Eli Apple, free safety Ricardo Allen, defensive tackle B.J. Hill, cornerback Vernon Hargreaves and offensive guard Ryan Spain.
While the Bengals have a ton of players in need of a new contract, they rank among the top-five teams in available salary cap heading into the summer. They are projected to have around $56 million available to spend, the fourth-most in the league according to Spotrac.