The free agency period is almost a week away and with it a host of big names will be available to make moves that could shift the landscape of the NFL.

There were already two significant developments on Wednesday, with Russell Wilson traded to the Denver Broncos and Aaron Rodgers sealing his future at Green Bay.

But there are still are a host of other important storylines worth monitoring until the free agency period opens next week.

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First, here’s a brief explainer on the period itself and some key dates and terms to know.

The free agency period officially starts on Thursday, March 17 (AEDT), although the legal tampering period kicks off on Tuesday (AEDT).

During the tampering period, “teams are permitted to contact, and enter into contract negotiations with, the certified agents of players who will become unrestricted free agents”.

They are essentially handshake agreements — nothing official but there will be lots of talk and unconfirmed deals done.

Meanwhile, Wednesday was also a crucial date in the lead-up to the free agency period as it was the final day where teams can place the franchise tag on players.

For the record, the franchise tag is a designation that allows NFL teams to select one of their upcoming unrestricted free agents and prevent them from hitting free agency.

It essentially gives that team another year of service time from the player and a specific window to then try come to an agreement on a long-term contract.

After Wednesday, players who were previously tagged must play the 2022 season under the franchise tag.

That means they must also agree to earning the salary tied to that previous tag.

With all of that in mind, foxsports.com.au looks at some of the key situations to monitor ahead of the free agency period.

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A LOADED CLASS OF WIDE RECEIVERS

Davante Adams and Chris Godwin headlined a talented group of free agent wide-receivers but neither will be on the move.

There were rumours Adams could be heading to the Raiders on a sign-and-trade after he bought a house in Las Vegas but on Wednesday the Packers officially placed the franchise tag on Adams.

The All-Pro receiver proved himself a consistent weapon at Green Bay last year and was going to stay put regardless of what decision the Packers made on Rodgers’ future.

Tagging Adams will cost the Packers $20.145 million but for now, the two sides have until July 16 to come to an agreement on a long-term contract.

Green Bay is expected to come to the table in a bid to do just that if general manager Brian Gutekunst’s comments in late February are anything to go by.

“It’s not something we’d like to do — not like to do that if we don’t have to — we’d certainly like to come up with a long-term deal that works for both sides,” Gutekunst said.

Adams had a career-high 1,553 receiving yards last season and now the Packers may look to free agency to find Rodgers another consistent target to lighten the load.

Allen Lazard and Marquez Valdes-Scantling are also both now free agents and wide-receiver options to bring back.

Wide receiver Davante Adams was a weapon for Green Bay. (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)Source: Getty Images

Turning attention to Godwin, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver suffered an ACL injury in the later stages of the season, casting doubt over his future.

But after failing to come to an agreement before Wednesday, the Buccaneers settled on tagging Godwin for a second-straight year.

It means that cornerback Carlton Davis and center Ryan Jensen will become free agents, with the former in particular expected to be a man-in-demand.

Chris Godwin has been tagged. (Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images)Source: Getty Images

Speaking of wide-receivers who were struck down by season-ending injuries, Michael Gallup also tore his ACL late last season.

But reports that the Dallas Cowboys could release Amari Cooper certainly increases Gallup’s chances of being retained.

Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Joneswas recently asked about Cooper’s future at the franchise and did not exactly throw his support behind the 27-year-old.

“It’s too early for me to address [Cooper] yet,” Jones said.

“We’re continuing to have conversations. A lot of things affect that. … there are some moving parts to that that we’ll have to continue to massage as we move forward.”

The Cowboys will save $16 million by cutting Cooper, money that could be put towards extending other players, including Gallup who ESPN insider Adam Schefter says is “close” to re-signing.

Gallup was not tagged on Wednesday and could reportedly net more than $50 million as part of his imminent extension.

Amari Cooper could be on the move. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)Source: Getty Images

Given Dallas is more than $20 million over the cap, cutting Cooper makes sense as it will give them much needed flexibility to restructure future contracts.

The Cowboys used their franchise tag on tight end Dalton Schultz, who they are expected to negotiate a longer deal with.

As for where Cooper could end up, it is pure speculation at this point although the New England Patriots, Chicago Bears and Kansas City Chiefs have all been floated as possible destinations.

A move to the Bears would only be more likely given Allen Robinson’s murky future at Chicago.

Allen Robinson could do with a change. (Photo by Chris Unger/Getty Images)Source: Getty Images

Once considered one of the league’s best wide receivers, Robinson has been a victim of the uncertain quarterback situation at Chicago and the free agent could do with a change of scenery.

There will be no change of scenery for Mike Williams, with the star wide-receiver signing a three-year, $60 million contract on Wednesday.

Williams was ranked in the top-12 in the NFL for receiving yards, touchdowns and yards/receptions last season.

As for other wide receivers who are hitting the open market, Odell Beckham Jr. could generate significant interest despite tearing his ACL in the Super Bowl.

Beckham wants to stay put at L.A. and is expected to do just that with a source telling Pro Football Network: “Look for OBJ to be back with the Rams at some point”.

“It’s a strong fit, and they know what he can do, and he loves it there. He’s not leaving,” the source added.

Otherwise, the New England Patriots, Green Bay Packers and Kansas City Chiefs could all compete for his signature.

Mike Williams performed strongly last season. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)Source: Getty Images

BRADY HAS RETIRED… WILL GRONKOWSKI FOLLOW HIM?

Tom Brady has retired from the NFL… or at least that is what he said, although few people seem to really believe him.

Regardless, when Brady linked up with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, he also lured long-time teammate Rob Gronkowski out of retirement for one final hit-out.

With Brady gone, the question is whether Gronkowski will follow.

Bucs general manager Jason Licht told media at the NFL Combine that Gronkowski was still a chance of re-signing with the franchise.

“We’ll be talking to Rob’s agent here,” Licht said.

Rob Gronkowski’s future is up in the air. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)Source: Getty Images

“Rob just wanted a little time to think about his future. But, once again, he’s another great player at his position. So, I’d be excited if he wanted to come back.”

Gronkowski certainly has plenty left to offer if his last season with Tampa Bay was anything to go by, catching 55 passes for 802 yards and six touchdowns.

The Athletic reported earlier this month that AFC rivals the Buffalo Bills are interested in Gronkowski, who grew up in Buffalo.

It would make sense since Gronkowski is unlikely to stay in the NFL much longer and would prefer to be part of a championship-contending team.

“There’s a sense that a one-year, $5 million base contract, with somewhere around $5 million of incentives attached, could be a strong fit for the Bills,” Michael Ginnitti, managing editor of contract analysis database Spotrac, told The Athletic.

Josh Allen could team up with the experienced tight end. David Eulitt/Getty Images/AFPSource: AFP

“That’s lower risk up front as they assess what kind of role he may play over the course of 17-plus weeks, and they’ll be happy to add on bonus pay if things go swimmingly.”

Dawson Knox did emerge as a strong target for quarterback Josh Allen last season but the Bills could always do with another threat to improve its potent offence.

The Denver Broncos could be another suitor after moving Noah Fant as part of the Wilson trade.

Gronkowski re-signed with the Buccaneers last season for one year at $8 million.

OTHER BIG NAMES… INCLUDING A SUPER BOWL HERO

Rams’ veteran pass rusher Von Miller was not wanting to rush into any decisions on his future after helping Los Angeles to Super Bowl glory this year.

But almost a month later, Miller has teased at a possible return to the Denver Broncos.

The 32-year-old will become a free agent for the first time in his career next week and shared two Instagram stories on Tuesday that hinted as a potential Broncos comeback.

In the first, Miller asked fans if he should wear his old No. 58 or his new No. 40 if he returns to Denver.

Miller then asked in the second post, “I wonder if they will give me my old locker back?”

Miller continued to tease a Broncos reunion on Twitter, writing, “I kinda want that old thing back.”

Von Miller could go back to Denver. Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images/AFPSource: AFP

Pro Football Network reported the Broncos, Los Angeles Chargers and Green Bay Packers are all interested in Miller while the Rams are keen to offer him a new deal.

Miller finished the season with nine sacks win 12 games for the Rams after being traded by the Broncos last November.

Left tackle Terron Armstead is another one of the big-name free agents that will hit the market next week.

At 30 years old, it is in Armstead’s best interests to go after a big-money contract, with the Miami Dolphins and Jacksonville Jaguars been linked to Armstead.

Tackle Terron Armstead wants to be paid. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)Source: Getty Images

The same goes for J.C. Jackson, who has more than earned the right to get what he thinks he deserves in free agency.

The New England Patriots cornerback has topped the NFL for interceptions in the past three seasons (22) while his 47 passes defended are tied for second-best.

The Patriots did not place the franchise tag on Jackson, who will instead hit free agency and is after Jalen Ramsey-type money — so, around $20 million per year.

NFL Media’s Mike Garafolo wrote on Twitter that the Los Angeles Chargers “could be in the mix” for Jackson.

The Chargers have also been linked to cornerback Stephon Gilmore — another free agent, whose contract talks with the Carolina Panthers are said to be ongoing.

Chandler Jones is another in-demand player who will test his value on the open market.

Jones has been one of the league’s most consistent pass rushers throughout his career and is set to command interest from the New Orleans Patriots and Seattle Seahawks.

FULL LIST OF TAGGED PLAYERS

Packers – WR Devante Adams

Buccaneers – WR Chris Godwin

Browns – TE David Njoku

Dolphins – TE Mike Gesicki

Chiefs – OT Orlando Brown Jr

Cowboys – TE Dalton Schultz

Bengals – S Jessie Bates



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