Building the best NFL team money can buy under the 2022 salary cap

Davante Adams does so many things well. The NFL’s triple crown leader in receiving since 2018 is like Allen Iverson off the line of scrimmage, a pristine route runner and secure pass-catcher. He’s the only active wide receiver who has five career seasons with double-digit touchdown grabs. In fact, only five players have more, and they’ve each been fitted for gold threads: Randy Moss (nine), Jerry Rice (nine), Terrell Owens (eight), Marvin Harrison (eight) and Cris Carter (six). He’d be red-zone target numero uno for this list’s QB1 Brady; Adams has 53 trips to the end zone from inside the 20 since 2016 — 17 more than the next-closest player (Mike Evans36).

The NFL’s leader in deep receptions (59), yards (2,410) and touchdowns (25) over the last five seasons, Tyreek Hill‘s mere presence limits what opponents can do on defense. Not to mention, he is the only player in the Super Bowl era with at least 50 receiving touchdowns, five rushing touchdowns and five return touchdowns. Hall of Famer Bobby Mitchell is the only other player to do so in NFL history.

Justin Jefferson‘s route running and separation can be put up against any player in the league. The third-year pro paces all players with 3,016 receiving yards since entering the NFL in 2020 and he is the first player to open his career with back-to-back 1,400-yard receiving campaigns. Already atop the record books for receiving yards over a player’s first two seasons, he needs to log 1,148 in 2022 to break Randy Moss’ record of 4,163 in a player’s first three.

Tee Higgins provides an athletic, talented 6-foot-4 target who can win at the catch point. He finished top six in the NFL with 16 contested catches (PFF) and 245 receiving yards in tight windows (Next Gen Stats) last season. The third-year pro really began to shine toward the end of the season. In Weeks 12-17 (Bengals rested starters in Week 18), only Cooper Coup had more receiving yards (688) than Higgins (645).

Darnell Mooney accounted for 28 percent of the Bears’ total receiving yards in 2021, the 10th-highest in the NFL. His 1,055 receiving yards in 2021 ranked seventh among all players under 25 years old, behind Jefferson, Higgins, Ja’Marr Chase, D.J. Moore, CeeDee Lamb and Michael Pittman Jr. The last time gabriel davis was on the field, he recorded eight catches for 201 yards and an NFL playoff-record four receiving touchdowns. The 2020 fourth-round pick is a cheap option with great upside.

Others considered: Deebo Samuel (49ers), Ja’Marr Chase (Bengals), CeeDee Lamb (Cowboys), A.J. Brown (Eagles), Diontae Johnson (Steelers), Amon-Ra St. Brown (Lions).

Toughest decision: Getting both of the NFL’s two highest-paid wide receivers on their Year 1 cap numbers and Justin Jefferson on a rookie contract seems criminal enough, but having do-it-all Deebo Samuel on this roster would have been amazing. The scenario of him signing an extension and blowing up this roster is too likely to overlook. Still, my favorite Samuel stat that I found last season: He was the first player to lead the NFL in yards per reception (18.2) and receiving yards after the catch per reception (10.1) in the same season since the latter has been tracked in 1992 (min. 50 receptions).

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