2022 NFL Season Preview: Roster Turnover

Today I wanted to look at what teams are generally “running it back” in 2022 and those that have had more of a facelift and how exactly those facelifts are constructed. No just because a team is returning a large number of players does not mean that all things will be the same but it is interesting to look at how well teams do perform with similar teams to the prior year and those with big changes.

The league leaders in roster retention this year are the Rams (76.3%), Saints (76.2%), Bengals (75.8%), Patriots (75%), Cardinals (71.7%) and 49ers and Cowboys (71.2%). The Bucs, Bills, and Lions are all right around 70%. These numbers are just based on players on the teams current active roster and it would include players who were on the practice squad last year but not this year. If the practice squad this year was factored in the top teams are the Eagles, Lions, Bengals, Rams, and Commanders.

Not surprisingly many of these teams were playoff teams last year. The Saints were on the outside looking in last season but didn’t really have much choice but to come back similar to last year. The Lions would be a surprise to continue to trot out so many of the same players. The Commanders are also a surprise if you include the practice squad.

The rebuilding Bears are in a class all alone with just 32.8% of their players coming from last year’s roster. This is not a team with many notable additions as well. We have them adding just 6.6% players who would be considered potential impact players. I valued an impact player as a free agent worth more than $5 million a season and any 2022 draft picks selected in the top three rounds of the draft. It is the 5th lowest percentage in the NFL and when you consider how many roster spots they had to fill it’s tough. It is the reality of having to dig out of a bad salary cap hole and recovering from lost draft picks from trades.

The Falcons, Giants, and Raiders are all right around 50% followed by the Texans at 53%. The other teams under 60% are the Browns, Chargers, Colts, and Jaguars. The Raiders are the lone playoff team from this group. The Falcons, Giants, and Texans are all digging out of a salary cap hole and rebuilding the entire organization. The Browns, Chargers, and Colts are all teams that were close to contention last year and have tried to turn over enough of the roster to get over the hump. The Jaguars are trying to buy their way into relevance again.

11 teams did not add a new $10M a year player to the roster. The Jaguars led the league in additions with 8.9% of their roster this year being new players who will earn at least $10 million a season. They are followed by the Colts, Broncos, and Jets all around 5%. Teams that have these additions usually have added expectations and pressure from that approach.

11 teams also did not add any players earning between $5 and $10 million with the Cardinals, Cowboys, and Packers being the only teams to add nobody earning over $5 million a year.  The leaders here were the Steelers with 8.5% of their team coming from this pool of players, Dolphins at 6.7% and the Bucs, Chargers, Panthers, and Jets all at 5%. These players are certainly expected to contribute this season.

As we move more into the depth category (players between $2 and $5 million a season) we get the appearance of the Texans and the Bears at the top of the chart. 13.3% of the Texans roster will be new players earning this much while the Bears will have 11.5% of their roster spots tied up in these players. The Panthers and Dolphins are around 8% while the Browns are at 6.5%. The Cardinals are the only team to not add a new player in this salary range.

The low level veterans earning under $2 million a year are basically where the most cap strapped teams reside. The Falcons have 19.4% of their roster in this category which is crazy high for a team in the 2nd year of a rebuild. The Giants are just under 15% while the Bears have 13%. The Raiders and Chargers round out the top 5.  If you look at the teams that follow (Colts, Cardinals, etc…) it’s basically teams using whatever cap room they have to bring in veterans to help what they feel are contending teams rather than focusing on younger talent. It is a fair approach on a short term plan. The only two teams with no additions here are the Jaguars and Bengals.

The final category is players under $1 million. These are SFA and UDFA pickups. Generally, this is pure depth signings where you are hoping to find a diamond in the rough and also get some special teams help. It is no surprise to see the Bears with 16.4% of their team coming from here. The Jaguars are at 14.3%. The next three teams are a bit more surprising- the Raiders, Titans, and Commanders.   The Raiders and Titans in particular you would think would have found a way to add more. The Titans do have some roster issues and maybe this was better for the long term. The Raiders had cap room to do more. Washington you think would have tried to do more but it seems to be all about Wentz there. Every team added a player here.

As you look at overall potential impact players (as mentioned above- new players earning over $5 million and 2022 draft picks from the first three rounds) you get the Jaguars at the top with 19.6% of their roster being new players that fit in these buckets. The Jets have 18.3%. This gives both of these teams, which have been terrible for years, that boom or bust potential this season. Both teams should be under heavy pressure to improve greatly from last season.

The Steelers are at 13.6% and the Chiefs are at 12.5%. The number for the Chiefs is a real interesting one. You can see with the way they approached this offseason that it is a bit of a retooling on the fly. They are set at QB and if they can smoothly turn over the roster as they move away from their SB run group they could be set up to fit that same Patriots mold that saw them as incredibly relevant for a decade due to a willingness to keep changing. The Colts, Vikings, and Bucs are all at 12%.

The bottom of the chart is the Cardinals at 5%, Rams and Cowboys at 5.1%, Packers at 6.5% and Bears at 6.6%. The Patriots and 49ers are the other teams under 7%. For the Rams this is understandable as they are basically just defending the title with a few additions. Cardinals and Cowboys fans should be disappointed in what they have done this offseason to improve the team. They are going to have to hit on the few chances they took and probably have a lower level pick or two overperform to make a leap. Patriots and 49ers plans probably would have liked more this year too. The Pats probably did not have the cap room to be overly aggressive without selling out the future. The 49ers could have found a way. Green Bay and Chicago were cap messes, so they also are not a surprise.

Here is the breakdown of every team’s 2022 roster.  

TeamReturning$10+M$5-$10M$2-$5M$1-$2MUnder $1MRnd  1-3Rnd 4-7OtherImpact Adds
NFL. Avg.63.7%2.0%2.4%4.0%6.3%6.9%5.5%7.1%2.1%9.9%