A number of writers–including ourselves–have published lists of the best free agents available within the past couple of months. However, now that June 1 is finally here, we can expect a number of names to come off of those lists. Our Luke Adams described the importance of June 1 as it pertains to free agency several days ago, but to summarize just one pertinent point from his piece, any free agents signed after June 1 will not impact the signing team’s compensatory pick formula.
As such, there is often a “mini-surge” of free agents signed after June 1, as teams are attaching more and more value to their compensatory picks. However, the important thing to keep in mind is that signing players whose contracts did not expire naturally–in other words, players who were released–does not impact the compensatory pick formula anyway. Those players, then, will not necessarily be impacted by the June 1 date.
As the offseason progresses and as players get injured and coaches reevaluate their rosters, released players like Santonio Holmes, Asante Samuel, James Harrison, Richie Incognito, and Michael Bush may find an opportunity. But teams are not going to pay any more attention to them simply because June 1 has arrived. With that said, here are a few of the top free agents whose contracts expired naturally and who will therefore receive more interest simply because of today’s date:
- Jermichael Finley: Finley recently received full medical clearance to play and had a free agent visit lined up with a “mystery team” on Friday. Given his athletic abilities and the fact that he is in the prime of his career, Finley may find work sooner rather than later despite his injury history. The Patriots make a good deal of sense, considering how thin they are at tight end behind Rob Gronkowski, who of course has major health concerns of his own. Some have speculated that New England is, in fact, the aforementioned “mystery team.”
- Kevin Williams: the long-time Viking still offers value as a run-stopper in the interior of a defensive line, and he visited the Giants and Seahawks this offseason, but he has stated he will consider retirement if he does not get an offer he likes.
- Eric Winston: Winston played very well for the Texans for a number of years, but he was released by the team in 2012, and he was cut by the Chiefs in 2013 after just one season in Kansas City. He did not impress after signing a one-year deal with the Cardinals last season, but he may still find a team that will give him a chance to start. The Ravens have been mentioned as a natural fit because of their lack of experience at right tackle and Winston’s familiarity with Baltimore’s new offensive coordinator, Gary Kubiak.
- Terrell Thomas: Thomas played fairly well in 2013 after back-to-back torn ACLs, and he recently visited with the Lions and Patriots. Teams looking for a third corner could do much worse. Other veteran cornerbacks who teams might also look to include Drayton Florence and Quentin Jammer.
- Brett Keisel: Kesiel’s age (he will turn 36 in September) and recent struggles with injuries limit his market, but he did post four sacks and fair PFF grades last season. He could certainly offer veteran leadership and some pass rush capabilities to someone’s defensive line. Although Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin did not rule out a reunion with Keisel, it is unclear if other members of the Steelers brass are interested in Keisel’s return.