We’re 24 days into free agency, and even the big-name players who weren’t available when the free agent period began on March 11, such as Darrelle Revis and DeSean Jackson, have found new homes in recent days and weeks. Still, with many teams no longer actively pursuing many free agents and a number of players still looking for jobs, this could be prime bargain-hunting time for teams with a couple holes to fill.
Over the next two days, we’ll take a look at some of the more intriguing free agents still on the board, starting today with offensive players. Let’s dive in…
When free agency opened, we questioned whether any members of this year’s quarterback class would even land a starting job. Josh McCown appears to have done so with the Buccaneers and Michael Vick may have the inside track with the Jets, but now that the market has dried up, there aren’t many reliable backups left, let alone guys with starting potential.
Among the notable names still on the board: Matt Flynn, who looks like a decent bet to rejoin the Packers; Rex Grossman, who could be destined for a reunion with Kyle Shanahan in Cleveland; and Josh Freeman, who is waiting to see if any team is willing to bet on the upside and promise he displayed prior to 2013.
As we’ve seen so far this offseason, it’s more profitable to be a free agent kicker in the NFL these days than a free agent running back. When even 2014’s top free agents like Ben Tate, Maurice Jones-Drew, and Rashad Jennings are only seeing very modest paydays, there isn’t much hope for the guys still on the board.
Still, perhaps a few of the remaining players can at least eke out salaries worth more than the minimum. Andre Brown looks to me like the most interesting back available, though there are a handful of capable veteran backups out there, including Michael Bush, Willis McGahee, Felix Jones, and Justin Forsett. Clubs in the market for a fullback could also kick the tires on John Kuhn, Vonta Leach, and Le’Ron McClain, among others.
This group gets significantly less interesting with Jackson having committed to the Redskins, but there are plenty of noteworthy names here. For teams in need of a high-character veteran who can play out of the slot, Nate Burleson or Jason Avant could be of interest. For clubs looking for a veteran with slightly more playmaking ability, Miles Austin and Santonio Holmes have appeal, and Earl Bennett may be worth a shot. A franchise looking to roll the dice on a player with a higher ceiling could target Sidney Rice.
Additionally, it’s worth mentioning Doug Baldwin, who has yet to garner much reported interest after receiving a restricted tender offer from the Seahawks. We haven’t seen many teams target other players’ restricted free agents this offseason, but the one RFA who signed a surprisingly lucrative offer sheet was also a receiver (Andrew Hawkins). Baldwin, who is still just 25 years old, likely won’t draw a similar offer, since it would cost a draft pick to sign him, but he’s worth keeping an eye on.
Two of the players who opened the offseason among the top five tight ends available, Jimmy Graham and Jermichael Finley, are still available, though neither player is generating a whole lot of excitement. If there was a team considering making a run at Graham and giving up the two first-round picks he would cost, I imagine that club has decided by now to pass. As for Finley, he has upside, but he needs to be fully cleared following his spinal injury first.
It’s more likely we’ll see guys like Ed Dickson and Owen Daniels come off the board before those two bigger names. Dustin Keller, Kellen Winslow, and Jeff King are among the other tight ends still without a team.
Tyson Clabo, Tony Pashos, and Byron Bell were regular starters at right tackle for their respective clubs in 2013, and all three were passable. Bell is a restricted free agent who seems likely to return to Carolina, while Clabo and Pashos may be having trouble finding a club with an open starter’s job.
Offseason cuts have added some talent to this group, with players like Uche Nwaneri and Daryn Colledge hitting unrestricted free agency after becoming cap casualties for their respective teams. Garrett Reynolds and Wade Smith should draw some interest as well, and there would probably be plenty of teams willing to bring aboard Brian Waters or Travelle Wharton if they decide to continue their playing careers.
One wild card here, of course, is Richie Incognito, whose involvement in the Dolphins’ bullying scandal has made teams reluctant to even express interest. I think we’ll probably see Incognito back in the NFL at some point, but whether or not that happens this year remains to be seen.
Two of my top three free agent centers remain available, though one (Alex Mack) has been saddled with the transition tag by the Browns. That tag means the Browns retain the right to match any rival offer, so Mack appears likely to remain in Cleveland. The other top center, Brian De La Puente, has visited the Redskins and been linked to several other teams, but has yet to reach an agreement anywhere. Depending on what his price tag looks like, he could be one of the better under-the-radar pickups of free agency’s second month.
Other potentially intriguing options for teams seeking a center include Fernando Velasco, Dan Koppen, Ryan Cook, and especially Jonathan Goodwin, who looks like he may be done in San Francisco, and could be a nice short-term solution for a contender.