Santonio Holmes‘ deal with the Bears, which was finalized over the weekend, provided a reminder that there are still plenty of recognizable veteran free agents on the open market looking for jobs. That list figures to increase in a week or two, when roster cutdowns forcing teams into tough decisions — in a few cases, costly veterans will find themselves released, losing out on 53-man roster spots to younger, cheaper options.
Even now though, there are still a handful of names on the free agent market worth noting. It’s not clear if these guys will find work this season, but they’re players to keep an eye on, especially as injuries continue to pile up around the league, and clubs find themselves with gaping holes at specific positions.
You can view our full list of current veteran free agents right here, but for now let’s check in on a few names from that list….
A pair of former first-round picks highlight a middling selection of free agent quarterbacks, and neither Carr nor Freeman should be a starting option at this point. Still, you could do worse than Carr as a backup — there were rumblings in the spring that he and his brother (Derek Carr) were hoping to land with the same team, but we haven’t heard any reports linking the veteran to the Raiders since then. Perhaps the 49ers, who are having problems finding a reliable backup this summer, could consider the possibility of bringing back Carr, who spent time in 2010 with the team.
As for Freeman, failed stops in Minnesota and New York (with the Giants) have put a damper on the idea that he just needed a change of scenery after leaving the Buccaneers. There’s still some upside there, but it may be fading.
After flashing promise with the Giants, Brown struggled with fumbles and injuries last year, ultimately signing with the Texans as a free agent. However, he was a surprising cut last week, raising questions about his value. Bush and McGahee are more known commodities, but are both on the wrong side of 30. Although a team in need of running back depth could bring either of those players aboard at some point for some stability, it may make more sense to gamble on younger backs with higher ceilings.
With Holmes off the market, the group of free agent receivers looks thinner than ever. Baldwin’s production – which was middling to begin with – has declined every year since he was selected in the first round of the 2011 draft, and he recently failed a physical with the Lions. There are questions about Walter’s health as well, though he was a solid option before back problems sidelined him for the 2013 season.
Bennett, who has at least 24 receptions in each of the last five seasons, looks like the most reliable wideout on the market, but even the receiver-needy Browns decided to part ways with him this summer, which doesn’t reflect well on his current value. And while Johnson caught 22 balls for the Falcons last season, he’s undersized, and was arrested for DUI last month, so it’s not clear if any team will be willing to take a shot on him.
Of all the offensive positions, the free agents in this group may be the most intriguing, but they also come with the most health concerns. Dreessen, Finley, and Keller are all coming off significant injuries, so a team would have to be confident in their recoveries to take a flier on any of them. We haven’t heard much about Dreessen and Keller lately, but Finley at least is working toward a return, and would like to rejoin the Packers if they’re interested.
These three players may not be healthy enough to see the field in 2014, but if they can get back to 100%, they’re not far removed from solid seasons — Finley caught 61 balls in 2012, Dreessen caught 41 in the same year, and Keller hauled in 65 passes in 2011.
As Pro Football Focus’ data shows (subscription required), all four of these players saw significant playing time last season, and all four recorded negative grades. Still, only McKinnie’s numbers were egregiously bad. Pashos and Trueblood probably shouldn’t be relied upon as starters again, but teams in need of a swing tackle may snatch them up at some point within the next few weeks. As for Stewart, he played reasonably well for the Titans in 2013, but following his release in March, he indicated that he’ll likely end his playing career.
Incognito may be the most talented free agent on the board at any offensive position. Of course, it’s his reputation – and his involvement in last year’s Dolphins bullying scandal – that’s kept him off NFL rosters to this point, not his talent. At some point, a guard-needy team will likely be desperate enough to bring Incognito aboard.
Coming off a knee injury, Baas was reportedly approached by the Giants about taking a pay cut, but was ultimately released instead — the fact that New York was willing to keep him on board at a reduced rate could signal that he still has something left in the tank.
When the Raiders cut Brisiel in April, his agent confirmed the guard intended to continue his playing career, and he drew some interest from the Bears shortly thereafter. And while the Rams released Dahl in March, head coach Jeff Fisher suggested recently that the team hasn’t closed the door on the veteran’s return. Cook was also released earlier in the offseason, but started all 16 games at center for a solid Bengals team in 2013, and should draw interest at some point.