The first wave of free agency came and went in a flash as a bevy of moves were made. The Texans traded Brock Osweiler, the Patriots paid Stephon Gilmore and Cleveland added two starters on the offensive line.
Despite a frenzy of signings and trades, there are still plenty of starters available on the open market. Some are bigger names – Adrian Peterson, Jamaal Charles – while others are underrated budding stars in the NFL.
Here are the best available players after the first day of signings.
DT Bennie Logan, Eagles
If a team needs a big run-stuffing tackle to play 1-technique, Logan is the guy. Next to Fletcher Cox, Logan’s primary job was to shed blockers and get after running backs. He won’t get you very many sacks, but that’s not his game. He’s going to stuff guys in the backfield and put teams behind the chains on running downs. The Eagles would be smart to bring him back.
LB Gerald Hodges, 49ers
Hodges is a bit underrated in the fact that he’s had just one strong season in the NFL. However, on a defense as bad as San Francisco’s he was one of the lone bright spots. He’s good both against the run and in coverage, never really getting lost in zones in the middle of the defense. He’ll be a Day 1 starter at middle/inside linebacker and will bring a good physical presence to the linebacking unit.
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DT Johnathan Hankins, Giants
Hankins battled a handful of injuries last season, which clearly had an impact on his play. He had three sacks after recording seven in 2015, so the potential is certainly there. He just needs to find the right situation where he can thrive as a 3-technique. The ideal scenario is for him to return to New York and play alongside Damon Harrison, but he may be out of the Giants’ price range.
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RB Eddie Lacy, Packers
Lacy may not have been very good the past two years, but when healthy (and in shape), he’s a solid running back. For a team like the Lions or Vikings, both of which need help at that position desperately, he can be a two-down back and give way to a receiving back on third down. After missing most of 2016 due to injury, his wear level is lower than most running backs at 26 years old. Lacy can likely be had for relatively cheap.
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LB Zach Brown, Bills
Need a physical, downhill linebacker who can also drop back into coverage when needed? Brown is probably the best option out there if that’s the case. He broke out for the Bills this past season, ranking second in the NFL with 149 tackles. He also forced two fumbles and picked off one pass, proving he can be a valuable starter in the NFL. He fits best as an inside linebacker in a 3-4, but playing Mike in a 4-3 would also suit his game.
CB Morris Claiborne, Cowboys
The cornerback market took a big hit on Thursday with Stephon Gilmore, A.J. Bouye and Logan Ryan all signing in new cities. The best one available is now Claiborne, who has an extremely high ceiling, but also a very low floor due to injuries. He can either start 12 games for you and play at a Pro Bowl level, or start five and look only halfway decent. His injury history is certainly concerning, which is why the Cowboys let him hit free agency in the first place.
RB Jamaal Charles, Chiefs
Charles, if not for injuries, would be a huge asset in free agency, and likely would’ve been signed by now. Alas, that’s not the case. He’s not certain to be back to his old self after suffering multiple knee injuries the past couple years, hurting his chances of signing a long-term deal. Still, he just turned 30 and hasn’t endured much wear and tear the past few years.
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RB Adrian Peterson, Vikings
Peterson is in the same boat as Charles, being a veteran running back whose injury history hurts his possible suitors. Even when he was healthy, though, he struggled to produce. Doubting his ability to come back from injury and perform at a high level is foolish, knowing how often he’s done that in the past, but his future as a three-down back is almost non-existent.
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G T.J. Lang, Packers
With Larry Warford, Kevin Zeitler and Ronald Leary all off the board, Lang becomes the best available guard. From a talent standpoint, he might be better than all three of those players, too. Unfortunately, his season ended with a terrible injury against the Falcons and he may not do much on-field work until training camp. That likely scares a lot of teams away from giving him big-time money.
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DT Dontari Poe, Chiefs
It’s a bit of a surprise Poe has been on the market for this long without generating much interest. His play in 2016 may have something to do with that considering how poorly he performed compared to years past. Poe is still a Day 1 starter for whichever team signs him, but he’s no longer the threat he once was against the pass. He’s more of a 1-technique defensive tackle whose primary job is to stop the run.
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LB Dont'a Hightower, Patriots
The Patriots traded away Chandler Jones and Jamie Collins – both of whom got paid this offseason – for seemingly this exact reason: so they could pay Hightower. Now, it seems as though the Patriots are reluctant to do so, allowing their stud linebacker to not just hit free agency, but sit on the market for a day. The Patriots have plenty of money to spend so that’s not the issue, but it seems as though they’re letting him feel out the market and force them to match his highest bid. New England needs to get Hightower re-signed.