The top free agents have been off the market for a few months now, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t still potential starters to be had at this point in the offseason. Sometimes, finding a player for relatively cheap in May can have a significant impact on the upcoming season, especially if he fills a need at a particular position.
These 15 players are still available as free agents and should find homes relatively soon. While some have taken additional visits and generated more interest than others, just about all of them should find a place to play for the upcoming season.
Here are the best fits for the top players still on the market.
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Gerald Hodges, LB: Raiders
Hodges still being available is one of the biggest mysteries of the offseason for me because he had such a solid 2016, and there are a number of teams that need help at linebacker. The Jets, Redskins and Giants could all use his services, but the Raiders are the best fit.
They’re thin at middle linebacker after letting Perry Riley Jr. hit free agency with the team openly admitting they haven’t “properly” addressed the position. What are they waiting for? Hodges is out there waiting to be signed, and he’d pair nicely with Jelani Jenkins in the middle of the defense.
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LeGarrette Blount, RB: Lions
The Lions have two shifty backs in Ameer Abdullah and Theo Riddick, and a bruiser in Zach Zenner, but none of the three have showed that they can handle a heavy workload. Blount has.
Although he’s past his prime and is more of a two-down back, he’s the perfect complement to Abdullah and Riddick. Adding Blount would allow the Lions to use Abdullah and Riddick in more specific roles on passing downs and as change-of-pace backs, which is where they fit better.
Abdullah, when healthy, can probably handle 20 carries a game, but he has yet to prove that.
Colin Kaepernick, QB: Seahawks
It’s pretty clear that Kaepernick isn’t going to be a starting quarterback this season after seeing guys like Geno Smith and Blaine Gabbert sign before him. It’ll probably take an injury for him to get a shot as a starter, but that’ll need to come on a team that fits his very defined skill set.
Russell Wilson is obviously far better than Kaepernick is, but Darrell Bevell’s system actually fits Kaepernick fairly well. He can come in and compete for the backup role, especially with Trevone Boykin’s future in question. It’s not an ideal scenario for Kaepernick, but with his options barren, he’ll probably need to settle for being a backup.
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Jairus Byrd, FS: Bills
The Saints made Byrd the NFL’s highest-paid safety in 2014 after a few terrific seasons with the Bills. In New Orleans, though, he was a complete disaster. He lost playing time to backups, dealt with injuries and only picked off three passes in three seasons.
It’s time for the Bills to get back their guy and try to revive his career. Buffalo has a void at free safety with Micah Hyde figuring to play a number of spots, and Byrd can come in and play over the top in the middle of the defense. Because of his struggles, he likely wouldn’t cost too much, and his ceiling is still fairly high despite being 30 years old.
Darrelle Revis, CB: Patriots
There’s a chance Revis isn’t signed at all this offseason and is forced to sit out the year due to his declining play. He doesn’t have the speed to hold up on an island anymore, making him a difficult player to gauge. Taking into account his previous runs through free agency, he’ll likely want to be paid as an above-average cornerback. The only problem is he’s no longer that.
The Patriots are still the best fit for Revis because of the way Bill Belichick and his staff can get the most out of veterans. He’ll need to kick inside to the slot in order to get playing time, which may be the move Revis needs to prolong his career. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see the Patriots give him another shot.
Gary Barnidge, TE: Jets
After drafting David Njoku, the Browns released Barnidge, who was a relatively consistent player for them the past two years. The Jets, on the other hand, don’t have a single reliable tight end on the roster. Yes, they drafted Jordan Leggett, but he needs time to develop and improve as an all-around tight end.
Barnidge can come in and bridge the gap until he does so, giving whoever starts at quarterback a decent option between the hashes. Barnidge can be a red zone threat with Brandon Marshall gone, which is something the Jets certainly need.
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Nick Mangold, C: Saints
Mangold was released by the Jets this offseason after playing just eight games in 2016, but concerns about his durability are overblown. He’s played at least 14 games in every other season, and he can still play at a relatively high level for someone. A move to guard could be possible for a team like the Falcons, but signing with the Saints would allow him to stay at center.
With Max Unger on the shelf for a few months and possibly starting the year on the PUP list, the Saints have a hole in the middle of their line – a void Mangold can fill for relatively cheap.
Perry Riley, LB: Giants
B.J. Goodson figures to be the Giants’ starting middle linebacker this season, which isn’t a terrible scenario. However, Riley is still on the market, and he proved last season that his best fit is in a 4-3 defense. The Giants run exactly that style of defense, which makes Riley an intriguing option.
He’s not the fastest or most physical linebacker in the league, but he holds up well in coverage – a trait the Giants could use in the middle of the defense. Next to Gerald Hodges, Riley is the best remaining linebacker on the market, and the Giants should give him a look.
Elvis Dumervil, OLB: Falcons
Dumervil is now in a category with Dwight Freeney and Julius Peppers, only he’s probably a step above them. He can be a sub-package guy, playing limited snaps as a situational pass rusher the way the Packers used Peppers last season. The Falcons already have Vic Beasley and drafted Takk McKinley, but questions still remain at pass rusher.
McKinley may start the year on the PUP list and Beasley needs help on the other side. Dumervil can fill that void for relatively cheap and hold down the fort until McKinley is healthy and ready to go.
Ryan Clady, LT: Seahawks
Injuries have plagued Clady’s career in the past few seasons, causing him to play just nine games since the start of 2015. He still has the talent to be a solid left tackle, but there’s just no guarantee he’ll be available on a weekly basis.
The Seahawks signed Luke Joeckel, but he’s not great at left tackle or guard, so there’s a big question mark in itself. Clady can compete with him for the starting job with the possibility that Joeckel moves inside to guard, just as he did last season. We all know the Seahawks are weak at both spots, so the more players, the better.
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Tre Boston, S: Chargers
It was a bit surprising to see the Panthers cut Boston after he started 10 games for them last season. He’s already gone on multiple visits since his release, one of which was with the Chargers. Los Angeles is in need of a free safety after losing Eric Weddle last offseason, struggling to replace him ever since.
Boston can compete with rookie Desmond King for the job, a competition he’s likely to win. He had two interceptions and 53 tackles in 2016, which are respectable numbers for a free safety.
Jason McCourty, CB: Steelers
McCourty was once an above-average cornerback for the Titans, but age has caught up with him. The Steelers have decent depth with Artie Burns, Ross Cockrell and William Gay, but they could certainly use another starting-caliber player. McCourty primarily plays boundary corner, which would force Cockrell or Gay inside to the slot.
He can hold up in man coverage, which the Steelers play plenty of, and has the size to press at the line of scrimmage. He wouldn’t solve all their woes at the position, but he can provide good depth in the event of an injury.
Brandon Flowers, CB: Jets
Flowers has dealt with injury concerns in recent years, limiting his snaps. However, as a decently cheap veteran addition, the Jets can find value in signing Flowers. As a nickel cornerback playing the slot, Flowers fits well with what the Jets want to do. They have Morris Claiborne and Buster Skrine, but they’re thin beyond those two players, and the former comes with durability questions.
Flowers can compete for snaps right away and provide Todd Bowles with another body in the secondary, hopefully getting back to the high level at which he played in 2014.
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Devin Taylor, DE: Cowboys
Taylor was in a contract year last season, and all eyes were on him having a breakout campaign after recording seven sacks in 2015. He took a massive step backwards, though, recording just 4.5 in 16 starts. That shouldn’t stop the Cowboys from taking a look at him on a cheap free-agent deal, though.
Rod Marinelli loves to rotate guys on the defense line, especially when he has players who can play both defensive end and tackle. Taylor can kick inside on sub-packages and rush from the interior thanks to his size.
Victor Cruz, WR: Panthers
The first visit Cruz took after being released by the Giants was with the Panthers, and they remain the best fit for the veteran wideout. Despite having Curtis Samuel to play in the slot, Cruz can carve out a role as a chain-mover in the middle of the field. Of course, he’s lost a step and has durability concerns, but on a veteran minimum contract, he could have an impact with the Panthers, who are remodeling their offense.
Cam Newton needs more playmakers on offense, even after the Panthers added Christian McCaffrey and Samuel.