The draft is closing in but that doesn’t mean 2017 NFL Free Agency is over, here is a look at one player left that each team should target
We may all be in draft mode, but the job of an NFL general manager never ends. That means that while all of us are looking at the incoming class of rookies, these guys are pouring over the list of players still available in 2017 NFL Free Agency.
For the most part, this has dwindled down. That’s because all the big name players have signed their contracts and have their new homes. Players like wide receivers DeSean Jackson (Tampa Bay Buccaneers) and Pierre Garcon (San Francisco 49ers) signed big deals to leave the Washington Redskins. Quarterback Mike Glennon is now a $15 million per year guy thanks to his new deal with the Chicago Bears.
Of course, not everyone left. Defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul and the New York Giants were able to come to terms on a big contract, as did linebacker Dont’a Hightower with the New England Patriots.
Despite all the big money being spent — and the majority of the top free agents being gone — there are still some players available who can join a team and help them. Here is a look at one player still out there that each team in the NFL should target.
Nov 13, 2016; Jacksonville, FL, USA; Jacksonville Jaguars defensive end Jared Odrick (75) runs out of the tunnel before a football game against the Houston Texans at EverBank Field. Mandatory Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports
Arizona Cardinals: Jared Odrick, DE
The Arizona Cardinals have seen a lot of good players leave on defense recently. They lost defensive end Calais Campbell to the Jacksonville Jaguars, free safety D.J. Swearinger to the Washington Redskins, strong safety Tony Jefferson to the Baltimore Ravens, outside linebacker Alex Okafor to the New Orleans Saints and middle linebacker Kevin Minter to the Cincinnati Bengals.
With all those departures, it would make sense that the Cards need to do something to ease the pain. Those are a whole lot of pieces now gone and a former strength could become a weakness if nothing is done. One player out there who still may be talented enough to help is former Jacksonville defensive lineman Jared Odrick.
The 6-5, 300-pound Odrick is coming off an injury plagued season, but had 5.5 sacks just a couple years ago during the 2015 campaign. Originally a first round pick of the Miami Dolphins, Odrick has shown the ability to be a space eater that stuffs runs while also demonstrating an above average ability to get to the passer.
Odrick is also still 29 years old, so it’s not like he’s over the hill by any means. He could provide Arizona with an experienced defender which would help ease their minds about the recent losses to their defensive personnel. What’s more, he provides the versatility on the line that Bruce Arians loves.
Oct 17, 2016; Glendale, AZ, USA; New York Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis (24) against the Arizona Cardinals at University of Phoenix Stadium. The Cardinals defeated the Jets 28-3. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Atlanta Falcons: Darrelle Revis, CB
The Atlanta Falcons defense was much better at the end of the 2016 season. Then during Super Bowl 51, the world was reminded that they’re still a work in progress. After shutting down New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and his crew for nearly 45 minutes, the wheels completely fell off in the fourth quarter.
Suddenly, the defense stopped clicking. The corners couldn’t stick with receivers, the linebackers couldn’t tackle the running backs and the defensive line got no penetration at all, which gave Brady all day to throw. The result was the biggest comeback — or biggest choke job — in Super Bowl history.
At this stage in the game, there’s no one out there who can magically fix things. Instead they can look for a guy to at least make some kind of change, like veteran cornerback Darrelle Revis. Recently cut from the New York Jets, Revis isn’t the player he once was. There’s no arguing that. What he can be though is a veteran presence on a young, rebuilding defense.
Perhaps a player with Revis’ savvy could have made a difference in February while Brady was picking the dirty birds defense apart. Now, that he’s available it might make sense to kick the tires.
Dec 6, 2015; Tampa, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Vincent Jackson (83) runs with the ball in the second half against the Atlanta Falcons at Raymond James Stadium. Tampa Bay defeated Atlanta 23-19. Mandatory Credit: Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports
Baltimore Ravens: Vincent Jackson, WR
In 2016, the Baltimore Ravens found a cast off receiver in Mike Wallace. After becoming a star with the Pittsburgh Steelers, Wallace took his game to South Beach to join the Miami Dolphins. The speedy wide receiver had an up-and-down two-year tenure with the Dolphins before winding up with the Minnesota Vikings for the 2015 season.
With the Vikings, he was a forgotten man. Wallace had just 39 receptions for 473 yards and two touchdowns. Trying to put that dreadful season behind him, he joined the Baltimore Ravens and formed a strong duo with veteran receiver Steve Smith. Wallace revitalized his career by catching 72 passes for 1,017 yards and four touchdowns. Now with Smith retired, Wallace looks to be the lone veteran on this team out wide.
Maybe he shouldn’t be. Sitting unsigned is former San Diego Charger and Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Vincent Jackson. The 34-year-old Jackson has seen his career start to hit the down turn. He was injured for most of 2016 and missed another six games in 2015. Before that, he had gone five straight-seasons with more than 1,000 yards receiving.
While it would be crazy to expect that kind of production out of him at this stage in his career, it isn’t that far fetched to think he could have some impact still. Many wrote off Steve Smith before he went to Baltimore at the end of his career, just like they had Wallace before joining the Ravens in 2016. Now it could be Jackson’s turn at one last run.
Sep 18, 2016; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz (80) reacts during the fourth quarter against the New Orleans Saints at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports
Buffalo Bills: Victor Cruz, WR
During free agency the Buffalo Bills lost wide receivers Robert Woods — who signed a pretty big contract with the Los Angeles Rams — and Marquise Goodwin who joined the San Francisco 49ers. They signed Andre Holmes away from the Oakland Raiders and Corey Brown from the Panthers, but neither have been great players by any stretch.
One available receiver who has been considered great at one point is Victor Cruz, formerly of the New York Giants. Cruz was a feel good story in 2016 as he finally got back on the field after battling knee injuries for nearly two full seasons. In his first game back he caught what proved to be the game winning touchdown on Sunday Night Football against the Dallas Cowboys. It wound up being his only touchdown of the year.
That doesn’t mean Cruz wasn’t effective. On the season he caught 39 passes for 586 yards. That’s more than Brown has ever had in a single season for either receptions or yards and it also outperformed what Holmes has done in his past two years combined.
Cruz is primarily a slot receiver only, but that is exactly what the Bills could use with Holmes out wide opposite their top receiver Sammy Watkins. The veteran is not what he used to be when he was salsa dancing regularly on Sunday’s, but he can still help and won’t be too pricey given how long he has been on the market.
In 2015 the Carolina Panthers were the best team during the regular season. They finished with a 15-1 record and quarterback Cam Newton won the NFL MVP award for his role in leading them to the number one seed in the NFC. Then they were defeated by the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl 50 and never seemed to fully recover.
Part of the problem centered around their refusal to come to terms with cornerback Josh Norman. The leader of their secondary was given the franchise tag, but never signed it. Carolina then rescinded the offer, making him a free agent. Norman left for the Washington Redskins and the Panthers defense struggled while the team finished in last place in the NFC South with a record of 6-10.
Not all their issues centered around the loss of Norman. Newton had his struggles and there were health problems that cost left tackle Michael Oher most of the season, and middle linebacker Luke Kuechly missed several games as well. So far in free agency, they have addressed some needs by brining in defensive end Julius Peppers and cornerback Captain Munnerlyn. It wouldn’t hurt to add more veteran help in the defensive backfield, which makes kicking the tires on Alterraun Verner a good scenario.
Verner was a regular starter for several years with the Tennessee Titans before joining the Tampa Bay Bucs. He started 23 games over the past three seasons for them while suiting up for all but two. He is a reliable player that can give them some much needed depth.
Nov 27, 2016; Baltimore, MD, USA; Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton (14) pressured by Baltimore Ravens linebacker Elvis Dumervil (58) at M&T Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY Sports
Chicago Bears: Elvis Dumervil, OLB/DE
The Chicago Bears are slowly taking on the identity of head coach John Fox. His reputation as a defensive master has followed him everywhere he’s gone and there’s already been some improvement in the Windy City in that area.
After finishing 3-13, it may be hard to believe that. However the defense in Chicago was middle of the pack in 2016 in terms of yardage surrendered. They also finished top ten in pass defense. Their problem was stoping teams from scoring once they got into the red zone.
For help in finding a playmaker to pressure opposing offenses better Fox can go to one of his old players in edge rusher Elvis Dumervil. Now on the wrong side of 30, Dumervil finds himself needing a job. After spending two seasons together in Denver, he and Fox know how to work with one another and a reunion would be helpful.
Last season Dumervil played in just eight games, but still recorded three sacks in that time. He is just a few seasons removed from his 2014 year that saw him net 17 quarterback take downs. Clearly his production has dipped heavily, but as a rotational rusher he could still help in the right situation.
Dec 22, 2016; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia Eagles cornerback Leodis McKelvin (21) breaks up a pass play to New York Giants wide receiver Roger Lewis (82) in the closing minutes of the fourth quarter at Lincoln Financial Field. The Philadelphia Eagles won 24-19. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports
Cincinnati Bengals: Leodis McKelvin, CB
Before the 2010 season the Cincinnati Bengals took a chance on troubled cornerback Adam Jones. He had been arrested somewhere near a dozen times and had been kicked off the Tennessee Titans. He was later allowed to walk away from the Dallas Cowboys. In between those two teams he missed an entire season. He also spent 2009 out of the NFL while playing for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers of the Canadian Football league.
After playing sparingly for two seasons, Jones became a fixture in the secondary for Cincinnati. He has played in all 16 games since 2012, but had more problems this offseason. Jones was arrested yet again this past January and the question about being able to trust him is yet again on the table.
The Bengals could protect themselves by picking up an experienced starter just in case. Leodis McKelvin has started 72 games while playing in 111 total. He has 15 career interceptions, but is coming off a pretty bad season. After signing a two-year deal with the Philadelphia Eagles, McKelvin was cut after just one year. He has seen his once promising star fade quite a bit, but that was the same with Jones — albeit for different reasons of course.
Jones isn’t the only veteran they’ve been able to rehab. They did the same thing with Terrance Newman, who had been cut by the Cowboys following the 2011 season. He spent the next two seasons starting for Cincy and is still starting in the NFL with the Minnesota Vikings. Could it happen a third time with McKelvin? Possibly.
Sep 11, 2016; Nashville, TN, USA; Minnesota Vikings quarterback Shaun Hill (13) passes the ball with pressure from Tennessee Titans linebacker Wesley Woodyard (59) at Nissan Stadium. The Vikings won 25-16. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
Cleveland Browns: Shaun Hill, QB
It isn’t flashy by any means, but quarterback Shaun Hill makes sense for a team like the Cleveland Browns. Currently on their roster they have Cody Kessler, Kevin Hogan and Brock Osweiler at the position. That’s quite possibly the least inspiring list in the NFL. Of course they could see that change after the draft since they own 11 picks throughout the 2017 NFL Draft.
They have been tied heavily to Mitchell Trubusky out of North Carolina, and he appears to be a potential franchise quarterback. The problem is, Trubisky started just one season for the Tar Heels. He may surprise everyone and be ready to go right out of the gates, or it’s more likely that he may need some seasoning.
Other options include Clemson quarterback DeShaun Watson or Texas Tech’s Patrick Mahomes. Both also come with some questions, which means that no matter what Cleveland does they will need someone to play if all else fails. Kessler is an option, but Osweiler and Hogan really aren’t.
Hill on the other hand could be a nice player for them. He has 35 career starts, including one this past season as he led the Minnesota Vikings to an opening week win. Hill is 37 years old and isn’t a long term answer. He can, however, be a smart veteran who offers a much better option than they had a season ago.
Dec 26, 2016; Arlington, TX, USA; Detroit Lions defensive end Devin Taylor (98) before the game against the Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
Dallas Cowboys: Devin Taylor, DE
The name Devin Taylor isn’t a household name, but it is one the Dallas Cowboys should familiarize themselves with. Dallas has struggled mightily over the past three seasons to find someone to generate consistent pressure on opposing quarterbacks. The issue became their eventual downfall following their 13-3 season last year.
In the playoffs they failed to get after Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, and it proved to be their let down. Heading into this offseason the goal was simple — find someone to rush from the edges.
To this point, they have only signed Damontre Moore, a former third-round pick of the New York Giants. Moore has done little over the past couple of seasons, meaning his signing is a low risk one where they hope he can provide some upside. Such a gamble could also be placed on the former Detroit Lions starter in Taylor.
At 6-7 and 275 pounds, Taylor has the size the Cowboys covet in their strong side ends. He also has plenty of experience including 16 starts last season. For his career, Taylor has provided a decent pass rush, which included 4.5 sacks in 2016 and seven the year before.
Many expect Dallas to go all-in on a defensive end in the upcoming draft. The problem is, nothing is guaranteed in the rookie selection process. That means Dallas should do everything possible to find help wherever they can — like in a player such as Devin Taylor.
Jan 3, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; Detroit Lions tight end Timothy Wright (83) catches a touchdown pass from Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford (9) in the first quarter of their game against the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Matt Marton-USA TODAY Sports
Denver Broncos: Timothy Wright, TE
Ever since letting Julius Thomas leave via free agency the Denver Broncos have been without a weapon in the passing game at tight end. Their top player in 2016 was Virgil Green, who recorded just 22 receptions for 237 yards and one score.
The Broncos know the difference it makes to have someone at that spot that draws the attention of opposing teams. When Thomas was a member of their team he produced back-to-back seasons with 12 touchdowns. While such a player isn’t available on the open market, there is at least one guy left who can command some respect in the passing game.
Timothy Wright was originally undrafted out of Rutgers and performed incredibly well as a rookie for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. In his first NFL season Wright had 54 catches for 561 yards and five touchdowns. He was then traded to the New England Patriots and as a second tight end had 26 receptions for 259 yards and six scores.
Wright never caught on long term with either team, though, and spent 2015 with the Detroit Lions after New England cut him and Tampa claimed him again only to trade him. He played in just nine games for Detroit and then missed the entire 2016 for the team after tearing his ACL. Now a free agent Wright could help a team like Denver that can use a talented weapon in the middle of the offense.
Dec 11, 2016; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Lions wide receiver Anquan Boldin (80) runs after a catch during the fourth quarter against the Chicago Bears at Ford Field. Lions win 20-17. Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports
Detroit Lions: Anquan Boldin, WR
Let’s just be honest, wide receiver Anquan Boldin is no spring chicken. The 2003 second-round pick out of Florida State will turn 37 years old before this season is over and has surely lost a step. That doesn’t mean he isn’t still incredibly effective, mainly because he spent a whole career making up for a lack of speed, so he’s used to finding different ways to be a contributor.
After spending seven seasons with the Arizona Cardinals, Boldin wound up with the Baltimore Ravens for three seasons. After that he spent another three with the San Francisco 49ers before becoming a member of the Detroit Lions in 2016.
He was an incredible weapon for Detroit last season despite averaging a career low 8.7 yards per reception. Boldin became a player who excelled going over the middle and being a safety valve for quarterback Matthew Stafford. The veteran ended up with 67 receptions for 584 yards and eight touchdowns.
Detroit can still use his size and excellent hands, so they should bring him back as long as he’s willing to play another season. The 14-year pro is just as good a person off the field and is the right kind of guy to help lead a young franchise on the rise.
Sep 18, 2016; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson (28) carries the ball and is injured on the play during the third quarter against the Green Bay Packers at U.S. Bank Stadium. The Vikings defeated the Packers 17-14. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports
Green Bay Packers: Adrian Peterson, RB
Again it’s honesty time. The Green Bay Packers did fine with Ty Montgomery at running back last season in spurts. However, there’s a reason he moved from running back to receiver in college and counting on him to be a full-time running back may not be the most beneficial move. Getting him a running mate to share the load would be beneficial.
One available player who could provide a much different style of play than Montgomery is veteran Adrian Peterson. The 32-year-old is on his last leg after missing almost all of 2016 with knee problems. He is just one year removed from topping 1,400 yards though and for his career has 11,747 yards and 97 touchdowns. All that damage was done by one of the Packers divisional rivals, the Minnesota Vikings. Seeing him in the Packers green and yellow would be enough to make any Vikings fan queasy, especially if he were able to perform well.
This move makes sense not only for the Pack who needs an upgrade, but for Peterson as well. While he’s accustomed to carrying the load, it may be in his best interest to come to a pass first team like Green Bay where he won’t get beat down as much.
Nov 20, 2016; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler (6) drops back to pass against the New York Giants during the first quarter at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
Houston Texans: Jay Cutler, QB
Although reports suggested the Houston Texans were interested in quarterback Tony Romo, they never bit on the Cowboys attempt to get something in exchange for Romo. Now the veteran has opted for calling games for CBS and the Texans are looking at a season faced with Tom Savage and Brandon Weeden as their main options. That’s not going to cut it.
Instead they need to find themselves a legitimate starter. Choosing 25th in the upcoming draft, there’s no guarantee such a player will be on the board. To protect themselves they need to find someone worthy of starting under center. Fortunately for them, there’s a starting quarterback just sitting waiting for a home.
Former Denver Broncos and Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler has become a forgotten man by NFL teams. While all the news has been about former San Fransisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s inability to land a job, Cutler’s situation is more confusing because he actually is a good player.
Cutler has a rocket for an arm and would be a huge upgrade over Brock Osweiler, their starter from a season ago. He would also be a better player than either Ryan Fitzpatrick or Brian Hoyer. Houston has gone into three seasons in a row with one of those players less talented than Cutler, and they’ve walked away with nine wins each time. Cutler could actually help them get better in an attempt for a third-straight AFC South title.
Oct 23, 2016; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Falcons defensive end Dwight Freeney (93) in action against the San Diego Chargers in the second quarter at the Georgia Dome. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports
Indianapolis Colts: Dwight Freeney, OLB
Last year, the Indianapolis Colts were one of the worst defenses in the NFL. They allowed 382.9 yards per game which ranked them 30th in the NFL and 24.5 points which was 22nd. They struggled just as bad agains the run as they did the pass, so fixes are needed all over the place. One thing that fixes the most areas on a defense is edge rushing.
The best pass rusher for Indy last year was Erik Walden, who recorded 11 sacks. This was a career high for the veteran player and the team has not tried to re-sign him, meaning they must have doubts in his ability to duplicate his success.
They haven’t ignored the position either. To date they have picked up former Houston Texans outside linebacker John Simon and former New England Patriots defensive end/outside linebacker Jabaal Sheard. While both can produce and offer some solid pass rush, it may not be enough.
There’s a familiar name in free agency to add to their collection of outside linebackers. Dwight Freeney was a member of the Indianapolis Colts from 2002-12 before becoming a sort of journeyman the past four seasons. Freeney spent two years with San Diego, one with the Cardinals and last year with the Atlanta Falcons.
This isn’t just a nostalgia signing for the guy who had 107.5 sacks in 11 seasons of wearing the horseshoe, but it’s all about getting a situational player. Freeney can still bring heat on third downs and has 11 sacks over the past two seasons.
Dec 24, 2016; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Saints free safety Jairus Byrd (31) celebrates his interception in the fourth quarter against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports
Jacksonville Jaguars: Jairus Byrd, S
Many experts are ready to jump on the Jacksonville Jaguars bandwagon — again. These guys went to work during the early part of free agency by picking up former Dallas Cowboys safety Barry Church, Houston Texans cornerback A.J. Bouye and Arizona Cardinals defensive end Calais Campbell.
They did lose a couple key players though including safety Jonathan Cyprien. While the addition of Church helps ease that loss, they still can make a splash to solidify their suddenly solid secondary. Recently released by the New Orleans Saints, free safety Jairus Byrd was once a highly sought after player, but now is much lower on most people’s radar.
He was selected in the second round by the Buffalo Bills out of Oregon and played for the Bills from 2009-2013. Before the 2014 season he inked a six-year, $56 million deal with New Orleans. He wound up playing out only half that contract as the Saints released him following three seasons in which he failed to live up to his hype.
In Jacksonville he could prove to find new life. He would no longer be part of a struggling defense and perhaps having some much better teammates could lead to better results for him as well.
Jan 1, 2017; Santa Clara, CA, USA; San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick (7) passes the football against Seattle Seahawks defensive end Frank Clark (55) during the fourth quarter at Levis Stadium Seahawks defeated the 49ers 25-23. Mandatory Credit: Neville E. Guard-USA TODAY Sports
Kansas City Chiefs: Colin Kaepernick, QB
As mentioned earlier quarterback Colin Kaepernick has yet to find work and it’s been highly publicized. Kaepernick was once believed to be one of the new faces of the NFL after leading the San Francisco 49ers to the Super Bowl.
Since then he has seen his ego grow so big that he has trouble fitting into a room. Many believe that Kaepernick is failing to find work due to his refusal to stand for the national anthem which led to an uproar. However, there may be more than that.
The young quarterback has shown he has no self awareness on other occasions as well, which aren’t related to social issues. Back in 2013 he was spotted wearing a Miami Dolphins hat, which irked some fans of the San Francisco 49ers.
“This the hat y’all mad at? I’m goin wear what I want regardless of what you think,” Kaepernick said on Instagram. “All you need to worry about is the fact that I grind for my teammates and the 49ers! I plan on doin this until they won’t let me in the building! #ridiculous #y’allmustbebored”
This was a foreshadowing of a guy who isn’t a team player. He not only ignored teammates and fans concerns, but he completely shrugged it off as nonsense and there’s no way that this was the only incident. It was probably just the only one that made it public. Besides that, Kaepernick also physically declined over the years.
All this isn’t to say he doesn’t deserve a job, but it won’t be what he expected. Instead going somewhere like the Chiefs could get him paired with quarterback guru Andy Reid, who can try to help him revive his form from the season he took over as starter and lead the Niners to the big game. Ironically that season he wound up replacing Alex Smith — the current quarterback of the Chiefs. He may not be too happy to see his former backup again.
Sep 18, 2016; San Diego, CA, USA; Jacksonville Jaguars running back Denard Robinson (16) makes a catch as San Diego Chargers outside linebacker Jatavis Brown (57) defends during the fourth quarter at Qualcomm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports
Los Angeles Chargers: Denard Robinson, RB
The one thing that will help the Los Angeles Chargers more than anything in 2017 is simply the time off. This team was just brutalized by injuries last season to the point that they were picking people up off the street to start in just a few weeks.
Key players like running backs Danny Woodhead and Melvin Gordon missed time. As did wideout Keenan Allen, nose tackle Brandon Mebane, cornerbacks Brandon Flowers and Jason Verrett and linebacker Manti T’eo. They wound up with 19 guys on injured reserve, which is just insane.
Not all those players who were hurt will come back, though, thanks to expiring contracts. And one will be sorely missed: Danny Woodhead. The third-down back was a dangerous weapon out of the backfield as a receiver and will be sorely missed by quarterback Philip Rivers who loved dumping passes his way and watching him work.
A potential replacement in the open market could be Denard Robinson, formerly of the Jacksonville Jaguars. Robinson is a former college quarterback turned runner that is lightning fast. He’s only played sparingly for the Jags, but showed some explosion. He averages four-yards per rush and had 44 receptions between 2014 and 2015 before falling to the end of Jacksonville’s depth chart.
Jan 1, 2017; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Jets quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick (14) drops back to pass against the Buffalo Bills during the second quarter at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
Los Angeles Rams: Ryan Fitzpatrick, QB
Who says you can’t go home? Well maybe it isn’t really home since the Rams are now in Los Angeles, but quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick was originally a seventh-round pick of the St. Louis Rams when he entered the league out of Harvard in 2005. He spent two seasons with the Rams organization before moving on the Cincinnati Bengals for the next two years. Fitz then spent time with the Buffalo Bills, Tennessee Titans, Houston Texans and most recently the New York Jets.
His last season with the Jets was pretty bad. After becoming the starting quarterback and leading New York to ten wins in 2015, he found himself playing poorly for one of the worst teams in the league. Things had gotten so bad that he even had a game in which he threw six interceptions against the Kansas City Chiefs.
After finishing the year with 12 touchdowns and 17 picks, the journeyman quarterback has drawn little interest. The Rams though should be considering bringing him back to the organization that drafted him. The reason isn’t to start though, but rather to serve as a veteran mentor and backup to second-year pro Jared Goff.
Goff was the first overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft, but went 0-7 as a starter in his rookie season. Behind him the Rams have just Sean Mannion and Aaron Murray. Between the two of them they have a total of 13 career pass attempts — all from Mannion. It would make sense to have a better option should anything happen to their young signal-caller.
Nov 6, 2016; San Diego, CA, USA; San Diego Chargers cornerback Brandon Flowers (24) celebrates with teammate outside linebacker Melvin Ingram (54) after scoring a touchdown during the second half against the Tennessee Titans at Qualcomm Stadium. San Diego won 43-35. Mandatory Credit: Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports
Miami Dolphins: Brandon Flowers, CB
Before the start of the 2016 season the Miami Dolphins made a trade which netted them linebacker Kiko Alonso and cornerback Byron Maxwell. Alonso is a good player and has been a solid starter for them, but Maxwell was benched at one point due to poor play. He still carries a huge price tag and isn’t living up to that status.
They may not feel it’s financially prudent to cut him, but they need to at a minimum find another option to start. One such player could be Brandon Flowers, a former second-round pick of the Kansas City Chiefs back in 2008.
Flowers had a good run with Kansas City as he spent six years as a starter for them. During that span he recorded 17 interceptions, proving to be a legitimate playmaker. Then in 2014 he moved on to the San Diego Chargers, where he’s spent the past three seasons and added another four picks while still serving as an every-week starter.
Injuries have slowed him down as Flowers missed five games in 2015 and 10 in 2016. His problems staying on the field have factored into his availability, but should he stay healthy he would be a valuable veteran starter on a team that can use some cornerback help.
Jan 1, 2017; Miami Gardens, FL, USA; New England Patriots wide receiver Michael Floyd (14) celebrates a touchdown during the second quarter of an NFL football game against the Miami Dolphins at Hard Rock Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports
Minnesota Vikings: Michael Floyd, WR
It seemed like former Notre Dame receiver Michael Floyd was in the perfect place to succeed, but didn’t. And he was in that position two times.
After being selected by the Arizona Cardinals in the first round of the 2012 NFL Draft, Floyd was in the enviable position of lining up opposite future Hall of Fame quarterback Larry Fitzgerald. The veteran wide out is one of the best in the game and should have been the perfect mentor for the big-bodied Floyd.
After two seasons, it seemed like it was working. Floyd recorded 65 receptions for 1,041 yards and five touchdowns in 2013 and appeared ready to take over as the go-to guy. Instead, he saw his production dip and eventually in 2016 was released following an arrest for a DUI.
Floyd was then lucky enough to be claimed by the New England Patriots. The pass-first franchise was in need of a tall wideout and the 6-2, 220-pound Floyd fit the bill. He wound up getting a Super Bowl ring for his trouble, but nothing else. New England showed no interest in retaining his services and now he’s on the market still.
The Minnesota Vikings would be wise to at least kick the tires. Floyd is still just 27 years old and was picked early for a reason. He would bring much needed size to the receiver starved Vikings and thanks to the his length of time on the open market he could come in rather affordable as well.
Feb 5, 2017; Houston, TX, USA; New England Patriots running back LeGarrette Blount (29) against the Atlanta Falcons during Super Bowl LI at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
New England Patriots: LeGarrette Blount, RB
What in the world is going on with the New England Patriots and running back LeGarrette Blount? The 30-year-old running back has been in the NFL since signing with the Tennessee Titans as an undrafted free agent out of Oregon. He entered the league with a bad reputation since he was suspended for punching a Boise State player and his own teammate after a game.
He then made more negative headlines with the Titans when he threw a punch at a teammate during practice. He eventually was released and spent time with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the Patriots, the Pittsburgh Steelers and again with New England.
After all that traveling, Blount finally had a career year in 2016. He had a personal best 1,161 yards and an NFL leading 18 touchdowns. Now in typical Patriots fashion, they don’t want to pay the guy. They should get over that and just pay him.
Blount brings some physicality to the team that no other back on the roster is able to. On a roster full of “catch-first” running backs, having a bulldozer like Blount balances things out and makes the Patriots a strong red zone team.
Dec 6, 2015; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel (2) before the game between the Cleveland Browns and Cincinnati Bengals at FirstEnergy Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports
New Orleans Saints: Johnny Manziel, QB
Who would have expected to see the name of Johnny Manziel on this list? The former first round draft pick of the Cleveland Browns totally blew his chance to be the starting quarterback there. Johnny Football was simply too concerned with being Johnny Party Boy at the time.
Manziel was often seen out drinking, and was even involved in a few fights as well as an alleged domestic violence issue. What may have ultimately cost him his job though was the drinking as reports emerged that Manziel showed up to practices drunk while with Cleveland. Dan Hanzus of NFL.com quoted Michael Silver on the situation:
NFL Media columnist Michael Silver reported Tuesday, citing multiple sources, that Manziel showed up at the Browns’ facility “late and noticeably drunk” on the Wednesday prior to Cleveland’s Week 17 finale against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
After being released following his second season, Manziel spent all of 2016 without a sniff from an NFL team. Perhaps the fact that no one wanted him prompted him to change his life. Manziel has claimed to be sober now and wants to get his life and career back on track.
One team has shown interest, which was the New Orleans Saints. The Saints should move from kicking the tires, to signing Manziel. At this point they have nothing to lose. He would come in at the league minimum considering they are bidding against no one. He also brings a player head coach Sean Payton could very well work with as the heir to Drew Brees. At the very least, he could be a decent backup for next to nothing.
Nov 29, 2015; Denver, CO, USA; New England Patriots tackle Sebastian Vollmer (76) pass protects on Denver Broncos outside linebacker Von Miller (58) in the second quarter at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports
New York Giants: Sebastian Vollmer, OT
After being released by the Los Angeles Chargers, offensive lineman D.J. Fluker found a home with the New York Giants. While he was originally a tackle, he better projects as a guard moving forward, which means that while the interior of their line will improve, the outside still needs some work.
At left tackle they currently have Ereck Flowers, the ninth overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft. While many are frustrated at his performance thus far, Flowers is still just 22 years of age and has plenty of room for growth. To help him in the process they could use an experienced veteran who has been on plenty of winning teams — like Sebastian Vollmer.
Vollmer could replace current right tackle Bobby Hart, who may also be better suited for interior play. The German-born Vollmer was a second round pick out of Houston for the New England Patriots in the 2009 draft and has been a fixture on their line ever since. That is until being released following an injury-plagued 2016 season.
The 6-8, 320-pound Vollmer excels in pass protection, but wouldn’t be a long term fix for the Giants being as he has some injury problems in the past. In addition Vollmer is also 32 years old. He could still provide the Giants with a player capable of give quarterback Eli Manning more time to operate.
Nov 6, 2016; San Diego, CA, USA; San Diego Chargers tackle King Dunlap (77) looks on during the third quarter against the Tennessee Titans at Qualcomm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports
New York Jets: King Dunlap, OT
After letting go of a couple offensive linemen this offseason, the New York Jets are thin at the position. They cut veteran tackle Ryan Clady thanks to injury issues and a high salary, but may have replaced him with free agent pickup Kelvin Beachum who played for the Jacksonville Jaguars last year. They also released former first round pick and regular starting center Nick Mangold, but have not yet replaced him.
The draft will most likely be the main source for a replacement there. To help make sure they can focus on the interior of the line they can build some depth at the tackle spot by adding another experienced player opposite Beachum.
An available player with 65 starts over the past eight seasons is King Dunlap. The tackle was originally a seventh-round pick by the Eagles out of Auburn back in 2008. After spending five seasons there he then moved on to San Diego and has played for the Chargers the past four years.
Signing Dunlap isn’t a long-term fix, but it does give them someone who can fight for a starting role. Should he fail to win that role, he brings an incredibly experienced swing tackle.
Jan 22, 2017; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Falcons defensive end Tyson Jackson (94) reacts after a play during the first quarter against the Green Bay Packers in the 2017 NFC Championship Game at the Georgia Dome. Mandatory Credit: Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports
Oakland Raiders: Tyson Jackson, DT
After being a team without a winning record since 2002, the Oakland Raiders finally finished on the right side of the win column in 2016. They won 12 games, but then misfortune struck again. Starting quarterback Derek Carr saw his MVP-caliber season end with a broken leg which cause the team to turn to backup quarterback Matt McGloin in Week 17. When McGloin went down injured, they turned to rookie Connor Cook in the playoffs.
Cook failed to get the job done, but it was a tough task for anyone to try and overcome. Now all they can do is move forward and try to build a team that keeps winning year after year. On offense they’re stout. Defensively not so much.
While they should be looking to build that side of the ball up in the draft, that doesn’t mean options aren’t still out there, like former Kansas City Chiefs and Atlanta Falcons defensive tackle Tyson Jackson. The LSU product isn’t what the Chiefs thought he would be when they made him the third overall pick out of LSU in 2009, but he played well for them still.
After proving to be a good run defender Jackson received a five-year contract from Atlanta worth $5 million per year. He lasted just three seasons before being let go. In Oakland he wouldn’t cost near as much, but could still provide a talented 300-pounder in the middle of the defensive line.
They have some talented players at running back in Ryan Mathews, Wendell Smallwood and Darren Sproles. That doesn’t mean they can’t look for more. One player who could prove to add another dimension if healthy is Jamaal Charles.
Charles was a huge playmaker for years for the Kansas City Chiefs but has seen himself injured more often than not in recent seasons. After being cut by his former team, he looks to finish his career on a strong note. The Eagles could provide him such an opportunity.
When healthy Charles is as dangerous catching the ball as the speedy Sproles has been for Philly. He’s also a much better runner than both Mathews and Smallwood. Of course, the key point continues to be the health factor.
The explosive runner played in just eight games over the past two seasons. Many teams are scared off because of that, but in Philly they have enough talent to not feel too burnt should Charles health continue to be an issue. What they don’t have though is that transcendent talent, which Charles could possibly become for them. It’s worth at a minimum kicking the tires because of the upside he brings.
Nov 24, 2016; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Indianapolis Colts outside linebacker Erik Walden (93) against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Lucas Oil Stadium. The Steelers won 28-7. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports
Pittsburgh Steelers: Erik Walden, OLB
Alvin “Bud” Dupree has shown some upside as a pass rusher for the Pittsburgh Steelers, which makes him look like a good choice as a first round pick. Jarvis Jones on the other hand wasn’t ever able to live up to his status as a first rounder. Jones managed just six sacks in four seasons and recently joined the Arizona Cardinals after Pittsburgh decided against bringing him back for another season.
They do still have the ageless wonder James Harrison who has gone three straight seasons with at least five sacks during his second stint with the team. Set to turn 39-years old, could Harrison finally start to age? If so having another option is necessary.
Journeyman Erik Walden is an option as he’s still looking for a home. He isn’t exactly a young up and comer, but the former Colts outside linebacker is coming off a season in which he recorded a career high 11 sacks. Since he failed to produce such a season any other time in his career, he seems to be a forgotten man in free agency.
For the Steelers, he wouldn’t be a starter over either Dupree or Harrison. What he could be is a player that helps them form a good rotation while also keeping them from feeling pressure to draft an edge rusher too early.
Sep 18, 2016; Detroit, MI, USA; Tennessee Titans free safety Rashad Johnson (25) reacts to a penalty during the game against the Detroit Lions at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports
San Francisco 49ers: Rashad Johnson, S
There’s a lot of change going on in the bay area. Then again, after seeing the San Francisco 49ers finish last season 2-14, there needs to be some change. So far they’ve brought in new receivers in Pierre Garcon and Marquise Goodwin. They also added linebacker Malcolm Smith and a couple of quarterbacks in Brian Hoyer and Matt Barkley.
None of these moves were earth shaking, but they were all smart. The 49ers are now being led by former Atlanta Falcons offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan at head coach and former NFL safety John Lynch at general manager. These guys have done a good job locating players who can make them competent, which would be a huge upgrade from last season.
One still open position is safety. Eric Reid has one safety job locked down, but bringing in a player like Rashad Johnson could give him a good running mate. Johnson played for divisional rival Arizona for seven seasons and went from a rotational player to a respected starter. He joined the Tennessee Titans last year, but was unable to stay in the starting lineup. A change of scenery could help him return to his Cardinals days when he was racking up solid tackle numbers and recording multiple picks each season.
Oct 17, 2016; Glendale, AZ, USA; New York Jets offensive tackle Ryan Clady (78) against the Arizona Cardinals at University of Phoenix Stadium. The Cardinals defeated the Jets 28-3. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Seattle Seahawks: Ryan Clady, T
In 2016 Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson was sacked more times than any other quarterback that guided his team to the post season. He was taken down 41 times, which tied for second in the league. Teams like the Buffalo Bills and Arizona Cardinals also allowed their signal-callers to hit the turf around the same number of times and it led to losing seasons. If the Seahawks don’t fix the problem of Wilson running for his life on every play they too will eventually join those teams on the wrong side of winning.
It would be ideal for them to be able to fix the issue with a stud rookie covering the blind side, but there’s two issues there. One is that the 2017 class isn’t full of great tackles, and two the Seahawks aren’t on the clock until near the end of the first round which makes it even harder to get an immediate starter.
A different approach would be to sign veteran Ryan Clady to fill the position for the next year while they continue to search. If a player capable of playing left tackle falls to them, then they will have plenty of options. If not, Clady is good enough to improve their line should he stay healthy.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are a team on the rise. They changed their fate starting with the selection of Texas A&M receiver Mike Evans early in the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft. The 6-foot-5 wide out has developed into one of the more dominate receivers in the game while going for 5,578 yards and 27 touchdowns in his first three seasons.
In the following draft they again made a good choice, going with Florida State quarterback Jaimes Winston first overall. The controversial quarterback has kept himself out of hot water after making waves while in Tallahassee and the results have ben favorable. In his first two seasons he’s thrown for at least 4,000 yards with 8,132 total. He also has 50 touchdown passes but could stand to lower his number of turnovers considering he has 33 picks.
To help these two continue to improve as the Bucs inch closer to contender status a player like Nick Mangold would help. The former Ohio State center was a first round pick for the New York Jets back in 2006. He has been a fixture on their line ever since and has been named to the Pro Bowl seven times. His most recent nomination came in 2015, so he isn’t that far off from being a top interior lineman despite being 33-years old.
After cutting Jason McCourty, the Tennessee Titans could use some more cornerbacks. They obviously were no longer satisfied paying McCourty top dollar as the six-year $43 million contract he signed back in 2012 had become too much for his level of play.
They did sign Ryan Logan this offseason away from the New England Patriots, which gives them a true number one corner. In the NFL though, you can never have too many cover guys, so it would make sense to add some more numbers.
To replace McCourty, the Titans could go for veteran Tracy Porter — recently released by the Chicago Bears. Porter has bounced around quite a bit in the NFL. He was originally a second round pick of the New Orleans Saints, and spent four seasons with them. From there he spent a year with the Denver Broncos, one with the Oakland Raiders, one with the Washington Redskins and the past two seasons with the Bears.
Porter has appeared in 98 games with 88 starts and has 13 career interceptions including two last season for the Bears. His addition to the Titans would give them another experienced player in a division with some pass first teams like the Indianapolis Colts and Jacksonville Jaguars.
Nov 20, 2016; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Giants running back Rashad Jennings (23) scores a touchdown during the first half against the Chicago Bears at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports
Washington Redskins: Rashad Jennings, RB
Heading into the 2016 season the Washington Redskins elected to move on from former starting running back Alfred Morris. They were ready to replace him with second-year player Matt Jones. The Florida product played well averaging 4.6 yards per carry but never seemed to fully have his coaches trust.
Jones wound up becoming a healthy scratch for most of the season after they turned to Rob Kelley, an undrafted free agent out of Tulane. “Fat Rob” also played well, finishing with 704 yards and six touchdowns for Washington.
While both players were productive, they are very similar — which is why Jones was taken out of the lineup when Kelley took over. What Washington needs to do is find a more versatile option to throw into the backfield. An available running back who fits that mold if Rashad Jennings, formerly of the New York Giants.
Jennings is a seven-year pro that also spent time with the Jacksonville Jaguars and Oakland Raiders. In his career he has rushed for 3,772 yards with 23 touchdowns. Jennings has shown much more ability in the pass game than Jones or Kelley as well with 191 catches to this point.
What Jennings has never done is been a back to carry the full load. Always a committee member he won’t come with as much wear as others that are 32-years old, and will also be fine getting minimal touches per game while serving as the veteran leader of the backfield.