The free agent market has been pretty thin as of late, but recently a mega-star was added to the pool and several teams will vie for his attention. In addition to the former Philly receiver that we'll get to in a moment, it's also rumored that running back Chris Johnson will be free to sign with any team of his choosing soon.
SB Nation NFL
SB Nation NFL
Other players that aren't quite on this list include Jimmy Graham, who has yet to come to an agreement with the New Orleans Saints, and center Alex Mack, who was given the transition tag by the Cleveland Browns. Mack can sign with any team of his choosing, but the Browns will have five days to match that offer. The Ravens and Colts have been mentioned in connection with Mack, but still no agreements have been made.
The following players are free to sign with any team of their choosing, without penalty to anyone. It's tough to find good free agents near the beginning of April, but that doesn't mean that there's no value to be had. Here are the top five unrestricted free agents as of Monday.
1. DeSean Jackson, WR
The biggest news of the previous week has revolved around Jackson, the recently released receiver coming off a career-best season but who's been involved in rumors of gang association and being a locker room distraction. The real reason that the Philadelphia Eagles released Jackson is likely due to the $12.75 million cap number he represented for next season, but the gang rumors probably killed any potential for a trade and so they just parted ways with him on March 28.
Jackson's first visit will be with the Washington Redskins, which would pair him with Robert Griffin III and put him opposite of Pierre Garcon. It's likely the most talented offense of any of the serious suitors around, though the Seahawks, 49ers or Panthers may represent a quicker road to the playoffs for Jackson.
The Raiders have plenty of cap space and the two parties have shown mutual interest. If Jackson leaves Washington without a contract, then Oakland probably steps to the very front of the line.
2. Miles Austin, WR
It shouldn't be surprising that the free agent market gets thin after Jackson. Any of the great players who hit free agency on day one are pretty much locked up with a team, so now it's a search for players coming off of down seasons, or injuries, or some other reason why they haven't found a home yet. The receiver market is a place to find some considerable talent at the moment due to the fact that the class of wide receivers in the draft this year is considered to be one of the best ever.
Austin had at least 900 yards three times for the Dallas Cowboys between 2009-2012, but injuries and a poor performance in 2013 held him to just 244 yards and zero touchdowns in 11 games. He will be a good backup choice to a team that can't afford, or will otherwise avoid, DeSean Jackson.
3. Jermichael Finley, TE
Finley has already met with Seattle, but reports are that he won't be signing for at least a couple of months. After undergoing serious spinal surgery last year, Finley won't be able to go full speed until later in the year and still isn't out of the woods from an injury that some considered career-ending.
SB Nation NFL
SB Nation NFL
Finley had 25 catches for 300 yards for the Green Bay Packers last season, his sixth in the NFL after being a third-round pick in 2008. Fans have been waiting for Finley to have a major breakout season after he had flashed brilliance in 2009 and 2011, but injuries and inconsistency have set him back every time.
The Seahawks ended up re-doing Zach Miller's contract to save space and re-signed Anthony McCoy. It would seem like there's not room on the roster for Finley anymore, but there's still a couple of months before they would even have to figure that out.
Owen Daniels is another tight end coming off of an injury who's still available to sign anywhere.
4. Davin Joseph, G
The Buccaneers released Joseph early in March to save cap room, and he met early on with the St. Louis Rams, but they have since signed Rodger Saffold and may no longer be in the market.
A two-time Pro Bowler for Tampa Bay, Joseph is still just 30 years old, with 100 career games at guard.
The Miami Dolphins would make sense in the wake of the Richie Incognito situation and a need for some more players to place on the offensive line for next season. At this time, there hasn't seemed to be a lot of interest yet in Joseph or fellow free agent offensive lineman Travelle Wharton. Center Brian De La Puente, formerly of the New Orleans Saints, is also still available and drawing interest from several teams, including the Saints. He has started 44 games at center over the last three years.
5. Champ Bailey, CB
As you can see, the defensive free agents draw a lot more interest currently than the offensive ones. With the Seahawks winning Super Bowl XLVIII, teams may feel a need to beef up on defense if they want to win a championship. Most of the big-money deals in free agency have gone to defensive players, and others were locked up before free agency even began.
It seemed right to put at least one defensive player on this list, and Bailey may not be as over the hill as he appears.
Though Bailey turns 36 in June, he's one of the best defensive players to ever play the game. He missed most of 2013 with injury, but was still playing at a high level before last year; Bailey made the Pro Bowl in each season from 2009 to 2012. Bailey has said that he has no intention of retiring and would even be open to a position change, whether it's at nickel or safety, just as long as he can keep playing and competing.
Again, the Seahawks would seem like a team that may be interested. They recently met with free agent safety Ryan Clark and still want more depth in the secondary. The Panthers, 49ers, Packers or just about any team would probably be able to find a role for Bailey, as long as he came at the veteran minimum.