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The best players left at every position for the second wave of NFL free agency

DeMarco Murray, Dez Bryant, Johnathan Hankins, and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie are just a few of the free agents who could fly off the market soon.

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NFL: Tennessee Titans at San Francisco 49ers Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports

The 2018 NFL Draft is in the books and any remaining needs for teams can only be filled by parsing through the remaining veteran talent on the market.

Nearly two months after free agency started, most of the top talent has already been scooped up. But thanks to a rule that affects compensatory picks in next year’s NFL Draft, teams may be waiting until Tuesday to pick the remaining meat off the bones of the free agency market.

Compensatory picks are awarded to teams if they had net losses during the free agency period.

For example, a winner in 2019 will probably be the Los Angeles Rams for losing Trumaine Johnson and Sammy Watkins to two of the richest deals of the year, while only adding Ndamukong Suh in free agency. Other additions to the Rams’ roster — like Aqib Talib and Marcus Peters — came via trade and won’t affect their compensatory picks.

The goal for teams aiming to add compensatory picks is to avoid spending too much in free agency.

But that period ends May 8, meaning any additional free agents signed by a team will not factor into the league’s decision to award compensatory picks next year. And that means veterans still looking for a team will probably get a phone call soon.

Who’s left on the free agency market?

There isn’t much talent left at positions that are considered premium spots. So teams looking for help at quarterback aren’t likely to find much help. But teams on the hunt for spot starters at positions like running back and safety could be in business.


  • Jay Cutler
  • Matt Moore
  • Derek Anderson
  • Mark Sanchez
  • Colin Kaepernick

Cutler was the only full-time starter from the 2017 season who is still on the market, but he’ll likely retire soon. If he doesn’t, it’s difficult to imagine any team offering too much or a starting job.

Kaepernick is likely the top starter on the open market again, but it appears increasingly unlikely — due to political reasons — that a team is going to give the former Super Bowl starter a chance after he went unsigned for all of 2017. He reportedly scheduled a workout with the Seahawks in April that was postponed indefinitely due to his stance on kneeling during the national anthem.

Running backs

  • DeMarco Murray
  • Eddie Lacy
  • Shane Vereen
  • Adrian Peterson
  • Jamaal Charles
  • Alfred Morris

There are plenty of recognizable names on the list who could likely contribute in limited roles. Murray is only three years removed from a giant contract with the Eagles, but was traded to the Titans in 2016 and suffered a knee injury during an unproductive 2017.

Wide receiver

  • Dez Bryant
  • Jeremy Maclin
  • Eric Decker
  • Harry Douglas

Bryant may be the biggest name remaining in all of free agency, but he hasn’t seemed to generate much interest on the market. The Ravens were one interested team, but Bryant reportedly turned down a multi-year deal from the team in hopes he could find a one-year contract. He’ll likely find a spot soon, but teams in need of real receiver help don’t have many options left.

Tight end

  • Julius Thomas
  • Coby Fleener
  • Antonio Gates
  • Marcedes Lewis
  • Brent Celek

Like receiver, the tight end market also has a few big names but mostly consists of players who haven’t been at the top of their game in a long time. Thomas and Fleener are the youngest of the group at age 29, but both have struggled to stay healthy. Teams shouldn’t expect much production from the remaining tight ends.

Offensive line

  • Greg Robinson
  • Luke Joeckel
  • Zane Beadles
  • Brian Schwenke
  • Josh LeRibeus
  • Oday Aboushi

It’s slim pickings along the offensive line too. Hunting for a tackle will be tough, but teams may be able to find capable fillers on the interior.

Defensive ends

  • Robert Ayers
  • Terrell McClain
  • Jared Crick
  • Charles Johnson
  • Ryan Davis

Pass rushers are long gone at this point, but finding a veteran to help with the run defense isn’t as difficult. Ayers, McClain, and Crick are three players who can contribute on all three downs, although expecting any of those player to finish with more than three sacks in 2018 is optimistic.

Defensive tackles

  • Johnathan Hankins
  • Alan Branch
  • Karl Klug
  • Stephen Paea

The fact that Hankins is still a free agent is surprising considering he’s a year removed from receiving a three-year, $30 million deal from the Colts. His release had much more to do with a scheme change for Indianapolis than his performance. There’s a good chance a team will get a steal in Hankins, a 26-year-old tackle who has proven himself a capable starter.

Outside linebackers

  • Tamba Hali
  • Willie Young
  • Koa Misi
  • Elvin Dumervil
  • Connor Barwin
  • Shea McClellin
  • Erik Walden

There are several names at outside linebacker, but players like Hali or Dumervil are well past their primes. Teams are likely to parse through the many linebackers on the market, but there will be low expectations for any addition at the position.

Inside linebackers

  • Brian Cushing
  • Lawrence Timmons
  • Kevin Minter
  • NaVorro Bowman

All four players listed have been longtime starters and could step in to a lineup again in 2018. None will be the impact player they once were, but inside linebacker is definitely a position where a needy team could find instant help.


  • Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie
  • Jeremy Lane
  • Adam Jones
  • Kayvon Webster
  • Alterraun Verner

It takes much more than two cornerbacks in the NFL today, so teams could dive into a market that still has players with starting experience. Rodgers-Cromartie was suspended by the Giants in 2017 for his battles with then-coach Ben McAdoo, but could be a starter for a team unconcerned about his previous conflicts.


  • Eric Reid
  • Tre Boston
  • Mike Mitchell
  • T.J. Ward
  • Ron Parker
  • Jairus Byrd
  • Kenny Vaccaro

Reid filed a grievance through the NFLPA alleging his choice to kneel during the national anthem is the reason he’s still a free agent. But he’s not the only safety who has struggled to find a new team so far. Boston has been a starter for the Panthers and Chargers in the last two years and is still just 25. There could be a big market for safety help in the remainder of May.